Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Romney Surprise In SC?

Our thinking has been that the Republican presidential nomination is wide open--so wide open that it might have to be decided at the GOP national convention in Minneapolis on September 1-4. We're hoping for that, if only because it would be quite exciting and fill the summer with endless speculation and commentary.

But something we just saw gave us pause: the most recent American Research Group poll in South Carolina has Mitt Romney vaulting out to 29%, ahead of Giuliani and well ahead of Fred Thompson. Whether that's an outlier--other polls, at the beginning of the month showed Mitt 10 points behind Rudy--or a trend, will have to await further polling results.

However, if Romney shows strength in SC, he might just win after all. At present, Flip Flopney leads in Iowa, although Iowa caucus-goers are notoriously volatile. (Significantly, the Huckabee surge in Iowa continues, with the Second Man From Hope in a clear second place in the most recent ARG poll, several points ahead of Giuliani.) Romney also leads in New Hampshire, where he is likely to win given his tenure as the governor next door.

So far, it appears that Romney is running a smart, albeit expensive campaign. Can he keep up the burn rate of dollars?

If Romney wins Iowa, New Hampshire, and then also South Carolina, he is going to be hard to stop. We could easily see Giuliani's campaign melting down at that point (although Florida could save him), along with uncle Fred's. Huckabee, if he comes in second in Iowa and SC, and no worse than fourth in New Hampshire, could hang in there, and perhaps coalesce a last ditch stand against Romney in the mega-primaries, although at that point Romney's money advantage will be a huge asset.

We're surprised at Romney's apparent strength in SC--we're not yet willing to buy it, but the next couple polls will show us something.

There's still a good ways to go. Romney has been spending a lot of money on television in all the early primary/caucus states. As we get closer, the other candidates will start pouring on the television as well. (You Iowa residents better have TiVo!) Also, as with Hillary, if the other candidates perceive Mitt walking away with it, they'll start ganging up on him.

Romney would be wise to focus on South Carolina as much as possible: if he wins, or even gets a strong second, in such a deep south, evangelical state, he will defy the conventional wisdom that a Mormon will never be able to do well in the old confederacy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fight Fire With . . . Smart Building

Over the past few days we've read a ton of articles on the California fires, many of them opinion pieces on what went wrong, why and various suggestions for fixing the problem. Quite a few of the pieces we read bemoaned that Californians are increasingly intruding into and building their homes in fire-prone areas where they shouldn't be.

Is that really the problem? On the surface, the numbers are compelling: if the same fires had struck in 1980, they would've threatened 61,000 homes (within a mile of the fire); by this year the number had grown to 125,000 homes (according to a Univ. of Wisconsin analysis). It reminds us of the hurricane danger--the biggest problem is more and more people living in coastal zones threatened by tropical cyclones.

Then there's the issue of whether California and the National Forestry Service have fought fires TOO WELL, allowing large amounts of underbrush and other fire fuel to build up, instead of letting smaller fires burn (on non-windy days) and consume all that combustible material.

No doubt, both these problems contributed to the magnitude of the recent threat.

But one of the more interesting back stories is that of a few neighborhoods that survived the fires by using strict fire prevention building codes and adhering to landscaping practices designed to inhibit fires.

One of those neighborhoods is Stevenson Ranch, with 5000 homes (we called that a city where I grew up) in Santa Clarita. Homes there are built with concrete tile roofs, which won't burst into flame when embers settle on them. They have enclosed eaves, which keeps embers and burning ash out of attics. And they have heat resistant double-paned windows. (As a bonus, they're probably pretty energy efficient.)

Outside, these neighborhoods allow only certain plants that tend to be fire resistant. No pines or palms, both of which can go up like torches in a big fire. There are greenbelt breaks between the edges of the neighborhood and the wilderness beyond, as well as concrete culverts and other fire breaks. (We do wonder about the water needed for those greenbelts in such an arid region.)

Beginning next year, California regulations will more strictly limit what can and can't be built in fire zones. That's a big step forward, although California will still have tens of thousands of older homes in those zones.

In that regard, California is well ahead of many Gulf Coast and Southeastern states, which refuse to do much to regulate what can be built in hurricane zones. The fact is, we know quite a bit about how to build virtually hurricane-proof homes, but many governments feel it would be just too intrusive to require such measures.

It looks like Californians can live in the dry wilderness areas safely, as long as they're smart about how they do it. And that's good, because they're learning that FEMA sure isn't going to help much if they have another outbreak of fires!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hybrid Economics

We wish we could link you directly to a chart in today's Wall Street Journal that illustrates the variable economics of various hybrid models of automobiles, but alas the info is on WSJ's subscriber-only web pages. (Annoyingly, WSJ charges its regular, paper, subscribers extra for its website, while other newspapers give their websites away for free while charging their paper subscribers.)

Anyway, the chart is quite useful, as it compares the cost of eight different hybrid models of cars against their non-hybrid siblings, then shows the annual fuel savings from driving said hybrid and converts it into the number of years you'd need to drive the hybrid before breaking even.

Now, we don't advocate that you switch to a hybrid simply to save money--as the WSJ chart shows, it's likely to take you a number of years to make up the cost differential. Instead, we advocate that you switch to a hybrid for the other benefits it brings, such as reducing your carbon emissions and reducing U.S. imports of oil from politically unstable and threatening regimes.

Still, the chart is revealing, although not necessarily as intended. For example, according to the WSJ, the premium for a Prius compared to a Toyota Corolla is about $7200, which would take 18 years to pay off with the fuel savings. We're not sure the Corolla is as comparable to the Prius as some of the other models compared. What we do see, however, is that the Prius has the highest fuel efficiency of all the hybrids in the chart, at 46 mpg combined city/highway. The Honda Civic hybrid is not far behind, at 43.3 mpg.

Most of the other models have much lower fuel efficiency because they are larger vehicles, which simply illustrates a basic Newtonian point: you can get a lot better gas mileage with a smaller car, regardless of whether it's a hybrid. For most of the vehicles in the chart, the hybrid offers no more than 4-6 mpg better efficiency than the comparable non-hybrid.

For example, the Ford Escape gets 22.6 mpg, while it's hybrid cousin gets 29.7 mpg, which isn't bad for a smaller SUV. But if you switched from a regular Civic, at 32.6 mpg to the hybrid Escape (29.7 mpg) you'd be doing the environment a disservice.

On the other hand, if you traded in your Lexus GS430 sedan, costing $51,619 and getting 20.6 mpg, for nice 4-door Camry hybrid costing $26,080 and getting 33.7 mpg, you'd save a lot of dough on the car AND save $790 a year in gas (or $1121 a year if you went on down to the Prius).

In short, for the best results in terms of causing less environmental damage and avoiding further stupid wars, Americans would be wise to begin figuring out how to do with less car, then move on to hybrids, and we hope, electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles of the future.

And what of those flying cars of the old Jetsons cartoons? Not in our lifetimes.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Not Worth Another Soldier's Life

While things have "improved" in Iraq, that hardly means they're good.

In case you're tempted by the Kool-aid offered by the administration and it's neo-con allies as to our "progress" in the war, today's Washington Post has an excellent article on the reality on the ground in Baghdad.

Appropriately headlined "'I Don't Think This Place Is Worth Another Soldier's Life,'" the Post focuses on the Army units in the Sadiyah district of Baghdad, which has been a "fault line" in the ongoing sectarian violence in Iraq.

[Note: sometimes, news stories refer to areas such as Sadiyah as a "neighborhood," which evokes visions of a few hundred homes clustered together. Sadiyah and other such areas of Baghdad are better labelled as "districts" since they tend to be as large, or larger, than say Arlington, or Alexandria, containing tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of residents.]

So far, 20 soldiers from the Army's 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Unit, 1st Infantry Division have lost their lives in Sadiyah, which has only gotten worse while the soldiers have been posted there. It is also where Washington Post correspondent Saif Aldin was recently killed.

If you were starting to think of Baghdad in positive terms, read the Post's piece--it's really sickeningly depressing.

Water War of the GOP Governors

Yesterday, in our post on the good drought news, we noted a brewing battle between Georgia, on the one hand, and Alabama/Florida on the other, over rights to water from dwindling Lake Lanier.

Today's Washington Post has a full front page story on the water war, which is causing a headache for President W since it involves carping between three Southern Republican governors. See "3 States Compete For Water From Shrinking Lake Lanier."

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, a right wing hack if we ever saw one, says its a battle of "man versus mussel" because Florida's claim to some of the water is based, in part, on the need to preserve a rare fresh water mussel. Alabama says it needs the water to keep a major nuclear reactor running. And Florida says its about much more than mussels--the water is needed to keep industry and fishing alive in Apalachicola Bay.

Florida and Alabama also accuse Georgia of waiting until far too late to initiate water conservation measures, which is largely true. Even now, Georgia's water restrictions are pretty loose for a situation where Atlanta says it has only two or three months of water left.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers says there's still more than enough water to go around, at least for now.

So Bush has dispatched his Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, to mediate the dispute. We hope Georgia will get some much needed rain soon--the four day soaker that just left the Southeast helped with a lot of states, but largely bypassed Georgia. In the meantime, the worsening drought could result in some interesting political theater, as we're talking about a bunch that doesn't cotton to the notion of "sacrifice."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Just What The Drought Doctor Ordered!

Ah, three-four days of fairly steady rain, showers and drizzle. More than three inches of rain so far, spread out so that it will soak into the ground, while also replenishing streams, rivers, ponds and reservoirs.

This is just what the drought doctor ordered. It won't end our drought--we've been more than 10 inches below our average rainfall to date, and parts of Virginia to the west, and North Carolina to the south, have had it far worse. (Raleigh reportedly was down to just a couple months' water supply--a sure sign that the city needs to do some serious water-planning.) But, the amounts so far, with a bit more to come, will be a big help.
[If we get four inches, which is possible, that amounts to nearly 40 days worth of average rainfall here, so it at least wipes out most of the recent record dry spell we had.]

Next week's drought monitor (shown above, as of the beginning of this week, before the rain) will look a good deal different in Virginia and the Carolinas, with a lot less red.

Unfortunately, this storm hasn't done much to help the folks in north Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, where the drought has been more severe for a longer period of time. Today's WSJ had an interesting article on the conflict over water in Georgia's Lake Lanier, between Atlanta, which gets all its water from the 50-year old reservoir, and Florida (and to an extent, Alabama), which depends on river flow from the lake to sustain wildlife-based industries around Apalachicola Bay.

We hope they'll get a similar storm before too long, or maybe a late season, wayward tropical storm, which is typically the way southeastern droughts end.

Tom Davis and the GOP

Long time Republican Representative Tom Davis, a "moderate" from Northern Virginia, made official yesterday what everyone had already known: he's not going to run for Sen. John Warner's open Senate seat in 2008.

It's really too bad, since it would've set up a hotly contested nomination fight between Davis and former Governor Jim Gilmore. We wanted to see that battle, because it would have forced Gilmore to get his reactionary views out there on the record, a big help in the general election campaign. Now, instead, Gilmore will easily be nominated in one of those extremely small tent conventions the GOP holds, attended by right wingers and further right wingers.

We don't blame Davis, however--once the Republican insiders decided to hold a convention, instead of a primary (where more moderate independent voters--crucial to the general election--would be allowed to vote), the deck was stacked against Davis.

We generally like Davis, who works hard and sticks to the center. We call him a "moderate" in quotation marks because it's only the party's hard right shift that makes him a moderate, as opposed to a more traditional conservative. Among Davis's more progressive moves has been his support for compromise legislation that would give the District of Columbia a voting representative in Congress.

Davis used the occasion of his announcement to state that claims of his imminent retirement from the House of Representatives are premature. But he didn't say he isn't retiring, either. We think his decision will hinge, in part, on how his wife, Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, does in her state Senate race in a couple of weeks. If she loses to Democratic challenger Chap Peterson, then we think Tom Davis will also call it quits in '08, avoiding a likely bruising election contest in his ever more Democratic leaning district, and going off to make some real money in the private sector.

Davis also took a swipe at his party's direction, saying that the "face of the party" must change, and pushing for a presidential nominee such as McCain or Giuliani with the "independent" streak he believes the party needs to be able to win. (See Washington Post story: "Davis Confirms He Won't Seek Senate Seat").

Davis is certainly right that centrist, independent voters, fed up with both parties really, will be the key to the 2008 elections. In Virginia, it could be interesting. Conservative Gilmore will challenge moderate Mark Warner for the open Senate seat, while in the presidential campaign we expect it will be Hillary versus who knows? If the GOP does nominate McCain or Guiliani, they might well carry Virginia against Hillary, although conservatives might decide to simply stay home, especially if Gilmore's race looks hopeless.

In fact, we'd rate the chances of Democrats winning Virginia's electoral delegates as pretty low if Hillary is the nominee--but not impossible. It will depend on turnout in Northern Virginia.

But that's all still a year away. Let's see what happens on November 6, when Democrats are expected to make gains in the Virginia legislature. Will they be big gains? Or just a small step forward?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Grass v. Artificial Turf--Which Is More Toxic?

In our capacity with helping manage youth soccer programs in Arlington, we were today referred to an article in the Charlottesville Daily Progress on potential toxic dangers of artificial turf playing fields: "Synthetic turf: Saving grace or harmful place? Health risks could come along with new fields."

The story cites "concerns" about the potential toxicity of the infill used for synthetic fields, which is made from ground up tires. It also suggests that cuts and scrapes from artificial turf fields can cause a greater danger of staph infection.

So we spent some time looking into this since Arlington has a number of synthetic turf fields, with more in the works. What we found was scant evidence of any significant risk for artificial turf fields, especially when compared to the risks of plain old grass fields.

Let's start with your basic, familiar grass field. (Or, in Arlington--and to be fair, most urban jurisdictions--grass and a lot of bare patches of dirt.) Growing grass requires chemicals. Fertilizer, herbicide, sometimes pesticides. These are potent chemicals that include numerous carcinogens, and they are applied directly to fields on which children will be playing extensively. Yet, when a local parks authority suggests building a new park, or replacing the grass on an existing field, no one goes up in arms about the danger to kids.

There are other dangers, of the more mundane kind--falling on uneven surfaces, getting scraped on the dirt and rocks, etc. A number of studies have shown that turf fields also produce fewer contact injuries and longterm injuries--in part because they present a level, even surface.

So what about synthetic turf?

The primary focus of the Daily Progress story is on a report prepared by an outfit in Connecticut called Environment And Human Health, Inc. We don't learn much about EHHI--where it gets its funding, who its scientists are, etc.

We went to EHHI's website to get the report. It claims that EHHI did some testing that showed the release, when heated, of four potentially hazardous chemicals from the tire infill in synthetic playing fields. But EHHI's report gives no details on that testing--doesn't give us even a clue to the testing protocol.

What we can be pretty sure of is this: that the laboratory testing done by EHHI bore little relationship to the real world conditions in which players are exposed to the fields. We suspect that EHHI took a bunch of shredded tire particles, heated them in an ENCLOSED laboratory apparatus, and then measured the chemicals released. One would hope that EHHI did a study in which it analyzed the chemicals in air, but the report refers to releases under "aqueous ambient temperatures," which means in a water solution.

That's not at all real world. Most of these playing fields are in the open air, where any chemicals released most likely would be quickly dispersed. Moreover, those same chemicals are emitted from tires on highways, and so are already in the air.

A really good study would be to conduct on-site tests at both a synthetic field and a grass field that are near enough to each other to have similar ambient air. The tests would measure the actual air over the field at various times of day, on both fields, as well as in areas away from the fields (to control for the natural "background" amount of chemicals in the air). Such tests are more difficult than those in a laboratory, but they can be done. We suspect you'd find no difference in the air at either field, or you might even find more nasty chemicals over the grass field.

Most of what EHHI has done is to review literature on potential toxicity of ground up tires. But you cannot compare the conditions in a shop that recycles tires with those on a playing field with tire pellets lying in fake green grass. And, in any such study, the key element is the DOSE of the chemical in question.

We were particularly surprised at one claim in the EHHI report, which was that emissions of one of the chemicals of interest would amount to "four to six grams"per square foot of field "on a hot day," i.e., when the surface temperature on the field approaches 140 degrees fahrenheit (which can happen, but not too often). The typical measure of exposure for any toxicological assessment of inhalation risk would be in a unit per cubic meter of air. Putting it in terms of grams is completely meaningless.

Buried in the EHHI report is the concession that "[a]ctual exposure measurements are needed to determine the potential inhalation risks for players on the field or for spectators and nearby residents." Without those measurements, the rest of the report is really not worth the paper its printed on.

In the end, all this amounts to is alarmist science, rather than good science. The report is almost entirely conjecture. It's funny--the authors are quick to dismiss a number of studies that found no problems with synthetic turf, on the ground that such studies inadequately assessed the risks, but they don't apply those same standards to their own work.
Now quickly, what about the claim that synthetic fields pose a higher risk of staph infections? It appears to be based on one study, again in grass-happy Connecticut, after a staph outbreak in a college team. As best we could tell, the study does not show any increased risk of staph on synthetic fields compared to grass fields--to show that, you'd need to follow similar teams playing exclusively on each type of field for a period of time (not that difficult of a study, actually) and then see if either group had more infections. Until that's done, we don't really know.
Some additional research may be warranted--it would be nice to know exactly what the risks are, and be able to compare them to similar risks from grass. But that will require much better science.

In the meantime, we see no reason to worry about kids playing on synthetic turf fields. And this weekend, when our grass fields are likely to be closed due to the much needed rain we're getting, we'll be glad to be playing on those all-weather artificial fields!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

San Diego Deserves Major Share of Blame for Fires

Just four years ago, in 2003, San Diego County faced devastating fires that burned neighborhoods and prompted calls for reform. (The photo at right is from 2003, not the current round of fires.)

So what did San Diego do?

NOTHING. San Diego has the smallest per capita fire department for any city of its size in the country. Nevertheless, San Diego residents voted TWICE in the past four years AGAINST a tax increase that would've been devoted entirely to expansion of the fire department.

Meanwhile, San Diego continues to issue building permits for houses and other structures in areas of high fire risk. Like the dimwitted Californians frequently seen on Jay Leno's "Jaywalking" segment (where Jay asks people on the street simple questions about which they have nary a clue), San Diegans seem to have been lobotomized when it comes to fire danger.

Take this quote, in today's WaPo, from a fellow who watched two of his neighbors' homes burn up: "You don't anticipate having winds blowing 90 miles an hour, blowing fire in front of you. You don't anticipate a drought."

That's like someone in New Orleans, or the Mississippi gulf coast, saying, "you don't anticipate a major hurricane; you don't anticipate torrential rains, howling winds and storm surges." Or a Republican legislator from Virginia, missing a meeting because of traffic, saying, "you don't anticipate a massive traffic jam on roads that haven't been improved in 20 years."

Gee, wildfires only happen EVERY YEAR in California, so who would've thunk it? (Guess that fellow was out of town in 2003.)

We saw a couple on CNN earlier today, lamenting that their home was burned down and they don't have any insurance. Duh!

So who will be asked to bailout these Jaywalkers? You and us, of course. The federal taxpayer.

We say: forget it. Let San Diego foot the tab. Maybe next time they'll decide to fund--with their tax dollars, not yours--a proper fire department, and plan for all those "unanticipated" events.
UPDATE: We changed our headline and a bit of tone in response to our commenters.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Southeast Drought a Bush Plot To Entrench Republicans?

Here it is the latter part of October and we're still wearing shorts here in Washinton.

What up with that?

Is it global warming? We can't say--it's almost impossible to link anomalies in our daily weather to longer term climate trends. After all, the weather is weird, somewhere, every year.

Nonetheless, in Washington--and much of the East Coast--we're looking at by far the warmest October on record. At present, October's temperatures here are running almost 10 degrees warmer than average (!) The record is around 6 degrees above average, and if temperatures were to revert to average for the rest of the month (as appears more or less likely), we'd easily smash the old record (set in 1984).

And who's to say that endless summer is no fun?

Unfortunately, our warm trend has been coupled with a very dry trend. Now, us golfers normally like warm and dry, but it does have to rain every now and then to keep the course in good shape. (Mondays would be good).

In fact, the drought is getting to crisis proportions in much of the Southeast. Could it be God's punishment for all those red states that so thoroughly supported Bush for President? [If we were any good at all with graphics, we'd superimpose the latest national drought monitor map on the electoral maps for 2000 and 2004--we think you'd see red for drought and red for Bush in just about the same places.]

Or maybe this is all part of a Bush/Rove plot: a secret NSA sponsored weather program to create a drought so severe that all the poor people in Atlanta and other Southern cities have to move out--i.e., a lot of African-Americans--thereby enhancing Republican majorities in those states, right before redistricting. Hey, it worked in New Orleans! Yep, that's what we think it is.

Even if it's not, here's one thing you can count on if big cities like Atlanta and Raleigh really do go dry: they won't get any help from ol' Bushie. Yes, he'll buzz by in Air Force one, maybe even turn the spigot on a water truck while the TV cameras are rolling, but don't expect any kind of meaningful help out of Washington. After all, the Republicans in those cities will find a way to help themselves.

Monday, October 22, 2007

How Giuliani Helped Himself At "Values Voters" Conference

We love that title of "Values Voters" because it's just so perfectly misleading. Take off the "s" on values and you have "value" voters, kind of like some kind of bargain shopping club. Anyway, as is typical with zealots, they assume that if you don't share their values, then you don't have values, a rather ridiculous and silly notion but for the fact that it leads to war, prejudice, intolerance and all kinds of other human ills.

But we stray--our point today is how Rudy Giuliani helped his campaign by his weekend appearance before the relatively hostile Values Voters. (Note: if they were truly Values Voters, they wouldn't have their conference in Washington--they'd put it someplace boringly wholesome, like Topeka.)

Rudy didn't really help himself much--if any--with the GOP's Christian right, other than demonstrating that he's not afraid of them.

The real benefit to Rudy comes from his unwillingness to pander to the Values conference. In his speech, Giuliani had this to say: “I’m not going to pretend to you that I can be all things to all people,” he said. “I’m just not like that. I can’t do that…Isn’t it better that I tell you what I really believe, instead of pretending to change all of my positions to fit the prevailing winds?"

I.e., I ain't going to change my positions on abortion and gay rights just to suit you.

There are two pay-offs to Rudy from this stance. First, it's a great swipe at Mitt "Two-Faced" Romney and helps Rudy with more moderate traditional Republicans, who may, for once, be the key to who gets nominated.

Second, IF Giuliani gets the nomination--and we're certainly not yet ready to crown him with that mantle--it will be a tremendous boost for him in the general election campaign. Any Republican who gets the nomination by successfully pandering to the Christian right--are you listening Mitt?--will pay a price in the general election. Most of the rest of the electorate is pretty sick of what Bush has done, and firmly associates him with the religious right. By distancing himself from that crowd, Giuliani has gained insulation against attacks that would inevitably be fair game come the general election campaign.

Whether Rudy G. can get there, however, is yet to be seen.

More On Neo-Conservative War Mongering Against Iran

This weekend we did an extensive post on a Wall Street Journal op-ed by neo-conservative Michael Ledeen, fomenting for war with Iran under the guise of citing "progress" in Iraq.

We thought we'd follow-up with this terrific column from Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria, whose insights into Middle East politics are always useful: "Stalin, Mao and . . . Ahmadinejad?"

Referring to some of the ravings of Ledeen's fellow neo-con, Norman Podhoretz--another of those idiots who got us into the war in Iraq--Zakaria asks "What planet are we on?"

He notes that comparisons of Ahmadinejad to Hitler, Stalin and Mao are just a tad overstated.

It's a good read.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Make Way For Huckabee

The big story these days in the Presidential nomination contests is Mike Huckabee.

With the other right wing "values" candidates dropping by the wayside, the Republican social issue voters are beginning to coalesce rapidly around the former big man from Arkansas.

In just the past two weeks, Huckabee's poll numbers have surged in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, with Mr. Mike incredibly rising into second place in a couple of Iowa polls. With his wide margin of victory in the "Value Voters Summit" straw poll this weekend, Huckabee should continue his momentum. [Value Voters, of course, are not those looking for good value in a candidate, but rather those who believe THEIR values should be YOUR values.]

Now, what if Huckabee can win in Iowa, or at least give Mitt Romney a run for his money (and we mean that about the money quite literally). That would be a story, alright, and not the one Romney's banking on.

We think Huckabee's poll surge will continue as the GOP right wing finally gets its act together and the affable Arkansan peels off some of the lukewarm support that had been attached to Romney, Thompson and even Giuliani. The Huckster could garner 20 percent in Iowa and a respectable 15 percent or so nationally--enough to add to the already delicious turmoil in the Republican ranks.

Keep an eye on Governor Huckabee. He's got the big Mo'.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Neo-Cons Continue To Press For War With Iran

What are the Neo-Cons up to these days? Those geniuses who urged war against Iraq on false premises, then urged going in with too few troops, brought us de-baathification and the dismantling of the Iraqi Army, and hence the spark for a four-year insurgency?

If you're wondering, take a look at today's Wall Street Journal, the official propaganda rag of the Neo-Con movement.

There, you will see an op-ed piece by Michael Ledeen, "a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute," which would better be named the Neo-Con Institute. Invitingly titled "Victory Is Within Reach In Iraq," the piece seems, at first, to argue that we've pretty much "won" in Iraq, whatever that means. (In today's Bush administration, it appears to me subduing Al Queda in Iraq, which, of course, did not even exist BEFORE we invaded.)

But before we break out the Victory in Iraq parades, we need to take note of what Ledeen says at the end of his article. And before we look at the end of his op-ed, we should note that Ledeen just happens to have a new book out rather alarmingly titled "The Iranian Time Bomb."

So, after all the optimism that we've won in Iraq--and one would hence think can now send our soldiers home(?)--Ledeen contradicts himself by positing the twin bogeymen of Iran and Syria. "Not a day goes by without one of our commanders shouting to the four winds that the Iranians are operating all over Iraq, and that virtually all the suicide terrrorists are foreigners, sent in from Syria."

That sounds bad, but then get a load of this, which is downright frightening (because W Bush reads and believes this crap): "We have done great damage to their [i.e., Iran and Syria] forces on the battlefield, but they can always escalate, and we still have no policy to direct against the terror masters in Damascus and Tehran. [I.e., don't get excited about sending the troops home yet.] THAT PROBLEM IS NOT GOING TO BE RESOLVED BY SOUND COUNTERINSURGENCY STRATEGY ALONE, NO MATTER HOW BRILLIANTLY EXECUTED."

Let's just spell out what Mr. Ledeen is saying here: time to send the Marines into Iran.

Perhaps the WSJ should give its readers just a bit more background on Mr. Ledeen. Ledeen has been in and out of the national security apparatus of various Republican administrations, including involvement in Reagan's infamous Iran-Contra scandal.

After disappearing for awhile during the Clinton administration, the ultra-conservative Ledeen resurfaced as a favorite outside adviser to Karl Rove in the W administration. From day one he was urging war in Iraq, and he was subsequently implicated in the forgery of document suggesting that Saddam Hussein had purchased yellowcake from Niger (although he denies the allegations). (For more, click here.)

Now Ledeen is one of the most prominent war-mongers for an attack on Iran. (We will say this for him--unlike most of the chicken-hawks in the administration, he has a son serving in the Marines in Iraq, and hence would evidently be willing to send his son into Iran.)

Like most of the Neo-Cons, Ledeen starts with a conservative conviction, and then simply cherry-picks whatever facts are convenient to his theories. His rosy op-ed piece on Iraq is a case in point, blithely ignoring quite a bit of bad news while picking up on a few bits of cheery news to paint an extremely misleading picture.

Don't get burned by these charlatans again.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Colbert's Publicity Gambit Pays Off

The problem with the news media these days is too much media and not much news.

Which explains why Comedy Central's fake right wing pundit Stephen Colbert has gotten so much press for "announcing" that he will run as a favorite son presidential candidate in the South Carolina primary.

Honestly, why would any serious newspaper devote an inch of space to such a nonstory? (Yes, yes, you can ask the same thing about the Curmudgeon; but by now you know we have a double standard, so get over it.)

At the very least, newspapers (and websites, like CNN) ought to tell the truth in their reporting of this "story."

Here's how the ostensibly serious Washington Post started its story yesterday: "Stephen Colbert announced his candidacy for president on 'The Colbert Report' on Tuesday night, tossing his satirical hat into the ring of an already crowded race."

A more fitting intro would've been this: "Desperate to draw publicity for his new book, comedian Stephen Colbert made a gag last night of pretending that he would run for President. Colbert, whose Comedy Central television show, The Colbert Report, has dragged out for about as long as possible a joke in which he poses as a right wing political commentator, obviously is looking for a way out of the show and into something new and--one hopes--fresh."

Now that would be a bit more honest. Better yet would be a statement, inside Style, saying that "As a serious newspaper, we are not covering anything that has to do with Britney, Lindsay, Jenna Bush or Stephen Colbert. We will no longer serve as a conduit for authors and publishers to promote new books, other than via serious book reviews where we trash these pieces of celebrity garbage."

Oh, in case you were wondering, Colbert's book, "I Am America (And So Can You!)" is number 2 on bestseller lists.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Electric Grid Overseer Calls For More Transmission Lines--Needs To Read Curmudgeon's Solution

The North American Electric Reliability Corp. has been chartered by Congress to enforce reliability of the nation's electric grid. NERC released its annual assessment yesterday, warning that the mid-Atlantic region is not keeping up with forecast demand. (See Electricity Overseer Says Grid Must Grow)

NERC's solution: more transmission lines and more massive generating plants to meet that demand.

We suggest NERC take a look at the Curmudgeon's solution: A Better Way To Satisfy Demand Without Expensive, Unsightly Transmission Lines. In a nutshell: take all that money designated for new transmission lines (over $1 billion in the mid-Atlantic region) and invest it into solar energy in partnership with businesses and individuals, generating roughly $3 billion in new solar investment to offset peak summer electric demand and eliminate the need for new transmission lines.

Curmudgeon Follow-ups: Spanish Plunder, Armenian Genocide Bill, Larry Craig

A couple follow-ups on prior Curmudgeon posts:

1. Spanish Plunder

A couple months ago, we reported on a spat between the Spanish government and an American salvage company over the reported discovery of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gold coins and other booty from a sunken Spanish treasure ship. (See Spanish Plunder Anew?) Our point: why should Spain get its hands on treasure it stole in the first place?

The latest: A Spanish warship forcibly escorted the salvage company's ship, Odyssey Explorer, to a Spanish port where the Explorer's captain was arrested and the salvage vessel searched. (See Spain Searches Ship of U.S. Treasure Firm). Spain's view, we guess, is that what they stole fair and square should still be theirs.

2. Armenian Bill

Recently, we Curmudgeon'd against Congress for pushing forward on a resolution to declare Turkey responsible for Armenian genocide. (See Bad Armenian Resolution) It appears that the Curmudgeon's logic and reasoning has gotten to a number of members of Congress, as quite a few sponsors of the Armenian resolution have withdrawn their support. (See Support Wanes For Armenian Genocide Bill)

Unfortunately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has a lot of Armenians in her district, is still pushing this bad piece of political theater. So is Sen. Hillary Clinton, who really ought to know better.

Here's a good column--Armenians Need Help Today--noting that Armenian-Americans could do some real good if they'd expend their energies getting modern Armenia to try a little democracy for its citizen. Heck, maybe they could even become as democratic as Turkey!

3. Larry Craig

Yesterday Craig appeared on The Today Show to be interviewed by Matt Lauer. What a waste of electrons. Even Craig's chief of staff probably would've asked tougher questions than Lauer. For details, see NBC's Matt Lauer, Making The Least of an Opportunity.

Craig is appealing the court's denial of his effort to plead unguilty, which guarantees that he will spend some more time in the ol' spotlight.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mark Warner Piles Up The Early Cash

Holy smokes, Mark Warner has already raised $1.1 million to finance his bid for the open Senate seat being vacated by retiring Senator John Warner. (See "Kaine, Warner Pile Up Donations")

Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to stack the deck for the nomination of former Governor Jim Gilmore, who briefly--and invisibly--ran for President. (So it's likely to be a race between two former Virginia governors, both of whom dropped out of the Presidential race.) Gilmore's opponent for the GOP nomination is Congressman Tom Davis, a more moderate Republican from northern Virginia. The Party has decided to select its nominee in a convention, which will be stuffed with conservative party members, rather than a primary that would be open to more moderate independent voters, thereby favoring the conservative Gilmore.

All of which looks good for Warner, along with early polls showing him with a commanding lead over either Republican opponent.

But then, think how George Allen felt about his prospects about this time two years ago: piles of moola in the bank, wide lead in the polls, Democrats divided over who to nominate out of two not very well known contenders, and Allen's name being bandied about as a strong presidential contender.

And look how that turned out.

So let's not make any assumptions about this race yet. Warner will need to work hard, raise money and avoid any kind of macaca moment.

Monday, October 15, 2007

"Three" Is The Charm

This weekend we checked out one of Clarendon's newest eateries, Restaurant 3 (

Located on the site of the old Aegean Taverna, at the corner of Garfield and Clarendon Blvd., Three is an upscale restaurant with an American menu.

It's called "3" because it's the owners' third restaurant. No, they didn't call the first two "1" and "2"--evidently their creativity ran out only with the third. The owners are also behind Clarendon nightspot Whitlow's, a terrific place for a burger if you can stand the constant din in the place (frankly, we can't--but it's not so bad for an early weekend breakfast or brunch).

Anyway, "3"--which we can already see is awkward to write about--has some good things going for it. The restaurant itself is quite nice, with heavy accents of golden wood and soft earth tones. There are three dining rooms, including one that is a bit like a sun porch, which was very inviting as the sun set on a delightful weekend evening. Unfortunately, we weren't invited into that room, to Mrs. Curmudgeon's annoyance (despite her inquiry).

The wait staff was fine--not overly intrusive, but attentive.

One thing we liked was the way they served wine by the glass. Instead of the waiter disappearing and then reappearing with a glass of wine that could be anything, he appeared at our table with the actual bottles of wine and poured our glasses on the spot. Generous pours, we might add. We thought that a nice touch.

The menu is a bit limited--four or five fish dishes, a couple steaks, one pork dish and a couple vegetarian entrees. No chicken. But then, who needs chicken, right? We tried the filet mignon, which was quite good and cooked perfectly to our order. The other dishes in our party looked good, too, especially the seared tuna. We had a side of asiago grits, which were as rich as one might expect.

The dessert menu was a bit of disappointment. Living up to the restaurant's name, there were only three dessert selections, and they were pretty mundane--fudge brownie something, etc. So we passed (we had a movie to get to as well).

If you're familiar with Clarendon's restaurant scene, then we'd say "3" was not quite as good as Liberty Tavern, a bit pricier than Boulevard Woodgrill, and not quite as lively as Harry's Taproom, all Clarendon favorites. Also, definitely not a place to go with the kids, unless they have very sophisticated tastes for which you're willing to pay.

But I'm pretty sure we'll return to "3" before too long, and we recommend you give it a try.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Presidential Prognostications: Update

A few things have happened in the past week or so to make us think it's time to update our prognostications for the '08 presidential election.


1. Al Gore won't run. Al has now won the Nobel Peace Prize, and some of his supporters are urging this as the occasion for him to announce his candidacy. Sorry, it won't happen. Gore is happy doing what he's doing--and he's effective at it. If he were to throw his hat into the Democratic ring today, he'd (a) have to start the grueling process of fundraising, and (b) still be fairly far behind Hillary. There's no assurance he would win the nomination. We think Al knows better.

2. Previously, we refused to pick a winner in the Democratic race. But now it's looking like Hillary will lock it up absent some major race-shaking event (for which there is still plenty of time).

3. While we have previously endorsed Bill Richardson, and he has made more movement than anyone else, we don't see him winning it. Frankly, we'd like to see him jump into the race for the open Senate seat from New Mexico. No need to do it yet--he can wait until the filing deadline in February, after a few of the early presidential primaries/caucuses are decided.


4. We previously said Gingrich would run on the GOP side, but we were wrong. Too bad--would've been interesting.

5. We still think the Republican race is wide open and could go to the convention without a nominee. Now that would be FUN!

6. We still think there will be at least one, maybe two, fairly well-known Republicans who run for President on an independent or other party ticket. Both Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo have certainly left that door open. Such a move could tilt some fairly close states to the Democrats.


7. We still think there will be a major independent candidate, probably NY Mayor Bloomberg.

Finally, we leave you with this thought: it's October and Iowa/New Hampshire aren't that far off. After months of everyone running in place, we're about to start the real race. Thank goodness!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bad Armenian Resolution

During WWI, the declining Ottoman Turks massacred hundreds of thousands--up to 1.5 million--Armenians living in the Turkish empire.

The Great War, as it was then known, was in full swing. The Turks sided with the Central Powers (i.e., Germany, et al.) and tried to invade part of Russia. They failed, and blamed Armenian Christians in the region for their defeat. The Christian Armenians and the Muslim Turks had not exactly been getting along well before that--like many ethnic rivalries in Europe at this time, they had been warring for years, with the Armenians generally getting the short end of the stick.

Taking advantage of the war, the Turks embarked on an eradication campaign against the Armenians. It was certainly genocide.

Now here we are nearly a century later and some very complicated politics have brought a dangerously flawed resolution before the U.S. Congress. The resolution would declare that what the Turks did was genocide. Who is pushing this resolution? Armenian-American Christians. They aren't an especially big voting block, but they do have some influence in Congress.

Today's modern Turkish government isn't all too happy about this. Even as the Turks mass their army for a possible move against another ethnic group--the Kurds--they deny that what happened was genocide. They say it was just war.

Maybe yes, maybe no. But why in the world would the U.S. Congress decide--right now, of all times--to address this issue with a resolution? We really don't need to piss-off Turkey now. We shouldn't. And we have nothing to gain at all.

Did the U.S. commit genocide against American Indians? Probably. Did we commit genocide against the Japanese in WWII when we firebombed, and then atomic bombed, their cities, killing millions of civilians, mostly women and children? Would it be appropriate for Muslim countries to pass resolutions condemning the U.S. for genocide?

There ARE differences. However, nothing good can come of the resolution being pushed through Congress now. Why in the world do we want to do this?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Goodbye Summer!

It was a great summer--nice and long. And hot. And dry. It was officially over three weeks ago, but in this age of global warming, it just kept on going.

We're pretty sure today was our last day, however. By tomorrow we'll be looking at more seasonable temperatures. Not cold--just fall-like. Time to get out the light jackets and sweatshirts.

It will be nice to have a bit of chill in the air--will suit the pumpkins on the porches and the ever earlier nightfall.

Goodbye summer! (Oh, and we could use some rain.)

A Better Way To Satisfy Demand Without Expensive, Unsightly Transmission Lines

What if we could avoid construction of several hundred miles of unsightly, expensive high voltage transmission lines and instead create the conditions for installation of $6 billion in new solar power generation in the mid-Atlantic region?

It can be done. All it takes is some willpower and creativity. Here's the background.

Demand for electricity in the mid-Atlantic is booming. To meet that demand, electric utilities are proposing a number of new high voltage transmission lines, the largest of which is a 250 mile, $1.4 billion project by Dominion Power and Allegheny Power. Smaller projects around Norfolk and in Maryland bring the total cost of these unsightly new lines to around $2 billion, with the final cost probably being a good deal higher.

The main reason utilities need to build new transmission lines is to meet projected peak power demand in coming years. Peak power demand in our region comes on hot summer days when air conditioners are on full throttle. Typically, there may be 10-15 days when demand gets high enough to put a strain on the electric grid. The rest of year, the grid can handle our power needs without too much of a sweat.

Many opponents of the new transmission lines say they're simply not needed--that we can stave off the demand through conservation and construction of smaller generating plants closer to the areas with high demand. We're not so sure about that. Conservation is great--we encourage it (and practice it) here at the Curmudgeon. But as long as we have cheap power here, people aren't likely to conserve as much as we need them to. And they darn sure aren't going to turn off the A/C when it gets to 100 degrees.

There is an alternative, however: solar electricity. The great thing about solar electricity is that it's at its peak on hot summer days, exactly when it would be needed most. In contrast, transmission lines don't produce a single watt of electricity. Indeed, they lose electricity--the further the power has to travel from generation to use, the more is lost.

Here's how Dominion, Allegheny and the other mid-Atlantic utilities could translate $2 billion in transmission lines into $6 billion in new solar capacity. For most homeowners and businesses, solar electricity is not yet economical. However, if they could get a 30-40 percent subsidy, on top of federal (and sometimes state) tax credits, solar suddenly starts to look like a winning proposition.

Suppose the utilities subsidized one-third of the cost of solar installations, up to the $2 billion they were instead going to spend on ratepayer-financed transmission lines. That would translate into $6 billion in new solar capacity. Since the solar installations are placed at the same site as electric consumption (i.e., homes and businesses) there is no need for any additional transmission lines.

We could offset a large amount of peak power demand in this region with $6 billion in new solar cells on those critical hot summer days.

Our back of the envelope calculation is as follows: the peak output of the Curmudgeon's $20,000 solar array is about 2200 watts (2.2 kilowatts), reached in the middle of the afternoon on a sunny summer day. That's about .11 watts per dollar invested. So $6 billion would translate into 660 million watts, which is 660 megawatts--the generating capacity of a medium to large nuclear reactor. Except that in this case, almost no electricity would be lost in transmission, and our calculation is conservative because Dominion could find better sites than the Curmudgeon's (we don't have a true southern exposure) and could achieve economies of scale that we can't.

The net result would be have Dominion and other utilities partner with thousands of businesses and homeowners--generating an additional investment of $4 billion by those individuals and businesses--to bring widely distributed solar generation right to the source of demand.

The key to achieving this is to give Dominion and the other utilities the incentive to invest in solar power, rather than to invest in transmission lines. It's not that difficult--California has already done it.

We think that, given the right incentive, a private utility like Dominion would learn to become quite efficient at siting and installing solar power, thus bringing the cost down to some degree. (Solar will remain expensive, however, for a few more years due to capacity shortages in the industry.) Dominion would be likely to identify ideal candidates--for example, a larger business with plenty of unobstructed south-facing roof space--and then approach them with the subsidy needed to make the installation economical. Dominion would also be able to develop a unit with the expertise to install solar efficiently, and it would have sufficient purchasing power to obtain better deals on solar panels, inverters and other required equipment.

Of course, this process would also generate a huge "green" dividend, and if trading carbon credits becomes the norm, Dominion could reap fairly large additional benefits by selling its carbon credits to other utilities. In contrast, no transmission line is ever going to generate any carbon credits.

Ultimately, it becomes a "win-win" for both Dominion and its customers, not to mention the many thousands of landowners who won't be impacted by hundreds of miles of new steel towers and humming transmission lines. Why can't this be done?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Bush Administration Blows Security on Spy Effort Into Al Queda

You know, if this happened during the Clinton administration, the right wing would be all up in arms, 24/7, with Limbaugh and Fox going nuts.

But since it was their bumbling hero Bush, they're not saying anything.

Here's what happened: a private security outfit, called SITE, infiltrated Al Queda's e-network and managed to acquire very early a copy of Bin Laden's latest video. SITE then offered to share the video with the White House, but of course asked that it be kept secret so that SITE infiltration would not be detected.

Big mistake. Within hours of sharing the info with the Bushies, it got LEAKED to the news media, including FOX, which put it up on its own website with all the identifying info. (See "Leak Severed a Link to Al-Qaeda's Secrets")

Gee, do you think one of W's r-wingers hit the ol' speed dial to Fox and alerted them that the White House had gotten an advance copy of Bin Laden's latest. Probably implied that this was due to some terrific White House sleuthing, etc., etc.

So now Al Queda has shut down the channels through which SITE got the video--and had been getting other surreptitious info on Al Queda.

Of course, the party line from the administration and its media apologists is that the government has its own means of getting similar intelligence. Well, let's hope they don't share it with anyone in the West Wing, lest it, too, get compromised.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Blackwater Politics

Poor, poor Blackwater. Thank goodness they have Bob "It's Ok To Reveal CIA Agents I Don't Like" Novak to defend them from all these "political" attacks.

Today, Novak says Democrats in Congress are "playing politics" with Blackwater because it is an "extremely Republican" company. ("Playing Politics With Blackwater.")

Let's examine Novak's logic and reasoning here. First, it is true that Blackwater is heavily involved in politics, making large campaign contributions almost exclusively to Republicans. They are about as neutral as Bob Novak.

Now, should it give us any pause that a company with such tendencies just happens to be the recipient of approximately $600 MILLION in federal contracts? We'd certainly be concerned if the Bush administration started paying Bob Novak hundreds of millions of dollars without any oversight.

Still, it kind of depends on things, right--we mean, you can be a politically oriented company and still deliver good service to the government at a competitive price. But then, there needs to be accountability.

So what kind of oversight did Blackwater receive while the GOP controlled both houses of Congress and the Executive Branch? Basically, NONE. Indeed, it got some sweetheart deals and managed to get the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq to give it carte blanche to do whatever it wants.

It appears that some overzealous Blackwater employees managed to murder as many as 17 Iraqis recently in a hail of heavy caliber gunfire while crossing through one of Baghdad's squares protecting some person of minor importance.

Can you imagine what would happen here if, say, the Secret Service managed to kill 17 innocent Americans while protecting the President. There would be hearings, believe it, and a lot more.

We can also imagine what would happen if a private security company in the U.S. managed to kill 17 Americans under any circumstances: the trial bar would sue it into liquidation faster than you can say gross negligence.

When Blackwater's cocky little Prince of a chief executive testified before Congress last week, he said "people make mistakes. They do stupid things sometimes." Yep. And they PAY for them, too. But Blackwater seems to think it is completely above the law, and that Iraqi lives don't really matter.

At that same hearing, the GOP representatives--beneficiaries of Blackwater's financial largesse--spent most of their time lauding Mr. Prince and kissing his butt, rather than asking any probing questions.

So, Mr. Novak, we think your complaint is all wet. Republicans have been playing politics with Blackwater all along. It's time someone held the company to account.

Enough Already With WaPo's Jenna Coverage

Like father, like daughter.

"W" got a lot of perks out of being his dad's son--that Texas Air National Guard gig; his first job with an oil company he drove into the ground; the cushy stint with the Texas Rangers (baseball team).

Likewise, Jenna Bush is making the best of her family connections, getting a book published that she would, let's say charitably, have an awfully difficult time with if her name were Jenna Brown.

But that's life, as they say, and it happens on both sides of the political spectrum. (Kristin Gore to name just one.)

Still, does the Washington Post have to shamelessly promote Jenna Bush's book tour EVERY DAY? Good lord, who cares? Yet, there she is, day in and day out in the Post's Style section, revealing such tidbits as that she is afraid of the ghosts in the "kids" bedroom at the White House.

Do us a favor, WaPo--give us a Jenna break!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Larry Craig And The Moving Toilet Stall

Darn it--the court denied Sen. Larry Craig's request to plead unguilty. Now what will we do for entertainment around the Curmudgeon HQ?

Let's see if you can figure out the pattern here:

Larry Craig says that despite pleading guilty, he's not guilty.

Larry says he's not gay.

Sen. Larry says he's going to resign September 30.

Larry says he's not gay.

Mr. Wide Stance says he's only going to resign if the court doesn't allow him to withdraw his plea before September 30.

Larry says he's not gay.

Sen. Craig says he'll wait until after September 30, and then resign only if the court doesn't allow him to unplead guilty.

Larry says he's not gay.

Craig says that notwithstanding the court's ruling against him, he's going to serve out his term.

Larry says he's not gay. (Not, as they say on Seinfeld, that there's anything wrong with that.)

Oh, and by the way, what's with the Senate Ethics Committee hearing? Are they going to investigate whether Larry is gay, and if so, will they decide that if you're a Republican in an extremely manly red state, then that's an ethics violation?
Or are they instead going to investigate the misdemeanor to which Sen. Craig plead guilty. And if so, what are they going to do if they find out that he did what he plead guilty to doing?

Are they going to slap him on the wrist? Tap his feet with their feet? Cut off his winkie?

It's really a waste of time, but we hope Larry "Not Gay" Craig appeals the ruling refusing to let him unplead guilty.

If the guy's really going to stay in office, particularly as a lame duck, why not do something useful--and modestly brave: come out of the closet (or the stall) and make a statement in favor of gay men forced to cruise airport bathrooms and persecuted for it, rather than carry on with his charade.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Gone Golfin'

We've gone golfing for a few days--be back early next week! (Unless something happens on the Larry Craig front, in which case we'll just have to make time for a post.)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Bored In Arlington

It's an election year here in Virginia. In Arlington, too. But there's no suspense in Arlington. None at all. Democrats will win every race, by a wide margin. Kind of like the old days of the single party South.

Now don't get us wrong. We're happy that Democrats will win. Still, it's a bit boring. We have no opportunity to pick up any seats in the legislature here. For any action, we have to look to our west and south, in other parts of Northern Virginia, where there are some interesting--and critical races--particularly if the Democrats in Virginia are to re-take at least one chamber.

Of course, everyone is still going through the motions here. We get many an invite to fundraisers for candidates who will win by margins of 65-35 percent. We get the usual phone calls--indeed, we can no longer answer our home phone for fear of what is on the other end of the line.

We did get an amusing call the other day: it was from the Fred Thompson campaign. We toyed with the lady for awhile, but then she figured out that she had hit a blue household, and politely said she'd remove us from their calling list.

The problem with state legislative elections is that there is no polling to rely--or mis-rely--upon, or to spice up the race with speculation. The districts are simply too small for effective polling. So we have to rely on educated guesses as to which races will be competitive--and might merit opening up the ol' checkbook.

With five weeks to go, it's still too early to make any predictions. But we're getting close. Let's hope there's some fun in it all at the end!