Monday, March 31, 2008

Did McCain Start The Iraq Fighting?

Did anyone notice that shortly after John McCain went over to Iraq a few days ago the Shi'ites all started fighting each other? Coincidence?

Not that McCain has anything to gain by renewed Iraqi fighting. Indeed, a sustained increase in Iraqi internecine warfare could significantly damage his presidential bid by exposing the "surge"--which McCain vigorously supported--as an inadequate and unsustainable policy.

Even with the apparent--but tenuous--success of the surge over the past few months, Americans have overwhelmingly indicated a desire to get their troops home. Nor have many been persuaded that somehow the war was worth it.

We think most Americans sense, as we do, that Iraq remains a volatile tinderbox, one that could explode at any time, and that short of staying there for decades there's not much we can do about it. If it turns out that the surge only delayed the inevitable factional fighting in Iraq, rather than creating the environment needed for a permanent political resolution, then we might just as well have left long ago.

As the economy continues to sour--a direct result of numerous misguided Bush administration policies--we hope Americans won't fall for the standard Republican playbook of fear of terrorism. Do you really think McCain and the GOP are going to make the country safer? Look at Osama bin Laden: after seven years as the world's most wanted criminal, he's still at large, mainly because the Bush administration hasn't seriously pursued him.

Indeed, we think it's willful. Bush, Cheney, McCain--they all NEED Osama so they can play the fear card at every turn.

Now, if only the Democrats could unite behind a single candidate (or ticket) for November.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What To Do About Michigan, Florida and the Superdelegates

Oh vey, what a mess.

Democrats continue down the path to deadlock and a contentious convention with floorfights over Michigan, Florida and probably a few other issues. Meanwhile, Hillary and Obama make each other look small while McCain issues grandiose (and moderate-sounding, compared to Dubya) foreign policy pronouncements.

Today's Wall Street Journal has an interesting take on the Michigan/Florida mess from a Republican, former Bush economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey, who did a good job analyzing some numbers. (See "Hillary's Last Hope.")

[We take issue with Lindsey on one point, his claim that "Only lawyers could have invented delegate selection rules as complicated and opaque as the ones the Democrats are struggling under." The Republican system is, in fact, more complicated and opaque, as every state sets it's own rules, ranging from Louisiana's bizarre caucus system to New York's pure winner-take-all closed primary. The GOP came very close this year to a meltdown similar to that on the Democratic side--if Rudy G.'s non-strategy had worked in Florida, Republicans, too, would still be at it right now.]

In any event, Lindsey correctly notes that there are significant differences between Florida and Michigan, and he makes a convincing case that the Florida primary pretty much mirrored what would've happened anyway, both in terms of turnout and result.

Although we've supported Obama, we don't see a good argument for not using the Florida results as-is. Both candidates were on the ballot, neither actively campaigned, but the turnout was about what would've been expected. Obama was not going to win Florida, and he wouldn't in a re-vote. If I was a neutral superdelegate at the convention in Denver, I'd vote to seat a Florida delegation that mirrored the primary results.

Michigan is a different story. In Michigan, only Hillary was on the ballot. While supporters of Obama (or any of the OTHER candidates) could've voted for "uncommitted,"--and many did--it is clear that many Michiganers stayed home from the polls in what obviously was a non-contest. Lindsey suggests, based on demographics of other similar states, that Hillary still would've won Michigan, and he may be right, but we can't really tell based on the turnout. (And Lindsey points out that Hillary's margin likely would have been smaller.)

As a neutral superdelegate at the convention, I could not support any seating of the Michigan delegation based on the clearly distorted primary results from that state. The DNC needs to find some way to get a Michigan re-vote done. By the way, it doesn't matter what the campaigns want--obviously, they want the deck stacked in their favor. What matters is how the uncommitted superdelegates would vote in a rules/credentials challenge at the convention. Perhaps the DNC should survey those delegates.

By the way, even if Hillary got the benefit of both Florida and Michigan as they voted, she'd still be pretty far behind, although after winning Pennsylvania she could make it quite close.

Speaking of superdelegates, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen has an interesting idea: bring all the superdelegates together by mid-June for a mini-convention at which they are required to commit to one candidate or the other, thereby deciding the race at that point. It's a good idea, but probably won't happen.

We were a bit surprised, however, that the Clinton campaign seems quite opposed to the idea. Apparently they want a war of attrition through August. Someone at the DNC needs to start really taking a leadership role on all this, or John McCain will waltz into the presidency come November.

Southeast Drought: Not Quite So Dry, Thank You

The record-breaking drought that has gripped the Southeastern U.S. for the better part of a year continues to alleviate, although a couple dry months, especially in the summer, would put the region right back where it was.

At right is the current map from the U.S. Drought monitor, which shows, for the first time in many months, that no part of the Southeast in now classified as in an "exceptional" drought. Three months ago, nearly of a quarter of the Southeast was in an exceptional drought state, so that's considerable improvement.

By the same token, it's still dry: 75% of the region continues to be "abnormally dry" or worse, which is still better than 90% at the beginning of the year.

The big question: will municipalities in the South--especially fast-growing ones such as in and around Atlanta and the Research Triangle in NC--learn from this drought and invest in much-needed reservoir capacity, or will they just wait for the next one, which could be worse? (I.e., will they be like San Diego, after a round of wildfires earlier in the decade, which did nothing to expand it's fire coverage, or will they take the right steps to assure adequate water supplies?)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Meet Tom Perriello

Nothing at all is happening in the presidential race, so let's turn to Congress for a minute.

Recently, we've heard a lot, from a variety of independent sources, about a fellow named Tom Perriello who is running as a Democrat to unseat GOP incumbent Virgil Goode in Virginia's Fifth Congressional District. (Goode was elected to Congress in 1996 as a Democrat, but jumped to the Republican Party in 2002--had he stayed a Democrat, he'd probably chair a decent committee right now.)

You may recall Virgil as the jerk who objected to Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, a Muslim, being sworn in on a Koran that once belonged to Thomas Jefferson. (Don't confuse Goode with his almost equally conservative counterpart from the neighboring Sixth District, Bob "Starbucks" Goodlatte.)

From all that we've learned so far, Perriello is a good guy who's generating some buzz and has demonstrated an ability to raise some decent money. It certainly won't be easy for him to unseat the Virgilmeister. Virginia's 5th District spans a swath of largely rural south-central Virgnia. The one bit of good news for Perriello is that this district includes rapidly growing Charlottesville, which is considerably more liberal-minded than most of the rest of the district, and also serves as a decent money base.

Perriello grew up in Albemarle County, near Charlottesville, then went off to Yale--both undergrad and law school--before embarking on a career of fighting atrocities in Africa and founding various organizations to help Africans and other dispossessed people of the world find justice.

For more information, go to Perriello's campaign website. The campaign is currently trying to raise enough money to convince the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that it's a race worth investing in, so feel free to kick in a few bucks!

We'll keep an eye on Mr. Perriello and try to let you know how he's doing. It's an uphill battle, no doubt, but then look at what Jim Webb accomplished!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bray and Barff

Over the years, when the Curmudgeon has needed appliance repairs, we've turned to Bray and Scarff, a Washington D.C. institution, which has generally been prompt and reliable (but not inexpensive) in getting the job done.

Not this time. Our dishwasher broke down about a month ago. Typical of modern appliances, it wasn't anything mechanical--it was the electronic control panel. Ok, so we called B & S. As per their standard policy, they sent out a mechanic who diagnosed the problem, said he'd need to order a part, and then would come back in a few days for the repair.
Fair enough, but that's not how it's worked out.

It started out ok: B & S said they'd call with an estimate after looking into the part, then get authorization to proceed. They did that part reasonably quickly. They left us a message. We called back the same day and said "go ahead and order the part."
Then it began to fall apart.

A week later, B & S called again: "Do you want us to order the part?" %$#*&@!! We already called and said to. Oh, sorry, it didn't get into "our system." So now we've lost a solid week.

So then they call and say the part's in, but they can't get a mechanic out with the part for another five days. The key day was supposed to be today, but lo and behold, the mechanic called in sick today.

So we called to reschedule. Over a period of 45 minutes, we got placed on hold for 25 minutes, then got cut off FIVE times while in various states of hold, then finally got through. We were told we couldn't be rescheduled for nearly another week. When we pressed, we were told that our part was on the sick mechanic's truck and he wouldn't be in until next week (evidently he wasn't sick--he had a car accident). Our efforts to get someone to retrieve the part and come on out here were not well-received.

Will B & S actually show up next Monday, fix our dishwasher and rescue the Curmudgeon's chapped hands? We'll see.

If anyone has a good suggestion on an alternative repair shop for home appliances, we're all ears!

Dangerous Lull For Hillary and Barack

We meant to say this before we left for Spring break, but better late than never:

The relatively long interval between primaries at this juncture is a dangerous time for both candidates. Without the daily grind of the horserace--sprinting from one nominating contest to another--the media inevitably turn to other issues, desperate to fill their news cycles.

Moreover, the political blogosphere can't stand a vacuum--we have to have SOMETHING to write about.

It's at this point that trivial matters start getting blown up. This distant supporter of Obama, or that low-level aide to Hillary, said something silly, stupid, offensive, or just inane. The campaigns, too, have nothing better to do than to play up some little irrelevancy. All of a sudden it gets to be like last summer when, for some bizarre reason, Rudy "Bad Strategery" Giuliani was inexplicably leading polls for the GOP nomination (remember him? he did earn one delegate).

It's during periods like this that the candidates seem small, inconsequential. While Barack and Hillary are sniping at each other over trivia, McCain is visiting Iraq and doing his best to look presidential.

We look forward to getting back into the horserace again--but it's still four more weeks to Pennsylvania!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Notes On Disney World

The Curmudgeon Clan was off to Disney World this past week for Spring Break. We could easily write a whole book on the Disney experience, but others already have, so here's just a few quick notes.

This was our first trip to Disney with the kids, which is pretty remarkable given that they're now 13 and 10 years old. They're both amusement park aficianados, so they rated their Disney experience compared to that of the other parks they've been too, primarily Hershey, Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion.

Of course, going to Disney World the week before Easter is about the worst possible time to go if you don't like crowds (and who does!). But with the kids' sports schedules and school activities, we didn't have much choice.

Which leads to our first observation: we saw a number of families there this week with only pre-school children. Get a clue folks--if you have pre-schoolers, don't go during Spring Break! Hey, the opportunity won't last long (those pre-schoolers tend to move on to school), so take advantage and go during off-peak times.

Our second observation: Disney is for morning people. During a busy period like Spring Break, the parks open at 8:00 a.m., with early opening for resort guests as early as 7:00 a.m. If you can get there that early, bully for you--you'll get to do a lot before the park gets crowded and lines get long. The Curmudgeon Clan is not morning people, however.

We used the "Unofficial Guide To Disney World" as our guide book for the trip. It ought to be re-titled the "Morning Person's Guide To Disney World." The entire guide book is devoted to plans that require you to arrive at the park approximately a half-hour before opening time, so that you can then rush in and ride all the major attractions without standing in line.

It probably works, but not for us. Let's say you're staying in a Disney resort hotel (we stayed at the Boardwalk, which we highly recommend for convenience, amenities, variety and nighttime activities--for those who aren't early birds) and could enter the Magic Kingdom at 7:00 a.m. Well, to get there a half-hour before the park opens, you'd need to get up around 5:30 a.m. and give yourself a half-hour to take the Disney bus, etc. The "Unofficial" Guide says you can get breakfast inside the parks, but their touring plans don't leave room in the schedule for any such silliness (they do allow for lunch, however).

A third observation: Disney favors those people who like to obsessively plan their itineraries down to the minute. If you want to eat at ANY sit-down restaurant in Disney World, you'll need a reservation, which can be made 90 days in advance. Disney wants you to reserve a seat for BREAKFAST for god's sake!

So forget spontaneity. Not sure which park you want to be in on day four? Better make a reservation, or you'll be eating burgers and chicken and scrumming for a place to sit. Or what if you get to a park and decide you want to stay late? Forget it: you've got to make it to your dinner reservation, which may be on the other side of the World, or you'll be slurping pizza on a bench.

That said, if you DO have reservations, things will work out well for your large party.

Another observation on Disney's obsession with planning: Disney has this "FAST-PASS" system, where you are allowed--once every two hours--to get a "fast-pass" that will allow you to bypass the "standby" line for popular rides and attractions and basically go right to the front. This is basically a cheap trick by Disney to make you think you're getting something special, when really you're getting screwed. Sure, the fast-pass is great when you have it, but it'll only work for about 2-4 rides per day. The rest of the time, you're standing in lines that are much LONGER because of all those people fast-passing around you.

The system is certainly fair--everyone has an equal opportunity to access fast-pass, so it's not like some parks that allow some patrons to move up in line by paying more, which can only piss off all those who still paid quite a pretty penny to get in.

But we suspect that without fast-pass, most Disney lines would be considerably shorter, without having to run back and forth across the park to get, and then use, those "fast" passes.

An observation for those who have teens or tweens who've ridden all the biggest, baddest coasters and thrill rides in the land: you need to warn them that Disney is not that kind of place. Each park has, at most, two decent thrill rides, and even those are pretty tame by comparison. On the other hand, Disney's shows are consistently the best, and it's devotion to detail in keeping with a theme far exceeds that of the competition. [That said, our kids enjoyed "Disney Quest"--a super-advanced single-price admission arcade with lots of virtual reality games--more than anything else at Disney.]

And a final observation: if you're claustrophobic or highly prone to motion sickness, you might want to stay away from Disney. A lot of rides make up for lack of speed, height and other measures of thrill-seeking by being put in the dark. For example, the Rock'N Roller Coaster at Hollywood studios, and Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom are both fairly small, but fully enclosed, roller coasters, that achieve thrills by throwing you around in the dark.

The Curmudgeon and one of the Curmudgeon Kids are mildly claustrophobic. We survived the many enclosed rides, virtual reality canisters and darkened theaters, enjoying most of them, but really, we'd rather be out in the open.

The good news: despite it being Disney's busiest week, despite our not being early birds, despite our not planning to the minute, we had a good time. Disney can handle a large crowd. They can move people around efficiently, and they generally move a lot of people through the rides and shows fairly quickly. And they still put on a magnificent show.

March Madness Update--How'd The Curmudgeonly "Final Four Rule" Work Out?

[Note: The Curmudgeon just returned from a Spring Break respite in sunny Florida.]

So, how'd we do with our "Final Four" rule for the NCAA tournament, i.e., our proposal that no team from a "power" conference should get to go to the Big Dance unless it finishes in EITHER it's conference's regular season top four, OR in the final four of it's conference tournament?

The results were not as consistent as last year. There were five teams in the tournament field this year that flunked the final four test: Arizona, Miami, Oregon, Vanderbilt and Villanova. Of those, three lost in the first round: Arizona and Oregon, both from the Pac 10 (a pretty weak "power conference" to begin with) and Vanderbilt, which lost to number 12 seed Siena. Arizona is a double stinker, because it flunked the final four rule last year as well, and also lost in the first round. Note to Selection Committee: don't foist Arizona on the field unless they really have a terrific season!

However, two of our final four flunkies won: Villanova upset Clemson, and Miami put away mid-major at-large team St. Mary's. Both 'Nova and the 'Canes play today, so we'll see if either has the savvy to make it to the Sweet 16.

This is a better showing than last year, when the only final four flunkie to make it through did so by beating another final four flunkie.

We also said to watch the mid-major at-large teams to see how they did. Out of six, only one--highly regarded Xavier--advanced. Xavier, which is through to the Sweet 16, was an at-large pick only because it was upset in it's conference tournament.

That's not to say that some other smaller schools haven't done quite well: Siena, Davidson, Butler and Western Kentucky all made it past round 1.

We think our final four rule is still a good one: it makes the regular season and the conference tournaments in the power conferences more relevant; it takes some of the subjectivity out of the "bubble" selections; it downplays RPI, which is unfairly tilted to the power conferences; and it opens more space to the mid-majors, which in turn makes the tournament more interesting.

Finally, we wouldn't make our final four rule a hard and fast one: the tournament selection committee could still go with a school that flunked the final four test if there were really good reasons for doing so. Instead, the rule would be a presumptive--failure to satisfy the final four rule would mean a team presumptively isn't going. (By the same token, meeting the final four rule is no assurance of being selected.)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bracketology: These Are The Teams That Shouldn't Have Made It

Yesterday, we advocated for our "Final Four" rule for March Madness: only teams that finished in EITHER the final four of their conference regular season standings OR in the final four of their conference championship tournament should get to go to the Big Dance.

Here's the teams that violate that rule--watch them carefully, as they are likely to exit quickly; it would've been much more interesting to let a good mid-major take their place:

Villanova (finished 8th(!) in the Big East; lost in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament)

Miami (finished 5th in the ACC; lost in the ACC quarterfinals)

Oregon (6th in the Pac 10; didn't make the semis)

Arizona (7th in the Pac 10; didn't make the semis)

Vanderbilt (5th in the SEC; didn't make it past the quarters)

Of these, Arizona and Villanova are particularly atrocious picks: both got in last year, also in violation of our rule, and both promptly lost in the first round. Why are such weak sisters given slots when they could barely crack the Elite Eight of their own darn conferences?

In contrast, there are a few mid-major at-large teams that are worth looking at. They are:


St. Joseph's



St. Mary's

So. Alabama

Let's see if they do better than the also-rans from the "power" conferences.
Oh, and GO HOYAS!!

Obama Continues To Gain Delegates and Widen His Lead

While the Mainstream Media plays along with Hillary's contention that the race continues, with Pennsylvania, where she's favored, being the next critical contest, Obama continues to pick up delegates and widen his lead.

Today, he picked up 14 delegates, mostly in Iowa and California.

How is that, you say?

As we noted awhile back, in caucus states the pledged delegates aren't really picked until the state conventions are held, which is usually a couple months after the initial caucuses. As the convention process proceeds, the delegates sometimes shift, depending on whether the candidates get their county and statewide delegates to each successive level of meetings.

In Iowa, Obama picked up delegates that had belonged to Edwards. He stands a good chance of picking up additional delegates here and there as the caucus states proceed to state conventions, and should best Hillary since he won most of those states.

In California, Obama picked up a few delegates as all the remaining votes were tallied up.

If they ever get around to finishing the Texas caucus count, he should get a few more there as well.

So, Obama's lead now is actually larger than it was before the March 4 primaries where Hillary took Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island. According to, Obama's lead now stands at 135 (1628 for Obama to 1493 for Hillary).

Hillary will likely win Pennsylvania, but she'll likely lose North Carolina, which has 115 delegates, a couple weeks later, and so the gap will remain.

Granted, it's pretty close, but 135 delegates is impossible for Hillary to make up at this late date. We think she's just stalling for time.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Texas Disgrace: Count The Democratic Caucus Ballots Already!

What a disgrace in Texas. The odd hybrid Texas Democratic primary and caucuses were held nearly two weeks ago, on March 4. The primary votes were quickly tallied, with Hillary Clinton winning by a small margin over Barack Obama. On the delegate side, however, they were about even.

The same night as the primary, however, Texas also held Democratic caucuses, at which roughly a third of the state's delegates were at stake. The caucuses were well-attended. It appeared that Obama won. By the next day, the state Democratic party was reporting that with 41% of the caucuses counted, Obama led 56%-44%.

But then nothing else happened. If you check around, the count is still the same--41% of caucuses have been counted. What the heck?

Apparently, some precincts, such as those in Harris County (Houston) haven't even started the process. Texas Democrats should not be so sanguine.

Truly, Texas Democratic officials should be embarassed. Count the votes and report the results!

Dickie Scruggs To Do Time In The Big House

We've occasionally followed the story of Mississippi plaintiffs' superlawyer Dickie Scruggs, the more than hundred-millionaire snagged in a plain vanilla bribery scam in his home state. (See "Why Would Dickie Scruggs Risk It All On A Stupid Bribe.")

Well, the Dickster has now pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe a state court judge. He is likely to be sentenced to FIVE years in prison and lose his law license, not to mention his stature in the community. (See, e.g., "Legal Legend Dickie Scruggs Pleads Guilty in Bribery")

To review, it was a pretty simple case, not at all sophisticated. Scruggs was in a dispute with other lawyers over how to split the millions in fees they'd earned in Hurricane Katrina litigation with insurers. They went to court. To get a favorable ruling, Scruggs worked with another lawyer to offer the trial judge $40,000 in cash.

The only problem was that this particular judge was offended by the initial approach, turning to the FBI to set a trap. After Scruggs' partner-in-crime was caught red-handed, on videotape, giving the judge cash, the FBI wired him up and sent him into Scruggs office where he indicated the judge wanted another 10 grand for the scheme. Scruggs said he'd take care of it, then negotiated a phony way to make it look like the payment to the other lawyer was for real work.

Under the circumstances, Scruggs didn't have much of a defense, despite some initial bluster from his criminal lawyer. So he caved in, just as trial of his case was about to start in Mississippi.

What made Scruggs, a man who by the time of the bribe in the Katrina litigation was reportedly worth hundreds of millions of dollars, do it? He had a mansion, a plane (see photo above), a building named after him at Ol' Miss. Indeed, no matter what, he was going to still make millions more in the Katrina litigation, even if he had to buckle and give the other lawyers a larger cut.

So why? Maybe Dickie will answer than question some day.

Most likely, the answer is greed. Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.

And most likely, Scruggs didn't think he'd get caught. Which suggests he'd done this before. And suggests that some other Mississippi judges might not have been as honest--or offended--as the one who turned him in. In fact, it raises questions about that whole fortune of Dickie's--was it all a result of graft and corruption, as fortunes often are?

We're glad to see him go to the Big House. We hope prosecutors will squeeze him for details on some of his other schemes and the judicial officials who fell for them.

Apply The "Final Four Rule" To March Madness

A year ago we advocated application of what we called the "Final Four" test to selection of teams to the NCAA men's basketball tournament ("Make March Madness More Mid-Major"), and we urge it again, especially after how well our rule worked out in the 2007 tourney. (See "March Madness: Curmudgeonly 'Top Four' Rule Works").

The "Final Four Rule" says that no team can be in the NCAA tournament unless it has finished in EITHER the final four of that team's conference regular season schedule OR that team's conference tournament. The purpose of the rule is to eliminate marginal "bubble" teams from so-called "power" conferences and enable more mid-major teams to compete.

Our rationale is that the true measure of success in March Madness is the Final Four. A team that makes the Final Four is a special team. The purpose of the NCAA tournament is to see which teams merit that distinction (and ultimately to crown a national champion).

By definition, a team that has not even managed, after a season of play and a post-season conference tournament, to crack it's own conference "Final Four" should not be given a pass to the big dance.

Such a rule would take a lot of the subjectivity out of picking lower down teams from power conferences, would make the regular season conference standings count for something more than conference tournament seedings, and would make the conference tournaments in the major conferences even more interesting because some teams would be playing for their lives.

In theory, our rule would allow up to 8 teams in a conference to go to March Madness, but only if none of the top four in the regular season made it into the semifinals of the conference tournament. In practice, that would almost never happen. Generally, no more than 5, or maybe 6, teams would be eligible (they would still be subject to the other tournament criteria, such as RPI).

Last season, our rule worked out very well. There were SIX teams in the field that flunked our Final Four rule (Duke and Georgia Tech from the ACC; Marquette and Villanova from the Big East; Michigan State from the Big Ten; and Arizona from the Pac-10). Of those, FIVE lost in the FIRST round. The only one to advance--Michigan State--did so by beating another Final Four rule violator (Marquette) and then promptly lost in the next round.

In the meantime, a number of at-large mid-major schools did much better. Out of six mid-major at-large teams, four advanced to the second round and two to the sweet sixteen. Furthermore, those at-large mid-majors, schools like Butler and Southern Illinois, add much more spice and interest to the tournament than some also-ran from the Big East or ACC that finished sixth in it's own darn conference.

Our rule would eliminate a lot of the silly whining that occurs every year over whether some patently mediocre team in a "power" conference should nonetheless have had it's ticket to the Big Dance punched.

Tournament Selection Committe, are you listening?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Does Big Brother Know Where You Are?

In George Orwell's classic novel "1984" the advent of advanced technology empowered a totalitarian state to take complete control of its citizens' lives.

As it turns out, computer and communications technology has largely had the opposite effect, empowering ordinary citizens to obtain instant information, form virtual groups on the web, petition and lobby their representatives, share information and develop plans to protest this or that. Unfortunately, it also has its sinister uses, such as helping terrorist groups stay in touch with disparate cells, or promoting hate and intolerance.

Of course, there's still that ability of the State to use technology to control its citizenry. There's always a fine line between legitimate "law enforcement" and "spying." We tend to think technology is okay if it's used to apprehend a "bad guy," but not acceptable if it's used to monitor someone who's views may simply be antithetical to the State. Almost of necessity, you're going to monitor at least some innocent people to catch those who are guilty.

Recently, we commented on a fairly nifty--but also scary--technology that allows police to track the whereabouts of child pornography to individual computers. (For more, see "Herndon: Child Pornography Capital of Virginia.")

Today, we noticed another new development in police surveillance technology: the use of a GPS device placed on a suspect's car to track his movements. (See "GPS Device Aided Arrest of Suspect In Va. Assaults" in today's Washington Post.)

According to the Post's story, police in Fairfax County first used a computer database of convicted sex offenders to hone in on one particular suspect in a string of sexual assaults that was making the news regularly. They then placed a GPS transmitter on his van to track his movements.

After their GPS data showed the van in the vicinity of another attack, they followed the van and managed to arrest the suspect in the act of yet another assault. It turns out the suspect spent 17 years in prison for rape, was released on parole in March, and promptly returned to his old ways. He'll likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.

UNLESS the courts rule that the use of the GPS device was unlawful.

Here's what's interesting: the detective who placed the device said it took him "3 seconds" to do so. The police did not obtain a warrant or court authorization to do so. They put the GPS device on a van parked on the street, but did not approach an auto in the suspect's driveway because it was on private property. (So, word to the wise: park in your own driveway!)

So far, the trial court here in Arlington, where the case will be tried, has said the procedure was lawful. The issue of whether such an intrusion is lawful under the Fourth Amendment turns in large part on whether a person has a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in the activity intruded upon. The Supreme Court says if you're in your own home, you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, so the police need a court-authorized warrant to intrude. (We'll see where they come out on material stored on your computer!)

But in this case, all the GPS device allowed was for the police to track the suspect's movements on the "public by-ways," which courts have generally held is not subject to any reasonable expectation of privacy. Certainly, the police can trail a suspect's car on the roads--it's the stuff of many a memorable movie scene. So, the argument goes, the GPS device is just like a police tail, but it's virtual rather than real.

We think the courts will probably allow this type of tracking if there is "probable cause," i.e., a decent reason to follow a particular person. We don't think courts would allow tracking everyone via GPS and then later looking to see where they'd been--but who knows, that could come later. (For many of us, either with GPS in our vehicles, or in our phones or PDA's, that record is inevitably being created.)

Just another reminder that in this large world, we're not nearly as anonymous as we'd like to be.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Barack Takes A Few More Delegates In Mississippi

Ho-hum, Barack Obama won Mississippi tonight, padding his delegate lead by a few more.

What could've been much more interesting would have been if Florida had stuck to its original primary date--March 11. Duh--the hanging chads of the Sunshine State coulda had a big impact today.

Since some people have been interested, here's how it would look after Mississippi if the Democrats used winner-take-all in every state:
Pledged delegates: Hillary 1417 Obama 1257
All delegates: Hillary 1746 Obama 1609 [Here, we mean that there would be no unpledged "superdelegates"--all of a state's delegates would go to the winner, as is the case in many GOP contests]

For more info, see our post: "What If The Democrats Used Winner Take All?" which did the calculation as of March 4. In that calculation, we gave Texas to Hillary for winning the primary. But an astute Obama supporter pointed out that Obama won the caucus in Texas, so maybe Obama should get those delegates.

We don't weigh in on the hypothetical of how to handle Texas in a winner-take-all situation. Suffice it to say that if all those Texas delegates went to Obama, then he'd be in the lead.

Indeed, if you just gave Obama the 67 Texas delegates that were apportioned from the caucus, and gave Hillary the rest, it would be a virtual tie: Hillary would lead by 26 in pledged delegates, and would lead by only 3 in all delegates!!!!

Our point is that under any system it is a pretty darn close race!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Obama's Lead Will Hold, But Will It Be Good Enough For November?

Sen. Barack Obama should win the Mississippi primary tomorrow night quite handily, after putting littly Wyoming in his win column over the weekend.

Mississippi polls generally have Obama up by 15+ points: Rasmussen has Obama leading 53%-39%; ARG has him up 58%-34%; and Insider Advantage gives him the nod by 54%-37%. Most likely, this one will be called for Obama tomorrow night the moment the polls close, based on exit poll projections.

Mississippi and Wyoming going for Obama are no surprises, of course. Mississippi, with it's large African-American population concentrated on the Democratic side certainly favors the Illinois Senator. Wyoming, which is the opposite demographically, shows the other end of Obama's strength--being well-organized in caucuses and attracting the upscale Democrats who like to attend them.

With the Wyoming and Mississippi wins, Obama will likely have pretty much cancelled out of Hillary's hard fought and highly publicized gains from a week before, at least on the critical delegate side.

So why all the hand-wringing from the Obama campaign over the losses in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, and the split in Texas (Obama did win step two--the caucuses--of Texas's silly two-step process)?

Yes, it's true that if Obama had won both Ohio and Texas, it would clearly be all over. Even if he had won the Texas primary, it would have severely crippled Hillary. Yet, the likelihood of him overtaking Hillary in either of those states was small given her demographic advantages in both. As it is, he made Texas a real race and actually won more delegates than Clinton there.

By the same token, Hillary's wins didn't change the fundamental dynamic of the race--Obama is still winning where he's expected to win; and Hillary will likely win in Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico and a couple other primary states. When it's all over, Obama will still have a small, but significant, lead in pledged delegates.

Even if we have a do-over in Florida and Michigan, Obama is likely to maintain his delegate lead, but it will become a very tight affair. Yet, if this thing goes until late August, without a nominee, it's likely to harm whoever gets the nod. What good is the nomination going to be if you can't seal the deal in November?

So what are Democrats to do? A Hillama ticket, or Obillary (Obamillary?) would be terrific, but who's going to be on top?

There's six weeks between tomorrow's primary and the next one--Pennsylvania. That's a lot of time. Perhaps the candidates, along with a couple top advisers, Howard Dean and maybe a couple of other party leaders should go off on a very private retreat and talk it over. This could be one "back-room" deal that everyone could get behind.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Fear And Loathing In Prince William County

It's been in the news for awhile: authorities in Prince William County, Virginia, are cracking down on illegal immigration. From a distance, it sounds benign, maybe even a good thing.

Up close, it's a different story. You know those WWII movies where the Gestapo are stopping people, asking for their "papers" and carting off those who don't comply? (That's the Nazi checkpoint to the Warsaw ghetto at right.)
Well that's the reality in the police state of Prince William County today.

Our nanny immigrated to the United States from Panama more than 20 years ago. She immigrated legally and has been a U.S. citizen for nearly 15 years. She works hard, pays taxes, owns a home in Prince William County, near Woodbridge. She has two grown sons, both of whom are gainfully employed and raising families. They are largely assimilated into the U.S., and are as patriotic as the next citizen, if not more so.

But the other day, while our nanny was driving down Old Bridge Road near Woodbridge, she came upon a makeshift checkpoint, manned by officers in two police cruisers. They asked her--and other latino drivers in the line--to pull over.

Now let's be clear about this: she wasn't pulled over for any traffic infraction. She was singled out because she looks like a Hispanic.

The police asked for her drivers license. They asked for the registration--the car is registered to the Curmudgeon. They then asked if they could search her car. Scared, our nanny complied. They poked around. Then they said she could go.

It's one thing for the cops to check on the legal status of someone pulled over for a good reason. (Although it still results in racial and ethnic profiling.) But to have random checkpoints to see people's "papers"--and subject them to a search with no cause whatsoever?

White people wouldn't put up with this for one second. They'd be up in arms, decrying Nazi tactics. U.S. citizens shouldn't be subjected to this crap, regardless of skin color. If the police in Prince William County are required--and it may take a lawsuit to do this--to pull over EVERYONE at a random check point, including the white folk, and subject them to the same scrutiny, then you could be this BS would end in an instant.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Hillary's Hollow Complaints About Caucuses

It's pretty obvious that both the Clinton and Obama camps are completely result-oriented in their respective complaints about delegate selection and allocation.

We find Camp Hillary's complaints about state caucuses particularly hollow. Caucuses have been around for a long time. They are less expensive than primaries. Most importantly, they have traditionally served as a means to get input from the party's most active participants--the precinct captains, the donors, the voters who follow the ins and outs of the race, the folks who think in terms of "who can win."

To hear the same people who speak virtuously of the "superdelegate" concept denigrate the caucus system is cynicism at its worst.

Bill and Hillary Clinton have been powerful party insiders for nearly 20 years now. If they thought there was something wrong with caucuses, they could easily have done something about it. Of course, they didn't--indeed, Hillary had every reason--as with superdelegates--to think that those party insiders who attend caucuses would be her core of support.

Her campaign's mistake, however, was to ASSUME she'd win caucuses without really working at it. And that's where Obama's campaign--through sheer determination, strategy and organizational savvy--simply outmaneuvered her.

So, Hillary, don't complain about caucuses. Next time, have a stragegy for them as well.

Now that brings us to Camp Obama. They like caucuses, but not superdelegates. Get over it. As we said above, the two are analogous: both are intended to put power in the hands of party insiders. You can't accept one, but not the other.

Furthermore, Obama has the chance to persuade the superdelegates that he is the right candidate. It comes down to electability. If they think Obama can beat McCain, and Hillary can't, they will come over to his side.

There are some legitimate beefs out there. The so-called Texas two-step--both a primary and a caucus--is ridiculous. It adds the exclusivity of a caucus to the expense of a primary. It exhausts the party's workers. It's confusing. And it's unnecessary. We'd like to see the party ban anything like it in the future.

Then, there's what to do with Florida and Michigan. A do-over, while not perfect, is the best option. Those states' voters should have a say, especially in such a close race. By the same token, it would be ludicrous to reward Hillary for staying in Michigan while Obama stayed out. And the Florida vote was terribly flawed by the circumstances. So do it over. Both should be primaries, as they were intended to be.

Hillary's supporters think those states will somehow put her over the top. They won't--not under the proportional allocation system. Even after her big victories in big states this past Tuesday, Hillary barely closed the gap. So, barring an unlikely blowout in either state, Hillary won't win the whole thing if we do it over in Florida and Michigan. But it will avoid a nasty floorfight at the convention.

Since it's clear that the remaining contests, without Fla. and Mich., won't decide it, the Democratic Party should--in the lull before Pennsyslvania--get this resolved and set the new primary dates in early June.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What If The Democrats Used Winner Take All?

Three weeks ago we calculated the Democratic race as if each state awarded it's pledged delegates on a winner-take-all basis, rather than proportionally, concluding that it wouldn't make all that much difference. (See "Democratic Deadlock: Don't Blame Proportional Representation . . .") At the time, Obama would've had a small lead in delegates under the winner-take-all formulation.

What about now? It would still be close, but Hillary would have a distinct advantage, mainly based on winning Texas.

If the pledged delegates from every state were awarded on a winner-take-all basis, Hillary Clinton would now be leading Barack Obama by 1417 to 1212. It wouldn't be enough to put her over the top without superdelegates, but it might be enough to be an insurmountable lead, potentially leading to a deal where Obama agreed to be the VP nominee.

If you include all the superdelegates from each state as pledged delegates, the result is about the same, with Obama actually a tad closer: Clinton 1746; Obama 1551. Of course, in this scenario, one of them--probably Hillary--would eventually win, without resort to unpledged "superdelegates."

Still, it isn't like the Republican party where McCain, despite some very slim victories, has waltzed in by a wide margin.

Democratic Ground Hog Day--Eight More Weeks (Or Six More Months) Of Battling?

Hat tip to one of our anonymous commenters, who called yesterday Democrats' Ground Hog Day, meaning they have at least eight more weeks of battling for the nomination thanks to Hillary's comeback in Texas and Ohio. More likely, it's six more months.

Here's where we are: Sen. Clinton had to win Texas and Ohio to stay credible, and she did. But in the Democratic way of allocating delegates proportionally, she didn't gain much ground--depending on whose doing the counting, she narrowed the gap by maybe 15-20 delegates. Of course, clinching those key wins last night staunches the flow of superdelegates to Obama, and may even bring a few back home.

What's crystal clear is this: neither Clinton nor Obama can win the nomination--nor even come close--on pledged delegates alone. Indeed, neither can win it with the remaining pledged delegates even if you include their superdelegates. Here's the math--bear in mind that the delegate totals vary depending on your source (ours is

According to RCP, Obama has 1546 delegates (1344 pledged) to Clinton's 1449 (1208 pledged).

The remaining primaries/caucuses have 611 pledged delegates, and it takes 2025 to win. So Obama would have to take 479 out of 611 pledged delegates (78%) to win it, while Clinton would need 576 out of 611 (94%!) to win it. With the Democratic Party's proportional allocation rules, neither will come close to that, even if they sweep the rest of the contests.

[The candidates actually need slightly fewer delegates than we've set forth above because about 67 pledged delegates from prior contests--48 are from Texas--haven't yet been assigned. Still, you get the picture in terms of the math.]

In any event, neither candidate is going to sweep the rest of the races. If anything, last night's contests showed pretty clearly that where the demographics favor Hillary, she'll win; where they favor Obama, he'll win.

With that in mind, we'd expect Obama to take the next two contests--the Wyoming caucus on Saturday and the Mississippi primary on Tuesday. After that, it's a long wait to Pennsylvania, where Hillary should be favored, especially after the result in Ohio. After that, give Obama the edge in Guam, Indiana, North Carolina, Oregon, Montana and South Dakota; give Clinton the advantage in Kentucky, West Virginia and Puerto Rico.

All that, of course, depends on no one having a major stumble or gaffe between now and June.

So, when the last contest--Puerto Rico--is completed on June 7 (assuming, for the moment, no re-vote in Florida and Michigan), the margin is likely to be about the same as it is now--Obama leading in pleadged delegates, but still well below the magic number of 2025, and Clinton likely to lead in superdelegates, but behind Obama.

Unfortunately, there's no clear path to victory for either Senator that doesn't include a deadlocked convention, unless a sufficient number of superdelegates fall to Obama to put him over the top. The potential for floor fights over Florida and Michigan delegates, and maybe some others, looms large.

This is not a happy scenario for Democrats.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Clinton Finally Breaks Obama's Streak

Well, Obama got his streak up to 12 in a row with his Vermont victory early on this evening, but that's where the streak ends.

Hillary is projected to win Rhode Island--no surprise there. She's also going to win Ohio--the exit polls give her a significant enough lead, it's just a matter of how long the networks will wait to make the call.

So the big question is Texas, which looks like it will be very close. Exit polls give Hillary a teeny lead, but exit polling in a state as diverse as Texas is tricky. Expect this one to go into the wee hours, and then we have to wait for the "two-step" caucus results to come in as well. If Clinton wins Texas on the popular vote, she'll say it's a victory, no matter the delegate count, and will plod on to Pennsylvania (losing Wyoming and Mississippi in the next week, however), ensuring that this thing will be up in the air through April at least.

More later.

Virginia's GOP Senate Nomination Battle: Marshall v. Gilmore

While we're awaiting election results in Texas and Ohio, let's get to a couple of closer to home stories here in Virginia, which happen to be related to each other.

First is a story in yesterday's Washington Post on the growing support amongst GOP insiders for Delegate Bob "Taliban" Marshall's bid for the party's nomination to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by John Warner. (See "New Face Winning Hearts In Va. GOP.")

Second is the Virginia Supreme Court's ruling invalidating a significant portion of the bastardized funding mechanism the General Assembly set up last year to support much needed transportation projects. (This is related to the story above because Marshall was a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that succeeded in getting the funding mechanism declared unconstitutional.)

If the WaPo is to be believed, Marshall has a shot at upending the plans of former Governor Jim Gilmore to get the GOP nod to face off against presumed Democratic nominee Mark Warner for the open Senate seat in November. That's pretty ironic, because Gilmore outmaneuvered another potential opponent--retiring congressman Tom Davis--by persuading the Republican state committee to make the selection at a state convention rather than via a primary. Davis, a moderate, would've had a better shot in an open primary with independent voters participating, whereas Gilmore, a staunch conservative, figured he had things locked up in a convention.

But along came Marshall, who we've nicknamed "Taliban" because of his propensity to sponsor bills that would heavily regulate your social life, including your sex life, to fit his views of what's moral and what's not. Marshall is one of those social conservatives favored by the hard core evangelical Christian right. It just so happens that Virginia's Republican Party has a lot of those types at its inner core, especially amongst the activists who tend to show up at a state convention, so Gilmore may be in for a fight.

We'd still put our money on Gilmore, but we'd love to see Taliban Marshall pull the upset and make for a twistedly interesting November match-up.

Now, about that Virginia Supreme Court ruling engineered by Mr. Marshall. We don't agree with ol' Taliban on much, but here we did agree. The General Assembly put together a horrific "compromise" of a transportation package last year that never much passed the smell test.

The problem, of course, is that the rabid anti-tax wing of the GOP wouldn't go along with anything that looked like a tax to fund roads. Instead, they were willing to let at least some of their colleagues support a series of "fees" that were, in fact, taxes on Northern Virginians. So we're glad the Supremes struck most of it down, although it does further delay and complicate the critical issue of getting roads and other transportation infrastructure built.

Now the problem with Mr. Marshall is that he isn't proposing any alternative. He hails from Stafford County, which is about midway between Washington and Fredericksburg. If you've ever tried to drive down there on just about any weekday afternoon or evening, you know what a traffic nightmare it is in that region.

But Marshall could care less, as long as you're not using birth control and you are fornicating in the missionary position. He's anti-tax and anti-regulation, unless the regulation is of your social life. He'd just as soon turn Virginia into a theocracy--and if he did, it would like Taliban Afghanistan: bad roads and public executions in soccer stadiums.

The purpose of a body politic, such as the Commonwealth of Virginia, is to provide for the common good where it makes sense to do so publicly. Roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure are generally considered one of those services better provided by the state via a taxing mechanism. The alternative is to let the private sector do it. Where does Marshall stand on this? Does he believe Virginia should plan for and invest in its future with appropriate funding for transportation, especially in fast-growing Northern Virginia? Does he believe the state should get out of the business and leave it to the private sector (which would still need laws to facilitate the process)? Or is he just in favor of letting it all go to hell (where he assumes most of us are headed anyway)?

Marshall proclaims himself to be "pro-life." But what kind of life is it when your parents are on the road, stuck in a massive traffic jam twice a day? (Oh, we forgot, the womenfolk shouldn't work--then there'll be a parent at home.)

The Virginia General Assembly needs to go back to square one on transportation. It's important--if they can't get this done, then there's no point even having a legislature. This time, they should do it right: increase the gas tax by a few cents a gallon (the tax, as a proportion of the price of gas, is now at a historic low) and invest that money directly in transportation.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Latest Polls For Texas and Ohio Show Clinton Staving Off Obama

Holy Democratic Primaries, Batman, it's going to be really interesting tomorrow night in Texas and Ohio.

For the past two weeks, Obama steadily chipped away at Hillary's lead in both "must-win" states (for Clinton), seeming to take the lead in Texas and narrow the gap considerably in Ohio.

But the last round of pre-vote polling (actually, in Texas the voting has been going on at quite a pace for the past couple of weeks already) appears to show Hillary getting a mini-bounce back!

Was it her surprise appearance on Saturday Night Live? Or is it just that Democrats aren't ready for this battle to end?

Whatever the reason, here's what the polls show as of this evening, with the voting set to finish tomorrow.


Rasmussen has Obama up by 1 point, 47%-46%, which is down from his 4 point lead a few days ago in the Rasmussen poll. (It's dangerous to compare across polls, due to different methodologies, but useful to track across the same poll over a period of days.)

But Insider Advantage gives Hillary a five point lead, 49%-44%, again a slight reversal from just a few days ago, when this poll had Hillary up by four points. (Yes, we know--not statistically significant!) Interestingly, this poll says Hillary has a pretty sizeable lead among those who have already voted, 55%-43%. If that's accurate, Obama has a pretty big hole to climb out of tomorrow.

In the Public Policy Polling survey, Hillary has a six point lead, 50%-44%.

On the plus side for Obama, Survey USA has him up by one point, 49%-48%, which is closer than the 4 point lead Obama had in the last round of this poll. Survey USA also reported results of its survey of those who have already voted, and it was much closer than with Insider Advantage, with Clinton leading 50%-48% (which is smaller than the lead she had among those who had already voted a few days ago in this poll).

Finally, Reuters/Zogby's "tracking" poll has Obama up by 3 points, 49%-46%, which is roughly where he's been in this poll for a few days.

Bottom line: after catching Hillary and passing her in many various polls by mid- to late last week, Obama has stalled and perhaps slipped back a bit in Texas. This one will be very close.

Keep in mind, however, Obama's slight advantage with delegates due to the "Texas two-step"--there is also a caucus tomorrow night in Texas--and the way delegates are allocated that somewhat disfavors the Hispanic southwest part of the state. So Obama could lose the popular vote and still win the delegate count.


In Ohio, Hillary is maintaining a small lead in most polls, having stabilized after a brief free-fall from her double digit lead a couple weeks ago. Here's the latest:

Rasmussen has Hillary up 6, 50%-44%.

Suffolk University has Hillary up by 12, 52%-40%.

Public Policy Polling has Hillary up by 9, 51%-42%.

Survey USA has Hillary up by 10, 54%-44%. Among the 16% in the poll sample who had already voted, Hillary was leading 56%-43%.

Quinnipiac gives Hillary a 4 point lead, 49-45%, which is her smallest lead yet in this poll.

Finally, Reuters/Zogby is the only poll giving Obama a lead in Ohio, 47%-45%. If Obama does win in Ohio, give these guys credit. But they've been a bit of an outlier in polls in other primaries, so don't hold your breath.

Based on these polls, Senator Clinton should win a small, but comfortable victory over Senator Obama, but as we've seen this election year, anything can happen!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Accuweather's 15-day Forecast A Waste of Time

Awhile back we did an experiment with those long-term weather forecasts--up to 10 days out--concluding that they weren't very useful at all (indeed, worse in some instances than just flipping a coin or using the average weather for the day as a guide). (See "Long Range Weather Forecast II--Still Gloomy")

Recently we thought we'd briefly revisit the issue, just for fun. has a feature that purports to give you a 15-day weather forecast. Now wouldn't it be great if we could get an accurate forecast of a particular day's temperatures and precipitation chances two weeks in advance?

Just think of the opportunities for planning: should I schedule a golf outing (substitute any outdoor activity for golf if you want) two weekends from now? Or, what's the weather going to be like on my trip to _____ in two weeks?

Well, we thought we'd give it a try. This weekend we were the host team for a soccer tournament in Arlington, misnomered as the "Spring" invitational (by my calendar, we have three more weeks of winter, notwithstanding those sunny weatherpersons who are proclaiming it "meteorological Spring.")

Knowing the weather in advance for the tournament would be a big help in planning things such as our concessions: early March being a particularly dicey time, weatherwise--it could easily snow (in which case we'd need lots of hot drinks) or just as easily be in the 70's (in which case cold sodas would sell well). So we consulted with Accuweather beginning two weeks out to see what we should plan for.

[By the way, if you're interested in both advances and limitation of long-term weather modelling --not to be confused with climate modelling--check out this post from our friends at the Capital Weather Gang, who say we're not ever likely to be able to predict the weather more than two weeks out.]

Ideally, the forecast at 15 days would stay fairly consistent as the target day draws nearer--it doesn't help if the 15-day forecast turns out to be right, but in between the forecast varied all over the place, causing one to change their plans. (It would also help if Accuweather--and other long-range forecasters--would post the average highs and lows for a particular day so readers could guage the forecast relative to the average.)

So how'd it go with our soccer tournament? Not too well, we're afraid.

On February 17, fifteen days before our weekend event, Accuweather said we were going to get incredibly lucky: 60 degrees on Saturday and a balmy 62 degrees on Sunday, albeit with a chance of rain on Sunday. That was okay--since all our games were to be played on artificial turf fields, we weren't too concerned about a little rain. The relatively warm temperatures would be perfect for Spring soccer--maybe out tournament wasn't misnomered after all!

But over the next three days, that optimistic forecast steadily declined. By Feb. 20, we were facing a gloomy prospect: a chilly high of 39 degrees on Saturday, with snow/rain, and a rainy high of 46 degrees on Sunday. Ugh. Maybe we should sell ski gear?

Fortunately, the forecast continued to change. The only real consistency was that it was usually forecast to be warmer on Sunday than on Saturday. By Feb. 25--less than a week before the tournament, we were looking at a high of 49 degrees both days, with sun on Saturday and clouds on Sunday.

Then, on Feb. 29--now THE day before the tourney--we were told it would be a chilly 44 degrees with partly sunny skies on Saturday, then turning mostly sunny, with a warmer 52 degree high on Sunday.

What was the actual weather? Turned out it was 52 degrees on Saturday (yesterday), but very windy and mostly cloudy--not particularly pleasant, but certainly playable. On Sunday (today), it got up to 53 degrees under bright sunshine and a light breeze, feeling much more comfortable.

And what would the average high temperature for this weekend have been? It would have been 51 degrees--pretty much what we got.

So, was the Accuweather long-term forecast helpful? NOT AT ALL. Instead, it took us on a roller coaster of emotions, starting with a terrific forecast for the weekend, then deteriorating into an awful one, then rebounding to something more or less average. Just one day before the first games the forecast was off by 8 degrees on the low side.

In the end, we would've been better off simply looking up the averages (at least for temperatures) for our weekend and planning based on them.

Oh, if you're part of the second half of our tournament (for girls teams) NEXT weekend, take heart. Accuweather says it will be unseasonably chilly next Saturday, with a high of only 45 degrees, and windy/cloudy conditions--really not that much fun. But since that's the forecast now, it probably WON'T happen!