Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Landstrike Available On Kindle

Alright--those of you with your fancy new Kindle readers from Amazon can now download "Landstrike" and read it to your e-delight! Click HERE.

We've gotten a lot of feedback on Landstrike and the consensus is that it's a perfect vacation/beach read--a real page-turner that's like "Tom Clancy meets the Weather Channel."

If you don't have the Kindle, it's available in good old-fashioned book form--hard and soft cover--at Amazon, BN.com and other online sellers (and a few bookstores).

Monday, June 29, 2009

Should Superdelegates Stay, Or Go?

Democratic leaders and "grassroots activists" (shout out to Roseanne from MN) have begun a series of meetings to determine whether, and if so how, to reform the delegate selection process for nominating a presidential candidate.

A prime reason for these meetings is to re-examine the role of so-called "superdelegates" in the nominating process. Team Obama, of course, was worried throughout much of 2008 that superdelegates--Democratic party insiders who are uncommitted and free to vote for whomever they choose, regardless of how their state's voters came out--would tilt the field in favor of Hillary, "stealing" the election despite Obama's wins.

Obama has little to worry about now since he IS the quintessential Democratic insider and party officials presumably will support him in 2012 absent some horrendous misstep.

Nonetheless, many Obamites are uncomfortable with the current structure and want it changed.

So, should the Dems eliminate superdelegates, or at least modify the structure? To begin with, party officials will always be able to attend the convention and vote. Before the superdelegate structure was put in place, many of the regular delegates were party officials, who are good at getting themselves nominated as delegates. So don't worry that they somehow will miss the party.

Instead, the question is whether they should be allowed to uncommitted, or should instead be allocated to candidates like other delegates.

The theory behind superdelegates was that they can prevent the party from making some terrible mistake--something like nominating a Georgia peanut farmer for President. Superdelegates are supposed to bring their superior political skills to the table to prevent disaster.

It hasn't worked out that way, however. Before we had superdelegates, the party nominated Jimmy Carter for President. That was no mistake--he won. The mistake was in how he governed thereafter, which superdelegates have little control over.

After Carter, in the superdelegate era, we got the likes of Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and John Kerry--party liberals who did poorly with independent voters. The problem with superdelegates is that they are super-Democrats, whereas the general populace may not be all that wild about super-Democrats.

Democrats win the presidency when they select candidates with broad appeal to independents. They get those candidates by opening up the nomination process to independents--in states with open primaries this last cycle, Obama did quite well.

We'd like to see the party eliminate, or vastly scale back, the superdelegates. As we said, those folks will still go to the conventions, but they ought to be bound by the will of the voters and caucus attendees.

The party needs to look at other issues as well. It makes a difference--in terms of which candidate has the edge--whether a state nominating contest is by closed primary (favors insiders), caucus (favors insiders more) or open primary (helps outsiders). There needs to be some balance there.

Another issue is proportional assignment of delegates. In the Democratic primaries and caucuses, delegates are assigned pretty closely based on the proportion of votes they get. A candidate may get trounced in a state, losing 60-40 (that's a trouncing in electoral politics) and still come out with nearly 40% of the delegates. On the Republican side, the winner in a state sometime gets ALL the delegates, and usually gets most.

We think the Dems should be less proportional, but avoid the "winner-take-all" approach. One way to do this is to have about 70% of the delegates be assigned proportionally, but allow the winner of a state to take the other 30% (the percentages could be changed, but the overall state winner should get a delegate "bonus").

It will be an interesting to see what the party comes up with.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Different Perspective On Michael Jackson

With the sudden passing of Michael Jackson, the Curmudgeon was waxing nostalgic as strands of "ABC" and "Thriller" played on the radio in commemoration.

In the back seat of the car, however, where three 11-year-olds sat, being ferried to their next fun summer activity, the sentiment was different.

They were actually pretty vitriolic, especially for happy pre-teens. "I'm glad he's gone," said one. Another said, "Yeah, he had an amusement park at his house and he'd get boys to come there and then rape them." The third said, "I don't know why they're playing his music; he was a rapist."

All we can say is, good for them. In these boys' minds, Michael Jackson was just a predator who went after boys like them; not someone to be honored.

Michael Jackson was an extremely talented individual. As is so often the case, however, talent like that comes at a price, and is often associated with serious flaws. Michael Jackson won't be preying on any more young boys.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sanford Implodes

Wow, the GOP presidential field for 2012 is weeding itself out rapidly. First, Sen. John Ensign admits to an affair with a staffer, after the staffer's husband tries to blackmail him. Goodbye Ensign.

Then South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford goes AWOL, has his staff first say they don't know where he is, then lie about where he is, while his wife says she neither knows nor cares where he is. Then it turns out he's been in Argentina having an affair. The rest of the details are just bizarre!

[And here we thought Gov. Sanford was just off reading Landstrike in a quiet place.]

So goodbye Sanford.
Also, goodbye party of so-called "family values." The GOP has always been hugely hypocritical on the issue, but the veil is peeling away as if in a hurricane. Meanwhile, the Democratic President has a wife--his first and only one--and two seemingly adorable, well-adjusted kids. Maybe the GOP should just become the party of the sleazy--that fits a lot of voters!
At this rate, George "Macacca" Allen may decide he has nothing to lose getting into the 2012 picture.

Good thing the Republicans still have Sarah P.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

After Three Polls: Va. Gov. Race Will Be Close

We now have a third Virginia poll and it shows what we expected: a very close race for Governor.

In the Daily Kos poll released yesterday, McDonnell leads Deeds by a statistically insignificant 45%-44% margin. In two previously discussed polls, Deeds was ahead by a small margin. So let's say it's pretty even at this point.

Absent some major gaffe by either candidate, we expect the two will stay within single digits of each other in polls the rest of the way. The Commonwealth is pretty easily divided between Democrats and Republicans, and both candidates have decent appeal to independents.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The 1998 Canard

One of the favorite talking points of global warming deniers is that temperatures "peaked" in 1998 and have been "falling" ever since. Some go so far as to forecast a new ice age in a few decades given the "rate of decline" since 1998.

This is a good example of taking something that's true and making it entirely misleading by leaving out the "rest of the story."

It is true that the warmest year recorded on earth in the modern era was 1998. Since then, global temperatures have not again reached that peak. But that hardly means its getting cool!

In 1998, we had a very strong El Nino event, which tends to make for warmer weather across the globe. That particular El Nino, combined with the general warming of the earth's atmosphere, contributed to the record year.

In the decade since then, we have seen a number of very warm years. In fact, the planet's 10 hottest years on record are all bunched up between 1997 and 2008--hardly a cooling trend.

Furthermore, the trend continues. While is was relatively cooler in the U.S. the first quarter of this year--only the 24th warmest for that period since 1880--it was hotter around the world, coming in as the 6th warmest for that period. Hardly the beginning of an ice age.

Believe it or not, there is room for some legitimate debates on global warming, and certainly the need for additional research and better data all the time. Unfortunately, the debate is usually so politicized that the facts get obscured.

A new El Nino is brewing in the Pacific. Will it make 2009--or 2010--a record year, eclipsing 1998? Who knows. But we're hardly heading to a new ice age!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Second Poll Has Deeds Atop McDonnell

Yesterday we said we'd like to see 2-3 polls in Virginia before we draw any conclusions as to who the early leader is. A second poll is now out, albeit from the Democratic Governors Association--not exactly a neutral source--and it also shows Deeds with a small lead over his GOP opponent Bob McDonnell.

In the DGA poll, Deeds is up 42%-38%, with a considerable number of voters undecided. Make no mistake about it, this will be a hotly contested race, with a lot of money coming in from around the country.

The good news for Deeds is that McDonnell has already spent $2 million on feel-good ads without, apparently, gaining all that much traction. The fact is, the Commonwealth is pretty closely divided between red and blue these days, so a lot will depend on turnout. McDonnell partisans, however, can't be all that happy about these early poll results.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Landstrike Favorably Reviewed

Landstrike has gotten its first newspaper review, from the St. Augustine Record in Florida. You can judge for yourself (Landstrike is available for purchase on Amazon and other online booksellers):

Hurricane disaster quite possible
By PETER GUINTA Posted: Sunday, June 14, 2009

Landstrike, by Ken Bass

Novel: "Landstrike"
Author: Ken Bass
Publisher: Xlibris

Book Signing: Saturday, Aug. 1 at Marineland, from 6 to 9 p.m. Wine and hor douerves will be offered.

Florida residents know more than most other Americans about hurricanes and the devastation they bring.

Andrew, for example, flattened south Dade County, and many destructive storms have hit Florida since, costing many lives and billions of dollars in damages.

Ken Bass, an attorney who turned to writing, has written his first novel, "Landstrike," an action story that's a good read, though it could also double as "fictive investigative journalism" or "future history."

His story builds naturally: Tropical Storm Nicole, born in the Cape Verde Islands, begins its westward journey cross the Atlantic Ocean, but when it hits the warm Gulf Stream, it grows into a Category 5 storm, bearing 150 to 160 mph winds.

Nicole flirts with Florida and Charleston, then picks up speed on an uncertain track going north.
Scientists in the National Hurricane Center have perfected a program that accurately predicts a storm's direction, but too late officials realize that Nicole's headed for New York City.

Bass' book describes the fate of people who live directly in Nicole's path: Cops, criminals, nurses, city officials, cruise ship and tug boat captains, journalists, lawyers, rich people and poor people.
Some choose to stay and some have no way to leave.

In any disaster or crisis, some survive and some don't. Heroes and cowards reveal themselves.
Bass also delves into the physical damage the hurricane does to New York by the huge 30-foot storm surge Nicole pushes ahead of her, sweeping everything aside.

As a person who years ago watched the Verrazano Narrows Bridge built, I did have doubts about its fate in the book. But Bass makes a convincing case about his point of view and, in the end, we both hope neither of us is proven correct.

His sense of detail in describing the city's damages seems like he was there and saw it. That's good reporting.

Bass also asks a question for public safety officials to debate Is it really effective to evacuate a city or area, with all the resulting tion chaos that brings, or is it better to build storm shelters in place, which can be expensive and also contains the risk of leaving people in the path of a devastating storm?

Deeds Leads McDonnell in First Post-Primary Poll

We're a few days late on this--spending a lot of time promoting, selling and signing books--but the first post-primary poll in Virginia has Deeds in the lead.

Rasmussen released this first poll last week just after Deeds won the primary. Voters favored Deeds over McDonnell by 47%-41%. We'd like to see a couple more polls before we leap to any conclusions. However, if other polls confirm a similar lead for the Creighmeister, it will validate our comments a few weeks ago on polls showing McDonnell leading all the Democratic candidates--we said you can't really tell anything until there is one nominee.

We hope voters do, in fact, favor Deeds. Although he wasn't our pick in the primary, we fully endorse him. Creigh Deeds is an honorable candidate and will make a terrific governor of the Commonwealth.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Deeds Leads; Wagner Wins

As of 7:45 pm, Creigh Deeds has a commanding lead. He leads in almost every county, so we think he'll win. Results HERE.

Meanwhile, Jody Wagner has crushed Mike Signer.

Looks like Deeds/Wagner in November.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Undecideds Breaking Decisively To Deeds

Three final polls in the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary show last minute undecided voters breaking decisely toward Creigh Deeds. Quite interesting. Moran went after McAuliffe, but left Deeds alone. Big mistake in a three-man fight.

The details are available HERE. We still think anyone could win, but the Deeds camp, having spent the least amount of money, has to be pretty psyched going into tomorrow's election.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Va. Gubernatorial Primary Remains As Fluid As Our Weather

We guess it's fitting. The weather in the Commonwealth is, literally, fluid, and so is the Democratic primary for governor.

This week has seen the release of a slew of polls. Here's how they stack up:

Poll:     GQR     PPP     SUSA     KOS     Suff

Deeds     27        27         29          30          29
T.McA    26        24         35           26          26
Moran    29         22         26           27          23

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Solar Cows!

A friend sent us this--very sophisticated solar panel installation (computer tracks the sun) in a cow field in Wisconsin. We'll be looking forward to seeing carbon neutral beef (or cheese) in our supermarket soon!

No More Drought In Southeast

The weather geek in us has had us post on occasion over the past couple years on the extent of drought across the Southeast. A year and a half ago, more than 90% of the southeast (as defined by the U.S. Drought Monitor--Alabama to Virginia) was classified as at least "abnormally dry" as shown on the map at left.

As of this week, however, more than 95% of the same region is well hydrated (if not flooding)--see the map and chart below. Only a small sliver of the southwest Florida coast is classified as being in a "moderate drought" situation--less than 1% of the entire region, while a couple of small pockets are still "dry"--but probably not for long after this week.

Frankly, we've had enough rain for awhile. Can we just have some "average" weather?

Lindsey Graham Outed?

South Carolinians adore hypocrites, as long as they SAY the right things. When "massive resistance" to desegregation was the rule amongst most SC whites in the 50's and 60's, Strom Thurmond became their champion. He never revealed that he had his own black daughter, who he took care of financially behind the scenes. Rumors persisted, but most whites either didn't care or didn't believe it.

Thurmond's successor in the Senate is GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, another cultural conservative. We've reported in the past on rumors that Graham is gay, so we thought we'd pass along the latest. Linda Ketner, an openly lesbian candidate for Congress in the last election (who lost narrowly), recently gave an interview in which she said she didn't think her sexual orientation was that big a deal in the election, and then she mentioned some other state politicians who she says are gay, but have remained in the closet. One was Graham.

We wonder how conservative Graham really is. In the Senate, he has emerged as one of the more thoughtful Republicans--certainly a lot smarter than his colleague from SC, Jim DeMint. He could even be described as a "moderate"--but only by comparison to some of his more right wing colleagues.

We wonder. What would happen if Graham came out of the closet and leveled with voters? Our guess is he'd still be re-elected.

Va. Gov. Race: Pick A Poll, Any Poll

Survey USA has a new poll out in the Va. Democratic primary for governor, showing Terry McAuliffe ahead (35% to Deeds 29% and Moran at 26%).

Among voters who have definitely made up their minds, however, Deeds leads; and McAuliffe's support is concentrated among younger voters who tend not to vote in primaries.

In any event, whoever you support, just pick your poll. Public Policy Polling, earlier this week, had Deeds out front. Moran released his own poll with him leading. And now SUSA with McAuliffe in the lead.

What this tells us, along with how close all the polls are, the large number of undecided voters and the unpredictable turnout, is that this is still anyone's game.

For what it's worth, Deeds comes the closest to beating GOP nominee Bob McDonnell (trailing 44%-43%) in SUSA's head-to-head matchups, with both McAuliffe and Moran trailing by about 8-9 points.

We still think this is basically a race between Deeds and McAuliffe, with Moran probably helping Deeds quite a bit by going after McAuliffe.

The Curmudgeon has endorsed McAuliffe, but we'll enthusiastically support whoever wins.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Will This Be A Busy Hurricane Season?

A number of hurricane forecasters have put out their predictions for 2009's hurricane season, which officially started yesterday. The consensus seems to be that it will be an average to maybe even below average year for hurricanes.

For example, the intrepid Colorado State forecast team of Dr. Phil Klotzbach and Dr. William Gray released an updated prognostication predicting this will be a near average year, with 11 named storms, 5 hurricanes and 2 intense hurricanes. They, and other forecasters, have been lowering their forecasts as evidence accumulates of a developing El Nino event in the Pacific, which typically decreases Atlantic hurricane activity.

Dr. Jeff Masters, whose Wunderblog is must reading for any hurricane aficianados, notes not only the potential El Nino, but lower sea surface temperatures than in more recent years (higher sea surface temps make for a more favorable hurricane environment). Masters hasn't made an overall prediction, but at least for June--not a big hurricane month--he thinks the environment is not particularly favorable.

Bear in mind, however, that as a group the hurricane forecasters have a horrible record in recent years, underestimating the number in big years, such as 2005, while overestimating in other years. You'd be better off tossing a coin than relying on them.

In any event, in some ways it has ALREADY been an interesting and active hurricane season. A week or so ago, a large low pressure system formed off the Florida coast and almost became a tropical depression before going ashore and dumping anywhere from 5-25 inches of rain on the heretofore drought-stricken state. That same system went into the Gulf of Mexico, again nearly formed a tropical depression, then came ashore in Louisiana and eventually dumped a lot more rain across the Southeast. (The Southeast had been suffering significant periods of widespread drought over the past two years, but now is almost entirely drought free due to a rainy spring.)

Then, later last week, a tropical depression did form off the coast of North Carolina. This was quite far north for a storm like this so early in the season. That particular depression never threatened the U.S. coast, as it drifted eastward in the Atlantic. It's remnants, however, may have contributed to the downing of the Air France jet that disappeared so mysteriously this week.

Right now, things are quiet in the tropical Atlantic, but if amateur hurricane watchers have learned anything in recent years it's that surprises can and do occur with regularity.

While we're on hurricanes, a syndicated article appeared in newspapers on Sunday suggesting that New York City might be considering the development of multi-billion dollar hurricane barriers to protect the Big Apple from a major hurricane. (See "Hurricane Barriers Suggested To Keep Sea Out of NYC.")

As we've noted, the recently published book Landstrike sketches out in remarkably realistic detail the devastating effect a major hurricane could have on New York City and its environs, with damages in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Those barriers are something worth seriously thinking about.

New Va. Polls: Governor Nomination Free For All

For the past month, it has appeared that Terry McAuliffe's well-oiled campaign machine was pulling away from the pack for a victory in the June 9 Democratic primary.

Three polls released over the past day or so, however, suggest it's anybody's race.

Public Policy Polling, which has consistently had McAuliffe in the lead in the past few weeks, now had Creigh Deeds leading, although not by much. In the PPP poll, it's Deeds 27%, McAuliffe 24% and Moran 22%. PPP speculates that Deeds is benefitting in Northern Virginia from his endorsement by the Washington Post, while McAuliffe is being hurt by Moran's negative advertising in other parts of the state.

In a poll taken by Moran's pollster he not surprisingly leads (otherwise they wouldn't release it). In this poll, taken by Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner, Moran leads what statistically is a tie: Moran 29%, Deeds 27%, McAuliffe 26%.

Finally, a Survey USA poll looked just at Northern Virginia (Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun Counties), and found Moran in the lead by 43%, with McAuliffe at 27% and Deeds at 20%. Unfortunately, there have been no similar polls taken in the past, so this one is difficult to compare.

Together, these polls suggest that the race is still quite fluid. With turnout expected to be low, any one of the three candidates could still win.

Our feeling--and it's just a gut one at this point--is that the race is really between McAuliffe and Deeds at this point. We'll know in one more week.

Monday, June 01, 2009

No Endorsement In Lt. Gov Race

We thought about it for a long time and decided not to make an endorsement in the Lt. Governor's race.

What started out as a crowded field has ended up as a two-person race between Jody Wagner and Mike Signer. (The ballot you see will have additional names, but those are the only two still actively campaigning.)

Neither has much name recognition, although Wagner has been more successful in rounding up endorsements from state and local political figures.

Wagner served as the state's Finance Secretary under Gov. Kaine and comes across as a very fiscally responsible person. We met her at a shindig in Arlington and found her quite knowledgable about how things work in the state.

The one thing that really bothers us about Wagner is that she has been vague--an understatement--on her positions on energy and the environment. We don't know if that means she (1) doesn't care, (2) simply doesn't want to offend anyone, (3) doesn't know enough, or (4) doesn't want anyone to know her real positions.

Mike Signer is an Arlingtonian--once lived down the street from us, although we didn't know him. He's been around Virginia politics for a long time, serving as a counselor to Mark Warner and a strategist for Tom Perriello, among others.

Signer is a little more specific on energy and the environment, and while not as aggressive as we'd like, still pretty good.

We've heard from partisans for both Mike and Jody, and they make decent cases for each of them. Right now, we think Jody has a slight edge, but with about 70% of voters undecided it could go either way.

The winner of the primary has a bigger problem: running against incumbent Lt. Governor Bill Bolling. Actually, the primary is a help in that regard, as the winner will get some much needed statewide press and attendant name recognition. But voters in Virginia are quite happy to split their tickets in statewide races, so the Democrats could win the Governor's race but still lose the Lt. Governor's race.

So there it is. In the race you know the least about, the Curmudgeon has provided no help. (Maybe some of our commenters will make a pitch that will help, however.)