Sunday, October 31, 2004

All Hallows Eve

Townships around my home all set different times/days for Trick or Treating. Ours ALWAYS insists on having on the 31st, and always between 5-8 PM. Where's the logic? Some kids ought to be in bed by then, or at least too young to be out when its so dark already. Others ought to be too old to go out in the first place.

Having a defined time window does allow for better planning. We usually get between 100-150 kids (tonight's tally was 120), so we can prevent running out of goodies. Kathleen ran into just such a problem, and I can echo her distaste for parents who push their strollers around with toddlers, some of whom are asleep! Talk about cheap!

What about this: tonight a stretch limo entered the development, and over a dozen kids poured out. Guess Daddy took the company car home.

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Halloween and the 'old guy'

Here's one of my real-life stories. All dialogue guaranteed:

While sitting in the driveway greeting the Halloween kids, my son and I are approached by a group of teens... 2 guys, 2 gals. One of the guys has the make-up that best can be described as 'a bloody mess', with what looks like open wounds on his face.

Seeing an opportunity to make a comment (as I so often do) I say to him "You know, a little vitamin E will clear that right up. Your girlfriend might appreciate it."

Girl, dressed as a devil says "Yes I would!"
Bloody mess says "She's not my girlfriend"
Guy #2 (dressed as some dark fiend): "Man, you are so busted! Even the old guy can tell you want to get into her pants!"
Girl #2 (dressed as I Dream of Jeanie): "Told you so!"

Old guy??

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Saturday, October 30, 2004

Way to make a first impression

Over the summer, readers will recall my first days at my interim job, wherein I had to put up with a sinus infection from a pair of teeth being extracted. Way to make a first impression!

As I later learned, that didn't bother me much, as I hated the job.

So tomorrow (Monday) I start my new job. So why not NOW that I get a head cold??

Murphy and his law are amazing, ain't they?

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Why the Electoral College matters!

I am posting portions of the article, MATH AGAINST TYRANNY, for it is essential reading for ALL! In case the link becomes invalid, I will preserve the article in its entirety.

(Link updated Mar-'08, typos edited)

When you cast your vote this month, you're not directly electing the president you're electing members of the electoral college. They elect the president. An archaic, unnecessary system? Mathematics shows, says one concerned American, that by giving your vote to another, you're ensuring the future of our democracy.

"One morning at two o’clock," Alan Napatoff recalls, "I realized that I was the only person willing to see this problem through to the end." The morning in question was back in the late 1970s. Then as now, Napatoff, a physicist, was spending his days doing research at MIT’s Man-Vehicle Laboratory, investigating how the human brain responds to acceleration, weightless floating, and other vexations of contemporary transport. But the problem he was working on so late involved larger and grander issues. He was contemplating the survival of our nation as we know it.

Not long before Napatoff’s epiphany, Congress had teetered on the verge of wrecking the electoral college, an institution that has no equal anywhere in the world. This group of ordinary citizens, elected by all who vote, elects, in turn, the nation’s president and vice president. Though the college still stood, Napatoff worried that sometime soon, well-meaning reformers might try again to destroy it. The only way to prevent such a tragedy, he thought, would be to get people to understand the real but hidden value of our peculiar, roundabout voting procedure. He’d have to dig down to basic principles. He’d have to give them a mathematical explanation of why we need the electoral college.



Napatoff’s self-chosen labor has taken him more than two decades. But now that the journal Public Choice is about to publish his groundbreaking article, he can finally relax a bit; he might even take a vacation. In addition to this nontechnical article, which skimps on the math, he’s worked out a formal theorem that demonstrates, he claims, why our complex electoral system is "provably" better than a simple, direct election. Furthermore, he adds, without this quirky glitch in the system, our democracy might well have fallen apart long ago into warring factions.

This month many of us are playing our allotted role in the drama that’s haunted Napatoff for so long. Ostensibly, by voting on November 5, we are choosing the next president of the United States. Nine weeks after the apparent winner celebrates victory, however, Congress will count not our votes but those of 538 "electors," distributed proportionally among the states. Each state gets as many electoral votes as it has seats in Congress--California has 54, New York has 33, the seven least populated states have 3 each; the District of Columbia also has 3. These 538 votes actually elect the president. And the electors who cast them don’t always choose the popular-vote winner. In 1888, the classic example, Grover Cleveland got 48.6 percent of the popular vote versus Benjamin Harrison’s 47.9 percent. Cleveland won by 100,456 votes. But the electors chose Harrison, overwhelmingly (233 to 168). They were not acting perversely. According to the rules laid out in the Constitution, Harrison was the winner.

Some reversals have been more complicated. In 1824, Andrew Jackson beat his rival, John Quincy Adams, by more popular and then more electoral votes--99 versus 84--but still lost the election because he didn’t win a majority of electoral votes (78 went to other candidates). When that happens, the House of Representatives picks the winner. In 1876, Samuel J. Tilden lost to Rutherford B. Hayes by one electoral vote, though he received 50.9 percent of the popular vote to Hayes’s 47.9 percent; an extraordinary commission awarded 20 disputed electoral votes to Hayes. We’ve also had some famous close calls. In 1960, John F. Kennedy narrowly beat Richard Nixon in the popular voting, 49.7 percent to 49.5 percent, a smaller margin than Cleveland had over Harrison. But wait: Nixon won more states (Nixon 26, Kennedy and others 24). But no: Kennedy, who won bigger states, went on to win the electoral balloting, 303 to 219. This time we, the people, did not strike out. The popular-vote winner became president.

Clearly, in U.S. presidential elections, it ain’t over till it’s over. A popular-vote loser in the big national contest can still win by scoring more points in the smaller electoral college. But isn’t this undemocratic? Isn’t it somehow wrong that a few hundred obscure electors, foisted on a new republic by men of property in powdered wigs, should be allowed to reverse the people’s choice?

By 1969, Congress was beginning to think so. After Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey with a popular margin, again, of less than 1 percent, the possibility of a modern-day winner’s being denied the presidency had become so obnoxious to the House of Representatives that it approved a constitutional amendment to abolish the electoral college. The American Bar Association supported the move, calling our current electoral system "archaic, undemocratic, complex, ambiguous, indirect, and dangerous." In the Senate, too, the amendment had broad support. What could be simpler or fairer than electing the president by direct popular vote? Over the next few years the issue lost momentum, but Jimmy Carter’s narrow victory over Gerald Ford in 1976 brought it back to life. The League of Women Voters, a host of political scientists, and a large majority of American citizens, according to various polls, all agreed that the electoral college should be abolished. In 1977, though, among those testifying against the amendment was a self-described political nobody from Massachusetts: Alan Napatoff.

Leafing now through the Congressional Record, Napatoff laughs. "The impact of my testimony," he says, "was negligible." He hadn’t yet proved his theorem, and the mathematical argument he did present was edited to a "blunted" paraphrase, leaving out some of his most important arguments. The electoral college survived, of course, but not because of anything Napatoff said. After a decade of sporadic debate and 4,395 pages of testimony, the bill died in the Senate. It had majority support, but not the two-thirds majority required to pass it.

The issue will likely catch fire again, though, the moment another popular winner fails to muster the 270 electoral votes needed to clinch victory. "Raw voting, having the president elected by a popular vote, is deep in the American psyche," Napatoff says. It’s been around since Andrew Jackson finally won the presidency--four years later than he should have, according to 153,544 raw, frustrated voters. "My theorem," Napatoff admits, "contradicts the common wisdom of our time. Everybody gets this wrong. Everybody. Because we were taught incorrectly."

Napatoff included. How could a boy who grew up in the Bronx, played ball in the streets, and attended public schools in New York City not have absorbed the common wisdom? Napatoff went on to study particle physics at Berkeley. Later, at mit, he changed his field of research but not his belief in raw, popular democracy. Then one day in the 1960s, he saw an article in Life that changed his mind. It quoted political experts who said the electoral college robs voters of their power. But the mathematics these experts were using seemed too simple to support their conclusion. Napatoff looked into the math, and pretty soon he reached the opposite conclusion. Almost always, he convinced himself, our electoral system increases voters’ power. The experts had not considered enough cases; they looked only at unbelievably close elections with two candidates running neck and neck everywhere in the country. Real elections are almost never that closely contested. Some states tilt sharply toward one candidate or another, and the voting power of individuals in each state changes in ways the reformers’ arguments ignored.

The more Napatoff looked into the nitty-gritty of real elections, the more parallels he found with another American institution that stirs up wild passions in the populace. The same logic that governs our electoral system, he saw, also applies to many sports--which Americans do, intuitively, understand. In baseball’s World Series, for example, the team that scores the most runs overall is like a candidate who gets the most votes. But to become champion, that team must win the most games. In 1960, during a World Series as nail-bitingly close as that year’s presidential battle between Kennedy and Nixon, the New York Yankees, with the awesome slugging combination of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Bill "Moose" Skowron, scored more than twice as many total runs as the Pittsburgh Pirates, 55 to 27. Yet the Yankees lost the series, four games to three. Even Napatoff, who grew up in the shadow of Yankee Stadium, conceded that Pittsburgh deserved to win. "Nobody walked away saying it was unfair," he says.

Runs must be grouped in a way that wins games, just as popular votes must be grouped in a way that wins states. The Yankees won three blowouts (16-3, 10-0, 12-0), but they couldn’t come up with the runs they needed in the other four games, which were close. "And that’s exactly how Cleveland lost the series of 1888," Napatoff continues. "Grover Cleveland. He lost the five largest states by a close margin, though he carried Texas, which was a thinly populated state then, by a large margin. So he scored more runs, but he lost the five biggies." And that was fair, too. In sports, we accept that a true champion should be more consistent than the 1960 Yankees. A champion should be able to win at least some of the tough, close contests by every means available--bunting, stealing, brilliant pitching, dazzling plays in the field--and not just smack home runs against second-best pitchers. A presidential candidate worthy of office, by the same logic, should have broad appeal across the whole nation, and not just play strongly on a single issue to isolated blocs of voters.

"Experts, scholars, deep thinkers could make errors on electoral reform," Napatoff decided, "but nine-year-olds could explain to a Martian why the Yankees lost in 1960, and why it was right. And both have the same underlying abstract principle."

These insights came quickly, but it was many years before Napatoff devised his formal mathematical proof. His starting point was the concept of voting power. In a fair election, he saw, each voter’s power boils down to this: What is the probability that one person’s vote will be able to turn a national election? The higher the probability, the more power each voter commands. To figure out these probabilities, Napatoff devised his own model of a national electorate--a more realistic model, he thought, than the ones the quoted experts were always using. Almost always, he found, individual voting power is higher when funneled through districts--such as states--than when pooled in one large, direct election. It is more likely, in other words, that your one vote will determine the outcome in your state and your state will then turn the outcome of the electoral college, than that your vote will turn the outcome of a direct national election. A voter therefore, Napatoff found, has more power under the current electoral system.

Why worry how easily one vote can turn an election, so long as each voter has equal power? One person, one vote--that’s all the math anyone needs to know in a simple, direct election. Napatoff agrees that voters should have equal power. "The idea," he says, "is to give every voter the largest equal share of national voting power possible." Here’s a classic example of equal voting power: under a tyranny, everyone’s power is equal to zero. Clearly, equality alone is not enough. In a democracy, individuals become less vulnerable to tyranny as their voting power increases.

James Madison, chief architect of our nation’s electoral college, wanted to protect each citizen against the most insidious tyranny that arises in democracies: the massed power of fellow citizens banded together in a dominant bloc. As Madison explained in The Federalist Papers (Number X), "a well-constructed Union" must, above all else, "break and control the violence of faction," especially "the superior force of an . . . overbearing majority." In any democracy, a majority’s power threatens minorities. It threatens their rights, their property, and sometimes their lives.

A well-designed electoral system might include obstacles to thwart an overbearing majority. But direct, national voting has none. Under raw voting, a candidate has every incentive to woo only the largest bloc-- say, Serbs in Yugoslavia. If a Serb party wins national power, minorities have no prospect of throwing them out; 49 percent will never beat 51 percent. Knowing this, the majority can do as it pleases (lacking other effective checks and balances). But in a districted election, no one becomes president without winning a large number of districts, or "states"- -say, two of the following three: Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia. Candidates thus have an incentive to campaign for non-Serb votes in at least some of those states and to tone down extreme positions--in short, to make elections less risky events for the losers. The result, as George Wallace used to say, may often be a race without "a dime’s worth of difference" between two main candidates, which he viewed as a weakness but others view as a strength of our system.

The founding fathers were not experts on voting power. Many wanted an electoral college simply because they distrusted the mob. A large electorate, they believed, falls prey to passions, rumors, and "tumult." Electors were supposed to consider each candidate’s merits more judiciously, not blindly follow the popular will. Nowadays, of course, whoever wins the popular vote in any state wins all the electoral votes in that state automatically (except in Maine, which divides its electoral votes). We no longer need human bodies to cast electoral ballots, Napatoff says. That part of the system is indeed archaic. But it has worked beautifully, he insists, as a formula for converting one large national contest into 51 smaller elections in which individual voters have more clout. The Madisonian system, by requiring candidates to win states on the way to winning the nation, has forced majorities to win the consent of minorities, checked the violence of factions, and held the country together. "We have stumbled onto something that not everyone appreciates," Napatoff says. "People should understand it before they decide to change it."

Which is why, late one night a couple of decades back, with a minimum of fanfare, Napatoff appointed himself unofficial mathematician for one of the least popular institutions in America.

Two variables, Napatoff realized, profoundly affect each citizen’s voting power. One is the size of the electorate, a factor that political scientists already recognized. The other is the closeness of the contest, which most experts hadn’t taken into account.

It’s easy to see the effect of size. Your vote matters less in a larger pool of votes: it’s the same drop in a bigger bucket and less likely to change the outcome of an election. However, in a ridiculously small nation of, say, three voters, your vote would carry immense power. An election would turn on your ballot 50 percent of the time. For a simple example, let’s assume that only two candidates are running, A versus B, and each vote is like a random coin toss, with a 50 percent chance of going either way. In your nation of three, there’s a 50 percent chance that the other two voters will split, one for A and the other for B, and thus a 50 percent chance that your single vote will determine the election. There’s also, of course, a 25 percent chance both will vote for A and a 25 percent chance both will vote for B, making your vote unimportant. But that potential tie-splitting power puts all voters in a powerful position; candidates will give each of you a lot of respect.

As a nation gets larger, each citizen’s voting power shrinks. When Napatoff computes voting power--the probability that one vote will turn the election--he is really computing the probability that the rest of the nation will deadlock. If you are part of a five-voter nation, the other four voters would have to split--two for A and two for B--for your vote to turn the election. The probability of that happening is 3 in 8, or 37.5 percent. (The other possibilities are three votes for A and one for B, a 25 percent probability; three for B and one for A, also 25 percent; four for A, 6.25 percent; and four for B, 6.25 percent.) As the nation’s size goes up, individual voting power continues to drop, roughly as the square root of size. Among 135 citizens, for instance, there are so many ways the others can divide and make your vote meaningless--say, 66 for A and 68 for B--that the probability of deadlock drops to 6.9 percent. In the 1960 presidential race, one of the closest ever, more than 68 million voters went to the polls. A deadlock would have been 34,167,371 votes for Kennedy and the same for Nixon (also-rans not included). Instead, Kennedy squeaked past Nixon 34,227,096 to 34,107,646. You might as well try to balance a pencil on its point as try to swing a modern U.S. election with one vote. In a typical large election, individuals or small groups of voters have little chance of being critical to a raw-vote victory, and they therefore have little bargaining power with a prospective president.

So, does this historic example demonstrate how the electoral college compensates for our individual insignificance? Wasn’t each vote for Kennedy or Nixon actually more important than the raw vote count suggests, being funneled through the electoral college? If a couple thousand votes had changed in a key state or two. . . ? Actually, no--if the experts’ assumptions are true. If each vote really is like a toss of those perfectly balanced coins so beloved by theorists, then districting never boosts voting power. It’s actually a useless complication; it slightly reduces individual power. You can see this in a small electorate. If you district a nation of nine into three states with three voters each, with each vote a perfect toss-up, the probability of a deadlock in your state is 50 percent. Your vote would then decide the outcome in your state. Beyond that, the other two states must also deadlock, one going for A and one for B, to make your state’s outcome decisive for the nation. The probability of that is also 50 percent. So the compound probability of the whole election hinging on your vote is 25 percent. In a simple, direct election, on the other hand, the national pool of eight other voters would have to split four against four to make your vote decisive. The probability of that happening is 27.3 percent (35/128), giving you more power in a direct election. Districting doesn’t help this nation of nine, and it doesn’t help any electorate of any size when the contest is perfectly even.

Thus the experts who wanted to reform our system were right, but only if you grant them one large assumption. An electoral college does rob voters of power if everyone, in effect, walks into a voting booth and flips a coin to decide between two equally appealing candidates, Tweedledee and Tweedledum. "But this is an inaccurate model," Napatoff counters. "They were going to change the Constitution based on a narrow finding."

Napatoff decided to push the analysis further, even though the math got harder as he shed convenient, simplifying assumptions. He wanted to know what happens when voters stop acting like ideal, perfect coins and begin to favor one candidate over the other. He could see right away that everyone’s voting power shrinks, because the probability goes down that the electorate will deadlock. The national tally is more likely to be lopsided, just as a tail-heavy coin is more likely to come up, say, 60 heads and 40 tails than 50-50.

A general preference for one candidate over the other is like a house advantage in gambling. "If candidate A has a 1 percent edge on every vote," Napatoff says, "in 100,000 votes he’s almost sure to win. And that’s bad for the individual voter, whose vote then doesn’t make any difference in the outcome. The leading candidate becomes the house."

Of course, you might object, voters aren’t really roulette wheels. When you walk into the voting booth, you’ve probably already made up your mind which candidate you’ll vote for. If it’s A, the probability that you’ll pull the lever for B instead isn’t 45 percent, it’s more like 0 percent. Similarly, if your brother-in-law is a strong supporter of B, the probability that he’ll actually vote for B is close to 100 percent, not 45 percent. Although many people get hung up on this part of Napatoff’s argument, it’s not really that hard to understand. Imagine for a moment that you’re not a person at all, but a voting booth. When someone steps in to cast a vote, you have no idea whether that vote will be for A or for B. The voter may have made up her mind long ago, but until she actually pulls the lever, you won’t know whom she’s chosen. All you know is that of the people whose votes you count today, about 55 percent will vote for A and about 45 percent for B. Similarly, a spin of the roulette wheel isn’t really random. The laws of physics, the shape of the ball, the currents in the air, and other factors will all determine where the ball lands. But a gambler can’t calculate those factors any more than a voting booth can know which candidate an individual voter will choose.

In a nation of 135 citizens, says Napatoff, one person’s probability of turning an election is 6.9 percent in a dead-even contest. But if voter preference for candidate A jumps to, say, 55 percent, the probability of deadlock, and of your one vote turning the election, falls below .4 percent, a huge drop. If candidate A goes out in front by 61 percent, the probability that one vote will matter whooshes down to .024 percent. And it keeps on dropping, faster and faster, as candidate A keeps pulling ahead.

The next step is the kicker. The effect of lopsided preferences, Napatoff discovered, is far more important than the size effect. In a dead- even contest, remember, voting power shrinks as the electorate becomes larger. But a 1 or 2 percent change in electorate size, by itself, doesn’t matter much to the individual voter. When one candidate gains an edge over another, however, a 1 or 2 percent change can make a huge difference to everyone’s voting power, giving candidates less of a motive to keep the losers happy. And the larger the electorate, the more telling a candidate’s lead becomes, like a house advantage.

Some people know this from ordinary experience. If you’re gambling in a casino, for instance, you had better keep your session as short as possible; the longer you play, the less likely you are to beat the house odds and break even (let alone win). By the same principle, if you’re flipping a lopsided coin yet looking for an equal number of heads and tails (a deadlock), you had better keep the number of coin flips low; the longer you try with lopsided coins, the more the law of averages works against a 50-50 outcome. And if you’re voting in an uneven election, you had better keep the electorate’s size as small as possible. "If the law of averages has got an edge," Napatoff says, "it’s going to tell in the long run. And so the idea is not to allow any very large elections if you are a voter. Unless the contest is perfectly even, you want to keep the size of elections small." The founding fathers unwittingly did this when they divided the national election into smaller, state-size contests.

So even though districting doesn’t help in an ideal, dead-even contest, with voters acting the same all over the country, it does help, Napatoff saw, in a realistic, uneven contest. Sports fans, again, vaguely understand the underlying principle. In a championship series, the contest becomes more equal, and the underdog has a better chance, when a team has to win more games, not just score more points. Similarly, when contesting 50 states, the leading candidate has more ways to lose than when running in a large, raw national election--there are more ways for votes to cluster in harmless blowouts, just as there are more ways for runs or goals to cluster in the seven games of the World Series or the Stanley Cup play-offs. In a big, raw national contest, those clusters wouldn’t matter.

The degree to which districting helps, Napatoff found, depends on just how close a contest is. Take as an illustration our model nation of 135, divided into, say, three states of 45 citizens each. When the race is dead even, of course, no districting scheme helps: voting power starts off at 6.9 percent in a direct election versus 6.0 percent in a districted election. But when candidate A jumps ahead with a lead of 54.5 percent, individual voting power is roughly the same whether the nation uses districts or not. And as the contest becomes more lopsided, voting power shrinks faster in the direct-voting nation than it does in the districted nation. If candidate A grabs a 61.1 percent share of voter preference, voters in the districted nation have twice as much power as those in the direct-voting nation. If A’s share reaches 64.8 percent, voters in the districted nation have four times as much power, and so on. The advantage of districting over direct voting keeps growing quickly as the contest becomes more lopsided.

Napatoff now had a two-part result. A districted voting scheme can either decrease individual voting power or boost it, depending on how lopsided the coin being tossed for each voter becomes. He found the crossover point interesting. For a nation of 135, that point is right around a 55-45 percent split in voter preference between two candidates. In any contest closer than this, voters would have more power in a simple, direct election. In any contest more lopsided than this, they would be better off voting by districts. How does that crossover point shift, Napatoff wondered, as electorate size changes?

For very small electorates--nine people, say--he found that the gap between candidates must be very large, at least 66.6 to 33.3 percent, before districting will help. That’s why raw voting works well at town meetings, where electorates are so small. As the number of voters gets larger, the crossover point moves closer to 50-50. For a nation of 135, voters are better off with districting in any race more lopsided than 55- 45. For a nation with millions of voters, the gap between candidates must be razor-thin for districting not to help. In the real world of large nations and uneven contests, voters get more bang for their ballot when they set up a districted, Madisonian electoral system--usually a lot more.

Now, try to imagine a bleary-eyed Napatoff working through the math for case after case. He finds out what happens as the size of the electorate changes, as the contest gets more or less lopsided, or as the method of districting changes (in his most favored nation of 135, you could have 3 states of 45 citizens each, 45 states of 3 citizens each--even 5 states of 20 and 7 states of 5). All these things affect voting power. Napatoff’s theorem now covers all cases. "The theorem," he sums up, "essentially says that you’re better off districted in any large election, unless every voter in the country is alike and very closely balanced between candidates A and B. In that very extraordinary case, which rarely if ever occurs in our elections, it would be better to have a simple national election."

Napatoff had finally answered, to his satisfaction, the question that had nagged him for decades. But what size, shape, and composition should our districts have? Like everyone else who delves into electoral politics, Napatoff could see that the actual, historic United States is not a perfectly districted nation. For one thing, states vary enormously in size. Napatoff can solve his equations to find an ideal district size for the purpose of national elections, assuming that each vote, like a coin toss, is statistically independent--but the answer depends on an election’s closeness. The districts could all be the same size, but only if the preference for one candidate over another is the same everywhere in the country. In general, the more lopsided the contest, the smaller each district, or state, needs to be to give individual voters the best chance of local deadlock. So in close elections, voters in larger states would have more power; in lopsided elections, voters in smaller states would. Since some campaigns run neck and neck to the wire while others become blowouts, we will probably never have an ideally districted nation for any particular election, even with equal-size states.

Ideally, too, no bloc should dominate any district. This consideration, by itself, probably makes the 50 states a grid that’s closer to ideal for electoral voting than, say, the 435 congressional districts. For example, in heavily black districts, no single white or black person’s vote would be likely to change the outcome, if blacks in that district tend to vote as a bloc. Each of those voters, black and white, would have more national power in a districting scheme more closely balanced between black and white. For this reason, Napatoff says, gerrymandering can be counterproductive even when undertaken with the intention of boosting some national minority’s power. The gerrymandered district might guarantee one seat in Congress to this minority, but those voters might actually wield more national bargaining power with no seat in Congress if representatives from, say, three separate districts viewed their votes as potentially swinging an election. Anyway, Napatoff says, the point of districting is to reduce the death grip of blocs on the outcome. "This is a nonpartisan proposition," he says. "The idea is to be sure all votes in a district have power." Ideally no single party, race, ethnic group, or other bloc, nationally large or nationally small, will dominate any of the districts-- which for now happen to be the 50 states plus Washington, D.C.

Napatoff concedes that the Madisonian system does contain within it one small, unavoidable paradox. Every once in a while, if we use districting to jack up individual voting power, we’ll have an electoral "anomaly"--a loser like Harrison will nudge out a slightly more popular Cleveland. He sees those anomalies, as well as the more frequent close calls, not as defects but as signs that the system is working. It is protecting individual voting power by preserving the threat that small numbers of votes in this or that district can turn the election. "We were blinded by its minor vices," he says. "All that happens is someone with fewer votes gets elected," temporarily. What doesn’t happen may be far more important. In 1888, victorious Republicans didn’t celebrate by jailing or killing Democrats, and Democrats didn’t find Harrison so intolerable that they took up arms. Cleveland came back to win four years later, beating Harrison under the same rules as before. The republic survived.

One other benefit attributed by Napatoff to our electoral college seems almost aesthetic. As usual, it’s easier to appreciate in sports. In 1960, under simpler rules, the Yankees might have been champions. They might have won, for instance, if there were no World Series but only the scheduled 154-game season, with one large baseball nation of 16 teams instead of two separate leagues. The team winning the most games all year long would simply pick up its prize in October. Instead, here is what happened. By the ninth inning in game seven of the series, the Yankees and Pirates had fought to a standstill--the ultimate deadlock. Each team had won three games. The Yankees had led throughout much of game seven, but Pittsburgh astonished everyone by scoring five runs in the eighth inning, after a Yankee fielding error, to go ahead 9-7. They couldn’t, of course, hold their lead. The Yankees answered with two more runs in the top of the ninth to tie the score at 9-9.

Then, in the bottom of the ninth, Bill Mazeroski, an average hitter without much power, stepped to the plate for Pittsburgh. He seemed a mere placeholder--until his long fly ball just cleared the left-field wall. Rounding second base, halfway home, Mazeroski was leaping for joy, and Pittsburgh fans were pouring from their seats, racing to meet him at the plate. The Yankees had finally toppled. There they were, ahead in the polls, piling up votes like nobody’s business, until one last swing of one player’s bat turned the whole season around. "Everybody regarded it as one of the most glorious World Series ever," Napatoff says. "To do it any other way would totally destroy the degree of competition and excitement that’s essential to all sports."

It's a long read, but well worth it. Napatoff proves the mathematical need for the EC, and why it must never be overturned, no matter who wins the election.

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Presidential Predictions

I've read scanned a lot of blog posts from around the web this afternoon, and saw a lot of predictions made by a lot of people. The one that caught my eye was Gale Winds' at Winds of Change. Her answers are posted here, and after reading mine I encourage you all to read hers, then return here and post your answers (or link backs).

1. Who will receive the majority of the popular vote - Kerry or Bush?
2. Who will receive the majority of electoral votes - Kerry or Bush?
3. Will we know who the next President is on Nov. 3rd?
4. Are you confident that the elected candidate will actually become our next President? If not, what is the most likely scenario for one of the candidates to become our next President through illegitimate means?
5. Where and how do you plan to watch the election returns?
6. What do you think will happen if there is a repeat of 2000 and a perception that the election has been stolen? What will you personally do if this is the case?
7. If you are a Kerry supporter and Bush stays in the WH - what will you do for the next 4 years?
Clearly, what I see in Gale's questions are a pattern of bias, and she is certainly entitled to her positions.

Here are my predictions:

1) Hard to predict, but I will say Senator Kerry will earn this distinction. Knowing the rampant fraud involved in voter registration, and the lackadaisical maintenance of these voter rolls (i.e.: I moved from NYC 12 years ago, and I am still listed as a valid voter), I predict that many more 'votes' will be cast for Sen. Kerry. Cities like Cincinnati and Philadelphia have at least as many registered Democrats as they have population, per the census, so there's got to be fraud going on here. Oddly enough, most of these over-votes will be registered in counties that are overwhelming Democrat, so I don't believe this will affect the more important vote count, that of the Electoral College. Of course, if military absentee ballots are properly counted, this prediction may be for naught, as that will move the count back towards President Bush.

2) President Bush will win the EC. I say this with confidence, as the whole idea of the EC is to balance the cities against the rural areas, and that will prevent demagogues from running over the rest of the country.

3) Probably not. As the DNC has long promised a gang of lawyers to stand ready at polling places around the nation (and, yes, the RNC is planning to counter them as well!) we won;t know right away, short of a landslide one way or other. Frankly, while at one time I could envision such a repeat of Ronald Regan's elections, few pundits suggest it would be possible today.

4) This question presumes there was an illegitimate president elected in 2000. Since there is no evidence of this, no evidence of disenfranchised Florida voters (so say the NY Times, others), and since the SCOTUS did not decide the election, but in fact told the State of Florida to simply follow its own laws, this question is moot.

5) Last time, I was on business travel. Actually, I was staying in a hotel near my office, but not, in fact, 'on travel.' In those days I stayed in town one night a week to curb commuting hours (2 hour commute). I stayed late at work, went bowling with friends, and returned to my hotel room. Little did I to stay up til dawn watching the returns! This time, as I start a new job on Monday, I'll be home watching FNC and turning in long before the final tallies are in. On the upside, I plan to be up at 4AM, so I will of course check in then.

People say FNC is biased, and MSNBC claims 'America will be watching the returns here'. A pity that FNC beat out CNN & MSNBC (COMBINED) in ratings throughout the debates. Could it be that a) FNC is fair and/or b) the others don't provide coverage worthy of watching?

6) As I said in #4, the election wasn't stolen. However, if there is a perception, it will go to the courts, of course. In the end I will accept what is decided, one way or other. I found the 1992 campus's campaign (so much for spell checker!) of then Governor Bill Clinton to be as distasteful as any, but I called him President nonetheless (admittedly, I began to refer to him as 'the impeached President Clinton', which was only fair). I don't understand this idea that violence in the face of a political defeat; it is inappropriate, under any circumstance. However, if President Bush should lose re-election, I will resolve myself to pay more taxes, have the nation return to the days of President Carter (as far as world view goes), and fight tooth and nail against any nationalized medical program.

7) Moot question again. As I said in #6, I pretty much identified what I plan to do. Many people threaten to move out of the country. If even one of the Hollywood star who predicted they would do the same in 2000 did, I would give credence to one ordinary person's prediction. If you don't like something that happens in our government, you petition to change it. But just because you do petition there's no guarantee it will happen. Gotta decide which nation is the freest, the best to live. If you can point to another nation, by all means speak up!

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Why some people vote Democrat

While I am far, far behind in blog-reading, this one caught my eye and I thought it must be repeated. From, an excellent blog throughout this campaign:

I guess it's easy to vote Democratic when you don't do anything for yourself and rely on someone else for everything. Most of the Democratic policies and John Kerry's "plans" fit right into that little box. You might as well wrap it and put a bow on top.

Here's an excellent case of a Democratic voter. I was reading an article about Theresa Heinz and came across the statement of a Reno woman, Aliena Anderson, who said her and her husband have both lost their jobs. Her biggest concern? Like any good parent it's her kids. Too bad for them. Because their mommy and daddy are morons. Anderson says "Having health care coverage for them now would immediately ease my mind, I'm looking forward to not having to worry about that in the future. It's a very scary thing to not have insurance for them." Let's hope for her metal well-being, that John Kerry is elected. Then she's ready for the Kerry administration to give her kids free health care.

Perhaps if she looked to her own state, rather than waiting for the Federal Government hand out, she'd realize she could get her kids covered today. Nevada offers the Nevada Check Up. What's the Nevada Check Up? Nevada Check Up is the State of Nevada's Children's Health Insurance Program. It provides low-cost, comprehensive health care coverage to low income, uninsured children 0 through 18 years of age who are not covered by private insurance or Medicaid.

While it does have income limits, if Aliena is as destitute as she states, then she will have nothing to worry about. Of course, it isn't free either, there's a small premium to be paid, once again based on income. The maximum she would have to pay is $280 a year, per kid. Damn, she'd have to have the cable turned off and get rid of her cell phone. Oh, the humanity!

I'll end with a quote from George Carlin that about sums it all up: "Just think how stupid the average people you meet are, and then realize, half of them are more stupid than that!"

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Friday, October 29, 2004

Another leader voices support for Sen. Kerry!

Today comes word that another leader voices support for Sen. John Kerry's campaign.

At one point, bin Laden ridicules Bush for reacting slowly to the 2001 attacks.

"We never thought that the high commander of the U.S. armies would leave 50,000 of his citizens in both towers to face the horrors by themselves when they most needed him because it seemed to distract his attention from listening to the girl telling him about her goat butting," he says, referring to Bush's decision to wait more than seven minutes after being informed of the attacks before leaving an elementary room classroom in Florida where a student was reading a story called "The Pet Goat."

Knowing that our admitted enemy - the one that Sen. Kerry says we let 'get away' - says that President Bush is not a wise choice, how can anyone NOT vote for President Bush's re-election?

Clearly, even bin Laden is reading from the Michael Moore playbook; thus Mr. Moore has another 'fan' for which he must be proud!

Come on, Kerry supporters: give me your reasoned argument!

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Good things on the horizon

Things are looking up!

  • ITEM: Sen. John Kerry continues to rant that the US is 'alone' in Iraq and that some 378 tons of ammo was stolen under our soldiers' noses. For starters, there are some 30 allies that the Senator continues to denigrate when he complains we're 'alone,' not to mention the people of the Iraqi military, police, and civilians who are being slaughtered on a daily basis by the insurgents. Second, NBC News and Fox News confirms the ammo wasn't there the day the US rolled in. Third, it's being reported that it wasn't 378 tons, but rather 3 tons. Fourth, what a horrible insult to our military, that they 'lost' the ammo!

    A pity the NY Times couldn't be more responsible in their reporting! They're turning into a two-bit biased rag, not the respectable paper of record they used to be. And when you consider that some 300 newspapers across the nation subscribe to the NY Times NEWS SERVICE, and that their front pages will often mirror that of the NY Times, itself, the biased impact is frightening.

  • ITEM: Since the ammo in question is used to detonate nuclear devices, why did Iraq have it in the first place? And if 3/370 tons of material can evaporate, why can't WMDs do the same? Senator Kerry: please explain!

  • ITEM: With 5 days left, the Kerry camp is desperate. As President Bush travels to states won by VP Gore in 2000, the Senator needs to shore-up states what were once called 'locked' for him. I've long stopped predicting a landslide, and I am not doing so now, but it looks very possible the race will go in favor of President Bush, and not by a squeaker.

  • ITEM:I used to provide to my pals (and debate foes) a wonderful piece written in Discover magazine, boiling down the Electoral College to something nearly all Americans can relate to: Baseball. The author successfully compared the 1961 (62?) World Series between the NY Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates to the Electoral College, and read is most worth your time. I hope to find it this weekend for your reading pleasure.

    Briefly: if you were to add the total runs scored in each of the 7 championship games, the Pirates would have defeated the Yankees. However, despite some horrible loses to the Pirates, the Yanks won the best of 7 games. THAT is the Electoral College in a nutshell!

    I mention this article to help educate those who stamp their feet and wonder why the EC even exists at all (read the Federalist Papers), for we may once again have an Electorial College victory, but not a Popular Vote winner.

  • ITEM: I start work again on Monday. I will spending up-wards of 2 hours commuting - EACH WAY. If all goes well, I will leave my humble abode daily around 5:00 AM so I can get home again 12 hours (or so) later (depneding on how long I take for lunch). My plans is thus so I can attend to my duties as a Cub Scout Den Leader and student of Tae Kwon Do (Gup 7). Yeah, my ride bites, but you know what? Sometimes you gotta suck it up. My much-better-half's full time position as mom to two is worth the headache of traffic. I know, because I've been driving like this for about 9 years. No one ever said things would be perfect, so I am grateful for what I have.

    And compared to some of the hurdles I've cleared in my life, a long ride for a good salary is worth it. And I'll be dammed if I am told that the economy across the board is in the tank, because it is simply not true. I am not ignorant of others who are struggling, but there will always be struggles, and there will always be those who have it worse off than you or I.

  • ITEM: I have a dozen or so unread Blog-realated emails, and literally dozens in my primary e-mail accounts, (and I've lost track of my FeedReader... haven't seriously read more than a handful of blogs since being laid off in July). Hoping things go back to what best can be described as
    normal next week. There are a few I do have to personally reply to, and will do so asap.

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    Tuesday, October 26, 2004

    I voted!

    Well, sort of. I voted absentee this afternoon. Instead of simply applying for an absentee ballot, I got to fill one in and submit it.

    Of course, if I do get home early, I am obliged to vote in person, and I will!!

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    Back in my day, I wore buttons that proclaimed 'DRAFT BEER, NOT PEOPLE'. I was 16, and I wore that button (and others) for a few years. In my early 20s I realized the truth that the draft was a thing of the past.

    Nowadays, hardly a week goes by without some false cry that the draft is coming back. Nonsense. I know, personally, several people in active duty and reserves. THEY are screaming 'NO DRAFT!' These people are professional soldiers (sailors, airmen, etc.) The last thing they want is someone along side of them that DOESN'T want to be there.

    On top of it all, look at the facts: two Democrats introduced draft bills. Rep. Charles Rangel of NY and the racist Senator Fritz Hollings (side bar: I used the term 'racist' because as Governor of South Carolina, Mr. Hollings authorized the flying of the Confederate flag atop the state house. If others can call that act racist, it ought to apply to him as well). When the bill recently came up for a vote, not even Rep. Rangel, himself, voted for it. Not a single Republican backed it or voted for it.

    There isn't a plan to draft, there hasn't been one, there won't be a draft. Stop pandering and start talking about real issues.

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    Missing ammo:It's good news

    Despite the bias of the NY Times, the story of the missing ammo is a good thing.

    Despite the shrill of Sen. Kerry, the ammo was last seen by the UN inspectors and was missing 3 months later when the US troops came in. Don't take my word, ask NBC news- they were there.

    And if all there tons can disappear in three months, imagine where the WMDs could have gone.

    Sen. Kerry continues to lie. His supporters must be proud, and he must be desperate.

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    7 to go

    Greetings, all.

    With all the news buzzing of the challenges to the poll results, I decided to hedge my bet: I am going to the Courthouse today to apply for an absentee ballot. I start my new job on Monday, and I am afraid with the repaint bogus registrations and the story after story of people registering multiple times that my polling place may be overwhelmed when I get there threshed. My commute is still going to be in the neighborhood of 2 hours, and the idea of asking to leave early on my 2nd day doesn't sound to be prudent.

    Sure, they may insist that 'if you're in-line, you can vote' but as there are all these protest threats and the like, I don't want to risk it.

    Reading those stories: those who registered several times, those who registered even if they are not citizens, those anarchists who are out to ruin the system. They all have one thing in common. Character.

    Character counts! What a novel concept! Barely 5 years ago we were assured that character doesn't count. Yet today we have absentee ballots that require a signature attesting to the reason for the ballot, and the process of registering, itself, is meant to be done on good, moral character. Yet we know well there are people who will stuff the ballot boxes. An story I heard on TV the other day reported that there are now one registered Democrat for every citizen in Philadelphia. While it is unquestionable the Democrats outnumber the Republicans, it is a myth to imagine there aren't ANY Republicans in the City of Brotherly Love. That's proof alone there is a fraud afoot.

    The Governor of Pennsylvania, Edward Rendell, stated he would not provide an extension for the military absentee ballots. So in one town when paperweight is an issue, there is a cry for justice. When a guy/gal in a war zone requests some extra time, there is comparable silence.

    I pray for thing next Tuesday: a fair election. Based on the rules and laws in place TODAY, not re-written Tuesday, or the next day. THAT was the crux of the debate 4 years ago, that the existing laws were being trampled.

    Still, I believe the overall tracking polls show that President Bush will be re-elected, and the majorities in the Congress increased. People aren't buying the double-speak of Senator Kerry, the trumped up charges based on flimsy evidence. The people know a leader when they see one, and they know a con man who has no record to run when they see him.

    National security is what matters, and George W. Bush delivers.

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    Saturday, October 23, 2004

    Sen. Kerry doesn't get it

    NOTE: Early Friday I made a post that had a huge typo, and has since been corrected. The redline speaks for itself.

    Now then, based on the e-mails I've received (why so few use Comments is a mystery to me), I've raised a few hackles with my comparison of Senator Kerry to the Hitler regime. Where these same people were when did the same thing against President Bush, I don't know. Perhaps they'll offer their reactions below THIS post.

    So here's my case: Recently, Senator Kerry said:

    "Once again, America needs a president who believes in science," Kerry told supporters at a theater in Columbus. "But George Bush has turned his back on the spirit of exploration and discovery. ... It is wrong to take hope from people."

    Kerry, appearing with Dana Reeve, widow of the "Superman" actor, portrayed the Republican president as out of touch. He suggested Bush would have sided "with the candle lobby against electricity, the buggy makers against the cars and the typewriter companies against computers."

    So there you have it! Because the President is for limits on stem-cell research, he's against exploration and discovery. So can I assume the Senator would have endorsed the Nazi eugenics program of the 1930s and 1940s?

    Simply stated, I don't think Sen. Kerry would endorse anything Hitler stood for. However, for the Senator to suggest the President is out of touch is nonsense. The President has values and morals, like all of us have. He has decided to draw a line and stand for the decision. You can disagree with it if you like, but you mustn't mischaracterize that position.

    Remember: President Bush signed the spending bill that provides the federal funding that now exists using stem-cells. The federal funding simply DID NOT exist before his signature.

    Should there be more research? Of course! Should the Federal Gov't pay for it all? Of course NOT! The Fed pays for a LOT of research on a wide variety of medical issues already. Can the government pay for ALL of the research for ALL diseases?? That's nonsensical!

    Shouldn't the government pay for all MDA research? What about cancer? What about AIDS? The government pays already for much of these researches, but I doubt you'll find one person who says they pay ENOUGH to any of them.

    Now to make ludicrous claims that if Sen. Kerry is elected, cripples WILL walk is the height of desperation. Makes you wonder what kind of people would actually vote for crap like that.

    Before you make some snide remark suggesting my opinion would be different if I knew someone like Chris Reeve or Michael J. Fox: I do know someone with a spinal chord problem, so don't try that spin on me.

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    Way off, but...

    Thanks to Gina for the meme:

    CHARLIE (Charles)
    Name Origin: German
    Number of Syllables: 2.00
    Gender: Unisex

    More interesting facts about the name Charlie:

    Lucky Number: 2
    Ruling Planet: The Moon
    Element: Water
    Primary Color: Orange
    Traits: Sensitive, domestic. Tends to be emotional and easily influenced to tears. Has a fertile imagination. Very fond of the home. Patriotic. Accepts changes in surroundings. Prefers to live near the water. Often possesses musical talents and would make a very good psychic.

    OK "emotional and influenced to tears"?? Musically talented? Psychic? Maybe psychotic, but...

    And about the only thing 'domestic' about me is that I live IN a house. Try your name.

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    Just saw Joe Jackson, Ben Folds, and William Shatner perform on the Tonight Show.

    Joe sounded awesome as always, Ben Folds had their normal, terrific sound, and Bill Shatner was... Bill Shatner.

    Eclectic? Can you think of a better word?

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    On being home

    So I have been home since October 14th. You would think I could report to you all of my latest musings about the issues and news, especially with 10 days left before the election.

    The election: for a would-be political pundit such as myself, we're in the 8th inning of game 7 of the World Series, if you would permit me the analogy. And here I am, largely silent for the last 10 days or so, and I have been comparatively muted since July. A check of my archives would confirm this statement.

    Strangely, things are different when I am out of work. Back in July, I was home for about a month. I was, for the most part, unemployed. I received an offer about the 2nd or 3rd week, but I was actively seeking work before and after accepting that offer. Yet getting free time on my PC was hard to come by. One would think if my full-time employment was in jeopardy, my FT duties would be to find new work. But that was left for late nights and odd days.

    For the last 10 days I've been unemployed, and this marks the first time I've say for more than a few minutes at my desk. I've sent some brief Blogs via my cell phone WAP interface, but that is costly and has some noticeable limitations.

    Why have I been away so much? When I am at home, my much-better-half gets the day-to-day help she really needs. Simple as that. Caring for an infant and an almost 9 year old is a full-time job in itself (never mind the home school aspect), and with chauffeuring them about for their routine appointments, my time is all but used up.

    And hey: many of my posts here lament lack of sleep, so I am getting some of that, too.

    I hope to find a routine I can relate to in the near future, with more postings here and on other blogs. In the meantime, it's 1:25, and I have one more post to make!

    (Yes, yes: I do hope to catch up on my Blog reading as well!)

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    Friday, October 22, 2004

    Still alive

    Yes, I am still alive, although not online much. As it was when I was laid off, I have little time at my PC when I am home.

    Latest news: as my security 'paperwork' gets transfered, I will join the ranks of the actively employed once again on Nov 1.

    Stay tuned: I have so much I want to Blog, but not the time! Want a taste? Wait for me to describe the ways Senator Kerry has given tacit approval of Adolf Hitler's own Dr. Joseph Goebbel's experiments
    with eugenics. (And to think! is the group that compared President Bush to Hitler!)

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    Saturday, October 16, 2004


    I'm trapped in the middle of

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    Friday, October 15, 2004

    I am living proof

    You say the economy is bad? You say the jobs aren't there? I am proof you are wrong.

    July 2 I was laid off. I was back to work August 9. The job didn't suit me, it was below my credentials, but I took it. Why? Because I believe it is better to be under employed than unemployed.

    On Wednesday I gave notice: I have accepted an offer for a job that suits me in every way. I could have gotten this same job if I stayed home, collecting unemployment, but I would rather go out and work then stay at home. I am able bodied, and if for no other reason (as if these weren't enough), my family depends on me.

    I know of others who have horrible commutes such as I do, or who have had to move away from home in order to work. These people, I submit, are the exceptions. There are always jobs to be had: they may not be perfect, but they are honest, respectable work. No one ever said you would be guaranteed a corner office with a wet bar. No one ever promised you a JOB; but to say there AREN'T any jobs is simple not true.

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    Well I resigned on Wednesday morning. At 8AM I gave notice. The manager told me to go back to desk for the time being.

    I went back to him at 10AM and he asked if I wanted to work through the end of next week. I stiffeled a laugh and he agreed I should clean out my desk.

    Latest news is I start Nov. 1. Now if I can only get some time to myself to catch up on my Blog reading/writing! I can't remember the last meme I participated in!

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    Wednesday, October 13, 2004

    DATELINE: Philadelphia


    Readers of this Blog have heard me complain about my current employment status. I have been courting employers with e-mails and phone calls nearly non-stop since first hearing my lay off (May 26th).

    In short, I was laid off from my Defense Contractor position effective July 2. I landed a new job that started August 9th: the pay was less than what I had been making (30% less), and the position used none of my technical skills. It is a Defense Contracting position, that maintained my Secret clearance, but it is mind-numbing work.

    Well, my perseverance has paid off! One of the many resume's I posted in the weeks following May 26 has landed me an offer I cannot refuse! You may recall my cheer after a recent interview, well that's the company whose made me an offer!

    (Editor's note: I am typing this Tuesday morning, 12-October. My plan is this: As soon as my manager (or his boss) comes in, I will formally offer my letter of resignation. Until then, I will go about my business)

    Well... today is Wednesday; neither my manager nor his boss came in Tuesday! Who ever thought it would be hard to quit??

    Until now, I've kept this post in DRAFT. Now it is official! I have resigned from my job. Other than my diatribes about the the overall workplace (here and here), the sub-contractor for whom I worked for is a good company, and I respect the managers and co-workers with whom I worked. I say this despite some of the comments I've made about the type of work I was assigned; clearly, I was over-qualified for these tasks, but I did them all the same.

    The job involves a commute of just over 90 miles. By most people's standards, that's absurd, and I agree wholeheartedly. However, my last commute was 110 miles, so it's no big thing. It's what I do to make the salaray I need for my family living in a rural setting.

    As soon as my clearance paperwork is completed, I'll start my new job as early as Oct 25th. My now-current-but-just-resigned company has asked if I wanted to stay or leave. Guess which I picked?

    So there is joy in mudville tonite!

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    Tuesday, October 12, 2004

    Latest news and absurdities



    Now lets keep these stories (and others) in mind when people start scream 'disenfranchisement'; hell, I am willing to wager half of the people who cry that word won't be able to define it.

    In other news...

    Vice Presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards Stem Cell Vision: 'We will stop juvenile diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other debilitating diseases... When John Kerry is president, people like
    Christopher Reeve are going get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.'
    Edwards made the unprecedented campaign promises during 30-minute speech at Newton High School gym in Newton, Iowa...

    This just makes me sick to my stomach. Coupled with this absurd idea, is there anyone who can honestly say this man (and the campaign) isn't in trouble? Or worse, can anyone defend these ideas??

    above links and quote: hat tip to

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    Some may call him an idiot, but...

    Gilly describes what fans of John Kerry must think:

    "According to John Kerry, G.W. Bush personally...
    1) He pumps my gas and charges me extra every time I go to the pump. And to fool me, he dresses up like a different Hindu guy at every station....must be that trickster Carl Rove.
    2) He works in accounting at Blue Cross Blue Shield and charged me $1100 for every cup of Tapioca pudding I ate while in recovery. No wonder my health care premiums are so damned high. **Shakes angry fist at empty tapioca pudding cup***
    3) He has been able to cause car wrecks on every major highway I have tried to take to my new job, therefor creating gridlock and an extra long commute. His oil buddies must be spilling their wares on the roadways at 6:00 am.
    4) He made terrorists start hating America in 2001 by being elected. Before, the undereducated cave dwellers were able understand the Arabic subtitles of previous American Presidential speeches. But his less than fluid speech paterns enraged the otherwise peaceful sheepfuckers into learning how to wire a car bomb without the benefit of there being a John Tesh CD involved.
    5) He made my nice clean New England air cold and crisp in October. I don't know exactly how he did that but when I do.....***shakes angry fist at Bush***
    6) He personally raised my college tuition and then made me take important 'diversity' classes like 'Gay American Indian Sex and its Affect on Particle Physics'. And to think I could have saved that tuition money for a Calculus book.

    All this from a man they'll call an idiot. Amazing! Read more....

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    This is so wrong

    This is insulting on so many different levels I do not know where to start! This e-mail was sent to all-hands at my place of employment:

    QUESTIONAIRE : "Assume A Disability for A Day"

    In honor of Disability Employment Awareness Month, the Advisory Committee for Employees with Disabilities (ACED) would like to sponsor "Assume a Disability Day". In order to accomplish this, we are forwarding this questionnaire surveying the workforce to find out how many managers, supervisors, and employees are interested in participating in this event. The event will be scheduled for October 13,

    The amount of time that is needed for participation is approximately
    four (4) hours of your workday. This program is designed to assist the workforce
    in understanding the obstacles and barriers that persons with disabilities face
    each day of their lives.

    The event is not to ridicule or tease any employee that may or may not have a disability.

    In order to reply, check block that applies, hit save, close, forward to Mike C and please cc a copy to your Directorate ACED represestative .

    1. Would you be
    willing to assume a disability with assistance for about (4) hours of your
    workday? YES( ) NO( )

    2. Would you like to be a buddy to assist someone
    with a disability? YES( ) NO ( )

    3. Would you be willing to:
    Use a wheelchair ( )
    Use a sling on your dominant arm ( )
    Wear vision-limiting eyeglasses ( )
    Wear a brace on your dominant wrist ( )
    Wear earplugs that will simulate limited hearing or deafness. ( )

    The ACED would like to THANK each of you for taking time out of your busy schedule to complete this Questionair .

    I cannot believe how stupid and insensitive people are!! This is the same kind of 'understanding' you see when kids who have homes sleep in the park one night to 'know what it FEELS like to be homeless'. What the hell does that event (or this absurdity above) do to HELP the people who are affected?? NOTHING!!

    Playing 'disabled' for a day means nothing; it's a feel-good for the actor, nothing more. If this is what it takes for you to feel good, you have a LOT of problems.

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    Monday, October 11, 2004


    Subtitled: Sunday: Part the Third

    By now you may have read about my Sunday (and part two). As I've mentioned in other places in this blog, in recent months the amount of time I get to sit at my PC have been oddly fewer and far between. That I am a displaced Systems Engineer and actively seeking a better job makes this even more strange. However when things happen that need to be blogged, I can use my cell phone and WapBlogger and at least make a partial entry.

    Regardless, I mentioned my bloodied knee and stalled Blazer. Returning from mass and CCD, I stopped at the local auto parts store for a can of Starting Fluid. It's actually ether, for those who didn't know. I never used a can before in my life; a few weeks ago I had a break down (yes, in the Blazer) and a good Samaritan (ironic I use that reference after this Sunday, ain't it?) got me started using a can of ether. So when the same problem (apparently) happened to the same car, I decided it was time to buy my own.

    So I taught my almost 9 year old the basics of cranking an engine, while I removed the air intake.

    It is here I will pause to define the acronym of the title of this post. In my days some +12 years ago that I worked a tech support, we had a common phrase for people who were too lazy to find their own answers. RTFM: politely defined it stands for
    Read the Manual. I usually can assume folks can fill in the F for themselves, but about 2 years ago my father asked me three times what it meant. Think Senator Kerry's Rolling Stone interview. Think Vice President Cheney telling an absolute lout where to go. If you really need help hear, consult George Carlin. So we all now know what RTFM means: in short, quit asking stupid questions without reading the documentation.

    Or, rather, READ the documentation first.

    So there I am with a can of ether, using it for the first time in my life. Following what the guy did a few weeks ago, I instructed my son to crank the ignition while I sprayed into the air-intake.

    Crank/spray, turn over, stall.

    Crank/spray, turn over, run for 2 seconds, stall.

    Crank/spray, turn over, run for a few more seconds, stall.

    This time I grab the linkage and give it some gas:

    Crank/spray, turn over, FLASH!!! POP!!! stall.

    See, there's a reason to read instructions. While I was spraying and he was cranking, a spark from the intake (hell, from the engine itself) flashed back at the can of ether. Fortunately, I have all 10 fingers still, but the spray nozzle had seemingly exploded, leaving me with a leaking can of ether.

    So with my eyebrows still intact, we retreated to home. Another can of ether, used per the instructions (spray into intake, THEN crank engine) only got it running for a about 4 seconds (until the ether was gone) and it stalled. (Yes, it's has 3/4 of a tank of gas). Since the gas filter was changed when I had the ignition module switched last month, I am guessing the module is bad again. AAA got the Blazer to the same shop, so we'll wait and see the results.

    FRIENDS: read the instructions when dealing with such items; don't rely on what you saw some guy do.

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    A gold mine of a job ad, if you're one of the few

    A regional hospital has the following ad:

    Candidate will develop and implement strategies to ensure the successful completion of information systems projects. Will perform computer program analysis and design. This position will research supportive data and write, code, test and debug computer programs.

    B.S. in Computer Science or related field is required; Masters is preferred. 10 years of experience in computer programming and project management and senior level RPG programming required. Seimens Meds Series 4 experienced preferred. 5 years of experience in a hospital or related healthcare field with specialization in hospital billing required.

    At NameDeletedToProvideThisBlogsConfidentiality Hospital, you will find an attractive salary, plus one of the most outstanding benefits packages in the region. Youll also discover a dynamic environment that fosters growth and encourages new ideas. Send your resume and salary history to:

    Back in my collegiate days, and we're talking 1982-1986, the RPG programming language was known THEN as being the Latin of Computers. And this was at a university who only began offering PC-related CompSci classes to undergrads in 1985; the whole curriculum was main-frame based, so these new thingys running Lotus 1-2-3 v.1 were still considered mere toys.

    I took RPG in 1984. The only compiler that could interpret the code was attached to a legacy system that required punch cards. Yes, boys and girls, computers used to programmed using what is affectionately known as 'IBM Cards' which were punched using a huge device that interpreted keystrokes into punches (the real IT Geeks of the day used pencil and hand-coded their cards; they were considered Gods in those days, and I imagine they are still revered as such today).

    I've read where a desktop-interface was created at least 10 years ago, but I am fairly certain this Hospital will have a fair amount of trouble finding a person to fill this spot. RPG has never been widely accepted in the post 1980s world, and as such the lucky individual with the right skill set will command a hefty paycheck. And while I believe I earned a B in the course, I won't even kid myself about this job: those coding days are long behind me.

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    Sunday, October 10, 2004

    Part II

    (WapBlogger has a buffer limit apparently)

    So my knee lands squarely on said gravel, causing more than a few decidely non-church going words to escape my lips. With the car finally off the road, we hobble back home for another car.

    we got to church in time enough that he wasn't substituted (banner holding can be a cut-throat business). While in mass I realized wearing tan pants was a bad idea, what the growing circle of blood staining my right knee.

    And look! its only 10AM!

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    The day so far.

    Well it started ok. My oldest was scheduled to hold up the Amen banner at Mass this morning. So he and set off at 7.50 to get to church in time for 8.15 mass. (The little one has a cold so he and my much-better-half stayed home)

    Not 50 yards from home, my Blazer stalls. And it won't restart. Now holding the banner is a huge honor, particularly to an almost 9 year old.

    So I start to push the SUV off the road: my feet slip on gravel and my right knee lands squarely on said grav

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    Saturday, October 09, 2004

    25 days to go, and still no plan

    Well, let me tell you straight up, I've never changed my mind about Iraq. I do believe Saddam Hussein was a threat. I always believed he was a threat -- believed it in 1998 when Clinton was President. I wanted to give Clinton the power to use force if necessary. But I would have used that force wisely, I would have used that authority wisely, not rushed to war without a plan to win the peace. I would have brought our allies to our side. I would have fought to make certain our troops had everybody possible to help them win the mission.

    Thus spake Senator Kerry, candidate for president. OK, so this should be easy: the senator can easily point to one speech, one position paper wherein he advocated this idea of authorizing President Clinton to act against Iraq. Certainly he can do this, right? I mean, after all, it should be easy to find, since he voted against pushing Hussein out of Kuwait (as the UN authorized), such a 180 degree turn on his prior position should stand out in his records.

    That is, if he did really believe President Clinton should have led the US to change Iraq's regime.

    The Senator castigated the President for not signing Kyoto. Care to explain why he should when the US Senate voted 100-0 against it? (Talk about 'going it alone') So the US is wrong for not getting passing the 'Global Test' but the US is also wrong when the Kyoto Treaty is so 'flawed' that it doesn't pass the 'US test'. Is the Senator seriously suggesting that we'd be able persuade the author's of Kyoto to see things 'our way'? If we did, would Mr. Kerry would call the Kyoto team 'coerced'?

    The senator still hasn't accounted for the war crimes he allegedly witnessed/partook in when he gave sworn testimony before congress 33 years ago.

    And lets not even begin to talk about Senator Kerry's tax proposals!

    THIS is the man who would dare to suggest Mr. Bush isn't fit for office?

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    Friday, October 08, 2004

    ECONOMY: The beat goes on

    The economy continues to grow, which can only frustrate critics of the President. More jobs created by the private sector, the unemployment rate remains statistically negligible.

    Yet tonight we'll be lied to by Senator Kerry about how bad things are.

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    Voter Registration Deadlines Ignored

    Muslim get-out-vote unit pushes deadline: "Theresa LePore vowed to close the Palm Beach County elections office at 5 p.m. Monday, the final day to register to vote in the Nov. 2 election, but a young man who arrived about 15 minutes after the deadline managed to drop off 550 applications on behalf of a group of Muslims determined to oust President Bush.
    LePore, no stranger to confrontations, said the man demanded she accept the bundles of voter registration applications attached to slips of paper identifying them as having been collected by Voting Is Power, which goes by the acronym VIP and is an offshoot of the Washington-based Muslim American Society."

    Let's keep this in mind; in 26 days, when there are claims that the whole groups were disenfranchised by the Bush Administration, remember the disrespect for the law and common courtesy of this group.

    Remember also the protestors storming the Bush re-election headquarters, the gun shots fired into another office, and then ask yourself this simple question: Which party is often tarred with the broad brush of being 'mean spirited'?

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    Thursday, October 07, 2004

    "Poll" results breeds lawsuit

    The poll also showed Bush's job approval rating at 54 percent -- the highest since January -- and it found increased public approval for the president's handling of the economy, terrorism, the situation in Iraq and his willingness to do his own yard work.
    Robert Cox is at it again. This time he's angered CNN with a parody page. (See it here while you can).

    As I said in his comments section, this is just a case of sour grapes!

    I mean, come on now! It's not as if Robert Cox saw atrocities in Iraq and failed to report them. I mean if he did that, THEN he would infringing on CNN's work.

    A survey of deceased voters last week in Chicago showed similar Kerry strength. Among voters dead for more than five years, 78 percent supported Kerry, 9 percent supporter Bush. In a surprise Ralph Nader showed suprising strength among voters dead less than five years.
    Pure genius!

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    Wednesday, October 06, 2004

    Disgusting Topic Alert

    I am a male (no kidding), considered on the cusp of either being a baby boomer or a GenX (born in 1964).

    I've had the pleasure and opportunity to travel to some locations that would easily be considered 'fancy' by anyone's standard (case in point: I've dined more than once at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan).

    I've been to rock concerts at stadiums and in an open field (Hall & Oats at Liberty State Park in 1986 leaps to mind). I've traveled by air, ship, train (this includes Amtrak and NYC Subways) and bus. I've camped where the nearest 'facility' could best be described as 'the third tree on the left.'

    I've been to bars, taverns and pubs that run the gamut of 'the kind of place you'd take your grandmother' to 'hole in the walls' to the kind of a place that seems to shout
    'next week, we'll be a crack den!'. So while there are undoubtedly people whose travel log far and away exceeds my own, I can say I've gotten around a bit.

    In all of that time, in all of that travel, I've used a restroom more than a few times. None of those, however, compares to the frequent condition of the men's room at my current place of employment. I mean, on 2 occasions in my life, I have had no choice but to venture in a Subway restroom (or rather 'Toilet' as it is shown on the tile walls) and have barely made it out alive from the stench, but the overall conditions there exceed what I deal with here. It is as if the motto here is 'Hey guys! Nobody cares! Piss on the floor! Why not??'

    And on two separate occasions, the condition of the stalls were... well, I simply won't go there...

    There are janitors who often are seen inside the restroom, and they are seemingly always sweeping up newspaper or other papers that seem to be unusually scattered all over the floor. But the sink tops are generally covered in water (or at least I hope that's what it is!), and the floors are almost always wet -- puddles! I've seen less moisture on the floor behind the bar after a football game -- but at least the bartenders get to stand on rubber mats or the like. What is it about people?

    In the movie
    Arthur, Sir John Gielgud described the whore Dudley Moore brought home by delivering the immortal line:

    One would have to peruse quite a number of bowling alleys to meet a woman of your stature.
    I'm thinking of the dives and holes-in-the-walls I've been to (not mention the latrines in Scout campgrounds) and I am having difficulty making a similar statement

    I can lay blame partially on the janitorial staff, but the overall responsibility has to be laid on those people who obviously have no consideration for others, or even themselves (not to mention the soles of shoes!).

    I have found that not all of the restrooms are trashed in this manner, but it means walking clear across the building to the other side to find one that, by comparison, meets the standards one would expect in fast food restaurant.

    Despite this I remain optimistic about my search. If nothing else, I have another reason to keep pitching.

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    On having more than one spouse

    Do you have a spouse at work? Not a real spouse, but someone who acts as your better half at your job. The person you go to as soon as you hear that gossip about Bill in finance, someone you trust and respect, and most importantly, someone who tells you when your shoes don?t match your shirt?

    Monster captures this phenomenon perfectly! In my previous position, I had the great fortune of having a co-worker who became more than just a colleague (no, no, not THAT way).

    My friend and I have often joked that we are married at work. She listens to my work complaints, reminds me of how funny the picture on my work ID is and magically seems to know when I need a coffee break. We even had a fight once in which we didn't talk to each other for three days -- I was miserable.

    I can't believe how true to life this is! My friend J hits this description. We shared a cubicle (and a phone, if you can believe how cheap the company was) for about 3 years. Then we moved to a new division but different departments. E-mail and IM's kept the lines of communication open for our on-going rants and gossip.

    While I was shown the door in July, we remain good friends, altho we can't chat via IM and for reasons still a mystery to me, e-mail seems to go astray between this office and hers. In her words, we're now

    I may never find such a 'spouse' again -- I mean come on! how lucky can a person be to have a much-better-half at home AND an office spouse -- but I am happy to be able to say I had one.

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    OK, I confess, I didn't see the whole debate

    I saw/heard the first hour or so, then I had to tend some tasks that
    kept me away from tv/radio/pc, and so I cannot speak to the last

    In the first 60 minutes, I saw the kind of presentation that certainly
    separated the man from the boy.

    Tracking polls will tell the tale, and in 27 days the ultimate poll
    will be taken. But a lot can happen in that time, to be sure.

    In other news, my much-better-half told me of a nearby community that
    is losing their doctors - GP, OBGYNs, etc. - due to malpractice costs.
    Thank the bevy of slip-and-fall trial lawyers for that news. I hope
    to locate the story later today...

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    Paying respect to the man who never got any

    So I said to my son: "Watch out! One day you might have
    kids of your own."
    And he shot back "Heh! One day, you might have some, too!"

    Rodney Dangerfield,

    Charlie On The Pennsylvania Turnpike

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    Tuesday, October 05, 2004

    More on polls

    I was chided by some for spinning recent poll results. I can't properly reply in my car but I can state a new ABC news tracking poll puts the President up by 6%. Pew research poll was said to be up 5%

    Tell me where I am spinning now?

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    Sean Hannity interview with Senator Kerry

    Hannity is replaying his interview with Sen. Kerry now.

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    The VP debate

    Polls and predictions are being made about the Vice Presidential Debate this evening. Those predictions may be correct, but lets not forget the results of the last debate, which is popularly considered to have had Senator Kerry the overall winner:

    John Kerry won the debate Thursday night, 53% to 37%, according to a random sample of 615 registered voters who watched the event. Almost half of the viewers said they felt more favorable about the senator because of the debate, and 60% said Kerry expressed himself more clearly than did President Bush. Despite the positive assessment, viewers said they favored Bush in handling the war in Iraq and serving as commander in chief, little changed from opinions expressed before the debate. And a majority of viewers said it was Bush who better demonstrated he is tough enough for the job.

    So don't always leap to conclusions based on headlines alone. You always have to dig a little deeper, especially where media bias is concerned!

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    Monday, October 04, 2004

    Senator Kerry, his pen and fairness (redone)

    COMMENT: I typed the previous two-part entries of this post on my cell phone while stuck in traffic. Apparently there's a buffer limit and I reached it. I am re-creating the post here in a single entry.

    There is much ado today surrounding something Sen. Kerry evidently took from his pocket at the first debate. I haven't seen the video but I am confident that the senator did not cheat with notes. I give the senator more credit than other critics that he would not risk it all with crib notes.

    I am not so certain he would not take a favorite pen with him, perhaps a fountain pen, an heirloom for example.

    So while not cheating, clearly he must answer the allegation. After all, haven't both Dan Rather and the DNC demanded President Bush address the forged memo issue? Would the pen had been in the president's hand, which of his critics wouldn't cry foul?

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    Senator Kerry, his pen and fairness
    (Part 2)
    So while not cheating, clearly he must answer the allegation. After all, haven't both Dan Rather and the DNC demanded President Bush address the forged memo issue? Would the pen had been in the president's hand, which of his critics wouldn't cry foul?

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    Senator Kerry, his pen and fairness

    There is much ado today surrounding something Sen. Kerry evidently took from his pocket at the first debate. I haven't seen the video but I am confident that the senator did not cheat with notes. I give the senator more credit than other critics that he would not risk it all with crib notes.

    I am not so certain he would not take a favorite pen with him, perhaps a fountain pen, an heirloom for example.

    So while not cheating, ...

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    Open Apology to Jen and her readers

    Here begins my long awaited apology to Jen and her readers:

    Prelude: On Friday, 1-Oct, I began to comment on a post made a Jen's Very Big Blog, a favorite read of mine for more than a year. Something went horribly wrong with my comment posts: whenever I previewed them, they looked good; when they were posted, entire paragraphs were either truncated or eliminated altogether. Perhaps the browser restrictions at my workplace played a role, perhaps my penchant for using chevrons (<< >>) in quoting previous text were interpreted as rouge HTML, perhaps my bloviating was too large for the edit buffer, or I was just having a bad day. The bottom line: I accept full blame for trashing up her comments field.

    Regardless of the ultimate reason, my repeated attempts to correct my misposts looked terrible, and I should have quit after the first attempt. For that reason, I apologize to Jen and her readers.

    As to the issue of her post and subsequent replies to my comments, I still stand by my position, and would like an opportunity to clearly, concisely state where I believe she is wrong in her positions. I won't be surprised if I don't change her mind, but in the interest of the free exchange of ideas, I simply wish to finish what I started.

    The following points are responses to her last comment post, taking the President (and, indirectly, me) to task over the war in Iraq.

    I don't belive Bush "liberating (ie Occupying) Iraq" was out of any humaitarian effort.

    Kosovo was a humantarian liberation. Sudan would be. Iraq is not.

    1: Iraq has oil, Lots of it, he's from an oil family, with Oil backers, and oil investors. Oil poil oil is whay wer are there along with.

    The first two statements are categorically preposterous. Everyone knows the humanitarian nightmare that was Hussain's Iraq. The UN knew it, the world knew it, the mass graves prove it. Even CNN admitted to knowing about it but failed to report it. So lets start with a clean slate and agree on this point, at the very least.

    Yes, there's oil, and lots of it. Ask the UN and Kofi Anon, and all the money he and his family has made at the expense of the oppressed Iraqis. If you are going to use a broad brush to accuse the Bush family of profiting (with or without proof), you'd better include the UN, too.

    Assuming your claim is correct, that the whole Bush family is corrupt, we could have rolled through in '91. We didn't.

    2: Daddy. Daddy couldn't get rid of bad man, bad man tried to kill daddy - he'll show the bad bad man! Bad man die! die!

    Bush 41 couldn't roll into Iraq then, because the UN resolution was to push them out of Kuwait and stop. So Bush 41 did what the UN said they could, and you fault him. Bush 43 followed the UN resolutions (all 17) and you fault him. Are you certain you aren't simply partisan?

    Yes Sadaam was a bad guy, I know that, but invading and occupying for the wrong reasons is just as bad. He lied about why he had to go get the bad guy, he drug us into a war we didn't need to be in becasue of OIL - pure and simple.

    Bush Doctrine: Those who fund, support, or harbor terrorists will be dealt with. Iraq did all three.

    As Kerry said the first thing they did was secure the oil ministry and the oil fields, I'm sure that was just coincedence.

    Here the Senator was correct: the fastest way to get money flowing INTO Iraq to help pay for reconstruction is oil. Why else would the terrorists bomb the fields/pipelines so often?

    3: OSAMA Attacked us, Sadaam just stuck his fingers in his ears and stuck his tongue out. He did a hell of of slieght of hand to get us into Iraq to find a saudi in Afganistan.

    The UN said Iraq had WMD (and has never recanted that position; ask Hans Blix), UK Intel said they had WMD. France, Israeli, Russian Intel: all agreed. US Intel said it too (ask Sen. Kerry, who sat on Senate Intel Committee). So all of them are liars too, right?

    Lying is why folks wanted Clinton out, lying, impropriety and unmitigated gall, well that's why I want Bush out. AS I said before, no one died over a blow job, he lied becasue he's married, (any man would)

    Not any man. I wouldn't, but then I wouldn't do what he did. But lets not digress further. However, we're not talking about the actions of an impeached president, we're talking about here and now.

    but people die when bombed by peopel who do not want us there and hate us and never asked for our help and want us gone.

    So I suppose German civilians in WWII were in this same category? Also the Japanese? What about the residents of Georgia during the Civil War? The people who 'want us gone' as you put it are the ones who blowing up the Iraq civilians who want to join the police and militia. Are you sure you want to defend those terrorists?

    Bush evil working for his own reasons, for his own investments and under other's influence to get our soliders killed in an unnessary war to secure something for his ego and huge american corporate oil interests and lie the entire time about everything - deny, lie and fry - yes I think he's evil. hell yes I do. he just hasn't friend a baby yet. YET.

    So it the President acting on his own interest or others influence? Is he an evil genius or an idiot?

    oh and 4: ripping away rights from the people he's serving, and alienating the world.

    Rights: That would be the Patriot Act. So anyone who voted in favor of it ought to bear some responsibility, no?

    Alienating the world: Lets see: France, Germany, and Russia all say they won't join the war no matter who is president. I count 30 other nations who have joined. Your point would then be…. What?

    I invite Jen to defend her positions and show me where I am wrong. I can find fault with the President on a number of points that bristle most Conservatives, but when those items area weighed against the greater prize of national security, there's no competetion. I hope Jen will point out where she thinks I am wrong, and I invite others to do so as well.

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