31 January 2008

Tsunami Tuesday Projections

Just what exactly should we expect from Tsunami Tuesday, when voters from 23 states go to the polls to decide on the parties' respective nominees? Well, it could very well be a whole lot of nothing.

At least as far as the Democrats are concerned.

While the Republicans, with a preponderance of winner-take-all contests, have at least a possibility of finding a winner (John McCain), such a scenario does not exists for the Democrats. In fact, Tsunami Tuesday may very well yield a near dead heat between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

While some of you know me as the BCS Guru, the number-cruncher extraordinaire (if you don't mind me saying so myself), I'm putting my skills to good use now for the purpose of projecting the all-important delegate count. And this is what I have to say:

By the end of Tsunami Tuesday, Clinton will lead Obama by one single delegate, 1,069-1,068.

Keep in mind that because of the complexity of the Democrats' system, there is no simple formula to come to this conclusion. And this score does not include super delegates, who are free to commit to any candidate at any time throughout the nominating process.

I divided the 21 primaries/caucuses into four categories: Obama wins, Obama routs, Clinton wins and Clinton routs. A win would be a contest where the winner gets a single-digit victory by percentage and a rout would be a double-digit victory. And this is how they shake out:

Obama wins (6): Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma.

Obama routs (6): Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Illinois, Tennessee, Utah.

Clinton wins (6): Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Massachusetts.

Clinton routs (3): Connecticut, New Jersey, New York.

These results, combined with delegates already claimed from contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, will give Clinton the one-delegate edge. As of now, Obama leads Clinton by 15 delegates, 63-48.

The key to achieving this outcome hinges on Obama's ability to keep it close in California and Massachusetts. Senator Ted Kennedy's recent endorsement of Obama gives him a shot to stay in the game in the Bay State. And in California, with the Republicans running a closed primary and driving independents to the Democratic side, combined with the notoriously unreliable Latino turnout, Obama has a fighting chance to keep his losses there to a minimum.

Should Tsunami Tuesday provide this type of stalemate, the Democrats would move a step closer to a brokered convention. If McCain emerges with a big victory on Tuesday, it's possible that the Republicans would have their nominee settled six months before the Democrats do.

That, would be the Democrats' worst nightmare. And it's very close to becoming a reality.

29 January 2008

McCain the Uniter or Divider?

John McCain's hard-fought victory in Florida solidifies his front-runner status in a quick-thinning GOP field. From here on out, it's mano-a-mano between him and Mitt Romney.

But the rancorous affair that spun out of control over the final days leading up to the Florida Primary will take some time to heal. McCain's sucker-punch of a claim on Romney's alleged flip-flop on Iraq was Clintonesque. It worked, too, as the verbal jousting shifted the topic away from the economy -- a real Romney strong suit and a McCain weakness.

As McCain took pains to point out during his victory speech -- he's won a "Republican-only" primary, which in his mind allays doubts about his standings among the true believers. Whereas he received considerable help from independents in victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina, in Florida, only registered Republicans could vote in the Republican Primary.

But just how solid was McCain's victory? It's significant, but not a knockout blow -- not on Romney, anyway. He did eliminate Rudy Guiliani, who in turn endorsed McCain. And Mike Huckabee, limping home with a fourth-place finish, is just about finished.

That leaves McCain and Romney, who has emerged as the GOP establishment candidate and fiercely backed by the conservative talk-show glitterati, first and foremost Rush Limbaugh. In fact Limbaugh, and a few others, have trashed McCain so much it's to a point that if he does win the nomination, there will be much lingering animosity and recrimination.

A disturbing trend that's emerged and under-reported by the media, is that Romney has an electability problem because of his faith. I have spoken to a number of fair-minded individuals who would not vote for Romney -- under any circumstances -- because of his affiliation with the Mormon Church. Forget the whole business with people not willing to vote for a woman or a black, being a member of the LDS Church apparently disqualifies you for the nation's highest office, according to some.

With that in mind, McCain might be the only GOP candidate with a shot at retaining the White House for the party, against either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. The most recent polls showed that he's either ahead or even in a head-to-head contest against the top two Democratic candidates.

That may be the case, but he'll have to do some big-time fence-mending with the party's conservatives first. Otherwise, with a grumpy GOP base sitting out in November, independents are not going to be enough to deliver McCain a victory.

26 January 2008

Not Buying this Garbage

It's rather amusing, over the last few days, how the mainstream and left-leaning media have finally discovered that the Clintons are sleazebags.

Like Captain Renault bellowed in Casablanca: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here" at a casino, then proceeded to collect his winnings -- we've been around the Clintons for the better part of 15 years, and this is news?

What's surprising is not that the Clintons' tactics of the last week were universally condemned -- in the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, the Nation, the New Republic, Slate and Vanity Fair -- but the ferocity with which the pundits derided the Clintons.

Former president and would-be First Lad Bill Clinton was the attack dog, let loose to exploit all racial and class divides. Hillary did her own saber rattling during a contentious debate at Myrtle Beach, and her other surrogates did the rest.

But the win-at-all-cost, damn-the-torpedoes approach didn't work in South Carlina. In fact, the voters turned out in record numbers to repudiate the Clintons.

Hillary was crushed by Barack Obama in the most comprehensive defeat so far in this election season.

The dirty politics that began shortly after Hillary's stunning third-place finish in Iowa helped her score narrow victories in New Hampshire and Nevada. But the escalation in rhetoric and distortions in South Carolina simply reminded the voters -- and the country at large -- just how much they won't miss having the Clintons back in the White House.

This is the one case where "the Surge" clearly didn't work.

Obama's victory is as stunning in its depth as it is in its breadth. He won the black vote, as expected, by a larger-than-expected margin. He won over a quarter of the white votes. He carried young and old, rich and poor. And he won the majority of women's votes.

His victory speech matched the intensity of his triumph. For once, he did not back away from a fight, hammering the Clintons for their misdeeds without dignifying them by name. But amidst a ruckus crowd resembling a rock concert, his speech was nonetheless majestic and uplifting.

If you're a Republican candidate, you must be thinking to yourself: "Gosh, I hope Hillary somehow pulls this out. I sure wouldn't want to go up against this guy."

Of course, the nomination process is far from settled, with Tsunami Tuesday looming just 10 days ahead. Anything can happen. The Clintons, ever more desperate, will find more dirty tricks from their scorched-earth battle manual. To them, if winning back the White House requires the destruction of the Democratic Party, so be it.

It's never about the party or anybody else. It's all about them.

And the Democrats are finally figuring this out, after defending every one of Bill's peccadilloes and lies during his tumultuous time as president.

This is not about the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. It's about the soul of the Democratic Party.

The choice seems pretty obvious. But are the Democratic voters -- but more important -- their leaders, smart enough to put their money on the no-brainer? Are they as perceptive as the voters of South Carolina?

We shall see.

25 January 2008

Agents of Change

(From BCS Guru)

Change is not always good and not all changes are equal.

Just because 15 percent of Division I-A teams hired new coaches, it doesn't mean they'll all enjoy success in due time. In fact, some programs are doomed to fail (again) while others are investing in a leap of faith in unfamiliar faces.

Of 120 Division I-A schools, 18 will begin the 2008 season with a different leading man from the ones they started 2007. We'll look these new hires, assess their prospects, and of course, list them according to the grades they received, from the best to worst:

SOUTHERN METHODIST -- June Jones > Phil Bennett: For a moribund program that's not recovered from being the only recipient of the NCAA death penalty, this was quite a coup. Its search process had been futile and rightfully ridiculed, yet SMU's patience paid off at the end. Jones might not re-enact the glory days of Pony Express, but given the school's location and resources, the Mustangs have the potential to be a non-BCS powerhouse. A+

MISSISSIPPI -- Houston Nutt > Ed Orgeron: Firing Coach O wasn't that hard of a decision -- the former USC assistant was a spectacular flop. Getting Nutt, though, makes it all the better for Ole Miss. Here's a very successful coach for various reasons got run out of Arkansas, now he'll have a chance to restore a floundering Rebels program, perhaps at the expense of his alma mater. A

NEBRASKA -- Bo Pelini > Bill Callahan: If there was ever a case of addition by subtraction, this was it. Nebraska earns a good grade by simply getting rid of Callahan, who was ill-suited for the job from Day One. Hiring the defensive coordinator of BCS champion LSU makes it even better. The days of the Black Skirts giving up 70 points per game are probably numbered. A

MICHIGAN -- Lloyd Carr > Rich Rodriguez: This hire would've probably scored better if not for the post-hiring grudge match between West Virginia and Rodriguez's camp. Michigan fumbled the chance to get LSU's Les Miles, yet at the end it ended up with the best young coach in the country. Now if the Wolverines can convince Terrelle Pryor to come to Ann Arbor ... look out! A-

UCLA -- Rick Neuheisel > Karl Dorrell: Make no mistake, this was a great hire. Neuheisel, an alum who cut his coaching teeth under former Bruins head man Terry Donahue, is the only one UCLA could've hired that might put a little scare in the crosstown Trojan Empire. He's already made great choices in coordinators with the retention of DeWayne Walker and addition of Norm Chow. Don't worry about all the NCAA stuff, that's ancient history. A-

GEORGIA TECH -- Paul Johnson > Chan Gailey: There was really nothing left for Johnson to accomplish at Navy, really. Now he'll find out whether a variation of his option attack can work in a BCS conference. Johnson knows the area, having been the head coach at Georgia Southern before joining the Naval Academy. The question is, can he get the right kind of athletes to run his system. B+

NORTHERN ILLINOIS -- Jerry Kill > Joe Novak: Northern Illinois raided its in-state neighbor for this hire. Kill moves up literally (from Southern Illinois) and figuratively (from I-AA) to a program that's a powerhouse in MAC. Before going 2-10 in 2007, Novak had led the Huskies to seven straight winning seasons and two bowl appearances. B+

ARKANSAS -- Bobby Petrino > Houston Nutt: If you can somehow separate Petrino the coach from Petrino the man, this would've been a grade A hire. Unfortunately, Petrino came with so much baggage that it must be considered. How long will it take before he casts a wandering eye elsewhere? At the end of the 2008 season, in the middle of the 2008 season? And can you really take his word for anything? History says no. B

BAYLOR -- Art Briles > Guy Morriss: Baylor was the 12th and last entry into the Big 12, and often times it really doesn't act/play like a BCS conference team. Briles will have to work near-miracles to turn around the fortunes of Baylor, which has had 12 straight losing seasons. The situation is so dire that the school's most illustrious alum, Mike Singletary, turned down the job. B

HOUSTON -- Kevin Sumlin > Art Briles: Of all the off-season new hires, the Cougars are the only one who landed a black coach, the eighth among 120 Division I-A teams. Sumlin earned valuable experience under the tutelage of Bob Stoops at Oklahoma and this past season helped develop freshman quarterback Sam Bradford. Houston, given its location in a recruit-rich area, has the potential to become a non-BCS powerhouse, much like SMU. B

NAVY -- Ken Niumatalolo > Paul Johnson: The Naval Academy was probably pretty well prepared for Johnson's eventual departure -- for the past 2-3 years it was just a matter of when. Niumatalolo is very familiar with the system and is well regarded by his players, and he's aware Johnson set the bar very high. He also becomes the first Division I-A coach of Samoan descent. B

TEXAS A&M -- Mike Sherman > Dennis Franchione: A former pro coach returning to the college ranks, hmmm, we've heard this before. But Sherman has had a long association with A&M, including a two-part, seven-year stint as an assistant for R.C. Slocum. Franchione did most everything wrong in the eyes of the Aggies, but he did manage to beat Texas a few times. Sherman will have to be even better than that. B

WASHINGTON STATE -- Paul Wulff > Bill Doba: WSU toyed around with the idea of luring back former coach Mike Price, but decided on a youth movement, hiring alum Wulff away from Eastern Washington. The Cougars are having an increasingly tough time competing in the Pac-10 as salaries for coaches escalated over the past 10 years. With a base package at around $500,000, Wulff will be the lowest paid head coach in the conference. B-

DUKE -- David Cutcliff > Ted Roof: Coach K almost openly advocated disbanding of the football team. And he had a good point: If Duke isn't trying to be the best, why bother? The administration decided not to scrap the program and hired Cutcliff away from Tennessee. He did well as the head coach at Ole Miss and did not get a fair shake there (the Rebels got what they deserved in Orgeron). But the Duke job has proved a career killer for everyone not named Steve Spurrier. C+

WEST VIRGINIA -- Bill Stewart > Rich Rodriguez: Hiring an interim coach based on a knee-jerk reaction is never a good idea, and this fits the bill to a T. WVU was busy dumping on Rodriguez and sleepwalking through the process of hiring his replacement. Stewart did well in retaining defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, otherwise the situation would've been an unmitigated disaster. Rest assured the Mountaineers' days as a BCS powerhouse are numbered. C+

COLORADO STATE -- Steve Fairchild > Sunny Lubick: After being away from the college game for seven years, the former CSU quarterback returns to coach his alma mater. Lubick had built a respectable program in Fort Collins over the past 15 seasons, though over the last four seasons the Rams have been in decline, culminating in his firing at the end of a 3-9 campaign. Fairchild inherits an unstable situation with not a lot to work with. C

SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI -- Larry Fedora > Jeff Bower: Of all the post-season firings/involuntary resignations, this one takes the cake. Just what exactly did Bower do wrong? Was it the 14 consecutive winning seasons? Was it the 10 bowl appearances in the last 11? Well, it must be that the Golden Eagles haven't won a national championship! Talk about not realizing that you have a good thing going. And this takes nothing away from Fedora, who may prove himself to be a fine coach. C-

HAWAI'I -- Greg McMackin > June Jones: No offense to McMackin, because someone has to be named coach, but just how did Hawai'i let Jones get away? This guy left the NFL to come to one of the most decrepit Division I-A programs in all of college football. Before Jones took over, the Rainbows were 0-12. When he left, the Warriors were 12-1 with a BCS bowl berth. But in the meantime, almost nothing has changed with UH's broken down facilities. No wonder AD Herman Frazier got canned the very next day. F

22 January 2008

Sowing the Seeds of Defeat

In the summer of 2007, when the Iraq War was going nowhere, the housing crisis was bubbling to the surface and President Bush's approval rating was reaching its nadir, it looked all but over for the Republicans. It looked like Hillary Clinton would be the next president of the United States.

Things don't look so bad for the GOP now, doesn't it?

And the Republicans themselves have little to do with their good fortune. As it is, it's a muddled race with no clear frontrunner. But with the Democrats bent on self-destruction, the November election is very much up for grabs, perhaps with a slight edge to the GOP.

After promises of a "nice," "issue-oriented" campaign for months, the gloves have come off for the main Democratic contestants, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- or Barack HUSSEIN Obama, as preferred by some of Hillary's ardent associates.

To be fair, Clinton's camp did most of the dirty work, beginning during the desperate hours just before the New Hampshire primary. With Hillary on the brink of defeat, her camp pulled out all stops to steal a surprise win and halted Obama's momentum.

The nastiness has continued, with the race card, gender card, now even the religion card fully in play. Hillary's smear campaign has paid off with a narrow win in Nevada, even though Obama ended up collecting more delegates.

Obama, tired of playing defense, finally started to hit back. During a live TV debate full of rancor, one that relegated John Edwards to his appropriate third wheel status, Obama fired off a few rejoinders of his own, including Hillary's history as a Wal-Mart board member and her propensity to twist facts, aided and abetted by her husband.

Hillary, not crying now, unleashed her own attack zingers, calling out Obama for his "present" votes in the Illinois legislature and his questionable association with an indicted slum landlord.

It made for great television, and it might've sent the Democrats back on the road of wilderness for four more years.

The Democrats now are more divided than ever. It's whites against blacks. Hispanics against blacks. Men against Women. Big Labor against the rank-and-file. Atheists against Muslims.

This exposes the ugly truth about today's Democratic Party: At the very base level, it's all about identity politics. Obama had tried to transcend all that. He was running as an American, not African-American. He was trying to play for the whole of the United States, not just blue states.

But Hillary said, uh-uh. And the era of good feelings is over.

The problem is, Hillary might have won the battle, but she might have lost the war as well. She might have regained her status as the presumptive nominee, but in the process, she picked up many more enemies.

Her new enemies will be her biggest obstacle on the way back to the White House. Never mind the conservatives who will show up just to vote for the other guy in the general election, her campaign might be doomed by those who DON'T show up.

If the black electorate perceive their man -- the first African-American with a realistic chance to win the presidency -- was nudged out by Hillary's dirty politics, they will stay away in droves. No amount of get-out-to-vote effort will get them off their porch to vote against a guy they've got no beef with, whether it's McCain, Romney or Huckabee.

Also, in the general election, women will not outnumber men by a 60-40 margin, as has been the case in the first few nominating contests. And Republican women's distaste for Hillary sometimes overwhelms that of the Republican men. Basing almost your entire campaign on soliciting female votes has always proved to be a losing proposition.

Hillary has almost check-mated herself. By beating Obama with the tired old identity politics, she has proved that she has no fresh policy ideas beyond the usual left-wing pu pu platter. By turning off a large majority of black voters, she's left herself no margin for error in a national election. By alternating between female victim and raging man-eater, she left no doubt that she's as manipulative and insincere as she's ever been.

As for Obama, he's learned a few valuable lessons. Even if it might be too late for this year, he'll know now that high-minded politics only works against certain opponents. Not against the Clinton Machine.

But fear not, in four years, he'll get to run against an incumbent Republican. President McCain or President Romney will seem like such a nice chap.

17 January 2008

West Virginia: Get a Life!

(From BCS Guru)

Dear West Virginia University:

I understand how painful it is to lose someone you love, to somebody better. But that's life. It's really unhealthy for you to continue to act like this: part unhinged lunatic, part conniving slimebag.

So my advice to you is: Stop it!

Is it really necessary for you to keep smearing the good name of Rich Rodriguez? After what he's done for you over the past seven years? Before he arrived, your school is as well known as Trinity College and University (and probably just as prestigious). Now the football program is a powerhouse; and by extension, people are beginning to know where you're located -- even Miss Teen South Carolina can find Morgantown on a map!

I know you're bitter and angry. But please, think about this for a second. Can you really blame him?

The University of Michigan is one of the finest research universities in the world. We produce statesmen, Nobel laureates, scientists, poets, playwrights, astronauts and Tom Brady. West Virginia University, has, well, Barney Fife.

Rodriguez is actually one of your very distinguished alumnus. He's one of your own. Someday he'll retire. And wouldn't you want to brag that he's a favorite son who's done good away from home?

But no, you must destroy him like a jilted lover. OK, so you sue him pre-emptively for fear of him skipping out on that $4 million buyout. It's very small-minded and small-time. But fine, have it your way.

That wasn't enough, though. You have to drag his name through mud. And of course, you can count on Pravda, uh, Charleston Daily Mail, to serve as your mouthpiece.

First, it was that he destroyed ALL the files on all the players. Gosh, at first we were pretty panicked because we didn't know if y'all actually had computers there. But after thinking it over, this was beyond absurd. He got rid of all the junk paperwork left in his old office. This is news?

Then, it was that he MADE PHONE CALLS! From YOUR PHONE! And you tried to insinuate that this was an NCAA violation! If you have a compliance office down there (no sure thing, but we'll give you the benefit of the doubt), you'll know that phone calls are allowed during "dead periods." And if those three calls costs you $1.25, I'll mail you a check. The one with the big Block M on the envelope. It's in the mail.

What am I gonna read in the Daily Mail tomorrow? Rodriguez took two rolls of toilet paper from his bathroom? Paper clips? Post-Its?

The way this is going, you'd better hope that Bill Stewart will stay forever. Because when he goes 4-8 his third season and you want to get rid of him, the good prospects out there will be hesitant. They'll remember how you did Rodriguez and probably want to stay away from the hillbillies with pitchforks.

I know, you're also mad at us and try to get even. I know, we already took your basketball coach and you're tired of being bitch-slapped again. This is your juvenile attempt to make us look bad because you're upset.

But that's life. Life is about a lot of things, one of them is knowing your place. All of us aspire to be great. But only some of us are important and special. Some of us end up meter maids. Sometimes you just have to accept that you're Michigan State. It sucks, but deal with it.

In closing, I just want to offer you this -- we won't take any more of your coaches, if you leave our coach alone.

Sorry to be so condescending. We can't help it. We are Michigan. You're not.


Mary Sue Coleman
University of Michigan

13 January 2008

A Maturing Democracy

In 1988, Taiwan was under martial law, one-party rule and a sham of a legislature packed with holdovers from Chiang Kai-shek's regime in mainland China.

Twenty years later, Taiwan has one of the most vibrant democracies in the world. And Saturday's election further advanced that -- Taiwan now has a democracy that's mature enough to rival any in the western world.

The people of Taiwan deserve all the credit for this dizzying progress. In Saturday's watershed legislative election, they sent a resoundingly clear message: They want their democratic, capitalistic system to work for their benefit.

That means not to provoke a fight Taiwan can't possibly win. That means long-term prosperity and peace. And that also means forever repudiating the empty rhetoric of Chen Shui-bian, who has delivered nothing but trouble in his eight years as president.

And that means, ironically, investing almost all the political power back into the Kuomintang (KMT), the party that used to rule Taiwan with an iron fist.

No political party in the history of the world has undergone a metamorphosis quite like the KMT. Founded by Sun Yat-sen and consolidated by Chiang Kai-shek, KMT was a driving force during the birth of the Chinese republic when it overthrew four thousand years of dynastic rule in China.

Yet, overtime, Chiang's party became a neo-fascist dictatorship -- first in war-torn China, and after losing the Civil War to the Chinese communists, in Taiwan for 40 years. During its rule in Taiwan, opposition was suppressed; dissidents were jailed; and only KMT members could occupy high office and key positions that controlled the lever of power.

But it was also the KMT that voluntarily scrapped one-party rule and held free elections, the first of which took place in 1992. In 2000, a party split enabled Chen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to win the presidency, ending the KMT's hold on power in Taiwan after 51 years.

In the intervening eight years, KMT kept reinventing itself, and found in Ma Ying-jeou a charismatic representative. The NYU and Harvard-educated former mayor of Taipei is the prohibitive favorite to win back the presidency in the March election. Currently, he's ahead of DPP candidate Frank Hsieh by over 20 points in survey polls.

Should Ma be elected, he will have a legislature with 81 of its 113 members from his own party. KMT took all but two seats from the entire northern, central and eastern parts of Taiwan. But more astonishingly, KMT made inroads in traditionally DPP strongholds Tainan and Kaohsiung. In Kaohsiung City, KMT took three of five seats. In Kaohsiung County, it reeled in three of four.

Saturday's election left DPP in tatters. With KMT and its allies holding a super majority that exceeds three-fourth of the legislature, DPP is in danger of being cast aside as a fringe party. For that, they have only one person to blame.

In his eight years in office, Chen Shui-bian's only interest -- besides enriching his own inner circle illegally -- has been to fan an anti-China passion to the island's own detriment. He never tired of endless political games aimed at irritating China and the United States (Taiwan's security guarantor) that achieved nothing.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's robust economy slowed to a crawl. While commerce with mainland China continued to flourish, restrictions on trade with China capped economic growth. To this day, Taiwan has no direct air, sea or mail link with mainland China. To go from Taipei to Beijing, you have to detour through Hong Kong or Macau.

Chen's latest political adventure was a referendum on joining the United Nations with the name of "Taiwan," instead of the country's official title, the Republic of China. He also embarked on a series of desinicization activities, stripping the word "China" out of many state-controlled entities at a great expense to taxpayers.

After eight years of putting up with Chen's shenanigans, the voters decided they've had enough. Chen is prohibited by law to run for another term, but the people of Taiwan didn't want to wait until March to get him out of office. Saturday's election was a referendum on Chen, and it was a resounding vote of no confidence.

At the moment, Taiwan is one of the world's leading economies -- a great achievement for an island of 23 million people. Taiwan's GDP exceeds that of Australia. Its per capita income is on par with France and Germany. It has few people living in poverty (less than 1%) and a low unemployment rate (4.2%).

All of that would be gone in a flash if Taiwan and China resume the unfinished Civil War. China, now preoccupied with the 2008 Summer Olympics, will be training its guns on Taiwan if the island continues to drift away under Chen's stewardship. Even a hint of hostility will negatively impact Taiwan's future greatly.

While the people of Taiwan yearn for international recognition and legitimacy, they're pragmatic enough to know that preserving their way of life is more precious above all else. As a people who enjoyed freedom and prosperity for nearly a quarter century, they have gained an understanding and appreciation for their worth.

They made that known at the ballot box.

11 January 2008

Kelly Girl in a Back Alley

Is being stupid a firable offense?

If so, then Kelly Tilghman most definitely should lose her job as the lead anchor on the Golf Channel telecasts.

Let's be honest, even before she uttered those six infamous words about Tiger Woods: "Lynch him in a back alley," Tilghman had dubious credentials to get the gig after the PGA Tour inexplicably signed a 15-year deal with the Golf Channel.

Ironically, the first and foremost reason for Tilghman to be chosen was her too-chummy and cozy relationship with Woods. She forged a friendship with Tiger after having many opportunities to interview him during tournaments when she served as a reporter for the Golf Channel.

Tilghman is always deferential toward Tiger on the air, nary a negative word or inference. She would frequently substitute "The World No. 1," or "the best golfer in the world," for Woods' name. While technically not wrong, her actions betrayed an unprofessional amount of worshipping. And it is perhaps fitting that she spewed out her ill-advised attempt at humor during yet another moment of Tiger Kiss-Ass.

Secondly, she got the job because she's a woman, and a pretty one at that. Anyone who disputes this is just being dishonest or naive. There was a virtual silence from the predominantly male golf media members immediately after the incident. It was no coincidence, to a man, they were all wishing this would've gone on unnoticed.

I say "to a man" because besides the esteemed Ann Miller (Honolulu Advertiser) and Melanie Houser (PGATour.com), the golf media is one big fraternity. And the guys generally like Kelly because she's a good-looking woman who's also a nice person. The boys wanted to be chivalrous and cut her some slack by maintaining silence.

And what of the Tour? As the entity that signed on with this outfit for 15 years, don't you think Tim Finchem and Co. at least express their displeasure? Not a word.

The fact that this entire episode almost went on unnoticed reflected the abysmal ratings PGA Tour events have recorded ever since the Tour ditched ESPN in favor of the Golf Channel. Almost nobody watches it.

Unfortunately when the good Rev. Al Sharpton got the wind of this, it wasn't gonna get swept under a rug. The Golf Channel at first was only going to issue a reprimand -- and three days after it happened. After ESPN, no doubt indulging in a bit of Schadenfreude, made this a national story, TGC had no choice but to hand down a more severe punishment: Two weeks suspension.

It's not enough. Not nearly enough.

You think if Roger Maltbie or Mark Rolfing said this, they'd skate with a two-week suspension?

Never mind that Tilghman is not a racist and probably felt horrible about making such an idiotic comment. The point is: She's in way over her head at a job she should never have gotten in the first place. Frankly, she's quite incompetent. And making such an absurdly offensive comment only illuminated how ill-suited she is for the job.

And it doesn't matter that Tiger "forgave" her quickly, as opposed to in 1997, when he famously let Fuzzy Zoeller twist in the wind for several weeks after Fuzzy's "friend chicken and collared greens" wise crack. This is now bigger than Tiger. Tilghman's remark may not seem much to Tiger, it is deeply hurtful and offensive to a lot of folks, particularly African-Americans.

She should be kicked out of the broadcast booth and be returned to Orlando for "Golf Central" telecasts. People have been fired for less so she should consider herself lucky that she still has a job.

But TGC is banking on the two-week suspension to take the edge off the story. And when she returns to the booth at Torey Pines, Tiger will be making his first appearance of the year. He'll put his arm around Kelly and tell her that everything's fine and that he doesn't understand what the big fuss was. Tilghman will be giddy as a schoolgirl, smiling and giggling as the pathetic sideshow unfolds.

That's why nobody watches the Golf Channel.

09 January 2008

Race, Gender and the Crying Game

It took a while, but the ugly little secret of the 2008 presidential race bubbled to the surface in New Hampshire yesterday.

Race matters. And people lie.

Of all the polls conducted after Barack Obama's Iowa victory, only one predicted a close election, and none projected a Clinton victory. On the Republican side, the polls appeared to be pretty accurate. So what happened?

When that many polls agree, especially a couple with robust sample size, then the possibility of sampling error diminishes. There is only one plausible explanation for the huge disparity of the polls and the outcome of the election: Lying.

Lying is a common occurrence in poll surveys and it greatly influences the results. And it's the one bias that pollsters have a hard time controlling. The biggest cause for lying, in American politics, is typically race.

This was a taboo subject. And after Obama's resounding victory in the overwhelmingly white Iowa Caucus, it seemed like a non-starter. But in New Hampshire, it played a big role.

New Hampshire's voters are older and crankier than Iowa's voters. The medium age in New Hampshire is almost two years older than the national average, placing it and neighboring Vermont as two of the oldest states in the union. Large colleges, where Obama's young voter initiative succeeded spectacularly in Iowa, are not prominent in the New Hampshire landscape.

In other words, your grandma probably won't be for Obama. And lots of grandmas voted in New Hampshire.

With Obama riding on the victory wave from Iowa, many of the poll respondents in New Hampshire felt compelled to answer Obama when asked whom they'd vote for. But the reality is that either they never had any intention of voting for him (lying) or were simply unsettled on the choice but decided Obama would be the right answer (equivocating).

The result is a surprise Clinton victory. Her camp no doubt will mark this as the turning point of the campaign and anoint her as the "Comeback Gal," as her husband Bill was similarly dubbed in 1992. But this win will prove Pyrrhic for a number of reasons.

1) Clinton cannot count on an electorate as friendly as the one in New Hampshire again. Her base, put it bluntly, is women, particularly older women, which New Hampshire has in abundance. More women voted than men in New Hampshire and they opted for Hillary by a whopping 13-point margin. Even with such support, she only eked out a narrow victory.

2) You can only use the ace in the hole once. The crying game obviously worked. It's even noted by some in the Clinton camp as a key event. The problem is: It worked only in New Hampshire and it will only work once. If anyone suspects her of cynical manipulation, then it may only be confirmed should she try it again. I normally do not agree with virtually anything Maureen Dowd has to say, but her column is definitely worth a read.

3) African-Americans are fired up and rearin' to go. Up to this point, very few black people have had a chance to vote and have their voice heard, as both Iowa and New Hampshire are overwhelmingly white. But after Iowa, blacks are convinced that Obama is a legitimate candidate and his narrow loss in New Hampshire changes nothing. In fact, it serves to reinforce how much support he will need from African-American voters. The next key state in the primary season is South Carolina, where black turnout will be high and most of it will be for Obama.

4) Obama runs better as an underdog. The narrow loss allows Obama to sling back and play the role of an upstart fighting the establishment. That's his message and he plays it effectively. In New Hampshire there was palpable confusion in the Obama camp on how to handle the sudden and new found front-runner status. No worries now.

5) The New Hampshire result was affirmation, not repudiation, of Obama's electability versus Hillary's. Obama nearly doubled Hillary's votes among independents. This despite his more liberal and left-wing politics. The perception is that he's the candidate who's more capable of eliciting a look from those sitting on the fence. Hillary, for the most part, is preaching to the converted.

Make no mistake, the Iowa Caucus is still the earthquake event. New Hampshire merely prolongs Hillary's viability until at least "Tsunami Tuesday" on Feb. 5. The setback will force Obama's camp to be more focused and more desperate, which is the optimum condition it operates under. The Clintons, on the other hand, may be lulled back into the "inevitability" mindset.

Inevitably, that's a losing proposition.

08 January 2008

It's NOT the Speed, Stupid!

(From BCS Guru)

Another BCS title game. Another beatdown of Ohio State.

And by extension, another hit on the woebegone Big Ten. Too big. Too slow.


Speed is not the Big Ten's problem. Coaching is the problem.

The Big Ten has athletes. Plenty of athletes. Athletes big and small. Speedy and slow. Explosive and plodding. Just like any other conference. Just like the SEC.

On the 2007 NFL opening day rosters, there are more Buckeyes (44) on NFL teams than any SEC school. There are more Michigan alums (36) than all SEC teams save Georgia (37).

And they're not all big, immobile linemen. Ohio State leads the league with nine wide receivers. Nobody has more linebackers than Michigan, also with nine.

But there's got to be a reason why Big Ten teams routinely get trashed, not only in the BCS championship game, but also in the Rose Bowl and elsewhere. This bowl season, the Big Ten limped home with a 3-5 record, and that was only somewhat respectable because of Michigan's surprising 41-35 victory over Florida.

That reason is coaching.

The Big Ten has fabulous players, but while they're in college, they play under coaches whose philosophies and methods are outdated. These deficiencies are not exposed when they play other Big Ten opponents because they operate under the same mentality and methodology.

And they don't get exposed, for the most part, during non-conference games. Most Big Ten teams choose to play either MAC teams due to geographic convenience, or Notre Dame, which really is like a 12th member of the Big Ten. So top teams in the Big Ten, particularly flagship programs Ohio State and Michigan, routinely rack up 10-win seasons and only to get a rude awakening when they head west or south in the bowl season.

While the Big Ten has embraced the forward pass, they haven't really embraced forward thinking. The smash-mouth mentality is an easy fallback. But there is little imagination or creativity included in the game plan.

Case-in-point, in Lloyd Carr's final game, Michigan finally loosed all the trick plays that seemed to be gathering dust in the playbook over the past decade. Against Florida, some worked, some didn't. But the impact was that those heretofore unseen formations and tactics kept Florida on its heels. What the Wolverines proved that day at the CapitalOne Bowl was no more than that they have plenty of athletes. And when properly deployed, they can play with anybody.

On the flip side, neither Illinois nor Ohio State demonstrated any willingness or ability to keep their nemesis guessing. And after absorbing a barrage of big plays that led to touchdowns, both teams just seemed staggered and showed no capacity to get off the mat.

That, too, relates to coaching.

The Big Ten is now officially put on notice. It's been routed in its last four BCS bowl games, by 14 points or more in each. The last time a Big Ten team defeated either an SEC or Pac-10 foe in a BCS game was in the last century, when Michigan beat Alabama and Wisconsin defeated Stanford following the 1999 season.

Yep, that's a long time ago.

Further reality check will come soon enough. Ohio State will play USC at the Coliseum next season. And Michigan, sensing the changing of times, has taken the risky measure by handing its fabled program to an outsider with an unfamiliar playbook.

Until we see some evidence to the contrary, the Big Ten will have to be relegated to second-rate status. And don't blame the players for this debacle.

Speed may hurt. But coaching kills.

06 January 2008

A Split National Championship?

(From BCS Guru)

Right about now, many LSU fans -- and by extension, some SEC fans -- have worked themselves up into a tizzy about the possibility of a split national championship.

Gulp, that's right, it's possible that the AP will decide not to go along with the winner of Monday night's BCS title game and declare its own champion, a la 2003.

And yep, the potential perp, again, is the damned three-letter word that Geaux Tigers fans hate to utter ... U-S-C.

If Ohio State wins the game, there would be no doubt that the Buckeyes will be crowned champion by the AP, by virtue of being only one of two 1-loss BCS teams (the other being Kansas). If LSU wins, then things might get messy.

A Tigers win, especially one in which they struggle, will force the voters to ponder their ballots and make adjustments. Up to six teams (LSU, USC, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri and West Virginia) would get consideration for the No. 1 vote. But if the voters decide to discriminate against teams that failed to win their conferences (and they will), then the choices are LSU, USC and West Virginia.

You can forget about the Mountaineers right now. Only seven of the 65 voters have WVU higher than ninth in the final regular-season poll. In short, it's just too high of a mountain to climb.

USC? Well, 20 voters have the Trojans second, third or fourth on their last ballot. These people conceivably might move USC up to No. 1 after its demolition of Illinois at the Rose Bowl.

But that won't be enough. Not even close. In the last poll, LSU received 11 first-place votes (to USC's none) and 27 others voted Tigers No. 2. So at the very least, the Tigers can count on nearly 40 first-place votes in the final AP poll, thus ensuring a non-split.

Should the Tigers win Monday night, they will be the consensus champion. And who should they thank? Well, that must start (and end) with the good folks at the Tournament of Roses.

With the first pick after losing Ohio State to the BCS title game, the Rose Bowl could've secured a USC-Georgia matchup. Even though the Rose needed to receive permission from the Sugar to get the Bulldogs, it never bothered to ask. Mind you, that the Sugar Bowl probably would've exercised its veto power for fear of diluting the title game it was also to host, that also wouldn't have prevented the Rose from scoring either No. 6 Missouri or one-loss Kansas.

Any of those three teams would've made for a more compelling matchup than the one involving the outclassed Illini. As impressive as its 49-17 victory was, USC will not gain enough traction to make the quantum leap to No. 1 in the AP poll.

This is not 2003, when USC was the clear No. 1 team in both AP and coaches polls at the end of the regular season. This time, the Trojans dug themselves too big a hole to climb out of it.

So, relax, LSU fans. Wipe that white foam from the edge of your mouth and have some gumbo: It's not gonna happen.

Unloved, Unelectable

These are some exciting times. We may be witnessing one of the biggest political collapses in American history. And we're just getting started.

While Saturday night's debate was largely a yawner, it served as a reminder how damaged and wounded Hillary Clinton is. And she's digging herself into a deeper hole.

The debacle in Iowa -- a third-place finish for the candidate of "inevitability" -- was not met with serious soul-searching and a much-needed change in strategy. Instead, Hillary's camp lashed out, at the voters. Her spokesman dismissed the caucus result by suggesting that one shouldn't "extrapolate" too much out of 230,000 people.

Right, when you lose, just dis the voters and tell them how their vote really don't mean jack.

But that statement, made on the plane ride from Iowa from New Hampshire, was mere prelude to the continuing slide. Lacking any sort of political nimbleness her husband was blessed with, Hillary plodded ahead with what didn't work. Juxtaposing that she's the agent for change and the one with Beltway experience, Hillary's message amounted to a big "huh?"

Make no mistake, Clinton will fight on, because she doesn't know any other way. It probably won't do any good, though, because there is one thing that she cannot overcome.

People simply don't like her.

Thousands of political science papers have been written over the past 100 years -- including by yours truly -- on models that allegedly might predict outcomes of presidential elections. But the most tried-and-true is this one: Assholes don't win. (Pardon the language)

The last Asshole to occupy the Oval Office was Richard Nixon, and we all know how that turned out. But even Nixon was elected twice against candidates less likeable than he was (as hard to believe as that is). The last presidential contest won by the less likeable guy was Truman over Dewey in 1948, and that was one big upset.

Check out this list:

2004 Bush > Kerry
2000 Bush > Gore
1996 Clinton > Dole
1992 Clinton > Bush I
1988 Bush I > Dukakis
1984 Reagan > Mondale
1980 Reagan > Carter
1976 Carter > Ford (?)
1972 Nixon > McGovern
1968 Nixon > Humphrey
1964 Johnson > Goldwater
1960 Kennedy > Nixon
1956 Eisenhower > Stevenson
1952 Eisenhower > Stevenson

Pretty unbeatable trend, huh? The only one that's slightly in question was 1976. But Ford was Asshole-by-Association. His pardon of Nixon doomed his chances in a close election against Carter.

Hillary is an Asshole (and I'll spare her the B-word in fear of being labeled a sexist). If she were nominated, she will be instantly less likeable than anybody the Republicans might come up with, save maybe Rudy Giuliani. The Democrats, sick of being out of power for eight years, know this. At the end of the day, they are having a hard time putting forth a candidate who generates nothing but contempt for a large part of the electorate.

On the other hand, Barack Obama is likeable to the n-th degree. Leave out his dyed-in-the-wool liberal credentials for a moment, what's not to like about the guy? He's multi-cultural in the best sense of the word. He's glib, charming, sincere and sunny. All qualities in short supply for Hillary.

Does that mean Obama will win the general election if he's nominated? No, not necessarily. But if history is any indication, he's a much better bet than Hillary Clinton. And the Democrats, to their credit, are putting their chips on Obama.

03 January 2008

Dawn of a New Era

Barack Obama wins the Democratic Caucus in Iowa. And the 2008 presidential election has taken a dramatic turn, for the better.

First, Obama's victory was surprisingly comfortable, despite polls showing a tight three-way race. The outcome legitimizes his candidacy, from a novel, flavor of the day, to perhaps the front-runner. He is already locked in a close race with Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. Now, buoyed by this resounding win, he just might run away with the Granite State on Jan. 9, too.

Second, this is very bad news for Hillary. Armed with the largest war chest, the biggest organization and unrivaled name recognition, she managed only a third-place finish, behind both Obama and John Edwards. This speaks to her vulnerability as a national candidate. And if she is beaten by Obama again in New Hampshire, the Clinton campaign will be on full crisis mode.

While Edwards vows to fight another day, this is now a two-person race, albeit a new race, with the air of invincibility clearly deserting Clinton. Now, Hillary should not be counted out because of her prolific fund-raising ability and the fact that she is still backed by the Democratic establishment. But it would not be a surprise to see some supporters switching camps after the Iowa debacle.

For Obama, what an opportunity. He's taken Clinton's best shots and has beaten her soundly. More important, now he'll be viewed as someone who can win. Black voters, previously on the fence about Obama because of his perceived electability (or the lack thereof), might now throw their support behind him. After all, Iowa, as one pundit quipped, is as white as the North Pole.

As for the Republicans, the Iowa Caucus was not encouraging. First, it decided very little other than that Mike Huckabee will have to be taken seriously. Second, Huckabee's runaway victory will have to be viewed as a major concern. Huckabee is not the best candidate the GOP has to offer, but his ascendancy demonstrates that the party is fractious and in disarray.

There are major issues about Huckabee's bona fides as a fiscal conservative -- not to mention his stance on immigration and the death penalty. And his religiosity, while helpful in Iowa, will be a liability should he qualifies for the general election. He has limited appeal as a national candidate, and hardly will be someone who can mobilize enough voters in what will be an uphill battle for the GOP.

Mitt Romney's second-place finish has to be seen as a major disappointment. Despite outspending all his foes with a formidable organization, Romney lost to a heretofore fringe candidate. And he's got bigger dogs to fight down the road, with Rudy Giuliani choosing to sit out Iowa in an unconventional gamble.

While it's unlikely for GOP candidates to be officially eliminated after New Hampshire, the field will be whittled down soon enough. John McCain and Fred Thompson are both running campaigns on life support. And if Giuliani can't hit a home run in the south -- Florida in particular -- the GOP race will be a two-man competition between Huckabee and Romney.

Don't look now, but who has an electability problem?

02 January 2008

SEC Supremacy: Myth or Reality?

(From BCS Guru)

In the world of marketing, it's assumed that if you repeat something enough times, people will think it as true. So how often have you heard this: "The SEC is the best conference in college football."


Could be.

It is no surprise that this truthiness-sounding statement is often perpetuated by the southern media and CBS, the mouthpiece of SEC football. But it is gaining enough currency that some in the national media are buying into it.

The claim's legitimacy received a major boost last season when SEC teams won six of nine bowl games, capped by Florida's 41-14 blowout of then-No. 1 Ohio State in the BCS championship game. But the reality is that the 2006 postseason exposed the weakness of the overhyped Big Ten more than it illustrated the superiority of the SEC.

After all, the Big East won the Bowl Challenge Cup by going 5-0 in the bowl season. And in the six seasons since the cup was established, including this one, the SEC has never claimed it. In 2004 and 2005, the SEC went a very ordinary 3-3 in each.

Even this postseason has already shed light on the absurdity of the SEC supremacy claim. Michigan, a team victimized by I-AA Appalachian State at home, shocked the defending champion Florida, 41-35, in the CapitalOne Bowl. The Wolverines, playing with a lame-duck coaching staff, so thoroughly dominated the Gators that they even overcame four turnovers.

The Big Ten, much maligned recently for being big and slow, actually has a winning record against the SEC in the BCS Era (since 1998), at 14-12, with Ohio State-LSU in the BCS title game pending. Michigan is a sterling 5-1 during that period while OSU is the source of the Big Ten's consternation, going 0-3 in that time and 0-8 all-time.

The SEC has fared better against non-conference opponents during the regular season, but that in part is because the SEC plays arguably the weakest non-conference schedule among the six BCS conferences. Few SEC teams ever venture outside of the south for a game against a quality opponent.

Thanks to MapGameDay.com, the latter statement now may be quantified. During the BCS Era, the SEC has traveled the least number of miles for non-conference games among all 11 conferences and independents. Seven of the eight least traveled teams are from the SEC. While other top teams traveled well over 20,000 miles, Georgia went a total of 358 -- and that's over a 10-year period!

Of course, the standard rebuttal from SEC apologists is that SEC teams line up cream puff non-conference teams because the SEC schedule is so brutal ... because "The SEC is the best conference in college football."

You see how this becomes a circular argument?

The SEC supremacy talk certainly played a role in Michigan becoming the second-biggest underdog in the entire bowl season. It is surely fueling the speculation of another Ohio State spanking by an SEC foe.

And if the Buckeyes lose again, some would consider it case closed. But the reality is far from certain.

The SEC is the best ... when it comes to officiating crews. The rest is debatable.