Monthly Archives: April 2008

Da Bears 2008 Draft: A Tedious Analysis

This was an important draft for the Bears. More important than most, if only because they needed a good showing to become a contender again in only the second season since they went to the Super Bowl. As I’ve stated before, the 2007-2008 offseason has been brutal for Chicago, and I thought they needed to acquire “one running back, one offensive tackle, one offensive guard, one wide receiver, and one strong safety.” And that was at a minimum.

Well, since I wrote that the Bears did sign a couple of wide receivers; Marty Booker, who I do believe will be a valuable addition to the team, though he no longer has the skill to solve their wide receiver problems, and Brandon Lloyd, who may make a play or two but whom I do not believe will have any kind of noticeable impact.

I had my doubts about Jerry Angelo’s ability to make the Bears a contender again out of this draft. I think the Bears are pretty good at drafting players. Certainly not the best, but formidable at worst. But their forte is not drafting stars (with a few notable exceptions). What they excel at is drafting solid role players. Get enough role players and you can win a lot of games with just a few premier players. But the Bears don’t need role players. They need starters. And I was doubtful of their ability to deliver.

It’s really impossible to tell how well they did one day after the draft. In all fairness, it’s practically impossible to tell one year after the draft, regardless of how well (or bad) the draft looked through that first year. But I will say that I’m pretty excited.

I honestly think the Bears had a reasonably intelligent draft. There were a few exceptions, but in all I think they did a good job of picking players that they needed. I’m not a big fan of the philosophy that teams should always draft the best player on the board. I always thought you should draft for need first. And it seems like the Bears did pass on better players at a couple of points because there was a player who filled a more pressing need. And that made me happy.

I was a little surprised that they didn’t draft a quarterback. Not disappointed, though. I know people always want to point the finger at Grossman, but there were several more important positions than quarterback in this draft. It doesn’t matter who you draft, especially in this years weak QB crop, if you don’t have a good line and you don’t have a running game, a rookie is just not going to make a difference.

Steve Young tends to disagree. He summed up the unintelligence of the national football press succinctly with this comment on why they should’ve picked Brian Brohm instead of Matt Forté.

“So they feel better about Rex Grossman than they do about Cedric Benson? They’re already giving up on (Benson).’’

Uh, yeah! In all fairness to Young, there are 31 other teams so he probably didn’t get to watch much Chicago football. And he’s a quarterback so he has an obvious bias. But it was an incredibly stupid remark. Grossman lead them to the Super Bowl. Benson sucks and doesn’t want to work hard to fix it. This is a no-brainer, dude.

Anyway, here we go. Pick by pick:

With the first round pick, the Bears took Vanderbilt offensive tackle Chris Williams at number fourteen. I love the fact that they took a left tackle with their first pick. I was ready to give up on next year, and possibly the whole organization, if they didn’t draft an offensive lineman in the first round, and left tackle made the most sense. As I’ve heard several times already (so I can’t take credit for this idea), it allows them to move Tait to right tackle, a position where he’s much better. So it’s almost like getting two starters for the price of one. By far the smartest thing they could have done.

However, I was a little surprised that they chose Williams. Only two offensive lineman had been taken to this point (number one pick Jake Long and twelve pick Ryan Clady) so they pretty much had their choice of the litter. Williams was the probably the most logical choice just because he was the best natural left tackle, and if Clady was still on the board my guess is they would have taken him. But Williams has had some injury issues, and the Bears have been burned by critical injuries pretty much every year but 2006 lately (and they still had their share in ’06). Many people say he’s too “finesse” to get the job done in the NFL, but he seems like a very intelligent player with talent to spare, and if he can stay healthy he should make an immediate impact from week one. But that little health caveat did set the tone for the whole draft, as the Bears almost seemed intent on sabotaging their team as they picked one injury-saddled player after another. If things work out they’ll look like geniuses for drafting players higher teams took passes on. If the 2010 team consists of twenty five or so Mike Browns, it may not have one Lovie Smith or Jerry Angelo.

In between the Bears first and second round pick the Steelers drafted Rashard Mendenhall. Everybody in Illinois felt gypped. I’m glad they didn’t spend the fourteenth pick on him, but would it have killed them to trade up just once? Just this one time?

However, they did draft a running back with their second round pick, Matt Forté from Tulane. I’m not sure I ever watched a Tulane football game before, but he seems like a solid pick. Keeping with the “if he stays healthy” motive, he does have some health concerns, but is extremely versatile. Part of the Bears offensive problems last year wasn’t just that the running game couldn’t get going, it was that the running backs couldn’t do anything else right when they weren’t carrying the ball. Cedric Benson can’t catch and doesn’t seem interested in blocking at all (though in fairness he doesn’t really seem interested in doing much other than collecting money. He would have been a great first round pick . . . for the IRS). Adrian Peterson is a better blocker but certainly not an every down back and can’t catch. And Garrett Wolfe seems like a great player but is too small to block and not elusive enough to play a majority of snaps. So teams pretty much don’t have to worry about the backfield.

Forté should give them reason to worry. He is not an elusive back, but the Bears don’t require one for their offense. Their offense is based upon a tough, between the tackles, downhill running back. But Forté was an excellent blocker and receiver in college, essentially giving them another lineman and an extra option in case things go south in a hurry. And I heard he can sell the fake handoff very well. Jerry Angelo isn’t making any bold predictions about him being a “special back” (thank goodness), but does seem to think he can play three downs. I would still like to see da Bears make a real effort to sign Shaun Alexander, but if he’s right, and if both Williams and he stay healthy, the offense will improve immediately.

With the seventh pick in the third round, they chose Williams’ teammate, wide receiver Earl Bennett. Like Forté, he was projected to go much lower in the third round. His big knock against him is his lack of athleticism and speed, which would certainly seem to be crucial in the NFL. He was very successful in college, but many questioned whether he would be able to get enough separation at the pro level to be a solid wide receiver. NFL.com did project the Bears would pick a WR at this spot, but they thought it would be a speedy deep threat to take the place of Bernard Berrian.

Bernard Berrian was overpaid by Minnesota (even though I said his loss would “cripple the Bears”). But he was much better than anything the Bears are going to get in the third round, especially in the short term. But the Bears biggest problem is not the deep pass. Grossman and Orton both have strong arms, and Devin Hester and Mark Bradley can beat most corners deep. Their biggest problem in the passing game was, by far, a lack of a possession receiver who would force the cornerbacks to play inside, take the attention of a linebacker or two, and give Rashied Davis room to roam. They did a good job of buffering that problem with the addition of Marty Booker, but they still needed help. Bennett may not be a player who would be all the team needs, but when combined with Marty Booker he seems like a player who can make an immediate impact. Despite a lack of speed, he utilized excellent route-running, instincts, and catching abilities to become the SEC’s career leader in receptions . . . without playing his senior year.
Here’s what Sprint’s NFL Mobile has to say about the 70th player chosen in the draft: “Often characterized as one of the 2008 draft’s top possession receivers, Bennet shows too much wiggle and strength in breaking tackles after the catch to be lumped into this category.” Pretty hard not to be excited by that.

Suddenly I feel a lot better about the Bear’s offense.

Unfortunately, the good-fuzzy feeling came to a screeching halt. The Bears had a second third round pick twenty spots later, which they used on Arkansas defensive tackle Marcus Harrison. I understand why they felt the need to draft a defensive tackle. This position, which two years ago looked like one of the finest collections of players ever assembled for one team, has been in constant flux. Tank Johnson was in so much trouble the Bears finally released him, Dusty Dvoracek was being counted on and promptly got hurt, and Tommie Harris, one of the best tackles in the league, never really fully recovered from his season-ending injury in 2006. So it certainly makes sense to add some depth here. But it didn’t make any sense at all to do it with this guy. He seems talented enough; if ability was all he was drafted for he probably would have gone in the first half of the second round. But he started with one strike against him, as many felt he didn’t always play as hard as he should have. And then he started getting hurt (surprise, surprise). In 2006 he hurt his knee and had a concussion, and in 2007 he injured his ACL. Soon after his ACL injury he was arrested for possession of marijuana and ecstasy.

I don’t want to be judgmental. Certainly there are worse things than being caught with these two relatively minor drugs, as Pacman Jones can attest. But some would question the sanity of a person trying to add depth to a position plagued by injuries and legal problems by drafting someone who’s been hurt and in trouble with the law.

With their fourth round pick, Chicago picked up Craig Steltz with the 120th pick in the draft. I would have preferred they take a safety with their previous pick, as strong safety is a mess and Mike Brown can’t seem to get through a full season. But only two safeties were chosen between Harrison and Steltz, so I guess Angelo thought it wouldn’t matter too much to wait an extra pick. Steltz does seem like a solid player; he was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award, and played for LSU so he went up against some pretty stout offenses. His college career showed a knack for being in the right place at the right time; he intercepted six passes last year and in 2006 became the first player in LSU’s prestigious history to intercept a pass in four straight games. He also had a sack and five tackles for losses last year, so he can be used as an extra rusher if the need arises.

I was optimistic that Adam Archuletta would play well for the Bears last year, and he didn’t. It was probably one of the biggest reasons why the defense was so bad. With the Tampa-2 defense, if you don’t have solid safeties the “bend but don’t break” defense turns into allowing one first down after another. It does bother me that someone both Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo were so high on could be such a mistake; we’ve come to expect that somewhat on offense but defense is supposed to be the strength of the ball club. Hopefully they did a better job of analyzing Steltz or it will be a long season for the Bears defense.

With their first sixth round pick, the Bears chose corner back Zackary Bowman out of Nebraska. Another pick I don’t understand at all. First, corner back is one of the Bears’ best positions. They have two starters who have become perennial Pro-Bowl candidates in Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman, Daniel Manning could be a starter on most teams, Trumaine McBride is a prospect any team would be proud to have, and Corey Graham is very solid on special teams and looks like he might end up being a pretty decent CB in his own right. So I’m not sure exactly what they want to do with Bowman. And he’s yet another player with injury problems (for those of you keeping track at home, this is the fourth out of six players). In the last two years he’s had a torn ACL, ruptured right patella tendon, and a hamstring injury. The Bears have been very good at using these types of picks to bolster one of the league’s best special teams units. My only thought is that was the purpose of this pick. Otherwise it seems to be more or less a wasted pick to me (of course, that’s what we thought of Trumaine McBride and Corey Graham).

Their next pick pretty much falls into the same category. With the 158th pick, and their second of the round, they chose Michigan State tight end Kellen Davis. The Bears already have one of the best tight end combinations in Desmond Clark and future star Greg Olsen. And even though Kellen Davis is a large, strong individual with a lot of natural skill, he’s not very fast and has poor work ethic. This pick just screams “return blocker” to me.

The Bears did not have a sixth round draft pick, but did take five – five – out of the seventh round. Most of these seem to be prospects for depth, which is pretty much the going assumption even if you don’t know anything about them. Ervin Baldwin is a defensive end from Michigan State who is very fast and played very well in the Big Ten. However, many feel he is too small to fight against the NFL’s O-lineman in the trenches. Look for him to be used primarily on passing downs and try to use his speed to run around the corner to get to the quarterback.

Chester Adams is a guard from Georgia who can also play tackle. Probably selected for this versatility, he’s small and doesn’t always play with passion. I’m a little disappointed that this was the only guard they drafted.

Joey LaRocque is an outside linebacker from Oregon who was an integral part of their rushing defense. He thinks of himself as a sideline-to-sideline linebacker, but lacks the top speed necessary to excel with that skill in the NFL. The Chicago Tribune thinks this was a special teams pick.

Kirk Barton is an offensive tackle from Ohio State, the fightin’ Buckeyes! He started all four years of college; pretty impressive when considering two of those four teams went to the BCS Championship Bowl. He’s more of a pass blocker than a run blocker and apparently didn’t have great combine numbers but makes up for it with heart and toughness. Another one of the Bear’s injury gambles, a surgically repaired knee probably kept him from going higher. Sprint’s NFL Mobile thinks he “will challenge for playing time early in his NFL career, if the opportunity arises.” For being taken at such a low pick, he has the potential to be a real steal for the Bears. I’m excited about this pick.

Finally, the Bears last pick was Marcus Monk from Arkansas. A large, strong wide receiver, he starred in the SEC but is relatively slow and had some knee injuries, which almost kept him from being drafted. However, he could be a valuable addition as a specialty player in the red zone. He may not make a name for himself in the NFL, but he’ll probably be on a highlight reel or two before his days are done. A very solid pickup for the fifth to last person drafted.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under sports

For the 10,000th Time!!

There have been a lot of things to discuss recently, but nary any time to discuss them. I desperately wanted to point out the unfair treatment given to Obama’s “bitter” remark. I don’t think he meant to apply it universally to the lower socio-economic class, but growing up in and among the American proletariat I can personally attest to accuracy of his claim on a somewhat limited scope.

I also thought the criticism given to Bush for planning on attending the opening ceremonies of the Olympics was quite unfair. I certainly think the U.S. should take a hard line against China’s treatment of workers and their citizens in general, but the Olympics isn’t exactly the best forum to do so. Both parties have supported trade agreements with China which not only allowed, but actually enabled, such violations of human rights, and for either party to insist on such a meaningless protest while refusing to discuss foreign policy which would actually change the situation is damn hypocritical.

McCain said some stupid things, Hillary Clinton is complaining about Obama complaining about the media after she has spent the better part of twenty years doing the same, and Jerry Angelo decided that the best way to cure da Bear’s ills is to swap out their best offensive player for a couple of average receivers and take a hard line on their best player since Walter Payton (pay the Lurch! This isn’t rocket science, just pay the guy! He’s Brian freakin’ Urlacher for cryin’ out loud!!)

But today I have something much grander to discuss. Forget the fluttering importance of something as trivial as the Presidential election, something truly historic has just occurred.

The Chicago Cubs have won their 10,000th game.

The Cubs won their 10,000th game in the same city they won their 9,000th, Denver Colorado, in a 10th inning (one for every thousand wins) affair against the Rockies.

Nobody said it would be easy.

Fittingly, Kerry Wood, the Cubs most storied and tenured player, was the victor. Typical of his ebb-and-flow career, he was awarded that distinction only because he blew the save in the bottom of the ninth inning. But he is on my fantasy team so it worked out fairly well for me.

Despite their loveable loser label, the Cubs are actually the only team in the major leagues to never have a franchise record below .500. That is to say, the Cubs are the only team in the major leagues to have a winning record throughout their entire existence. Their first victory was in 1876 against Louisville (?), and they went on to win the first League Championship. They become only the second team to reach 10,000 victories, behind the New York/San Francisco Giants. The Giants have won 119 more games than the Cubs, but the Cubs are pretty good this year and the Giants are terrible, so we may catch up to them eventually.

The only team to lose 10,000 games is the Philadelphia Phillies. Jon Lieber, who gave up a home run which almost cost the Cubs the game today, was also part of the Phillies team to carry that dubious distinction.

The history does not stop there, either. It was Lou Pinella’s 100th win with the Cubbies, which isn’t really extraordinary but the roundness of the number is interesting. But it did give Lou Pinella his 1,619th career win as a manager, moving him into a tie with Ralph Houk for 14th all-time.

The Cubs just won their 15th game of the season, placing their record at a solid 15-6. Since 1908, this is only the fourth time they’ve started that well. The other years were 1937 (went to the World Series), 1969 (lost the pennant to the Miracle Mets, but came close) and 1975 (terrible record that year). Today was the sixth victory in a row, and the previous four were not even close. They won all the games by at least six runs, and the last time they won four games in a row by at least six runs was . . . 1886. 122 years ago.

It happened exactly one week before the 25th anniversary of Lee Elia’s famous rant against Cubs fans, which I mention only because the rant is kinda funny, even if it is extremely offensive (“85% of the world’s working, the other fifteen come out here!”)

Of course, it’s been 100 years since our last World Series victory, which is about the only stat most people know. It’s also the stat they point to when they make their firm proclamation that the Cubs will surely suck, because they always do. (People don’t seem to care they won the division last year, or went to the playoffs three times in the last ten years, which is pretty respectable in baseball. But on the flip side, most people who stake that claim don’t actually know a lot about the game.)

Here’s hoping the Cubs end that little piece of history this October.

On the same date the Cubs won their 10,000th franchise victory, Sirhan Sirhan was sentenced to death, George Washington moved into the first executive mansion (in New York), the U.S. Army Reserve was created, James Earl Ray and Boris Yeltsin died, Hank Aaron hit his first major league home run, and “Sticky Fingers” was released, featuring a real, working zipper on the album cover (Mick Jagger was wearing underwear). People born on April 23 included William Shakespeare, Sir William Penn, Max Planck, James Buchanan, Stephen Douglas, and Michael Moore.

Leave a comment

Filed under sports

Why Clinton’s “Big” Win Isn’t So Big After All.

Hillary Clinton won Pennsylvania. She won it big. It’s a huge, “tide-turning” victory that is going to be big trouble for Obama and is breathing new life into Clinton’s campaign. It’s the first victory in the new day of the 2008 Democrat Primary, one that will certainly spell defeat for Obama and continue the Clinton legacy.

That will be the story for the next two weeks out of the Clinton camp, and the press will be remiss not to give it some legitimacy.

But if you take Pennsylvania out of the microcosm the Clinton camp wants to keep it in, and put it in the larger picture, it’s not too difficult to see why it doesn’t change a whole lot at all.

The word among the press (and to Clinton’s credit, I highly doubt this would have materialized into much more than the word among the press) is that a five point victory would have spelled the virtual end to the Clinton campaign. The “magic number”, given by people whom I fully respect (most notably Tim Russert), was about eight points, give or take a point or two. Anything over that is a resounding victory for Clinton, anything under was a resounding defeat.

Of course, Clinton won by ten.

This is certainly disappointing to the Obama camp, but I doubt they’ll lose much sleep over it. At the end of the day he still has a commanding lead. And despite the spin coming out of Clinton, she still has a long way to go before meaningfully cutting into it.

The problem is ten points doesn’t actually do much. She has gained ten delegates so far, with eighteen left to designate. When all the delegates are awarded, she can expect to win an estimated fifteen or sixteen total. Not that this gain is not meaningless. But even after you include a net gain of sixteen delegates, Obama will still be leading the pledged delegate count by an even 150. This is bad news, because out of the remaining contests there are only 258 delegates left. To break even, she would have to win 204 of those remaining delegates. Obviously that’s not going to happen. It’s not even quasi-realistic.

And it’s doubtful that this advantage will even be around longer than two weeks, when the next primaries occur. Right now Obama is enjoying a fifteen point lead in the polls in North Carolina. If he wins by that margin, according to Slate’s Online Delegate Calculator, he will win 17 delegates. So this “huge” victory will be negated in a state with less than 75% of the total delegates Pennsylvania has. And the gains she made in the popular vote (a little over 200,000 votes) will be cut into significantly, as well. Meanwhile, Indiana is still a very close race. Clinton is leading the polls right now by two points, which will net her only two delegates. So in two weeks the delegates she won last night at best would be a net of only a few (I’d say her netting ten is a stretch of imagination) and at worst she could be losing by even more than she was last night (which isn’t a stretch at all, though Obama picking up a net of ten isn’t much more realistic than Hillary doing so).

We’ve been down this road before. Remember her “game-changing” wins in Ohio and Texas? You know, the ones where Clinton only came out ahead by two delegates and even after you included her win in Rhode Island on the same night Obama had made up for her net gain within a week in Wyoming and Mississippi? Where did that get her? Exactly where she started. By the next big primary, in Pennsylvania, the general consensus, even out of her own camp, was she had to win in order to stay viable.

Except there was a big difference back then. Notably, there were a few more primaries, one other big race, and she was still operating in the black. Now she’s pretty much down to Indiana, and her campaign is operating with a $10 million deficit (Obama has $40 million in the bank, by the way). She needed a huge victory. And instead she got the same thing she got last time she had a “big” victory; a nice talking point but little to nothing in the way of delegates or popular votes to take home.

Of course, her campaign has more or less given up on winning the delegate vote, anyway. So maybe it’s a little unfair to say that, just because she’s losing in the manner by which both major political parties use to determine their candidate, it actually means she’s losing. Ultimately, the Clinton campaign is going to try and persuade enough superdelegates with the argument that she’s the more electable candidate.

Ultimately, Clinton’s victory (as it impacts her ability to receive the nomination) is three fold. First, one of the big arguments coming from Clinton is that Democrats need states like Pennsylvania to win the general election. Her victory here seems to prove her case that she’s the most electable in the general election because she can carry these states. But the argument that since Obama lost Pennsylvania to Clinton means he’ll lose it to McCain is specious. First, it’s not sensible to think that all the people who voted for Clinton are going to defect to McCain. As the drama in the GOP nomination pointed out, as soon as one candidate is picked, the party will rally around them. Clinton admitted that herself. But more to the point, Pennsylvania is a closed primary, which means independents don’t get to vote. And left-leaning Republicans don’t get to vote. Much has been made of the turnout in the Pennsylvania. Which is good; it was a record turnout and that’s something both candidates should be proud of. Over 2.3 million people cast votes in the primary last night. But over 5.7 million people voted in the general election in 2004. Bush, who lost the state, received almost half a million more votes than the total Democrats who voted in the primary. Only about 40% of the total populace voted last night, and many of those were first time voters (ever, not just in the primary) who everybody agrees Obama received the majority of. So Obama has a lot of room to make up votes by November, and millions of voters who didn’t participate last night to work with.

Secondly, it cuts into Obama’s popular vote lead. This dent in Obama’s lead should be lessened by the vote in North Carolina. At this point he’s winning by over 500,000 votes, which is a lot with only nine contests left (especially considering there are some small contests in those nine). But of course, she argues that this lead is even less if you count Florida, and even less still if you count Florida and Michigan. In fact, if you count both those states, then Hillary Clinton is actually leading by just under 122,000 votes. But Obama has a pretty good counter for that argument. First, I would expect him to make up that 122,000 margin by the end of the campaign. But right now those vote totals aren’t counting the caucus states of Iowa, Nevada, Maine, and Washington. Since Clinton is the “every vote should count” candidate, I’m sure she has no problem counting the vote totals in those states. If those votes are counted, he’s still winning by just under 195,000 votes. And if you don’t count the Michigan’s votes, since he wasn’t on the ballot there won’t be a lot of people outside the Clinton camp that do, he’s still winning by over 300,000 votes. So the popular vote is not really in Clinton’s favor unless she counts two states she agreed not to count when she thought her nomination is inevitable, and ignores four states with caucuses, three of which just happened to lose.

The final big talking point to the superdelegates is that Obama can’t “finish her off.” If he’s such a great candidate, she will ask, than how come he can’t wrap up the nomination? Again, Obama can argue that if she’s such a great candidate, why can’t she make any meaningful impact when she’s winning these supposedly game-changing contests? It also places emphasis on certain contests. She argues that he can’t win because he narrowly lost in Texas and lost by ten in Ohio and Pennsylvania. But the argument ignores the huge inroads Obama made in those two states (gaining over ten points in both) and also places the burden of Obama winning in states which the Clinton camp thought was an inevitable victory for her, without placing any pressure on her to win in states which Obama had an even moderate lead (which she has been unable to do, save New Hampshire. Remember New Hampshire? That was like, forty five states ago.)

So all of these arguments have their faults. And as evidence, the very morning after Clinton’s “game-changing” victory, Obama picked up yet another superdelegate.

I did see yet another new way to view the primary season on Morning Joe (which I was unfortunate enough to wake up to. I really, really don’t like Joe Scarborough, and need to remember to set my DVR to switch to Cartoon Network in the mornings. The Mr. Men Show is the best children’s program since Sesame Street.) After she said that “this is an election, where people get to choose” (well, the superdelegates get to choose, the people just get to keep it close enough to let them), she told us we need to look “at the election backwards.” This really gets to the root of why I’m not worried about the superdelegates. Obama is going to get to point at the primary and say “look, I won the most states, the most delegates, the most popular votes. And I’ve been able to win in states with open primaries, illustrating that I am better at bringing in independents to the party.” Clinton, meanwhile, will be saying, “But if you don’t count the small states, and don’t count the caucus states, and don’t count the red states, and place more emphasis on certain large states, and then look at it all backwards, I’m obviously the winner!! After all, this is an election, where [certain] people get to choose!” Give me a break.

The win wasn’t wholly unimportant. It does give her a reason to continue the race, when a loss would have made her sticking around very, very unpopular. But if this was football game, then she’d be down by two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter, and she just scored a field goal. It helped, but she’s still down by two scores.

2 Comments

Filed under politics

Why 2008 Should Be the Superdelegates’ Last Run

One thing that has absolutely amazed me lately is how Hillary Clinton is making herself out to be the “democratic” nominee because Obama allegedly doesn’t want to count the votes in Florida or Michigan and doesn’t want to finish the primary season because he’s afraid when all the votes are counted Hillary could win.

The problem with this assertion, of course, is when all the votes are counted it’s extremely unlikely that Clinton will be winning the popular vote, virtually impossible that she will be winning the delegate vote, and mathematically impossible that she will be winning the state count. So for the past six weeks she’s been working on a campaign to get the Democrat superdelegates to overturn the results of the primary.

I’m trying to figure out how that’s the “democratic” candidate. If you have any ideas, please let me know.

The whole idea of superdelegates seems very, for a lack of a better term, Republican to me. It’s essentially based upon the idea that the people don’t always pick a good candidate. According to Wikipedia (and how could an encyclopedia which anybody can edit possibly be wrong?), superdelegates were created in response to changes made to the Democrat Party nominee process which, get this, actually made the “composition of the convention less subject to control by party leaders and more responsive to the votes cast during the campaign for the nomination.” The party elders thought this weakened the ticket of George McGovern and Jimmy Carter (I’m not sure which Carter ticket was weakened; the one when he won or the one when he was the incumbent). The superdelegates were enacted in 1982 to help the Democrats create more viable tickets to beat the Republicans. The “new and improved” system promptly lost the next two elections. In fact, the only state the Democrats carried in the 1984 election was Minnesota (home to future U.S. Senator Al Franken). And the only Democrat to become President since that time was impeached. So common sense would say this system doesn’t work too well, right?

In fairness, you can’t pin the problems of the Democrat Party on the superdelegate system. While the superdelegates did get to flex their muscle almost immediately, choosing Walter Mondale over Gary Hart in 1984, the perception that they decided this election is not exactly accurate. Mondale was leading in popular vote and was only about 40 votes shy of clinching the nomination, so it’s not like they overturned the results of the primary. And other than 1984 they haven’t even had the chance to do so, as the winning candidate had clinched the nomination before the convention.

Until this year.

It is very unlikely that Obama will get the 1025 delegates necessary to clinch the nomination. He probably will be down by quite a bit more than 40, as well. Which means Clinton will be trying her damndest to get them to overturn the will of the people. Her primary argument will be that she’s more electable, as evidence that she has won the “important” states. (That’s another funny thing about Clinton’s claim she’s the more democratic candidate. The only states that seem to count are the ones she wins.) Clinton also says she should be the nominee because she’s won more states with closed primaries. I’m not quite sure how her claim that Obama wins only because of independent voters somehow makes her more electable in a populace where a third of the voters are independent, but there’s a lot about Clinton I don’t understand. Like her St. Patrick’s Day scarf.

I’m not worried about the superdelegates, to be honest. Since Super Tuesday, Obama has been winning at least one or two a week, while Clinton is at a net loss (she did pick up four this week, according to MSNBC). He has turned her 100+ lead from at most 30 (according to MSNBC) to at least 12 (according to the NY Times). I don’t think that she has any chance of convincing enough superdelegates to her side unless she wins the popular vote, which would be disappointing but at least it would make the decision somewhat legitimate.

It’s also not likely to happen. Despite her claims to the contrary, the popular vote is not favorable to her. She’s losing by over 700,000 votes. She’s not going to make that up. And that’s if you don’t count the caucus states. And even if you count Florida she’s losing by over 400,000 votes. If you count Florida and Hillary’s Michigan votes, and if you say Obama only gets 85% of the “Uncommitted” votes in Michigan (which is an insanely pro-Hillary assumption), and if you don’t count the votes in the caucus states, Hillary would be losing by 296,261 votes. Not so bad in early February, but this is April and there are only ten contests left (and that’s a lot of “ifs”). She won’t make that up. Her only real hope to win the popular vote is to somehow count Florida and Michigan without a revote, as Obama’s name was not on the Michigan ballot. Either that or win out by unrealistic margins.

But even if Obama wins enough superdelegates to win the nomination, and he will, why should the party of the people, as I think the Democrats are, use such an elitist method to determine the nominee? Doesn’t this play into the Republican’s claims that the Democrats are, in fact, the party of elites? Say what you will about the Republicans, but voters decided to nominate John McCain and even though the party was not particularly fond of the idea, their will was granted. How could Hillary Clinton possibly defend her nomination when McCain asks why, when after thirty million people voted to chose a victor, it ended up being decided by 800 individuals, some of whom don’t even hold an elected office? By saying if you crunch the number just right, she only lost by less than one percent of the popular vote?

How can the party that feels victimized when five individuals overturned the will of the people just eight years ago now overturn the will of the voters for a mere few hundred? Is this irony lost on the Clintons? Or do they just not care? This should not be the party of the Clintons. This should be the party of Al Gore. The Clintons have been embroiled in so much scandal they actually use it as a reason to vote against Obama (“At least you know all the terrible stuff we did!! We can’t even find any real good dirt on Obama! Is that the type of person you want elected??”) Meanwhile, Al Gore wins a Nobel Peace Prize. And yet some would ignore the lessons of Gore and strip the right of their own people to determine the leader of this country for the second time in three election cycles.

The rules are the rules, and it’s too late to change them for this election cycle. But I don’t think anybody can argue that all this talk about the superdelegates this year has been good for the Democrat’s image. Thomas Jefferson once said that a government should “consider the will of the society enounced by the majority of a single vote as sacred as if unanimous.” That definition of a republic does not lend itself well to the final vote being merely a suggestion for a committee of one quarter of one one-thousandth of the total population to follow at their discretion. It’s time for the party created by Thomas Jefferson to elect their President by the criteria he established. Or it’s time to give way to a party that will.

As for me, I will not spit in the eye of the voting public just for the “honor” of four more years of the Clinton/Bush oligarchy.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Hillary Clinton Can’t Answer Conflict of Interest Question

As I explained quite a while back, a Hillary Clinton White House could be duplicitous, indeed. And this concerns me. It concerns me a great deal, to be honest. So when she passes up an obvious opportunity to explain why that won’t be the case, and instead laughs the suggestion away, I have to take the time to note it.

A reporter asked Hillary Clinton if it was possible that $800,000 in Clinton income paid for by a group that supports free trade between the United States and Columbia could be a conflict of interest, since she claims to oppose such a deal. (Hopefully more than she “opposed” NAFTA.) After a gaudy laugh (and this wasn’t her “gee, that was funny” laugh, but that annoying “I would like to avoid that question so I’m going to obviously fake laughter and hope my cheerful smile draws your ire away” laugh. Watch one of her debates sometime. The difference is so obvious it’s almost insulting. I mean, can’t she at least practice making it seem sincere?), she asked “How many angels dance on the head of the pin?”

This originally got my attention, because that was the same point the “fictional” Governor Stanton from Primary Colors, a book written by Joe Klein about the 1992 Clinton Presidential campaign, made to his campaign aide, the protagonist Henry Burton. After looking for dirt to dig up on the only other candidate who presented a roadblock between Stanton and the nomination, he was convinced not to take it to the presses by an old friend who committed suicide. So he decided to use it to convince his foe to quit, instead. When the argument was used that it would have been taken to the press had their friend not recently perished, Stanton answers (in an ever-so-slight paraphrase as I could not find the exact quote): “But those are fine little points. We’re talking about angels dancing on a pinhead points.”

When I think of that movie, I always think of two parts. The first is when Stanton’s wife (played by the beautiful Emma Thompson) finds the cell phone Stanton threw out the window in the brush, when he insisted it landed in the trees. His response? “Shoot, you wouldn’t have found it if I hadn’t thrown it out of the window.” I laugh just thinking about it. But the other is that line. For some reason that scene, summed up succinctly by that line, always had a lasting impact on me. So it really struck me that she was using the same line which may or may not be attributed to Bill Clinton during a likewise potentially shady situation.

But at any rate, that was a movie and this is real life. Ultimately her response to that question was, and this is not paraphrased at all, “How do you answer that?”

Perhaps by describing how a group which paid your family a third of what you lent to your campaign will not have any kind of sway over your policy decisions? Just a stab in the dark, here. Maybe by not completely blowing off the question? Just a hint.

She did reiterate she was against the deal, even though Bill Clinton is for it. Her response to that was “Everybody is entitled to their opinion.” Fair enough. But when a person with no prior political office experience has such a large role in their spouse’s White House as she claims she had, how can we not expect the spouse which actually held that position will not have a similarly large role?

By not answering the question, but more so by discounting the legitimacy of a very legitimate question, she did nothing to show that this significant contribution to her economic well-being will have no effect on her decision making capabilities.

In other Clinton news, Bill got jealous of Hillary’s monopoly on lying about Bosnia. Seems he said “[T]here was a lot of fulminating because Hillary, one time late at night when she was exhausted, misstated, and immediately apologized for it, what happened to her in Bosnia in 1995.” He went on to say, “I think she was the first First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt to go into a combat zone.” Well, Hillary Clinton had “misspoke” on that several times, did not immediately apologize for it, didn’t even immediately admit it was a mistake for that matter, went to Bosnia in 1996 and not 1995, and wasn’t the first First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt to visit a combat zone. Although, classifying Bill’s comment as a misstatement would be contingent upon what the definition of “one,” “immediately,” “1995,” and “go” is.

7 Comments

Filed under politics

Three Articles to Save the World (and my thoughts)

A few articles on saving the environment:

Why don’t cars get 50 mpg? Keith Naughton thinks it’s our fault. Well, I can’t disagree with the premise. Americans do like fast cars (when was the last time you heard anybody say they missed the Geo Metro?). And the culture is hesitant to change to older but better technologies, especially when the cost goes up. Diesel actually gets better gas mileage, burns cleaner, and is more fun to drive. (How does it burn cleaner? According to the EPA, modern diesel engines emit 22.2 pounds of CO2 per gallon of gas, while gasoline engines emit 19.4 pounds per gallon. However, diesel engines are 20-40% more efficient than gasoline engines. So a gasoline car that travels 100 miles at 25 mpg will output 77.6 pounds of CO2, but that same care with a diesel engine will get 30 – 35 mpg and therefore will only put out 63.4 – 74 pounds of CO2.) Meanwhile, electric cars are quicker than gasoline cars (not sure why we can’t live with 100 mph cars instead of 130 mph cars when the top speed limits in the U.S. are 85 mph or lower), and they not only help the environment by reducing or eliminating emissions but also use home-grown fuel; either coal, natural gas, nuclear, or renewable energy which comes from the States and not Venezuela or Saudi Arabia.

However, I can’t say Detroit is blameless, either. I wouldn’t expect them to market cars that aren’t selling well, except they already are. America has always been the front line in automotive innovation, and Ford and GM have allowed Japan and Europe to take over. And while I hate to say they’re not as good at it as us, um, they’re not as good at it as us. They’ve just been better at it lately because Detroit hasn’t tried too hard. That leads to the third point of the gas-guzzling fire triangle; American business culture. Businesses are so busy looking at next quarter’s earnings that it gets hard to legitimize spending that may not yield profits for a decade; longer than anybody sitting on the Board of Director’s is probably going to be at the company. But in fairness to American businesses, that gets back to the original point; American culture as a whole. If we spent money in ways which forced Detroit to build better vehicles, then eventually we would get them or Detroit would go out of business. We’ve started to do that, and Detroit is suffering badly. Which is why Chevy wants to introduce a 100 mpg car by 2010.

The other edge of that culture sword is it’s hard to get American taxpayers to agree to research which may not yield practical benefits for several years. For example, Europe’s willingness to build the Large Hadron Collider, coupled with spending cuts to Fermilab here in Illinois, means the technology of the future is probably going to be European.

On a related note, the Germans have created the BMW Hydrogen 7, the world’s first production hydrogen vehicle. (“The Right Stuff” made it clear that “our Germans are better than their Germans,” so I’m counting this a win in the U.S. column, too.) And not only is its emission almost entirely pure water, but “my” Argonne scientists have discovered the air it does emit is actually cleaner than the ambient air. The Hydrogen 7 uses liquid hydrogen, and not fuel cells, so it does buck the generally accepted train of thought regarding hydrogen-fueled vehicles. Which means it could either form the market or be squashed by it. But hydrogen, both liquid and fuel cell, is another culture problem. Nobody wants to pay the super-high costs to get it on the market. Understandable, but if a bunch of rich people during the oil crisis of the ‘70’s said they were going to manufacture and purchase fuel cell cars (we’ve actually had the technology since the sixties), then we’d all have them by now. As demand increases, so does the innovation to bring the prices down. (42” plasma TV’s were $10,000 six years ago, now you can get them for less than two grand.) But the biggest problem is the remodeling of the infrastructure to provide hydrogen. Of course, the American government could spend the money to help fund innovation by American companies and employ the masses of workers necessary to create the infrastructure. But that would cost billions of dollars, and we’re far too busy spending much, much, much more than that in Iraq.

Last week Time had a great article on the problems with biofuels. Evidently, when you consider the loss of rain forests and other native vegetation to use the land for growing corn and switch grass, ethanol actually contributes more to global warming than oil. But good news: the problem is easily solved by switching to ethanol produced using sugar. Didn’t sugar used to be the cash crop for the U.S.? Why can’t we spend money to make fuel out of that instead of the corn? There are a lot of problems with the current structure of farming subsidies. (See here. And here. And here.) The biggest problem is that farming subsidies are no longer a way to keep small family farms viable in the face of an ever-changing and dangerous marketplace, but rather a tool for the richest farmers to get free money at the tax payer’s expense. The largest farms in the U.S. make up only 7% of the total farms but get 54% of the subsidies, meaning the theory that subsidies help small farmers survive and compete against big farmers is a complete myth. The mega-farms are in control of the subsidies, and they make sure money goes towards programs that are in their best interests. Ultimately, it’s the corn-subsidy lobby that was at the heart of the ethanol-subsidy boom, not ecologists or environmentalists.

Don’t get me wrong, I support government money being used to support bio-fuels. First, I don’t think all greenhouse gasses are created equal. The earth is not just dirt and water; it’s a living thing that responds to conditions occurring on it. And the carbon present in greenhouse gasses is more easily compensated for by the earth’s ecology if it was produced recently than if it was buried for millions of years. Also, I think it’s folly to consider corn-based ethanol as the end-all of bio-fuels. There is a large matrix of resources which we can use to create biofuels, ranging from algae to garbage. Given enough imagination (and funding) we can stop making biofuels from stuff we eat and start making it from stuff we wouldn’t use, anyway. But that won’t happen if we fund the corn market and then act like everything’s going to be okay. So I think at this moment it’s more important for that money to be used on research than to line the pockets of some of America’s richest individuals.

At any rate, it shocked me that last year less than 2% of U.S. gas stations sold ethanol. In Illinois you’re hard pressed to find a gas station that doesn’t. It’s nice to live in corn country. Californians, who already spent more on gas than Illinoisans, have to spend more on corn so we get our gas even more cheaply. Small price to pay for living on a freakin’ beach while I’m shoveling a foot of snow out of my driveway.

6 Comments

Filed under environment