JR Swift’s Blog

What I’m Thinking About Today

Very Early Returns

Posted by jrswift on November 4, 2008

Not much of a surprise at the early results.  McCain doing well in Kentucky and things very close in Indiana.  Nothing here to change my impressions of what will go on tonight.  No calls yet in Georgia, Virginia or Indiana and I don’t think that bodes well with the Republicans.   Been watching the raw numbers on Fox and CBS as both sites are including totals for Barr and Nader.  Not sure about the Fox site as the numbers occasionally jump up and down and that makes no sense.  CBS is showing that some guy named Thomas Stevens has 49,000 votes so they haven’t ironed out all the bugs either.  If I was paranoid (and I kind of am), I would almost swear that they just make these things up, maybe in the building where they staged that fake moon landing back in 1969.  Looks like McCain wins Kentucky and West Virginia and is doing well with the “Beverly Hillbillies” demographic which is what I would have expected.  I’m going to go ahead and post this one and check back in an half hour or so.

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Blogging the Ballots

Posted by jrswift on November 4, 2008

Will be posting my thoughts and interpretation as the night goes on so feel free to check it out from time to time.  Nothing much to add right now to my earlier predictions.  I think we are going to see a (surprisingly?) large Obama victory so we’ll see if I’m right.

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Election 2008…thoughts and predictions

Posted by jrswift on November 3, 2008

This is going to be one of those posts that totally goes against the idea of a blog. It is probably going to be way too long and that’s not really the idea. I’m supposed to be up here every day giving you little peeks into my life, not rambling on incessantly about some big issue that I could have covered over the last week or so. Well, too bad. If you read all this, I thank you for your patience and I hope you learn something.

This is the paragraph where I urge you to vote for what you want, not against what you fear. I respect the fact that many of you are genuinely sold on Obama or McCain and, if so, you should vote for them. On the other hand, if you aren’t genuinely sold on these guys or really don’t think it is going to make a “dime’s worth of difference” which one of them wins, I urge you to consider an alternative. It is probably going to be hard to convince some of you that you shouldn’t choose between these two guys and choose the better of the two or the lesser of two evils, depending on your perspective. If you live in a state where the polls are close, I suppose I can respect that viewpoint. Keep in mind that the chance that your vote will be the deciding one is in the same range of probability of being struck repeatedly by lightning but feel free to choose between the two if you must.

That being said, most states are not close. Unless you live in the dozen or so “swing states,” there is almost no chance that your favorite candidate will win or lose, regardless of what you do. There are alternatives for most of you and I wanted to make you all aware of them. A vote for one of these “other candidates” may not elect those candidates but it has a chance to make a real difference in the future and make future elections in this country less a matter of picking between two candidates you may not like and more a matter of voting for what you believe in.

Third party and Independent candidates have made a huge difference throughout American History, even though they have rarely won. Third parties were responsible for the first political convention. They were the first to speak out against slavery. They were the first to support a woman’s right to vote. While the Socialist party never earned more than 6% of the vote in a Presidential election, much of the platform they espoused, including Social Security, eventually was enacted into law. In recent years, Ross Perot ran a campaign largely focused on America’s budget deficit and, within the next four years, the budget was balanced for the first time. And, while many Democrats and liberals may rue Ralph Nader for running strong enough 8 years ago to derail Al Gore’s election, the aftermath has resulted in a more progressive and liberal Democrat party–not that I consider that good thing. 🙂

Most of you will have a choice that goes beyond John McCain and Barrack Obama and I would urge you to consider that choice. I personally voted (early…all the cool kids did it this year) for Bob Barr who is the Libertarian candidate. If you are an individual who believes that the Federal government does too much, taxes and spends too much and gets too involved in regulating our lives and our choices, maybe you too should consider Barr. Or if you believe that America has a bleak future indeed unless we face the environmental issues of the day, perhaps you would better off supporting the Green Party. They offer a platform that favors greater democratization in government and the workplace as well as a strong pro-environment stance. Maybe you are a hard-core Conservative that thinks America has drifted too far from its Constitutional roots and that we need to return to the values and policies of the past. If so, the Constitution party may be for you. There are more small parties out there but these are the largest of them and the ones who will be on the most ballots. If these parties reflect your values, you should vote for them, even though they won’t win. More votes means more attention, a better chance to earn ballot access in the future, and an opportunity to show the Republicrats and the Demopublicans that they need to pay attention to the issues you believe in.

Interestingly enough, all the three of the parties I mentioned want to end the war in Iraq, want to restore the civil liberties robbed from us by the Patriot Act and opposed the 700 billion dollar bailout of Wall Street that we will all be paying for for many years to come. I haven’t heard much of a peep out of Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama about any of these issues lately. They mostly seem to be trying to “out-hawk” and “out-spend” one another. It seems to me that these are three of the biggest issues out there and neither of the major party candidates are spending much time talking about them. A vote for an alternative will tell them that they ignore these issues at their peril.

I did not mention Ralph Nader for a very important reason. I believe he is a honorable man who truly believes what he says, whether I agree with it or not. But he is running as an Independent and a vote for Nader will not build a strong alternative voice. Better to choose the Green party candidate if you lean that way. That way there may be more Green candidates on the ballot in the future and the Democrats and Republicans will be forced to pay more attention to the issues they raise. Furthermore, some people will decide to write in Ron Paul. Ron Paul is not even running. He could have done so but he chose not to. His views are close to both the Libertarian and Constitution party so vote for one of their candidates instead.

OK, so I’ll get off my soapbox. Now it is time for my nitty-gritty breakdown of what is actually going to happen tomorrow, not what I’d like to see. I will say that I think this is slightly more than the rants and raves of a random citizen. I spent many years studying political science and I think I know a little bit about that which I speak. Furthermore, I have been watching the polling data for the last month or so and have a bit of historical perspective, having been a student of American elections for over 30 years. That being said, your guess is probably as good as mine. 🙂

So here’s the rub: Obama is going to win and, frankly, I think that is probably a good thing. It is a very good thing for America to elect an African American President and I think he is more stable and thoughtful than McCain. I disagree with him on many things but, on balance, I hope he wins. He will win because, for the first time in my memory, the electoral college deck is stacked against the Republicans and it is all but impossible to fight that.

Before I discuss the math that will make Obama President, let me warn you all what to watch out for tomorrow. Some of you are “young ‘uns” who may be new to this Election nonsense so you might want to know what to expect. The first thing you are going to hear tomorrow is how unbelievably high the turnout of voters is going to be. They do this every year. It may or may not be true but you will hear reports from whatever state you are in that the Secretary of State and your local election officials are just amazed at the number of people who are voting. Now there is some very strong evidence that turnout will be very high this year but, whether or not it comes to pass, you will be lead to be believe it is true. Just like Walmart never seems to remember to staff their stores on Labor Day, election officials always seem to forget all the early voters that they haven’t seen since the last Presidential election. Long lines at 5 PM are the sign of a big turnout, not a projection at lunchtime.

Secondly, you might want to pay less attention than usual to the “exit polls” that the networks like to use to project the outcome. They were just awful indicators of the outcome last time and they may turn out to be worse this year. There were a very large number of early voters this year, particularly in a few key states. Indications are that they were disproportionately Democratic voters. Well, they aren’t going to be available to interview tomorrow because they won’t be leaving the polls. I expect the exit polls to suggest a strong McCain showing tomorrow but it won’t last. The networks will play it up because it makes a good story and encourages you to keep watching their commercials but don’t trust their projections. On the other hand, early results that favor Obama are probably very good news for the Democrats.

Finally, if you vote, keep your eyes open. There have been some mighty suspicious goings-on in Presidential elections lately and you all need to be aware that not everyone wants the outcome to be determined fairly. If you see anything that seems “off” to you, report it. Election fraud may be real but it must be exposed. Overzealous people on both sides may feel it is right to make sure their candidate wins. It isn’t. Over a hundred million Americans CAN be fooled…if they don’t stand up and say “no” to corruption.

OK…so, now we tell you why Obama will win tomorrow. As most of you know, there is not one Presidential election tomorrow, there are fifty one. Your candidate can get hundreds of thousands (even millions) more votes than his or her opponent and still not win enough Electoral votes to claim the Presidency. It has happened several times and it happened in 2000. If you win a number of states by a large number of votes, but lose enough large states by small margins, you can still lose the White House. In most recent elections, the Democrats had a very small margin of error. They were only competitive in about half the states and, even though that included most of the larger states (with the most Electoral votes), it meant that had to pretty much “run the table” to win the election. Not so this year.

This year Obama and the Democrats are the ones who are more competitive in more states. This year, it is the Republicans who have to “run the table” to win and I see little evidence of that coming to pass. The Democrats hold leads in most every state they won in 2004 (and 2000) and there are very few of those states where McCain has any chance of winning. On the other hand, Obama is actually leading or competitive in 10-12 states that President Bush won in both 2000 and 2004. States like Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Nevada, Colorado, Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, North Dakota, Montana and maybe even Arizona are close enough that no one can reliably predict how they may go. Here’s the rub. McCain basically needs every one of those states to win and he could lose them all. Obama needs, at most 2 or 3 of them, as long as he holds the Gore/Kerry states and it looks like he will. This is one of the reasons McCain has spent so much time in Pennsylvania. It is a large Democratic state they think they have a chance to win.

So what has to happen for McCain to win and can Obama win BIG? McCain needs a couple of things to happen and he needs to cross fingers because even that won’t guarantee anything. First off, he needs undecided voters to break dramatically for him. It could happen but I don’t think it is likely. Generally speaking, the longer a voter remains undecided, the more likely he is to vote for the less-known candidate. McCain, in many ways, represents the status quo and the “safe” choice. Obama is the wild card. I think that, ultimately, Obama actually gets most of these voters.

Secondly, McCain needs to see a “Bradley effect.” Almost 30 years ago, Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles was running for Governor of California. All the polls suggested he had a large lead. But he was black…and he lost. Many have speculated that white voters did not want to admit they wouldn’t vote for a black man but ultimately decided to go against Bradley for that reason. Could it happen with Obama? Well…maybe. I suspect it is most likely in states with a large older, white population. States like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri or Indiana and maybe Virginia or North Carolina. Frankly, I think it will be the biggest non-story of the election and that is because of one thing: cell phones.

Polling may overstate Obama’s support among older white voters but I suspect it underestimates his support among younger voters. Most polls have a hard time reaching voters who do not have traditional land-line phones. I don’t know about you but I know an awful lot of people who have only cell phones. In fact, most people I know (who tend to be younger) only have cell phones. Polling may overstate Obama’s lead among older voters with land-line phone but I believe it is equally likely to understate his support among younger voters who only have cell phones. In the end, it is a wash. It may very well cost Obama a state like Ohio or Indiana but could win him a state like Colorado or Nevada.

So, to wrap things up, I think it far more likely we see an Obama landslide tomorrow night, leaving him in the 350-400 electoral vote margin than we are to see a McCain win. I believe the polling is actually understating Obama’s support and missing a number of the young and minority voters who are likely to vote tomorrow for the first time. If I’m right, you’ll see it early tomorrow evening as Obama will be very close or ahead in early states like Georgia, Indiana or Virginia. McCain needs each of the states and, if he isn’t winning them easily, he isn’t going to be in the White House next January. Anyway, hope you all have a good one and enjoy Election Day.

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I am way too connected right now

Posted by jrswift on September 24, 2008

So this is pretty ridiculous but I’m texting, listening to a netcast, on IRC, 4 instant messenger clients, have my email client open, am signed into Windows Live Mail, just twittered and am sort of watching TV.  I guess if I turn on the radio and make a phone call, I might just explode!  Oh and I just checked Myspace and will probably go to Facebook next.  Oh well…that’s all I’ve got.  Oh…and I guess I just blogged too!  LOL

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Monday’s suck

Posted by jrswift on September 22, 2008

Yeah, that’s not much of a topic because it isn’t like anyone is going to disagree unless it is one of their days off.  But today was just a special bonus bad day with a whole bunch of little silly things going wrong from morning until evening.  And, of course, I was tired.  I always end up staying up (sometimes out) too late on Saturday so that means I lay around all day on Sunday and sleep too much.  That, in turn, means that I can never go to sleep Sunday night and that, in turn, means I’m tired on Monday.  At least I got to watch some fresh Monday night entertainment tonight which is a good thing.  And I can’t really complain much about the weekend.  I had a good one and all of my favorite sports teams did well.  The Jayhawks won their football game though it wasn’t pretty.  The Cubs clinched their division and a spot in the playoffs and the Cowboys won for the first time ever in Green Bay and remain undefeated.  So maybe I’m not that unhappy.  Maybe I’m just lazy.  Yeah, I probably am…and that’s why I’m going to end this blog entry now.  More later…maybe.

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I guess I’m in a cult now

Posted by jrswift on September 14, 2008

So a while back I started thinking about getting a new phone.  I realized that I’d had my old one for almost 2 years and I figured I would get something new.  I must point out that I’ve always had pre-paid cell phones and I’ve been mostly pretty happy with that.  The last few years have been through Net10 and I recommend them highly.  It is a good no-nonsense provider with straightforward pricing and does the job of calling and texting just fine.  The bad thing about Net10 and most any other pre-paid company is that the phones are just not very exciting and I kind of wanted something exciting.

So I started looking at phones I could get with a contract and, of course, that opened up a whole new world of options, maybe just too many.  Touch-screen phones, smart phones, TV phones, texting phones, etc.  There are a mind-numbing number of options and I spent hours online reading up on them as well as watching dozens of youtube  videos demonstrating them.  Last week I decided to take the plunge and bought a shiny new Blackberry Curve via ATT.  It arrived from Amazon on Thursday and I’ve been playing around with it quite a bit ever since.  It can certainly do a lot of things, some of which I’ll probably never use, and I think I’m going to like having it.

Not only that but, short of springing for an iphone, it has a pretty high “cool-factor” and that’s a big change of pace for me.  Going from my little no-frills Nokia that wouldn’t impress the crowd at the Greyhound terminal to a Blackberry is kind of like trading up from a Chevy to a Mercedes and I’m not sure how I feel about that.  Other than that high-end stereo system I bought some 20 odd years ago, my “stuff” has always been pretty unexciting.  Cheap (mostly) functional devices that I used until they  completely wore out and then replaced with another similar device.  Now I can actually whip out my new phone and impress people.  But I’ve done it a few times now and I didn’t feel that good about doing it.  I just don’t think I’m good at showing off.

It also turns out that this “blackberry thing” is kind of a cult-like little world and now I’m in their cult.   I can check my email everywhere and thumb type my text message and become a “crackberry addict” and apparently this is considered cool too…or maybe just lame.  I think I might actually prefer it being considered lame and nerdy because I’m actually more comfortable with that role.  More on this as it develops.

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Day Off

Posted by jrswift on August 20, 2008

After working 9 of the last 10 days, I’m off 3 of the next 4 and one of them is tomorrow.  Not only am I off but I get paid and this is an extra large paycheck so I plan to enjoy myself this weekend.  Have been living on the frugal side for the better part of the last week so it will be nice to have some money.  Am multitasking tonight as I’m listening to the Linux Link Tech Show on a live stream and trying to keep an eye on the TV so I don’t miss the 200 meter race where the guy from Jamaica broke the World Record.  And I just vacuumed for a few minutes too.  Done eating so now I’ll just lay around and kill time until bed.  Probably get up early so I can get a few things done around the house and that will also keep me on an early-rising schedule since I have to get up Friday morning.  Besides, one of the PBS channels runs nothing but cooking shows early in the morning.  Anyway, perhaps I’ll have something more interesting to talk about tomorrow but not tonight.

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Frozen Pizza

Posted by jrswift on August 19, 2008

And so it was that I prepared for frozen pizza again.  Not much cash today but, no problem, there is always Totinos, the king of “poverty pizza.”  Actually it is pretty good in an icky sort of way.  I’m not fond of the saltine cracker crust as I prefer something a bit thicker and bread-like.  Nonetheless, two of these babies at $2.50 makes a very filling dinner and are a great deal.  What cheese is present actually tastes pretty good and the meat is, well, it is meat-like at least.

I’ve mentioned my love for frozen pizza before so maybe I’ll do a short review of some of my favorites.  I used to be strictly a Red Baron guy and I still enjoy their pizza but not as much as a few years back.  They seem to have started cutting corners and the cheese in particular is not as good.  I think that the DiGiorno is probably my favorite but it quite pricey and is hard to polish off in a single setting.  The DiGiorno Ultimate is probably the very best frozen pizza I’ve tried but it is rarely less than $6 so I don’t buy it much.  Tony’s or Jack’s make good compromise pies, neither painfully “awful” like Totinos or Genos but not great like the expensive brands.  They are a very good choice when they go on sale for $2 or less which happens pretty frequently around here.  Both have good cheese and toppings (particularly Jack’s) and Tony’s has a nice crust.  Tombstone used to be a distant second or third to Red Baron but I’ve come to enjoy their Pepperoni quite a bit.  It (along with Red Baron) is a good deal if you can get it for $3-4 and that is fairly common.  Freschetta is pretty close to DiGiorno when it comes to higher end stuff but I find it dough-ier so I tend to lean the other way.

As to toppings, I enjoy the Pepperoni, Sausage or Hamburger and often a meat or multi-cheese combination.  Contrary to popular belief, I don’t hate all vegetables but the ones most commonly scattered on a pizza like green peppers, onions, mushrooms and olives are near the bottom of my veggie list so I stick to the meat and cheese.  So there you have it.  My thoughts on frozen pizza.  I think I’m going to go eat one (or two) now.

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Television

Posted by jrswift on August 18, 2008

I used to really like television but I’m not so sure anymore.  I don’t watch a lot of it but it is usually on in the background when I’m home in the evening.  I don’t have cable (and, based on what I’ve seen recently, I’m not missing much) so I end up watching a lot of weird things.  I’ve expressed my obsession with cooking shows but I watch other bizarre things and I sometimes wonder if I’m the only one who is in the viewing audience.  Reruns of King of Queens, Family Guy, Two and a Half Men and Unhappily Ever After are the normal things.  The weird things are the strange little shows on PBS and Ion TV.  They have a couple of shows on there that are just odd.  Girls Gone Fishing which is basically a couple of pretty cute girls who (ta da) go fishing.  There is absolutely no reason to be watching this.  But I do.  Worse yet is Get Out which features usually three very hot girls in bikinis who have adventures doing crazy wild things like sky dive and feed monkeys.  And I watch it.  And you think you’ve got problems.  Oh well…I’m going to go watch some TV now.

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Sunday thoughts

Posted by jrswift on August 17, 2008

So, yeah, today was a lot like I expected and I got to meet exactly the sort of people I had hoped I wouldn’t.  That being said, I actually got a lot done and it was a pretty productive day and one less day I have to work this week.

So I’ve actually been watching the Olympics this year (and I guess I’m not the only one) and I haven’t really watched them much at all the last few times around.  Maybe it is just that there are more compelling storylines but I’m not sure.  I have actually caught myself standing and cheering a few times and being genuinely entertained so I guess part of it has simply been that the events have been competitive and fun to watch.  Too often sports aren’t as much fun as they should be.  All the “feel good” stories and exciting performances seem to end in some kind of disgrace or scandal.  Let’s just hope this one doesn’t.  I’m not usually an optimist but I don’t think it will.

So my birthday is less than 3 weeks away and I’ll be 45.  That sounds much older than 44 for some reason and I’m not all that thrilled with it.  And just two days ago, I completed 20 years of service at my job and I’ve thought about that a lot.  Very few people do anything for 20 years anymore and so I guess it is somewhat of an accomplishment.  Oddly enough, those years have seemed to fly by but I suppose that is life.  I can’t honestly say I regret having done what I’ve done but it does make you wonder about the road not taken.  I guess I have taken the “road less travelled” but I don’t really think that makes me better, just different.

So I’ve started every paragraph with “so” and I’ll do the same with this last one.  I am making a concerted effort to blog daily and this posting is a part of that.  I just don’t think I’m a very good blogger.  I always try to say too much or try to be just a little too clever.  And, given other blogs that I read, I try to be far too original.  Most postings seem to just point at something else that someone else has written and then make a smartass remark about it.  Oh well…I yam what I yam.

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