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Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Iowa caucus

Senator Obama has opened an impressive lead in the state wide Iowa polls, and though the Clinton campaign is sinking quickly she has somehow managed to hold onto second place with Mr. Edwards consistently showing up in third, just ahead of Governor Richardson. Don’t believe the hype. Former Senator John Edwards will win the Iowa caucus on Thursday. Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

In order to understand what I’m saying you have to first understand what a caucus is and how it differs from a primary. In a primary the states votes like in any election and the candidates are ranked from first to last by virtue of the number of votes received. In an Iowa Democratic caucus, the candidates are still ranked from first to last, but each county gets one list, and each list is waited equally. Confused? You should be, it’s a stupid system. Let’s look at some mach Results:

New Hampshire primary
1 Sen. Edwards 32%
2 Gov. Richardson 30%
3 Sen. Obama 20%
4 Sen. Biden 10%
5 Sen. Clinton 5%
6 Sen. Dodd 1%
7 Rep. Kucinich 1%
8 Sen. Gravel > 1%

Nevada Primary
1 Gov. Richardson 40%
2 Sen. Edwards 25%
3 Sen. Obama 20%
4 Sen. Biden 10%
5 Sen. Clinton 4%
6 Sen. Dodd 1%
7 Rep. Kucinich 1%
8 Sen. Gravel > 1%

Polk County Iowa (population 408,888)
1 Obama
2 Richardson
3 Edwards
4 Clinton
5 Biden
6 Dodd
7 Kucinich
8 Gravel

Adams Iowa (population 4,482)
1 Edwards
2 Richardson
3 Obama
4 Biden
5 Dodd
6 Clinton
7 Kucinich
8 Gravel

In primaries the rankings are done by percentage of the vote from the whole state, but in the Iowa caucus it is the percentage of the vote with in the county, then all the county scores are added together, regardless of the number of votes cast, or the county’s population. Think of it like this, eight points for finishing first in a county, seven for second and so on. Using the example above it would be a three way tie for first place if Iowa had only two counties.

Why does this matter? because in the small rural counties like Adams, with 1% the population of Polk county, the individual votes count much more. John Edwards is much more popular than his rivals in the smaller more rural counties so he is likely to clean up there where votes count more, as we see sometimes as much as 100:1, this little quirk in the system skews polling done on a statewide, rather than on a county by county basis. In fact if we look at the example above, it would be entirely possible for Obama and Richardson to have staggeringly higher vote totals than Edwards but still come out tied.

Got all that? I hope so, because it gets more complicated. To this point in our discussion the rules for the Democrats and the Republicans are the same. The major difference between the two is the 15% “legitimacy threshold”. In the Republican caucuses the voters vote by secret ballot and the rankings are done from there. For the Democrats the process is much more open, because, if a candidate fails to get 15% of the vote, their county is considered illegitimate and its votes are not counted. In this likely event, the voters discuss and revote until someone is able to break 15%. Supporters of the bottom tier candidates are wooed by the contenders to switch their votes. Since the voters are intimately familiar with all eight candidates, and their peers are not in a position to offer rewards, those changing their votes will instead vote for their “second favorite”. Statewide, John Edwards consistently rates as Iowa’s second favorite, followed by Bill Richardson and Joe Biden, this will give all three candidates a large boost that is not noted in the polls. It should be noted that John Kerry was in 6th place in some polls going into the caucus four years ago, but was the number one second choice.

You know what the bitch of the whole thing is, only about 120,000 people in each party will actually show up and vote. That’s it, and less if it snows. Less than ¼ of million people, less than 1/100th of the population of LA will take the most important step in determining the 2008 contenders. Mitt Romney figures to finish second or third, he’ll be lucky if he is able to get 15,000 votes, even though he has spent in the neighborhood of 30 million dollars, or about $2000 per vote.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Mitchell Report

George Mitchell did baseball a disservice by naming names. The Mitchell Report does nothing to differentiate between players who asked questions about the benefits of PEDs and guys who injected regimented cocktails daily. Even worse by putting out a finite list it suggests to idiots that it is a complete list of every player whoever used, and that anyone not on the list is above reproach. It is what it is, two trainers and one ex player who named off players they sold drugs to because they faced jail time. There is a term for that, what’s it called? You know, someone in trouble names names to save themselves? Oh right a witch hunt. Wait, why do we call it that? Because of what happened in seventeenth century Salem, which we know about because Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible in allegory of McCarthyism, the US has a long history of faux investigations and douche bag investigators like what we’ve have seen from Senator Mitchell. Always disastrous. Always embarrassing when viewed through the lens of history.

Bud Selig is easily the best commissioner baseball has ever had, and likely that pro-sports has ever seen. He took a sub billion dollar entertainment showcase and turned it into a 6+ billion dollar business enterprise and the game is infinitely better for his service. The report he ordered will likely help cement that legacy, as it has largely exonerated him from steroids and it seems to have taken some of the heat off of Barry Bonds, deservingly so in both cases.

Unfortunately the way in which it was done was at the expense of Miguel Tejada, Roger Clemens, Mo Vaughn, and eighty other guys who deserved better. We’re allowing the listed to serve as scapegoats when guys Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Cal Ripken, Derek Jeter, Paul Moliter, Jason Varitek, Ricky Henderson, Brian Rose, Mark McGwire and countless others who are just as culpable.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, Fuck You. Fuck Bud Selig for desecrating the careers of the people who made yours possible, Fuck George Mitchell for your part in this witch hunt and for being such a douche about it. But most of all, Fuck you baseball fans, all of us, all the commentators who decided to make a big deal out of this to get ratings, money and careers, and to all of us armatures out there that ate it up. We caused it. We fueled it. And you know what, we aren't that upset about it, we're just looking for someone to blame, to take the fall for us so we don't feel guilty. PEDs have been great for sports and great for baseball, everyone has benefited and it's time we all got over ourselves and just shut the hell up about it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Systematic Subjugation Masked in Morality

The world’s oldest profession is illegal in 49 of the United States. Despite the legal issues, prostitution is still common throughout America; you can easily find their ads in the yellow pages or even on Craigslist. It’s here, it has always been here, and it is not going anywhere, why not just embrace it? Is a prostitute really all that different from a masseuse, a stripper or a pornographer? It is an awfully slippery slope to allow governmental regulation on the goings on between consenting adults behind closed doors. Maybe this is a weak argument, but how about this:

Prostitutes are frequently beaten and robbed by patrons after their services have been provided, they must then return empty-handed to violent pimps only to receive a serious verbal and physical bashing. When something like this happens, there is no legal recourse for these women who have been cheated, victimized, demeaned, beaten, and they have no insurance to allow for medical treatment from injuries, often as severe as broken bones. With this inescapable abuse, the victims of criminalized prostitution are the prostitutes themselves, and by opposing legalization we are condoning, and even encouraging violence against women.

Surely nobody dreams of becoming a prostitute, nor is it a profession we would wish upon a loved one, but as long as there is a rock bottom there will always be women who fall into this sad life, when they do, they can’t wait to get out, but with pimps and clients constantly ripping them off. They are stuck. With legal protection these women could unionize and receive better pay, getting them back on their feet much faster. They could receive health benefits which would help prevent the spread of STD’s, but most importantly legalization would provide protection from abusive clients and pimps.

In Nevada, brothels operate legally, women seeking employment show up wearing tattered rags and fresh bruises, often having been days without a meal. The average term of employment is under two months, because after finding their feet, they get out, safe, healthy, and ready to put a horrific chapter of their life behind them. The system works.

Sex is a wonderful thing, love is even more beautiful, and paying a stranger for a shallow, emotion and meaningless fuck cheapens real love making. No doubt about it. I do not want to sleep with someone who doesn’t want to be with me, who isn’t willing to kiss me or snuggle with me afterward, so I wouldn’t hire a call girl, and if your sensibilities are anything like mine then you won’t either. Luckily it isn’t mandatory. We might not like the idea of tawdry sex, but I think we all ought to agree that slowing the spread of STD’s, letting people lift themselves out of poverty and preventing violence against women is a worth while tradeoff.

How can we to allow oppressively degrading subjugation? How can we let women with no friends, family or other alternatives be left bleeding, beaten and disease-ridden in the gutter, shunned from society with no where to turn? I don’t know. It’s unimaginably uncontainable, but we do.

Youtube Debate

Seriously, I don’t know how anyone watching the Republican youtube debate could draw the conclusion that the winner was anyone other than Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. He absolutely blew his opponents out of the water. He was so impressive that he has surged ahead in every poll, and most importantly to a lead in the Iowa polls. Barring a massive skeleton discovery or the Ron Paul revolution really coming to fruition he should be able to ride this tidal wave to become the Republican nominee.

It wasn’t just how well he preformed - and he was outstanding - but also how poorly everyone else did. As per usual, Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo had nothing to add but blatant bitter bigotry. John McCain stayed so embarrassingly on script that his responses were often so far off from the questions that he seemed aloof, which is a great way to present yourself to people who already think you’re too old. Ron Paul did well with the questions he was asked, but he didn’t get much time to talk, and the answers his questions required were generally too esoteric to be memorable. That said, the best burn of night came after McCain was explaining how in touch with the active military he is because he had Thanksgiving in Iraq, and that the troops want to stay and fight, to which Paul, the only Republican candidate who has pledged an immediate and complete troop withdrawal, asked the Senator if that were true, why he (Paul) was leading all candidates in donations from active duty military personal.

Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson didn’t bother to open their mouths unless it was to bash each other (Giuliani did sneak in a couple of valid points, but they were lost in the nit picking). Romney actually tried to degrade Giuliani for having served as mayor rather than a higher office, this was such a dumb idea that most people didn’t think it could possibly be what it was, if Romney thinks making this race about experience is a good idea, he has his head unbelievably far up his own ass. Romney is the least politically experienced candidate running in any party. He is a one term governor, and a largely unsuccessful one at that.

The only reason he was able to win that term in the first place is because Democratic opponent Shannon O’Brien was an inept candidate, and the Green party candidate Jill Stein, was so brilliant that she drew a large percentage of the vote, many of whom were siphoned away from the hapless O’Brien. During his term as governor Romney failed to accomplish any of his proposed legislation, reversed himself on a number of positions, cut funding to schools, slashed teacher salaries, oversaw the only state wide population loss in the country, and spent most of his time fighting for constitutionally mandated discrimination. He was so infuriating to the state as a whole that he opted not to seek a second term, as he knew full well that even an idiot like Shannon O’Brien would kick his ass the second time around.

Mitt Romney doesn’t give a damn about anything other than Mitt Romney. He will tell anybody anything to try and cement a foundation, he’ll lie, reverse positions, cheat, throw mud, make stuff up, beg, borrow, steal, whatever it takes. He doesn’t want to be President to change the world, because he thinks he’s right for the job or because he thinks he has good ideas. Instead, he, like Hilary, wants to be President because he thinks it’s a sweet job, because he wants his picture to go up in elementary school classrooms, and because it’s the only thing he can do to be more impressed when he looks in the mirror. He’s a giant tool, an even bigger douche bag and I have no use for people like that. So, Mitt, please, make this a race about experience, keep making racist comments, please continue to become less and less relevant and don’t let the door hit your ass.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Somewhere Out There…

Somewhere in the Middle East right now there is a man being tortured relentlessly and without mercy for information that he does not have and a woman is being beaten because an inch of her ankle was exposed by an unexpected breeze. As you read this, somewhere in Africa a young child is struggling to take her last breaths as she dies of starvation because her government refuses to allow her family food, and a mother has just had her new born baby boy ripped from her arms, thrown violently to the ground and his life stomped out. In the U.S. right now someone is getting into their car too drunk to see straight, planning to drive home, but won’t get there because on the way he will plow over a small child whose brains will be cleaned of the pavement with a hose, while another man is in a backroom buying a two year old girl that will never know any existence other than rape.

People are doing all these things to other human beings as we speak. On our planet. On our watch. Call me a douche bag, but there are worse things a person can do than bet on which dog is going to win a fight.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Really?! Really?!

Is she for real? Hilary is really trying to use something Obama wrote in kindergarten against him. Kindergarten. As in five year olds, milk money and magic circle time. Kindergarten. Really Hilary?! Really?! I honestly thought that political tactics couldn’t get any dumber this season than when Mitt Romney tried to make it a race about experience, but here we go!

In Iowa the other day Barack Obama made a comment about how unlike some people he hasn’t wanted to be President his whole life, pretty innocuous, but a jab at Hilary. Rather than let it slide the Clinton camp fired back by producing a note written by five year old Barack Obama saying that when he grows up he wants to be president. Bam! In your face Barack! What’s that Barrack? I can’t hear you from underneath your web of lies! Somebody in Iowa must think they are really clever to come up with something like this, it shows the opponent as a liar, while giving the impression that Hilary has done her homework, a slam dunk ad all over youtube.

Anyone who actually believes that must have their heads further up their own ass than Mitt Romney. It doesn’t make you look thorough, it makes you look sleazy and slimy, and it begs the question how deep did you dig to do your opposition research? How low are you willing to sink to win this? It doesn’t even burn Obama because every five year old wants to be President.

The best thing to do would have been not to respond, but she is starting to lose, so she has to push back. This is problematic because Hilary is running her campaign with smoke and mirrors, which means that when attacked she can’t fire back with substance, because she doesn’t have any to begin with. As a Senator she steadfastly derelict her duties to New York, showing no interest in doing anything other than padding her résumé, and as first lady she fumbled everything that came her way.

She can’t reject the claim either, because everyone knows it’s true, but what she could have done is embrace it. She could have come out, not addressing it directly, but talked about how she has wanted to be President for a long time, but the deck was always stacked against her, and talk about how she had to work twice as hard to get into a great college and seek scholarships to pay for it, juggled family and career to make it when everyone told her she couldn’t. She could have said that she worked too damn hard to get to where she is to be ridiculed for her life’s ambition. Then after that she could even finished it off with a punch line by telling the crowd that when she was in kindergarten she wanted to be a ballerina and tell the laughing audience “I did want to do something else, once”.