Friday, February 5, 2016

5 Things on a Friday: Heading for New Hampshire

Kind of a long one this week, kids.  Let’s get to it.

Bernie Sanders is right: The Iowa Democratic caucuses were a “virtual tie,” especially after you consider that the results aren’t even actual vote tallies, but state delegate equivalents subject to all kinds of messy rounding rules and potential geographic biases.
The official tally, for now, is Hillary Clinton at 49.9 percent, and Mr. Sanders at 49.6 percent with 97 percent of precincts reporting early Tuesday morning…
[A] tie in Iowa is an acceptable, if not ideal, result for Mrs. Clinton and an ominous one for Mr. Sanders. He failed to win a state tailor made to his strengths.
I don’t think I agree.  It’s true that Sanders doesn’t fare as well with African-American voters as he does with other constituencies, but that’s only part of the story.  The rest is in the states.  Sure, Clinton’s popularity among African-Americans will probably give her an edge in South Carolina.  However, Bernie’s going to win New Hampshire by at least as large a margin as Clinton wins SC, and he may well win Nevada, leaving the race very much up-in-the-air at the end of the month.  At the very least, he has absolutely torpedoed the idea that Clinton is the inevitable nominee, and he may have proven that he has potential appeal across a broad spectrum of Americans in the nation’s heartland.  That’s not nothing.
Reality is that very few voters actually like Secretary Clinton.  She appeals to certain voting blocks on some few issue-based grounds, but if she was actually likeable, Sanders’s campaign would never had gotten off the ground.  Folks have been afraid to vote for a self-described Socialist, but the more he actually wins, the more folks are going to realize that he could win, and that itself is definitely a self-reinforcing cycle.
Sanders could win the Democratic nomination.  At the end of the day, that’s all he needed to prove in Iowa.
Mr. Cruz’s victory validated his campaign’s internal predictions. Mr. Rubio outperformed his poll numbers and heads into New Hampshire with a potential bounce. He shrewdly gave his speech before either Mr. Cruz or Mr. Trump, and offered essentially a version of the “comeback kid” speech from Bill Clinton’s second-place finish in New Hampshire in 1992.
Mr. Cruz emerges as the strong favorite for anti-establishment voters and conservatives. Mr. Rubio potentially overtakes Mr. Trump and becomes the establishment’s best chance to stop Mr. Cruz, who now heads into New Hampshire having defied late predictions that he would lose in Iowa. But Mr. Trump’s deeply negative attacks on Mr. Cruz, raising questions about his citizenship, appear to have backfired.
I’ve read this elsewhere, so I’m just parroting it now: Trump’s loss to Cruz is no big deal because Iowa is typically such a religiously-minded state.  The state went for Huckabee and Santorum the last two times out, and neither won the nomination, though both were clearly the candidates of the GOP’s evangelical wing.  This is not a problem.  New Hampshire is next, followed by Nevada, and the straight Christian vote won’t count for nearly so much in either case.  Save for the pre-vote polling predictions, Trump’s second place finish is actually very impressive.
But.  Trump finished just a hair ahead of Rubio, who also appeals very little to hardcore Christian voters, despite the fact that Trump was way ahead in the polls.  This suggests that Trump’s would-be voters won’t actually vote in the primaries, which is a thing that folks have predicted for quite some time now.  It’s an ominous sign for Trump.  The Party machine is very good at retail politics, and that’s what gets asses into voting booths.  Against that, Trump is trying to marshal what has heretofore been unfocused rage.  By its very nature, this is a difficult element to control.
Someone needs to tell Jeb! that it's time to leave the race.
Courtesty of @7News.
In a saner world, Christie, Bush, and Kasich would all drop out and endorse Rubio ahead of New Hampshire, putting their Party ahead of Trump’s demagoguery in an effort to secure the nomination for the one guy who could actually win the General Election for their party.  Bush in particular should do this ASAP because he was Rubio’s original mentor in politics; the two men have been allies for decades.  His decision to soldier on in the face of his campaign’s disastrous performance thus far is one of the least-reputable things I’ve ever seen in American politics.  Bush the Elder was a party-first guy to the bitter end, but Bush III looks to be in it for himself first and foremost.  That’s disgraceful.
Christie and Kasich are both probably still hoping to do well in New Hampshire, reignite their campaigns, and push forward to a perhaps-brokered convention.  That’s fine as long as the loser(s) realize when it’s time to call it a day and endorse the guy who can actually win.  Otherwise we’re liable to wind up with a Fascist as the Republican nominee.
In most states, Republican and Democratic primaries unfold on different tracks. But in New Hampshire, the state’s open primary creates a strange tug of war between candidates in opposite parties, as they fight over a shared group of political independents who can vote in either primary.
A Democratic candidate who wins over independents may do more than pick up support in her own campaign. She may also pull away votes from a moderate Republican pursuing the same constituency.
Had Mrs. Clinton won Iowa by a big margin, some of the drama might have left the Democratic contest here, releasing a sliver of centrist and left-of-center independents to vote on the Republican side.
Found this on Twitter and loved it instantly.
Courtesy of @BostonGlobe
So, bottom line, the logic here say that anyone who might’ve voted for Kasich or Christie is probably going to vote on the Democratic side instead.  If true, this bodes extremely ill for the GOP’s chances in November.
Bad debts have been a drag on economic activity ever since the financial crisis of 2008, but in recent months, the threat posed by an overhang of bad loans appears to be rising. China is the biggest source of worry. Some analysts estimate that China’s troubled credit could exceed $5 trillion, a staggering number that is equivalent to half the size of the country’s annual economic output…
But it’s not just China. Wherever governments and central banks unleashed aggressive stimulus policies in recent years, a toxic debt hangover has followed. In the United States, it took many months for mortgage defaults to fall after the most recent housing bust — and energy companies are struggling to pay off the cheap money that they borrowed to pile into the shale boom.
This is the fundamental difference between command and free market economies.  We’re less concerned about some of these bank losses in this country because we let homeowners go into default and foreclosure.  It’s unfortunate from a pure economics standpoint that we didn’t also force the banks to take massive losses, that we bailed them out, but it’s true that the systemic risk was real.  Nevertheless, bailouts like that damage the fabric of the nation’s future.
By contrast, China’s command economy has been trying to artificially grow its way to prosperity for a while now, even when demand has been slack.  This has led to some bad debts.  On top of this there are inefficient state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that have gotten loans to continue operations for what can best be described as political reasons.  And now here we are.
The story is about Carolina Panthers FB Mike Tolbert, but I’m sharing it because:
If you are a recruit who had to "settle" for one of the smaller school[s], your path to the NFL likely will be more difficult than a player who ends up at one of the powerhouses. That's just a fact.
Still: You can get here…
Ugh.  There are no words, just… ugh.
Okay, yes.  Whether you were recruited or not, if you can play, you may have a chance to make it at the professional level.  That’s fine to the extent that it means that guys should fight for their dreams.  But.  This idea that even guys who play at small schools have a realistic shot at the NFL is ludicrous.  
It’s just not true.
Something like 2% of college players ever actually make an NFL roster.  It is therefore a lot more accurate to say that even elite, highly recruited athletes who play for big-time college programs have an at-best marginal chance of ever playing professionally.  Of those, the very vast majority will be out of the League in three years, having made something like the League-minimum on an ad-hoc basis while bouncing from camp to camp as undrafted free agents.  This is true even for most guys who get drafted.
The number of guys who are actually “set for life” after playing a stint in the NFL is vanishingly small.  Sure, there are a few superstars, but if you look, the thing that jumps out first and foremost is that even for successful NFL players, the ones who have prosperous careers are almost always the same guys who prepared for life after the NFL, either through college or while they played professionally.  Guys tend to struggle when they view football as an end to itself.
I mention this because National Signing Day was on Wednesday, and while it appears that West Point did pretty well with its recruiting, there were still a fair number of guys who decommitted from Army at the last minute, mostly for Division I-AA schools, mostly because they were worried about getting playing time.  I’ll be honest and say that I’m not sure what I would have done with my own career as a collegiate swimmer if I’d thought I wasn’t going to travel at Army, but it’s hard to imagine making my sport a higher priority because I didn’t think I could make the travel squad at a service academy.  Maybe I would have tried to swim at one of the smaller Ivies, I don’t know, but I certainly would not have decamped from West Point to swim someplace like Alcorn State.  That’s flat crazy.
Look, if you have the opportunity to play someplace like Florida, Alabama, or Tennessee[1], then I get that you have a decision to make.  Do you want to put your sport first, or do you want to focus on your education?  I get that.  If you’re not at that level, though, I cannot fathom why you would even consider doing anything other than setting yourself up with the best education available.  Sure, the lights are bright, and it’s fun to hear the crowd cheer for you, but dude, there is life after sports.  Lots of it.  Ultimately, you’re gonna spend a lot more time working at an actual career than you do working out in the pool or the weight room or wherever, and it’s best to make life-altering decisions with this in mind.
What’s unfortunate is that places like Alcorn State tout their heroes—for example, iconic Titans’ QB Steve McNair—and tell recruits, “See!  You can come here and still play in the NFL!”  That may be true on a strictly technical basis, but it’s flat-out dishonest as a method of getting kids to choose 1-AA schools over service academies.  Reality is that kids need to be honest with themselves about their prospects and make choices with this in mind.  It’s not easy to do when you’re used to being the best kid on your high school team, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary.  Coaches have an obligation to be honest with their students/recruits, but I’m not sure how often they are.
If you’re wondering, Army appears to have 72 committed football recruits.  It’s worth noting, however, that the Academy cannot announce names until their guys actually show up on R-Day, so that number may yet change.  79 recruits showed up last year, and it was the best recruiting class in a generation.  We’ve now had two good years in a row, though it’s not clear how soon even the best of the new class will be able to make an impact.
Bonus Round:
Yes, without doubt.  From the article:
Though Congress is highly unlikely to ever resume active conscription, the purpose of a nationwide Selective Service registry is to enforce an equal distribution of the burden of war. Since the Vietnam War, when the wealthy and powerful easily avoided the draft, most easy-to-access deferments have been scrapped. If the draft is to have its desired effect—forcing decision-makers in the federal government to personally grapple with the severity of sending combat troops overseas and lessening the disproportionate consequences of war borne by poor communities and communities of color—women must be implicated by its reach. Military officials can debate how and where drafted women will serve according to their merits when and if the unthinkable comes to pass. For now, it’s up to Congress to align one of our country’s last remaining discriminatory laws with today’s military reality.
There is also the issue that this country is fatter than Hell, that something like 30% of American teenagers are actually fit enough for military service, and that this fitness is in no way relegated to the male half of the population, most of whom are far too busy playing video games to get off their fat asses and actually accomplish anything with their lives.  With this in mind, there is really no choice but to conscript women, hopefully healthy ones who can actually make a difference through their service.  
I am not personally in favor of forcing women into the Combat Arms—though I know several male Field Grade officers who are—but as has been true since at least 1941, there are plenty of jobs that even average women can do in every branch of the military, though they universally require at least nominal healthy, fitness, and overall “deployability”.
That’s all I’ve got.  Enjoy the game.

[1] Full disclosure: I was recruited by the service academies and several Ivies as a swimmer. Tennessee recruited me on the basis of academics and family legacy, but I’d have had to try to walk-on to the swim team. Being honest, my odds of actually making the team were at best 50/50.

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