Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Meet The Candidates

Yesterday, I noted that Ron Paul could conceivably cobble together a win against Obama, and I've thought a little more about the situation. Perhaps it would be constructive to look at how each of the candidates could win this November:

First, let's look at Barack Obama, since by necessity he is the defender--it's his election to lose. He has the advantage of the incumbency and an improving economy, as well as a reasonably strong and well-run campaign organization. His drawbacks, however, are many, and a lot of the attack commercials write themselves--for example, whatever you think of the merits of the health care plan, the way it was done was not only sloppy and heavy-handed but actively destructive to the political process.

So what does Obama have to do to win? A look at the electoral map will give us some ideas. We can use the 2004 map as the "standard," as it seems to most accurately reflect the current Red State/Blue State divide. Obama can't count on a lot of the "cushion" states he bagged in 2008: he's not going to win Indiana or North Carolina, for example, and states like Virginia, Nevada, and New Mexico are probably going to bounce back to Red regardless of what Obama does. My hunch is that Ohio and Florida are also going to be tough wins for the President; both states have been hit the hardest during this economic downturn, and even if the economy as a whole improves they are in pretty bad shape. Unless he can convert nearly all of these states, he'll have to fight for small states like Colorado, New Hampshire and Iowa, none of which are sure things (all were won with less than 10% last time).

On the plus side, there are very few Blue states that look likely to flip over to Red. If Romney is the candidate, Massachusetts and Michigan are possibly shakier than usual (Romney's father was once governor of Michigan), but if Obama is losing Massachusetts the election is already over. There are always some perennial "maybe they'll switch this time" states, like New Jersey or Pennsylvania, but they never do. A strategic VP selection might make this more viable (cough, Chris Christie, cough), but at most one or two of these could flip.

In reality, it's going to come down to the economy. If signs of life even trend to the positive, Obama can simply stay the course, lay low, and eke out a victory. He'll have to make a tough sell in Ohio and Florida, but if he can keep those under his column he's probably going to win the election. 

So, what about the other GOP candidates?

Mitt Romney: If he can deflect accusations about his time at Bain and fend off stories like the time he strapped his dog to the roof of his car, he is a very credible candidate to win.  Besides being painted as an ultra-rich robot more concerned with maintaining the integrity of the free market than poor people, he has few negatives that weren't already burned off during his run in 2008. (Being Mormon won't hurt. Evangelicals too narrow minded to vote for a Mormon are even more incensed about Obama. They won't be staying home.) As mentioned above, a strategic VP selection can help immensely. Christie could help push New Jersey and (possibly) Pennsylvania closer to his column. Marco Rubio could shore up Florida--already shaky for Obama--and probably help keep Southwestern and Western states (such as Colorado and New Mexico) on the Red side. Bobby Jindal could also be a solid pick, but the people who like him are either already voting for the GOP, or are in deep Blue areas. Chances are he will pick someone safe but conservative, since many Republicans were burned by the stunt pick of Sarah Palin last time. Both Rubio and Christie fit this description.

Newt Gingrich: I can't envisioning a scenario where Gingrich wins the general election. His personality is just too abrasive to appeal to the masses, so he would have to cherry-pick his interest groups and organizations and hope that this awkward and evil combination grabs enough swing states. He is a pretty solid policy wonk, so if he survives the nomination battle and starts churning out fire-proof policy proposals, he could convince enough people that even though he likes poking his pecker in anything that moves, he has a better grasp of policy than our current president. But I doubt it. (Also, he would make a lousy president.) He would easily steal all the Southern states Obama won last election, and possibly some of the disgruntled Midwestern and Western states, but New England, the Pacific, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Great Lakes would avoid him like the plague. His only true hope in winning is that people dislike Obama enough not to stay home in disgust.

Rick Santorum: Has even less of a chance of winning. If he gets the nomination, he'll only win the Southern states, if that. As I mentioned yesterday, he has come out against birth control, which as far as I know hasn't been a political issue for about a century and a score.

Ron Paul: Paul is the most interesting candidate. While he is a Republican, he's run on the Libertarian slate in the past, and still holds plenty of libertarian views. The good news is that some of these are outside of the GOP norm, such as his pro-privacy and anti-war stances, and thus has a pretty good shot at appealing to more moderate voters; he could truly be seen as "not just another Bible-thumping kneejerk Republican." Even so, many of his positions (on, say, abortion) fit the conservative mold quite nicely, and if Paul can emphasize these positions to the right audiences he can maximize this message effectively. Unfortunately, his views can also be easily mocked and set up for destruction; his unrealistic hatred for dismantling the Federal Reserve will never happen, for example, and his dismantling of cabinet positions could be an easy target.

How would he win electorally? He could rather easily snag all the sympathetic Western states and probably the South--they may hate Paul, but they hate Obama more--plus, he has a shot at the more libertarian New England states (notably New Hampshire) and even the Pacific Northwest. Paul represents the sort of Republican that voters in Pennsylvania, Seattle, Michigan, or Wisconsin suburbs could vote for and still feel good about it; the question is whether these voters legitimately don't want Obama back in office. If Paul wins, it would be less about Paul and more about the voters not liking Obama and not being forced to vote for a Neanderthalic candidate on the Republican side. One other drawback is that he would never select a conservative vice president and would only pick someone very close to himself ideologically, so his VP pick would be effectively wasted. Also, he has some racist issues from his past and his age to deal with, but these are things other candidates have successfully deflected. It's unlikely Paul will win the nomination, and unlikely he would win the general, but of the three candidates besides Romney, he is in the best position.  

The Podcast Dilemma

I've always wanted to have a podcast. I think it would be fun and I think I would be good at it. The problem? I have absolutely no idea what I would do it about.

There's really only one legitimate hobby I could maintain a steady podcast about, and that's board games--the problem being, of course, that there are approximately 1000 board game podcasts already being done on a weekly basis, and each of them play board games more often than me. I have other hobbies, of course, but none so fascinating that I could keep up more than one or two episodes.

I thought about having some sort of umbrella-type show about, say, "geek" culture (where I could lump board games, geocaching, britcoms, books, and all the other sort of things my wife and I enjoy), but, again, by making it too broad you lose a lot of depth to make the show interesting. I also thought about keeping it with the theme of this blog--crankiness, of course--so I get to ponitifcate about how everything and everybody in this world is wrong except me. I actually think I could pull this off, but I also know (much like this blog) it would veer waaaay too often into politics, where I would actually have more fun complaining about the packaging they use for new silverware or how there are too many damn commercials during football games. But somehow I would steer it to the vast benefits of the negative income tax, and everyone (myself included) would be bored.

My master plan has always been to host trivia show. Each week, I would have three panelists who would answer trivia questions. Of course, the real purpose would be to give the panelists an opportunity to be witty and crack jokes, so while triviaphiles would have fun, it would also be a legitimately funny show as well. Why haven't I done this? Because I found out that it is very, very, very difficult to write trivia questions. It's not as easy as just plucking some questions out of thin air; they have to be questions that have answers that would lend themselves to good "joke" answers, or at least some humorous discussion. I tried to write even one show's worth and I could barely do it, let alone a series of podcasts. So, alas, it is not to be.

Perhaps someday I will find a subject matter that 1) I would enjoy talking about each week, and 2) other people would actually want to hear. So I submit to my few readers: any ideas?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hit Somebody!

1. The Pittsburgh Penguins have won six games in a row--after losing six games in a row. Hockey is a volatile sport to begin with--last year's champion can easily be this year's basement-dweller--and so it is with the Pens. Of course, they are suffering from a rash of high-profile injuries, not the least of which is star Sidney Crosby, who has seen about three games on the ice in a year. It's possible that the team could easily collapse with only one or two more major injuries, but so far they've been a highly disciplined team capitalizing in spite of their issues.

2. I have made the mistake of visiting Reddit lately--one of those web sites, like Digg and Spotify, that I hear a lot about but never go to. It's a fascinating site which appears to be populated by the largest collection of intelligent assholes this side of the Ivy League.

3. I have started to grow a beard. Rather than feeling the might strength of Samson, I just feel like a well-fed hobo. But it is coming in reasonably nice, after about three weeks of wanting to take sandpaper to my cheeks. Also: I have no idea how to care for a beard, so hopefully I won't be watching too many misleading YouTube videos.

4. It is probably wrong to point this out, but both Newt and Callista Gingrich look like cartoon versions of what someone thinks they look like.

5. I watched Gosford Park over the weekend. It's a good movie, although the fact that it is sort of an old-school murder-mystery while not really being one makes it seem a little unfocused to me--it seems more like a straight-up servant vs. gentry movie with a formulaic mystery tacked on. That said, I'm fascinated by the technical details--none of the actors playing servants wear makeup, each actor had their own microphone to catch all of the overlapping conversation, and every shot has a camera moving at all times, even if ever so slightly. Fans should read up, and those who haven't seen this movie should. 

6. Dexter fell asleep on my feet over the weekend. That's one of those things they teach you in Wiener Dog 101, so I'm glad he finally got around to it.

7. The Office really isn't funny anymore. But I'm so familiar with the characters I still love watching that show. Hopefully it will find the comedy again, but who knows. On a related note: even though I rarely watch either Community or Parks and Recreation, I will be sad if either gets cancelled. I've seen episodes from both and I do like them (Community is hit or miss), but I can't get into the habit of watching them on a regular basis.

8. Also related: Mad Men is coming back reasonably soon (end of March). My wife and I have been watching all of the old episodes again, and it's like watching something new all over again. Some of the Don Draper Female-Type Escapade storylines get a little old and drag on, but some of the plot lines (as well as the historical flavor) are some of the most riveting and interesting things I've seen on television in a long time. If you haven't started watching it yet, it's fascinating--and also available on Netflix Streaming.

9. I have noticed that, increasingly, people are presenting me (via, say, casual conversation, or Twitter, or Facebook) with "facts" that I have known--and assumed everyone has known--since childhood. Like that Walt Disney was a fascist sympathizer, or that Matt Groening had a comic strip before the Simpsons. This either means that 1) I learned too much random shit while growing up, or 2) I'm old, and I'm watching a new generation learn that stuff like I did. Either way, I will BEAT YOUR ASS at Trivial Pursuit.

10. For those who haven't seen me talk endlessly about it already:

How on earth this isn't Canada's national anthem, I'll never know.

Bain in the Ass

Newt Gingrich's recent primary win in South Carolina is (hopefully) a temporary blip in the continual progress of the universe. It's not exactly revolutionary to declare that if the Republicans want to defeat Barack Obama, Romney is the only viable choice. Any other choice--namely Santorum and Gingrich--is effectively re-electing Obama, since I don't think America will actively vote for someone who has specifically called for the prohibition of birth control (as Santorum has), or someone who has had such an ugly psychological personal life as Gingrich (the dead-horse character issue aside, it's a particularly messy situation). Ron Paul could conceivably cobble together a victory if he is smart about it, but there are a lot of unpopular skeletons in his closet that I don't think will be overcome by his more moderate-loving positions on military conflict and social issues.

I don't have any problems with Romney, although I think he will be a bland President who takes no risks and, therefore, gets nothing of note accomplished (which, I would like to add, is not necessarily a bad thing for a President). That said, the attacks on Bain Capital--where he is accused of laying off masses of workers for the benefit of his extraordinarily wealthy company--is disingenuous at best and downright wrong at worst.  The entire nature of his company is (more or less) to find companies that are undervalued, make them valuable, and then sell it for a profit. Normally, a company is a target because they are being mismanaged. It isn't too far-fetched to imagine that many of these companies would be laying off workers anyway--so to lay the blame of mass layoffs to Bain is wrong. And, long term, these transactions tend to make the company viable again--which, of course, means more employment in the future.

Does this happen 100% of the time? Of course not; there are already anecdotal examples of businesses that failed after Bain stuck their nose in. And they'd be right--in as many transactions as Bain has gotten into, there are bound to be some that failed. Again, it's important to remember that these are business that most likely would have failed anyway. Studies have shown that the net effect of these types of transactions is zero jobs lost or gained--but in most cases the end result has a healthier company, so future growth is likely. So from an economic standpoint the companies aren't any worse off, and if anything are in better shape.

Politically, of course, it's a different matter. It's just unseemly for a candidate to stand up and say, "Hey, I know I just laid off a bunch of hard workers and young mothers, but six years from now it will create 1.22 jobs for every job we just slashed." Economically, it's a good call, but it's political cyanide. This is the challenge that Mitt Romney faces.

It's one of the most difficult things about defending the free market--the long-term things that tend to benefit the economy as a whole have very visible drawbacks (failing companies, starving unemployed) and very hidden (but much greater) benefits (years-long multiplier effects, broad, percentage-based growth in wealth). At one point, people trusted the system since the outcome could be seen by everyone--withness the explosive growth we've pretty much had every decade since WWII--but capitalists and politicians in the last decade or so have done everything possible to destroy that trust. Whether Romney wins or not depends on how much faith he can help restore in the capitalist system.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Throne

So, after the Great Chair Disaster of 2011, I ended up engaging in a series of quite unfortunate seating arrangements, most of which I had to cycle through depending on whether I wanted to hurt my back or my knees. So, finally, I decided to break the bank and spring for an office chair.

I have had a wide array of luck with office chairs. Some have lasted forever, and those are the ones that I can no longer locate in stores. The last two office chairs I purchased both lasted less than a year, so I ended up shying away from them for a while.

Still, I decided to grab one online, and earlier this month it was delivered.

A cornucopia of delights await thee

There's nothing particularly special about the chair, and I spent a good hour assembling it. However, this chair had one feature that at first glance I consider to be the single greatest innovation of mankind's history: all of the screws were already in place. That's right: there wasn't this obnoxious plastic bag filled with eighty little bits, and a sketchy rice-paper diagram showing you which screw is screw A and which washer goes with washer X4. You already knew what parts went where--it was already done!

My enthusiasm soon waned, however, as it dawned on me--this means that every screw has to be unscrewed first, then screwed back in. Anyone who has ever assembled anything and woken up with quivering forearms knows that this effectively doubled the amount of work. So...there was that. Oops.

Still, the chair ended up being no problem at all. 

Welcome, once and future king

For those interested, this was the Boss B8106 Executive Chair, Black. So far it has served my needs well. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blackout

Today is the day where many web sites are either blacking out or otherwise noting the danger that is SOPA (and PIPA), which I have spoken about before. Wikipedia and Reddit are down, while sites like Amazon and Google have tags on their front page to inform people about the bill.

If you are not sure of the details of these bills that are up for vote before congress, you can go to any of these sites; each presents their own unique take on the issue. It doesn't take more than a few minutes and it's worth it if you love the internets. In a nutshell: any web site can be shut down if there is any copyrighted material. This would include user-uploaded content, and the shutdown would occur with zero due process--it would just happen. And it would shut down the entire domain, not just the page or section with the offending content. While this could affect any web site, it is particularly hard against sites such as YouTube, Facebook, or even eBay which are dependent on the creativity of internet users.

The White House has come out against SOPA, and while PIPA hasn't gotten as much attention, it's being targeted right now. So while it's doubtful that either bill will pass in its current form, there are still a lot of dangerous portions of the bill that need to be excised and addressed. The fear is that even though a lot of major politicians have backed off, there's still enough momentum that it may get passed in a different but still horrid form.

I promise, this is the last post I'll make about SOPA unless it passes. This is my third post in a month about it. While I think it's important, I realize it's overkill. Take this time to do some research on an issue that most people probably find boring and esoteric but in reality will quite literally change the face of the internet as we know it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The IP Crowd

Megan McArdle* has a particularly long post about file-sharing and the entire notion of property rights. It's worth a read, because it does a pretty good job of summing up why all those justifications you have about downloading free shit are still morally wrong. (Her article veers a little bit too much into parallel hypotheticals, but if you can get past that it's worth it.)

While this doesn't directly tie in to SOPA, it's certainly related--since that awful, horrible piece of legislation was crafted to stop this sort of abuse. And, in a way, I think this is a call to action for those opposed to SOPA to come up with a valid alternative--or else convince everyone the status quo (or something close to it) works just fine.

Unfortunately most proponents of file-sharing are absolutists about it, and can't get past the fact that if you download a copy of something, you are still depriving someone of money (or the potential for money) even if they still own a copy of it.  If you grab a copy of, say, Hangover 2, would you ever pay for it? Absolutists would come up with some BS about how they would never have bought it at the price it was being offered for, and if they truly thought it was worth it they would buy it, which everyone who was born on the planet Earth knows is a complete and utter lie. The reality is that the intellectual property holder of the work has the right to sell it at whatever price they wish--and if you don't like the price, you don't get it. There is no constitutional right to get free movies, music, and books.

That said, a case can certainly be made that our IP laws need reformed. I honestly don't know enough about it, but it seems like the young creative generation has somehow managed to come up with ways to work within the existing legal framework (i.e., Creative Commons). Does copyright need to be reigned in by the behemoth Disney? Probably. Should the rules about trademark protection be relaxed so companies don't have to behave like dicks and send cease and desist orders all the time? Sure. But the core of IP law is fundamentally sound, in that since IP can't be treated like a material good, it has to have special rules; and those rules protect the creator while also allowing consumers some freedom to enjoy it.**

The pro-SOPA crowd wants to beat a fly with a sledge hammer, forcing everyone to bascially not be creative at all in the first place lest they get taken down. Likewise, anti-SOPA zealots who consider all IP a form of theft also destroy creativity, since no one would ever be compensated for their work. Simply opposing it can't work; proposing something that protects creators while not using the draconian power of the law is the only realistic outcome.

*I swear, I will stop linking to her articles, eventually, but I haven't found anyone else who 1) write so much in depth about the exact sort of things I'm interested in and 2) does so so frequently.

**Personally, I would like to see some sort of specific IP-led reform, where actual specific works run out of copyright after a reasonably short time--say, 25 or 30 years--while the characters/world/plot of a work is still held by the holder (perhaps at the current rate of death of creator+70). In other words, as an example, Star Wars would have run out of copyright in 2007, but the creators would still retain the rights to the Star Wars characters, world, etc. Anyone could then buy or watch the actual movie Star Wars, but no one could make a new Star Wars movie without the creators' permission. Unfortunately, this would upend a lot of current law, so I don't think it is workable, but it seems the best of both worlds.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pittsburgh Chic

Here in Pittsburgh, there has been plenty of talk about an article in the Washington Post ("Portlandia, your 15 minutes are up. Long live Pittsburgh"). Basically, the writer casts aside the hipster-laden Pacific utopia as the new hotness and replaces it with the Steel City. There are plenty of justifications (read the article; it's short and to the point) and most of them are fairly valid.


The reputation of my fair city is in need of an overhaul. The few glimpses that most of the nation sees of Pittsburgh--namely, Monday Night Football--is still permeated with stock footage of abandoned steel mills. That Pittsburgh died a long time ago.

I can't quite match Pittsburgh up with being the equivalent of a hipster paradise, alas, but that doesn't mean it's not cool. There are a lot of young, vibrant industries popping up, and the streets are littered with plenty of the sort of small commercial establishments that people find charming. Add into the mix plenty of universities (funded by that dirty steel and coal money), lots of art, and a growing base of proud and vocal celebrities and you'll find there's a reason it keeps popping up on those "best places to live/visit" lists.

Some of this is by design, and some of it is by circumstance. Pittsburgh never had a housing bubble, and so haven't really suffered much by way of consequence in that regard. The current recession, while bad for the area, was a little too late--Pittsburgh lost those jobs hurt the most years ago. And a bankruptcy and reorganization was done back in the early parts of the last decade, so the city itself was well-prepared to take on the economic hardships--the hard decisions were made before everyone else was forced to.

While the city shed massive amounts of population over the past decades--and that population is mostly gray and old--it also opened up for a lot of new, young, and creative talent to come to the city. So while Pittsburgh isn't a huge city, it's big enough to handle larger events (such as the G20 Summit or the NHL All-Star game) without falling off the wheels. More and more conventions are popping up around here, taking advantage of the low-ish cost of living and the generally nice personalities of the residents. And while it's not for everyone, Pittsburgh is much like St. Louis in that it represents a little of the North, a little of the South, and a touch of the Midwest, without all the pretentiousness of nasal do-good New Englanders or the libertine Pacific.

Obviously we're not without our problems. Traffic is a nightmare. While we are outgoing and friendly, we're also just a touch closed-minded. The night life can be...eh. The job market's still kind of bland. The local government is a mess--but show me a metropolitan area that isn't. And I know the love feast won't last--in a few years, it will be Memphis or Research Triangle or San Antonio as the Next New Thing. But trust us--we'll enjoy it while we can.

The Plot Thickens

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Caucus Ruckus

With Mitt Romney's extraordinarily slim victory in the Iowa caucuses--the first hands-on-votes contest of the presidential season--the candidate roster has been ignited. I know a lot of people hate the year-long campaign that we endure every four years, but I love me a good primary fight; it pits a large number of varying factions against each other, and it's an all-out battle for the soul of the party. Both Democrats and Republicans have their range of personalities, experience, and slivers of interest; this has been going on since 1789.

[As an aside, I'm going to try and minimize the number of political posts, at least this early. I know most people aren't really interested, since everyone gets blasted with it nearly every day on the news,but I occasionally like to write this sort of thing down even for my own benefit. As we get closer to election day--especially when picking apart the electoral college, a singular fascination of mine--I'll be writing more such posts, but in the meantime I will at least try and keep the noise level down.] [No promises.]

So, here is a reasonably quick armchair analysis of the Republican field so far:

Mitt Romney: It's not all that controversial or insightful to say that he is the likely nominee. Winning in Iowa, the first contest, helped, though his narrow victory shows that he is vulnerable. But as the only viable moderate candidate--and the one most likely to defeat Obama--he should be able to stick it out and gather up enough delegates to win. No, he won't win every primary, and he may even falter in one or two. He'll also have to survive an Anyone But Romney challenge as his competitors drop out and solidify as one alternative candidate. (The fact that a lot of late, delegate-rich, and moderate states, such as New York and California, will most likely go overwhelmingly for Romney means as long as he can tough it out he'll start to get rewards.)  But as long as he gets winning the #1 or #2 slot consistently he will be the eventual nominee.

Rick Santorum: Rick Santorum will be playing the part of Mike Huckabee. Right now everyone is going to freak out about Santorum, but in reality he will fade fast and quickly. He'll barely place in New Hampshire (perhaps a bit better than expected due to his good showing in Iowa) and has a decent shot at South Carolina, but with the target on his back he won't survive. (Can you see anyone outside of a few evangelical pockets that would vote for a man who is actively against birth control?) Liberals will try and paint Santorum as the "true face of the Republican Party," but he will (hopefully) quickly disappear.

Ron Paul: Paul will put in a good showing throughout the primaries. His devoted fan base from 2008, coupled with a slew of newly registered Republicans (who used to be independents) will guarantee he'll show up in a lot of primaries. His quixotic stances on the issues (read: libertarian) will basically guarantee him a slice of each state's voting pie, and he may even accumulate enough delegates to play kingmaker. I'm not sure of his staying power--he'll most likely get crushed in the machine-driven northern industrial states, and plenty of people in the South aren't fans--but he will do much better than expected. As the eventual nominee? Not impossible, but highly unlikely.

Rick Perry: Will drop out soon, I think. For a hugely popular governor of a huge state, he's been doing poorly in the polls and did poorly in Iowa. It's possible he'll keep going, hoping for a good showing in either South Carolina or Nevada, and he has the money and connections to keep things afloat for a while. But unless he has a surprising victory very soon his days are numbered. However, if the race winnows down to a Romney vs. Anyone contest and Anyone becomes Perry, he is probably in the strongest position to win.

Newt Gingrich: A lot of Republicans seem to like Newt, and for a lot of good reasons--he often hits the right notes, he has some innovative ideas, and while he isn't the most charismatic candidate he can get the base fired up. The problem is that GOP voters know he'll make a lousy president, and he's kind of a dick. A lot of people will support him, but when it comes time to actually pull the lever they won't do it for Newt.

Michelle Bachmann: If she can't win Iowa--her birth state and neighboring her current state--she can't win the nomination. She will stay in the race to "represent the interests of the Tea Party" but otherwise is done.

Jon Huntsman: He didn't really contest Iowa, so he placed last (not counting dropped-out Herman Cain and asterisk candidate Buddy Roemer). However, he's currently running third in New Hampshire, so his campaign has some life yet. As the only moderate choice outside of Romney, he is unlikely to go far, but he can play a role as the alternate candidate in case something happens to Romney and voters still want to nominate a moderate in a good position to beat Obama. Unlikely, though--primary GOP voters really don't care for him.

All in all, I can't really envision a scenario where Romney doesn't get the nomination. Sure, the Tea Party is a strong and influential force. The votes are split up enough at the moment that there isn't a clear Romney alternative, but as candidates drop out they will congeal with one strong contender, and then it will be a race. It's just that each of these alternate candidates either have no shot (Bachmann, Hunstman) or have too much baggage (Perry, Gingrich) to last.

That said, primaries are funny things. I would not be in the least bit surprised if Paul won libertarian-friendly New Hampshire, or South Carolina plumped for Perry or Newt, upending the pecking order. But I don't see Romney ever being mortally wounded, and time (as well as money) is on his side. Romney isn't perfect and he has baggage of his own, but he's clearly the best contender to defeat Obama.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Resolutions, Pittsburgh Style

It's never too late to start your New Year's resolutions--although September seems a suspect choice--so it may not be a bad idea to look over some good candidates for improvement. So, Pittsburgh, here are some resolutions worth considering:
  • Stop entering the tunnels like you're acting out a sex ed video produced by the Promise Keepers. It's OK to go in full speed. 
  • If you see a child getting raped, make it your own personal policy to actually tell someone about it. Preferably within a time frame when someone can actually do something about it.
  • Please make sure you broaden your wardrobe, and  stop using your Lambert jersey as business casual.
  • If you resolve to get into a high-profile pissing match--about, say, oh, I don't know, providing health care--please don't buy up huge chunks of commercial radio airtime and play your fantasy arguments out ALL. DAY. LONG.
  • Just because you make it from Mount Washington to Wexford in twenty-five minutes does not make you Batman.
  • If you are the sort of person who says "I wish it were snowing!" in early December, make the effort to not be the person complaining that it's snowing too much in February. 
  • Also: pare your life down to the point where you can somehow, against all odds, survive without fresh milk and bread for, like, 36 hours.
  • Learn ALL of the words to the National Anthem.
  • Be temperate with your passions about football. If the Steelers somehow end a season at 6-10, welcome to how 95% of the league lives each year. It is not the end of the world and it is not Hines Ward's fault.
  • The next time you see Matt Cooke hit someone so that their eyes pop out of their sockets and little cartoon tweetybirds are hovering over his head, say "I hope he doesn't have a concussion" instead of screaming "YEAH OLD TIME HOCKEY BITCH"
  •  Root for the Pirates this year. Just don't be a chump about it.
  • Find new and creative culinary delights that you can make even better by putting french fries on it.