Friday, June 29, 2007

Hillary Update; My Take On Bloomberg

I'll be honest. I started out liking Hillary in large part because she is Bill Clinton's wife, and the "Two For One Deal" logic worked for me.

But as I see her in debates and news coverage of her positions, I like what I hear (so far at least.) She listens to the questions and gives thoughtful answers with a good mix of overview and detail, and that are not motherhood and apple pie generalities. The matters on which she prefers to be silent (Imus, Scooter Libby pardon) are ones where she's resisting playing to the gallery which goes to her credit. So I don't find MSNBC's labeling her an "artful dodger" as fair when she chose to avoid scoring cheap political points by playing to the influential Democrat left. I hope she maintains enough of a lead to be not forced to pander.

Talking of leads the latest democrat nomination polls shows her widening it a bit. Even the latest one by the tricky Fox News for June 26-27 shows Hillary:Obama:Edwards at 42:19:10 up from 36:23:12 on June 6-7. This is with Gore running, and without Gore the Hillary:Obama: Edwards numbers are 47:21:13 on June 26-27, versus 41:26:15 on June 6-7.

The general election polls also show Hillary now leading all the Republican contenders, though some leads are very slender and within the margin of error.

There has been some speculation in the comments following my earlier post of June 15th about how Michael Bloomberg as a third party candidate can change the dynamics. I went out on a limb there to give him under 1 in 50 odds of making President, and under 1 in 5 of spoiling it for the Democrat nominee. If anything, I think he'll help Hillary by splitting the votes of the centrists who (irrationally) hate her. Anyone think differently?

If I were Bloomberg, I'd jump into the fray only if both Giuliani AND Hillary did not secure their respective party nominations. That's because with a farther left Democrat and a farther right Republican squaring off, a centrist like Bloomberg would become more appealing to the mainstream. As I've said I think well of Bloomberg and can see myself supporting him in that eventuality, or even in preference to Giuliani. Just so long as polls show that Bloomberg voters are not throwing away their vote like those Naderites or Perotists of old.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Sheena's Mexico Trip And Pictures

Our elder daughter Sheena has always been rather adventurous and fearless, and has some unusual interests.

For example she was very interested in chess while in school and at college, and became quite profficient at it and its bastardized American variant, bug-house. She'd organize or attend all sorts of chess and bug-house tournaments where nerdy boys were the overwhelming majority of participants.

When we were in Las Vegas 10 years ago, to my consternation she wanted to do bungee jumping off a rickety looking steel platform way up in the air. They dropped you from a height equivalent to an 18-storey building down to within 6 ft off the ground. I had to really strive to overcome my fear of heights to check out everything and bungee jump before she did. I was secretly petrified before my first jump, but she chuckled and giggled her way through the whole experience.

But Sheena's favorite game for the past few years has been ultimate frisbee. Though she plays it for fun, she's become quite good at it, and has been outside of the US six times to play in tournaments (twice to Europe, three times to Mexico and once to Canada), aside from inumerable outings within the US. The last time she went on the Memorial Day weekend three weeks ago to San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Her team won the first prize (though I'm sure she'd have enjoyed it immensely even if they came last.)

She sent me the link to the pictures in this tournament. She's included all pictures of hers including those with formidable expressions (beating those when she's arguing with me. :-) ) So you can glimpse the competitive spirit that sometimes lurks beneath that innocently smiling face. She's the one in the last picture in the red tee shirt, beating the other girl to the frisbee.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hillary Rising - For Now

Hillary has widened her lead over Obama 39%-25% in the latest NBC/WSJ poll compared to 36%-31% in April. Or a more modest rise to 39%-19% according to American Research Group as compared to 39%-22% last month.

As significantly, she's also beating Republican hopefuls in polls, leading Giuliani 48%-43% after trailing him 42%-47% a couple of months ago.

A lot can of course change between now and 2008. Hillary may go back down, or on the other hand be able to further soften the hostility of the anti-Hillary crowd and win more support.

She's managed to stay pretty much on a centrist message except for her May 25 senate vote against Iraq War funding (like Obama) to appease the left, where it may have been political suicide to vote otherwise. That was a symbolic vote anyway since funding was approved 80-14.

I was intrigued when Paul Krugman mentioned in the middle of his column in the NY Times that she had received large contributions from the drug and the health insurance industry. Is she going to sell out on the vital issues of (a) government negotiating drug prices, and (b) universal coverage? But all indications presently are that she's firmly committed to both.

Let's see how it all plays out. Anyone care to predict how things will stand in say, Sept-Oct '07 so we can compare notes at that time? It's risky business, but I'll venture she'll widen her lead very slightly among Democrats for the primaries race and tip over 50% in the general elections polls keeping the same 6% margin as more of the "unsure" people make up their minds.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

In Defense Of Paris Hilton

The vast majority of the vociferous minority demanded that Paris Hilton serve her full jail time "like the rest of us would" for driving on a suspended licence and a public-pandering judge obliged them in this Paris Hilton saga.

The "vociferous minority" I'm talking about are the self-righteous indignants on the left and the right. They're the type who demanded Don Imus's head despite his apologies over his "nappy headed ho's" comment, or made those furious calls to the FCC about Janet Jackson baring her breast at the '04 Superbowl. They demand their pound of flesh and condemn any leniency in jail time or special treatment for Paris because she's a celebrity.

Here's why I disagree with them:
  • Celebrities may give more to the community, so factoring this in during sentencing for minor offenses can be justified. Even Paris with her lavish and vacuous lifestyle provides us with news and entertainment. (Not to mention her widely circulated '03 sex tape that's the first thing I associate with her. I haven't seen it but it couldn't be bad.)
  • Being a celebrity comes with it's own problems, like lack of privacy, chases by the paparazzi, getting accosted by obnoxious fans or publicity seekers, etc. So why grudge them a little consideration (again for minor offenses) that makes up for this downside?
  • Jail time IS much harder for celebrities. So a jail stay is a far stiffer punishment for Paris who is used to an ultra luxuriant and protected lifestyle, than for a run of the mill offender where the "inside" is not much worse than the outside.
  • Want to make sentencing uniform for all in minor cases? Then how about something like a 45 day jail term or $2 million in fines. Then ordinary offenders go to prison while rich celebrities pay a hefty sum into the city coffers that benefits the community.
  • Paris' licence should arguably not have been suspended in the first place. Her blood alcohol level in that earlier incident was at 0.08 which is exactly at the new threshold, down from the 0.10 of a few years ago. I think most people would have contested this borderline result but she didn't because the trial have been too much bother. So in a way this is a case of reverse discrimination.

By the way, Rubina and her friends were wondering why people like Mel Gibson or Paris get caught driving drunk when they can easily afford to be chauffered around.

The recent music video about Paris in jail is quite funny. Shouldn't she get time off for providing all this entertainment? If she doesn't, she'll likely get off on June 26th after serving 23 days.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Rubina's First AP Story

How many of you know that the first capital of the US was Philadelphia and that George Washington operated from there as the first President? It may have been in my sub-conscious somewhere but I'd have flunked an open-ended quiz show question on this.

No more. Just last Friday I dropped off Rubina in Philadelphia for her summer assignment with AP (Associated Press) and she started work four days back on Monday.

So we were pleasantly surprised to learn that her first story while at AP about slaves owned by George Washington has already been published nationally:,1,6593195.story?coll=sns-ap-nation-headlines,,-6692506,00.html

The story has been published in papers in Australia and China as well. Typing her name (Rubina Madan) in Google News gets the full list.

We're proud of her. At this time I don't even mind that she thinks well of Obama. :-)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Betrayed By My Daughter

Rubina just laughed at the pain and anguish she caused me.

It began last July when she was home and about to go to Columbia University. I found that our US Senator from Connecticut (CT), Joe Lieberman was trailing 45% to 55% in the Democrat primary polls, behind a Ned Lamont whom I'd never even heard of.

Rubina and I both liked and respected Lieberman as did much of CT, and Rubina as a college undergrad had been in touch with him. He had national stature, been Al Gore's running mate as VP in the 2000 Presidential election, and was briefly Democrat Presidential candidate for 2004.

But he had supported the Iraq War and as a Democrat had often reached across the aisle and worked with Republicans and George Bush. So the liberal Democrats were out to get him.

Many Democrats had been wrong about the war so I didn't think Lieberman should be ousted for that reason. Plus, I had rather liked his ability to shed partisanship and work with Republicans on several issues. CT is a small state and for the first time I felt our vote mattered.

"Lieberman needs our help" I told Rubina, "so let's register to vote." She nodded and we went together to Danbury City Hall for the purpose. I switched from Independent to Democrat (the only way I could vote in the Democrat primaries) and Rubina registered as a Democrat. "At least two more votes for Lieberman" I thought with some satisfaction as we left.

You can guess what happened next. That night Rubina said she liked some things about Lamont and wasn't so enthusiastic about Lieberman. To my increasing mortification over the next few days she switched to Lamont despite my admonitions and arguments. Why don't children listen to their parents? We went to the Democrat primaries voting together on August 8 to neutralize each other's Lieberman - Lamont votes, with her laughing at my reproachful looks on our way in.

Lieberman lost those primaries 48%-52%, but won the general elections in November as an "Independent Democrat" with sizable Republican support. That time I helped Rubina process her postal ballot since she had gone to Columbia. Like digging my own grave I said in my email and she responded with "ha ha."

And now it is Hillary versus Obama. Rubina told me last week that two of her friends were Obama state campaign coordinators, one for Illinois and the other for Georgia. We argued semi-seriously after I looked heavenwards and said "what's wrong with them?" This time I'm not sure if Rubina's all for Obama or merely defending her friends.

I don't think Obama is that bad, but he is likely to force Hillary more to the left during the Primaries so that she is weakened for the general election. Much like that Howard Dean created trouble for Kerry & Co. in 2004. If Obama were to actually win, I'd probably prefer Giuliani though I've reservations about him.

But whether it's sour grapes or not I'm now beginning to think that Obama in the race is not that bad. That's because John Edwards is now firmly to the left, so Obama and Edwards may divide the anti-Hillary votes that can work to her advantage. She will still have to deal with all the anti-Hillary sentiments in the general elections, but enough people may change their perceptions in time to understand her and start liking the poor dear...