Why Another Blog?

I've decided to set up another blog, (my other one is called Writer's Musings), because there are some topics just too weighty for that blog.

So here it is. In this space I'll explore more serious issues in more detail. I do not expect visitors to agree with me in all cases.
In this forum feel free to take off the gloves, grab a handful of mud and fight for what you believe in.

Simple rules, rather like cage-fighting in the blogosphere:
No direct name calling. No excessive profanity. No whining when smacked in the face with mud.
Sling inuendo. Feel free to ask leading questions even if in a snide tone.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Real Situation In Kabul

On my other blog I frequently comment on the real situation in Kabul, Afghanistan. My comments are typically at odds with what the media is reporting. I’m a professional soldier. Though I’m retired from active duty, I continue to train soldiers, ours and our allies. I’ve been in the war zone in Iraq and here for a good part of the last six years. I’m not the kind who gets nervous in this environment. Those who know that much about me may be inclined to take some of my war zone reporting with a grain block of salt as a result.

The real threats in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan are corruption and good old-fashioned crime, albeit at a high level in both categories. It is crime and corruption (rampant in the police) that are hurting reconstruction efforts. The Taliban and Al Qaeda are not a threat; they are despised and have no popular support. What support they may generate is through fear and intimidation in those areas where security is lacking. Given a choice and guarantee of security, the people reject the Taliban.

The article below was written by a woman who has been living here in Kabul for the last three years with her family. Like me, her take is that the media are reporting from a Kabul in a parallel universe. I post her comments here in their entirety.

The real situation in Kabul
United Press International
12/16/2008
By Marilyn Angelucci, Kabul

Kabul — I have been living in Kabul for the past three years, and the news reports still never cease to amaze me. This week, the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) reported that the Taliban have control of almost 75% of Afghanistan and that they will soon walk through the door of Kabul.

According to my experience living here with my family, I can’t believe that the country they are describing is the same country that I live in. According to reports by NATO, the Afghan government and a great number of our Afghan friends, I hear a different story.

The Taliban are losing any support they may have had in the past. A few months ago, they attacked a bus of Afghans headed for Iran to seek work. The travelers were from Laghman, and the attack happened in southern Afghanistan. The Taliban beheaded most of the travelers, sparing a few of the younger ones. They claimed that those executed were Afghan military.

The local people of Laghman were so angered by the attack that they united against the Taliban. According to the words of one of the survivors, local leaders have declared a “war” against any Taliban in their area. They have stated that if there are any Taliban or Taliban supporters found in their area, they will execute them and burn their homes. This was declared by the leaders of 15 districts in the province of Laghman, an ethnically Pashtun area.

The local people are fed up with the Taliban's tactics. Even those that may have supported the Taliban in the past have become disgusted by the killing and torturing of innocent civilians. They have lost hope that the Taliban can bring about anything better than what the Karzai government can.

It’s true that security is worse than last year, while the Taliban claim that they are responsible for the attacks. But this is not the case. Most of the kidnappings and criminal activities are done by local gangsters that are taking advantage of the corruption of the police and the Ministry of the Interior.

Take the case of Gail Williams, a British national killed last month on the streets of western Kabul. According to news reports, the Taliban were responsible and claimed that her NGO was converting Muslims to Christianity, and that the killing was therefore a warning. The NGO denies this claim.

One local who witnessed the attack said men on a motorcycle first tried to steal Williams' pocketbook and, when she fought off the attack, they shot her first in the legs, then in the head and left her to die. This is not a tactic of the Taliban. This is the work of local criminals taking advantage of the poor policing seen all over Kabul. Some even claim that these criminal acts are the work of the local police themselves, but this has not been proven at this point.

So, corruption is high. Not only are the Taliban losing support, but so is Karzai. People are ready for a new government and are looking for someone who can get a grip on Afghanistan’s security and development issues.

So much has been done toward development by the international community, and this can be seen everywhere. But the leadership is still weak, and this leads to many other concerns. We are all hoping, with the additional troops coming in January and in the summer, that security can improve and the presidential elections can take place as planned.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Comments on the Comments about Mumbai

In the aftermath of the Mumbai massacre, a number of Western pundits, both liberal and conservative, have offered some pretty irrational commentary. Most of them get off the main issue of the specific event and turn their commentary to a general condemnation of Islam and Muslims.

This is a counter-productive and flat wrong-headed approach. Have any of these writers bothered to tally up the Muslim victims of terrorist violence? In the Mumbai attacks, for example, there were also Muslim victims. These murderers, who claim they are killing for God, are no respecters of one’s religion. They gleefully kill anyone. Look at who is primarily dying in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan at the hands of these murderous thugs. It isn’t coalition troops or foreign aid workers; it is the local inhabitants – Muslims – who are dying in the tens of thousands.

Another argument that seems common is to claim that Muslims do not condemn these attacks – that the voice of Muslims is silent. Well, it only seems silent because the West’s ever-vigilant professional journalists are as intellectually lazy as their readers and viewers. Muslims are speaking out. Many have been murdered for doing so. In order to find this out, one must make the effort to read Muslim media. It’s out there.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference, an association of 56 Islamic states, condemned the terror attacks in Mumbai stating that: “…these acts of violence contradict all human values and can be justified by nothing” (emphasis added).

A businessman from Dubai writes:

It is not enough for moderate Muslims to be revolted by the attacks in Mumbai as we have been revolted by the attacks on the New York office towers, Amman wedding, London transport system, Madrid trains, Beslan school, Jerusalem pizzeria, Baghdad markets and numerous other places. It is time to take a serious stand against these perpetrators and reclaim our religion.

Muslims must be more vocal in their sentiments regarding such criminals and Islamic states must counter this behaviour proactively. To borrow from an unpopular phrase, the Islamic states must launch a psychological pre-emptive strike against these terrorists and more importantly those who encourage them. Muslim preachers who fail to condemn terror must either be re-educated or discredited completely, and those who excuse terror using certain conflicts as a pretext must be silenced because the poison that they spread today will come back to haunt us all tomorrow.

Some media outlets can also act as a conduit for the terrorists’ propaganda. The stories of reformed radicals such as Sayed Imam, also known as Dr Fadl, must be highlighted to the ignorant minority. Our message must be clear: “These acts of violence contradict all human values and can be justified by nothing.”


Nothing.

Sultan Al Qassemi


These are just samples of the outpouring of anger and frustration I read in Muslim media. Muslims are not unaware of the hatred and anger their co-religionists are generating with these senseless crimes and they are just as perplexed at how to stop it as we are, even more so given that they ostensibly share the same religion as the murderers.

Then there are those who say the Qur’an tells Muslims to spread their religion by the sword. Nothing can be further from the truth. In fact the Qur’an is full of statements showing that belief in any religion is an individual’s own concern and is a matter between the individual and God. Here are a few.

(2:256) “There is no compulsion in religion.” This is the clearest statement in the Qur’an against spreading religion by the sword.

(76:3) “We have truly shown him the way; he may be thankful or unthankful.”

(18:29) “The Truth is from your Lord; so let him who please believe and let him who please disbelieve.”

6:104) “Clear proofs have indeed come to you from your Lord; so whoever sees, it is for his own good; and whoever is blind, it is to his own harm.”

(17:7) “If you do good, you do good for your own souls. And if you do evil, it is for them.” (for your own souls)

It seems to me that the two predominant views portrayed in Western media about Muslims are either the condemnatory pieces that tar brush all Muslims with the Islamo-facist label, or those that help propagate their insane justifications for murder (Bush’s policies, Israeli policies, grinding poverty). Both are wrong.

The most common shared trait among all these writers is that they have not lived in a Muslim society – certainly not for any significant length of time. I’ve spent the greater part of the last six years living among Muslims in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve known Muslims who I’ve felt confident would lay down their life to protect me, just as I would do for them. I’ve seen Iraqi soldiers weep when their American counterparts were killed or wounded. I’ve seen the anger of Afghans when a foreign aid worker is killed or kidnapped. An unarmed Afghan bystander was killed in Kabul several weeks ago trying to thwart the kidnapping at gun-point of a French aid worker.

The vast majority of Muslims throughout the world are good, civilized human beings with whom we share many, if not most, values. This is, I believe, a fact. Yes, there are differences between Western societies and Islamic societies, but for the most part these differences are no bigger than a line drawn in the sand.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Playing into the Enemy's Hands

Below is an article from the Christian Science Monitor in the aftermath of the suicide attack on the Ministry of Information and Culture in Kabul. My analysis of this article appears below the article. The main point is that this is yet another example of the blissfully ignorant media playing right into the hands of the insurgents.


Insurgents increasingly employing complex attacks in Afghanistan
Thursday's strike on an Afghan ministry was carried out by a team using multiple attack methods.
By Anand Gopal Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the October 31, 2008 edition



Kabul, Afghanistan - A suicide bomber detonated explosives inside a government ministry Thursday, killing at least five and injuring dozens. The attack is the latest in a series this year showing insurgents' ability to penetrate the capital using complicated and daring methods.

"Security in the capital is decreasing day by day," says Ajmal Karimi, analyst with the Center for Peace and Conflict studies, a Kabul-based think tank.

He says that Thursday's attack, which involved multiple insurgents and included small-arms fire, is an example of the sophisticated methods increasingly used.

"With these types of attacks the insurgents are able to make people feel that they cannot trust the government to keep them safe even in the capital," he says.

At least three insurgents entered the Ministry of Information and Culture, located in a busy section of Kabul, Thursday morning. Witnesses say a gunfight broke out between security officials and the guerrillas, followed by a massive blast that destroyed much of the ministry's first floor. According to some reports, two insurgents escaped the scene.

The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying they were targeting foreign advisers. Insurgents may also have hit the ministry because it was one of the least secure.

Kabul is heavily guarded, with thousands of police patrolling, many main arteries closed to traffic, and blast walls surrounding most government buildings. Yet insurgents have staged numerous high-profile attacks.

"In these types of attacks, the insurgents may send one suicide bomber toward the target while another fighter distracts security forces with gunfire," says Mr. Karimi.

While the attack involved a small team, many complex attacks involve greater numbers of fighters and a more diverse combination of attack methods. According to an American intelligence official with the international forces, this year has seen a 6 to 12 percent increase in assaults involving more than 20 insurgents and multiple attack methods.

The blast comes amid talk of negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban. "Our enemies are trying to undermine recent efforts by the government for a peaceful solution to end the violence," President Hamid Karzai said in a statement.
Danna Harman contributed to this report from Kabul.

My comments:

The attack is the latest in a series this year showing insurgents' ability to penetrate the capital using complicated and daring methods.

This statement is never explained or elaborated anywhere in the article. What “complicated” or “daring” methods were used to “penetrate” the capital? Kabul is a big city with over 4 million inhabitants. There is not a solid wall, fence or other barrier that rings the city. The main roads are not the only ways into the city.

"Security in the capital is decreasing day by day," says Ajmal Karimi, analyst with the Center for Peace and Conflict studies, a Kabul-based think tank.

And we have arrived at this conclusion based upon what evidence? By the way it is the Center for Conflict and Peace Studies (CAPS) and Ajmal Karimi strangely does not appear on the staff page as an analyst. He may very well work there, but if he does he is a low-level researcher.

The CAPS website states: “Armed groups in Afghanistan, just as in the Middle East and Pakistan, use the media to propagate their message, solicit both moral and financial support, and provide distant training and exchange of logistical information required to launch successful operations.”

The Christian Science Monitor, just like the main stream media plays right into the insurgents’ hands with uninformed reports like this one.

Kabul is heavily guarded, with thousands of police patrolling, many main arteries closed to traffic, and blast walls surrounding most government buildings.

Thousands of police in a large sprawling city of four million is hardly surprising. The “main arteries” closed to traffic are those in the immediate vicinity of the Presidential Palace, the Ministry of the Interior (National Police Headquarters), and the Ministry of Defense. Hardly surprising given the threat of VBIED’s (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device). In fact if these roads were left open, one would then need to be critical of lax security. It only takes one VBIED in the right place at the right time to create havoc. This isn’t much different from in the US where traffic is no longer allowed around certain government buildings. (Have you tried to drive in front of the White House lately?)

Yet insurgents have staged numerous high-profile attacks.

I’m very curious as to how we have arrived at “numerous” high-profile attacks. Let’s see: January 2008, Hotel Serena; April 2008, Assassination attempt on President Karzai; July 2008, Suicide VBIED attack on the Indian Embassy; October 2008, Suicide BBIED (Body Borne Improvised Explosive Device) at the Ministry of Information and Culture. That’s only four even though the media would have us believe that Kabul is about to fall to the Taliban. So far that works out to one every three months, but it still misses a key point.

What do three of the four have in common? In three of the four cases lax security around what should have been recognized as potential high-profile targets invited the attacks.

In the case of Hotel Serena, not only was security lax in the first place, there was advance warning of an impending attack and no action was taken to tighten security even though on the day of the attack the Norwegian embassy was hosting a reception there.

In the Indian Embassy attack the road that should have been blocked to regular traffic was not. The Indian Embassy is right across the street from the Afghan Ministry of the Interior, which may have actually been the intended target. Given that the road is now blocked except for authorized traffic, a repeat is unlikely.

He says that Thursday's attack (Oct 30), which involved multiple insurgents and included small-arms fire, is an example of the sophisticated methods increasingly used.

Three guys charging a lightly-guarded gate firing AK’s is hardly sophisticated, in fact it is pretty basic.

"With these types of attacks the insurgents are able to make people feel that they cannot trust the government to keep them safe even in the capital," he says.

Clearly that is the goal of this type of attack, whether or not such attacks have achieved this goal is a matter of conjecture. Within hours of this particular attack it was business as usual in this busy market part of town.

Insurgents may also have hit the ministry because it was one of the least secure.

This is the primary reason the insurgents hit this particular ministry. The Ministry is located off a busy market street where hundreds of people are milling all day long. Security here was very lax with virtually no “stand-off” to even slow a potential attacker who simply had to sprint the twenty yards from the gate to the front lobby and detonate.

Again, Kabul is a large, sprawling city with more points of entry than can be properly guarded by even a million police officers and yet there have been only four “high-profile” attacks this year (the year of the greatest number of attacks nation-wide). In at least three of the four attacks there were significant security lapses that contributed to creating conditions conducive to attack.

The enemy exploits perceived weakness. That should be expected. As hardening and awareness reduces opportunity, the enemy looks for new opportunities. That is why one cannot become complacent. We are facing a thinking enemy. It is idiotic to imagine that he will not adjust his tactics and methods to counter our actions. The fact that he does so is not indicative of increased capability on his part or deteriorating security on our part.

While the attack involved a small team, many complex attacks involve greater numbers of fighters and a more diverse combination of attack methods. According to an American intelligence official with the international forces, this year has seen a 6 to 12 percent increase in assaults involving more than 20 insurgents and multiple attack methods.

So what if they fail? As they have in all cases. The fact that a group of attackers uses hand grenades and small arms, makes an attack “complex” by military definitions, but this does not equate to “sophisticated” in the civilian sense of complication.

By the way, total casualties for the year are actually down significantly from last year. So despite the alleged increase in “sophistication” and “complexity” the attacks are less efficient. Higher concentrations of insurgents are not a liability to us because we have them out-gunned. When they choose to mass, they are easier to detect, target and kill.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Is This the Sort of Change You are Looking For?


Obama has nothing to say while his supporters threaten physical violence against those who disagree with his positions, destroy McCain signs on private property, burn Republican offices, and conduct character assassinations on ordinary citizens who have the temerity to disagree with their candidate (Joe the Plumber).

This man who may be sworn to uphold the Constitution is silent on the underhanded stifling of public discourse by his own staff. I can't believe he does not know it is going on. Where John McCain tried to calm people who shouted obscenities about Obama at a rally, Obama is silent when his partisans do the same. (Actually, in the case of "Joe the Plumber", Obama and his running mate gleefully contributed to the character assassination. So no, I would not accept any profession of innocence on Obama's part to his campaign's fascist tactics. But then, what would one expect from a Socialist?)

Below is an example of some of the tactics being employed by the Obama campaign that the mainstream media, fully in bed with the Obama campaign, say nothing about.

The Obama campaign refuses to comment on this incident, claiming it is a Secret Service matter even though it was initiated by their offices. The Secret Service is conducting an "investigation" and does not comment.

Note that no one is denying the incident, they are simply refusing to comment. The mainstream media ignores it. You can bet that if the McCain campaign had done the same thing, this would all over the news.

So read this personal account of a private citizen who dared say what she thought of Obama to one of Obama's campaign volunteers.

On Wednesday the 1st of October I received a call on my cell while in the car with my husband. It was a woman who identified herself as calling from the Obama Campaign. The phone # she called from was 903-798-6020 which lists as "Obama Volunteers of Texarkana" (Texas).

She asked if I was an Obama supporter to which I replied: "No, I don't support him, your guy is a socialist who voted four times in the State Senate to let little babies die in hospital closets; I think you should find something better to do with your time." I hung up.

Thursday, October 2, I answered the front door to find the Secret Service. Immediately I thought of the call and was furious that apparently you are not allowed to call Obama a Socialist without the Secret Service coming to investigate. Instead, they asked me about the following comment, relayed by the Obama Volunteer of Texarkana who called me, unsolicited on my cell phone: "I will never support Obama and he will wind up dead on a hospital floor."

My husband laughed and told them “No, she called him a socialist but she never said a word about him dying.” I gave them my actual quote. The woman asked insolently “Oh? Well why would she make that up?”

I replied that I supposed she wasn’t happy about what I said about her candidate and the Agent said “That’s right, you were rude!” The last time I checked being rude wasn’t a crime in America.

Luckily the big file they had gathered on me didn't indicate mental instability or a past life of stalking/crime, however they did want to know how I felt about Obama.

That was my limit. I told the Agent in no uncertain terms that my thoughts were not pertinent to their investigation, that this was America and the last time I checked I was allowed to think whatever I wanted without being questioned by the Secret Service. In fact, even if I had said what she claimed, that isn't a threat. I told them (again) and my husband verified that the statement reported by Obama's volunteer was a lie. I asked them if there was a tape of the call and they said no.

I said, "So on the word of a ticked off Obama supporter you are on my porch with no other evidence and you want to question me about my THOUGHTS!?"

They informed me that there was no evidence she was an Obama supporter…someone calling from his campaign…are you kidding?

I was not allowed to know the name of my accuser at which point they informed me that it wasn't like I was in a court of law, YET, as if this was a good thing. I recognized this as a veiled threat. I told them I would happily go to court since I did nothing wrong and at least then my accuser would have to face me rather than sending the thought police to my house.

They then said they were trying to do me a favor, that they came to me first before “embarrassing you by going to all your neighbors and family”, another threat?

I told them to be my guest and talk to whomever they wanted but they weren’t going to investigate my thoughts on my porch.

They also informed me that it would be easier if the next time a supporter calls me I just say "Yeah sure count me in, or just hang up" apparently so she won't get her undies in a bundle and give them more useless trips. Yeah right.

I said "Look, someone calls me unsolicited on my cell phone to ask me to support their candidate and I can't tell them why I don't?" I said I was sorry they made a wasted trip but if they had a problem with some made up lie they needed to go talk to her about it because it wasn't my fault they had to drive from Houston for nothing.

At one point I went inside and got a notepad to record their badge numbers and they refused to show me their badges. They had done the quick flip when they arrived. I asked for a card and the female Agent refused to give me one stating “You’re not going to get a card.” The male Agent gave me a card and told me I could contact Houston with any questions.

The fact that the volunteer lied, the fact that the Secret Service came to my house to question me about my thoughts and feelings and threaten to embarrass me to my neighbors and go to court if I didn’t cooperate is not really the tragedy here. Because that girl on the phone doesn’t have the pull to send the Secret Service to my home. Someone high in the ranks of a campaign working for a man who may be the next President of the United States of America felt comfortable bringing the force of the Federal Government to bear on a private citizen on nothing but the word of a partisan volunteer.

I want to file a counter complaint that false charges were made, that a false report was given to a peace officer. The Secret Service told me I cannot because they will protect the identity of the complainant. I also want the file they have on me destroyed and I want to know that my phone isn’t tapped, etcetera. I am hearing a lot of “Out of my Jurisdiction”.

Do I also hear jackboots?

Jessica Hughes
Lufkin, Texas

Note: I have contacted several news organizations, Rep Gohmert, Sen Hutchison, the Atty General, Local Police

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Analyzing an Analysis

In my previous post, blogger “Jim” and I have carried on a discussion about Obama’s birth origins. During that discussion, Jim offered a link to a FactCheck “investigation” and “analysis” of the suspect digital image of Obama’s alleged birth certificate that has been floating around the Internet since first posted on the left-wing blog, “Daily Kos” in June. Jim averred that this “analysis” was convincing. I disagree and offered to explain why. Here is that explanation.

This was one of those FactCheck postings that given the seriousness of the subject, was far too cute and unprofessional. In fact the entire tone, rather than sounding like a dispassionate scholarly refutation, came across as simple partisan gimmickry, this from an organization that claims objectivism. Start with Bruce Springsteen's song title and theme and FactCheck’s analysis goes downhill from there. With that opening, how could we expect a dispassionate analysis of facts?

FactCheck does not even get the chronological sequence of events correct in relationship to how the original questionable digital image wound up being passed around the Internet. To set the record straight, the image first appeared on “Daily Kos” on 12 June 2008, followed by Obama’s “Fight the Smears” website on 13 June. This was then followed by a clearly partisan and unscholarly posting by FactCheck on 16 June, which they reference in their 21 August post and which, like the “Daily Kos” and “Fight the Smears” postings, provoked more questions than it answered.

As FactCheck points out in their attempted damage-control, that original digital image came under immediate fire, as well it should have. Set aside for a moment the utter absurdity of the Obama campaign providing a far left blog with the “hot scoop” of getting to post the certificate first. However much I may disagree with what Obama stands for, or how much I may find things his campaign has done unethical or outright lies, I can’t believe they would be that stupid. I can’t imagine that they would not recognize such a move as sure to trigger a backlash rather than quiet the rumble about Obama’s place of birth. But I may be wrong, as some statements by an Obama staffer quoted below may indicate.

In FactCheck’s second paragraph we find the first major falsehood of their analysis. FactCheck.org staffers have now seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate.

No, they did not, as they themselves admit a little further on in their report. What they touched was a “certification of birth” which is not the same as an original birth certificate. Their own analysis admits as much. Second, what are their forensic qualifications to be passing judgment on any document? Birth record forgeries are among the most common and exceedingly easy to produce documents that would pass muster under all but the most trained eye. Third, what proof do they have that that document was the source of the original image released by “Daily Kos?”

We conclude that it meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship.

Apart from my second point in the previous paragraph, there is the absurdity that naturalization papers also meet all the requirements for the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship. That is not the issue. The issue is proof of natural birth within the United States, which carries a higher standard.

We have posted high-resolution photographs of the document as "supporting documents" to this article.

The fact that the pictures are 1MB and larger does not equal proper digital documentation. Arm shadows, poor angles and lighting in addition to showing isolated segments of what they purport to be the document are all indicators of amateurish detective work by people who do not know the first thing about forensic digital photography.

I had been told that embedded EXIF data showed a March 2008 timestamp, but the images I was able to retrieve had no timestamp in the EXIF file, or any other EXIF data for that matter. If the former, then either the pictures were taken long before the issue came up and not so “recently” as the reporters claim, or it is just another glaring example of amateurism on the part of the FactCheck staff in not properly setting the clock in their digital camera.

If the latter, (the suspect timestamp and other EXIF data have been deliberately removed to inhibit investigation), then it is further proof of their blatant partisanship and an outright lie when they say they have not modified the images in any way. Any modification of a digital photo will alter the EXIF data and in most cases wipe out the timestamp.

While the FactCheck staffers may have spent time with a certificate, it is not necessarily the one from which the original image posted on Daily Kos, FactCheck’s report on 16 June, or still posted on “Fight the Smears” was created.

Given that what was posted created such a stir, a pertinent question would be, “if Obama had the document displayed in FactCheck’s most recent analysis all along, why did it take six weeks to get the “better” images posted?” If Obama had the certificate all along (and presumably still has it), why are better images still not posted on his own “Fight the Smears” site four months after the initial post?

The document is a "certification of birth," also known as a short-form birth certificate. The long form is drawn up by the hospital and includes additional information such as birth weight and parents' hometowns. The short form is printed by the state and draws from a database with fewer details.

Correct. The long form would provide definitive proof of having been born in the US since the hospital would be recorded on the certificate. Hawaii statute also allows a certification of birth for an infant born outside the US, who would then have a document like the one FactCheck examined.

The Hawaii Department of Health's birth record request form does not give the option to request a photocopy of your long-form birth certificate, but their short form has enough information to be acceptable to the State Department.

Irrelevant statement. The State Department has nothing to do with qualifying Presidential candidates. Their statement pertained to data required to obtain a passport.

We tried to ask the Hawaii DOH why they only offer the short form, among other questions, but they have not given a response.

Did they, or did they not ask? What does trying to ask mean? Their lips moved and nothing came out? They failed to apply postage to the envelope and it never got to Hawaii DOH? Did they ask if it was possible to get the long form and who would be allowed to do so? They never say.

Most questions one would need ask are answered on the Hawaii DOH website. Any other questions could be answered by calling the phone number listed on the site between 7:15 AM and 6:00 PM HST. There does not appear to be much due diligence on the part of FactCheck’s staffers.

We asked the Obama campaign about the date stamp and the blacked-out certificate number. The certificate is stamped June 2007, because that's when Hawaii officials produced it for the campaign, which requested that document and "all the records we could get our hands on" according to spokesperson Shauna Daly.

Without a Power of Attorney from Obama, the “campaign” could not have simply requested the document from Hawaii DOH, nor would have Hawaii DOH produced the document without a Power of Attorney as stated in their own statute posted on the Hawaii DOH website. Both parties would most likely retain a copy of the Power of Attorney document as proof of proper transfer of the certification of birth. Again, due diligence and an understanding of basic law would have been appropriate here to lend some credibility to their “investigation.”

The campaign didn't release its copy until 2008, after speculation began to appear on the Internet questioning Obama's citizenship. The campaign then rushed to release the document, and the rush is responsible for the blacked-out certificate number. Says Shauna: "[We] couldn't get someone on the phone in Hawaii to tell us whether the number represented some secret information, and we erred on the side of blacking it out. Since then we've found out it's pretty irrelevant for the outside world." The document we looked at did have a certificate number; it is 151 1961 - 010641.

What was the rush? Why not get it right in the first place? Again, I am highly skeptical of “couldn’t get someone on the phone in Hawaii.” How many times was this attempted? Were they smart enough to recognize the time difference and phone accordingly? Hawaii is not a Third World country with limited telephone access. I rather suspect that if you call during their office hours, you will get someone on the phone.

Secret information in a certificate number? Certificates are usually numbered in such a manner that they are unique. That is their purpose. There isn’t anything secret about it. If people working for a lawyer who wants to be President are this bloody clueless, then we are all in for a comedy of errors should this man get elected. He clearly can’t get smart folks to work for him or worse yet represent his interests to the public.

Now that FactCheck has put the number out there for all to see (two months ago now), why does “Fight the Smears” still have the original “questionable” document with the blacked-out number still displayed? One would like to think that Obama’s campaign would be careful to synchronize their online information with FactCheck’s after their little cooperative certificate photo-op. Clearly they are just as ham-handed as FactCheck.

We also note that so far none of those questioning the authenticity of the document have produced a shred of evidence that the information on it is incorrect.

Again, how clueless can an alleged “investigator” get? The point of a forgery is to look correct. Clearly false and easily refuted information on a forgery nullifies the forgery’s value.

We think our colleagues at PolitiFact.com, who also dug into some of these loopy theories put it pretty well: "It is possible that Obama conspired his way to the precipice of the world’s biggest job, involving a vast network of people and government agencies over decades of lies. Anything’s possible. But step back and look at the overwhelming evidence to the contrary and your sense of what’s reasonable has to take over."

A staffer at DOH by law cannot answer questions about the content of a birth record without the individual’s permission (Obama in this case). None of the DOH staffers allegedly queried by either FactCheck or PolitiFact were queried in person with the actual document in front of them. They were only viewing digital images and they only commented that the image appeared to have all the necessary components. None provided any definitive response on content or that the document was definitely not a forgery. It isn’t that the DOH staffers are part of a conspiracy or trying to hide anything; they simply cannot legally answer the questions in a definitive manner without Obama’s explicit approval.

It does not take a vast network of people or government agencies to produce a forged birth record. People do it every day. All it requires is the right amount of money and contact with the “right” people. Again, this demonstrates not only that FactCheck is pretty amateurish in their investigating or understanding how these things are done, so is Amy Hollyfield at PolitiFact. Speaking of loopy, their referencing each other as “evidence” is sort of an evidentiary loop. If we reference each other’s faulty analysis, that makes it accurate or some such logic.

In fact, the conspiracy would need to be even deeper than our colleagues realized. In late July, a researcher looking to dig up dirt on Obama instead found a birth announcement that had been published in the Honolulu Advertiser on Sunday, Aug. 13, 1961:



The announcement was posted by a pro-Hillary Clinton blogger who grudgingly concluded that Obama "likely" was born Aug. 4, 1961 in Honolulu.

Of course, it's distantly possible that Obama's grandparents may have planted the announcement just in case their grandson needed to prove his U.S. citizenship in order to run for president someday. We suggest that those who choose to go down that path should first equip themselves with a high-quality tinfoil hat. The evidence is clear: Barack Obama was born in the U.S.A.


This birth announcement does not state where the individual was born. The announcement does not state who provided the information to the newspaper. Some newspapers have staffers who peruse official notices at the court house and some court houses provide daily feeds to the press. We cannot draw conclusions about where the information came from simply by looking at the announcement. A real investigation would have at least asked how this particular newspaper got its information for birth announcements, death announcements and weddings back in 1961.

All we know for certain is that it states the fact of birth on a certain date to a specific couple who normally reside at a certain address. Of course at this juncture Obama Sr. did not reside at that address, he was in Kenya (a point not in dispute) with his real wife. It has nothing to do with future plans nor would any deep vast conspiracy be required to post such an announcement. The fact that an alleged and unnamed pro-Hillary “blogger” made the conclusion stated above is also irrelevant to proving anything. Clearly his standard of proof, and that of FactCheck, is pretty low if this birth announcement sways their judgment.

We received responses to some of our questions from the Hawaii Department of Health. They couldn't tell us anything about their security paper, but they did answer another frequently-raised question: why is Obama's father's race listed as "African"?

Frequently asked by whom? What difference would that make? Why would you ask that sort of question of someone who might not even have been alive when Obama was born, let alone have any first-hand knowledge of how the data was originally submitted?

He [Kurt Tsue] also confirmed that the information in the short form birth certificate is sufficient to prove citizenship for "all reasonable purposes."

It is sufficient perhaps except for proving natural birth for the purpose of running for President. Methinks that one is slightly out of the realm of what a truly rational person would call “reasonable” usage.

Were FactCheck’s analysis a bit more professional, I’d expect to see more than the three sources they list. After all, they are purporting to be providing objective analysis that can be replicated. In fact, I’d expect to see a footnote for each quote they’ve included as well as references to appropriate statutes applicable to the issues at hand. As damage-control for their ham-fisted 16 June piece, this analysis is pretty shoddy and ham-fisted in its own right.

I didn’t have any objection to their pointing out the many equally shoddy criticisms and theories that emerged after the original document was put online. There were and are indeed many, but don’t mockingly criticize people who express skepticism of what appears to be a bogus online document. It is exceptionally easy to produce electronic images that portray just about anything and the vast majority of the public viewing them do not have the skills or tools to differentiate between real and fake, even though there are plenty of wannabe forensic specialists out there. There should be no surprise that the original image provoked more questions than it answered.

Of course all this is secondary to the very simple and straightforward solution that Obama himself refuses to take, namely take a copy of his long-form birth certificate, if one exists, to a judge or group of judges. Let them tell the public that “yeah, verily indeed ye have nothing to fear” and the situation would be put to rest with the finality of a stake through a vampire’s heart.

Obama refuses to do this. He’d rather take the route of obfuscating, prevaricating and dissembling rather than confront the accusation head-on (one he helped fuel with his own memoirs). He’d rather present his “evidence” to a bunch of amateur “investigators” who work for a friendly organization and who have not a clue on what to look for, what questions to ask, or how to properly document their pseudo-investigation.

Then again, it is quite possible that this is the only course Obama can take because he really cannot produce the long-form birth certificate since it does not exist. That doubt will always be there until Obama puts it to rest in a forthright manner, if he can. If he can’t, then Obama really ought not be President not for where he may have been born, but because he has lied to the American public and sought the office on false pretense.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Obama Issues the Mainstream Media Ignores or Deliberately Hides

Where was Obama really born? This could be laid to rest very simply, but Obama refuses (or can’t) produce a valid birth certificate proving that he was born in Hawaii. The Obama “Fight the Smears” web site has already admitted that Obama was a Kenyan citizen whose citizenship lapsed in 1982. So, was he born in Kenya or Hawaii? This question is important because the man who will be sworn in as President is sworn to protect and defend the Constitution. How can one do that if one is in violation of said Constitution by falsifying birth records and lying about it? What is there to hide if one has a valid birth certificate?

There is an alleged 1999 incident where Obama received oral sex from Larry Sinclair and smoked crack and snorted cocaine. Larry Sinclair willingly accepted a polygraph to prove that he was telling the truth. However, the organization that ran the test used an “expert” with phony credentials. They never released the results of the second test which was analyzed by a real expert. Sinclair passed the automated polygraph. The organization (Whitehouse.com) is a partisan, pro-Obama organization run by a pornographer. We already know that Obama will not volunteer to submit to a polygraph and he refuses to provide proof of his whereabouts on the date in question. Given that Obama admitted in his books that he once used cocaine and crack, the Sinclair allegation is that much more believable.

It is alleged that Obama has more than casual connections with William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, both former members of the Weatherman Underground. As recently as 2005 Ayers bragged about “getting off” and said they should have blown up more things. Even though Obama and Ayers keep crossing paths (Columbia, University of Chicago Law School, his neighborhood, Obama’s political “coming out party” hosted by Ayers and Dohrn in their house) we are supposed to believe that Obama has no relationship with Ayers. Why is this not worthy of investigation?

Obama’s association with ACORN (Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now) a group with a long record of voter fraud and sometimes violent activism is also suspect, but seldom reported on. This is critical because ACORN is also tied to the recent bailout plan pushed by the Democrats. Obama is benefiting from the mess he and ACORN helped promote.

See this article by the former Secretary of State for Ohio (who happens to be an African-American) for the incriminating connection between Obama and ACORN that the press will not discuss: Ken Blackwell.

Obama’s connections with Frank Davis, a known and avowed member of the Communist Party USA are suspect. In his own book, Obama calls the man his mentor. Should we not be concerned with that kind of relationship and how that would shape Obama’s character? Obama’s mentor is someone who advocated the overthrow of the United States government and we should not question how that affects Obama’s views?

One of the people on Obama’s campaign staff is Jodie Davis, co-founder of Code Pink, whose members attempted to disrupt the Republican National Convention during John McCain’s speech.

Obama is a friend and associate of former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick who pleaded guilty of corruption charges and resigned from office in September 2008. If Obama were a Republican, the media would have swarmed this one looking for any tenuous link.

Then there are the sordid details of Obama and Tony Rezko. Here are eight facts about the Rezko-Obama connection from the Chicago Sun-Times on 24 January 2008.

1. They met in 1990. Obama was a student at Harvard Law School and got an unsolicited job offer from Rezko, then a low-income housing developer in Chicago. Obama turned it down.

2. Obama took a job in 1993 with a small Chicago law firm, Davis Miner Barnhill, that represents developers -- primarily not-for-profit groups -- building low-income housing with government funds.

3. One of the firm's not-for-profit clients -- the Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corp., co-founded by Obama's then-boss Allison Davis -- was partners with Rezko's company in a 1995 deal to convert an abandoned nursing home at 61st and Drexel into low-income apartments. Altogether, Obama spent 32 hours on the project, according to the firm. Only five hours of that came after Rezko and WPIC became partners, the firm says. The rest of the future senator's time was helping WPIC strike the deal with Rezko. Rezko's company, Rezmar Corp., also partnered with the firm's clients in four later deals -- none of which involved Obama, according to the firm. In each deal, Rezmar "made the decisions for the joint venture," says William Miceli, an attorney with the firm.

4. In 1995, Obama began campaigning for a seat in the Illinois Senate. Among his earliest supporters: Rezko. Two Rezko companies donated a total of $2,000. Obama was elected in 1996 -- representing a district that included 11 of Rezko's 30 low-income housing projects.

5. Rezko's low-income housing empire began crumbling in 2001, when his company stopped making mortgage payments on the old nursing home that had been converted into apartments. The state foreclosed on the building -- which was in Obama's Illinois Senate district.

6. In 2003, Obama announced he was running for the U.S. Senate, and Rezko -- a member of his campaign finance committee -- held a lavish fund-raiser June 27, 2003, at his Wilmette mansion.

7. A few months after Obama became a U.S. senator, he and Rezko's wife, Rita, bought adjacent pieces of property from a doctor in Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood -- a deal that has dogged Obama the last two years. The doctor sold the mansion to Obama for $1.65 million -- $300,000 below the asking price. Rezko's wife paid full price -- $625,000 -- for the adjacent vacant lot. The deals closed in June 2005. Six months later, Obama paid Rezko's wife $104,500 for a strip of her land, so he could have a bigger yard. At the time, it had been widely reported that Tony Rezko was under federal investigation. Questioned later about the timing of the Rezko deal, Obama called it "boneheaded" because people might think the Rezkos had done him a favor.

8. Eight months later -- in October 2006 -- Rezko was indicted on charges he solicited kickbacks from companies seeking state pension business under his friend Gov. Blagojevich. Federal prosecutors maintain that $10,000 from the alleged kickback scheme was donated to Obama's run for the U.S. Senate. Obama has given the money to charity.

To which we can add 9. Rezko has been convicted of the charges.

Then there is the Reverend Wright association. How can one claim friendship with and sit in a church for twenty years while that friend spews hatred of whites and hatred of America, and then claim to want to represent all Americans? Obama threw Wright under the bus only when it became politically necessary to do so.

What all these things show is Obama’s consistent track record of dubious judgment in associations at a minimum.

The citizenship issue is a more critical Constitutional issue that Obama should be, but is not, interested in resolving.

Obama’s association with ACORN should be raising red flags, but is widely ignored.

America is being ill-served by the mainstream media who have totally abandoned any pretense of being the impartial watchdog for the American people. The mainstream media have become part of the Obama campaign.

America, you are asking for a Chavez-type government if you elect Barack Obama.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Electoral Map Review for 27 September 2008

Clarence Page, in a recent commentary, took up the issue that there may be a hidden bias that is not being captured in the daily polls. Some commentators seem to be laying the groundwork in the event that if Obama loses, they can rail about racism in America. But more to the point, Clarence Page argues that since this potential hidden bias is thought to be about 5% that means that Obama cannot be happy with any lead that is less than 6%.

Where is this racial bias? It is within the Democratic Party and among Independents. Most Republicans are going to vote Republican no matter whom the Democratic candidate is. What helps Republicans win these kinds of elections is getting Democrats to cross over and taking enough Independents. We can’t ignore this potential impact.

Other Trends:
Among Democrats Obama lead 85% to 10% for McCain with 5% undecided.
Among Independents McCain leads 45% to 44% for Obama with 11% undecided.
Among Republicans McCain leads 89% to 9% for Obama with only 2% undecided.

As close as things are, the election will turn on the 16% undecided Democrats and Independents.

If the hidden racial bias is the 5% that some are estimating, this is what the Electoral Map looks like on Election Day. The darker shades are where the candidate carries the state by more that 5%, while the lighter shades indicate less than 5%.

Racial Bias Scenario


It is the day after the first debate. Too early to tell what the impact will be, but the most recent major event (the financial meltdown) can be seen to have an impact.

Keep in mind that Real Clear Politics simply averages a bunch of polls without regard to potential bias or differences between the “registered voter” model and the “likely voter” model. My map includes other intangibles like trends over time, history and difficult to quantify attitudes. I also dropped old polls, obvious outliers and any “registered voter” polls.

Real Clear 27 September 2008


My Electoral Map 27 September 2008


Where We Agree But…

PA: Still close though the last week has improved Obama’s numbers. Still a toss-up and not out of reach for McCain.

MI: After cutting Obama’s lead to about 2%, McCain lost ground again, but suddenly Obama lost ground right back. Obama currently has a 3.75% lead. This one could move back to toss-up.

NH: Starting to lean McCain. Obama has a .4% lead right now. If the trend continues, McCain will take a lead soon.

Where We Differ:

ME: After my adjustments, Obama has a 4.5% lead. This one is getting close. Obama by 2% on Election Day.

OH: Although McCain’s lead has dropped somewhat, I’m still sticking with historical trends. McCain by 4% on Election Day.

WI: I’ve got WI in Obama’s column, but it is remaining closer than I expected. Obama by 3% on Election Day.

MN: I’ve still got MN in Obama’s column, but like WI it is close. Obama by 2% on Election Day.

IN: Again I’m sticking with history even though Obama has closed the gap. McCain by 4% on Election Day.

VA: Sticking with history even though Obama currently has a slight lead. McCain by 5% on Election Day.

FL: Obama seems to have peaked here. McCain by 5% on Election Day.

MO: McCain’s numbers softened a little, but I don’t think Obama will flip this one. McCain by 7% on Election Day.

NV: Obama not showing any traction here. McCain by 5% on Election Day.

NC: It’s close now, but not really a toss up. McCain by 6% on Election Day.

CO: Still really a toss up. Real Clear is counting some significant outliers in their numbers. McCain by 2% on Election Day.

NJ: I show Obama recovering here so that NJ is no longer just leaning Obama. Obama by 8% on Election Day.

WV: I don’t see Obama getting votes he did not get in the Primaries. McCain by 10% on Election Day.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Scary Scenario

This Electoral Map, based upon past performance and current polls, is entirely possible. The darker shades represent each candidate winning by more than 5% while lighter shades represent each candidate winning by less than 5%

The best way to break it would be if Maine's Electoral votes were split (which is permissible under their system).

The worst way would be for the House to vote (guaranteed to cause an uproar).

Let us hope that someone wins by a landslide, (the most unlikely scenario) so that there are no arguments about race, sex, age or any other excuses. Though I guess the race argument will be there no matter what happens.

The Scary Scenario



Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Electoral Map Review for 24 September 2008

It has been five days since my last Electoral Map review. Here are the changes since the last review. What I’ve done this time is throw out all “registered voter” polls. In some cases this has made McCain’s support look softer, in others Obama’s. The main point is that averaging “registered voter” and “likely voter” polls is comparing apples and oranges. So, I threw out the oranges and I’m only comparing apples. Most polls are using the “likely voter” model anyway

Real Clear Politics Electoral Map 23 Sep 2008


My Electoral Map 23 Sep 2008


Where we agree


CO: No change. Still a dead heat with Obama up by only 1%.

PA: Still a statistical dead heat. Again if this one flips to McCain, it is election over for Obama.

NH: This tossup has gotten tighter with Obama having a 2% lead.

MI: McCain’s post-convention bounce gone, this one now leans Obama at slightly over 5%. The next three weeks will be most critical here.

WI: Still a toss-up, surprisingly McCain has not yet lost his bounce here. Now the best chance for a flip to McCain.

OR: Obama with a 4% lead that keeps dipping. I never guessed this one would be this close. If he dips below his current lead, then it’s a toss-up and the Democrats have to start worrying.

Where we differ


ME: Obama’s support seems to have slipped here. Leaning doesn’t help Obama if they split the vote close to 50 – 50. With only a 4% lead now, down from 14%, this state is close to becoming a toss-up. Since this state splits its Electoral vote it can’t be considered a lock for Obama. Neither candidate wins all these Electoral Votes.

NY: Still a strong lean for Obama with a 9%, but down significantly from the double-digit leads he previously had. As long as Obama stays above 5% in the polls, this one is safe for the Democrats. Below 5%, they should be nervous.

MN: McCain’s post-convention bounce gone here too. Obama now has a 5% lead, but like MI the next three weeks will be most telling.

OH: McCain is running a fairly consistent 5% lead when “registered voter” models are dropped. Even Bush won this state twice by less than 4%, so I’m sticking with McCain by 4%.

IN: Dropping all the “registered voter” polls and the biased IndyStar poll this one looks closer because there is only one poll left standing, but I’m sticking with historical trends on Indiana and saying it stays McCain by about 4%.

VA: SurveyUSA has been a consistent outlier in VA so I’m discounting their results. ABC/Washington Post are so biased in favor of Obama that their results are suspect at face value. Dropping the National Journal “registered voter” poll that was an outlier in McCain’s favor, it means that statistically it is a dead heat. However, I’m still going with 44 years of history and saying that McCain wins VA by about 7%.

FL: It’s gotten closer, but I’m still giving McCain a 5% margin in this state.

NV: No change. No polls show Obama with a lead. I’m still saying McCain by about 4%.

WA: Obama now only has a 3.5% lead so it’s now a toss-up. Like OR, I’m somewhat surprised by this one.

The first debate is in two days. I'm looking for some movement next week.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Electoral Map Review

In my last post I discussed how to look at poll numbers. One source of bias that I neglected to mention, and one which further muddies the water, is the difference between polling “registered voters” and “likely voters.” Polls that use the “registered voter” model will almost always show a Democratic bias. Even in states that are strongly “red states” the strength of the state’s “redness” is reduced when using the “registered voter” model.

The “likely voter” model is thought to eliminate this bias, but it can also be biased if the pollster simply asks, “are you likely to vote?” A preferred method is to use historical data to identify the demographic groups with stronger likelihood of voting. This is where the “weighting” you may have heard of being discussed comes into play. Faulty weighting can reintroduce bias.

Electoral Vote Maps

The first map is the Real Clear Politics Electoral count for 19 September 2008. My map for the same day appears below. Note that the maps are not really too different, but a couple states change the numbers. On my map, I applied all the factors I discussed in the previous post. I threw out outdated polls (pre-convention) and I scrutinized polls likely to contain partisan bias or flagrant statistical outliers. In some cases I looked at the historical trends both in previous elections and poll trends to break what currently look to be dead heats.


Real Clear Politics Electoral Map 19 September 2008



My Electoral Map 19 September 2008


Let us begin with some obvious and easy to justify differences. MT and ND are shown by Real Clear to be “pink” or leaning to McCain. I contend that both are strong “red” states. Neither status changes the Electoral Vote count.

MT: The MT average includes one poll from February where McCain had an 8% lead and one from May again showing an 8% lead. The latest Rasmussen poll conducted after both conventions shows McCain up 11%. Obama had a brief moment in the MT sun in July, but neither before nor since has he polled in positive territory in MT. MT is a “red” state, not a “pink” state.

ND: The ND average includes a February poll where Obama had a 4% lead and a preconvention poll paid for by the Democrats where he had a 3% lead. The only post-convention poll was conducted by Rasmussen and it shows a 14% McCain lead. Again, this state was not ever in danger for the Republicans and remains a “red” state.

The Map Differences

NV: McCain holds a slight lead, but I’m letting history say that this state is actually leaning to McCain instead of being a tossup. Over time most polls show McCain on top and the state usually goes Republican. The InAdv polls look to have significant statistical bias. However, in this case I left their results in the numbers pending newer polls. If future polls show results closer to the Rasmussen numbers, then I’d toss the InAdv poll numbers. Either way, I think that McCain wins this state by about 4%.

IN: Real Clear shows this one a tossup, but in the middle of their numbers is a poll by the IndyStar that deviates from other polls by about 200% showing Obama up 3%. Their own data shows they relied heavily on interviews in Indianapolis and they admitted that Indianapolis is the only place in the state where Obama has any lead whatsoever. After tossing this statistically flawed poll, the state is back to “pink.” I’m calling this one McCain by at least 5% in November. The last time IN went Democratic was in 1964.

VA: Given Obama’s steep falloff the last few days here, I’m putting this one in the McCain column. Most polls since the conventions are showing McCain with about a 4% lead. I’m going with 44 years of Republican victories here and saying that McCain wins VA by at least 7% come November, which is a falloff from Bush in 2004 and 2000.

In Agreement For Now But…

OH: Most polls are showing McCain up by an average of 4%. A recent CNN/Time poll is showing Obama by 2% which brings the numbers back into a range making this look closer. I didn’t throw any numbers out on this one yet and though I’m also showing it as a toss up. Waiting on new numbers, at this point I’m predicting McCain by 4% in November.

CO: Real Clear and I agree on this one, but Real Clear has added the clearly biased InAdv poll showing Obama up 10%. This number is about 1000% higher than any other poll so I tossed their poll numbers. All other polls show this one a dead heat. Almost all InAdv poll numbers in every state are showing a deviation of 200% or higher over other polls. Either they are deliberately biased or they have faulty weighting. Either way their numbers are suspect. I think this one will tilt to McCain, but I’m holding it in tossup until I see more numbers from other polls with more reliable credentials.

PA: This state was only ever “baby blue” so there was always a chance for McCain. The most recent numbers are showing a dead heat with between 6-10% undecided. Most significant is that Obama had as much as a 9% lead before the conventions and that has evaporated. Anything can happen here. If this state goes McCain on November 4, McCain will win the Presidency.

MI: Has gone from “baby blue” to “gray.” Combined with increasing gains by Republicans over the past two elections, this is a trend that should worry Democrats. Obama had a 9% lead at one point. I don’t think it likely to flip, but Obama will be forced to expend resources to defend this state.

MN: This year is probably the Republican’s best shot at taking this state. Obama had a solid 15% lead in this state that has evaporated and the state has trended Republican the past two elections. It is now a dead heat. This one may flip, but it will still be close. Neither candidate will win by more than 3%.

WI: This is another state that Democrats should worry about and is the Republicans’ second best chance to flip a traditionally Democratic state. Obama had an 11% lead in July that has steadily eroded. This one is a statistical dead heat. McCain has come on strong here the past week. Even if Obama hangs on, he will be forced to spend resources in order to defend this state. Like MI and MN, this state has been trending Republican in recent elections.

NH: I suspect NH will move into the Obama column within the next week and that he will win it by about 4% in November.

Closer Than They Should Be

WA: Now that McCain’s convention bounce has worn off, this one is back to leaning to Obama. WA was looking like it was moving to being a tossup. Still, considering that he once held a commanding 12% lead that is now only a little over 4%, one must wonder. This one could tighten again, but there is little play in the numbers.

OR: I’m thinking Obama wins this one by about 5% come November. His numbers, while consistently positive, have been sliding. Rasmussen had Obama up by 10% prior to the conventions, but on 15 September had him at only 4%. That may be the tail end of the McCain bounce, but we’ll need to see more data. The Portland Tribune gave Obama a 10% margin in a survey done prior to Rasmussen. I discount that number until I see more.

The bottom line is that the election remains close. Will we see a shakeup following the debates?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Brief Poll Primer

Every four years we get inundated with political polls as people suddenly find their two month attention-span for politics. There are literally dozens of polling agencies at almost every level tracking everything from local races to the Presidential Election. While in reality the state house and gubernatorial races have the most direct impact on us, we get fixated on the Presidential race probably because it affects us all no matter which state we call home. And the media fan that flame too.

As a continuing public service, I’m providing a philosophy for wading through the myriad of numbers. “Tempest-in-a Teapot” provided a link in an earlier comment here to Real Clear Politics, a site I also use. It is tempting and easy to do no further analysis and accept their average numbers at face-value, but this is a mistake. The real value in Real Clear is not their suspect averages, but that they provide numbers from multiple polling companies and links to those companies’ web sites in one location. Real Clear usually posts polls within twenty-four hours of release. They also provide a few handy tools like the Electoral Vote map that you can change if you so choose to do your own analysis as well as points of view on the issues and candidates from both the right and the left. In that sense they are very “fair and balanced,” to steal a particular network’s motto.

When looking at poll numbers, one of the first questions that should cross your mind is, “who paid for the poll?” Not all polls are created equal and some exist not just to measure opinions and attitudes at a particular point in time (non-partisan polls do this), but to shape voter behavior come Election Day (partisan polls do this).

Real Clear does a good job labeling the polls that were paid for by either party (these are indicated by a (D) or (R) beside the pollster’s name). However, in addition to these obvious potentially biased polls, there are those conducted by independent but politically biased entities whose results can be suspect. It becomes important to do your research on the pollster.

Polls conducted by CNN/Time, SurveyUSA, MSNBC are consistently biased in favor of Democrats. FOX polls tend to favor Republicans. About the only time that any network’s involvement in a poll can be taken with a level of confidence in objectivity is when they team with a non-partisan pollster like Gallop, Rasmussen, Zogby, or Mason-Dixon. In those instances the independent polling agency designs the poll and oversees the collection of data by the network. There are others that are non-partisan, but these are the biggest ones with the best reputations. Quinnipiac provides independent polling data primarily in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic. Their polls tend to have large sample-sizes relative to the population and low margins of error.

Ideally, one would analyze sample size (but then you need to also understand the demographics and total population from which the sample was drawn), how respondents are selected, examine the pollster’s questions, their admitted causes of probable error, and their stated margin of error. For the average person this can be daunting and prohibitively time consuming. Therefore hone in on two things: first, the “who paid for it” question and second, the stated margin of error. Have a high level of confidence on a truly non-partisan poll with a stated margin of error below 3%. If the margin of error is above this level, then be suspect of the poll numbers. If the poll is partisan, be very suspect. If the difference between the two candidates' poll numbers is less than or equal to the margin of error, then consider the poll a "dead heat." Only when the difference is greater than the margin of error can you consider the poll leaning one way or the other.

Look at the poll’s history over several months. As stated earlier, an advantage of Real Clear is that they provide this information by state at a glance. If you see a particular poll with significant deviation from all the other agencies polling within the same timeframe, then be suspicious as to their method, or their purpose. If an obviously partisan poll gives the opponent an edge, then accept the number if it is within range of other polls conducted at the same time.

Out-of-range numbers are called “statistical outliers” and as a rule should not be included in averages. I am talking numbers that vary in the 50 – 100 percent range. For example, there are five polls taken in a given week. Four out of five produce results showing a difference between two candidates in a range of 5 – 8 percent favoring candidate “A”. The fifth poll shows a spread of 8% in the opposite direction (a 100% deviation), favoring candidate “B”. If the outlier is an obvious “partisan” poll, then without question discard the number. If the poll is non-partisan and its history over time shows it a consistent outlier, then include the number.

Look at when a particular poll was taken. If it is older than a couple weeks or before some major event that could be expected to influence numbers (Democratic and Republican conventions for example), discard the poll unless there are no other numbers, at which point you need to start weighing other factors or simply guess.

Using Real Clear’s averages can be misleading for the following reasons:

a. Real Clear treats all polls equally. There is no assumption of potential bias and obvious statistical outliers are included.
b. Real Clear averages often include significantly outdated polls that skew the resulting average.
c. Real Clear averages often include polls taken prior to significant events that one could reasonably expect to alter opinions.
d. Real Clear averages polls with differing margins of error. This compounds the first error.

In other words, they often wind up comparing apples to oranges to bananas. If one assumes that this fruit salad is therefore more accurate, one will often be mistaken.

Enter the final piece to analyzing poll numbers and that is in knowing the polity of a particular state in all these polls. What is the balance of rural vs urban, how have they voted in past elections and is there an observable trend? Is the population traditionally conservative or liberal (this apart from voting history)? Typically rural populations are conservative (there are exceptions) and urban populations are liberal (there are exceptions).

For example, Minnesota has not voted Republican since 1984, but the numbers of people voting for the Republican candidate have gotten progressively larger, even with an unpopular Republican on the ticket, the past two elections and the Republican margin of defeat has gotten smaller. These factors can be indicators of potential outcome and constitute a trend. Combined with the trend of how the numbers have been moving over the course of the election cycle, you may have a strong indicator of the direction a particular state is moving.

Always remember that polls are snapshot of opinion in a discreet window of time and they change, sometimes wildly within a few days depending upon events. In my next post I will compare the Real Clear Electoral Map, which is constructed using average poll data including the flaws I listed above, with my own map that includes the filtering techniques I’ve discussed in this post. Until then go to Real Clear and try these methods on your own map to see how the map changes. Concentrate on the states they are calling "toss-ups" or "leaning" one way or the other.

Friday, September 12, 2008

More Reality Check

In her comment to my last post “Tempest in a Teapot” took exception to how I apportioned various states. In my comment on the last post, I explained my methodology, which was far more involved than simply looking at Real Clear Politics’ web site and accepting their numbers at face value.

In this post, I will show why the states to which “Tempest” took exception do not belong where she would like to see them. Wishful thinking and dated average poll numbers are no substitute for analysis.

MD is leaning Obama, a point I already made. MD leans that way predominantly due to Baltimore, but anti-Bush angst isn’t a guarantee this time around, though that's the theme the Obama campaign is trying so hard to emphasize. As I counted MD in my final Obama count anyway, "Tempest's" argument is moot.

ME has no new polling data since 12 August. Gore carried the state with 5% in 2000 and the more reviled Bush lost by 9% to Kerry. Bush is not on the ticket this time around and there is a significant conservative, rural population. Pending a new poll, I’m predicting that Bush’s absence combined with Palin will make this state much closer this time around. As this state allocates electoral votes on a proportional methodology, neither candidate is likely to get all the votes here.

MN was chosen by the Republicans for the convention because the state has been trending Republican the past two elections. Both Gore and Kerry barely won MN, which was a big reversal from previous elections and that was even with Bush being unpopular. Bush pulled more votes in MN than Reagan twice and in 2004, Bush pulled more votes in MN than any Republican has ever pulled. There isn’t a poll available since the conventions, but Obama only had a 2% lead prior to the conventions so it was statistically a dead heat.

PA barely went Democrat the last two elections and has been trending Republican even with unpopular Bush running. Clinton won the state by just below 10% twice. But GW only lost PA to Gore by 4.2% and to Kerry by 2.5 %. In 2004 Bush pulled more votes in PA than any Republican since Nixon in 1972. Western PA is conservative and will turn out in numbers sufficient to swing the state to the Republicans this time around. Don’t think for one moment the Republicans won’t re-emphasize what Obama said about guns, religion and the poor dumb folks in the PA hills during the Primaries…which he lost heavily to Clinton. Obama has a post-convention lead of only 2% (statistical dead heat) down from a 12% advantage.

VT has had no new polling data since February. I’ll concede this one for now, but I suspect Obama’s lead is not the 34% it was back in February.

WA will be closer than the past two elections when the Dems won by 5.5% and 8.2% respectively. Obama’s support in the polls has been dropping steadily in WA since mid-August, but took its biggest tumble this past week. He now only holds a 4% 2% lead in WA where he once had a 12% lead. The last two elections the unpopular GW pulled significantly more votes than any Republican since Reagan in 1984 and he beat Reagan’s total both times. This one is winnable for McCain and now a toss-up.

IL is not a shoo-in for Obama. No polling data for IL since 12 Aug, at which point Obama’s support had dropped 6%. While Obama has what may look like a comfortable lead now, everything depends upon downstate voters who traditionally vote Republican. If they are fired up, and they were not the past two elections, they can overwhelm Obama’s Chicago advantage, which is exactly how Republicans have won the state in the past.

MI has also been trending Republican. In 2004, again with very unpopular Bush as the Dems enemy, he picked up 2% points over what he did against Gore. Current polls have McCain and Obama dead even in MI or within the margin of error. MI is most definitely a battleground and in no way assured for the Democrats. Bush the Lesser pulled more votes in MI than Clinton did in his two terms. In 2004, Bush pulled more votes than Reagan did in 1984. Post-convention polls have Obama up by only 1% (statistical dead heat). Very winnable for McCain.

WI: Gore won WI by only .2% (point two percent) in 2000 and Kerry doubled that to .4% (point four percent) in 2004, with unpopular Bush as the opponent. WI has been trending Republican the last two elections even with an unpopular Republican candidate. WI used to be safe for Democrats. Obama has a post-convention lead of 3% (statistical dead heat as it is within the margin of error), down from a 12% lead before the conventions.

FL was looking like it might go Democratic a month ago, but Obama’s chances there have been erased. When Hillary Clinton was speaking in FL on 9 September, she didn’t mention Obama by name in her remarks. That is not a good sign for Democrats. The unpopular Bush beat Kerry in FL in 2004 by over 5% and that after the angst of 2000. McCain has a post-convention lead of 5%.

NC is most definitely NOT a swing state and never has been. McCain holds a solid lead there and even Bush won over both Gore and Kerry by over 12%. Democrats are delusional if they think NC has become a swing state. The closest it has ever been for Democrats is when there were Southern Democrats running for President (Carter and Clinton) and even Clinton couldn’t take it from Dole. McCain has a post-convention lead of 12%.

NM: Gore won NM by only 366 votes when it was considered “safe” for the Dems given Clinton’s big wins there twice. Bush beat Kerry by about 6,000 votes. NM will go Republican this time by a solid majority primarily because Bush is not on the ticket, but the Palin factor will be significant here too. McCain as a 2% post-convention lead in NM, erasing the 13% lead Obama had prior to the conventions. No longer leaning Obama, NM is now a toss-up.

VA, a state "Tempest" declared a “swing” state, has not voted Democrat in 44 years (Johnson in 1964). And "Tempest" criticizes my analysis on states that haven’t voted Republican in twenty years, even though they’ve been trending that way? Bush won VA by a solid 8% twice. VA was looking like a potential battleground state a month ago, but is now slipping back to McCain. Palin will swing VA for McCain. McCain has a post-convention lead of 2% (statistical dead heat), but given history, no Bush, and Palin factors, McCain’s lead will increase.

Fact is McCain got a bigger bounce than Obama from the conventions. The daily Gallup is not favoring the Democrats (McCain leading 48% to 44% with a margin of error 2%), nor are the weekly tallies (McCain leading 49% to 44% with a margin of error 1%). McCain has recaptured Republican voters (89%), now leads with Independents (52%) and has cut into Obama’s Democrats (14%). The shifts are significant and cut across every major group except race.

As for looking at poll numbers, the most telling statistic is Obama’s softening support. New Jersey was once solid for Obama, now it is only “leaning.” Toss-ups are starting to lean McCain. Michigan, once leaning Obama, is now a toss-up. McCain’s support is solidifying in states that were only leaning a month ago.

And since “Tempest” likes Real Clear Politics, as of today their count is 217 for Obama and 216 for McCain.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Democrat’s Conundrum

The Dem’s have a big problem. It’s always been there, but it just got worse. For Obama to win in November, he can’t play to the liberal base of the Democratic Party. If he does, he loses the middle. McCain, on the other hand, must play to the conservative base. Playing to the middle does not work for Republicans.

With the selection of Sarah Palin, the McCain campaign made its strongest play to the conservative base. With that selection, it is likely that Obama will not win a single Southern state. It is highly unlikely that Obama can win the Presidency without winning at least one Southern state. He will have a serious fight in all states with large rural/small-town populations; read that more conservative states.

A look at the numbers

For McCain:

These states are likely secure for the Republicans: AK, AL, AR, AZ, FL, GA, ID, KS, KY, LA, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NM, NV, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WV, WY (239 electoral votes). VA was Obama’s best bet to steal a Southern state, but that was when conservatives were non-committal. That probably changed by adding Palin to the ticket.

For Obama:

These states, including the District of Columbia, are likely secure for the Democrats: CA, CT, DC, DE, HI, MA, NJ, NY, OR, RI (141 electoral votes). His selection of Biden as a running mate was a big mistake. What states that Obama didn't already have does Biden bring to the table?

Toss up or “Battleground States”

Most of these states have large rural/small-town populations that tend to be more conservative, but they also have urban cores that tend to be more liberal and can go either way: CO, IA, IL, IN, MD, ME, MI, MN, NH, OH, PA, VT, WA, WI (158 electoral votes).

Of these CO is probably leaning to McCain (which would bring McCain to 248 electoral votes), while MD is probably leaning to Obama (which would bring Obama to 151 electoral votes). The rest are too close to call for the time being.

Therefore the election comes down to the following seven states: IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, PA, and WI (states with at least 10 electoral votes). All these states were closely contested in the last two elections. The biggest prizes in this mix are IL, OH and PA with 62 votes between them.

There are 538 electoral votes and it takes 270 electoral votes to win. McCain needs to win one of the following: IL, OH or PA plus one small state (22 votes). If Obama loses any of these three, he will likely lose the election.

Much can happen between now and November. The debates will likely shake out a few of the “too close to call” states. That’s my reading of the tea leaves. As the weeks pass and we get closer, I’ll refine my projections. One thing for certain, the election became a lot more interesting than it was looking like a month ago. A month ago I gave McCain a lock on half as many electoral votes.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pakistani Editorial

Below in its entirety is an editorial in the 2 September Daily Times. There are some interesting points raised which are worth noting, specifically the analysis about Iran's role in Afghanistan.

It does show that the Muslim world is no more monolithic than the West and that some serious issues exist between several nations in the region.

Peace with our neighbours...Daily Times (Pakistan)

2 September 2008
At an All Parties Consultative Conference held by Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (JUIF) in Peshawar on Sunday, Maulana Rehman recommended that Pakistan should form a “regional bloc to put an end to the lingering Afghan imbroglio, which was impinging on peace and security in NWFP”. He also said, “The conference deems presence of world powers in Afghanistan a threat to the interest of Asian countries, and invites the regional states to play their role in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan and FATA”.

One must study “the neighbourhood” more carefully before opining on the Maulana’s proposal. But there is another interesting opinion printed in a paper on Monday in which Mr Masood Sharif, an ex-Intelligence Bureau boss and a former member of the Central Executive Committee of the PPP, writes that only Iran is not hostile to Pakistan among its neighbours. He also takes a particularly Pashtun view of the situation and accuses the Pakistan Army of killing his fellow ethnic clansmen. On India, his opinion is of a piece with core sections of the Urdu media: India’s “policy is devastating for Pakistan because it pins down the Pakistani Army, pits it against its own people and limits its operational options elsewhere, besides subjecting it to war fatigue and attrition”.

When Maulana Rehman talks of “world powers”, he means America and the consensus in Europe against Al Qaeda and its ability to train terrorists on Pakistani territory and send them to the West. But in the most recent missile hit by NATO forces in our Tribal Areas, there were two Muslims of Canadian origin. Canada is the most peace-loving of all the states in the West, but it is in Afghanistan because it fears that Pakistan is no longer able to control what goes on inside its territory. But if we believe that the world powers are making mischief against Pakistan — and compelling warlords like Baitullah Mehsud to kill innocent Pakistanis including Pashtuns through his suicide-bombers! — how can we at the same time assume that the “region” is with us?

Maulana Rehman probably wants us to get together with Iran, Uzbekistan and India to discuss the matter of “world powers intervention”. But all three are behind the Northern Alliance which has become dominant under the government of a Pashtun president in Afghanistan. Iran’s interest may clash with that of America on its western borders but it lies squarely with the Northern Alliance in general and the Tajik community in particular whom it backed against the Taliban in Afghanistan. In 1998, when the Taliban overran Mazar-e-Sharif, they killed Iranian diplomats in the consulate there, following which Iran accused militants from Pakistan of doing the deed.

These days, Iran has a sensible policy on the Pakistanis crossing the border into Iran as illegal migrants. Unlike India, it doesn’t kill them but hauls them up on a daily basis to the Pakistani border and hands them over. But have the Maulana and Mr Masood Sharif thought about what Iran thinks of the massacre of the Shia allowed by Islamabad in the Kurram agency? The news is that after Pakistan abandoned its Shias to the mercy of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, warriors from the Hazara region of Afghanistan are coming in to defend their brethren in faith. And who has traditionally helped the Hazaras in Afghanistan? And who is training the Hazara warriors and making them capable of fighting the Sunni fanaticism of Afghanistan and Pakistan? No matter how badly Iran may want to punish the US in Afghanistan, it is not going to support any strategy proposed by Islamabad.

Uzbekistan has the same kind of economic and cultural nexus with Mazar-e-Sharif as Iran has with Herat. Just as Iran saw Herat being ruled by Col Imam of the ISI from Pakistan under the Taliban, Uzbekistan saw the massacre of innocent citizens of Mazar by the Taliban in 1998, and accused Pakistan of masterminding the attack. Today our Tribal Areas are crawling with rebel Uzbek warriors who were trained in Pakistan earlier and have been trying to kill the president of Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is backed by Russia and the real punch of the anti-Pakistan alliance in Afghanistan comes from Russian backing. Should we therefore consult with Russia too as a regional “friend”? Are we aware how many heads the “neighbours” would want delivered on a platter before they even talk to us?

As for India, the perception in New Delhi is that Pakistan is strategically frozen in its revisionist stance and is still not ready to abandon its policy of asymmetrical conflict. (There is some evidence that we are reviving the “option” again!) The Indians are therefore entrenching themselves in the very area that we used when we trained jihadists for fighting in Kashmir. The policy that will suit us today is to promote normalisation and trade, including investment, with India, at a fast pace without however retreating from our position on Kashmir. Any other “brave” policy of confrontation will harm us. The real crisis is internal and it can be solved only by preventing our soil from being used to harm our neighbours.

Second Editorial: ...and the missing Chinese

If there is one neighbour with whom we can discuss our predicament in the Tribal Areas with any self-confidence, it is China. But the latest news in this regard is not good at all. Two Chinese engineers, along with their driver and a security guard, have gone missing while checking installations in the NWFP near the border with Afghanistan. The two belonged to Zhongxing Telecommunications and were probably supervising their communications tower in the area. The case is that of kidnapping. If it is done by the local criminals posing as Taliban, they will ask for money and will sell them either to China or to its enemies who are also found in our Tribal Areas.

China is one “neighbour” that expects to be sympathetic to our plight, but there is a limit to Chinese tolerance too, given the fact that Islamist insurgency in the Western Province of China is being stoked in part from our Tribal Areas, as confessed by ex-president Pervez Musharraf not long ago. In any conference of our neighbours China can only sit silently watching our helplessness in the face of the mischief being hatched against the world from our territory.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

More on the French Casualties

Let me start by saying that I have not been able to verify any details. It will be a while before any reports are published and made public. However, one hears bits and pieces because people talk. I won't discuss details, but will speak in generalities. So this is what I've heard about the ambush that killed ten French Soldiers on Monday, 18 August.

Like the attack last month that killed nine Americans, our complacency may have contributed significantly to the casualties. On the battlefield, complacency gets you killed. There is no redo when you screw up. The only time the Taliban try to take on a NATO unit head on, is when they believe they have an immediate advantage. The Taliban watch our patrols. If they determine that our patrols are being complacent, then they believe that they can achieve surprise and tactical advantage.

Apparently the French violated some fundamental tactical rules. One of those rules is, when going into "Injun country," be prepared to fight. The word floating around is that a number of the French soldiers had removed their body armor and had left their weapons in vehicles while they were on the ground. If true, this is a big screw up. They weren't prepared to fight. Again, I can't positively verify this, but I'm a believer of the "where there is smoke, there is fire" theory.

Almost all the casualties occurred in the first minute, not minutes, of the three-hour fight. (This seems to be a consistent retelling of when the casualties occurred.) If so, it would seem that the Taliban force did achieve complete tactical surprise. After that, the patrol salvaged the situation.
Taliban tactics are hardly worthy of praise. They lingered after the initial engagement long enough to get themselves beat up after having successfully inflicted serious casualties on a superior armed force. They should have broken contact within two minutes and headed for the hills before our air could start pounding them.

It is possible that French return fire pinned the Taliban so that they could not escape, but if that is true, then the Taliban commander screwed up in a different way. Covered and concealed escape routes should have already been selected so that his force could break contact. Whether by deliberate design or because of being pinned, the Taliban suffered far worse casualties than the French. Helicopter gunships and ground attack jets drove them all the way to and over the Pakistan border.

While the media portrays such an attack as demonstrating a "resurgent" or "brazen" Taliban, what it really shows is that they are poorly led. Their commanders are not competent if they wind up getting the ambushing force that badly mauled. A competent guerrilla commander would not have hung around to allow an opponent known to have superior fire-power, to use that fire-power.

In every engagement where our forces manage to avoid complacency and get the Taliban to fight us, we win big with minimal casualties. We can defeat them over time that way. Even when our guys have messed up, we still inflict disproportionate casualties on the Taliban.

The difference is that the Taliban do not have their own media crowing for the enemy. They can lose hundreds of fighters in a single engagement, but our media will say that they are "resurgent." Our media will paint the story as doom and gloom for the coalition.

Our troops have to pick up the paper and read that the media have determined that they are losing the war every time one Soldier is killed. God help us when we have a bad day and ten are killed. The folks at home hear the same thing over and over. Eventually they start to believe it, even though the facts on the ground say otherwise. That is what the media wrought in Iraq.

The enemy are very much in tune with Western media and how the Western public reacts to that media. They plan their actions specifically for how it will play in the Western media. The Western media plays right into their schemes, gleefully providing them with the propoganda edge they need.

The Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership are not stupid. They know they can't win on the battlefield, but they have a pretty good idea that they have a chance to win on your television. All they have to do is stick around long enough for the folks back home to tell the politicians to "pack it in."