Archive for April, 2008

Pennsylvania Prediction

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

We’ve been hearing about it for what seems like years, but the Pennsylvania primary is finally here! It should be interesting. If Hillary loses, her campaign is finished. If she wins by five points or less, she may go on but her resources will dry up and the pressure will mount for her to withdrawal. If she wins by more than five points then she can fight on.

The RCP average has Hillary with a 6.1% point lead. I actually think her margin of victory will be a little more. She performed slightly better than she polled in Ohio, so I suspect she may in Pennsylvania as well. The demographics here are even more favorable for her than in Ohio. So I’m going to predict Hillary wins, 54%-46%.

A Sure Sign You’ve Hit Rock Bottom

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

A lawnmower DUI.

“Alien but primitive life likely”

Monday, April 21st, 2008

So says Stephen Hawking:

One option is that there likely isn’t life elsewhere. Or maybe there is intelligent life elsewhere, but when it gets smart enough to send signals into space, it also is smart enough to make destructive nuclear weapons.

Hawking said he prefers the third option:

“Primitive life is very common and intelligent life is fairly rare,” he then quickly added: “Some would say it has yet to occur on earth.”

There is no real evidence of life existing elsewhere (save for maybe the controversial ALH84001 Martian meteorite, but given the vastness of the universe and how little of it we have explored, our data is so limited that we can only speculate. It is widely believed that liquid water exists on Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus so life would be theoretically possible on either. But until we can do more exploration of space, we can only speculate. Until then, I’m inclined to agree with Hawking: we probably are not alone.

2008 Democratic Primary = 2000 Election?

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Michael Barone, one of the most astute students of politics in the media, is projecting an awkward situation at the conclusion of the final Democratic primaries:

Barack Obama will be leading in pledged delegates, those elected in primaries and caucuses. Clinton will be leading in popular votes. Obama’s delegate lead will be entirely due to his victories in caucus states. Clinton’s popular vote lead will be entirely due to her projected victory in the Puerto Rico primary. Who then is entitled to the nomination? You could easily think up plausible arguments for either side. This would be a nightmare for the superdelegates who will have to make the decision.

I don’t know if this will happen or not–Barone’s numbers for Hillary look a little too optimistic (winning 60% of the vote in Pennsylvania?) to me. But then again, few would have imagined that the Democratic primary would still be in full force now, at the end of April.

This scenario is probably Hillary’s only chance at the Democratic nomination, and even if it comes to this it’s far from clear that she will get the nomination. So far she hasn’t shown any great talent at wooing superdelegates, but a string of primary victories could change that.

So if it comes down to Hillary winning the popular vote and Obama winning the delegate count, what will the superdelegates do? Will they follow the will of the people and give the nod to Hillary? Or will they treat it like a giant caucus, which Obama has done so famously well in? A few months ago, I would have predicted the superdelegates to go with the most electable candidate, then unquestionably Barack Obama. Given whats happened since then, I don’t know if he can still play that card.

Cross posted at Tennesseefree

ACK is Back

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

A.C. Kleinheider, formerly of Volunteer Voters, is now blogging at Post Politics, the Nashville Post’s blog. We all knew A.C. would land on his feet, and it’s great to see him blogging again.

Sgt York Country

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Last month I visited Sgt. Alvin C. York Historic Park in Pall Mall, TN. I took many photos (as usual), the best of which I now share with you, in addition to a brief bio of a true Appalachian hero.

Sgt Alvin C. York was the most famous American World War I soldier. He famously killed 28 German soldiers and captured 132 others in the Argonne Forest in France. A recipient of the Medal of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre, he was the subject of a classic 1941 movie Sergeant York in which he was portrayed by Gary Cooper.

Ironically, York very nearly refused to serve in the war. Early in his life, he had been a bit of a hellion, enjoying hard drinking and hard living. This lifestyle was not without its dangers. One night his friend was killed in a bar fight, an event that so shook young Alvin York that he gave up drinking and joined his mother’s church, becoming a devout Christian.

York’s new church believed strongly in pacifism. York shared this belief that killing was a sin, which made it very difficult for him to join the war effort when he received a notice to register for the draft. York simply wrote “don’t want to fight” on his registration card. He struggled mightily over what to do next, spending much time in prayer before finally deciding he must enter service.

In spite of his decision, York remained a committed pacifist upon entry into the Army, which led to numerous theological discussions and debates among his fellow soldiers. These discussions would eventually convince him that war could be justified in some cases.
On October 8, 1918, York performed an amazing and heroic feat that would make him a legend. Seventeen men, including York, infiltrated German lines to take out machine guns. Unfortunately, the Americans were hit with machine gun fire, killing six Americans and wounding three others, including York’s superior, leaving York in charge of the seven remaining soldiers.

As his men remained under cover, York advanced toward the machine guns. German Lieutenant Paul J├╝rgen Vollmer fired repeatedly at York even as he dodged machine gun fire but failed to injure him. When Vollmer ran out of bullets, he surrendered to York. York and his men were able to capture 132 German prisoners. These deeds earned him the Medal of Honor and Croix de Guerre, among others.

Upon his return home, York remained humble and did not wish to be viewed as a hero. He decline numerous opportunities to sell his story, opting instead to marry his sweetheart and return to his home in Pall Mall. It was not until 1941 that he would authorize a film.

York’s experiences in Europe led him to conclude that education was needed in his community, and he went to work establishing schools. He started a Bible school in Pall Mall, as well as Alvin C. York Institute in 1926. The Institute would struggle during the early years, and York sometimes paid teacher’s salaries from his own pocket. The school was taken over by the state in 1937 and remains Jamestown’s primary high school.

Sgt York was a powerful symbol of the region from which he came: a simple, kind hearted man capable to great heroism and who believed strongly in the power of education. We are all well served to remember his example.

Historic marker in Jamestown, TN
Wolf River Post Office and store. The store is still owned by the York family.
Alvin York’s house.

Wolf River.

Alvin C. York’s grist mill.
Wolf River.

Grist mill from the down river.

Another shot of the Wolf River.

York’s former Bible school.

Alvin C. York Institute, Jamestown, TN.

Wolf Creek United Methodist Church, established 1840 (York is buried here).

York’s grave.

York and wife’s graves.

Cross posted at Hillbilly Savants

No Blood for Oil!

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

The indispensable Michael Silence reports:

Athens police say two men walking to get gas for their empty car started fighting over who should pay for it and ended up in jail, one with minor stab wounds.

Police said both David A. Lundsford of Sweetwater and Roger Gifford of Athens remain in custody pending a court appearance Friday.

A police report shows Lundsford suffered a minor stab wound in the abdomen, apparently inflicted with a pocket knife early Wednesday. A witness told police that she saw Lundsford punching Gifford.

Lundsford told officers that he and Gifford were walking north on Congress Parkway after running out of gas and they started arguing about who should pay when they got to the pump.

Both men are charged with public intoxication.

That last part is a shocker.

Ancient Spruce

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Scientists in Sweden have discovered a pretty old tree:

Researchers had discovered a spruce with genetic material dating back 9,550 years in the Fulu mountain in Dalarna, according to Leif Kullmann, a professor of Physical Geography at the university in northwestern Sweden.

That would mean it had taken root in roughly the year 7,542 BC.

So in other words, this tree’s life began a few thousand years before construction began on the Egyptian pyramids. Incredible stuff.

Blackburn’s Financial Blunder

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

This doesn’t speak well of Congressman Marsha Blackburn:

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., on Tuesday acknowledged failing to report more than a quarter-million dollars in campaign expenditures over the past six years while at the same time failing to report $102,044 in contributions.Blackburn, seeking her fourth term and facing both Republican and Democratic opponents, told The Commercial Appeal she plans to reveal the errant Federal Election Commission reporting in a series of amendments to disclosure reports dating back to her first run for Congress in 2002.

I doubt anything sinister is afoot. It’s probably just an innocent mistake, but it’s one that shouldn’t have been made. I don’t know if she was ever seriously being considered for the VP spot on the McCain ticket, but if so this will probably eliminate her from the running.


From the Ashes it Rose

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

An effort to ban mountaintop removal looked dead in the water less than two weeks ago. But now it has been revived:

A Senate committee today approved a bill to put new restrictions on surface coal mining in East Tennessee, even though a House subcommittee had killed the measure earlier.

Sponsor Sen. Raymond Finney, R-Maryville, said he now expects an effort to have the House Environment Subcommittee hold a special meeting and consider reversing its earlier vote to kill the bill.

The measure passed the Senate Environment and Conservation Committee today by a vote of 8-1. The lone no vote was my state senator, Tommy Kilby, who continues to be a major disappointment but who is happily not seeking reelection. Senator Finney deserves a lot of credit for keeping this effort alive.