What was I thinking last night: 308 to 221 Biden

To quote Charlie Rich, “I woke up this morning and realized what I had done.”

Hoping that “my world is not slipping away from me,” I talked to Fred and Kathy, who said I had it all wrong. I was counting words and not listening to what they said. And as Maureen pointed out, Kristen Welker did not have the mic kill button. That was manned by the Debate Commission in a control booth where they must have been conducting a sleep experiment.

Here’s how the morning after crew would arrange the coming votes:

“That was my first exposure to politics, but in a way it wasn’t even politics. An election is a sports event, and I think I really saw it as a ball game then.”

Jerry Rubin, quoted in J. Anthony Lukas’ article in Esquire Nov. 1, 1969: “The Making of a Yippie.”

Debate moderator puts tRump up, 299 to 240

NBC’s Kristen Welker didn’t do much to shut up Dr. Quack tRump in the third and final debate before election day on Nov. 3. Did she have a mic kill button? Did she ever use it? I thought she let tRump ramble on and always gave him the last word on every exchange.

While I don’t think you win debates by saying the most words, there are those who do. And they saw tRump winning the debate. He might have told one lie after another, but there wasn’t anyone there to say they were lies. Except Biden, and he didn’t do that enough.

So Stable Genius rattles off a bunch of numbers, repeats his favorite insults and makes sure he overrides the moderator to put the finishing touches on the end of his rant. Or so I say. The most-words-win person would say he overpowered his opponent and the moderator with words that flowed from his mouth and never gave them a chance.

I moved all the “maybe” votes to tRump, gave Missouri over to the red pile and put South Carolina in that stack as well. I may have moved S.C. earlier. Next I’ll move to Canada.

Biden’s SCOTUS picks: Anita Hill, Merrick Garland

Handicapping the 2020 presidential election based on states and their electoral voters could be like betting on a horse race where the starting gates open and there’s no one there. Or, at least not the runners you had expected. With that kind of a race, the stewards would probably take things into their hands and decide the race themselves. For the presidential race, that could end up looking like this:

That would piss off some of the bettors in the stands – wait, there’s no one in the stands thanks to coronavirus. But to those of us peeking through the fences, it looks as though those wearing the black silks would give the race to a dark horse, like they did in 2000.

Or, Biden might win by a landslide, tRump could slink out the back door of the White House and the winner might think about changing some numbers – like nine on the Supreme Court and 50 states in the United States.

I have become used to nine on the court and the nice even number of 50 states and would hate to see them changed. But it could go a long ways to upsetting the “minority-rules” tactics of Moscow Mitch von Hindenburg McConnell. Right now the Grand Old Peckers represent 153 million of the United States population in the Senate while the “minority” represents 168 million. With Amy Coney Barrett’s ascension to the Supreme Court next week, three of the justices will have been nominated by a president who lost the popular vote by three million votes. W. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000 but did not nominate his justices (Roberts and Alito) until after John Kerry was Swiftboated in 2004 and Bush won by more than three million votes.

So should Biden pack the court? Put two more chairs on the left side of the bench? Nope, and I don’t see any reason of him to say whether he will or won’t before the election. Run his own campaign and not let the opposition call the shots.

My plan would be for Biden to name his potential Supreme Court replacements before Nov. 3. First on the list: Anita Hill. Biden owes her one. Clarence Thomas and Bret Kavanaugh would flee, and Biden could send in his next sub: Merrick Garland.

When 82-year-old Stephen Breyer retires, Biden would have to supply his own list of replacements, because I have exhausted mine.

So then the handicapping for Kamala Harris in 2024 would look like this:

About 50 states. I like 50. But if you can make Hawaii, a set of islands 2,500 miles from the West Coast, a state, why not Puerto Rico, only 1,800 miles from Florida? And the 700,000 people living in Washington, D.C., ought to get the same representation of the almost 600,000 living in Wyoming. Puerto Rico and D.C. going Democratic? That would be a problem for Mitchie and his gang. So sad.

“Mr. President” game might be better than my handicapping

You never know what might show up when you put something on your blog. For instance, I got a nice note from Mark, a rugby-playing teammate about a game he used to play called “Mr. President.” He’s younger than I (we are both past our prime playing days). But his teens were in the 1970s, and he became quite familiar with games of that era as you can see from what he wrote:

“Made me think of a game I used to play in my teens in the 70’s.

It’s called “Mr. President.” It’s a 3M Bookshelf game.

Using cards to campaign around the states, the two candidates blind balloted them into state slot boxes. Once the campaign ended, the boxes were opened, ballots counted and winner declared.

I no longer own a copy of the game, but I sure learned a bit about the chore a presidential campaign entailed.”

That might be a better way of figuring out who is going to win the 2020 presidential race than my guessing, I mean, handicapping, that I am doing in this blog. Although the game seems somewhat complicated.

The only 3M games that I know is “Facts in Five,” but Mark is a more enthusiastic gamer than I am.

“I was a big-time gamer in me youth. Me & my two brothers and about five neighbor kids would play games over and over, and if they ever got boring because we figured them out, we’d play them oppositely: we’d play them to LOSE. The biggest loser was the winner. 

Playing a game opposite, to lose, does not always work, but it is a fun exercise and keeps your brain on its toes.

There is a published game called “AntiMonopoly,” though I have not played it.

Monopoly was a favorite. We’d link two boards at one of the corners, usually Free Parking, and play a double game in a figure 8. One neighbor had a machine shop and we would create our game pieces on their metal lathe and hand-paint faces on them. Hardcore.

Two neighbors and I got into Avalon-Hill war games. There’s a whole family of them — huge thick cardboard game boards with cardboard armies and armored square pieces (and navy and aircraft pieces, too). These match-ups took 16 or more hours to play the full game. Tricky rules. You make battles with adjacent stacked up units and use a dice or two to figure out the attrition.

I own a few of these still. I assume I’ll never play them again as they take so long to play, and I only have one or two pals who would ever invest the time.

Anyhow, those 3M bookshelf games were different and fun. “Stocks and Bonds” got heavy play. Also “Acquire,” which was about hotel chains. “Quinto” and “Facts in Five” were played, too.

Here’s the full lineup and the history of the 3M line: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3M_bookshelf_game_series

You would enjoy Mr. President. Maybe I’ll search it out and pick it up for “someday” playing.

Truth is, Mr. P and “Stocks and Bonds” would both lend themselves to an online version pretty easily, I think.

There is a vibrant sub-culture in Seattle and most cities of board-game playing that picked up in the last decade or so. Germany is the source of hundreds of new board games, a magnet for designers.

New top games like Settlers of Cattan and Ticket to Ride are doing well, and I have gone through the fad of “Ticket to Ride” with at least a dozen friends and family. TTR lends itself to an online version, which you can purchase for very cheap via the platform Steam. I recommend TTR –there are over a dozen versions with slight rules twists and geography settings beyond the basic USA game.

War games thrived in the 70’s & 80’s, Avalon-Hill even had a club where they would mail you monthly a new game: on a paper board of a historic battlefield with the true-to-life assemblage of army and armored division cardboard units.”

Mark says it’s OK to give out his email, although “the most I can offer is to talk about games, not really looking for play “dates” as I know where to go to find players.”


Thanks, Mark, for a look inside the gaming world. Now back to deciding if South Carolina really belongs in Biden’s camp.

What if tRump won California? Steady Joe can’t win

October 17, 2020 update: Responding to comments on California going to tRump:

“Not gonna happen!! Biden all the way!”

Moving California back to Steady Joe.

Also this comment:

“Please get your mind right on Arizona. Demographics push it big and blue. I take a $2 punt on it…”

Moving Arizona to Biden, which would give him 279 electoral votes, enough to win even if tRump got all my “maybe” votes:

What if tRump won California? I got an email from someone in that state giving his reasons for why he is voting for tRump. He’s convinced and can’t be dissuaded. Are there enough like him to give California’s 55 electoral votes to the Republicans? This despite it being Kamala Harris’ home state?

Best thing in handicapping is to take all pieces of information into consideration. To not do so would be like thinking you know all about Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania without visiting them. That could turn out badly.

I can never understand why pundits say “he can’t win without” California, Florida, Texas or some other individual state as if all other states are going to line up as expected. That seems as crazy to me as what I am doing here.

However, Steady Joe can’t win without California. If all states did as I have predicted – Ha! – tRump would be over the top with 290 electoral votes, 20 past the 270 needed to win. Even if Biden got all the states I have left under “Maybe,” he would lose 290 to 249.

Not journalism: Handicapping 2020 presidential race

10/13/2020 update: I’ve been going back and forth on Too-Rye-Ay‘s tip to include Ohio in the Biden stable. But after seeing a video of a tRump rally in Clyde, Ohio, where maddened Buckeyes were going wild in the streets as if the Ohio State football team was running through them instead of black Secret Service SUVs, I moved Ohio back to tRump.

I also had to retype this spreadsheet because it did not come over to my new computer from my old, and very broken, desktop. In doing so, I found South Carolina in the tRump pile. Given that South Carolina put Biden over the top in the primary, it seemed out of place. So with S.C. properly placed in my handicapping formula, that leaves tRump with 224 electoral votes. He’ll need 46 votes from the states I have listed as “maybe.” Biden needs 12 to win the race. For once in my life, I might bet on Michigan and its 16 electoral votes to have Jill Biden and her clean-up crew in the White House to rid it of coronavirus.

Handicapping the 2020 presidential race
Trump Maybe Biden
State and electoral votes State and electoral votes State and electoral votes
Alabama 9 Arizona 11 California 55
Alaska 3 Iowa 6 Colorado 9
Arkansas 6 Michigan 16 Connecticut 7
Florida 29 Missouri 10 Delaware 3
Georgia 16 Maine 4 D.C. 3
Idaho 4 Wisconsin 10 Hawaii 4
Indiana 11 TOTAL 57 Illinois 20
Kansas 6 Maryland 10
Kentucky 8 Massachusetts 11
Louisiana 8 Minnesota 10
Mississippi 6 Nevada 6
Montana 3 New Hampshire 4
Nebraska 5 New Jersey 14
North Carolina 15 New Mexico 5
North Dakota 4 New York 29
Ohio 18 Oregon 7
Oklahoma 7 Pennsylvania 20
Rhode Island 4
South Dakota 3 Vermont 3
Tennessee 11 Virginia 13
Texas 38 Washington 12
Utah 6 South Carolina 9
West Virginia 5
Wyoming 3

7/30/2020 update: Great tip from Too-Rye-Ay that Ohio should be moved to Biden. Her comments:

Don’t count out Ohio for Biden. Lots of coronavirus here and the stats keep looking like the virus is winning. Also a Speaker of The Ohio House was just indicted for the worst case of racketeering in Ohio history (R). Senator Portman is not glowing in Central Ohio. Many central Ohio schools will be virtual this fall as well as some liberal arts colleges are going virtual. The biggest indicator will be if The Buckeyes will play football. My prediction—no. Oh and The Lincoln Project is running commercials focusing on Ohio. Keep fingers crossed for Democrat win November 2029.”

See updated chart below.

This is not journalism. This is a wild-ass guess at who’s going to win the 2020 presidential race. Like I do each week when I buy a Daily Racing Form and try to make money betting horses. If I bet on them, they lose.

Journalism would be researching, interviewing, using past knowledge to make a determination. This is not journalism.

These are like the pencil notes to myself on the DRF. I haven’t written down my bets yet. I’ll do that as the post time gets closer. But I can hear the “Call to Post,” and I’m willing to listen to anyone who might have a tip or two. Inside knowledge on your home state? Make a comment.

My final bet will be posted on the morning of Nov. 3, 2020. And the popular vote? That doesn’t seem to count anymore when a Republican is in the race. (Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, George W. Bush, Donald tRump)

Handicapping the 2020 presidential race
Trump Maybe Biden
State and electoral votes State and electoral votes State and electoral votes
Alabama 9 Arizona 11 California 55
Alaska 3 Iowa 6 Colorado 9
Arkansas 6 Michigan 16 Connecticut 7
Florida 29 Missouri 10 Delaware 3
Georgia 16 Maine 4 D.C. 3
Idaho 4 Wisconsin 10 Hawaii 4
Indiana 11 TOTAL 57 Illinois 20
Kansas 6 Maryland 10
Kentucky 8 Massachusetts 11
Louisiana 8 Minnesota 10
Mississippi 6 Nevada 6
Montana 3 New Hampshire 4
Nebraska 5 New Jersey 14
North Carolina 15 New Mexico 5
North Dakota 4 New York 29
Oregon 7
Oklahoma 7 Pennsylvania 20
South Carolina 9 Rhode Island 4
South Dakota 3 Vermont 3
Tennessee 11 Virginia 13
Texas 38 Washington 12
Utah 6 Ohio 18
West Virginia 5
Wyoming 3

Do viruses salute a flag of red, white and flu?

Describing coronavirus as a “foreign virus” seemed odd to me when I first heard it. Viruses seemed like part of the natural world, no nationality, no ethnicity, mostly to be avoided. But foreign? Do they carry passports? Do they salute a flag of red, white and flu? Did they ask for asylum before coming to the United States? And if so, why aren’t they in Mexico waiting for their court date?

Apparently this misguided notion of how viruses get around in this world is not unique to the coronavirus and its mis-namers. Daniel Defoe starts his “A Journal of the Plague Year” noting the same ill intention.

Start of Plague

We have to be suspicious of Defoe and how he describes the Plague of 1664. He was only 5 years old during that year. So what he remembers or how it impressed him as a child might not hold up too well to Snopes.com. Defoe’s career as an author and journalist had elements that Trump would love: His political enemies had Defoe thrown in prison for slander. On the other hand, the two men had several things in common: They both “participated in several failing businesses, facing bankruptcy and aggressive creditors.”

Defoe wrote the “A Journal of the Plague Year” 58 years after it happened. But he must have heard stories about the plague all his life, gathered information from written sources, interviewed those who survived and wrote it as a grown man walking through the streets of London observing what it must have been like. Literary journalism at its finest.

His version of the plague strikes a chord with what is going on today. Calling the pandemic a Holland plague or a China virus exposes that you are in denial that the sickness is here now and you must deal with it. You could do that. Or, you could say things like:

“. . . We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

“It will all work out well.”

“We have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five. And those people are all recuperating successfully.”

“Well, we pretty much shut it down coming in from China.”

“Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away,”

“It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.”

“I’m not concerned at all. It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

“It’s going to be just fine.”

Defoe records that those at the top in 1664 were slow to take action.

Government knew

Once the plague started getting around, concealment of sickness became a general practice.

Conceal the plague(To be continued)



Looking for a depressing book? I’ve got a good one for you

Meredith bookIf you’re looking for a 675-page, depressing book, I have just the thing for you: “The Fortunes of Africa: A 5,000-Year History of Wealth, Greed, and Endeavor” by Martin Meredith. As a survey history, it’s informative and well written, and I’m glad I read it after visiting Kenya and Tanzania.

But when you consider what has happened to the people there, enslaved by the Pharaohs 5,000 years ago and then ruled by the likes of Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Robert Mugabe and other pillagers, that’s what makes this depressing.

Meredith reports that Africa has the highest levels of poverty and the lowest levels of life expectancy. When the book was published in 2014, only a quarter of the continent’s workers had stable, wage-paying jobs; two-thirds made their living through subsistence activities or low-wage self-employment. Between 1960 and 2010, African food production fell by 10 percent while the rest of the world’s went up 150 percent. The number of undernourished Africans is 250 million in its population of 1 billion. The entire African continent’s economic output is 2.7 percent of the world’s economy, equal to $1.7 trillion, about the same as a single nation such as Russia.

There’s gold, diamonds, minerals, metals, arable lands and oil, oil, oil, but where has the money from those resources gone? Some to foreign corporations, but most of it into the pockets of that long list of corrupt ruling pillagers. The last chapter in Meredith’s book is a country-by-country, billion-dollar-by-billion-dollar ledger of corruption in Nigeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa. In recent years, corruption has cost Africa $148 billion annually, “more than a quarter of the continent’s entire gross domestic product.”

The overall population of Africa is increasing faster than any other part of the world. Forty percent of Africans live in cities with miles of slums and shantytowns that lack sanitation, clean water, paved roads and electricity.

Meredith head 1Meredith concludes with this from a United Nations report: “ ‘The unfolding pattern (in Africa) is one of disjointed, dysfunctional and unsustainable urban geographies of inequality and human suffering, with oceans of poverty containing islands of wealth.’ The urban crisis, it concluded, posed a threat not only to the stability of Africa’s cities but to entire nations.”

Which leads us to some questions that were raised in an earlier post here: Should the United States government, either through its military or through diplomacy, be involved in sorting out this mess? Could we mount a humanitarian effort that would be effective? Should the U.S. stay to get our hands on the resources before Russia, Islamic terrorists or China do?

And the Chinese influence is growing in Africa. As Meredith points out: “While Western powers continued to lecture African governments about corruption, transparency, human rights and democracy, China made no such demands. In pursuit of Africa’s riches, it was prepared to set up deals with dictators, despots and unsavory regimes of every hue, with no strings attached.”

Those questions about should we stay or should we go are now being addressed by the U.S. military commanders in Africa, according to a New York Times article published Dec. 24, 2019. Defense Secretary Mark Esper expects an initial decision in January.

Pulling out could mean abandoning a $110 million airbase in Niger being used to launch drone attacks. It could mean running out on French forces fighting extremists in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. (Hey, you colonized them so here’s the bill.)

In re-shifting the 200,000 service men and women the United States has overseas, it could mean confronting China and Russia more directly (Does the Commander-in-chief know about that Russian part?). It could mean endorsing Esper’s priority to get away from years of counter-terrorism deployments that try to “maintain minimum stability but without much prospect of definitive solutions.” He wants to quit going after “extremists who lack the demonstrated ability and intent to attack the U.S. on its own soil,” according to officials quoted in the NYT story.

So we might leave behind some intelligence forces, and if we learn some country is sponsoring, say, a training camp for Saudi Arabia pilots or some such, we might bomb it to smithereens, hoping we miss wedding parties, which we did not in Afghanistan.

The U.S., military or otherwise, could mount a humanitarian effort that could feed, water and save the African population, which is expected to reach 1.2 billion by 2050. That may be a naïve notion. Or, walk away, keeping American lives and treasures here at home. That may be heartless, placing Africa in the hopeless category. And that’s very depressing.


Using women’s instinct to protect African wildlife

Once you have seen animals in the wild, protecting them can become an obsession, as it did for Damien Mander, who came to talk and show photographs Oct. 29, 2019 at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. It was the first event we have signed up for called “National Geographic Live.” I found out that I have fallen out of practice taking notes in the dark. So here’s from memory and the brochure handed out in the entry hall.


It seems that Mander is obsessed with more than saving wild animals. In fact, it looks as if he goes into all stages of his life in an obsessive fashion, out to do it all well, energetically and to the nth degree. Born in Australia, he was obsessed with water, could not stay out of the sea. He became a “clearance diver” in the Australian Navy.

Then on to Special Forces as a sniper and then a trainer in the Iraq War. He served three years there before abandoning it.

“The second mistake we made there, besides getting into it, was disbanding the Iraqi army,” Mander said. That took the jobs away from not just the soldiers, but also the income to the extended families depending on those jobs, alienating millions who probably were not sorry to see Saddam Hussein go and might have signed on to rebuild the nation.

Mander bounced around South America — photos of what looked like a good time in bars, but maybe not, as he also mentioned the statistics on Iraq War veterans’ suicides. Then to Africa where he was introduced to nature and had an epiphany — my word — when looking into the eyes of a buffalo that had ripped itself apart in a trap set by poachers. As his companion shot that animal, putting it out of its misery, Mander had found his next obsession.

In 2009, he founded the International Anti Poaching Foundation to preserve an ecosystem by “training and equipping rangers to fight the poaching crisis in Africa.” Given that a pound of ivory from an elephant’s tusk is worth $35,000 in Vietnam, it is no wonder that people in Zimbabwe, where 72 percent of the population is below the poverty line, would be attracted to poaching. So arresting poachers was taking the income from many families there, causing conflicts with local communities.

In 2017, the IAPF started “Akashinga,” which means Brave Ones in the Shona language. The idea was to empower “disadvantaged women to restore and manage a network of wilderness areas as an alternative economic model to trophy hunting” and poaching. As the brochure says:

“The women of Akashinga have built strong relationships with the locals, de-escalated conflict and invested into their communities. The community response to this was to work with us in conservation, rather than against us.”


A squad leader, Vimbai Kumire, who barely reaches up to the chest of Mander, also addressed us at Benaroya. Despite her diminutive size, she showed that passion could be more powerful than bullets. She told of the importance of animals to their culture and country and explained that it was not only an honor to protect them but was also providing income for her family and dignity for herself.

Many of the arrests made — “without firing a single shot” — are related to organized crime and the use of poisons.

“Syndicates have been broken open and we have been advised of an 80% reduction in elephant poaching across the region since 2016,” the brochure says.

The organization now has the responsibility for protecting wildlife in more than one million acres. The most asked question, Mander says, by those arrested is not “Why am I being arrested?” but “Why am I being arrested by a woman?”

“For so long, our vision has been clouded by ego from seeing the most powerful force in nature — a woman’s instinct to protect.”

It may take all of that and more to protect the wildlife in Africa. With more than two billion people living on that continent by 2040, the loss of wildlife habitat will continue to grow. According to an article in the Oct. 10, 2019  edition of The Times of London (picked up in Amsterdam on our way home from Africa), many countries have lost their rhinoceros populations because of habitat loss: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Chad.

Because of poaching, the rhino population in Botswana could be wiped out in two years, the article said. Rhino horns fetch $50,000 per kilogram in Asia, where they are used in traditional therapies. Botswana has fewer than 400 rhinos and has lost one a month in 2019, a rate that is still increasing. Conservationists blame part of that on President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who has disarmed the anti-poaching unit. His predecessor, Ian Khama, had an “unofficial shoot-to-kill” policy.

PlaqueThe rhinos we saw in Kenya were kept under armed guard. Not chained up or penned, but accompanied by the guards. Theirs is a dangerous way to make a living. A plaque on the overlook into the Ngorongoro Crater listed conservationists who have lost their lives, including six killed by poachers or bandits.

“In truth, there are really only a few things that matter: character and spirit,” Mander writes in the brochure. “If you don’t have those things, you don’t have a chance. CV’s, references, qualifications and fitness levels mean nothing here. We don’t want perfect. We want scrappers. someone that knows what it’s like to have to fight for survival. The rest will be learned.”