Tuesday, February 27, 2007

2008 Presidential Sweepstakes (Horse) Race

Republican Politics, American Style
Published February 22nd 2007 in MetroEireann
By Charles Laffiteau

Last week I promised to handicap the horses competing in the 2008 Presidential Sweepstakes race cycle. I would like to begin by first handicapping the horses in the Elephant-Pachyderm Stakes, since I am a bit more familiar with the horses in this field.

McCain is the older of the 2 early front runners in the Elephant-Pachyderm Stakes and has a bit more national racing experience than his challenger, Giuliani. But some bettors have concerns about McCain’s age and his health and question how he will fare against a younger horse in the Presidential Sweepstakes should he win the Elephant-Pachyderm Stakes.

In addition, many socially conservative bettors have their doubts about both of these nags and are looking carefully at some other horseflesh that they believe possess better training and social breeding.
Romney, born in Michigan but trained in Massachusetts, appears to be the favourite among many of these bettors, but not all of them by any means. Some of them like Huckabee, who trained in Arkansas just like a past long shot winner of the Donkey-Ass and Presidential Sweepstakes, Clinton. Another entry conservative bettors appear to like is Brownback, who was bred and trained in Kansas.

Beyond these five the rest of the field consists of horses about which bettors have questions like training, Pataki out of New York and Ridge from Pennsylvania, or breeding like the maverick horse from Nebraska, Hagel. Questions about their desire to run surround horses such as Gingrich from Georgia and Powell from the nation’s Capital, Washington DC. Still it’s too early in the race to eliminate any of these horses from betting consideration. I wouldn’t be totally shocked to see one of them emerge from this crowded field as a winner in the preliminary race, provided one of the current front runners doesn’t get out to too large of an early lead.

In the Donkey-Ass Stakes race, Edwards has the experience of running in both the 2004 Donkey-Ass and Presidential Sweepstakes races and many bettors believe this horse has the best chance of beating the winner of the Elephant-Pachyderm Stakes in the Presidential Sweepstakes race. Edwards is out of South Carolina but has spent a lot of time training in Iowa, which could prove advantageous in this equally crowded field of horses.

Many questions surround the only distaff in the race, Clinton, even though she has experience in national races running alongside the eventual 1992 and 1996 Presidential Sweepstakes winner with the same name. I would like to think the betting public in the United States has begun to catch on to the idea that a female thoroughbred is just as capable of winning the Presidential Sweepstakes as any of her male counterparts. Even though this has proven to be the case in other countries, many conservative American bettors still maintain a bias against fillies and mares. This will probably remain the case among an ever declining percentage of bettors for at least the next 20 years. After all this is still a male dominated sport, otherwise they wouldn’t continue to call it the “Sport of Kings”.

Hmmm. Does anyone have any suggestions for a better name? The “Sport of Queens” just doesn’t sound quite right. Neither does the “Sport of Citizens” nor the “Sport of the Public”. How about the “Sport of Royalty” or the “Sport of the Rich and Famous”? Hey people, give me some credit, at least I’m trying to come up with a more politically correct name.

Now even though a black horse has never won any of these races, the only entry in this year’s race shouldn’t be considered a dark horse to win his first national race. This young stallion is actually the first black horse to be given a chance of wining by odds makers since these races first began over 200 years ago. He is a very fast, smooth running horse who has been training well for the past 2 years, but his lack of racing experience at the national level is seen as a disadvantage by many bettors. Many of them either want to wait and see him run successfully against the heavier weight horses nationally before placing any bets on him or they have the same bias against black horses that some bettors have against mares.

As for the rest of the field, it is still possible that a winner could emerge from this group. Given the strength and quality of the 3 current front runners, they could sap each others strength long before they reach the finish line, leaving the door open for dark horses like Richardson, with his Spanish bloodlines or Clark, another stallion bred in Arkansas. Long shots include that darling of more liberal bettors, Feingold who trains in Wisconsin, Biden, who was bred and trained in Delaware and Vilsak who has also spent a lot of time training in Iowa over the years.

As for who I like in these races, I’m still doing my homework on all theses horses, and will try to let you know the results of my due diligence in the next week or two. We still have a lot of time till these races are over and their winners decided.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Handicapping the 2008 Presidential Sweepstakes Race

Republican Politics, American Style
Published February 15th in Dublins Metro Eireann Newspaper
By Charles Laffiteau

Welcome to the latest instalment of the “Sport of Kings”, thoroughbred racing fans. Today we are coming to you live, from the site of the 2008 United States Presidential Sweepstakes race, which is held every four years at different racecourses around the country.

This year’s purse is the largest in the history of the world’s richest thoroughbred stakes race. The handlers of these horses had to put up an estimated 25 million dollars apiece just to get their racehorses entered into one of the two preliminary races, the Grade II Elephant-Pachyderm Stakes and Grade II Donkey-Ass Stakes. Given the crowded field in both preliminary races, this will also be the most expensive race for the Presidential Sweepstakes crown in history, with total expenditures likely to top one billion dollars before we announce a winner in the final race of the 2008 season.

The winners of the two preliminary graded stakes races must also face each other in the Grade I finale, the US Presidential Sweepstakes race on November 4th 2008. In this race, the winning thoroughbred’s handlers will have to pony up an additional 250 to 300 million dollars for each of their respective entries.

Oops, the gun just sounded and they’re off in what appears to be another early start for the two preliminary Grade II stakes races. As the horses near the first turn, Edwards appears to have the early lead by a half a length over Clinton and Obama in the Donkey-Ass race, while on the course next door, Giuliani is running neck and neck with McCain in the Elephant-Pachyderm Stakes.

I must apologize for being caught unawares by the early start to the two preliminary races, which seem to start earlier every time we begin another four year race cycle. But since this is an extremely long race involving 2 complete circuits of the racecourse, I think I still have time to take a few moments to handicap some of these thoroughbred race horses for you.

If the history of past preliminary stakes races is any kind of indicator, then the current positions of the front runners is by no means indicative of how these thoroughbreds will finish these races. These are, after all, races where endurance and stamina mean just as much as pedigrees, breeding and training. Oftentimes a dark horse or long shot will emerge from the pack during the course of the race and run down the early betting line favourites long before they reach the finish line. Clinton did this in the 1992 Donkey-Ass Stakes race.

On a few other occasions some of these preliminary races, as well as the occasional Presidential Sweepstakes race, have gone right down to the wire resulting in a photo finish, with the final winner determined by a decision of the race stewards, also known as the judges of the US Supreme Court.

Such was the case as recently as 2002 in the US Presidential Sweepstakes finale. In that race, even though it appeared that the Donkey-Ass Stakes winner Gore had beaten Elephant-Pachyderm Stakes winner Bush by a nose, the race stewards saw the results differently and named Bush the winner in one of the closest Presidential Sweepstakes finishes in recent memory.

Another interesting note about the 2008 Presidential Sweepstakes race is that while the winner of the race often goes on to win the same race again 4 years later, it has been over 180 years since the Presidential Sweepstakes race has seen successive winners in 2 races three times in succession. Since Clinton won the race in 1992 and 1996 followed by Bush in 2000 and 2004, (if history is any guide) one would have to bet that whoever wins the race in 2008 will not repeat as the winner in 2012. Monroe was the first and only Presidential Sweepstakes winner to have done so, back in the early days of Presidential Sweepstakes’ history, when he won in both 1817 and 1821.

I wonder how many of these thoroughbred’s handlers are aware that, based on many past performances in follow up races 4 years later, they face long odds of being a repeat winner in 2012. In light of this fact, wouldn’t it be smarter to sit out the 2008 race and wait to run in 2012, thereby increasing your odds of repeating as a winner again in 2016?

Of course, one reason many handlers may have overlooked this little bit of history, was because they were focusing so much on the fact that this will also be the first Presidential race in 80 years that will be without either the previous race winner or his stable mate (aka Vice President) running in one of the preliminaries. These experienced past winners usually begin the season as odds on favourites in the preliminary stakes races.

That is why I encourage all you bettors to do your homework and make sure you thoroughly investigate each prospective horse before making any wagers. Years ago the motto around many betting establishments was “bet early and bet often”, which sometimes resulted in strong showings by particular horses in specific areas of the country. This old betting practice helped a thoroughbred named Kennedy nip Elephant-Pachyderm Stakes winner, Nixon, at the wire in the 1960 Presidential Sweepstakes race.

While this practice has been on the wane since that 1960 race, bettors are still entitled to make single wagers in both the preliminary and final races and I want to encourage each and every one of them to do so. Not all citizens of the world have the same rights and privileges as we do and I’m afraid we may one day lose this privilege if we continue to fail to exercise it.

Many states have gone to great lengths to stem the constant decline in individual bets by allowing bettors to place their wagers as much as 30 days before the race. As a result, there is simply no excuse anymore for not betting on these races. For my part, I won’t even discuss who won or lost these races with any bettor who fails to place a wager on them. I think I will close for now and come back next week to handicap the race contestants for you.

Poetry anyone?

I read a great little poem written by a woman named Adree DeSanti and couldn't resist authoring a follow-up sonnet of my own. Mine follows hers:

We base our relationships on these five little letters
How we used to jot down on notebooks how we'd be "Together Forever"
But puppy love is fickle, and we always change our mind
We have our hearts broken and we learn to heal in time

We always say that trust is the basis of the foundation
Which holds together lovers through times of desperation
So many times I've seen love fall through so many's hands
Begging for answers to their questions that no one understands

I've spent my lifetime believing trust is a two way street
Paved on dirt to leave footprints on and not solid like concrete
I think that many have made mistakes, and I've watched it with my eyes
To see how hearts once full of love could be turned to ones with lies

I've loved someone and lost before, and seen what it can do
When the one you trust becomes someone else and plays you for a fool
But my heart was never hardened and from that experience I learned much
That to me i will always remain true to me and still believe in TRUST.

I realize now that I wont change how I am or how I intend to love
I give all I have to the one I choose and from my experience i rose above
So one day I will be ready to open that door again
Ive already said good bye to the past and soon enough my future can begin

So many say they can't trust anyone, but I think thats such a waste
Cause you never know that the right one for you can be right in front of your face
But being scared and afraid of "chance" will leave you empty in the end
So for now I'll still believe in TRUST...or at least I will pretend.

*Copyright 2007 Adree DeSanti - www.LittleMissOptimistic.com

Before we can begin to TRUST,
there is one more essential must.
We must know how to face our fear.
There's just one answer which is clear.

When fear is knocking at your door,
you must have FAITH in something more,
if you believe that God does care,
when the door opens, no one's there.

Answer to fear is FAITH you see,
much like the fruit that's on a tree
when it gets big enough to face,
it falls into another place.

That fear will bother you no more,
because of FAITH the soil is poor
and thus the seeds can't root again,
because of FAITH in your God's plan.

With this FAITH, we begin to TRUST,
because it's an essential must
if we're to find that one true love,
He wants for us from up above.

"Copyright 2007 Charles Laffiteau-Metro Eireann and http://www.republicanpoliticsamericanstyle.blogspot.com/

Sunday, February 4, 2007

2007 Brit Awards and Iraq

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on February 1st 2007 in Metro Eireann
by Charles Laffiteau

Today, I would like to discuss two very different subjects; recent developments in both the Iraq war and the Bush Administration’s “war on terror” as well as the 2007 Brit Awards.

The earlier scepticism I expressed about the new administration strategies of increasing the number of troops in Iraq and doubling the amount of reconstruction aid was repeated by many Republicans on Capitol Hill when Bush’s top cabinet officials went there to testify in support of these proposals. Republican stalwarts like Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana took a very dim view of the President’s “new” approach and the reasons behind it that he had outlined in a nationally televised speech on January 10th.

Senator Lugar said, “The president and his team should explain what objectives we are trying to achieve if forces are expanded, where and how they will be used, why such as strategy will succeed.”

Senator Hagel went much further by flatly stating, “I think this speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it’s carried out. I will resist it.”

If respected members of Bush’s own party don’t believe these strategies will work, you don’t need me to tell you what the Democrats now in control of Congress think about these proposals.

In the “war on terror” the Bush administration has also made a stunning turnaround by finally agreeing to give a secret court jurisdiction over the National Security Administration’s (NSA) oft criticized wiretapping program.

Many respected Republicans, such as Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Representative Heather Wilson of New Mexico, had been highly critical of the NSA’s practice of eavesdropping without warrants on thousands of Americans whose international phone calls the NSA suspected might have ties to terrorism.

Thirteen months have gone by since this program was first revealed to exist and the Bush administration has repeated defended it as being constitutional under the President’s “war powers” authority granted him by Congress, a contention that most Congressional representatives dispute.

It would appear that the Bush administration has finally realized that it’s appeal of an earlier Federal Court ruling declaring the program illegal and unconstitutional was not likely to succeed and it wanted to head off another adverse judicial ruling on the matter.

The fact that the President had clearly overstepped his authority by sanctioning such an indiscriminate wiretapping program is still likely to be the subject of Congressional hearings later this year.

I was recently asked to vote for my picks among the various nominees for the 2007 Brit Awards.

Now why, you ask, would an American Republican postgraduate student, living in Dublin Ireland (not the UK), who writes mainly about US politics and foreign policy, be asked to cast a vote for the top British music groups and artists?

Well, you will just have to wait till next month, after the awards show broadcast on Valentines Day for me to explain exactly why I was asked to do this. For now, let us suffice to say that I am a huge fan of music in general, (regardless of where it originates) with a particular love for Jazz, Rock, Blues, Popular and Alternative styles.

I will now risk the wrath of some of my readers by telling you who I voted for, so you can ascertain how “Insynch” (remember them?) I am with other voters at picking the winners. Of course, I think you’re a winner just for being nominated for this prestigious British music award, not to mention being honoured on a music awards show whose entire proceeds go to charity.

Starting with the Brits, I first voted for Jarvis Crocker as Best British Male Solo Artist instead of another personal favourite, Lemar.

Not an easy choice there or with my selection for Best British Female Solo Artist of Corinne Bailey Rae over Amy Winehouse.

Best British Group wasn’t much easier, but I had to give the nod to Snow Patrol instead of their arch-rivals, Razorlight.

For the MasterCard British Album I went with the Arctic Monkeys in a narrow decision over Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black tour de force second album.

Fill My Little World by The Feeling was another tough pick in the Best British Single category over Lily Allen’s Smile.

But Lily Allen was the clear winner as the top British Breakthrough Act, thanks to her album entitled Alright Still.

Finally, I chose Muse narrowly over the Guillemots in the Best British Live Act class.

Among the international awards nominees, I made an extremely difficult pick of Bob Dylan over a personal favourite, Damien Rice, in the International Solo Artist field, mainly because I have never regarded Damien Rice as simply a male solo artist act.

Pink, on the other hand was an easy choice for Best International Female Solo Artist as was The Killers Sam’s Town as Best International Album.

Much, much tougher to pick a winner though, between The Flaming Lips and my long time favourites, the Red Hot Chili Peppers for Best International Group. I went with the Flaming Lips on the strength of their performance at Vicar Street last November, even though the Chili Peppers are ever present as part of my laptop’s screensaver.

Last but not least, I chose Gnarls Barkley over Orson as the top International Breakthrough Group; mainly because I’ve seen Gnarls live and haven’t yet been able to see Orson in concert.

So there you have it, my picks as the Brit Awards winners in each category. You’ll still have to wait a bit though, before you find out why I was asked to vote and how accurate my picks turn out to be.

If you disagree with my selections, that’s OK, because I believe when it comes to music, to each his (or her) own.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Lessons Learned in foreign wars

Republican Politics, American Style
By Charles Laffiteau

So what lessons should the United States and its allies like the United Kingdom, take away from our experiences in Iraq, Afghanistan and earlier wars such as Vietnam? That we should never get involved in armed conflicts unless such conflicts threaten the lives of our own territory and citizens? That we should never go to war in or with another country unless we are directly attacked by that country first? Or maybe the lesson is that we should abide by the United Nations (UN) Charter and International Law which proscribes the use of force except in cases of self defence, collective self defence or as authorized by the UN Security Council.

I believe such responses are a bit too simplistic and fail to adequately address the issue of when, where, why and how the use of force is justifiable.

If we were to wait until armed conflicts threatened our own territory or citizens, then we never would have become involved in World War I, the Gulf War to liberate Kuwait, in Korea to stop the assault by North Korea on the sovereign state of South Korea or in Bosnia.

If we never go to war with another country unless we are directly attacked by that country first, then we never would have gotten involved in World War I or against Germany in World War II, much less the aforementioned conflicts in Kuwait, South Korea or Bosnia.

If we were to abide by the UN Charter and or International Law then we would not be able to use force to stop another country from attacking us unless that country had already made armed incursions or interfered in our territorial or political independence and or we had overwhelming evidence that they planned to do so.

The lessons that I believe the US and its allies should take away from our collective experiences in foreign wars over the last 100 years are these:

While the US may be the only global superpower left in the world, we must be extremely careful when, where, why and how we exercise that power. True wisdom reflects an understanding that the greater ones power, the more judicious one must be in utilizing it. Might does not equal right. We cannot possible hope to serve as the policeman of the world, unless we are willing to accept the social and economic costs of doing so. That means a willingness to sacrifice even more American lives while shouldering the financial burden of maintaining enough armed forces to do the job.

We must respect the fact that not everyone in the world shares our perspective on how to serve the best interests of a nation’s citizens. Democracy works well in countries which have strong legal systems as well as judicial and governmental institutions which support and safeguard the legal rights of its citizens. It becomes very messy in other countries which lack some or most of these democratic foundations. Not every country wants or even needs American style democracy to serve the best interests of its people. The US is still a relatively young and politically inexperienced country. As such, the US could not possibly have all the answers for the problems of this world, many of which have been around for centuries.

As a nation of immigrants the US also lacks experience dealing with the kind of ethnic, religious and sectarian divisions which plague many other nations around the world. Unfortunately, many other people around the world do not regard their fellow men as equals if those neighbours are from a different ethnic, religious or social background.

If we really want to promote and spread our democratic ideals around the rest of the world, then we should start by doing a better job of promoting and sustaining them in our own country. Sadly, most Americans don’t even bother to vote in their own democratic elections anymore. Those who do bother to vote often cast their ballots based on single issues such as abortion and Social Security entitlements or on the basis of TV sound bites and political ads for or against particular candidates.
Television political ads in the US are very expensive and not exactly known for their accuracy. More often than not, the candidate who gets elected is the one who is able to raise the most money to spend on advertising. In American style democracy, money equals power. Hmmm, that sounds very democratic doesn’t it?

Wars against terrorists, guerrillas or other types of insurgents are not fought on battlefields with conventional armies. The real battles are fought over and for the hearts and minds of the citizens in countries affected by these conflicts. You do this with economic assistance programs that address the physical and material needs of the people. You help countries set up judicial and legal systems that are fair and available to all their citizens. You wage public relations campaigns in the local and national news media that address issues of ethnic and religious intolerance as well as the futility of sectarian violence. You try to address the underlying causes of these conflicts such as income inequality, poverty or a lack of social welfare and justice for certain segments of society, instead of just attacking the symptoms. You enlist the aid of other countries to help you apply diplomatic, economic and political pressure on recalcitrant national governments which may be fuelling or supporting armed violence. I know this is not very glamorous stuff but it works if you are patient and consistent with such strategies over a period of years.

When all else fails, you make a commitment to fund and fight those “dirty little wars”, using covert operatives to help you identify and arrest or kill those who seek to harm innocent civilians in their quest for political power. In these wars, the victories are small and don’t make headlines for either side, but they are deadly in terms of their long term effectiveness. Will we ever learn? I sure hope so.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Bush Administration versus the Iraq Study Group

Republican Politics, American Style

Published on February 8th 2007 in Metro Eireann
By Charles Laffiteau

The Bush administration has done its best to push the Iraq Study Group’s (ISG) report off the front pages of America’s newspapers and into the background, largely because it was extremely critical of the administration’s strategies and tactics in both Iraq and the entire Middle East region. While James Baker succeeded in toning down the final report and watering down the panel’s recommendations, to make it more palatable for the President to swallow, it was nonetheless a slap in the face for the Bush administration. After all, this bipartisan panel was made up of equal numbers of respected Republican and Democratic party elders with many years of experience in the US Government’s executive, judicial and legislative branches.

The ISG members were reportedly “shocked’ and “dismayed” by what they witnessed when they went to visit Iraq and by the Bush administration’s insistence that they had the situation there under control. The ISG concluded that what the Bush administration was saying did not jive with their own independent investigation, by calling the situation in Iraq “grave and deteriorating”.

Following the release of the final ISG report, President Bush finally admitted, for the first time, that the situation in Iraq was bad and that a “new approach” was needed to deal with the worsening sectarian violence there.

But President Bush, while also promising to take the report seriously, made a point of saying he would not accept all of the ISG recommendations.

President Bush went on to say he was waiting for three other studies he had commissioned, (from the National Security Council, the Pentagon and the State Department) before deciding on the particulars of his “new approach” to prosecuting the war in Iraq.

What the President didn’t say, was that he was also waiting for the “alter” ISG report titled Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq from neoconservative Frederick Kagan’s so-called “Real Iraq Study Group”. This report said the things President Bush wanted to hear and his “new” strategies reflect these recommendations as opposed to the ones made by the ISG last month.

While President Bush did finally replace Defence Secretary Rumsfeld with a lifelong Republican member of the ISG, William Gates, as part of his “new approach” to the Iraq war, he has thus far refused to make any diplomatic moves to engage Syria and Iran or proposed any major initiative to change the dynamics in the Middle East by attempting to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The President has also avoided any discussions regarding a phased withdrawal of American troops, much less a timetable for doing so. While these are some of the more significant recommendations of the ISG that the President is ignoring, they are by no means the only ones.

To the dismay of most Democrats and quite a few Republicans, President Bush has decided that more troops and more money for reconstruction efforts is the prescription for stabilizing the situation in Iraq. Instead of focusing on training Iraqi forces to take over their country’s security so American troops can begin a gradual withdrawal, American soldiers will now focus on protecting the Iraqi population from sectarian violence and insurgent attacks.

In addition, the President is also proposing to double the money being spent to employ native Iraqis in reconstruction efforts. Had we done this back in 2003 or 2004, we might have succeeded in quelling the violence and giving Iraqi citizens economic incentives to work on rebuilding their neighbourhoods instead of taking up arms fighting for sectarian control of them. Doing so at this stage strikes me as either “throwing good money after bad” or “too little, too late.”

While I am extremely skeptical about Bush’s “new approach” to the war in Iraq, I truly hope that it will be successful.

If this “new approach” fails to stabilize the situation in Iraq, then the President won’t get another chance to throw more troops and money at the problem. Should this “new” strategy fail to show promise by this summer, I anticipate Democrats and some Republicans will attempt to force a withdrawal of American forces by refusing to approve the necessary funding for their presence. This would mean that, instead of the US cleaning up the mess we made of Iraq, the citizens of Iraq would be left to fight it out in a civil war which would result in hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties.

As for preventing this situation from being repeated again in the future, maybe future presidents would be a bit more circumspect about going to war if they had to consider some other issues as.

Firstly, Congress should mandate that if the US decides to engages in a war, the President would also have to implement a supplemental draft, such that young American men from all walks of life and economic strata would be at risk of dying in such conflicts, not just the poorly paid armed forces “volunteers." Congress should also mandate that a decision to go to war should also involve a supplemental tax increase to pay for the costs of the war for as long as it lasts.

By implementing these rules of engagement, such that all of the American people had to bear the costs of such wars in both human and financial terms, then I think that the administration would be subjected to much more critical scrutiny by the media, voters and their representatives.

I have a sense that closer scrutiny of the Bush administration’s claims of “weapons of mass destruction” by the media and Congress might well have prevented the invasion of Iraq from ever happening in the first place.

Blog Directory