• People Talk and My Ear Bleeds


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    Sunday, January 20, 2008

    2008 Nevada Caucuses

    Well, the Nevada Caucuses are in the bag, and there's much to be learned from here. I'm going to focus on the Republican caucuses, because I find them more interesting than the two-person race that is the Democratic nomination race.

    Nevada was a big win for Romney, and a vindication for everything I've seen in the races so far, namely:

    1. The press loves McCain, and his victory in South Carolina gained much more press time than Romney's victory in Nevada.

    2. Therefore, McCain supposedly moves into Florida with "strong wind at his back" (not my words, but the pundits on CNN) while Romney?

    3. When voters cast votes based on issues and not likeability, Romney clearly leads the field

    4. Ron Paul is a strong candidate, who will continue to gain momentum, and whose delegates may play a role in deciding the nominee.

    The best political website I've found for following the whole Huckabee -- I mean hullabaloo -- is CNN/Election/2008. It's layout is very clean, and easy to follow. It does an adequate job for giving you the raw data on a macro scale that you'd need to follow the races.

    However, CNN and every other site I've found does a bad job at describing things at the state level. I had to go to the Republican Party of Nevada's website and read their bylaws to figure out that each county can determine how they split their delegates. Now I hear that Florida is winner-take-all. Iowa divided their state delegates by percentage of state popular vote. Michigan gave delegate to the winner of each county (hence Romney won 39% of the vote, but took home 80% of the delegates).

    So, when we look at Nevada by county, what do we find?

    Overall, we can see that Romney did not win every county. Nye county was narrowly won by Ron Paul (34% to 33%).

    In fact, when we look at Ron Paul's results by county, we can see clear support in the southern counties of Nevada.

    Nye county
    is the largest county in Nevada and one of the largest in the USA. The Federal government owns about 92% of that land. Which two Republican candidates profess most strongly to reducing the size of the federal government? Paul and Romney.

    Also, the county has a population of about 42,000 according to US government estimates (the 2000 census said ~32k). I think the county seems sparsely populated by individualistic people, tailor-made for Paul.

    The largest town is Pahrump, about an hour outside of Las Vegas. It's one of the fastest growing towns in America, and predominantly because of people who want to work in booming Vegas, but don't want to live there. Again, I see individualistic in nature.

    If we look at Romney's results we see he won every other county. By county, he clearly had the most support in the counties along the Utah border (Elko, White Pine, Lincoln, Clark).

    Clark county, where Las Vegas is located, has a large percentage of Mormons. In fact, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to which Romney belongs, has one of its temples in Las Vegas. Romney won Clark county with 58% of the vote. According to CNN, he won 94% of the Mormon vote statewide. So it makes sense that his strongest counties of support would be close to Utah, with probably high Mormon populations.

    However, Romney did quite well in the counties on the other side of the state as well (Washoe, Lyon, and Douglas). These counties lie around Carson City and Reno. They also lie along the California border. This tells me two things. First, Romney gained a lot of support in the population centers of Nevada because of his strong economic track record. People in Las Vegas were worried about the economy, and when voters worry about the economy, they have voted for Romney in every primary/caucus so far.

    Second, contrary to popular belief, Utah is not the state with the most Mormons in it -- California is. If Californian Mormons are politically active, he might have a strong, pre-formed base of support when the race turns to the West Coast. Just as Huckabee has to be seen as a favorite in the bible belt states because of his evangelical Christian background, Romney should be seen as much stronger in California than currently presumed. The results from the western counties of Nevada give us some inkling of that.

    Huckabee got as close as 27% in one county, Mineral, but it is a very sparsely populated county and an aberration from his results as a whole. Huckabee might do well in the evangelical-laden Southern California, but he's iffy on California as a whole because I think he doesn't resonate with western voters, as shown by Nevada.

    Giuliani is playing do or die in Florida.

    McCain, surprisingly, didn't get any more than 22% in a county, but he did come in second in 9 counties (the most of any candidate). This confirms the one thing the other states have shown and pundits HAVE talked about -- he is a force in the race this year.

    Thompson got as high as 18% in rural Pershing. I think he is a fourth place candidate at best, because of poor campaign management, but it should wake people up that he is not out, and might do well in Tennessee and Kentucky -- near his home.

    Next up, Super Tuesday.

    O Muse 2

    Oh Muse, the best laid plans of Men are folly!
    When I wrote my post, O Muse ..., I originally had it many pages long, but after reflection, truncated it. I feel the thoughts were best elucidated separately, although they do connect. As I pondered the (de-)evolution of blogging, I realized that I had seen this phenomenon before.

    Blogging has changed like medicine. Once it too was a brotherhood. Physicians went through years of schooling to understand the mysteries of the body; heal people. The community respected them. If a physician got sick, he needn't worry about paying, for other physicians would treat him pro bono.

    Then something happened. Physicians in California sold their souls to Kaiser Permanente, and their fellows in Dallas, TX sold theirs to Blue Cross/Blue Shield. In the name of the patient, these physicians sold their autonomy to HMOs. They thought,

    "I can help my patient if I worry about the billing and not him/her."

    The HMOs said,

    "We will entice patients into preventative care if they know they have already paid for it monthly, instead of paying up front."

    Oh Muse, the best laid plans of Men are folly! Gone went the direct payment to physicians, and the hidden became the cost of medical care. Instead of preventative medicine, patients demanded the "million dollar workup" for every disease, because, hey, they had paid for it. Physicians spent less and less time with patients, because they needed to see more and more to cover the overhead of their billing requirements.

    And in the community's eyes, the physician became a well-read technician. Sure, more respected than a plumber, but in stature much like a nurse or a physician's assistant -- someone who looks at a patient, checks a set of boxes, and sends them to a machine (xray, MRI, blood test) that diagnoses the sickness. A glorified car mechanic.

    Except that true medicine is so much more than that. Hence the crisis in Health Care today -- it is an identity crisis. Many talk today about the need to “fix” Health Care. Most propose some combination of patches that extend coverage, and change billing structure. However, the true solution will only come when physicians wake up from their self-imposed slumber, and throw off the dichotomy that afflicts them.

    Health Care must be put back in the hands of the physicians. Patients must be in control of their own health. Blogging has followed much the same path, and similarly, bloggers must never relinquish their camaraderie. It is these bonds of friendship and acquaintance, although spawned first over the virtual web of cyberspace, that keeps the reader questioning reality. It keeps him aware of his surroundings; looking through others' eyes at things which may have been mundane before.

    Only through our ever present desires to push how people view the world, to share insights into life, and to refute complacency, can blogging truly be constructive. It is for that end we must continually strive.

    Friday, January 18, 2008

    O Muse ...

    Muse make the man thy theme, for shrewdness famed
    And genius versatile, who far and wide
    A Wand’rer, after Ilium overthrown, ...
    [The Odyssey of Homer, trans. William Cowper (1791) Book 1, Page 1]

    Today, after finishing my reading on the pituitary and adrenal medulla, I started blog surfing (blog-urfing? blurfing?) for the first time in many moons. Doug, at Virtual Doug, commented on his attack of the malaise that afflicts us all -- the lack of blogging.

    He writes,
    (It’s a record – a record I am not crazy about. This is easily the longest period of time of not writing s since I began blogging back in June, 2003. In 4 ½ years, I have never gone this long between posts. Even while living in Việt Nam, I usually posted twice each week.

    Then, yesterday, he adds,
    Too busy? No, though I am working 15-20 hours per week in addition to the 2-3 freelance photo shoots I do and in addition to seeing Mom almost every day.

    Sick? Naw – I had a cold for a few days, but not a cold since December 26th.

    No muse? Maybe I can blame her for not visiting me, but the truth is, I seem to have just stopped observing the world. (emphasis added)

    How sad that Lady Muse has left us. I remember turning on my computer each morning and hopping over to Virtual Doug first, looking for -- wanting -- a post. There is something to blogging ... something different than what it used to be. A few short years ago to blog was to be part of a select crowd. It was a brotherhood. I felt a special bond with men I had never met, Vietpundit and Virtual Doug, and grew through reading their insights on this world.

    It is a sad day if the Muse has stopped visiting Doug.

    In their desire to ease the way people pontificate, platforms such as blogger have accelerated a divide among bloggers. Blogging has become mainly two sorts -- those who get paid to do it (the "blogs" on mainstream media news outlets, or those large "A list" blogs that make good money through advertising) and the diaries (those people who post their comings and goings for all to see with pictures).

    Those "A List" blogs, like the Drudge Report, or Instapundit, have become mostly news aggregators. They offer little in the way of true personal insight into the things they post. The "Diaries" provide neat snapshots into the daily lives of people, but also rarely engender discussion and rumination.

    It is a sad day if the Muse has stopped visiting Doug
    The few blogs remaining, as descendants of those "think tanks," are truly a joy to read, and range from the well traversed (Volokh Conspiracy) to the sparsely traveled (Virtual Doug).

    However, these blogs rarely make money, and often require lots of time to write posts. With the demands of life ever buffeting the bulkheads, sadly, tempus fugit and many, like Doug, stop observing life. Others fall into my category. We observe, but cannot write. Numerous blog posts are composed daily in our minds, but the demands of life limit the time we have in front of a computer. When that time comes, either it's not long enough to put the work on paper, or the post has slipped away into the ether from which it formed.

    I will not retreat. Although my posts may be few, and sometimes they may be aggregatory or diary in nature, I will strive to keep this blog one that engenders conversation and debate, and education on life. That is, I hope, a noble cause.

    Saturday, January 12, 2008

    The Bleeding Ear 3.0

    Today I roll out The Bleeding Ear version 3.0.


    For the few of you who have stuck with me as life has gotten crazy (med school and birth of child) resulting in fewer posts, you will realize that, yes, ngục giới has frozen over. I have commented time and time again how I am working on my blog ... trying to fix my blog ... trying to update my blog, etc.

    what you see is TBE with a totally new engine
    It has been my excuse for not posting for who knows how long. Most of you probably assumed long ago that I was a pathological liar (I'm sorry Susan, so so so so sorry. Will you ever forgive me? I haven't forgotten you, and I WILL respond to your email).

    Well, it's finally here. Much work over Christmas break has finally put the finishing touches on my excuse. Yes, it still looks overtly similar to version 2.0. However, I promise you that it's different. If you still think I'm a pathological liar, visit my test website, trietstest.blogspot.com, or take version 3.0 for a test drive.

    My journey started many moons ago when Blogger decided to move to layouts. "Blogger Beta" as it was called, put my "Classic layout" at a decided disadvantage. Sure, I could keep going as before, writing my own code, editing my javascript, piecing together hack after hack to get functionality written into Blogger layouts, all without support from Blogger if something went wrong, OR, I could make the perilous journey of learning the new blogger and entering Nirvana.

    Some of you might ask, "what's the big deal?" I thought this too at first. I tried to just convert my layout over, but I had so many add-ons to my template, that it never read them right. Blogger sometimes thought I had more than one widget with the same name, my CSS never translated correctly, and eventually I was forced to accept the reality that my piecemeal blog was too complicated for a recreational HTML coder like myself to just "recreate."

    And so, I treaded water for many moons, nibbling here or there, but never doing great things until I found firebug. It was introduced to me by Ecmanaut. Firebug allows you to look at a webpage, view its source code, and see exactly what goes where. As you scroll over code, it highlights that thing on the page. You can edit the HTML, javascript, or CSS and see immediately what the webpage would look like with your changes.

    This lifesaver allowed me to pull up TBE side-by-side with my test blog, and see exactly what wasn't translating correctly from Classic Blogger to New Blogger. What had taken months, was finished in the two weeks of Christmas break (outside of when i was playing Guitar Hero III ... but that's another story).

    yes, ngục giới has frozen over
    So what you see is TBE with a totally new engine. Everything is in layouts, giving me greater flexibility. Freshtags is still around because many of my old posts are in that format, although I imagine eventually it will be phased out. There's lots of stuff in my sidebar, so everything "[+/-]" is expandable if you click on it.

    I expect there will be a few bugs here and there. I haven't tackled comments at all, so you'll probably be wisked away to that ubiquitous, ugly blogger comment page if you wish to leave one. Otherwise, I expect it to drive well. Give it a test spin, and tell me what you think!

    Wednesday, January 02, 2008

    Who will you "Oprah"?

    Man, he just went Oprah on her
    Before the Holiday season culminated last week, all the candidates were out stumping in Iowa (and other states). This is all known and good (or bad). Barack Obama made news when Oprah Winfrey came out publicly in support of Mr. I'm-not-Osama.

    Let's face it -- Obama has been rocked of late by baseless-but ingenious (in a sinster way) attacks on his character. Since the start of the primaries he has dealt with the "I'm OBAMA not OSAMA" issue. Then came this picture:

    As this photo spread around the internet via email, this caption followed:
    Senator Barack Obama, Governor Bill Richardson, Senator Hillary Clinton and Ruth Harkin stand during the national anthem.
    Barack Hussein Obama's photo (that's his real name)......the article said he REFUSED TO NOT ONLY PUT HIS HAND ON HIS HEART DURING THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE, BUT REFUSED TO SAY THE PLEDGE.....how in the hell can a man like this expect to be our next Commander-in-Chief????
    Obviously this is incredibly wrong. All it takes is a sane person going to Snopes to see that this is just another truth bent slightly with fiction. Still, it was compromising.

    Also, another smear email campaign reported by certain news organizations alleged that Obama was a "radical muslim."

    So, will Oprah's ... viewers vote as women, aged 55+ Americans, or Caucasians?
    So what's a guy to do but combat press with press? Obama used his personal friendship with Oprah Winfrey and garnered her star power for support. Will it work? Oprah, more than any other billionaire, has the ability to mobilize apathetic potential voters to not only vote, but attend potentially indoctrinating Obama rallies.

    MSNBC reports:
    Oprah's audience is predominantly female, white, and over the age of 55. Nationally 7.4 million people watch Oprah daily -- about 2.6% of American households. Four percent of American women (about 5.7 million) watch her daily, compared with 1.2% of men (1.7 million people). Overall, 2% of all 18- to 49-year-olds watch Oprah.
    According to People-press.org survey results in 2004, Women identify as Democrats more than Republicans (37% to 29%) and those age 50-64 and 65+ identify as Democrats also (34% to 28% and 41% to 32%, respectively). That's an 8% swing in each of these three demographics. However, Whites identify as Republicans (34% to 29%, +5% gap).

    So, will Oprah's white, aged 55+, women viewers vote as women, aged 55+ Americans, or Caucasians? That will determine whether her support impacts Obama's election hopes.

    What Oprah did have the power to do, was cause emulators. After Oprah's support of Obama, Hillary Clinton announced the support of Barbara Streisand, and was seen in a (*gasp*) grocery store with always available celebrity-husband Bill and Magic Johnson.

    Given all the celebrity hullabaloo, I'm coining a new term: "Oprah." It's a verb ("When will Clinton Oprah Obama?") and an adjective ("The Republicans are waging an Oprah campaign ..." and "The always Oprah Mr. Romney stumped today in Iowa...").

    So, the next time a candidate tries to draw on the popularity of a multi-billionaire celebrity, just shake your head and say with me, "Man, he just went Oprah on her."

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