the minor premise

the minor premise

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Model and Supermodel

Way back when I was a college student and the Soviet Union existed, I concocted a way of predicting who would be the next Soviet premier. As a sophisticated student of political science I observed certain characteristics of Soviet premiers throughout history and made a model to predict future premiers. I called it "The Minor Rhyme Scheme."

The Soviet Premiers prior to my matriculation were


The model correctly predicted Yuri Andropov as the next Soviet Premier; therefore it was a successful model.

Another, more serious model for Presidential succession has been put forward by Professor Allan Lichtman of The American University. He proposes that if 6 of 13 keys are false, the party that has the White House will lose it. The list, with true/false indicators for the current president per Prof Lichtman, is as follows:

1. He has achieved a major foreign policy victory. (false)
2. His party will not lose seats in the House of Representatives. (false)
3. Per capita economic growth exceeds the two previous presidential terms. (false)
4. He is a charismatic or a national hero. (false)

5. There is no serious contest for the Democratic Party nomination. (true)
6. Obama has not presided over a major foreign policy failure. (true)
7. His administration has achieved "major changes in national policy." (true)
8. There is no significant third party or independent campaign. (true)
9. There is no sustained social unrest during the term. (true)
10. The administration is untainted by major scandal. (true)
11. The administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs. (true)
12. The incumbent-party candidate is the sitting president. (true)
13. The challenging-party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero. (true)

In the March 26, 2010 edition of the Maryland Gazette, Prof. Lichtman says he can, using the model, predict now that Barack Obama will be reelected in 2012.

As you can see from the true/false indicators, Prof. Lichtman has taken as fact things that are likely, but that have not already happened. Some of his predictions on the factors are stronger than others:

2. His party will not lose seats in the House of Representatives. (false)
It is extremely rare for the party in the White House not to lose House seats in the mid-term election. He's on pretty sure footing on this one.

7. His administration has achieved "major changes in national policy." (true)
One can certainly argue, with the passage of the Obamacare bill, that the administration has achieved this goal. However, unlike most initiatives, the "beneficial" aspects of the bill lag far behind the costs to the public. This indicator presupposes an electorate that is in favor of the change and can feel its benefits. I do not believe this will be the case in 2012, and the further promise of good things to come will not stir the electorate.

10. The administration is untainted by major scandal. (true)
For this indicator it is way too early to tell. Even if you believe the President personally is above scandal, you cannot believe that all of his appointed staff are incapable of causing embarrassment to the boss to the point of enraging the electorate. This factor should be weighted so that scandal breaking closer to election day (i.e. October Surprise) counts more than one that breaks 24 months prior.

13. The challenging-party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero. (true)
This one is the biggest stretch. Predicting who the Republican party will nominate more than a year before the first primary is dangerous territory. Remember, the odds on favorite at this stage of the run up to the 2008 election was Rudy Giuliani.

Allan Lichtman is a Democrat and a former unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination for Senate. Doubtless he wants Obama's reelection and wants to put his marker down early. But even with a good system, basing predictions on other predictions is fraught with peril.

By the way, in my Soviet model, I had no basis for predicting Konstantin Chernenko's assent to the Premiership, because Andropov completed the second AAB pattern. And for the next premier, the Rhyme Scheme predicted Gromyko instead of Gorbechev, who should have been second in line. So Gorbachev not only broke the Soviet Union, he also broke the Minor Rhyme Scheme.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Evolution of an Irish Ballad

Being the surmises of a musical amateur who has lately spent entirely too much time online trying to track down folk music lyrics.

Gen. 1. The Irish take on the British in a battle somewhere on Irish soil. Being seriously outnumbered, they are defeated utterly with great loss of life. Anonymous Irish balladeers compose lyrics honoring the courage of the dead, with individual verses devoted to units from each county involved and to fallen leaders. The result is about 40 verses long, though only six or seven are actually remembered by anyone after the debut.
[Alt. Gen. 1. A minor Irish nobleman takes to the hills after a dustup with British occupiers. Anonymous balladeers compose a mercifully brief ditty depicting the outlaw as a romantic hero and emphasizing his revolutionary cred and sheer heartthrobbiness.]

Gen. 2. The simplified lyric becomes a popular drinking song.

Gen. 3. Early Irish immigrants carry the ballad to the New World, where an English version of the lyrics that may or may not have anything to do with the original is composed. This translation is unequivocally a drinking song and includes wordplays that are hilarious after a quart or so of beer and a rollicking chorus that encourages audience participation.

Gen. 4. Sometime during the nineteenth century, a political campaign borrows the tune and composes a new set of lyrics praising their candidate.

Gen. 5. Frontier musicians develop yet another set of lyrics to the tune. The result is a song about clams.

Gen. 6. Pete Seeger borrows the tune and composes lyrics (a.) in praise of labor unions, (b.) opposing war, or (c.) warning of the dangers of atomic energy. He performs it at a rally devoted to the issue.

Gen. 7. The Irish Rovers record a wacky rendition of the drinking song.

Gen. 8. Rory Cooney borrows the tune and rewrites the lyrics as a hymn of which the liberation theology undertone is hard to ignore.

Gen. 9. Garrison Kiellor rewrites the lyrics as a tongue-in-cheek look at ordinary, modern-day life and performs the result on Prairie Home Companion.

Gen. 10. The Dropkick Murphys yell the whole thing to pipes and shred guitar.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Shot to the Cup

Congratulations to Spain for winning the world cup, the Dutch for a great run, and especially the South Africans for a successful tournament, and a new word in my vocabulary.

The World Was Watching, 2010

The final whistle's blown,
The final contest won.
The Spanish team has shown
Who's best. The world had fun.

To the Dutch dismay
And four-year pain,
The World Cup, it goes to
The native boys of Spain.

And, should I live as long
As Biblical Methuselah,
I don't think that I want to hear
Another darn Vuvuzela.

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