Stuff From The “Draft” File

So much stuff in the hopper; so little time to finish it all.

But there are a few things in the works here that I thought I’d mention – partly to “tease” it, partly because posting it makes me feel committed to getting it all done.

How The Hell Does Emmer Win This Thing?: Not really a question – Emmer’s going to win, probably by 3-4, which isn’t to say Republicans and conservatives don’t have a huge order ahead of us.  But how’s he going to win it?  I have some ideas.

Making The Cut: How Minnesota can fix the budget problem without destroying the state economy.

Requiem For An Old Radio Station: Too hard to explain.

The Return Of “Things I’m Supposed To Love, But Can’t Stand” / Things I’m Supposed To Hate But Like Anyway”: One of my favorite features from last year, I have a fresh wave of incongruity coming up shortly.

World War II: Fact And Myth: I won’t give out any spoilers, though.

What The Hell Do We Do About The National GOP?: Pretty self-explanatory.  Might take longer to finish than the WWII series…

Stay tuned!

MPR Poll: My Take

It’s just an MPR poll.

But we’re just about two months from the election – so we’re getting to the point that a well-done poll is getting to be worth something.

The poll – which focuses on likely voters, whom conventional wisdom says tend to break for the GOP – shows that the money Dayton’s spent on his soft-money smear campaign so far is just keeping things close in a year that’s going to be terrible for Dems, even in Minnesota.

It also shows that Emmer is losing some of the “base”.  Part of that is that the “base” is so ill-defined; I’m not sure how MPR identified “Republicans”; there’s a big difference between someone whose total identification is having voted for McCain in 2008 versus someone who went to the precinct caucuses.  The former is much more likely to defect, I’m going to guess.  More to the point, a fair chunk of respondents showed some degree of “Pawlenty fatigue” – while they may have voted Republican, these are not the kind of voters who are motivated by principles and policy specifics; they vote on the sort of surface-y things that the “Alliance for a Better Minnesota” campaign has focused on.

And yet for all of Dayton’s family’s millions in the race, it’s deadlocked, in a poll that has trended slightly Dayton so far.

Expect a Star Tribune/Minnesota poll shortly that shows an implausibly-large Dayton lead from a poll that oversamples DFLers by five percent.  The Minnesota Poll largely serves as a morale-building tool for the DFL; they may need one after this MPR poll.

MPR Poll: This Has Got To Scare The DFL

I thought this part of MPR‘s piece on the MPR/Humphrey Institute poll was interesting:

While Democrats in Minnesota often rely on the lopsided support of women to win elections, a significant gender gap has not materialized in the 2010 gubernatorial race. Women favor Dayon and men favor Emmer by similar margins as in the education gap.

The education gap shows a slim lead for Emmer among college-educated likely voters, and a similar margin for Dayton among people with less than a college education.

Women not breaking overwhelmingly for the DFLer?  Watch for major efforts to stanch that particular wound; if the DFL loses women in the long term, they’re toast.

It’ll be interesting to see what form the DFL’s effort to solidify women takes…

MPR Poll: Disaffected

Reading through MPR’s piece on the latest MPR/Humphrey Institute poll:

Both Dayton and Emmer are seeing the effects of voter backlashes as both President Obama and Gov. Tim Pawlenty appear to be hurting their party’s chances. Of likely voters in Minnesota, 64 percent say the U.S. is on the wrong track, while 53 percent say the state is on the wrong track. Likely voters who disapprove of each executive’s performance are decidely breaking for the opposing party.

Read literally, that means Minnesotans are about 20% more likely to disapprove of Obama’s job than Pawlenty’s (and it’d be interesting to find out how much of that 53% disapproves of Pawlenty or of the DFL-controlled Legislature).

Nearly 40 percent of likely voters said an endorsement by Pawlenty for Emmer would weaken their support for Emmer. A quarter said they would be more likely to support Emmer. Similarly, 44 percent of likely voters said an Obama endorsement for Dayton would mean they would be less likely to support Dayton. Thirty percent said it would increase their likelihood of support.

This is an interesting stat.  After eight years in office, some form of Pawlenty fatigue is inevitable.

Obama’s been in office a year and a half, though.  It’s interesting that the DFL booth has absolutely no reference to the sitting President at the State Fair.

More on the poll as we go.

MPR Poll: Even Up

The latest MPR/Humphrey Institute poll is showing a tossup

Tom Emmer and Democrat Mark Dayton are running are running even in the 2010 race for governor according to a new MPR News-Humphrey Institute Poll…

…Among likely voters, Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer are even at 34 percent support each. Independence Party candidate Tom Horner received 13 percent support.

It’s volatile, of course…:

A fifth of likely voters are undecided. Defections of both Democrats and Republicans from their party’s candidates and splits among key voting groups also contribute to the tight race…One-third of partisans are defecting from the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor, draining usually reliable bases of support for each.

Some DFLers are crying foul over the crosstabs…:

Republican: 46%

Democrat: 41%

Independent: 13%

You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t buy that. The oversampling of Republicans is yet another reason to suspect that this poll overstates the extent to which the race has actually narrowed.

…and the technology…:

Landline? Are you kidding me? I wonder how many younger voters were missed. Not having a landline, I could never have been contacted for this poll.

Although the pollsters tried to pre-empt the technical issue…

The survey data has also been weighted to accomodate for factors such as the number of telephone lines, cell phone usage, gender, age, race and ethnicity to approximate the demographic characteristics of the state’s population according to the Census.

…while a GOP activist notes that the poll might reflect the passion gap between Republicans and Democrats fairly accurately.

More coming up shortly.

Cold Affront

Alaska’s Libertarians freeze the state’s U.S. Senate race.

With the GOP primary between Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Joe Miller headed into overtime, Alaska’s Libertarian Party suddenly found their own Senate prospects switching from irrelevant to relevant.  Between D.C. rumors of Murkowski courting the LP for ballot access and the willingness of the party’s own Senate nominee to step aside should Alaska’s senior senator come up short in the absentee race, Libertarians found themselves needing to make a familar choice between principle and politics.

By that definition, the outcome should never have been in doubt:

On Sunday morning, over coffee and donuts, the ExComm voted unanimously, 5 to 0 to deny the Senator the ballot line. There was no malice intended. ALP Chair Kohlhaas has repeatedly stated that she is a nice lady, and the ALP was flattered by the offer.

While the decision guarantees Lisa Murkowski won’t become a political footnote as the first Libertarian U.S. Senator, it also likely guarantees that short of a near landslide of Murkowski absentee ballots, Joe Miller will be the GOP’s nominee.  Despite the race closing to just over 1,600 votes and talk of tens of thousands of absentee ballots left to be counted, only 5,801 absentee ballots were sent to Republican voters.  Thus Murkowski needs to win those remaining ballots with totals around 60% – a possible but not particularly probable outcome.

Should she lose any recount attempt, Murkowski’s options are few other than simply conceding.  No other party can give her ballot access (other than the Democrats), meaning Murkowski’s last hope to return to Washington lies in a longshot write-in candidacy.  Although polling showed Murkowski competitive in a 3-way race, the hurdles of a successful write-in campaign are taller than Yao Ming on stilts.  Strom Thurmond managed to win a U.S. Senate race as a write-in candidate in 1954, and a handful of others have won U.S. House general or primary elections as write-ins.  But in almost all cases, the victory came because the opposition was either completely unknown and unmotivated to run, or because there simply wasn’t any opposition at all.  Neither could be said to be true in Alaska.

Murkowski’s likely forthcoming disappearance from the race makes Alaska’s senate race - at least for the moment – look mildly competitive.  In a two-way battle, Miller leads Democrat Scott McAdams only 47% to 39%, perhaps partially explaining why Miller’s ill-tempered tweet comparing Murkowski’s possible party switch to prostitution has garnered as much lower 48 media exposure as it has.  Or maybe because it had the media wondering if the analogy made the Libertarians the pimp or the john.

Democrats are obviously looking for GOP-held targets to help mitigate their likely November losses.  But despite the early polling, Alaska isn’t fertile ground for the DNC.  McAdams had raised only $9,000 as of the last reporting deadline, with a grand total of $4,500 on hand.  How much money would Democrats really want to pour into a state that requires more campaign infrastructure than TV ads in order to compete? 

Between McAdams’ nearly nonexistent campaign and Tea Party activists throwing money at Miller, it seems doubtful at the moment that Republicans will be required to spend much capital – monetary or otherwise – to ensure the seat remains safely in the ‘R’ column next January.

I Heard It On The Hewitt Show

I’d like to thank Hugh Hewitt and Duane Patterson for inviting me on the Hewitt Show at the Fair this evening.

For those of you who might be new to the blog, here are some of the stories I referred to when talking with Hugh:

Thanks for stopping by, Hugh fans!

A Day At The Fair

One of the highlights of my social season (such as it is) is the Northern Alliance Radio Network’s broadcasts from the MN State Fair.  We always do two Saturdays (in and among a few weeknights here and there), and it’s always a blast.

And this year, I have a camera (sorta)!

Walking onto the fairgrounds this year (Dan Patch just west of Cosgrove), there was a new addition – O’Gara’s has built a big honkin’ Irish pub next door to our lot!

Complete with bagpiper!

Piper in front of OGaras.

Piper in front of O'Gara's.

Nothing for great radio like bagpipes in the background! You can take mah acoustic isolation, but ye canna take mah freedom!

When I get there, Hugh Hewitt was relaxing, getting ready to go on the air with John Hinderaker and Brian Ward:

Hugh Hewitt

Hugh Hewitt

They chatted politics for a bit…

John Hinderaker with Hugh Hewitt

John Hinderaker with Hugh Hewitt

…although for the most part they just bagged on Hugh’s producer, Duane “Generalissimo” Patterson…

Duane Sheep Terminator Patterson

Duane "Sheep Terminator" Patterson

Who had, for the first time in the 153 year history of the MN State Fair, killed a sheep in a shearing contest.

In the meantime, Brian “Saint Paul” Ward got things organized for the highlight of every single years’ NARN1 broadcast – the Scotch Egg eating contest.  Of which more later.

Brian Saint Paul Ward

Brian "Saint Paul" Ward

Ed Morrissey showed impeccably bad timing by arriving  just as Brian was looking for the mandatory fifth contestant to make the quorum required by the International Scotch Egg Sports Federation.

(Me?  I begged off claiming illness. I wasn’t lying; I would have gotten sick if I’d had to bolt down a Scotch Egg.  It woulda sat in my stomach for the next two hours in the sun like a remorseless lurking assassin).

Not afraid of getting sick was Atomizer, one-time co-host of the NARN (no, literally; one time.  He sat in for the first segment of our first show, back in 2004.  And never again) and coblogger at Fraters Libertas, whose stomach and liver make Shane McGowan look like Mother Theresa.

Breakfast of Champions:  Atomizer with a cigarette, a Guinness and a Scotch Egg.

Breakfast of Champions: Atomizer with a cigarette, a Guinness and a Scotch Egg.

Finally, Saint got a quorum together – Duane, Ed and three other contestants:

The human drama of athletic competition...

The human drama of athletic competition...

Brian had a quick chat with Lindsey, who’s represented the Scotch Egg vendor for seven straight competitions now…

Brian and Lindsay

Brian and Lindsay

…and, finally, launched the big event:

Were off!

We're off!

After a hard-fought battle at near-record speed, we had a winner!

Winner!  One of the contestants - Im not naming names - walked behind the booth and launched right after the contest.

Winner! One of the contestants - I'm not naming names - walked behind the booth and launched right after the contest.

The NARN1 guys wrapped up after that, as I wandered about.  I got to chat with Kate…

Kate, the Marketing and Promotions person.  And, at the fair, just about everything else.

Kate, the Marketing and Promotions person. And, at the fair, just about everything else.

…the person who actually makes the NARN broadcasts at the fair work, and of course the folks in the Merch booth…:

The Merch booth. That's Kirsten, who normally sells air time (and could sell a Harley to Tim Gunn), but was doing a brisk trade, especially in "Nobama" T-shirts.

…who make it profitable!

And then it was the top of the hour, and NARN2′s turn.  John and Brian left, and I set up on the “Dave’s Floor Sanding Broadcast Deck”.

My view from the hosts chair

My view from the host's chair

Ed, too:

Ed

Ed

We interviewed Pat Anderson…:

Me, Pat Anderson, and Ed.

Me, Pat Anderson, and Ed.

…and Tom Emmer…:

Emmer with Ed.

Emmer with Ed.

They both drew a crowd…:

Spectators during the Emmer interview

Spectators during the Emmer interview

Emmer and Ed on stage. Im out in the crowd with the wireless microphone, getting questions.

Emmer and Ed on stage. I'm out in the crowd with the wireless microphone, getting questions.

More next week.  And maybe a tour of the fair itself…

You Know Them By Their Enemies

Watching this piece from “UN Watch” – in which a retired British army officer defends the IDF’s relentlessly-scrupulous efforts to avoid civilian casualties during their last counter-terror assaults against Hamas in Gaza…

…I’m reminded of my conversation with Keith Ellison last year on Marty Owings’ “Radio Free Nation”.

ME:  (after reading the part of the Hamas Charter that calls for the destruction of Israel and the extermination of Judaism); “So, Representative Ellison; do you repudiate Hamas’ call for the extermination of the Jews?”

REP. ELLISON:  ”How many Palistinians do you know?”

Thanks, Minneapolis.  You done Minnesota proud.

Overwhelmingly Biased

Count the references to the crowd at the Beck/Palin rally being “overwhelmingly white“.  Why, it’s almost as if there’s a back-channel discussion group for the liberal/mainstream media to coordinate chanting points and narrative peaks or something.

Although slipups happen.  Heads will no doubt roll.

How desperate was the leftymedia to find some evidence – any evidence at all – of “racism” in the crowd?  NPR’s correspondent had to go back to the Obamacare rallies last March, and refer to Rep. Lewis’ charges of racism (albeit she didn’t bother to mention that these accusations have been debunked).

Damning With Faint Praise

The word’s been knocking around the blogosphere:  The “Socialist Party of America” had named seventy “socialist” US Senators and Representatives.

The problem?:

Quote: The Socialist Party of America announced in their October 2009 newsletter that 70 Congressional democrats currently belong to their caucus.

The problem here is the Socialist Party of America does not exist.

The second problem is the newsletter of question/statement also does not exist. Here is the DSA newsletter for the Fall of 2009 and here is the SP-USA’s newsletter which never published an October 2009 edition.

The American Socialist Party is not the Socialist Party USA and the Socialist Party of America has not existed since 1973 after it had a three way split.

On the one hand, if there’s anything more tedious than listening to Libertarians describe all the different flavors in their own party, it’s listening to socialists talk about the various internecine splits, gyrations and flips they’ve gone through.  I start reading it, and start to picture…:

Apparently the “SPoA” is really just a list of the “Congressional Progressive Caucus“.

Tomayto, Tomahto, really, but accuracy counts.

Jenny Was A Girl From Birmingham-ah!

It’s interesting; while the Dayton campaign is jumping up and down like a mountain baboon about Emmer’s supposed lack of specifics on the budget (so far), Dayton is being pretty vague on another wedge-y issue:

In direct conflict with FOCA, a Dayton spokesperson said in a WNMT Radio story Thursday that Dayton supports parental notification for minor girls before an abortion can be performed on them.

Well, that sounds almost…reasonable?

But FOCA would outlaw parental notification of any kind. And as a senator, Dayton voted twice against legislation to require parental notice when a minor is taken across state lines for an abortion, in violation of the law in the state in which they live. Planned Parenthood has fought fiercely at the Minnesota Legislature against parental notification bills for decades.

The “right” for a minor to an abortion without notifying parents (without the formality of a court order for situations where children have some legitimate and demonstrable fear of retribution from the parents) is one of the stretchier emanating penumbra of US Constitutional law…

Also at odds with FOCA, his spokesperson stated that Dayton also is opposed to “third-term abortions” (presumably thirdtrimester) with some exceptions. Planned Parenthood has never tolerated opposition to any abortion, for any reason or at any point in pregnancy. It fought long and hard against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which brought an end to the brutal method of abortion in which the child was killed moments before birth by puncturing the skull and suctioning out the brains, ensuring the birth of a dead baby. The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was passed by Congress in 2003; Dayton voted against it twice. How can he now oppose late-term abortions?

Because he says so.  That’s how.

Well, it seems to have worked so far.

“Has Dayton flip-flopped on his absolute opposition to parental notification, which is central to Planned Parenthood’s abortion advocacy? And does he suddenly regret his votes against the partial-birth abortion ban?” Fischbach asked. “If so, why would Planned Parenthood endorse a candidate who disagrees with its own agenda? His campaign appears to be in chaos, at least over the issue of protecting human life from abortion.”

The most important thing about Planned Parenthood’s endorsement, of course?  (Other than Dayton’s obvious, public waffle on abortion, naturally?)

The left’s assault on Target – because of a donation given to Tom Emmer, who supported a “Traditional Marriage” amendment and had a fictional, ginned-up association with fundamentalist ministry – now means that every single person, business and organization that supports Mark Dayton in any way thus endorses infanticide.

All of them.  No matter what they have shown via previous actions, much less their beliefs.

I mean, that’s the precedent, right?

The Thing About Slimy Campaigns Like Dayton’s…

…is that while he can use his family money to smear Tom Emmer (with, inevitably, lies)…

…all the money in the world isn’t going to make him anything other than a one-term flop as a governor.

(Unless, of course, the entire plan is for him to be a potemkin prop, fluffed up by medication and serving as a doddering but acceptably genial front for the real governor, Mike Hatch).

NARN On A St…No. I’m Not Gonna Do It. Just…No.

Today, the Northern Alliance Radio Network brings you the best in Minnesota conservatism from 9AM-3PM, live (mostly) from the Minnesota State Fair!

  • Volume I “The First Team” -  Brian and John or some combination thereof kick off from 11-1.  They’ll be doing their usual combination of eating contests and guest interviews; tune in!
  • Volume II “The Headliner”Ed and I follow from 1-3PM Central.  We’ll have Gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, Secretary of State candidate Dan “Doc” Severson, and maybe some special guests…
  • The King Banaian Show! – King is on from 9-11 on AM1570, Business Radio for the Twin Cities!  We’re broadening the franchise; two stations, now!
  • And for those of you who like your constitutionalism straight up with no chaser, don’t forget the Sons of Liberty, from 3-5!   The Sons will also be live at the Fair!

(All times Central)

So tune in to all six hours of the Northern Alliance Radio Network, the Twin Cities’ media’s sole guardians of sanity. You have so many options:

  • AM1280 in the Metro
  • streaming at AM1280’s Website,
  • On Twitter (the Volume 2 show will use hashtag #narn2)
  • UStream video and chat (at HotAir.com or at UStream).
  • Podcast at Townhall, usually by Monday
  • Good ol’ telephone – 651-289-4488!
  • And make sure you fan us on Facebook!

And, this week and next, live at the MN State Fair, on Dan Patch two doors west of Cosgrove, just inside the Snelling Avenue entrance, next to the O’Gara’s “booth”!  Click here for a Google Map!

Join us!

So Let’s Unravel This

The following conversation is a “fake but accurate” synthesis of several conversations, emails and twitter threads.

Names were changed to protect the gullible.

DFLer: Target is radically anti-gay and anti-immigrant!

ME: Er, how do you figure?  Target has been the most pro-gay corporation in town!  They even sponsor the “pride” parade.

DFLer: Because they gave money to a radical extremist anti-gay and anti-immigrant political action committee!

ME: What, MNForward? Go and read their website; they are purely interested in business issues.  Not only do they take absolutely no stands on social issues, but they’ve endorsed three DFL candidates who, supposedly, endorse their own party’s putatively gay-friendly [the term you want is "gay-exploitive" - Ed.] issues.

DFLer: Doesn’t matter.  They support Tom Emmer.

ME: …and…?

DFLer: Tom Emmer is a radical extreme anti-gay politician.

ME:  Um no.  He’s said in as many words that his focus as governor is on jobs, the state economy, and re-engineering state government.

DFLer: But he’s an anti-gay extremist!  He sponsored a measure against gay marriage!

ME: Can something be “extreme” when the vast majority of Minnesotans, even younger ones, support the traditional definition of marriage?  Is that even logically possible?  At all?

DFLer: Um…A HAH!  Emmer is a big financial supporter of You Can Run But You Can Not Hide, a radical Christianist ministry that supports executing gays.  He even had his picture taken with them!  Even called them “nice guys”.

ME:  Emmer’s “Donation” was buying a $250 seat at a fundraiser for a teen outreach; no politics were involved at all.  And Emmer’s had pictures taken with pretty much every person in the state over the past year.  And whether you like their theology or not, Brad Dean and Jake McMillan are, indeed, personable.

DFLer:  Executing gays! Doyyyyy!

ME:  The quote was wrenched far out of context.  Dean was talking on the air, off the cuff, about different nations’ adherence to ultra-orthadox theology.  Not grading moral correctness, and emphatically not issuing a call to action.

DFLer: Er…says you!

ME: Well, no – says Bradlee Dean.  I called him and asked.

DFLer: But…they’re anti-immigrant!

ME: Why?

DFLer: Because they’re anti-gay!

ME: Um, we just showed they’re not.  And, by the way, the traditional Catholicism of so many Latino immigrants is pretty explicit in its views on gays!

DFLer:  So you’re saying Target is Catholic?  Hahahahaha! I pwn3d you!

ME:  Er…yeah.  I know when I’ve met my match.

Like Christmas In August

I overslept this morning, not feeling at all like writing anything…

…to find not one but two pieces by First Ringer up on the site!

So I was able to relax, eat my customary morning oatmeal, and noodle something out for noon before getting on my bike and heading in to the office…

…um, in about ten minutes.

Lead Zeppelin

Grounding the “Hindenburg”.

Contrary to public opinion, the advice of financial advisers doesn’t hinge on voodoo, tea leafs, chicken bones, or ritual sacrifices.  It runs on omens.

The “Hindenburg Omen”, a technical analysis formula developed in 1990s, with roots from the 1970s, has appeared repeatedly in the news this August.  As the name implies, the omen supposedly fortells economic doom – or more specifically  a market crash – and has already been triggered 3 to 4 times this month.  And despite a relatively short history, the Hindenburg Omen has only been wrong 8% of the time (2 out of 25 occasions) in predicting sizeable market decreases.

Or at least that’s how the story goes. 

Part of the Hindenburg’s “success rate” lies in the very defintion of a “sizable market decrease.”  The Omen has a 77% rate of accuracy at predicting at least a 5% more in the market.  Over the last few years, that could be anywhere from a bad couple of weeks to a bad day on the Dow Jones Industrial.  To put it simply, a 5% decline – or rise – doesn’t mean as much as it did when the formula was first introduced.

Another factor that benefits an increase in Hindenburg sightings is the omen’s most publicized necessary condition – that the daily number of NYSE new 52 week highs and new 52 week lows are both greater than or equal to 2.8% of the sum of NYSE issues that advanced or declined.  The 2.8% figure is much easier to reach than the 5% threshold established by the Omen’s predecessor, the High Low Logic Index.  The Index’s creator, Norman Fosback, has told financial reporters as much:

[Fosback's] reading of the historical data suggests to him that the current new high/new low data are solidly in the “neutral” category. (Because of other indicators entirely, furthermore, Fosback is quite bullish on the stock market right now.)

In addition, there is doubt that the recent new high/new low data even reached this already too-low threshold of 2.5%. That’s because there are so many issues that now trade on the NYSE that are not operating companies.

None of this means investors should kick back and not worry.  Rising gold and treasuries certainly suggest the bull rebound that started in March of 2009 is now truly over, trading away gains while likely keeping the volatility.  Still, far too many investors may be influenced to buy into Jim Crameresque promises of “Hindenburg-proof” equities to try and escape the Hindenberg’s 25% prediction accuracy of a market collapse.

The Ice Curtain

Alaska’s cold war heads to a boiling finish.

The 2.4 miles that separate the island of Big Diomede and Little Diomede use to be among the most tension-filled in not only Alaska but the world. With Big Diomede part of Russian territory and Little Diomede part of the United States, the small space between Bering Strait islands was called the “Ice Curtain” and one of the frigid locations of the Cold War.

In the wake of Tuesday’s Senate primary, the Diomede Islands may need a new nickname.

The Murkowski/Palin spat, always tense since Palin’s upset victory over then-Governor Frank Murkowski in the 2006 Republican primary, didn’t seem like it could develop into any more of a blood feud short of Lisa Murkowski planting a Fredoesque kiss on the former VP nominee. But despite holding a nearly $1.6 million cash on hand advantage and a seemingly insurmountable polling lead, Sen. Lisa Murkowski has seen herself driven from the Republican nomination, possibly Washington, and probably the GOP. In the process, what was suppose to be a campaign as desolate in terms of interest as Alaska’s frozen tundra has turned into the punditry’s race du jour.

The Palin proxy for this would-be Alaskan dynastic rematch, Joe Miller, has already won the battle of expectations. The closet any poll got to Tuesday’s actual result was an Anchorage Daily News poll that still put the Tea Party favorite 11 points behind. And Miller could still lose as thousands of absentee ballots are left to be counted, to say nothing of a likely recount – which the NRSC appears already to be planning for as it sends lawyers north for Murkowski.

Despite such advantages of incumbency, the math remains firmly in Miller’s favor:

5801 absentee ballots were mailed out to Alaskans requesting the Republican absentee ballot….

In order to win the Republican Senate primary a candidate must have at least 49,094 votes (50% plus 1).

Joe Miller currently has 47,027 votes. He needs 2067 out of the available 5801 (36%) possible absentee votes to win.

Lisa Murkowski currently has 45359 votes. She needs 3735 out of the available 5801 (64%) possible absentee votes to win.

The math could look much better – if Murkowski ran as a third-party candidate. Even as the NRSC attempts to salvage Murkowski’s primary campaign, Murkowski is at least privately flirting with continuing her re-election effort under another party’s banner. This isn’t exactly a Joe Lieberman scenario. While Lieberman availed himself of Connecticut’s odd ballot access laws to file as an independent merely days after losing the Democrat primary, Murkowski would have to convince another party’s nominee to step aside and be nominated in their place.

The precedent has already been set in Alaskan political history. Former Republican Governor Wally Hickel lost the 1990 primary only to win the general election as the Alaskan Independence Party’s candidate. Unfortunately for Murkowski, the precedent isn’t quite precise for her. Hickel, a Governor in the 1960s and Secretary of the Interior under Nixon, was most certainly the more conservative candidate in his 1990 primary defeat. In contrast, Murkowski’s abortion record and last minute commentary in opposition to repealing Obamacare (see below) put her firmly in the moderate camp and squarely at odds with Alaskan conservatives.

If Murkowski does make a third-party bid, the welcome mat has already been extended by the state’s Libertarian Party. While ideologically speaking Murkowski and the Libertarians have about as much in common as Herve Villechaize and Manute Bol, a marriage of political convenience would spare Murkowski the baggage of the secessionist AIP (although it didn’t stop Hickel) and give the Libertarians something as unbelievable as a virgin in a whorehouse – a victory.

Lacking money, name ID with average Alaskan voters, and probably a general election campaign infrastructure, Joe Miller would need an even greater infusion of aid from the Tea Party Express than the $500,000 they spent. With Democrat Scott McAdams reporting only $4,000 cash on hand at the beginning of the month, Murkowski could easily pull Democratic voters into her camp – especially as both sides share the goal of rebuking Sarah Palin. No, Murkowski isn’t likely to pull an Arlen Specter and join the Democrat’s caucus (her 70% lifetime ACU rating is one reason), but she could turn a general election into a two-way race for all intents and purposes.

There’s little doubt that the Senate could benefit from more average Joe Millers than another Murkowski. Unfortunately, Murkowski it seems want to return to Washington no matter how many bridges she burns in the process. One can only hope that if Murkowski does cross party lines, it’s a bridge to nowhere.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Mark Dayton demanded that the GOP’s “Trackers” wear some sort of attire to distinguish themselves from all the other people gathered around him.

It’s part of his two-week old whinge against the recent college grads with flipcams who’ve been recording the things he says on the campaign trail to be checked against things he says elsewhere, in case he promises things to people in Bemidji that he eschews in the Twin Cities.

Now, I’m not sure what all his fuss is about.  Trackers aren’t hard to spot under any circumstances; they’re the youngish people with the video cameras.

For example, here’s “Zack”, the DFLer (poli sci grad from Macalester, not that that was a huge shock) we met at Tom Emmer’s SD54 Picnic appearance last week:

Zack, DFL tracker covering Tom Emmer at the SD54 picnic last week.

"Zack", DFL tracker covering Tom Emmer at the SD54 picnic last week.

Notice the boredom; he’s seen the speech a time or two.  That’s another common “tell” for trackers.

Not to mention the friggin’ flip cam.

Still, the MNGOP is all about the help.  Here,according to Michael Brodkorb, are the new tracker uniforms:

You’re welcome, Senator Dayton.

No, don’t mention it.

Alliance For A “Better” Minnesota: There Are No Facts

I think it was Mark Twain that said “a lie can make it around the world while the truth is waiting in line at Caribou”.

That’s the little swatch of human behavior that the Dayton campaign, and especially its’ money-laundering smear shop, “Alliance for a Better Minnesota”, seem to be hoping dominates the upcoming election.

Because to the extent that ABM’s strategy is intelligent, it’s in this way; a simple lie takes five seconds to tell; that same like will take sixty seconds to refute.  Do Minnesota voters have the attention span to absord sixty seconds of facts to counter five seconds of lying?

The GOP needs to hope so.

And if you’re ABM, or the DFL?  Do the phrases “A thousand dollars for every man, woman and child in Minnesota” and “Yes, We Can!” ring a bell?  They most certainly do to the people on the Dayton/Rockefeller family payrolls that are ginning up the dirtiest, most cynical political campaign in Minnesota history.

So I’m gonna get started on those sixty seconds right now.

ABM’s house blogger – inevitably anonymous (and, we’re told, paid) - writes:

Either Tom Emmer is still stuck on the first stage of grief because of his disastrous campaign to date,

Fact: Two points less “disastrous”, by all accounts, than Tim Pawlenty’s at this point in the race eight years ago.

which recently voted several staffers off the island,

Fact: What, campaigns never change staff?  The local jabbering class has spun the Emmer campaign’s turnover as some sort of unusual event after a primary.  Just plain dumb.

or he thinks that he’s campaigning to become governor of The Matrix. Tom Emmer’s most recent “I have absolutely no budget plan” distraction technique unveiled today is the red pill inspired: “There is no spoon”.

Fact:  Opinion:  Matrix references?  What next?  ”Dayton is Spock, Emmer is Ferengi?”  Good lord, Emmer’s being attacked by the friggin’ chess club!

From Tom Emmer via MPR:

Where is the deficit? We talk about ‘You got to raise taxes, government has to invest.’ I’ll say it again, government in the state of Minnesota is scheduled to get a 7 percent increase in the next biennium. Government will have more money to spend in the next two years than it is spending right now.

You see, Minnesotans? There is no spoon. Whoa. The deficit is all in your head! If the budget crisis doesn’t exist –bam– no plan needed.

Fact: Opinion: ABM is a plan to employ the innumerate.

There might be a more civil explanation, but I got nothin’.

Even with his attempt to melt our minds by going all Neo on us, no one is fooled.

I’m having high school flashbacks.  Trekkies insisting they were really “TrekkERs”. “Live long and prosper”.  Ugh.  Must move on.

Despite Emmer’s selective accounting, we know we’re facing a historic budget crisis, and as Tom Scheck immediately points out, the major reason for the uptick in state spending cited by Emmer is that Tim Pawlenty’s kicking of the budgetary can is coming home to roost. (Mixed metaphors win elections)

I’m not sure if Tom Scheck of MPR is honest enough to point this out; it’s for sure ABM’s anonymous blogger is not.

Let’s accept that Tim Pawlenty “kicked a budgetary can” for sake of argument.

That “can” was made big and stinky by a DFL legislature that was fixed on raising spending, and especially using the state budget as a vehicle to launder money to help local governments hide their own rapacious spending – especially the DFL governments in the Twin Cities and Duluth, which got and get 250% more money than non-metro cities, entirely as a means to camouflage their ruinous spending and the costs of the DFL’s policy of warehousing the poor in the inner city.

With over a billion in school shifts and half a billion in temporary cuts coming off the chopping block, many of the gimmicks bullied through the legislature by Tim Pawlenty–with the full support of Tom Emmer and House Republicans– are putting the state in an even worse situation next year.

And all of that with an economy collapsing.  Wow. What do do?

What to do?

Instead of owning up to his role in the budget debacle we find ourselves in…

…that “role” being arguing for fiscal restraint against a DFL near-supermajority in the House that was fixed on spending first (and covering it with taxes from Minnesota’s productive classes) first and asking questions later.

– and provide us with what would actually be a “new direction” — Tom Emmer has decided to try and confuse us.

Fact: Opinion: In fairness to Emmer, it doesn’t seem like  it’d be that difficult a job…

Whether it’s mashing up $20 billion and 20%, or comparing Minnesota to a wagon full of Clydesdales, Tom Emmer is willing to say anything, except what he would actually do to the services we all use and rely on if he became governor.

Fact: The DFL and its paid spokeshamsters at ABM are being incredibly disingenuous.  Emmer has always said his plan will be out in September.  And so it will.  And it’s gonna turn the Dayton campaign on its ear, I have a hunch.

The problem? It’s pretty hard to dance around the fact that he introduced things like cutting the minimum wage while pushing for lower taxes on corporations.

Fact:  It’s even harder to dance around the fact that context is being waterboarded here.  Minimum wage cuts and lower corporate taxes are both proven means of creating more jobs.  Raising taxes and spending are both proven ways to kill (non-government) job growth.

We wont forget that — when he bothered to show up to vote– that he consistently sided with big businesses instead of working Minnesotans.

Where does this guy think “Working Minnesotans” work?

For the new direction the Minnesota needs someone ready to make the hard decisions to move us forward.

Speaking of “hard decisions”:  What is Dayton’s big proposal?  Besides “eat the [working] rich”, I mean?

We need someone who can lay out a plan to get Minnesota back on track, not more Pawlenty-styled governing by press release.

Well, you asked for a plan.  I suspect you’ll get one pretty quick here.

Then the fun will begin.

Taxin’ Taryll: “It’s Not Bullsh*t; It’s Paté!”

Zach Rodvold – a campaign staffer – is upset about Michele Bachmann’s round of “Taxin’ Tarryl” ads.

The problem is, the only thing he does is continue to repeat the same Big Lies the rest of the DFL is beating to death this campaign:

If Michele Bachmann wants to talk about fiscal responsibility – let’s talk. Tarryl Clark consistently voted to hold down taxes on 95% of working Minnesotans,

Well, no.  She supports Obamacare and the sunset of the Bush Tax Cuts, both of which will tighten the screws on all Minnesotans, in the exceedingly unlikely event she’s elected.

including reducing the burden of property taxes.

And this is one of the DFL’s most cynical lies.

This all ties back to their Local Government Aid canard; local governments, the story says, have to raise their property taxes when the state cuts LGA.  Conversely, cities and counties can lower property taxes when the state pays more LGA launders that spending burden through the Legislature and down to the rest of the state’s taxpayers.

Of course it’s BS; that was one of the rationales behind pushing all state education spending up to the State during the Ventura regime; local districts just displaced the spending and kept, or ratcheted up, the taxes.

There is no reason to believe that paying more LGA would make the DFL-controlled, spendaholic Twin Cities and Duluth any more responsible – much less induce them to cut property taxes.

Unlike Bachmann, Tarryl has taken tough votes to balance budgets

And that’s another DFL Big Lie – that “balanced budgets” are, in and of themselves, a virtue.  They’re not; they just mean that state government is completely paid for with the revenue at hand.  If you tripled the size of state government (and its spending), but confiscated three times the revenue to pay for it, they could say “the budget is balanced”, all right; it’d be balanced on the taxpayers’ backs. (Heck – they could quadruple taxes and brag they had a surplus!)

If there’s one byproduct to the Tea Party movement and the electorate’s swing to the right this past year, it’s that the DFL realizes they need to couch their rapacity in pseudo-responsible weasel words like “balanced budget” and “property taxes relief”.

Between the lines, it’s the same old rot.

Chanting Points Memo: Baer Facts And Hog Wild Tales

A few weeks ago, “Politics in Minnesota” (PIM) made a splash by moving all of its content behind the “paywall” – pay for read – decided that yesterday’s piece by Paul Demko on the farm family Tom Emmer uses as an example of state overregulation from the stump deserved to be a freebie.

Why do you suppose that is?

Amos and Amon Baer are unlikely figures to find themselves at the center of the governor’s race. But in recent weeks the names of the Clay County farmers have been mentioned repeatedly by Republican nominee Tom Emmer at campaign events.

During this month’s gubernatorial debate on TPT’s Almanac program, for instance, Emmer brought up the plight of the Baer brothers as a prime example of the state’s overly burdensome regulatory framework. The GOP challenger bemoaned that it would take $40,000 and two years of bureaucratic wrangling to expand their hog operations in Minnesota. Instead the Baer brothers simply went across the border to North Dakota and were up and running within six months.

Demko’s point?

But the Baer brothers are hardly your standard, struggling family farmers. They are part of a renowned, multi-million dollar farming operation that started, literally, from scratch some five decades ago.

The Baers are a large business now.

I’ve heard a number of lefties crowing that “they’re not a typical farm family!”

I suspect that when DFLers think of “typical farm families” they think of Amish people with tractors; bucolic stereotypes that may have been perfectly valid when the “Democratic Farmer Labor” party put “farmer” into their name.

The Baers may be a very large farm operation – but farms, especially on the Plains – have had to get much bigger and more diversified to survive.  The Baers got much much bigger, and survived pretty well.

The nerve of them.

A problem with authority

Allen and Edna Baer arrived in Minnesota with 13 kids in tow after being kicked out of a Hutterite community in North Dakota for insubordination. (Allen, according to one account, “wondered a bit too loudly why Heinie, the leader of the community, never helped to wash dishes, and he was told to leave.”)

I’m picturing Paul Demko being sent to North Dakota,trying to research Hutterite history.

But no matter.  Demko’s piece blows the lid off the big story; business people put a lot of time and effort into succeeding, and don’t like it when government gets in the way:

“It’s the permitting scheme that has been set up in Minnesota that is the problem,” [Amon] Baer told Capitol Report. “It’s not specific to chickens; it’s not specific to dairy; it’s not specific to hogs. I really hope that by him using that story, somebody someplace will sit up and take notice and say, ‘Gee, maybe we have been a little too tough on the livestock industry.’”

…But not everyone agrees that Minnesota’s regulatory mandates are putting an undue burden on farmers.

Not everyone has to agree for it to be a fact…

…but I digress.  Demko goes on to show that you can have a whole slew of facts and still miss the truth.

Because Minnesota does have a thriving ag sector:

There’s also little evidence that Minnesota’s livestock industry – and hog production in particular – has suffered in comparison to other states in recent years. The state has the third-largest hog market in the country, accounting for roughly 11 percent of the total swine production, ranking only behind Iowa and North Carolina, according to statistics maintained by the United States Department of Agriculture.

“We continue to crank out a lot of hogs,” said Wayne Martin, who works with hog farmers through the University of Minnesota Extension program. “It’s not like we’re shutting down hog production here by any means.”

Other sectors of Minnesota’s livestock economy are equally robust. The state is the top turkey producer in the country and ranks tenth in cattle and calves. Overall the state has the eighth-largest livestock market in the country.

Right.  There are a lot of Americans.  They gotta eat.  So the people who produce food are certainly able to sell it.

And yet…:

But farming, and the hog market in particular, have undergone seismic changes over the last three decades. In 1984 there were more than 400,000 hog farms in the United States; last year there were fewer than 65,000. Those operations that have survived have either gone into niche markets or grown exponentially larger. In 1994, hog operations with more than 5,000 animals constituted less than 30 percent of the market; by 2008 that figure had risen to nearly 90 percent.

In other words:  while the Baers are supposedly “not a typical farm family” because they are getting bigger and more diversified to stay in business, the reason for this is that the ‘typical farm family” is now running a gas station or selling insurance  these days; the people who stay in agriculture, especially on the Plains, are growing, and – like Target and Best Buy and WalMart – finding that they have to keep growing to survive.

But this, according to Politics in Minnesota, deserves to be available for free?

Battle Of Britain: The Duel Of Eagles

It was seventy years ago today that the Battle of Britain entered its decisive phase.

Not its bloodiest phase; that was yet to come.

But it was over the next month that the fate of Britain – and, to an extent, of Western Civilization – was decided.  Because it was in the next thirty days that the outcome of the Battle hung by its thinnest thread.

Historians debate just how thin that thread got – more on that later – but the thirty days starting today were, if not the tipping point, at least the point at which the direction of the tip was decided.

Although neither side really knew it at the time.

The Luftwaffe had spent the previous ten days pummeling Britain’s radar stations.   On the one hand, it was a smart idea, decades ahead of its time.  On the other hand, it’d take a couple of decades to develop the tools and techniques that’d make radar stations a viable target for air attack.  The Germans felt the attacks were achieving little, at immense cost (especially to the Stukas, which were brutalized by British Hurricane fighters seventy years ago yesterday to the point they were largely pulled from the lineup), with little chance of long-term success.  The first conclusion was valid under the circumstances; the second, the losses, were apparent; the third – the long-term prognosis – was very much a matter of conjecture.

Hurricane pilots scrambling to meet a raid.

Hurricane pilots scrambling to meet a raid.

But no matters.  Seventy years ago today, Hermann Göring ordered the Luftwaffe to begin the next phase of the Battle; the destruction of Fighter Command’s airfields.

For the next two weeks, German bombers launched nearly thirty major raids on Fighter Command airfields, trying to destroy the hangars, control facilities, grounded planes, support crews and “runways”.  The latter was difficult; most Fighter Command “airfields” were just that; flat, mowed fields.  Repairing bomb damage was a matter of shoveling dirt into the bomb crater and steamrolling it into a compact flat surface.

The control facilities, though, were another matter.  Built on the cheap during the rapid buildup before the war, most buildings on the operational bases were above-ground, wood-walled, tile-roofed huts, very susceptible to bomb damage.  As the attacks build up, RAF engineers scrambled to build dirt berms around the squadron command posts, up to eave level, to protect them from blast damage.  It worked, for the most part – only Biggin Hill’s HQ was destroyed, by a freak bomb hit (because most direct bomb hits were freaks of fate, back then).

The biggest damage was up in the air, though; each bomber raid was escorted by a swarm of German fighter aircraft.  A German raid of 30-90 aircraft would have from 40 to 120 ME109 Jagdflieger, fighers, flying close escort around the bombers.  The Brits would be dispatched in squadrons of 12 planes, directly at the raids.  It tended to turn every battle into a “David vs. Goliath” fight – 12 Spitfires or Hurricanes against dozens of German fighters, to say nothing of the bombers.

A formation of German Heinkel 111 bombers

A formation of German Heinkel 111 bombers

It sounds stupid – but there was method to the madness.  British fighters – like their German counterparts – had very, very short “legs”; the Hurricane had a range of about 600 miles, the Spitfire even less, and that was at cruising speed.

Spitfire pilots racing to their aircraft during a scramble - a mad dash to get airborne to catch an incoming raid.

Spitfire pilots racing to their aircraft during a "scramble" - a mad dash to get airborne to catch an incoming raid.

In an “intercept” situation – taking off, forming up the squadron and  climbing at 2000+ feet per minute while following the control officers’ directions to intercept raids, with the throttle jammed to the firewall – the British planes could basically take off, find the raid, fight for half an hour, and return to base.  There was rarely time to circle around and wait for more British fighters to show up.

Although that was a major contention in the upper ranks of RAF’s Fighter Command.

Southern Britain was divided up among three Groups; 10 Group, controlling the southwest; 12 Group, commanded by Air Vice Marshall Trafford Leigh-Mallory, covering the Midlands; and, in the southeast, closest to occupied France, 11 Group, commanded by Air Vice Marshall Keith Park.

The four Groups charged with Britain's air defense. 10, 11 and 12 were on the front lines. 13 Group, after giving unescorted German bombers flying from Norway a very bloody nose on "Adlertag", served mainly as a training area and a rest zone for squadrons exhausted by the fight in the south.

The men had similarities; both had joined the Army as privates at the beginning of World War I.  Both had gotten commissioned as officers, then joined the Royal Flying Corps after being wounded in ground combat.  Both distinguished themselves as pilots.  Both rose steadily through the ranks.

But those were the only similarities.  Leigh-Mallory had been a lawyer, son of a prosperous lawyer and bureaucrat who excelled at academics; Park, a New Zealander, the son of a mining company geologist, was an indifferent student, an outdoorsy hunting enthusiast.

And the two men sniped at each other, constantly, throughout the Battle.

Park favored the direct approach; sending squadrons barrelling into the German bomber formations as fast as they could get into action, without regard to forming them up into larger units.

Air Vice Marshal Keith Park

Air Vice Marshal Keith Park

The one real refinement was his attempt to send the faster Spitfires after the German fighters, and letting the slower Hurricanes after the bombers.  It was a formality, mostly; Hurricanes were 2/3 of the British inventory, and closer to 70% of Park’s order of battle.  And so the 11 Group battle was largely one of harrying German bombers, quickly but piecemeal, before they could get to their targets.

Leigh-Mallory – and his top Wing Commander, the legendary Douglas Bader, who lost both legs around the knee in a pre-war flying accident, and returned to active duty in time for the Battle –  favored the “Big Wing”; grouping 3-5 squadrons into a “wing” of 36-60 aircraft, and then throwing the “wing” at the German .

Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, commander of 12 Group.  A capable commander, a salient intra-service politician.

Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, commander of 12 Group. A capable commander, a salient intra-service politician.

The problem was, it took a while to get three to five squadrons up, off the ground and into the air and grouped together in the time available before the German raids actually hit their targets.

Squadron Leader Douglas Bader (fourth from right) with pilots from 242 Squadron during the Battle.  Shot down over France later in the war, he spent the rest of the war as POW; even though legless, he earned the distinction of being sent to the most escape-proof POW camp - because of his many attempts to break out.  Thats cojones.

Squadron Leader Douglas Bader (fourth from right) with pilots from 242 Squadron during the Battle. Shot down over France later in the war, he spent the rest of the war as POW; even though legless, he earned the distinction of being sent to the most "escape-proof" POW camp - because of his many attempts to break out. That's cojones.

The conventional wisdom, built from decades of revisionist history, is that the two men eventually settled on a one-two punch; Park’s squadrons would hit the bombers as they came in to the attack; Leigh-Mallory’s Big Wing would catch them on their way home.  In fact, it very rarely worked that way; Park’s squadrons bore the brunt of the fighting, while the Big Wing, flying in a huge mass around southern England once it formed up, rarely caught the eneny, and often confused the British ground controllers.  Leigh-Mallory had the political clout; after the Battle, he managed to maneuver Park out of his position and get him sent to Training Command (although he went on to lead the air defense of Malta and then the air attack against Italy, and is generally regarded today as one of history’s great air commanders; he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves in the UK)

Statue of Keith Park, on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.  Like all Fourth Plinth statues, its temporary.

Statue of Keith Park, on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. Like all Fourth Plinth statues, it's temporary. It's a shame.

Still – through a combination of British technological prowess and air-combat chops – and a few lucky breaks – the RAF wore down the Luftwaffe over the course of the next month to the point that it needed to switch to night-time terror bombings of British cities – “the Blitz” – which is the part most Americans know about, and ironically was the part that was of least importance in winning air superiority over Britain.  Because once the Luftwaffe ceded control of the daylight sky over Britain to the RAF, and allowed Fighter Command to regain its strength once and for all, then in fact the bid to invade Britain ended for the rest of 1940 – which meant, in the end, for good.

As with all great events of World War II, there are lots of myths – and a few hidden stories.

Owed To So Few: It’s a constant contention among historians; some say that, between August 24 and September 15, the RAF’s supply of pilots was dwindling from the attrition.  Others note that the supply of pilots actually rose – while the Luftwaffe’s aircrew ranks actually shrank during the Battle (normal, given they were flying over enemy territory’; if they bailed out or crash-landed, they’d be captured).

The answer, of course, is somewhere in between.  While the number of pilots rose, they were often very, very new pilots, freqently with no air combat training.  These pilots suffered grievous losses, until they survived enough missions to learn the trade.

So Many: One of the features about the British military, but especially the RAF, that surprises Americans the most is the huge number of nations represented by the RAF’s pilots.  The RAF included Canadians (as members of RAF squadrons as well as a squadron of the RCAF), Australians, South Africans, Australians, New Zealanders (including Park), even a Jamaican pilot (indeed, Jamaicans – of African descent – flew as officers in the RAF throughout the war, side by side with white officers and with white aircrew).

The pilots in exile – the French and Norwegians who played such role in the RAF later in the war – hadn’t quite gotten up to speed yet.

But as the attrition of July and August began catching up with the RAF, the need for experienced pilots became overwhelming – so Fighter Command leader Air Marshall Hugh Dowding approved allowing a squadron of Poles into action, along with a few other Eastern European pilots who’d had nearly a years’ experience in combat already.

I wrote about the Poles last year – 303 Squadron ran up one of the most impressive scores of the battle – in a seventeen-day tear starting about this time 70 years ago.

Pilots of 303 Squadron

Pilots of 303 Squadron

Some of these men were fighting in their third air force in under a year, having fought in Poland, France, and now the RAF.

Topping them all?  Josef Frantisek, a Czech pilot who fled his homeland to Poland when Chamberlain sold it out to the Nazis.  He fought with the Poles, flying an unarmed reconnaissance plane, sometimes attacking German ground troops with hand grenades.

Josef Frantisek

Josef Frantisek

He then fled to France where he fought again, scoring between 7 and 11 kills before finally decamping to the UK, where he served in the RAF alongside the Poles in 303 (there was a Czech squadron forming, but he’d developed a tight relationship with his Polish comrades.  He scored 17 more confirmed kills, becoming the highest-scoring ace of the Battle period, before dying in a crash while landing; he was either exhausted or showing off for his girlfriend; either would have been in character for the colorful Czech.

Spitfire Vs. Hurricane: The Supermarine Spitfire is largely regarded as the hero of the Battle.

The Supermarine Spitfire

The Supermarine Spitfire

The sleek, elliptical-winged Spitfire – one of the most beautiful aircraft ever built, did become one of the most important air superiority fighters of the war.  It stayed in production until 1946, longer than any other World War II fighter.   And it lent not only its Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, but some of its design lessons, to the American P51 Mustang – the greatest piston-engined fighter ever made.

But it didn’t win the Battle.

The Spitfire, at the beginning and throughout the Battle, was about a third of the RAF’s fighter inventory.  The other 2/3 were the humbler, lesser-known Hawker Hurricane:

A vic of Hawker Hurricanes

A vic of Hawker Hurricanes

The Hurricane – Britain’s first single-wing, mostly-metal fighter plane – was about a year older than the Spitfire.  It was a little slower on the straightaway and in the climb, could turn tighter, and would shake and swerve a lot less when its eight Browning .303-caliber machine guns (same as the Spitfire) opened up, making it easier to aim and hold a target in the crosshairs.  It could also take more damage and stay flying; its skin was made of doped muslin fabric aft of the cockpit, which sounds archaic but was nearly as strong as aluminum (close enough for the purposes); repairing a bullet hole was as simple as gluing on a fabric patch.

The Hurricane peaked during the Battle; it was quickly relegated to ground-attack duty, and finally shipped off to secondary fronts like India and Burma, while the Spitfire – which had more development potential – evolved with new engines and bigger guns over the course of the war.

But the Hurricane’s role in history – it was not only 2/3 of the RAF’s fighter inventory, but scored 2/3 of the RAF’s kills – was a matter of historic record, if not necessarily public imagination.  Author Paul Gallico felt the need to set the record straight in his book, The Hurricane Story.  It’s worth a read, if you can find it.

But behind the never-ending battle between Spitfire enthusiasts and Hurricane partisans lay the real important point; the British built more of both than the Germans did of their own aircraft.  But the British didn’t know how few aircraft the Germans could produce, and the Germans had no idea how fast British aircraft factories and repair shops could work.

Which leads us to…

Military Intelligence: As with the second phase of the Battle – when the Germans broke off their attacks on the radar sites – both sides’ intelligence failed them.

The Germans believed the British aircraft industry was on the ropes, even as production of Hurricanes and Spitfires ramped quickly up to a point where even the worst weeks’ worth of losses didn’t make a dent in the number of planes in the air.  (Pilots were, arguably, another story).  The productivity of the British aircraft industry was one of the great triumphs of the war – but the Germans didn’t figure this out until far too late.

The British, on the other hand, heavily overestimated the planes German could produce.  The end result was, while conventional history says the Luftwaffe outnumbered the RAF, the fact is that by September, the RAF outmatched the Germans in sheer numbers of fighters (and would soon beat them at bombers as well.

So throughout the Battle, the Germans consistently were surprised at how many RAF fighters there still were; the British constantly expected a huge onslaught of fresh reserve German aircraft that never materialized.

The Terrorist: Conventional wisdom was correct in that the beginning of the end of the Battle came when Germany stopped bombing the airfields, around September 14, and switched to terror-bombing British cities.

The conventional wisdom misses that there was a three week period in which the biggest opponent of bombing the cities was…Hitler.

Hitler barred the bombing of London and the indiscriminate bombing of cities (although many civilians were killed and many civilian neighborhoods damaged during attacks on nearby ports, factories, airfields and military installations), even after the RAF bombed Berlin for the first time, seventy years ago this evening (August 25).  History records that the decision was made as a result of Luftwaffe chief Hermann Göring’s bruised pride, having promised on German radio that Berlin was totally safe.  In fact, it was a reaction to the exhaustion and casualties the German bomber crews suffered over the following three weeks’ assaults on RAF airfields and factories – a decision RAF Bomber Command made itself before long, and that the US Eighth Air Force was very nearly forced to make, for the same reasons, in 1943.

———-

Churchill said, after the Battle, that never in history had so many people owed so much to so few; and while there were rather more RAF pilots than the conventional wisdom would hold, it was still a tiny number.  There were between 1,000 and 1,400 or so RAF fighter pilots at any given point during The Battle; maybe three times as many Germans (because of the bombers’ four-man crews).  Compare that number with those engaged in the war’s other pivotal battles; the tens of thousands of sailors in the Battle of the Atlantic or Midway; the hundreds of thousands at El-Alamein, D-Day and the Bulge; the millions at Stalingrad and Kursk.

Errors in conventional wisdom don’t change the fact; Churchill was right.