Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Weirdest Ships of the US Navy

There have been a number of truly strange ships serving in the US Navy over the years.  Some of these make news on a fairly regular basis.  The Flip Ship, deep water submersibles, the Glomar Explorer, midget subs and even a few midget aircraft carriers are known by most people.  A few ships, however, never make the news.  Here are three ships that I am willing to bet you have never heard about.

The USS Recruit.  The Navy has had more than one ship of this name, but I am referring to the 1917 ship located in...Union Square, in New York.  That’s right--this was a fully commissioned ship in the US Navy that never got near the water, though it was conveniently located next to the Broadway entrance to the subway.

The Recruit was a wooden recreation of a Dreadnought class battleship that served not only as the recruiting center for New York, but was also used as a training center.  Under the command of Captain C. F. Pierce, the ship had a complement of 39 bluejackets (and a pet goat), who lived and worked on the wooden ship in the middle of the town.

With crew quarters, a doctor’s office, and room for the physical examination of the recruits, in many ways the wooden ship was a faithful recreation of real battleships.  She was even armed, with six 14-inch guns and ten 5-inch guns—all wooden.  The wooden ship was 200 feet long with a beam of 40 feet.  Her “engine room” had a single smokestack, and powered the electric lights of the ship.

Hundreds of sailors spent from two to six months training on the ship, and she recruited over 25,000 sailors during the first World War.  In addition, the ship acted as a public relations center for the Navy.  Dances were held on the ship, the public was invited to tour the warship, and various patriotic events centered around the ship were designed to popularize the Navy.  (And truthfully, for as long as the ship patrolled Union Square, there were no reported German attacks on Broadway.)

In all, the ship was in operation for almost three years, before finally being decommissioned in 1920.  Carefully dismantled and crated, she was to be shipped to Coney Island where the Navy planned on her eventual “relaunching” and use once again as a training and recruiting aid.  Somehow, the USS Recruit never arrived there, and her eventual fate is unknown.  Personally, I think the crates are in the same warehouse as the Ark of the Covenant.

The USS Supply had many important roles and during her time in the Navy she fought in two wars, was part of the Perry expedition to Japan, and distinguished herself many times during patrols in the South Atlantic.  However, one of her missions is all but forgotten today:  she was once a “camel car”.

Before the Civil War, Jefferson Davis had a very active role in the US government.  Besides building the new capitol building and serving as the Secretary of War, in his spare time he was very interested in developing the new territory the US had just taken from Mexico.  The newly acquired southwest was largely desert, and Davis knew how hard this territory was on the Army’s horses.

In 1855, Davis was able to persuade Congress to appropriate $30,000 to investigate the use of camels for the US Army.  He sent a relative, Captain David Porter and the USS Supply to Egypt to purchase camels and hire a few natives who knew how to care for them.  Before setting sail, the USS Supply was heavily modified:  special large hatches, stables, and camel hoists were installed.  Unfortunately, upon arrival in Egypt, it was learned that camels were taller than expected, so the stables had to be expanded for more “hump space”, requiring holes to be cut into the main deck.

Correctly believing that there was not a suitable "camel saddle" in all of America, Captain Porter bought a few saddles, too.  It took two trips, but eventually 70 camels were delivered to Texas and the US Army.  According to Captain Porter, the camels not only made the sea voyage better than horses, but were healthier on departing the ship than when they had boarded.

The Army loved the camels.  One officer said the camels were faster, hardier, and better at carrying weight.  In his opinion, one camel was worth four mules.  In addition, since the camels reproduced readily, as the herd expanded to a hundred head, there was even a proposal to start a version of the Pony Express (the Camel Express?) to link New Mexico and California …and then the Civil War started.  The United States Army Camel Corps was quickly disbanded, in large part because no one wanted to be associated with an idea that was in any way connected with the newly elected President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. 

Most of the camels were sold, but a few were turned loose.  The last confirmed sighting of a camel in the Southwest was in 1891.  (Personally, I think they are still out there, being ridden by Bigfoot.)

The William D. Porter. this case, the ship is not that weird;  in fact, it was a fairly standard Fletcher class destroyer, one of 175 built during the second world war.  A destroyer, by definition, is an escort ship meant to protect larger and more important capital ships.  The Wille D, as she was called, may have been the unluckiest ship in the war.

The Navy reuses the names of ships that perform well in battle.  There has been a USS Enterprise on the roster of ships for more than a century (and according to some people, this will continue until we count the years with star dates).  It is unlikely that  there will ever be another ship named after the somewhat obscure Civil War officer, Commodore William David Porter.  (And by a coincidence, he was the brother to Captain Porter of the USS Supply.)

It saddens me to report that the USS William D. Porter DD579 was built in Orange, Texas and launched in September 1942.  After a shakedown cruise to Bermuda, she reported to Norfolk, Virginia as part of  three destroyers accompanying the USS Iowa on her voyage to Tehran.  The Iowa was to be well protected since she was carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and a large portion of the highest ranking military officers of the war to a joint meeting with Winston Churchill and Stalin.

For the crew of the Porter, the trip started badly.  As the ship backed away from the dock, her anchor was dragged down the side of a sister destroyer, removing life boats, a ship’s boat, stanchions and anything else in the way.  To be fair, Captain Walker had a green crew, who were not yet used to the new ship, however... 

The next day, however, the Porter accidentally lost a depth charge.  Whether it was launched or washed off the deck of the ship is not known, but when the depth charge detonated, the entire task force—including the Iowa—began to take evasive maneuvers to escape the Nazi submarine each ship’s captain imagined was attacking.  Somehow, during these maneuvers, a large wave washed over the Porter, damaging one of the boilers and washing overboard a sailor who was not recovered.

Once the panic was over, and perhaps to demonstrate to the president that the convoy could protect itself, the Iowa launched balloon targets that were shot down by all four ships.  Somehow, during this action, the crew of Porter, while practicing simulated torpedo launches, actually launched a live torpedo.  The aiming point for the exercise?  The Iowa, of course!

With an armed torpedo running straight and true for the ship carrying the president of the United States, the Porter tried to send a warning to the Iowa, but since they were maintaining radio silence to prevent the enemy form learning their exact location, they used a signal lamp and told the Iowa that they had launched a torpedo, but in the excitement, they told the Iowa that the torpedo was traveling away from the battleship.  Realizing their mistake, they signaled again, this time accidentally telling the Iowa that the Porter was backing up at full speed. 

The captain of the Iowa probably thought this was good news, probably wanting the smaller ship as far away as possible.

Abandoning the idea of radio silence, the Porter finally radioed the battleship the warning that they were about to be hit by a live torpedo.  As the Iowa began a sharp turn, FDR learned of the approaching threat and had his wheelchair moved to the ship’s railing so he could watch the torpedo’s approach.  According to one account, the president’s Secret Service agents actually drew their revolvers in an effort to shoot the torpedo, which luckily missed the battleship.

The Iowa trained her guns on the American destroyer while it was debated whether or not the Willie D was actually fighting for the Axis powers.  Not surprisingly, the ship was ordered to leave the task force and return to Bermuda, where for the first time in US naval history, an entire crew of a ship was arrested.  Only the man who had inadvertently fired the torpedo was found guilty; FDR later intervened in his behalf, saving the poor man from serving fourteen years at hard labor.

The Willie D was sent to the Pacific where, before being sunk by a kamikaze plane, she distinguished herself by firing a live round at a base commander’s house and blowing up his front yard, by shooting down three American planes, and during one battle, by shooting the superstructure of the USS Luce.  No wonder then that wherever she went, she was greeted by radio calls, “Don’t shoot!  We’re Republicans!”

Note.  The August 1917 edition of Popular Science Magazine has a nice article about the USS Recruit and several other ships—real and proposed—that are worth reading about. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Second Battle of Adobe Walls

The most amazing part of this story is that there was more than one battle at such a remote location.  There is not much worth fighting over in the panhandle of Texas.  The place is damn near treeless, it's bone dry, and it's so flat you can stand on a dime and see Fort Worth.

To be fair, there used to be something there:  there used to be buffalo—vast herds of bison that roamed all the plains states and fed the various Indian tribes that lived there.  And that is what the fighting was really about, the buffalo and the Native Americans who depended on them.

The first battle took place in 1864 when Kit Carson led 300 men from New Mexico to punish the Plains Indians who had been attacking wagons traveling on the Santa Fe Trail.  This was the largest battle with Native Americans during the Civil War.  As soon as the war had started, most of the troops in the area had marched either southeast or northeast, leaving the area defenseless.  The Plains Indians promptly began to attack the wagons and homesteaders who were moving westward.  Kit Carson and his men were supposed to punish the various tribes, but the army lost the battle and had to retreat back into New Mexico.

As a settlement, Adobe Walls seemed to have very bad luck.  The first buildings had been put up in 1848 by William Bent to trade with the local Indians, but after repeated attacks by nearby tribes, the locals blew up the buildings with gunpowder and abandoned the area.  The first battle took place among the ruins ("adobe walls") left.  Eventually, buffalo hunters had thinned out the large herds to the north, so increasingly, hunters out of Fort Dodge, Kansas began moving south in search of the remaining large herds.

In 1874, this meant that some 200-300 commercial buffalo hunters were destroying what was left of the buffalo herds in the Texas Panhandle.  This was, of course, destroying what was left of the few remaining tribes of Plains Indians in Texas.  These Indians, aware that their way of life was vanishing with the buffalo, were understandably pissed.  Several tribes banded together after a medicine man, Isa-tai had a vision following a sun dance.  His vision said that if the tribes banded together and attacked the invading Anglos, their war paint would make the warriors both bulletproof and invincible.  (His vision was far more off than it would seem at first glance.  In a manner similar to the way in which Custer's defeat at Little Big Horn heralded the end of the ascendancy of the Sioux tribes, so the battles at Adobe Walls marked the beginning of the end of power for the Comanche.)

Note.  I'm curious, did a medicine man ever tell his tribe that in the ensuing battle, they would be wiped out by angry butterflies?  Or the white men would be bullet-proof?  I've never seen this in a history book, but I can't imagine it would get the medicine man in any more trouble than what must have happened when the surviving warriors returned after a battle where they were supposed to be bullet-proof.  In this particular case, all I report is that Isa-tai’s own horse was shot out from under him.  To be fair, the horse probably wasn't wearing war paint.

The war party was led by Quanah Parker, the last and greatest Chief of the Comanche.  Quanah, whose mother, Cynthia Ann Parker, had been kidnapped as a child and raised in the tribe, was a prominent Indian leader during the Red River War that would finally force the plains tribes onto reservations in Oklahoma.  (I have always believed that one of the reasons Quanah was frequently off fighting was that he was looking for a little peace and quiet.  At home, he had eight wives and 25 children.)

Chief Parker led a combined force of Comanche, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Arapaho warriors to Adobe Walls, which by this point, consisted of three wooden and adobe stores that were the headquarters and supply center for several hundred buffalo hunters.  The buffalo hides were collected at Adobe Walls and then shipped the 175 miles to Fort Dodge, Kansas.  The target of the raid was three-fold:  kill the hunters, take their horses, and seize the 15,000 rounds of ammunition stockpiled within the stores.  If successful, Chief Parker would use the ammunition—originally designed to kill buffalo—to kill the buffalo hunters.  (And any other whites in the region.)

Note.  At this point, I imagine a few of you are asking, "Why the hell were there 15,000 rounds of ammo stockpiled in the middle of nowhere?"  The answer is, "To kill buffalo."  Before the herds vanished, hunters used to kill an average of about 75-100 animals a day during the three-month season when the hides were usually harvested.  The stockpiled ammunition was only sufficient to supply two hunters for the summer.

There were also 15,000 buffalo hides awaiting shipment to Fort Dodge, but the Indians had no use for them.  Within another year, the bison of the "Southern Plains" would have been almost wiped out.  Congress had passed bills in both 1872 and 1874, limiting hunting to preserve the herds, but President Grant had refused to sign them into law.

About two hours after midnight on June 27, 1874, the men in Hanrahan's store heard a loud crack.  The cottonwood beam supporting the rafters had broken and the weight of the sod roof was threatening to collapse the entire building.  After shoveling dirt off the roof and bracing the rafters, the men decided that it was easier just to stay awake than to try and sleep for only a few hours.  This decision saved their lives.

One of the men standing near the corral was watching a small herd of buffalo drift closer to the encampment, when suddenly the screaming "buffalo" charged the buildings.  Even with the warning, not everyone made it inside one of the stores to safety.  Brothers Ike and Shorty Shadler were asleep under their wagon, but before they could make it to safety, both were killed.  Their scalped bodies were found near their wagon the next day.  (A 1917 interview with one of the survivors of the baffle claims the Indians also killed and scalped their dog.  What is the proper Comanche translation of, "And your little dog, too.")

For hours, a force of roughly 700 Indians attacked the buildings without success.  The twenty-eight men and one woman were behind thick wooden walls designed for protection from just such an onslaught.  With ample supplies, the defending buffalo hunters had only one problem:  many were using the wrong guns.  The favorite buffalo rifle of the time was the Sharps Rifle.  A single shot, heavy long-barreled rifle, it fired a variety of very heavy bullets that were deadly accurate at ranges normally up to 600 yards.  The long barrel made it very difficult to use at short ranges against moving targets.  The Hanrahan store had just received a case of the Sharps rifles, which was quickly opened and passed out to the hunters.

Even considering the weapon problem, the advantage was still on the side of the buffalo hunters.  All day long, they killed the Indians as they attacked the buildings, which had been laid out to set up a pattern of defensive crossfire.  Only one of the buffalo hunters was hit by any of the fairly constant fire from the Indians, as he ventured outside to check on the horses in the stoop picket pole corral.  He made it back to one of the stores where he died in the arms of his friend, Bat Masterson.  (Yes, that Bat Masterson.  Only twenty years-old, Bat was years away from meeting Wyatt Earp or becoming a famous lawman.)

Quanah was wounded during the attack when a bullet bounced off a buffalo horn the chief was wearing on a necklace.  The wound, halfway between his shoulder and his neck, was not serious, but persuaded him to withdraw.  About the same time, Isa-tai was killed by a stray bullet.  (At least that is the official story: personally, and without any evidence, I think Quanah shot him.  If my medicine man had promised me I was bullet-proof and then I got shot…)

The only other casualty was William Olds, who was climbing up a ladder through a trap door leading to the roof of the Langton store, when he accidentally shot himself.  He fell lifeless through the trap door, landing at the feet of his wife, the only white woman in the territory besides Quanah Parker's mother.

Eventually, the Indians withdrew back into the distant scrub brush and rocks, only occasionally shooting at any of the hunters who dared to show themselves.  This tactic was continued for a day and a half—until Billy Dixon ended the battle in a novel (and still controversial) manner.

On the third day, a group of Indians on horseback could be observed almost a mile away, as they surveyed the battle field.  At the urging of his friends, Dixon borrowed one of the new Sharps rifles.  Nicknamed the Big Fifty, the gun could fire a .50-90 cartridge.  This means it fired a .50 caliber ball and used 90 grains of black powder, making it the most powerful cartridge available.

Dixon took careful aim, elevating the rifle about 5 degrees and fired three times.  The Indians said the Sharps rifle was the "gun that shoots today and kills tomorrow."  This is a slight exaggeration, but it took several seconds for that last bullet to travel the distance and knock an Indian off his pony just yards from Quanah Parker.  The Indians, faced with an enemy who could kill at almost a mile, broke off the battle and withdrew.

Billy Dixon always modestly claimed that it was a "scratch shot", or an accident.  The US Army, when they finally arrived, measured the distance at 1,538 yards, or 9/10 of a mile.  In his autobiography, Dixon devotes only a single paragraph to the remarkable shot.

Less than three months later, Dixon was scouting for the US Army and his accurate rifle fire helped keep the Comanche from attacking at the Battle of Buffalo Wallow.  For those actions, he received the Medal of Honor—one of only eight civilians to receive the medal.

But, did the miracle shot of almost a mile actually happen?  Was the rifle even capable of such a shot.  Recent testing using sophisticated technology confirms that the rifle is capable of shooting that far.  In 1917, a writer for Pearson's Magazine interviewed the surviving participants of the battle.  Everyone confirmed that the shot did happen and the Native Americans even attested that, while the stricken warrior did not die, he was severely wounded.

Within a few years after the second battle of Adobe Walls, the buffalo were gone and the stores were abandoned.  Indians burned down the buildings and all you will find today are a few historic markers and the grave of Billy Dixon, whose body was moved there in 1929. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

I'm-A Fixin' To Tell Ya

A couple of weeks ago, I read Dan Rather’s autobiography.  Or rather, I read two of them (I think he has three or four volumes out, so far).  I’d make a joke about this, but when I started this blog, I thought I might record a dozen or so stories, and am pretty close to four hundred or so.  Evidently, it’s hard for a Texan to stop telling a story. 

In one chapter, Rather talks about one of his first jobs working at a Houston radio station.  Being something of a country boy, Rather said he was lucky to have what he called a “standard Texas accent”.  By this, I can only assume that he means he didn’t sound like he was from the piney woods of East Texas.

There is more than one Texas accent, and almost none of them is ever heard in the movies.  When people from Hollywood try to sound like Texans, they nearly always fail.  Offhand, I can only think of three actors who get it right:  Tommy Lee Jones, Matthew McConaughey, and Renée Zellweger.  (And they’re cheating—all three are actually from Texas.)

This is why, of course, George H.W. Bush, President #41, does NOT sound like a Texan.  George W. Bush, President #43, does.  As a matter of fact, as far as I am concerned, W and LBJ are the only two presidents this country has ever had who spoke clearly.

Hollywood has spent a lot of time trying in vain to teach actors how to sound like a Texan.  It never really works.  While making Second Hand Lions, my favorite movie, a speech coach was hired to help Michael Caine lose his Cockney accent and sound like a Texan.  For some reason, they didn’t bother doing the same thing to Robert Duvall, who even after filming Lonesome Dove  and several other movies in Texas, still sounds like his roots: California.

In time, Michael Caine could pronounce every word in the script like a Texan, but only individually.  Collectively, the words still came out British.  “Your speech cadence is wrong,” the dialog coach said.  “You are pronouncing each word separately.  In Texan, the words kind of lean on each other.”

Another integral part of speaking Texan, of course, is the choice of words.  My brother reported that his wife, Barbara, recently said, “I’m going to go ahead and wait until after lunch to run those errands.”  This is perfectly acceptable grammar in Texas.

Even though Rather was blessed with a “standard Texas accent”, the radio station still had him spend long hours with a speech therapist.  He reported that he spent long hours trying to learn to say the word “posts”.  He could not pronounce the second ’s’ no matters how hard he tried.  (And neither can I.  Nor do I see the need.  If I say I drove my pickup through the ‘bobwire' and took out a dozen fence posts, you don’t need to hear that second damn ’s’ to know the cattle got loose.) 

Similarly, Rather had trouble saying the word ‘variable’—it usually came out ‘varble’, as in “the winds should be light and ‘varble’.  Texans have a problem saying any word that has more than one ‘b’.  This is why ‘probably’ comes out ‘probly’.  (Just saying these words in my head as I write this is making me homesick.)

I have served time with a speech therapist myself.  When I was twelve, I spent afternoons at school with a speech therapist who struggled mightily to get me to pronounce the word ‘four’ in such a way that it had fewer than three syllables.  She was not entirely unsuccessful, but she wasn't completely successful, either.  I now pronounce it with only two syllables and the words, "four", "for", "far", and "fore" are all pronounced in exactly the same way.

In Dan Rather’s case, he lost most of his accent over the years.  He was stationed in New Orleans, Washington, DC, London, Saigon, and New York—somewhere along the way he lost a good deal of that Texas accent.  Most nights, while he was behind the anchor desk at CBS, you could just barely discern the Texas accent of his youth.  But, when he semi-retired, his accent came roaring back, as thick and strong as yesterday’s coffee.

Nights were not dark, they were the “inky black of a crow’s wing”.  Politicians were as crafty as a hungry raccoon.  As soon as he could get away with it, despite having lived most of his life in the world’s largest cities, Dan Rather once again became a hell of a country boy.

Which is perfectly okay.  Every good Texan knows how and when to play the poor dumb ol’ country boy.  I do this myself.  It’s a useful tool to use on naive Yankees and other random pests.  (I can’t pronounce the second ’s’ on ’pests’, either.)

Don’t get me wrong, Dan Rather was not faking that accent like, say, the late Molly Ivins.  If you heard Molly talk, you would have sworn she was raised in a barn.  The truth is that was she born in California, and later moved to the richest section of Houston, where she attended an exclusive prep school for the wealthy, and then went to college in Massachusetts and Paris.  We can assume that she didn’t get into Columbia University on a calf-roping scholarship.

Molly’s patently exaggerated Texas accent always bothered me a lot more than it should have.  For many Texans—and this includes most of my relatives—they spoke as well as they could.  For Molly, it was a quaint joke:  she had as much of an accent as she wanted to.

When Dan Rather returned to Texas, his accent came back strong.  My wife says the same thing happens to me when I talk on the phone to my brother or when I am telling a joke or story.  There doesn’t seem to be much I can do about this, but several people over the years have sure tried.  For six years, my work study student, Natasha (who was majoring in speech pathology), tried in vain to rein in my accent.  Among other words that seemed to have really bothered her, she insisted that the word ‘naked’ should not be pronounced ‘nek-kid’.  I still think my way sounds more interesting, more dirty, more…well, naked.

Natasha took me on as a personal project, determined to ‘fix’ my accent.  She felt especially motivated when a Japanese exchange student came to my office after the first day of class.  “Please, sir,” she asked.  “Will you ever use English in the classroom?”

Nope.  I’m a Texan.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Chicken Entrails, Anyone?

It is that time again.  Time for everyone to consult their favorite aruspex to perform a little haruspicy so we can determine what’s going to happen this coming Tuesday. 

For the non-pagans among you, this means it is time to take the entrails of sacrificial animals to your local holy man so he can predict the results of the next election.  The exact animal depends on where you are located.  The Romans used chickens or sheep, the Azande of Africa used chicken eggs, the Chinese used tortoises, and so forth.  For some strange reason, the specific organ of choice for many cultures was the liver, perhaps—if my children are any judge—because so few liked the taste. 

This sort of black magic is still being done today, but we call it “focus groups” or “voter polling”.   Today’s methods are far more accurate, except, of course, when they aren't.

The myriad ways of interpreting and reinterpreting these polls to produce a desired result are fascinating.  Evidently, politicians spend a small fortune hiring a pollster to produce a poll that no one, certainly not the politicians, believe any more than a pile of raw chicken livers.

The Bradley Effect is brought out every election as a way of “reinterpreting” a poll.  In 1982, Tom Bradley, an African-American, was running for reelection as mayor of Los Angeles and the polls predicted that he would win by a large margin.  But, when Bradley narrowly lost the election, the discrepancy was blamed on voters who had told pollsters they would vote for the minority candidate because of "white guilt". 

The Bradley Effect does exist: in England it is called "The Shy Tory Factor" and in Canada it is known by the name, "Flora MacDonald Effect".  Jesse Helms, the five-term senator from North Carolina (despite his outrageous racist background), used to brag that he had “never won a poll or lost an election.”  But, this voting canard has been over-used by every candidate who came up short in a poll.  

There are other ways to “adjust” a poll.  Were enough cell phones called to cancel the effect of traditional “landlines” being owned disproportionately by older Americans?  Are you polling everyone in the community or only likely voters?  Are your polls a rolling average over several weeks or are they a “snapshot” of just today?  The number of ways to adjust, manipulate, or factor a poll are endless.  Advanced degrees are given in the subject, allowing the recipient to become gainfully employed producing inaccurate polls.

These polling uncertainties are why there are other historically reliable methods of predicting elections that are used in every election.

Psychics are used (and not just by Nancy Reagan).  The most famous presidential election psychic is Sylvia Browne, who has a perfect record.  Yes, absolutely perfect.  By this, I mean she has never been correct one single time, about anything.  Being wrong every single time is as far outside statistical probability, and is just as impressive, at least in scientific terms, as being always correct.  All you had to do was reverse her prediction and you could foretell any election!

Unfortunately, Browne died in 2013, but since she believed in channeling, ghost writing, and communicating with the dead, I see no particular reason why we cannot use her to predict this election, anyway.  Just concentrate hard and let Sylvia communicate with you from beyond this astral plane…  After all, the worst you can do is improve her record.

Football allegedly can predict the next president.  If the Washington Redskins win the last home game before the election, the party in power usually retains the White House.  If they lose, there should be a party change in government leadership.  (Hey, I just write this shit, I didn’t make this up.)  As strange as it seems, they have been an accurate predictor of the presidential election for 16 out of the last 18 elections: an accuracy rate of 89%.  Since the Redskins beat the Eagles a couple of weeks ago, Hillary should win.

Unless you believe in the Height prediction method, which says the taller of the two presidential candidates should win.  In 67% of all presidential elections, the taller candidate won.  You remember when 6’2” Mitt Romney defeated 6’1” Barack Obama, right?  If the height rule works, Trump should win.

A Trump victory is supported by the Halloween Costume rule.  For the last 40 years, the sales of Halloween masks have accurately predicted the next winning candidate.  If this rule is accurate, not only will Trump become the next President of the United States, but the billionaire will also be elected in half of Europe and Mexico. (Maybe that is how he will get Mexico to pay for that wall!)

The Cookie Recipe Rule may not be valid this year. Since 1992, Family Circle magazine has convinced the wives of candidates to submit cookie recipes.  The readers vote for the best recipe, the winner has accurately predicted the future occupant of the White House every year except 2008, when Ann Romney’s M&M cookies edged out Michelle Obama’s politically correct recipe for a White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookie.  

This rule may not work this year, since Bill Clinton cheated by submitting a slightly reworked version of Hillary’s winning 1992 recipe.  While Bill won the contest, the results are being investigated by a House of Representatives Committee with a multi-million dollar budget.  Results are not expected in our lifetime.

Alternately, we could just listen to kids.  The Scholastic News has collected the votes of students since 1940, with an 88% accuracy rate.  The kids missed only twice: when they predicted Dewey would defeat Truman in 1948, and that Nixon would defeat Kennedy in 1960.  (And they might have been correct about last one.)  While the students predict Hillary wins this year, the results are a little unusual, with several states reversing long-held traditional voting patterns.  (The error probably is a result of Scholastic News only counting votes from students who can read.)

The most interesting method has to be the 7-11 Coffee Cup poll.  For the last four elections, the convenience store chain has offered disposable coffee cups for both political parties, with the cup used most being a surprisingly accurate predictor of the eventual winner.  This year, for the first time, 7-11 offered three cups:  Hillary, Trump, and a cup marked “Speak Up”.

I doubt that anyone will find it surprising to learn that the “Speak Up” cup is ahead by double digits.  This confirms my long-held opinion that anyone can win any election if they will just legally change their name to “None of the Above”.