Friday, February 29, 2008

Electoral Super-Sophistry

Hillary Clinton is the Popular Vote Leader

Senator Clinton is apparently running for President of exit-polled Registered Democrats of a minority of the States of America.


Graphic design hotshot Michael Bierut interviewed by Andrew Romano of Newsweek about the nature of Obama's branding elements, and the mind-boggling consistency of presentation from the campaign.
Every time you look, all those signs are perfect. Graphic designers like me don't understand how it's happening. It's unprecedented and inconceivable to us. The people in the know are flabbergasted.
Also some analysis of the typography and other visual components of his campaign. Most interesting.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


In his Time Magazine article Does Experience Matter in a President?, David von Drehle makes an excellent point:
Presidential experience means a familiarity with the levers and dials of government, knowing how to cajole the Congress, understanding when to rely on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and when to call on the National Security Council — that sort of thing. But bear down even slightly, and the notion of experience is liable to crack and run all over. If knowing the system is so useful, then second-term presidencies should be more successful than first-term. Instead, many Presidents lose effectiveness as they go along.

Great point in general, but particularly in an Obama v. McCain race. Why? Because the first reason one would give for declining effectiveness in second terms would be general fatigue. And would, say, a 50-year-old second termer likely be more fatigued than a 72 -year-old first termer?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

John McCain Wants to Cut Spending!

John McCain wants to cut spending so he can take those savings and pour them into the sands of Iraq.

Dollars for deserts!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Company - Sondheim

Angel Desai as Marta

Watched the PBS Great Performances broadcast of Steven Sondheim's 1970 musical comedy Company. This 2007 revival featured Raul Esparza as Bobby, and a lot of other talented performers. It was on PBS last night, and I presume it will be played quite a bit in months to come.

I'm not much of a musical fan but there are several I enjoy, so I'm not turned off to the very idea of musical comedy--just most of them. I wasn't familiar with this musical as a whole but for decades I've been impressed by songs from this show (particularly "The Little Things You Do Together," "Another Hundred People," and the title song) -- they're clever and uncliched, sophisticated without being stuffy, and generally fun. The show has quite a contemporary feel for "light entertainment" written over 35 years ago (perhaps part of it was rewritten for this revival?). I'm glad to have the opportunity to see it staged. Performances -- especially the singing -- are good to excellent.

The staging, with the actors doubling on instruments they often carry, is engaging. I imagine it would be a blast to see in the theater. Unfortunately, as with many filmed stage productions, what seems to crackle with energy in the theater is a bit flat on video. Still, it's way better than not having it at all. If you're at all inclined to enjoy it, look for it on Great Peformances on PBS.

Raul Esparza as Bobby

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Best Media-Crit Bit so far on the NYT/McCain Story

Jay Rosen: For the New York Times, as Well, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Risks

I'm getting pretty sick of the Times. The lobbyist and Paxon story was a solid one and they muddied it with sexual innuendo that they can't substantiate beyond "He said...."

They ran an eviscerated story, I'm sure, due to being lawyered and muscled by Bob Bennett.

Now conservatives will say "See, the NYT is publishing bullshit stories about McCain because it wants Obama to win." And the NY Times, using the same "let's make the conservatives feel better" that made them put William "Always Wrong" Kristol on the Op-Ed page, will feel they have to show their balance.

So, a prediction: The Times will run a truly bullshit "there's no there there" story a la Whitewater about Obama during this campaign so they can point and say "See! We're balanced! We run bullshit stories about both sides."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

John McCain's Chelsea Clinton joke

When I saw John McCain stand by chuckling as his wife took a swipe at an impromptu misstatement by Michelle Obama, I was reminded what a creepy jerk John McCain is.

Let's recall John McCain's infamous joke about Chelsea Clinton, rendered before an audience when Chelsea was about 18 years old:
Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?
Because her father is Janet Reno
--John McCain, 1998
This was emitted by McCain in a speech before an Republican crowd--it was no slip. It was something McCain found funny and wanted to to share with his friends.

Even worse, consider the chain of conscious affirmation that led McCain to speak that joke publicly. Someone relayed this to McCain, thinking John would be the kind of person who was receptive to this joke. McCain was so receptive that he remembered that quip and repeated it in public. He was speaking to a Republican crowd, which he felt was the sort of crowd who would appreciate this kind of comedy.

No slip, no accident, no misstatement.

When caught, I believe he eventually apologized to the President. No telling how many times he told that joke and beamed at the laughter before he was caught.

Your Republican nominee, folks.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cindy McCain's Pride

Cindy McCains is Proud ... of our nation's great pharmaceutical industry and wonderful criminal defense attorneys, divorce attorneys, trust and estate attorneys.

Cindy almost added: "I owe all my success, and much of John's political career, to some advice my father gave me. He said 'Cindy, here are millions of dollars. Live like a Republican: get hooked on drugs -- the hard stuff! -- and steal both narcotics and another woman's husband. And loan some of your fortune to John's Senate campaign to get him a Senate job where he won't be able to ruin the distributorship I built up.'"

Monday, February 18, 2008

Two Quotes, About a Year Apart

Quote 1: Washington Post, 21 Feb, 2008:
On her campaign plane, Clinton started coming back to the press section for off-the-record chats, usually harmless but sometimes including comments that contradicted what she was saying publicly, according to participants. Two weeks ago part of the media contingent revolted, saying the conversations did them no good if they couldn't use the information. Since then, although she walked the aisle with a tray of chocolates to hand out on Valentine's Day, the airborne sessions have dwindled.
Quote 2: Former Clinton Supporter David Geffen, 21 Feb. 2007:

"Everybody in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it's troubling."

Sunday, February 17, 2008


CBS News' Fernando Suarez reporting from Akron Ohio:
Hillary Clinton made a stop at the Lockheed Martin plant in Akron today, but about the only thing that was hot in the room were the reactors working in the plant. Clinton received an awkwardly chilly reception at the plant, so much so that upon taking the stage the music was cut short because the crowd was just standing there watching her and no longer clapping.


Clinton then began laying out her standard stump speech and when she reached key applause lines like wanting to build up America’s manufacturing plants or offering universal health care or even building America’s national defense programs, there was nothing but silence.

In fact, Clinton’s first applause came 11 minutes into a 12 minute speech when she said she would bring troops home from Iraq. Clinton quickly wrapped up her speech following the applause.


Having been to more Clinton events than I care to remember, this was by far the shortest speech and most silent reception I can recall.
It's not looking bad for her in Ohio polls yet, but it's gotta be rough to campaign in places like that. Obama was nowhere near, so she can't blame such a tepid response on him cornering all the oxygen in the room.

It's only one stop but still... take a hint.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Chris Matthews: Perenially an Idiot

Greg Sargent notes that Chris Matthews is the real issue for Clinton's campaign, not David Shuster. I've thought that myself.

Matthews shouldn't be on television. He's tremendously ill-informed; he considers himself a blue collar guy but he's a wealthy perfumed courtier masquerading; he's misogynist; he gets neither the big picture nor the details right, he slavers over Republican candidates (Fred Thompson's scent, Rudy's toughness, etc.), he is ignorant generally and reflexively stupid; and he displays his id more than his reason--and his id really is a sewer of sad psychosexual turmoil straight out of Eraserhead.

I'm an Obama supporter, but I'll admit the Hillary people have a real honest complaint about Matthews and his anti-Hillary jihad along with his general misogny. So does every other candidate who's not a male Republican presidential candidate--but for most candidates it's just not so direct and monotonal.

Now that he's trying to be nice to Hillary, he can't be fair to everyone else.

He should be off the air. He's a pox on politics. And I've been saying more or less the same thing for years now. Thankfully, BBC America has a news program on at 7 eastern so I can ditch Matthews fully.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Republicans Face "Pessimism and Gloom"

The Douchebag of Liberty (Robert Novak) writes:
'Adding to the dark mood among Republicans is the increasing prospect that they will not be able to bolster their morale by running against the detested Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). Her unification of Republicans has been one of the few GOP assets going into the campaign. It will take time and effort to work up a passion against the likable Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) no matter how leftist he really is.'

Facts Come Before Spin -- Eventually

I was struck some weeks ago when Obama spoke about how Clinton's campaign was all tactical maneuvers (...wish I could find the quote now). It's become increasingly evident that he was right: for some time now the Clinton campaign has exerted energy doing tiny things: picking a fight with MSNBC, challenging Obama to debates, touting a fundraising boost after the $5 million loan was revealed, and telling us why the various contests that Obama was taking were somehow unimportant--all tactical maneuvers. Now it's nakedly apparent that the Clinton strategy, such as it is, is to decamp to March and let Obama win as much of February's contests as he can take. The month will be spent spinning and spinning and engaging in ever-smaller tactical scrimshaw.

Many blogs have made fun of the Clinton camp's continuing efforts to explain away every defeat as somehow unimportant for one reason or another -- "too many African-American voters," "it's a caucus," "it's a Red state," etc etc. Yglesias committed an early example. Kos contributes an exhaustive take. Kos Diarist Jeff Lieber shows how absurd the cumulative explanations have become.

For most of the past few days, these explanations have been carried by the mainstream press pretty much as they were made by the Clintonistas, allowing their tactics to hit the public as intended.

No more. Today, after the decisive victories in the Potomac primaries and an apparently nearly unassailable lead in pledged delegates, the dam seems to have burst with the press and they're basically calling bullshit on the spin.

Obama cuts into Clinton base Beth Fouhy of the AP writes:
By this logic, only certain states really matter, such as New Hampshire and New Jersey, states that Clinton has won. Or Texas and Ohio, states she must capture to stay in the race.

The list of excuses is long, but the justifications are wearing thin. One by one, all the contests Clinton has suggested don't count are proving in size and scope that they do.
Ok, so these states all do count, after all. What about that massive superdelegate lead? Ron Fournier (AP) spills on the people the Clintons may no longer be able to count on:
Clinton should find little comfort in the fact that she has secured 242 superdelegates to Obama's 160.

"I would make the assumption that the ... superdelegates she has now are the Clintons' loyal base. A superdelegate who is uncommitted today is clearly going to wait and see how this plays out. She's at her zenith now," Duffy said. "Whatever political capital or IOUs that exist, she's already collected."
Tactics are all they have, but they are well past rancid. It must be tiring to continually push these counterfactual themes (though I admit the Bushies have done that for years). In a way I feel sorry for the Clinton people and Hillary herself. But not too sorry--they haven't covered themselves in glory with their racist dogwhistle campaign and being downright petty, as James Fallows noted last night (doing what she's done after previous losses). So, screw 'em.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Clinton/Penn/Wolfson Strategery

In the NY Times, Woolfson reveals why they are cunningly planning on stringing together a whole month of loss after loss after abject loss* for Hillary:
There is no evidence that voters are voting based on momentum — in fact the evidence is to the contrary,” said Howard Wolfson, Mrs. Clinton’s communications director.
If they lose massively and powerfully enough, they will have anti-momentum of such devastating force that it will slingshot Clinton to the nomination.

Now that's strategic thinking!

*Best not to count the votes before they come in -- Obama could lose some states in Feb.

Friday, February 08, 2008

YouTube - Hillary and the Band

Hillary's Shred Video. I just saw this again and realized that it was "Paid for Hillary Clinton for President."

Earlier I thought it was a misguided misfire by one of Hillary's fans. It's hard to fathom that any professional outfit would put this together. I'd fire any communication pros who believe it would reach "young people," as it is obviously intended to.

Since she pays for this kind of pap, I no longer have to wonder how Hillary blew through all her campaign cash.

Whatever you think of the "Yes We Can" video, it was posted 3 days after this Hillary thing and the numbers tell the story:

Hillary's "shred" video:
Added: January 30, 2008
Views: 186,857

Barack's "Yes we can" video:
Added: February 02, 2008
Views: 2,636,540

That's just from the posting on that one YouTube page. I have seen "Yes We Can" active on torrent download sites and on other video sites. I'm pretty sure this Hillary video isn't getting widespread dispersion. Except for ridicule.

And Obama didn't pay a penny for "Yes We Can."

The Bugle

The Bugle -- a great new (to me) podcast from John Oliver (lately of The Daily Show in the US, but formerly of many funny things in the UK, including a tiny part in the TV version of People Like Us) and his cohort Andy Zaltzman, who worked with Oliver in the hilarious "The Department" and miscellaneous other funny matter, as well as doing his own clever standup and writing. It's put out by The Times (of London) Online UK.

I've listened to the first few as well as the current one (about Rudy Giuliani, the Sultan of 9/11: "He was leading in virtually all the polls before the race properly began. But then he began opening his mouth and saying words, and that quickly became a problem."). They're uniformly funny and often hilarious.

John Oliver speaks from New York and Zaltsman from London, so Oliver gives the Times' listeners a skewed sort of Alistair Cooke-ish Brit Abroad interpretation of events. In most episodes "An American" (otherwise unidentified, but in truth Daily Show writer Rory Albanese) appears, a New Yorker who gives his own full-throated and low-browed Yankee perspective and answers questions from the public.

Sample a few of episodes of The Bugle. It's the funny stuff.

Monday, February 04, 2008

This is hard to for me to write off

I was thinking "Gee the Clintons haven't been too racist and awful recently, maybe I should rethink my stated revulsion at their tactics."

That didn't last too long. Ok, Bill was going to make an apology tour. But a few things make me think that, if Hillary had won in South Carolina, and it were just blacks who were pissed at his antics, I doubt he'd be making this four-stop tour of Los Angeles area black churches.

If it were really important to him, I'm sure he wouldn't have (from the same story) "... canceled a fourth appearance [scheduled at churches] to fly to New Mexico to watch the Super Bowl with Gov. Bill Richardson..."

Cause nothing says "I'm sorry" like dumping out of your tour and flying to New Mexico to eat nachos with the Guv, possibly to try and parry an endorsement (or whatever Bill was doing).

And apparently some of his supporters, who invited them into their houses of worship, thought he was going to write a letter of apology. I thought it rose to that level. But I guess that was all a misunderstanding.

I'm so tired of the Clintons.

If you live where it matters, I ask you to really consider a vote for Obama in the primaries or caucuses. Who needs more of this lame-ass drama?

But they have a lot of people everywhere who will turn out to vote for them, for whatever meager reasons they can conjure. Obama needs a lot of votes to overcome the built-in Clinton draw. And don't forget that in California, as well as in other states, many votes have already been cast via mail-in ballots and there are sundry other issues. Obama will need a deluge to overcome that, if it's even possible, no matter what the polls say.
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