Thursday, January 31, 2008

Debate Lessons

I thought both candidates did a pretty good job tonight. Hillary got in her pre-packaged one-liner about Clintons cleaning up after Bushes that will probably resonate. Obama got to watch Hillary try to explain her Iraq vote for 1/4 of the program - a clear winner for him.

I think Barry needs to work on making his points more concise, and waiting for applause. I think Hillary needs to work on not smirking and laughing like she's crazed.

And I think that Wolf Blitzer is a bumbling schlemiel.

Edwards Voters' Choice

Sure, maybe it's not scientific, and maybe it only applies to lefty blog-readers.. But the DailyKos weekly straw poll of readers has pretty stunning numbers after Edwards' departure:

Clinton - 9
Edwards - 42
Obama - 41

Clinton - 11
Obama - 76

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"The way to win a debate with John McCain is not by nominating someone who agree[s] with him"

Is anyone still asking whether Obama is tough enough to take a general election? Because this is pretty tough stuff, and effective too. Watching the Republicans coalesce around McCain could really help Obama among Democrats, no?

Edwards Out

All that hooey about hording his delegates to be a convention king-maker appears to have been hogwash. According to CNN he's not going to immediately endorse.

How will his supporters break? My hunch is it depends on the state.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Random Notes & Thoughts About W's Final SOTU

Clearly, there is no candidate on either side who will be able to smirk nearly as smirkily as our current Smirker-in-Chief, George W. Bush.

From "making the tax relief permanent" to "enriching uranium in Iran", listening to that speech was like scanning the tracklist on a Greatest Hits album by a band I always hated. It just reminded me exactly why I never bought any of their (his) shit in the first place.

86% of those surveyed by Fox News thought the President did a great job delivering last night's speech. By contrast, even the uber-conservative Fred Barnes and Pat Buchanan dismissed it as forgettable and not one of W's best efforts.

It is clearer than ... (thinking of something very clear) ... Sprite (once the bubbles have settled), that nearly every influential Democrat not named Clinton or Edwards is lining up beside/behind Obama. The question is will this be sufficient to sway enough Super Tuesday voters, and defy the polling leads Hillary currently maintains?

Personal to John Edwards: Drop out now, throw your support (and your best ass-kissing) towards Obama, and jockey for a VP spot.

New theme for Giuliani: "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" by Bob Dylan, particularly the closing lines: "I'm going back to New York City/I do believe I've had enough".

Sorry, veered off course there...I was writing about the State of the Union speech, but became distracted by the primary races. That seems exceptionally appropriate to me, actually.

Reminder: The "IRS" accepts both checks and money orders, according to Bush. However, as a CPA, I feel obligated to inform you that the payee should actually be "United States Treasury" (see page 60 of the Instructions for Form 1040).

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Clinton campaign has been playing the race card against Obama for more than a year

One more thing about the race card. The Clintons have been playing the race card against Obama since the day the campaign began. Remember a year ago when stories started appearing all over the place asking whether Barack Obama was "black enough" for black voters? Especially when you considered the deep and abiding bond black voters had with the Clintons? Remember this blind quote?:
"He's not built to be the black candidate," said a Clinton adviser, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "I don't think he wants to play to the Jesse Jackson wing of the party, and I'm not convinced that he wins them overwhelmingly either. His youth and inexperience play against him in that world -- he's the young whippersnapper who didn't pay his dues."
African-American voters were "the Jesse Jackson wing of the party" to the Clintons then, and they are still the Jesse Jackson wing of the party to the Clintons today. They may seem like opposites, but there is really not much difference between the "Is Obama black enough?" storyline peddled by the Clinton campaign in January of 2007 and the "Is Obama too black?" storyline peddled by the Clinton campaign in the wake of the South Carolina rout. Both are condescending trash.

Dick Morris, Professional Buffoon

So, I admit to watching Fox News as often as I can stomach it, which usually nets to about an hour or two each week. (Hey, when I spend all my politically-oriented TV time watching Keith Olbermann, I become too insulated from the evil that lurks to my right. He does such a good job of skewering their bullshit that it's difficult to envision that anyone on the extreme right could ever present anything in an even remotely persuasive fashion.)

OK, preamble over. Here's the deal. Twice late last week (which was exactly how many times I had Fox News on), on two different programs, I saw DICK Morris stating that a key part of the Clinton strategy in playing the race card (which presumes of course that they are--which I think I agree with) was in anticipation of an overwhelming margin for Obama among black voters in South Carolina. The idea was that by focusing on race, the ensuing result could trigger a backlash among white voters on Super Tuesday. I believe the hypothetical margin Morris mentioned was "four or five to one"......hmmmmmmmmmmmm. DICK fleshed out his scenario with a little personal anecdote: "For example, I don't care that Romney is Mormon. But, when I hear that 95% of Mormons in Nevada went for Romney, it makes me pause and say, 'What's going on here?'..." [NOTE: This is actually a paraphrase, not a direct quote--but I think it's pretty close, and certainly an accurate representation of what he said.]

The Obama victory in South Carolina was a sweeping one, turnout was huge, and the margins among black voters were in the "four or five to one" range. Is there a backlash coming? Or, is DICK Morris just the horse's ass I think he is?

PS - I wanted to include a photo of the man, but Yahoo! Image Search warned me that "Dick Morris" could return "adult content", which is a chance I can't take at work... :-)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I take back everything I said about South Carolina

  • A stinging rebuke of the garbage politics of the Clintons
  • No such thing as the Bradley Effect (white support more than double their poll numbers)
  • Another bomb ass victory speech

    If there's no bump after this trouncing, momentum really is dead.
  • Thursday, January 24, 2008

    I'm looking forward to that $600

    But If I hear one more creepy Senator say "stimulus" I'm going to barf.

    Tuesday, January 22, 2008

    The Bill Strategy

    Is Bill Clinton's bad cop gig helping Hillary?

    I maintain that it's hurting her, at least since Obama brought it out in the open post-Nevada. I think it reminds people of the worst of Bill Clinton - the lying, drama queen side. The "is is" side. And it could be - could be - that pundits failed to pick up on another potential turning of the tide last night.

    The previously neutral Feb. 5 Democrat now has to ask her/himself whether it's worth turning back the clock to the end of the Clinton years, when Fox News was born as the 24-hour Lewinsky network and George W. won an election by convincing America he was running against Clinton, not Gore. Now that it's obvious Bill (and last night, Hillary) are in straight-up mudslinging mode, this plays directly into Obama's narrative.

    A reader of Ben Smith's blog has an interesting take on women's reactions to Bill's role:
    However, something funny has happened the last couple of days that was crystallized amongst those watching highlights of last night's debate. Around the office today, a number of women who were definitely in the Hillary camp are starting to feel a little sick to their stomach about the role Bill Clinton's is playing. One remarked that she thought she would be voting for the first women president, not a trojan horse for Bill Clinton's overactive ambition. Another friend I thought last week would definitely vote for Hillary labeled them the "Dynastic Duo" this morning and said she may switch to Obama. And finally, my best friend, who already sent in her absentee ballot says, she's got serious "buyer's remorse" saying she thought she had voted for the first women president, but now she's not so sure she's advanced or hurt women everywhere by voting for Hillary.

    What do you think?

    [update]: Eric Schmeltzer has another take on the debates, concludes that Obama successfully changed the issue from "experience" to "trust" - a clear winner for him.

    [update 2]: In any case, people were paying attention. The debate was the most watched primary season debate in cable news history.

    Monday, January 21, 2008

    Democratic debate blogging

    What an ugly race this has become. The clear winner of this debate? John Edwards, because at least he got his message out while the other two just bashed away at one another. Just ugly. And I think it's safe to say I have an extraordinarily high threshold for this sort of thing.

    On rappers and steroids

    Via Nah Right:

    Sunday, January 20, 2008

    Homage to Lactaid

    To those lactose tolerant and intolerant alike comes this hilarious post from the blog of the band Hard 'N Phirm.
    Hello reader. I have something I want to share with you, and it is Lactaid. Not my actual Lactaid, but the idea of Lactaid.

    But, writer,” reads reader, “I’m not lactose intolerant. What do I care about Lactaid?
    Read the whole thing to find out.

    Saturday, January 19, 2008

    I want to read that unpublished Nabokov manuscript

    Maybe you saw this Slate story by Ron Rosenbaum about whether or not Vladimir Nabokov's son will accede to his father's wishes and destroy a last, unfinished manuscript that is now sitting in a Swiss bank vault.

    Nabokov requested that his son Dmitri destroy the manuscript. But he's been dead more than 30 years and Dmitri hasn't burned it yet, so clearly he has mixed feelings about this. Rosenbaum expresses some of the questions this way:
    Does it matter what V.N. would feel, since he's long dead? Do we owe no respect to his last wishes because we greedily want some "key" to his work, or just more of it for our own selfish reasons? Does the lust for aesthetic beauty always allow us to rationalize trampling on the artist's grave? Does the greatness of an artist diminish his right to dispose of his own unfinished work?
    I would answer these questions no, no, no, and yes. Literary history is full of manuscripts published posthumously against the specific wishes of the authors. That's the case with almost all of Emily Dickinson and Franz Kafka, with Walter Benjamin's great "Theses on the Philosophy of History," and I'm sure there are many more. (Additional examples welcome.)

    I certainly don't think it's the case that an artist's wishes should always be disregarded, but I do think at some point the greatness of the work outweighs the reticence of the writer. And no one is greater than Nabokov.

    P.S. ... One of the arguments Dmitri seems to be considering in favor of destroying the manuscript is the preponderance of bad Nabokovianism. To that I say: waa waa. There will always be bad critics; writing bad criticism is just a lot easier than writing great novels. But why give the final say to those people? For fear of bad criticism, no book would ever be published.

    Thursday, January 17, 2008

    There is nothing wrong with Obama's Reagan analogy

    Why in the world would anyone be annoyed at Barack Obama's Ronald Reagan self-comparison? Ronald Reagan obviously did "change the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not." This is not the same thing as saying "Ronald Reagan was a great president." Have any of the Democrats who are complaining at Obama ever heard of the "Reagan coalition"? Fraying as it may be, it remains the basic structure of the Republican party.

    Whether or not you think Bill Clinton was a good president, there is no comparable "Clinton coalition" on the Democratic side.

    The Paradox of Tom Cruise

    Hoo-boy, have you watched the Tom Cruise Scientology video yet? I have watched it three times; I cannot stop. It really is an extraordinary thing. I had to look up some of the Scientology-jargon, like SP and KSW, but it helps when you have the context.

    One of the many striking things about the video is how totally mannered and self-conscious Cruise is about his every facial expression -- the concerned eye contact with the off-camera interviewer, the contemplative eyes-closed pose, the dramatic pauses -- and how the paradoxical effect of this self-consciousness is that he actually has no idea how he comes off to other people.

    This video isn't funny, exactly, and I don't think it is sad. But it is quite extreme. Just the pure certainty of this person.

    P.S. ... Remind me to tell you the story sometime of the time Laura and I ventured into a Scientology center in Washington, D.C., because we thought they might have doughnuts or pastries, and instead we got corralled into a long video presentation about L. Ron Hubbard and subsequent hard-sell on our way out the door...

    [xpost to What's Your Beef]

    Monday, January 14, 2008

    Talking about The Wire Season Five

    For fun, I made a recording of myself and a couple of friends talking about episode two of season five of The Wire. Check it out!

    Wait, 50 Cent used steroids? Timbaland too?

    Mary J. Blige, now that was a bit of a curveball, though...

    Sunday, January 13, 2008

    McCaskill: Obama is better in swing states

    Any doubt in my mind about whether Barack Obama was going to run for president evaporated a little over a year aog when I saw him at Sen. Claire McCaskill's swearing-in ceremony in January of '07. All that flesh-pressing and bridge-building and campaigning paid off for Obama yesterday in the form of a McCaskill endorsement.

    To be sure, McCaskill's endorsement might not move a lot of votes in the Nevada caucuses or the South Carolina primaries, but the message it sends--that Obama is the better Democrat for swing states--still matters.

    McCaskill is heavily invested in former Kansas City mayor Kay Barnes' campaign to unseat Sam Graves, an arch-conservative House member who once shouted at me for 20 minutes because he thought I was asking too many questions about his position on the war. McCaskill convinced Barnes to run against Graves in the first place, and she is clearly interested in expanding Democratic support into the more conservative west side of Missouri.

    By this endorsement, it seems pretty clear that she thinks Obama can do that and Clinton can't. There could be a personal level to it or a neighboring-state issue, but when you get right down to it, the animating feature of the endorsement would appear to be downticket-electability.

    It's possible to disagree with McCaskill's judgment. But I think it's pretty clear that a Clinton candidacy would be a great boon to Graves -- and probably to the dozens of other Republicans like Graves who are running in swing districts in '08.

    Thursday, January 10, 2008

    The Halle Berry Test

    AdAge's Bob Garfield, who always does a superb job of reviewing ads and tying their appeal (or repeal) to a broader social context, makes an important. And based on the comments, a point that is difficult to understand:
    1) Even hardened racists feel the impulse to believe they are no such thing.

    2) Hence, they are always in the market for someone "acceptably black."

    Yes, the market. And, yes, acceptably black. We used that term the other day on "Hardball with Chris Matthews" to talk about Sen. Barack Obama and watched the interviewer visibly flinch. "I'm gonna take some of the edge off of what you just said," he said.
    Flip through a magazine and check out the ads. In any group of three or more models, one invariably will be black. (If there are six or more models, one will be Asian and one Hispanic.) Same on TV. In any commercial for beer or snack food, one of the guys on the sofa is always black. This probably misrepresents the incidence of interracial hanging out, but it isn't just tokenism. It's a harmony fantasy, buried deep in the collective conscience.
    Read the column here.

    ye olde bradley effect

    In previous comments, our own Donald HD brought to our attention the "Bradley Effect" as a potential cause for Hillary's upset (though it was unclear whether he bought it or not) of Obama. Personally, I don't buy it. What I do buy is the potential for a "Bradley Effect Effect" - outlined by Noam Scheiber of TNR:
    You have to wonder about the effect of all the talking heads complaining that Obama lost because white voters opposed him on racial grounds, then lied to pollsters about it. Amid all this talk, will previously supportive African Americans suddenly get squeamish? Will downscale whites suddenly get defensive? Will they react against being lectured to by the national media?

    Both of these scenarios are plausible. But there's a third possibility: That the Bradley-Effect Effect actually benefits Obama. Is it so crazy to think working class voters will react to the racism charge by going out of their way to prove it false?

    Interesting stuff. It could very well be that if the press keeps recycling this unfounded, vaguely offensive idea, Obama can have his own Teargate (Watertear?) victory down the road.

    The Wire catch-up

    Actually, I would say don't watch this if you haven't already seen the first four seasons of The Wire. But it is kind of fun to watch if you have.

    Wednesday, January 09, 2008

    The Granite State still blows.

    Does anybody buy this bizarre narrative that it was Hillary's choked-up response to an asinine question that led to her victory in New Hampshire?

    I don't.

    I'm partial to the other storyline: that the people of New Hampshire relish in supporting candidates who didn't win in Iowa (albeit electable ones), just for the sake of being different, and for having some token impact.

    And a corollary: if I'm an independent voter and I've been told Obama's up in the polls by 13 points all week, why would I go vote for him and not McCain?

    Saturday, January 05, 2008

    Resolutions in retrospect

    Looking at my New Year's Resolutions from last year, I've gotta say, I did not do half badly. I flat-out failed at #3 and #6 (and that one was admittedly rather ambitious). I made limited progress on #4. But the rest of them I accomplished.

    P.S. ... I think it was clever of me to resolve to "exercise more" in 2007 rather than to actually lose weight or improve my health. I did indeed exercise a lot more -- but I also apparently ate even more than that.

    P.P.S. ... 2008 resolutions here.

    Thursday, January 03, 2008

    Mr. 38%

    UPDATE [1/4 10:47am] ... Obama's victory speech:

    UPDATE II [1/4 2:39pm] ... Today I heard Rush Limbaugh say on the radio that the media was "desperately" trying to downplay how historic it was that Barack Obama, a black man, won in a white state. Why? Because the media is "in the tank for Clinton." Just wondering, did it seem that way to anyone else in the world? Because I kinda feel like the media may have mentioned Obama's race on a couple of occasions...

    UPDATE III [1/4 6:15pm] ... One of the funniest, giddiest, best post-caucus reactions comes from Julianne Shepherd...

    Wednesday, January 02, 2008

    How I spent my New Year's Eve

    I can't decide whether linking to stuff I've written at my day job is tacky self-promotion, unnecessary duplication of services or an acceptable way to flag stuff that might be of interest to remaining AMillionMonkeys readers.

    Hoping it's that last one. I spent this New Year's Eve riding along in a taxicab, talking to a friendly cabbie named Rick Schultz and meeting a procession of drunk-and-drunker revelers. The story I wrote about this can be found here. And then today I posted a few anecdotes that didn't make the story here.

    Tuesday, January 01, 2008

    Possibly suffering from a bad hangover, eskay expresses himself on the topic of your top 10 list...