Saturday, February 23, 2008

Narrative Stickiness

An interesting post on "narrative stickiness"—getting attached to a consensual media narrative despite facts pointing to a different conclusion—from Open Left.
Just prior to the debate In Austin last night I spoke with several reporters about their presidential primary reporting. Collectively, their answers reveal a powerful force in political reporting: Narrative Stickiness.

They seem to like Obama and his campaign. They are impressed at the quality of the campaign. They can sense the drama of the November campaign.

Still, this doesn't fit the narrative they set out to write. They believed they were writing the melodrama of a Clinton candidacy. And they are a bit frustrated that someone is changing their ending.

When narrative stickiness is working against a cause or candidate we support, it is never enough to challenge it with facts. We need to recognize that. First, we'll need to make the illogic transparent. Over and over and over again. Then we'll have to make the "new" ending seem like the media's idea.

Imagine a child who's heard the same bedtime story a hundred times. On reading 101, the parent changes the ending. The child will resist that, and demand a return to the story she knows so well. That's narrative stickiness. It probably applies to every one of us. It's just a great deal more visible in those telling stories to millions of Americans every day. 

A Date With Oscar

Celebs prepare for Oscar night with extreme body sculpting. Who knew?

Choice cut from the Daily Mail:
Mink Eyelashes, Cleavage Buffing, Underarm Botox — How the Stars are Preparing for the Oscars

On the eve of a recent Oscars, one TV star decided she was less than thrilled with her designer gown - or rather the way she looked in it.

It seems there was a tiny bump of fat which stuck out over the back of her dress. Rather than change her outfit, she dialled Manhattan dermatologist Dr Patricia Wexler, who says "it was easier to do a little liposuction than to fix the dress."

With liposuction treatment often taking only a day, Dr Wexler admits this is not uncommon: "I have had designers demanding liposuction for an actress who didn't look as good in their gown as they wanted her to.

"One designer rang ten days before the Oscars complaining that it was impossible to change the dress. It was a really low-back dress and the star's waistline wasn't smooth enough. The dress required this long, elongated waist.

"I did the lipo and by Oscar night she looked great."

She's Come Undone

Whew! What a truckload of shit to unpack there. She's referring to mailers the Obama campaign has been circulating in Ohio which are critical of her plan. Most of this has been discussed ad nauseum throughout the campaign, by the way, so the anger seems a little...disingenuous.

My favorite line: "And then use tactics right out of Karl Rove's playbook." Well. Pot meet kettle. This from the woman whose campaign used race baiting tactics leading up to South Carolina. This from the woman whose campaign distributed mailers falsely accusing Obama of being weak on women's issues. (He's not. He's got very high ratings from women's rights organizations and a strong record.) This from the woman whose entire campaign strategy aped Rove's micro-targeting 50%+1 silliness.

My second favorite line: "Since when do Democrats attack one another on Universal Health Care?" Um...since you went after Obama on his plan, what, a mere 5 days ago at the last debate. (For more commentary and for the Obama campaign's rapid response to the "Since when" charge, head on over to The Field.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pakistan's Political Portent

A somewhat heartening article on the waning political power of Islamist groups. 

Choice cut:
Islam at the Ballot Box
Pakistan's election has been portrayed by the Western media as a defeat for President Pervez Musharraf. The real losers were the Islamist parties.

The latest analysis of the results shows that the parties linked, or at least sympathetic, to the Taliban and al Qaeda saw their share of the votes slashed to about 3% from almost 11% in the last general election a few years ago. The largest coalition of the Islamist parties, the United Assembly for Action (MMA), lost control of the Northwest Frontier Province -- the only one of Pakistan's four provinces it governed. The winner in the province is the avowedly secularist National Awami Party.

Nueva Alemania

Here's an odd story about a hill town in Paraguay called New Germany, a failed Nazi colony where Nazi doctor Josef Mengele (the "Angel of Death") may have spent time after fleeing Germany. 

New Germany would have been Mengele's kind of town. It was founded in the 1880s by Elisabeth Nietzsche (sister of Friedrich) and her husband, the noted anti-Semite Bernhard Förster. This couple had tried to whip their countrymen into a Jew-hating frenzy, but apparently not even 19th-century Germans were anti-Semitic enough for them. Disgusted, the couple packed off to Paraguay with a few other families and tried to establish a pure Aryan colony, a place to preserve the master race.

The colony failed utterly, ravaged within two years by parasites and the unfortunate realization that the Aryan volunteers' European farming experience hadn't prepared them to grow the local manioc and yerba mate any more than it had taught them to ranch llamas or stalk yaks. The anti-Semitic colonists came to hate the Försters, and began to wonder whether they had picked the wrong Jew-hating loons to follow into the jungle. Those who didn’t die of lockjaw or hunger left; a few stayed, and decades later, their children and grandchildren fought for the Third Reich. By now, anyone who had papers to return to Germany has already gone — unless, of course, they had reason to stay away.

Obama's Ground Game

When Obama wins the nomination sometime in the next couple of months it'll be because of stories like this.
Obama's Texas Two-Step
In the same cluster of messages came one from the Obama campaign. It was notifying me that they were setting up "Precinct Captain" meetings in locations all over the state and asked if I'd be willing to attend one and volunteer for the campaign. …

I visited the Precinct Captain website and to my great surprise, I found 25 meetings scheduled all over the state, including such remote locations as Matamoros way down on the border with Mexico. There were, in fact, meetings scheduled in two border communities as well as FIVE locations in San Antonio, and one all the way out in El Paso, which told me right away that the campaign was not conceding a single Hispanic vote to Hillary.

West Texas, which is almost always forgotten in national political campaigns, had meetings scheduled in Lubbock, Abilene, Midland-Odessa, and of course, El Paso.

"So this is the much-vaunted Obama ground operation," I mused.

Abilene, Texas is, literally, one of the most conservative cities in the country. Back last summer, when the Obama campaign staged its "Walk for Change," I was able to find only two people signed up for the walk in Abilene--so few that the campaign didn't send any materials.

So I was more than curious to see how many people might attend an organizational meeting for the Obama campaign in Abilene.

The meeting was held in a nice hotel, in a room that seated about 25 people, but by the time I got there, all the seats were full. They sent out for more chairs, but by the time they got back, there were too many people for the extra chairs they'd brought. Finally, a small crowd stood at the rear of the room and the overflow spilled out into the corridor.

Having read Mayhill Fowler's excellent post, "Clinton's Texas Ground Game Plunges Into Chaos," I can say that, contrasted with what I've observed on the ground with the Obama campaign--there's a whole helluva lot of difference between conducting a campaign from the top-down, and doing one from the ground-up.

Media Whore For President '08

Oh, brother, this guy again.
Nader for White House '08?
(WASHINGTON) — Ralph Nader could be poised for another third party presidential campaign.

Zeese said he could only guess what Nader might do, but added: "Obviously, I don't think (Meet the Press host) Tim Russert would have him on for no reason."

Last month, Nader began an exploratory presidential campaign and launched a Web site that promises to fight "corporate greed, corporate power, corporate control."

Nader's appearance on Meet the Press was announced Friday in an e-mail message from Nader's exploratory campaign. The message from "The Nader Team" urges supporters to tell friends and family to watch the show and requests online contributions.
Must we really suffer through another round of this guy's insufferable arrogance and narcissism? (Well, at least he won't have near the effect he had in FL in '00.)

Goal Posts Meet Mover

Wow, now we learn that along with caucus states, small states, red states, Southern states, Western states, etc., etc., Texas doesn't really count either! I can't believe she's continuing this line of spin, and in a state that's yet to cast its vote. 

In this interview with Texas Monthly, Sen. Clinton explains why Michigan and Florida are important, but, Texas—one of her "firewall" states mind you—not so much.

Choice cut:
I’d love to carry Texas, but it’s usually not in the electoral calculation for the Democratic nominee. Florida and Michigan are.
All I can figure is that her internal polling for the state must look pretty bleak. So she's now expecting to lose Texas and is laying the expectations groundwork to keep going even after losing there.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Penultimate Debate

Some thoughts on the tonight's debate:

• I thought it was going to a snoozer, but it turned out to be one of the more interesting debates yet. It got off to a tedious start with them both repeating repeating familiar lines and arguments. The sparring over health care offered was the closest they came to a real disagreement and they fought it to an irritating draw. Nothing new was learned substantively, but it was interesting to see the candidates modulate or fine tune their messages. 

• There was nothing here to shift the dynamics of the race. Because so much is already known about their positions and records, Obama would have had to screw up in a catastrophic way or Hillary would have had to wound him somehow. Neither thing happened. 

• The absence of Tim Russert, Brian Williams, and Chris Matthews was a breath of fresh air. It's good to see what a debate looks like with adults asking questions. 

• The silly plagiarism charge was finally put to bed tonight. Obama handled the issue pitch perfectly and Hillary one-line zinger "that's change you can Xerox" went over so poorly the crowd booed. Then, later she used lines from both Bill's 1992 campaign and Edwards' 2008 campaign in her touching and redeeming response to the final question of the night. 

• Obama looked and sounded his most confident and presidential yet. He's moving between his broad themes and specific proposals with greater and greater ease. The poetry and the prose are becoming one. And he brilliantly parries Clinton's attacks, turning them back on her. He's definitely a natural. And he'll make a great president. 

• Hillary was her usual masterful self when it came to the facts and details. But she also came across as more gracious and genuinely humble than I've seen her. Her final answer was actually well delivered and heartfelt and deserved the standing O it received. You know, if we saw more of this Hillary throughout the campaign she might not be in the position she's in now. 

The Xerox comment aside, Hillary's graciousness was nice to see. It may be a strategic move to generate sympathy a la NH, but I get the sense that she's beginning to understand the writing on the wall. She's starting to see that she's not going to win the nomination and has two choices: relentlessly attack Obama and risk having a too-damaged general candidate to win in November or begin a graceful exit. My sense is that she's made the second choice. And that's to her great credit.  

I Want The Man To Hope All Over Me

That is my favorite line of this election cycle so far. It's from a funny article by Joel Stein at the Los Angeles Times.
It's embarrassing to be among the fanatics of a relatively mainstream presidential candidate.
You are embarrassing yourselves. With your "Yes We Can" music video, your "Fired Up, Ready to Go" song, your endless chatter about how he's the first one to inspire you, to make you really feel something—it's as if you're tacking photos of Barack Obama to your locker, secretly slipping him little notes that read, "Do you like me? Check yes or no." Some of you even cry at his speeches. If I were Obama, and you voted for me, I would so never call you again.

Obamaphilia has gotten creepy. I couldn't figure out if the two canvassers who came to my door Sunday had taken Ecstasy or were just fantasizing about an Obama presidency, but I feared they were going to hug me. Scarlett Johansson called me twice, asking me to vote for him. She'd never even called me once about anything else. Not even to see The Island.

What the Cult of Obama doesn't realize is that he's a politician. Not a brave one taking risky positions like Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich, but a mainstream one. He has not been firing up the Senate with stirring Cross-of-Gold-type speeches to end the war. He's a politician so soft and safe, Oprah likes him. There's talk about his charisma and good looks, but I know a nerd when I see one. The dude is Urkel with a better tailor.

All of this is clear to me, and yet I have fallen victim. I was at an Obama rally in Las Vegas last month, hanging at the rope line afterward in the cold night desert air, just to see him up close, to make sure he was real. I'd never heard a politician talk so bluntly, calling U.S. immigration policy "scapegoating" and "demagoguery." I'd never had even a history teacher argue that our nation's history is a series of brave people changing others' minds when things were on the verge of collapse. I want the man to hope all over me.

That's Super

Well, it looks like the nation's youngest super-delegate (and the youngest person ever elected to the DNC) has finally tipped his hand. Jason Rae, 21, has been on several cable talk shows in the past couple of weeks as a sort of freak-show example of the super-delegate process. He's actually a pretty bright, thoughtful kid, and held his cards very close to his chest in regards to who he'd be supporting. Well, since his home state of Wisconsin voted on Tuesday, he's made his decision public. Here's his statement:

I wanted to write to you today, before you see it in the news, to inform you that I have officially endorsed Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States. This was a difficult decision for me to make. While I had every intention of remaining neutral in the race, Tuesdayʼs primary results showed a huge movement in Wisconsin, a movement of which I want to be a part.

Back in 2004, I ran for the Democratic National Committee because I wanted to represent Americaʼs next generation of voters. Well, yesterday, that generation spoke. According to CNN exit polls, 73% of 18-to-24 year olds turned out in support of Senator Obama. That is an outstanding number. But it wasnʼt only young people turning out; people all over Wisconsin turned out overwhelming to support Senator Obama. I have a responsibility to listen to the voices that I am representing.

I do firmly believe that we have two qualified, talented candidates seeking the nomination. However, when I see one candidate energizing a new generation like Senator Obama is, I cannot help but be impressed and inspired. As I think about who I want to lead our country and party forward, I cannot think of another candidate to do that than Senator Barack Obama.

I just wanted to take a moment to share this note with you. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, comments, or concerns. All my best to you for a wonderful day.



Either Obama's campaign needn't spend a dime on negative advertising...or they already have.

Watch at your peril. Really.

Campaign Snark

Again from TNR's The Plank.
This just goes to show that Obama only wins in states that hold contested elections. Sure, he wins big in caucus states, he wins big in primary states, he wins big when turnout is low, and he wins big with record-high turnout. But what the Obama-worshipping media is overlooking is that in each of the 25 state contests Obama has won so far, his name appeared on the ballot. It's time to stop giving Obama a pass on this critical issue.

Remember, if Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama's name will not be on the ballot in November. And only Hillary Clinton has demonstrated that she can win when Obama's name is not on the ballot. In fact, she's undefeated in contests where Obama is not on the ballot, making her clearly the more electable general-election candidate.

A Great Awakening? II

From The New Republic's The Plank
Legitimately Huge Turnout in Hawaii
As previously noted, Hawaii caucus turnout has never been above 5,000.
The Obama camp's pie-in-the-sky prediction was 18,000.

Final tally? 37,247

A Great Awakening?

This story is just incredible. 

Thousands of African-American students marched through a dangerous county yesterday to protest a decision that would have had only one polling station in the entire county for early voting. 

From what I'm reading in comments threads, Waller County is a real charming place. The kind of place where cops would stop and harass white kids for having rock station bumper stickers on their cars. The kind of place black students would drive 50+ miles out of their way to go around to get to their destination for fear of being pulled over (and then?).

Anyway, by itself it's a pretty amazing story, but as a piece with everything else that's happening across the country right now, it's huge. 

Am I being foolishly poetic or is there really something big stirring in this land?

Read this post from Burnt Orange Report
Thousands of Prairie View Students March 7.3 Miles to Vote
Early voting starts today in Texas. In Waller County, a primarily rural county about 60 miles outside Houston, the county made the decision to offer only one early voting location: at the County Courthouse in Hempstead, TX, the county seat.
Prairie View A&M students organized to protest the decision, because they felt it hindered their ability to vote. For background, Prairie View A&M is one of Texas'
 historically Black universities. It has a very different demographic feel than the rest of the county. There has been a long history of dispute over what the students feel is disenfranchisement. There was a lot of outrage in 2006, when students felt they were unfairly denied the right to vote when their registrations somehow did not get processed.
According to an article in today's Houston Chronicle:
Waller County has faced numerous lawsuits involving voting rights in the past 30 years and remains under investigation by the Texas Attorney General's Office based on complaints by local black leaders.
 Those allegations, concerning the November 2006 general election, related to voting machine failures, inadequate staffing and long delays for voting results.
"I was angry after registering to vote in the 2006 election only to be turned away at the voting booth," said sophomore Dee Dee Williams.
So what are the students doing?
1000 students, along with an additional 1000 friends and supporters, are this morning walking the 7.3 miles between Prairie View and Hempstead in order to vote today. According to the piece I saw on the news (there's no video up, so I can't link to it), the students plan to all vote today. There are only 2 machines available at the courthouse for early voting, so they hope to tie them up all day and into the night.
And this from the Houston Chronicle:
Thousands march in Prairie View for voting rights
PRAIRIE VIEW — More than 1,000 Prairie View A&M University students and supporters marched seven miles to the polls on Tuesday to protest the lack of an early voting place on campus for the March 4 election.
Students, local leaders, civil rights activists and elected officials walked from the campus to the Waller County Courthouse in Hempstead carrying "Register to Vote" signs. The majority wore black shirts with the slogan, "It is 2008. We will vote!"
Following After the march, some students stood in a long line to cast their ballots on the first day of early voting, while others filled out new voter registration cards in a building across from the courthouse. Early voting ended at about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, and some waited for five hours to vote.
And here's video footage:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Courtesy of one of the best blogs covering this election cycle, The Field, here are the candidates' FEC financial reports from January. 

Obama: Raised $36.1 million, spent $30.5 million.
Clinton: Raised $13.9 million, spent $28.5 million

The Underperformer

A good assessment of the Clinton campaign's failings from Ezra Klein over at The American Prospect.

Choice cut:
But a funny thing happened on the way to the nomination. Obama's campaign, in Iowa, South Carolina, and elsewhere, made good on their promises to excite new voters. Additionally, the Obama campaign ran a disciplined, forward-looking operation. It methodically organized—and, as a result, dominated—the caucus states; it predicted early on that the contest would drag beyond Feb. 5 and was thus better prepared in the recent primaries; the campaign ran a tight ship with little dissension, few gaffes, and no damaging leaks.

Clinton's campaign has done exactly the opposite. Aside from an important win in New Hampshire, she has not overperformed in any state. Tactically, her strategists have made a series of massive errors: They were so stung by their loss in Iowa that they largely turned away from caucuses, a disastrous mistake as the race became more dependent on delegates; they thought the election would be over early on and were unprepared to go past Feb. 5, which is why her organizing in post-Super Tuesday states has been so poor; they appear, only now, to be thinking through the implications of Texas' hybrid primary/caucus system—and Texas is a must-win. No one thought to dispatch an intern to ask the state's Democratic Party, how would March 5 work? How savvy of a campaign operation could this be?

The Seas Of Cheese

Here's the Shatman covering british band Pulp's "Common People."

Here's the original in case you're interested.

P.S. Any post titled The Seas of Cheese should very well have been inaugurated with something—anything—by William Shatner. My apologies for the oversight.

A Taste Of Things To Come?

Some back story on the senate relationship between Obama and McCain from Josh at TPM.
The gist was that the antagonism between these two men (at least from McCain's side) isn't something cooked up to order for this campaign. This goes all the way back to when Obama showed up in the senate. And it seems to come down to a sense of 'I've been working at this my whole life and who the f--k is this Obama kid?'

…I remembered they'd had an earlier tussle over campaign finance reform. And I found this post from early 2006, which has this McCain quote:
"I'm embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics, I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party's efforts to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness."
The passage exudes a delicious tension because you can feel the gritted teeth held barely in check by the ornateness of the sentences. A senator doesn't get ginned up like that for normal political boilerplate. It's got to come from some deep touched chord. And the same can be said for the attacks McCain is rolling out today.

What Desperation Looks Like

More shenanigans from Team Clinton. Courtesy of Political Punch.
Clinton Campaign Sets Up Website to Push to Change the Rules
This morning brings the news that the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, has launched a new website where they are announcing how they are officially preparing to make the case that the rules of the Democratic nomination process should be changed.

Among many "facts" they declare are some accurate ones, such as the idea that superdelegates, which in true nomenclatural dexterity they now term "automatic delegates" "are expected to exercise their best judgment in the interests of the nation and the Democratic Party."

But then comes this juicy non-fact:

"FACT: Florida and Michigan should count, both in the interest of fundamental fairness and honoring the spirit of the Democrats' 50-state strategy."

That's not a fact, that's an opinion.

And it's clear evidence (not that there was any mystery about it) that the Clinton campaign is trying to change the rules in the middle of the game.

Clinton's own senior adviser, Harold Ickes, voted as a member of the DNC committee to not recognize these two state delegations because they violated the rules of the primary scheduling process. Now as a Clinton campaign representative he's making the case that they should count.

The Clinton camp is now calling 2208 "the number required for a candidate to secure the nomination with Florida and Michigan included."

But that's not the number.

According to the DNC, the number is 2025. And Florida and Michigan don’t get included.

The three chairs of the Democratic Convention Credentials Committee, which will decide this Michigan and Florida morass, all worked in the administration of Bill Clinton: Former Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, Social Security Administration associate commissioner James Roosevelt Jr., and White House travel consultant Eliseo Roques-Arroyo, as noted yesterday by the Washington Times.

More and more, this reminds me of the Florida recount.

Don't like the rules? Change the rules.

Count every vote -- except the ones for the other guy.

Total Eclipse Of The…

Hey, I just learned that there's going to be a lunar eclipse this evening. 6:01 PST to be exact. Here's to it being clear enough to view. Here's the article with more info.  

An Exceptional Election

You know, I've been watching politics since a government/civics class I had when I was 15. Just about every election is at least somewhat exciting to me, even when the results are god-awful. But in the 20+ since I've been tuned in, I've not seen anything like this election. 

People—well, Democrats, really, and kids, and people who usually tune out—are more plugged in and excited than I've ever seen. Crowds of 20,000+ people are showing up to hear a politician speak. Kids are actually voting in the numbers only promised and never followed through on in most years. Polling stations are being overwhelmed. People are donating tens of millions of dollars to their favorite campaigns online. 

Now, surely there are several factors involved (Bush fatigue and cyclical pendulum swings among them), but it can't be denied that Obama's campaign is largely responsible. Somehow, he's tapped into a huge amount of energy and and found a brilliant way to convey his message and galvanize people. It's really remarkable. I mean really, really remarkable.

As I mentioned above, polling stations in virtually every state that's held a caucus or a primary have been flooded with more people than they could handle. Anywhere from 2 to 4 times as many people are showing up than in a normal year. 

And Hawaii is no exception. Hawaiians came out in droves last night. (With 30% in, it's Obama 74%, Clinton 25%.)

Here are a couple of excerpts from the Honolulu Advertiser:
Big Island voters jam caucus sites
At Hilo High School, caucus participants jammed the overheated cafeteria while precinct leaders bellowed out the names of registered participants.

Kevin Hopkins, who stood at the door directing participants to the areas of the cafeteria designated for their precincts, advised latecomers to "just squeeze in as best you can." He said he had no idea how many hundreds of people were packed into the room.

Bobby Jean Leithead Todd, a party activist for 40 years, joked that at that point in an ordinary caucus year, a handful of Democrat diehards would be at caucus sites using their cell phones to coax other party members in to vote because there weren't enough people to organize.

"This year, I have had people stop me at the supermarket ... asking, 'Where do I go?' "

Kapolei sees four times as many voters

At Kapolei Middle School's middle cafeteria, Carolyn Golojuch, chairwoman of the District 40 Caucus site, said she was prepared for a larger-than-normal crowd.

"I'm not sweating this," she said. "They say this will be 10 times bigger than anything we've ever had before. But you know what? Last year time we only had 20 people."

Shortly after 6 p.m. — an hour before the caucus began — at least 80 people were already lined up.

More than 3,000 ready to vote in Manoa
Manoa Elementary School's cafeteria was packed and the line to sign in wrapped around the outdoor blacktop and playground area as more than 3,200 people lined up an hour before they could vote.

"I'm 60 and this is my first time voting," said Manoa resident Alysa Kealoha.

Kealoha said the last candidate who inspired her was former President John F. Kennedy and she was still a teenager when she watched him get assassinated.

Democratic voters line up for caucus
More than 500 people were lined up outside polling site Kawananakoa Middle School by 6 p.m. and dozens more were arriving by the minute.

Jack Campbell, a lifelong Democrat, said he never before felt compelled to vote in the caucus. The 73-year-old is rooting for Sen. Barack Obama. "This is the first time we've got something new and different," he said.

Tonight's Hawai'i Democratic caucus is expected to draw a record number of voters, and party officials say those going to caucus sites may face long lines.

Hawai'i, which has never seen a caucus turnout of more than 5,000 Democrats, could see as many as 12,000 people for the presidential preference poll. Voters will also select delegates to the state convention in May.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Landslide In November?

These numbers are pretty remarkable (with 97% of precincts reporting). 

Obama:  635,985 58%
Clinton:  444,917 41%

Total: 1,080,902

McCain: 219,670
Huckabee: 147,781
Paul: 18,767
Romney: 7,856

Total: 394, 074

Overall Total: 1,474,976

This means Obama not only beat Clinton big, but he beat McCain big. 416,315 votes big. That's roughly 2/3 more votes than McCain. In other words, a blowout.

Now, let's play a little hypothetical game. 

Let's assume that most, if not all, of Clinton's supporters vote for Obama in the general. That'll give him 1,080,902 votes. 

Let's also assume that supporters of the other Republicans give their votes to McCain (not as safe an assumption given Huckabee's restive Christian conservative support—they seem to hate McCain). Still, for the purpose of this hypothetical, let's give him the votes. He'll have 394,074 votes. 

The totals will look like this.    

Obama: 1,080,902      
McCain: 394,074

Yeah, you read that right, Obama gets over a million votes, McCain less than 400,000. That's twice as many votes and then some. 

And these numbers are playing out in state after state across the country. The total Democratic vote tallies have been doubling the Republicans'—virtually everywhere. 

We could be headed for a landslide election year. If memory serves, it'll be the first since Reagan walloped Mondale in 1984. (Mondale took only his home state of Minnesota.)

Nine In A Row!

Another big night for Obama. He wins Wisconsin by upwards of 17 points (as of now). And wins in every demographic except white women and the 60+ crowd. Those are huge inroads. 

Worse still for Clinton is that he's polling about even with her in Texas and even if she wins the head count in TX, they may split delegates evenly (or he could even win more) due to weird apportion protocols. 

The caveat is, as always, that Clinton can still pull something out. But it's looking harder with each passing day. I'm wary of overconfidence, but at this point, I'll go out on a limb and say Obama's got it—or at any rate, it's his to lose. 

Here's some basic exit poll data from Talking Points Memo:
By Greg Sargent - February 19, 2008, 10:05PM
The exit polls show that Obama cut deeply into Hillary's core constituencies in racking up his sizable victory in Wisconsin tonight.

• Obama edged Hillary in the female vote, 51%-49%.

• He won by a sizable margin among middle-aged voters, 53%-46%.

• He won by decent margins among voters with an income less than $50,000.

• He won by big margins among self described moderates and conservatives.

• He won overwhelmingly among people who decided in the last week or the last three days, though Hillary won narrowly among those who decided in the last day.

• He won narrowly among members of union households.

Full exits here.
The full exit poll data is fascinating if you're into that kind of thing.

Bill Supports Barack

At least that's what it sounds like to me.

Embarrassed From Day One

Wow. Yet another example of the Clinton being caught unprepared. This time in Pennsylvania. This kind of stuff just completely undermines her whole experience/competence rationale. And it's incredibly embarrassing. 

This from Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic:
Even with a Gov. Ed Rendell-ordered extension, it appears as if Hillary Clinton's Pennsylvania campaign still fell about 10 people short of filing a full delegate slate with the state party.

If every delegate matters, though, then every delegate matters, and Obama has a full slate of supporters waiting to go to the convention for him. Clinton does not.

This is more evidence that the Clinton campaign simply did not envision a delegate hunt until it was much too late.
And this from Kos:
Rendell changed the rules mid-game to try and help out his candidate, and Clinton's campaign still couldn't pull of the simple task. Maybe she thought those districts didn't matter like 2/3rds of the rest of the country?

Obama's "inexperienced" campaign, however, what with their pretty plagiarized words, didn't seem to have a problem.


Sheep In Human Clothing: Scientists Reveal Our Flock Mentality
ScienceDaily (Feb. 16, 2008) — Have you ever arrived somewhere and wondered how you got there? Scientists at the University of Leeds believe they may have found the answer, with research that shows that humans flock like sheep and birds, subconsciously following a minority of individuals.

Results from a study at the University of Leeds show that it takes a minority of just five per cent to influence a crowd’s direction – and that the other 95 per cent follow without realising it.
Yeah, but not me, man. I'm an individual.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Seas Of Cheese

It's time to introduce yet another new feature to the blog: The Seas of Cheese. Posts will be devoted to all that's cheesy in our pop culture. The title is borrowed from a 1991 Primus album Sailing the Seas of Cheese—a brilliant album, by the way. I have no idea what actually inspired the album's title, but I've always figured that it was a reference to the inescapable cheesiness of the lion's share of American pop culture.

And what better way to inaugurate the new feature than with a video from an 80s hair/lite-metal band? So without further ado, I give you Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me." Go on hit play. You know you want to. (Click here for the British version of the video.) 

* Apparently, this song is a down low hit with African Americans. To find out why, and see other rock songs that black people secretly love (written by a black person, of course) go to this link. It's a response to this post at Stuff White People Like.

Bailey The Crazy Snow Dog

Enjoy this romp through the snow courtesy of my friend Don Dammann. 

Stuff White People Like

I've just discovered a hilarious new site called Stuff White People Like. Its subtitle is "This blog is devoted to stuff white people like." Pretty straightforward, eh? Anyway, I've spent the last twenty minutes laughing my ass off. I recommend swinging on by and checking it out yourself.

Choice cut: 
#64 Recycling
Recycling is a part of a larger theme of stuff white people like: saving the earth without having to do that much.

This is important because all white feel guilty about producing waste. It doesn’t stop them from doing it, but they feel guilty about it. Deep down, they believe they should be like the Native Americans and use every part of the product or beast they have consumed. Though for many white people, this simply means putting plastic bags into a special drawer where they will accumulate until they are eventually used to carry some gym clothes or bathing suit. Ultimately this drawer will get full and only be emptied when the person moves to a new house. Advanced white recyclers will uses these grocery bags as garbage bags.

If you are in a situation where a white person produces an empty bottle, watch their actions. They will first say “where’s the recycling?” If you say “we don’t recycle,” prepare for some awkwardness. They will make a move to throw the bottle away, they will hesitate, and then ultimately throw the bottle away. But after they return look in their eyes. All they can see is the bottle lasting forever in a landfill, trapping small animals. It will eat at them for days, at this point you should say “I’m just kidding, the recycling is under the sink. Can you fish out that bottle?” And they will do it 100% of the time!

The best advice is that if you plan to deal with white people on regular basis either start recycling or purchase a large blue bin so that they can believe they are recycling.


Here's a funny little piece from Jason Linkins over at the Huffington Post.
Krugman Has Met The Enemy, And It Is Him
Ouroboros alert! Paul Krugman took to his increasingly ironically titled blog to bring you a live shot of the next (not-quite-as-great) unraveling. Unfortunately, it's Krugman's hand on the thread.
One thing I worry about a lot if Obama is the Dem nominee -- and he's surely the frontrunner now -- is that there will be a backlash against Obamamania. Actually, it's already starting -- probably too late to have much effect on the nomination fight, but in plenty of time to affect the general election.

I hope I'm just a cynical baby boomer who has never really trusted any politician since 1968. But I just have a very bad feeling about the way things are going.
Yes. The media meme that Krugman helped...uhm...pimp, is starting to worry him. Funny how that works.
For those who don't know, Krugman has been trying to out-crazy Erica Jong in his rants against Obama. I haven't covered it because I've got only so much time and haven't felt like dissing on someone who's been such a stalwart documentarian of the Bush Administration's corruption. But he has gotten increasingly shrill over the years (I can hardly read him anymore) and now he's turning it onto Obama and his supporters...and losing people along the way.

Graven Images

I don't know how many of you remember this, but a couple of years ago, some Danish newspapers ran editorial cartoons with images of Muhammed. Well, many Muslims throughout the world went berserk (apparently creating any image of Muhammed is prohibited in Islam). There were riots in the streets of Denmark and several Arab countries. Effigies were burned. The artists' and editors' lives were threatened. Etc., etc. You know the drill.

Well, just last week Danish authorities busted a few Muslims who had allegedly been plotting the assassination of a 72-year-old Danish illustrator. His offense: drawing pictures. Oh, but not just any pictures. Pictures of their precious prophet. For a little more of the story, see Hitchen's Slate article here

In honor of the artists who had to balls to draw the offending images, the editors who had the balls to publish them, and all of the Salman Rushdies of the world, here's a link to several of the supposedly noxious cartoons. (Sad fact: they're housed at Human Events, a far right conservative website. Conservative magazines were the only ones willing to publish to cartoons.) 

So go on over the site and look at the images. It's not just your right, it's your responsibility. 

Update: Turns out that the artist mentioned above, Kurt Westergaard, drew one of the cartoons that Muslims were offended when the story originally broke. His is the one showing above.

Well, Duh

Forget the Kool-Aid: Obama's Support is Real
Obama, meanwhile, seems to be appealing to what might be called the new "silent majority." Sure, he's got his share of stage-rushers and Kool-Aid drinkers, but he's also appealed to millions of casual voters—the ones who don't go to his rallies, don't donate to his campaign, but do show up on primary day and check his name off on the ballot.

But the real problem with sneering at the fervor that Obama has stirred is that it ignores how elections are won and how governing coalitions are built. The truth is that even voters who aren't moved by Obama's substantive appeal are still, by and large, favorably impressed by him and willing to at least consider voting for him.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, calls to mind Walter Mondale, who in 1984 combated Reagan's sunny vision with what Newsweek described as "a gigantic To-Do List, a leaden compendium of programs heaped one on another … as if he intended to crush his audiences in specifics."

Democrats have enjoyed simultaneous control of the White House and both houses of Congress for a grand total of two years since Jimmy Carter was voted out. Now, presented with a candidate who is inspiring record turnout and demonstrating broad appeal in some of the most Republican parts of the country, you'd think the excesses of a relatively small percentage his supporters would be the least of their concerns.

Ready On Day One

This is fucking hilarious. Actually, it beggars belief. If I understand this correctly, the Clinton campaign is now saying that they've been blind-sided by arcane Texas delegate apportioning rules and is worrying about the impact on March 4. Now, this is either playing an expectations game (my theory) or sheer fucking incompetence. 

I'm just going to copy this whole post from guest writer hilzoy over at the Daily Dish because it's too rich to cut up:
From the Washington Post (emphasis added, and stolen from publius):
"Supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton are worried that convoluted delegate rules in Texas could water down the impact of strong support for her among Hispanic voters there, creating a new obstacle for her in the must-win presidential primary contest.
Several top Clinton strategists and fundraisers became alarmed after learning of the state's unusual provisions during a closed-door strategy meeting this month, according to one person who attended.
What Clinton aides discovered is that in certain targeted districts, such as Democratic state Sen. Juan Hinojosa's heavily Hispanic Senate district in the Rio Grande Valley, Clinton could win an overwhelming majority of votes but gain only a small edge in delegates. At the same time, a win in the more urban districts in Dallas and Houston -- where Sen. Barack Obama expects to receive significant support -- could yield three or four times as many delegates.
"What it means is, she could win the popular vote and still lose the race for delegates," Hinojosa said yesterday. "This system does not necessarily represent the opinions of the population, and that is a serious problem.""
When I read this, I dissolved in giggles after the first sentence. It was that part about the Texas delegate selection rules "creating a new obstacle for her" that got me. In what sense are the Texas rules a "new obstacle?" Were they only recently passed? 
Not as far as I can tell -- here, for instance, is a pdf about them from August 2007, which should have given the Clinton campaign ample time to get up to speed. While I was having fun thinking of possible analogies -- would I describe the existence of the Pacific Ocean as "creating a new obstacle" for my plan to walk from Baltimore to Beijing? or the fact that five is a prime number as "creating a new obstacle" to my proving that it is a multiple of two? --my co-blogger publius was actually writing the post I might have written, only funnier:
"Good lord, let’s see if I have this right. The Clinton campaign decides to cede every post-Super Tuesday state to Obama under the theory that Texas and Ohio will be strong firewalls. After – after – implementing this Rudy-esque strategy, they “discovered” that the archaic Texas rules will almost certainly result in a split delegate count (at best).
While they were busy “discovering” the rules, however, the Obama campaign had people on the ground in Texas explaining the system, organizing precincts, and making Powerpoints. I know because I went to one of these meetings a week ago. I should have invited Mark Penn I suppose. (ed. Maybe foresight is an obsolete macrotrend.)"
Note to self: If I ever run for office and base my campaign on the idea that I am ready to lead from day one, I must remember to actually run an effective campaign
Ready on day one, eh? Ready for what exactly? 

This campaign has been one mismanagement after another. From its initial flawed "inevitability strategy" to not having a Plan B to ignoring half of the country. If Clinton were smart she would fire Penn and fire him now. And fire him vocally. But not only Penn,fire Wolfson, too. Fire the whole creepy Gang of Five or whatever the hell they call themselves. 

If how she runs her campaign is indicative of how she'll run the government (and why wouldn't it be?), then I shudder to think what the next 4 to 8 years will look like should she manage to pull this one out. 

Kill The Party To Save It? No Thanks.

Party leaders and super-delegates are balking at Clinton's party-splitting super-delegate strategy. Click here and here.

Choice cut: 
"I don't think either candidate wants - or can even get away with - forcing their will down the throat of the other," Schumer told host Tim Russert. "At the end of the day, on June 7, for the sake of party unity, [Democratic National Committee chairman] Howard Dean and the two candidates will have to get together if neither candidate has 2,025 ... and come up with a strategy. Each candidate will have to have buy into that strategy."

Primarily Flawed

Here's an interesting sketch of the recent history of our primary/caucus process from the Washington Post

Choice cut:
We were brought to our current mess by the best of intentions. Primaries and caucuses had been around for much of the 20th century, but until 1972, party bosses, not voters, ultimately had the most say in picking the nominees. In 1952, for instance, the Democratic barons selected Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson at the convention instead of the popular Sen. Estes Kefauver, who had won most of that year's primaries -- even beating President Harry S. Truman in New Hampshire. Kefauver, who had made his name by holding dramatic televised hearings into organized crime, was too outspoken to get the nod from a smoke-filled room.

The disastrous 1968 Democratic National Convention shattered confidence in this efficient but undemocratic system. Instead of a dove such as Sen. Eugene McCarthy, party leaders from large, non-primary states tapped Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, who had cravenly supported President Lyndon B. Johnson on the war in Vietnam and had sent surrogates to run in his place in the primaries. Outside the convention, young demonstrators howled in protest and were beaten by the police. Next time around, reformers led by Sen. George McGovern deliberately weakened the role of the conventions, making primaries the determining force in picking presidential candidates. The Republican Party, feeling some of the same frustration, soon followed suit.

The first people to test this new system were Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. The GOP's reforms gave a stronger voice to the Republican right, letting the upstart Reagan nearly upset President Gerald R. Ford in 1976 by winning the North Carolina and Texas primaries. On the Democratic side, Carter used his surprise victory in that year's Iowa caucuses to transform himself from an unknown peanut farmer and obscure governor ("Jimmy who?") into the front-runner -- without ever courting the party leaders. After Carter's defeat four years later, the Democrats worried that they had produced a process too favorable to weak "outsider" candidates. They then tried to restore some power to the party's operatives by establishing unpledged "superdelegates," including governors, members of Congress and former presidents -- a modest check that did little to gut the reforms.

Random Musings

Finally got back to the gym today. It was such a struggle to get there, but, of course, I feel much better having gone. Annie's convinced that my gut has shrunk since those Burning Man 2006 pics (what I call the 8-Months Along Series), but looking at the Hawaii 2008 pics I can't tell a difference. 

So, in an effort to get in touch with my inner six-pack, I forced myself to go. I hadn't lost as much momentum as I'd feared, though I definitely had to lower the weights at first. Regardless, it was good to get back into it and I'm glad I went. Now, if I could only give up sugar like Nathan...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Planted Heckler?

This story smells fake. We already know Hillary has had plants in her audiences to ask softball questions. Why wouldn't they also plant goofy hecklers to make Obama supporters look bad? It just doesn't pass the smell test. (Though Bill does get to keep his waggin' finger in shape.)
Throughout the event, as Clinton made his case for his wife, Holeman’s dissenting voice could be heard. At times he simply shouted Obama’s name. When Clinton would set up a sure applause line, Holeman could be heard heckling. As soon as Clinton finished speaking, the Canton native made a beeline to the ropeline to give Clinton a piece of his mind.

“I think he even hit me in the face with his hand,” he said. “He did give me a little pop. It was okay, because I understand his tenacity for his wife.” Clinton did engage Holeman for a few minutes, at times pointing directly at him. It was unclear whether he did make physical contact, however.

Holeman said he did support Bill Clinton during his campaigns, but that now the country wants a “new perspective.” “I think the president’s trying hoodwink us, bamboozle us, put us back in the okie doke,” he said. “He had eight years to do what he was supposed to do. All the things he said that she’s gonna do, he had the same authority that he wants her to have. Now if one Clinton, the male Clinton can’t get it done, how is Ms. Clinton [going to].”

A Decade Of Shameless Ass Kissing

This if fun. A reel of guest visits to Conan O'Brien. Gets really good around the 3:30 mark.

Down But Not Out

Yet another reminder of what I've been saying for days now (mostly as a reality check to myself): Never underestimate the Clintons.
That's what one of their early close associates reminded me the morning after I'd fallen for the prevailing notion that Hillary was about to lose New Hampshire. And I will never do so again.

There's this recurring theme with the Clintons: They always face dramas, be they personal or political. Their political obituaries have been written too many times to count. They live by fourth-and-long, and they always convert.

Am I really buying all of this about Hillary's lurking revival? Or am I merely fearing it -- girding myself, that is, should it happen, considering that my recent columns ought to make clear that I don't want it to happen, and that I find Obama to be the far superior candidate and wish the Clintons would do us all the kind gesture of fading away?

It's both. I expect it. And I sure do dread it.
BUT I'm telling anyone who'll listen, the Democrats nominate Hillary at their own peril.
The Grand Old White Party Confronts Obama
THE curse continues. Regardless of party, it’s hara-kiri for a politician to step into the shadow of even a mediocre speech by Barack Obama.

Senator Obama’s televised victory oration celebrating his Chesapeake primary trifecta on Tuesday night was a mechanical rehash. No matter. When the networks cut from the 17,000-plus Obama fans cheering at a Wisconsin arena to John McCain’s victory tableau before a few hundred spectators in the Old Town district of Alexandria, Va., it was a rerun of what happened to Hillary Clinton the night she lost Iowa. Senator McCain, backed by a collection of sallow-faced old Beltway pols, played the past to Mr. Obama’s here and now. Mr. McCain looked like a loser even though he, unlike Senator Clinton, had actually won.

Mr. McCain could get lucky, especially if Mrs. Clinton gets the Democratic nomination and unites the G.O.P., and definitely if she tosses her party into civil war by grabbing ghost delegates from Michigan and Florida. But those odds are dwindling. More likely, the Republican Party will face Mr. Obama with a candidate who reeks even more of the past and less of change than Mrs. Clinton does. I was startled to hear last week from a friend in California, a staunch anti-Clinton Republican businessman, that he was wavering. Though he regards Mr. McCain as a hero, he wrote me: “I am tired of fighting the Vietnam war. I have drifted toward Obama.”

San Francisco, 1906

This is very cool. Someone scanned an old photograph of San Francisco after the earthquake and fire 1906. Click on the link to be able to zoom in for much better look—it has surprisingly good quality. What blows my mind about this—other than the quality of the shot using early 20th-century technology—is how big, how urban, the city already was so early on. And it was taken from an "airship." How cool is that?

Sexy Sisters

Nuns or whores? You decide


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