Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Stop it. (Dennis)

Perhaps the most distasteful thing opinion on the internets is the endless original opinion competition that generates genuinely asinine thoughts in record time.

Example A is the evolving assessment of Hillary's speech last night. Last night, everyone who watched the speech though it was a great speech under any circumstance and incredibly gracious speech given the rancorous campaign that preceded it. As morning came, people on Internet opinion factories, like Slate, thought it was a very good speech, but, left out some things, like the fact that Obama was "ready to be president." Nevermind that she basically said that fate of Western Civilization depended on his being elected. Now, as I sat down to watch Bill Clinton's speech tonight, it had become conventional wisdom that Hillary had somehow left something out, and Bill needed to fill that void. This was a notion which, a mere 24 hours ago, was dismissed as a ridiculous McCain talking point.

You can't tell me honestly that you saw Hillary's speech last night, and detected an actual opening, so why say it, if you aren't a Republican hack? It's because there's this annoying strain of intellectual masturbation from people hired to write online. For some, truth doesn't matter as much as having something different out there, no matter how much sense it makes. I suspect this has always existed, but with millions of opinions out there acessible via the internet, conventional wisdom now devolves more quickly into nonsense. It turns on its head the idea that greater accessiblity to ideas and information make us more informed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Awesome Picture and Quick First Night Democratic Convention Thoughts (JM)

In all seriousness please ignore the picture of McCain. Just look at the picture of Biden. It's hilarious, maybe even beyond hilarious. It's like he's a 70's blacksploitation film. I don't think I am the only one who sincerely believes that he needs to bring that look back for his speech Wednesday night. Okay McCain looks pretty darn earnest in that picture to be fair (though I am pretty sure that he was at the helm of the Monitor). Anyway, just a fun moment of Biden-related fashion talk. Also Michelle Obama's speech was phenomenal last night, the video montage was also quite impressive, I think the campaign hit all the right notes towards the end of the evening. No one will forget the return of Ted Kennedy, a well crafted night all around.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tonight We're Gonna Party Like It's 1952! (JM)

Wellity, wellity, wellity, wellity. Let it never be said that the telecom industry doesn't return favors. I don't exactly who will be hosting this party, but you can be that the likely suspects include our good buddy Sen. Jay Rockefeller and long time personal favorite of mine, Sen. Claire "Oh, won't someone please think of the telecoms!" McCaskill. Well even if we don't have the ability to sue telecom companies for wiretapping, at least the Blue Dogs will have a kickin' party. Please don't discuss politics, it makes them uncomfortable.

Snark aside, there's a bigger issue here. Despite the Obama campaign's unwillingness to take corporate or PAC money in to his campaign, certain campaign events (and many parts of the convention) are sponsored by this money. It certainly raises the question of whether or not we can ever have an electoral system that doesn't have corporate influence. I have always thought that publically-funded elections with a complete ban on private funding, were the solution. In the end, however, I wonder if this wouldn't just marginalize corporate money in to other, less-trackable areas of the political playing field. I am aware that this is a criticism that has been leveled before, but it's one that has become clearer and clearer in this election. As political campaigns get bigger, the terrain more expansive and the methods of campaign far more diverse it is becoming tougher and tougher to hold the floodgates of corporate money closed. But that doesn't mean that's not a fight worth having.

Hat Tip: Matt Stoller

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Biden! Biden! Biden! Biden! (JM)

Perhaps later today I will add, you know, content to this post, but until that time let's just say I approve wholeheartedly of this choice (despite the constant feeling this ticket should be flipped). Anyway, by choosing Biden I have actually gained a lot of respect for Obama, who clearly feels comfortable enough giving authority to the most qualified person, despite their senority and the fear of being overshadowed. More on this later, for now I am going to the beach.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Prediction (Dennis)

There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks about who exactly Obama’s vice presidential pick will be. Generally, this talk has centered around three names: Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, and Delaware Senator Joe Biden. Unfortunately for those men, none of them are the pick. Consider the evidence:

1.) Campaign Style: The Obama campaign has two hallmarks. For one, it loves dramatic political theater. For another, it strives to keep leaks about critical campaign decisions to minimum. Now, knowing this about the campaign, do you really think we’d get a billion stories from reporters about these characters in the weeks leading up to the selection if any one of them was the pick? Why has Obama been visiting Indiana and Virginia, chatting up both Kaine and Bayh? Why is there “buzz” around Biden? Isn’t it possible, probable even that they are using these people as distractions, while the real favorite improbably stays off the radar and out of the wrenching cable news discussion?

Now let’s think about the “splash” part. Are any of these guys particularly exciting? Sure I would love Biden, but I don’t think an announcement including any of them would exactly set the world on fire. Now, obviously, you’re looking for a good pick and a good surrogate first, and if there weren’t anyone out there who was both exciting and solid pick, I would say it was even money between the three, with Biden the slight favorite because he’s so excellent on the attack and on foreign policy. But isn’t there someone else.... someone who wants to be Vice President, who, unlike the other three, would be disciplined, effective, and an exciting choice?

2.) Location: It seems that Obama has scheduled a big rally on Saturday in Springfield, IL to announce his choice. Now if you were Obama, and you wanted to capture either Indiana or Virginia with your VP pick, wouldn’t you announce your selection of the hometown favorite in either Indiana or Virginia? Particularly with Bayh, wouldn’t announcing a Bayh selection in Springfield be a little like announcing you’ve received Ted Kennedy’s endorsement for Governor of Massachusetts in Yankee Stadium?

I guess that leaves Joe Biden, but if what exactly about Springfield screams “Biden?” If I were going to pick Biden, it would be because I wanted people to know that I’m serious about foreign policy, and I’d select somewhere particularly evocative of that, perhaps an aircraft carrier or even the USS Constitution...somewhere where you could tell an appropriate story as a rationale for the pick. The Old Statehouse in Springfield doesn’t make sense as a place to roll out Biden.

The one person people associate with the Old Statehouse is Lincoln, a person Obama clearly models himself after. He, after all, announced his candidacy from Springfield, and has cited “Team of Rivals,” a biography of Lincoln’s political life, as a key book he would take into the White House.

And in Team of Rivals we get our last major clue as to who the choice will be. For Team of Rivals is a book about how Lincoln placed his fiercest rivals for the presidency in the cabinet, including and especiallythe early, overwhelming favorite for the Republican nomination, New York Senator William Seward...

By now even the most casual observer of politics knows I’m hinting at Hillary, and indeed, I think it will be her. I’ve thought for some time that Obama has been doing everything necessary to pick her. By courting other people, he doesn’t look like he’s being forced into the choice. By focusing on others he avoids the horrific cable over analysis of the pick. And with Hillary in Springfield he gets a place that draws parallels back to Lincoln (always a good thing), plus he get the added bonus of Hillary’s Illinois roots.

But moreover, it was really the obvious choice all along. She’s the only one that really makes a difference, that gets a sizeable number of non political junkies excited. She and Bill are probably his best attack dogs against McCain. They even give him an excellent decoy to draw Republican fire. She’s the only one thats great for now and great for September and October.

If you still aren’t convinced, I’ll leave you with this from ABC News today:

Obama said he wanted somebody who is "prepared to be president" and who will be "a partner with me in strengthening this economy for the middle class and working families."

He said he was looking for not just a partner but a sparring partner. "I want somebody who's independent, somebody who can push against my preconceived notions and challenge me so we have got a robust debate in the White House."

If not Hillary, who?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Maureen Dowd is an Enron Executive (JM)

Two Against The One
Published: August 19, 2008

Alright, what follows here is a rant of insane speculation the likes of which probably couldn’t be printed in the Enquirer. In fact, I am not entirely positive how this is not straight up libel. This is one of those examples where Maureen has actually gone way too far in to the realm of terribly unethical journalism. The funny thing is I expect that this isn’t even as bad as it originally was before editing. So I shall, for your benefit, add the “original” text in italics.

In the dead of night in a small hideaway office in the deserted Capitol, a clandestine meeting takes place between two senators with one goal.
They grin at each other as they lift their celebratory shots of brutally cold Stolichnaya.

This meeting of the Evil League of Evil will come to order, Hillary intoned, as John McCain and Bad Horse swigged their vodka.
“Our toast to The One,” they say in unison, “is that he’s toast.”

“Obama should have picked you, Hillary,” John McCain tells her. “It isn’t fair, my friend. But it just makes it easier for me to whup him.”
“Don’t worry, John, I’ve put it behind me,” Hillary replies. “I’m looking toward the future now, a future that looks very bright, once we send Twig Legs back to the back bench.”

They chortle with delight.

Joe Lieberman enters and kneels before McCain, “Master, I’ve gotten the lock of Tim Kaine’s hair as you requested.”
Hillary, her head thrown back laughing, says, “Good, good! Now we can control him. Did you bring the eye of Newt?”
::cut to Newt Geingrich running really fast from Lieberman in a bulldozer::

“He’s a bright young man, but he got ahead of himself,” McCain says. “He needs to be taught a lesson, and we’re the ones to do it. Have you seen the new Bloomberg poll? Obama’s dropped and we’re even again. The Bullet’s getting all the credit, but you and I know, Hillary, that it’s these top-secret counseling sessions we’re having. And thanks again for BlackBerrying me the Rick Warren questions while I was in the so-called cone of silence.”

“Oh, John, you know I love you and I’m happy to help,” Hillary says. “The themes you took from me are working great — painting Obama as an elitist and out-of-touch celebrity, when we’re rich celebrities, too. Turning his big rallies and pretty words into character flaws, charging him with playing the race card — that one always cracks me up. And accusing the media, especially NBC, of playing favorites. It’s easy to get the stupid press to navel-gaze; they’re so insecure.”

Seriously, let’s just stop for a second a appreciate the fact that the so-called paper of record has allowed their most famous columnist to print an exchange in which Hillary admits to helping John McCain cheat. This is just such a tremendous lapse in journalistic integrity that I am nauseous. Usually I just think Maureen is a bad writer, but seriously this column makes me feel like she is just a terrible person.

“They’re all pinko Commies,” McCain laughs. “Especially since they deserted me for The Messiah. Seriously, Hill, that Paris-Britney ad you came up with was brilliant. I owe you.”
Looking pleased, Hillary expertly downs another shot. “His secret fear is being seen as a dumb blonde,” she says. “He wants to take a short cut to the top and pose on glossy magazine covers, but he doesn’t want to be seen as a glib pretty boy.”
McCain lifts his glass to her admiringly. “If I do say so myself, while the rookie was surfing in Hawaii, I ate his pupus for lunch. Pictures of him pushing around a golf ball while I’m pushing around Putin. Priceless.”
“I have a little secret to tell you about that, John. Bill made it happen. He loves you so much. He called Putin and told him that if he invaded Georgia, he could count on being invited to the Clinton Global Initiative every year for the rest of his life.”

Vladimir Putin and Osama bin Laden walk in to the room. Putin places as a bottle of Stoli on the table, and Clinton proceeds to drink all of it with no hands.
“Impressive,” laughs Putin, “you’ll see that I’ve invaded Georgia for you. We agree that once you become President that I can have Poland and Germany.”
“Of course you can, John pour us all another drink.”
Osama sheepishly, “No, no, none for me, it’s kind of against my religion. I’ll tell you what, if I can have the Middle East and France I will create a picture on Photoshop of me and Obama having a catch as brothers.”
“Whoa, that’s a hell of an idea! The Middle East is yours!” exclaims McCain.
“Ehhh… sure why not. The look on Sarkozy’s face will be priceless.”

“Wow. Should I call him? I saw your husband’s kind words about me in Las Vegas on Monday, saying I’d be just as good as Obama on climate change.”

Lies, lies, lies, lies, lies. Bill explicitly said that McCain is better than most Republicans on the environment and that he prefers Obama’s plan. This is not just what he actually said, but a pretty accurate assessment of the situation.

“I think he’d like that,” Hillary smiles. “He’s still boiling at Obama. And you don’t have to worry about my army of angry women. We’ve spread the word in the feminist underground — as opposed to that wacky Obama Weather Underground — that ‘catharsis’ is code for ‘No surrender.’ My gals know when I say ‘We may have started on two separate paths but we’re on one journey now’ that Skinny’s journey is to the nearest exit.”
“But Obama’s says he’s finally ready to hit back,” McCain says, frowning. “He’s starting a blistering TV campaign and attacking me for attacking his patriotism.”
“Now, John, you know that every time he tries to get tough, he quickly runs out of gas. Sometimes in debates, he’d be exhausted by the third question. He must use up all his energy in the gym. He doesn’t have any stamina, and he certainly doesn’t have our bloodlust. Besides, you can throw that Mark Penn stuff at him that I couldn’t use in a Democratic primary about how he’s not fundamentally American in his thinking and values. While he’s up on his high-minded pedestal, you’ll scoot past him in your Ferragamos.”
“How can I ever thank you, my friend?”

In to the room comes Blackbeard, Hitler, Mao, Charlie Manson, and Richard Nixon.
“Arggh, this is fine conspiracy we have going here.”, Nixon states as he gives Hillary the second creepiest back massage of all time.
Mao and Hitler go over to Joe Lieberman with hugs all around (I suspect this moment was a bit uncomfortable for Joe, but you know anything for the party).
“Arrr, our plan for world domination is neigh completion. Let me ask you this: Does anyone have any gold doubloons they need buried?”
McCain shakes his head with disdain before calling Charlie Manson “a little jerk” and barbecuing for him.

“You can announce that you won’t be running for re-election because you’d be 76, and you can pick somebody really lame to run with, like your pal Lieberman. That means one term for you, and two for me.”
“It’s a deal,” McCain says, sticking out his hand to shake on it. “That was inspired to snatch his convention away — makes him look so weak. Listen, why don’t you stop in Sedona on the way to Denver? Wear a black wig and I’ll spirit you up to the cabin for the night. I’ll catch a catfish in the mill pond and grill it for you. It will be an adventure.” There’s a knock on the door. Jesse Jackson sticks his head into the meeting.

Following Jesse in to the room glides Lord Voldemort, Satan and a living personification of the AIDS virus.
“Tally ho and good day folks, does anyone have any need of a retrovirus this fine summer’s day?”, asks AIDSy.
“Umm… no…” says Hillary, but slowly reconsidering, “Hmm… well let’s wait and see who Obama chooses as VP shall we?” Turning she glances at Voldemort given the first creepiest back massage of all time to John McCain.
“Mmm… thanks Volde, that Imperius curse you taught me was fantastic. Look what a good little servant Joe has become.”
Satan looks around him, “Jesus, this is screwed up even for me! I’m outta here.” Satan zooms off cartoonishly with a little smoke cloud left behind him.

“Is it over?” he asks his co-conspirators.
“Yes, he’s over,” they respond in unison.

Seriously, I cannot emphasize how bad, absurd, cartoonishly evil, irresponsible, inappropriate and terrible this article is. If I thought it would do any good I would write a letter to the Times. But instead, I choice strawman it death and a makes some decent Harry Potter jokes. We all have our paths I suppose.

Getting Denver Ready (JM)

Well consider John Edwards a winner. Denver has taken a real step helping the homeless in the run up to the convention. That's right, free haircuts for the homeless. You may not have any where to sleep, but god dammit you will be presentable.

Via Ben Smith.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Your Lesser Known Veep Candidates, Part I (JM)

In a time of violence and chaos Obama needs a steady hand at his side. He'd ideally like someone who understands international affairs, while not being tied to the politics of the past. Well in Col. Sherman Tecumseh Potter Obama has found his man. A veteran of both World Wars as well as the Korean he has a deep understanding of the history of international conflict, plus he has Eisenhower's endorsement. Col. Potter is a fine family man, but even understands the allure of temptation. Even when facing it in his own family he acted with respect and used it as a fine teaching moment. But beyond his public credentials he also has a fine track record of dealing with youth, teaching Hawkeye and BJ to make their gin still even more efficient. In the end, Potter gives the impression of strength and comfort at the same time, while not overshadowing Obama in terms of political experience. Oh, and of course how great will it be to see him respond to Mitt Romney angry in a debate with classic expression, "Oh, horse hockey!". This is really best of both worlds, making Col. Sherman T. Potter a candidate you ought to know about.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Great Dane (JM)

If there’s anything you need to know about me it is that I think Dane Cook is hilarious. Seriously he is the funniest comedian since Ashton Kutcher. Just sit me down with a bottle of red wine and anything in the Dane Cook oeuvre and I will good to go. That’s why it pleased me so much to discover Dane Cook’s super nifty My Space blog (I highly recommend reading the comments too, which are actually totally hilarious). Let’s strap ourselves in and feel the Gs.



I will spare you the obvious jokes here, but I mean how’s this for a premise, a top ten list about nothing. It’s a list of ten random things. Also I tot-fukin-ally lo-shite-ve wh-donkey sex-en frat boys place profanities in the middle of words, that is some fine lingual craftsmanship. Also I dig on you misspelling the word “fuck” Dane, way to be inoffensive, yet rebellious, you can be on my Tiger Beat any day.

The First Thing:
I hate the ocean. It's ugly and smells like a salty puddle. It is too damn loud with it's churning and splashing. The people that say they love the ocean are also not pretty to look at. They steal, lie and are not fair or right about most everything. The ocean is a pool filled with awful unattractive creatures that have no business on this planet. We should build a skyscraper-sized toaster, plug it in and drop it in the ocean electrocuting all the varmints in there. After that drain it and build some ballsy skateboard parks!

This is funny because the ocean is a weird thing to hate. No one else has a bit on hating the ocean, thus Dane is an original. I hate the letter Q, it’s always staring at me with it’s one giant eye and it looks like it has a tail! Check it, now I’m Dane Cook. Also, “ballsy skateboard parks”, you’re such a Sk8r Boi (see you later boy).

The Second Thing:
I can only eat egg whites if they are colored with a yellow food dye appearing like they are regular eggs. When I say "these are delicious regular eggs" you respond with "yes they look like tasty regular eggs and NOT egg whites."

Dane is very successful because a large part of his humor is getting us all to imagine that we are sitting down to breakfast with Dane Cook and he’s being quirky. God that just makes me want to eat eggs with Dane Cook, he’s so damned quirky!

The Third Thing:
I've invented a device that mathematically figures out who is the most boring person at a party and shoots a deadly laser at them killing them close to instantly.*1

It’s called a Suicide Machine. ZING!!!

The Fourth Thing:
My biggest regret in life is not having a really big regret.

I wish I had a time machine. The only thing I would use it for is to go in to the future and find out what Dane Cook’s biggest regret is going to be. I bet it involves a remake of Curly Sue.*2

The Fifth Thing:
One time a ghost appeared to me and told me I was going to do great things in this lifetime. I responded by trapping him in my Proton Pack and delivering it to the
Ecto-Containment Unit. You see, Dr. Peter Venkman is a dear friend of mine and some ghost with his tricky horseshit will not persuade me other wise.

Alright, can we all be serious for a second. If you’re going to go to the trouble of making a decent pop culture reference you need to do one of two things, either: a) be much funnier about it or b) make a reference to a much more obscure pop culture reference (see Fourth Thing for an example of a mediocre joke obscured by a reference to Jim Belushi’s second awesomest movie, falling right behind Mr. Destiny).

The Sixth Thing:
There is no better feeling in the whole wide world than when the cop that is following behind your car takes a left. Especially when you DO have a body in your trunk.

That joke is roughly akin to this:

The Seventh Thing:
There is nothing funnier than someone that is not funny trying to convince other people that someone isn't funny.

It’s like Dane Cook went forward in time and found out about this post and tried to preempt me. Nice try Cook, nice try. I’d respond but the temporal grammatics are getting to me here, but way to be defensive. By the way Dane, if you have a time machine, how do you not know your biggest regret, hmm?

The Eighth Thing:
A young boy looked at his mother and asked her, "Mom is there a God?"

The mother looked, smiled and responded, "I really don't think so."

This boy then went to his father and asked, "Dad is there a God?"

The dad looked, grinned and replied, "Yes. I know there is."

Later that night the three of them were driving to grab dinner at a place where lower middle class people eat when a logging truck ran a red light and hit them head on. The mother died the father lived and the boy was badly hurt by a log that bashed into his body.

Oprah called and had the father and son on her popular syndicated talk show and she asked the boy if he believed in God. The boy looked, smirked and replied "I'm on Oprah so what do you think?!"

Later that night the logger that drove the truck in a fit of rage because he was not asked to participate in the panel discussion on Oprah (yet he was invited to sit in the audience which is still pretty prestigious but certainly not as validating as sitting on the actual couch with Oprah) went into a blind white rage and killed the father and son, dug up the mothers body and put the three of them in a tree fort he built for his son Jarvis dressing them in army uniforms wearing wigs, costume jewelry and smart casual footwear.

A year later the logging trucker guy was the LEAD GUEST on Oprah live from prison and his new book "LOGGING, KILLING, CATS and OTHER DAILY STUFF" is a bestseller.

I think we all know that there IS a God but He is very drunk, somewhat troubled and obviously extremely shy hence He doesn't care for the question about him existing or not so let's focus on something else for right now.

I wish I hadn’t used up that cow cartoon earlier. Can I also point out that this is explicitly not something that no one knows about you in as far as it is nothing about you at all. Which is weird since your top ten list was already about nothing and you managed to break theme anyway.

The Ninth Thing:
Nobody can tell you that you won't make it in this world. Yet, if we can rally everyone in the world to tell you that you won't make it than it's true. You really have no shot because all of us don't care for your work and we are the world. Odds are you will be fine but have a back up plan in case all of us come calling with some bad news.

Wait, I think I have finally figured this out. You are Jack Handy, but after you’ve had some sort of severe impairment. "Instead of a trap door, what about a trap window? The guy looks out it, and if he leans too far, he falls out. Wait. I guess that's like a regular window." See how much funnier he is?

The Tenth Thing:
If I went to college I would major in Apology.

It’s like a black fly in my Chardonnay. It’s like a death row pardon, two minutes too late.

*1 - Pending approval with the FCC and people that like coming to my parties.

*2 If you’re going to use the humorous footnote at least say something funny or interesting. For instance, did you that when Mr. Papadopolous kissed Webster it marked the first time in the history of television that a Greek man kissed a black child, at least as far as I know.

Same As It Ever Was, Same As It Ever Was (JM)

I wish we had a brief rundown of the Georgian conflict in Lost episode recap format, complete with banal Matthew Fox voiceover. Since I don't, here's basically what we know. Georgia, a former section of the Soviet Union is the first non-satellite state to develop even a quasi-democratic government outside the auspices of the Soviet Union. After regaining independence in 1991 almost all of the 90s were spent in turmoil, violence and opportunism being the order of the day. The next momentous period came in 2003 when then President Eduard Shevardnadze was reelected in by a system that was grossly skewed in his favor. This led to a series of mostly non-violent protests which culminated in Mikheil Saakashvilli and other pro-democratic supporters marching on the opening of the Georgian parliament carrying roses. So called the Rose Revolution led eventually to the resignation of Shevardnaze and a new series of elections which came down resoundingly in favor of Saakashvilli.

During this time of transition there were other problems developing. Two key regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia began to erupt in violence. These are both region with substantial non-Georgian ethnic minorities. However, the exact demographic make up of these regions is particularly unclear as the Georgian government created large-scale settlements in these areas with Georgian ethnic to disrupt the balance of power. In turn, violence was fomented in both areas, and Georgian ethnics were largely displaced from these communities by local ethnic groups, warlords, outside groups such as the Chechens and, above all, the support of Russia.

It's this backdrop that leads to the current set of conflicts. Georgia, along with the Ukraine (which is, despite Kramer's insistence, not weak), are interested in becoming members of NATO. However there are serious concerns about offering Georgia NATO membership, the primary being a potential for intense conflict with Russia, but also the fact that Saakashvilli has been far from perfect, going out of his way to antagonize Vladimir Putin and also repressing the speech of major opposition groups. Despite all of these reservations Georgia remains a far more democratic stronghold than its neighbors and is an incredibly close ally of the Western world, the United States in particular. It's status as a Western supporter drives Russia even further to try a destabilize the region (and potential a full-scale invasion with the direct hope of regime change). It also certainly doesn't help that Putin and Saakashvilli loathe each other and either would be happier should the other cease to exist.

This brings us to today. Russia invaded to protect the minority populations of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from being bombarded by the Georgian military. The Georgian military claims to have attacked these areas in response to attacks from Russia supported militias and warlords in this region. In other words, Russia has a thinly veiled excuse to invade and Georgia has thinly veiled excuse to repress. Think Palestine with military support while ignore some of the ancillary issues. In other words, it's a total mess.

We've certainly had a myriad of responses from our government and candidates about this crisis. McCain has taken the hardest line, arguing that we should immediately extend NATO membership to Georgia and demand the removal of Russian troops. It should be noted that McCain has a very close relationship with the Georgian government, his campaign manager Rick Davis is a registered lobbyist on behalf of Georgian interests. Despite all of this, it is certainly in our and the world's interest to keep Russian out of Georgia and certainly prevent them from toppling an even quasi-democratic regime. But there appears that there is just too little to be done. The fact is that we have several players in this, none of whom are completely innocent. Even on an even playing field there is just no way to fairly assess blame (though it does appear that Russia has pushed the most boundaries). Even if the world were to agree that Russia's actions ought to be condemned the U.N. is powerless to do anything due to the Russian Security Council veto. Other international organizations hold little sway in this matter as well. If we were to extend NATO protect to Georgia it would put the entire Atlantic community on the hook to defend Georgia militarily. It's exactly this sort of entanglement that lead us down the path to World War I.

This is, frankly, what Russia is counting on. The United States tired and poor from fighting two separate wars, it's political capital spent and amidst an election that will change the direction of our foreign policy in either case is ill-equipped to take the lead in this situation. Russia is aware that they can essentially call the world's bluff and repress the beginnings of local democracy right before our eyes. Though weakened they still retain a certain amount of power due to an abundance of natural resources and fuel needs. However, Putin has discovered that their greatest power might just lie is simple brazenness and an awareness that no one in the world has any desire to be the one to get in their way.

This leaves our country in quite a quandary, two small ethnic divisions of a relatively small state threaten to disturb the stability of Eastern Europe completely. The simple truth is that something must be done and nothing can be done. This is the greatest advantage Putin has and one he has shown the proclivity to use. If we allow Russia to hold Georgia in abeyance based on flimsy pretense, Ukraine and other former Soviet territories will soon follow. Essentially an ominous Russia will make the expansion of the European and Atlantic community over these states much more difficult and is position itself to feel threatened by any expansion. The truth is we are once again faced with a decision, stand up to the threat as a world and risk violence on a world stage or allow aggression to stand an allow for the creeping spread of authoritarianism throughout Eastern Europe. Neither is a great option, but I would suggest that action has always proved more valuable in the long run than inaction. A show of strength now may prevent Russia from getting the type of strength we'll really have to fear. In the end though either solution will be a bitter pill to swallow indeed.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Free Advertising, Just Act Indignant (JM)

The most impressive strategy I've seen from the McCain campaign thus far is it's ability to create and spread media without spending any money. The recipe for this has been remarkable simple. Create webads (or low media buy ads) with a little bit of controversy in them. For instance the already famous "Celebrity" ad starring Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. This ad has become so noteworthy that Paris Hilton responded with her own ad, Hilton's mother spoke out (as she is a major McCain donor) and myriad terrible internet parodies were spawned. Out of indignity and attempted mockery came a gazillion dollars worth of free ad time for John McCain.

Now comes this latest web ad:

Already the band is getting ginned up for another round of, "this is racist and disrespectful". Just check out this post on TPM and the comment thread. How much do you want to bet that this hits the mainstream media in the next two days. This is precisely what the McCain campaign wants. I recognize calling any criticism of Obama racist was a pretty effective strategy in the primary, but this is a different situation and entirely different demographic. One which, it is sad to say, is unlikely to be persuaded by such a criticism. But there's a bigger principle at stake here, because in this case the criticisms are simply wrong. Just because this ad mocks Obama love (I mean it shows a girl stating explicitly that she "loves the softness" in Obama's eyes) doesn't mean that this is attempting to play on racism. It is, to sadly quote a legal term, facially neutral, and quite possibly nothing more than an attempt to mock youthful support and irrationality, not try to create a, "Where the white women at?" moment.

Ultimately when it comes to these sorts of ads the best response is simply to ignore them and attack on issues. This isn't swiftboating, it isn't challenging Obama's past or credentials. Simply put, there is no good way to respond to these ads, only a good way to get more people to pay attention. I actually think the campaign itself is doing a pretty good job with this, it's rather Obama's rather passionate internet supporters that drive this story on blogs, which then drives the story in the MSM. So those that are made angry by this ad I would caution outrage and instead suggest that in the long run there is less to be outraged about when fewer people see the "offensive" material.

Welcome Back! (JM)

Hello my friends, compatriots, well-wishers, and people who hate me, but love Dennis. After a considerable hiatus we have returned. Feel free to rejoice. There may be some differences between the old and the new, but I really couldn't tell you what they are. Feel free to chime in with requests, ideas or not. That said, enough foreplay I am excited to get to some real writing and discussing, so strike up the band and away we go!

By the by, for those of you who don't know, that's a picture of me. I teach in a 70's themed charter school in Brooklyn, Vinnie Barbarino High School. The way we figure it the children of the 70s brought us the joy and prosperity of the 80s, thus we are trying to raise the children of today in much the same manner. In fact, the kids are in for a treat as they are just about to learn about history's greatest monster, Jimmy Carter. Anyway, that's enough filler material so that this post doesn't look weird with the picture included, so now with out further adieu, actual postings.