Thursday, May 29, 2008

Story of the Decade

Leave it to Keith Olbermann to do the job. Scott McClennan is this generation's John Dean. This will go to Waxman's committee and impeachment of Cheney will be on the table. Keep yourself up to date on this story:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Real John McCain

I'm about to post a YouTube video produced be the people at The Real McCain, but I want to provide a short disclaimer about my own take on the video first. I think that everything in the video is true, but the presentation is very dangerous. The truth is there. It's well documented in lengthy expositions about who John McCain is, what he's done, what he's likely to do in the future, and the flip-flops he's had over the years on key issues important to the American people. That's not an issue to me. The disclaimer here is necessary because I believe that we rely on short, edited clips of media appearances to make the case far too often in 2008, and it does a disservice to the truth.

Truth is a highly subjective thing in many cases. Never more so than when we attempt to portray truth via fast impression, video/audio bites that appear to make the case, but don't do much more than scratch the surface of the truth at best. That is what you'll find in this YouTube clip. "Truthiness" vs. truth. I post it because I hope the truthiness presented in the clip will prompt people to investigate the reality of the so-called truth more carefully on their own. More truthiness is found at McCainPedia, produced by the DNC and only accessible for editing by the DNC. This is a tool which should prove quite useful at engaging the truth about John McCain far more accurately than the truthiness we get in the mainstream traditional media. No one gets at real truth in this day and age. Truth lies in deeper, lengthier investigation. Please do that on your own, if possible. In the meantime, here's a bit of truthiness that should counter the other truthiness you get via TV and newspapers.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Is Hillary a Racist?

People have been writing a lot about Hillary Clinton's support among racist voters in Appalachia recently. My contention is that she is simply a political opportunist who needs whatever edge she can get to steal the nomination from Barack Obama. That's politics. It's ugly but when the most powerful job in the world is at stake, it gets ugly. The thing is, Clinton worked her entire life to uplift the condition of African-Americans by many accounts, and I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. I abhor the racists that you can see in the clip embedded in my last post, and I think she should come out to reject their votes on principle, but it is what it is.

She's started to repeat certain talking points about her support from "hard working voters, white voters" and it's raised some eyebrows around the US. The media has been giving it to her pretty good over those remarks. So what do we make of these remarks:

Why does the gas station owner have to be Indian, and why does he have to have the name of the single greatest populist leader of the 20th century? Isn't that racist, or dangerously close to it? In fairness, I've been known to make fun of Apu on The Simpsons over the years. A good friend brought it to my attention that there may be something racist in that impression, or at the very least racially insensitive. I've done my best to change my ways, and hope that I'm a far more mature and sensitive person at 37 than I was at 27 or 17. Hillary Clinton HAS TO know better than this. It's a shame that she's sunk this low.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My Old Kentucky Home

All you need to know about Hillary Clinton's big victory in Kentucky. We have a lot of work to do Americans. A lot of work.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The DNC's McCainPedia

All hail the new media revolution. The Democratic National Committee has launched a new research/framing tool for the 2008 Presidential Election called McCainPedia. It's a wiki-esque database of information about John McCain designed to frame his candidacy in a way that is friendly to the Democratic chances for victory. It's not open source, however, and should be taken with a grain of salt. Still, it shows why the Dems understand new media and the GOP is being left in the dustbin of history. Enjoy.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Branding the Candidate

A good e-friend of mine, and fine progressive writer/blogger, Nancy Scola put together a few pieces some time back about the branding of the Obama campaign and the sophisticated understanding of graphic art, fonts, and even the employment of folk art in building a movement. The pieces are excellent and show precisely how tight the Obama campaign is when compared to the Clinton and McCain efforts.

In the spirit of her work, I thought I'd put a few examples of the campaign art that's been out there this cycle and offer a few comments.

Mike Huckabee

It almost looks like the person who designed this sign had no sense of graphic arts at all. You get the vague Coca-Cola symbolism of the red and white flourish through the center of the sign, but the jumbled up letters that spell out "Huckabee" couldn't look worse. With all those different heights and crooks in the letters you have to kern out the font a bit more and let it breathe. Also, the yellow makes you feel like this sign has coffee and tobacco stained teeth or something. It's not clean, it doesn't evoke anything except local goober, and fails in almost every measurable way. He probably should have just put up a cross with the word "Mike" in the horizontal and "Huckabee" in the vertical and done away with the charade that he had a chance with anyone except Evangelicals.

Mitt Romney

This is actually a fairly well designed layout. It works on signs and it translates well to goods. The color scheme is standard, but the clever merging of the eagle and the banner in white and red make for a good flourish element that catches the eye without dominating the name. Romney definitely benefits from having a Roman looking name with large, wide letters that balance out nicely while projecting strength. The overall look of his signage is probably just what he wanted, corporate. He ran as a CEO-type candidate with the background to boldly fix the economy and the corporate branding style that he chose is bold, but safe. I guess it didn't work out for him in the end, but we might just see some variation on this theme again in 2012 after McCain is defeated.

Ron Paul

Wow. That's a lot of words in a small space. Too many, in fact. The main problem, as I see it, is the "PRESIDENT '08" line. All caps, smashed into a subordinate position between the only pertinent information you need. The brilliance of this sign, and perhaps the biggest reason Paul has remained in the race raising money and drawing votes is the website. He gets it. There was no chance for Paul to overcome the big name rivals in the campaign, or their money, but he found a way by using the internet. He understood the direction this whole act of democracy has taken and embraced it. The sign itself does nothing for me. It's mundane, uninspiring, and has no message save the internet....which is the key to it's genius. Too bad that's all he's had going for him as he's been largely drowned out. One interesting note, the star graphic in the middle is the same one the McCain campaign is using in their sign. See below:

Rudy Giuliani

This is one variation on the Rudy campaign's signage. The design actually fits the man. His first name in GIGANTIC letters with little space for anything else. I'm shocked that 9/11 isn't visible on the sign somewhere, although it might be subliminal. Despite the boring design and lack of elements other than his name, it accomplishes two things. It brands him as a familiar person (on a first name basis) and it gets the website out there. At least he understood that much. The problem is, no one saw this except Floridians since his people conveniently thought he could camp out down there and wait for something to happen.

John McCain

This is a bumper sticker for the McCain campaign. Oddly unpatriotic color scheme for a guy who is going to have to win this thing by making Obama look unpatriotic in contrast to his military service. I suppose this does evoke some kind of regal, naval imagery, but it also looks very slapped together. It looks like it took a couple of interns a day or two to settle on a font and a piece of clip art to throw in. It works if you hope to play up your Navy pilot background, but this election is about a lot more than that. This is a dynamic election and this says "status quo". In defense of the design, it's clean and the font is a very corporate, proud looking design. It has the requisite website URL, although it's unclear that any of McCain's supporters actually know how to use the "internets" since he is lagging FAR behind his Democratic rivals in cash on hand.

Joe Biden
I actually like this design a little. It's very traditional in the sense that the name is on top in big letters and the office and year are below. There's a little star for effect to punctuate the point of the campaign, but it stays simple. In the small format you see above, it's less effective since it doesn't have the opportunity to dominate anything in context. It fails in that it's a white background on a white field here. It looks fragile. In a different context, on a bolder, darker background it pops and brightens up the atmosphere. It's not a great piece of branding, but it can work. It has no URL though, and I'm not exactly sure what it says about Biden, who is an outspoken and tough nosed candidate.

Bill Richardson

Here's the Bill Richardson candidacy announcement photo. There are several strikes going against the man from the very start. His name is very long and it has to fit in this limited space. The design team does a good job of working the space issue out and finds room for both a flourish element and the URL. The problem is, the URL is ridiculously long and junks up the entire lower portion of the sign. The flourish is clip artish and makes the effort look amateurish. The blue field is probably an accurate account of the US flag, but looks a bit 1970s. He could have gone with a more updated look in the font choice, the artwork, and the branding via URL. Also worthy of mention is that his chin looks stronger with the goatee he wore after dropping out and added a kind of Washington outsider edge that would have worked to his benefit in the large field of candidates he faced.

Dennis Kucinich

Rather than put up a Kucinich sign here, I thought this piece of folk art would do better. It's an example of the new trend among Democratic voters and their candidates where individuals with skills in design put out artwork in support of their favored pol. It ALWAYS works better than the corporate looking stuff and appeals to a new breed of American accustomed to marketing trends and target advertising. I like this effort from PJ Chmiel a lot. Check out more of his Kucinich work at his website.

John Edwards
Oh John. Where to begin? I was a supporter at one time and I can appreciate the effort here. Modern font. Gradated star flourish. Simple layout. Then again, no URL, washed out colors, ambiguous white background. Grey? This is boring, uninspiring, uninspired, and just plain awful. You were running for the highest office in the land. You were running to be the leader of the free world. I know this is a departure and a bold step away from the controlled, corporate design of the other candidates, but it is blah. The Kucinich folk art is a bold move. This is a mess.

Hillary Clinton

Hmmm... Good use of the first name (see: Giuliani). Good flag flourish. URL is visible. Not bad. The serif font is a bit hokey, but it can be forgiven. It looks much worse for it's juxtaposition with the URL font, which is cleaner and more professional looking. This is a good, safe sign. It's corporate. It's establishment. It's patriotic. It's experience. Too bad this election is about change. It's about moving to the future. This sign says neither of those things. It's the sign of an establishment person, albeit it a competent and safe bet. It would seem that among the three main Democratic contenders, Clinton's is more expressive and effective regarding her message than John Edwards, but is far too "been there, done that" in comparison to Obama's design. Not to jump the gun, but the Obama signage and folk art are so inspiring and provide such a sense of newness, that this good sign loses its impact. In an attempt to jazz up the image, the Clinton people just released a piece of folk art.

I think this is a little sad actually. After mismanaging a campaign and its branding for 95% of the primary season, the Clinton people are rolling out a piece of folk art this contrived well beyond its expiration date. Folk art has to feel grassroots and it has to feel rebellious. Che Guevara art is the prime example of this. The Obama folk art has a kind of grassroots appeal that works with his message of "Yes. We. Can." The "we" aspect of the Obama campaign is what makes it amenable to a folk art element. This is just a lame attempt to show that "she can do it too" and smacks of regret. The red radials in this piece have been compared to Maoist layouts, something I'm sure the Clinton people aren't looking to do. The high contrast two-tone photo of Hillary is nice, but she looks nothing like that in 2008. Her hair hasn't been done that way in years. She's looking back to the left, which signifies the past. It's just a mess.

Barack Obama

This just feels right. I'm biased as a supporter, but the logo is original, patriotic, and serves to brand the entire campaign. It can be repeated in millions of iterations while maintaining its identity via the O and the flag. The font is light, but bold and the URL is visible without dominating the lower part of the sign. Great balance. It also works with a blue background in reverse.

This bit of signage, in addition to the "O" logo, is brilliant. The gotham font is forward looking and says "GQ" (since that's who commissioned it in the first place). It generates a message without using his name. It looks great in a crowd and reinforces the slogan of the campaign en masse. The URL is still visible.

To my knowledge, this is the first piece of folk art that was created for the campaign. It was put together by the "Obey" people of Andre the Giant fame. Sleek, clean, patriotic, and highly effective as a mural.

I like this one a lot too. It plays with contour the same way the first piece does, but in a much crisper way. The "Obey" people went soft, while this piece by The Mac goes a bit more sharp. He's looking forward to the future again in this piece, while you remember that Clinton was looking left to the past.

I found this piece by artist Rob Kelly while I was looking for the "Obey" piece and I like it a lot. Kelly's style eliminates contours and favors primary shapes and colors a lot.

I love that someone made Nike Air Obamas. That's folk art at its best. There are a lot of other less well known Obama pieces out there that are either local or less mass produced, but it's interesting how this phenomenon plays out alongside the very grassroots fundraising that has marked the Obama campaign. If you know of any other folk art pieces from any of the candidates above, pass them along. I love this stuff.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Fall of an Era

Since 1994 the Republican Party has held onto the reins of power in Washington and throughout the nation's governor's offices. Over the last 4 or 5 years the corruption and the mismanagement of the nation has swung the pendulum to the Left and the Democratic Party seems poised to wrest control of the whole enchilada from the Rigbt at long last in November.

The GOP has done such a poor job of actually governing the nation, that even staunch Republicans are voting Democrat in the current electoral season. The Republicans have lost 3 Congressional seats in the past two months in the reddest of the red strongholds thanks to organized and energized Democrats who have shined the light of reality in the faces of the Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, Sean Hannity GOP. The problem with the Republican Party is the embrace of rhetoric and vitriol over competency. The Newt Gingrich engineered takeover of the government in 1994 was in large part a response to the Democrats lack of organization and message. The loudest voices in the room were Republicans, led by the new wing of pundits who permeated the mass media. The liberal bias, if it ever really existed, was transformed into an echo chamber of Republican, news-managed talking points. We've seen that throughout the Bush Administration. Lots of "on-message" rhetoric while Rome burns.

The following clip has been "diaried" twice on DailyKos today and both of the diaries sit atop the "recommended" list over there. It's so good and so illustrative of the kind of governance and the ideological noise that Republicans have employed for the last 14 years that I can't help but post it here. If there was ever any doubt that the noisy, vapid talking points of the GOP have played themselves out at this point in history, watch Chris Matthews DESTROY a right-wing radio wingnut on Hardball. This is going to be a very ugly year for the GOP:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Democrat Abroad Japan

Well, I'm back living in Japan and in my familiar role as Co-Chair of the Democrats Abroad Japan Communications Committee. For those of you who haven't checked out my podcasts, the link is in the right margin somewhere. I edit and help to hold things together in general. It's a great group of people, who dedicate their own time to promote a progressive agenda for the betterment of the American political system. The perspective that DAJ members, and the groups in a multitude of other foreign countries, share with the domestic crowd is invaluable, particularly with respect to foreign policy and health care.

I'm following the returns for the West Virginia primary via the internet and shaking my head at the silly game that the media is playing with the results. There's no suspense left in this primary and it's just a cat and mouse game between the media and the Clinton people as to when she's going to get it through her thick skull that she's lost. She's sending red-faced former president William Jefferson Lewinsky Clinton out to the remaining states to pretend there's something to be excited about for Hillary supporters and she's off to pretend she's a blue collar champion herself. Have fun dopes. I have tried to keep an even keel about the Clinton campaign, but I'm tired of the charade and the potential damage this is doing to our presidential chances in November. It's over. She has no mathematical path to the nomination, even if you hand her Florida and Michigan on a platter. She's $20 million in debt and growing. The Obama campaign has shifted to a general election strategy thanks in large part to the steady flow of superdelegates to his side, giving him the lead in that metric for the first time last week.

An interesting journal at DailKos a few days ago showed that the mainstream media meme in which Obama can't win white, working-class voters is false. It's a generational thing with roots in Appalachia. Look at the diary and tell me how wrong the media have been in dumbing down the metrics for the TV audience. It's pathetic. Watch Obama score a 20-point victory in lilly-white Oregon and let's talk then. It's on to Washington for Obama and Albany for Clinton. Let's be real.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Obama: The Presumptive Nominee

It's over. If you don't believe me, check out Tim Russert:

It turns out that Hillary Clinton loaned herself $6.4 million dollars again last month in order to continue, upping her personal investment in the campaign to $11.4 million. Even with that loan, it appears as though she's still in big debt. Obama, on the other hand, has something in the neighborhood of $50 million in the coffers with less than a million in debt.

That's the money. The path to the delegate lead is over as well. The loss in NC, combined with the narrowest of wins in IN, assures that Obama will end with the delegate lead after June 3rd. He can actually clinch the nomination after Oregon with a win and the superdelegate flood that is expected to come now. In fact, he can get 2025 on that day, or he can probably get the 2209 that Clinton has newly introduced as the magic number, which includes both Florida and Michigan. This is a blessing in disguise because Obama can clinch the 2209 with some help from his super friends, and then seat both delegations at the Democratic National Conference well in advance of that event, giving the Party enough time to heal any rifts that may exist.

Hillary sounded resigned to the fact that this thing is basically over when she spoke last night, in stark contrast to the Obama speech, which I thought was his best in almost 2 months. Looking at Chelsea, standing behind her mother, nearly in tears, told the story as did the red-faced, sullen Bill by her side. His from and puppy dog eyes betrayed his own emotion. Even Matt Drudge, the conservative blogger, posted a headline saying "The Nominee", featuring a photo of Barack and Michelle Obama walking hand in hand. The Huffington Post did something similar.

On to the general election campaign, John McCain is gearing up with a series of speeches designed to broaden his appeal. The conservative pundits are now talking about how great he matches up with Obama, and how the contrast works to his advantage. Provided the Clintons follow through on their promise to work hard for Obama (maybe in exchange for a VP slot going to a Clinton ally) McCain is absolute toast.

When these two men stand up next to one another to be compared, it's going to look ridiculous. I mean, RIDICULOUS. McCain's gaffes have gone largely unexamined by the media as Obama and Clinton have been fighting it out. Obama has been vetted in the media and the public has spoken. Most of the skeletons that have come out of his closet have come and gone, and he survived. Not only did he survive, he thrived. The GOP will probably have to abandon Reverend Wright as a main strategy, as the ad campaigns that were run to tie local pols with Obama/Wright ended up backfiring. Democrats in heavily Republican districts pulled off historical election victories. A few of those districts flipped for the first time in 30 years!! The tide is turning.

The Tony Rezko situation is likely to be a GOP attack point, but McCain's own Keating 5 scandal makes Rezko look like chump change by comparison. The media has seen the Obama dirt, and while they're unlikely to completely give up the focus on his skeletons, the added scrutiny of McCain's skeletons will, however, make this thing wide open. No one ever looked at Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky during the Democratic campaign, to her advantage, because we lived through it and it was played to death on TV for years. McCain has been a teflon candidate his whole career, but this is different. This is the presidency. He's going to be examined harshly. I guarantee it.

So, in the end, the general election started last night. McCain's decrepit, undead spirit will walk the Earth seeking support, while Obama's youthful energy and loaded coffers will be aimed at making this contrast so apparent as to force the most ardent Republicans avert their eyes. Away we go.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Hoosiers and Tar Heels

This is my official prediction for the Tuesday daily double primary. I have no logic worthy of mention here, but rather a lot of intuition and one eye on the myriad polling numbers that have been floating out there.

Clinton: 53
Obama: 47
Clinton wins by 6

The gas tax holiday and the stumping in the back of pick up trucks has worked for Clinton, although it's made her look absolutely ridiculous to most of America. I hate to label people "low info voters" because I think it's just politically correct speech that means to say, "dummies" or "hillbillies" or something along those lines, but let's go with something that splits the difference. "Dumb, low info, hillbillies." Just kidding. "Gut voters" seems to tell a bit of the story. These are people who aren't inclined to read a book, trust TV, or subscribe to a newspaper. They might listen to talk radio. Many of these people like the gas tax holiday and love to see her in a pick up truck under a skoal sign. The Republicans have cornered the market on these voters in recent years by nominating the ultimate "gut president." In the Democratic primary, the "gut candidate" has been Hillary Clinton. She's the known evil. Barack Obama is the scary secret-Muslim, with the hateful Christian preacher, and the arugula salads. His pandering has been far worse than Clinton's.

Obama: 56
Clinton: 44
Obama wins by 12

North Carolina, like its neighbor to the north, Virginia, has turned purple in recent years. In this election, it would still be an uphill battle to carry NC in the general, unlike Virginia which WILL go to Barack Obama, but the primaries are going very well. Large African-American contingent, large professoriate, large upscale suburban groups. The Nascar crowd that Hillary is counting on in NC is also powerful, but won't help her make up for the disadvantages she faces there. Bill Clinton has been stumping in NC with his best southern drawl out of mothballs (doesn't he spend most of his time in Harlem these days?) and he's hammered his populist rhetoric with that finger wagging all the way. I think he's helped her a bunch in NC. Nice to have the popular, former president stumping for you. I picked this state by 12 for Obama, but an interesting swing in either direction is possible. I secretly believe that Obama could win NC by 20, but the recent bad press may have done away with that completely. Instead, this race may close to single digits if the Clinton "get out the vote" machine is better than Obama's. That will decide whether this is a blowout, or a moderate victory for Barack.

Either way we go on. Her chances are dissolving, but she's going to try something. Watch.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Grandpa McCain

Thursday, May 1, 2008

What if...?

What if someone on television was a real journalist?

What if our elections were based on debate over issues instead of impressions?

What if there were no 24-hour news networks?

What if our education system was more fair and effective?

What if we judged people on the content of their character, rather than....whatever else?

What if people got off their asses to demand a government that worked for them?

What if we lived in a culture that valued building instead of destroying?

What if we had a parliamentary system?

What if social justice was the currency of society rather than material?