an Ol’ Joke, updated for an ol’ man

by bk

What’s the difference between the McCain Campaign and the Titanic?

The Titanic had a band.

After the MI decision, I think it’s time to start watching for the rats jumping ship. That is a sure sign of a boat that’s going down. I know we’re not over the finish line yet but desperation has a way of feeding on itself and I think we’re approaching that point faster than we may realize, so it’s just a matter of looking for the tell tale signs.

Here is the video that inspired my post:

Gov. Palin Can Speak

by db

And she can speak fairly well, attacking all the while. That’s a good thing.

Because if she has time to attack (both the media and the Democratic ticket), that must mean she’s not the victim the McCain campaign had been suggesting she was over the last four days. And that must mean she can handle it when we attack her lightweight experience and hypocrisy.

Fair is fair, Governor.

Winning and Losing in 24 hours or Less

by bk

So pardon me for calling the election on September 2 but within the last day the first polls, showing Obama with 50%+, started showing up. I’ve long held that lots of America’s choose not to decide until after Labor Day. They can’t be bothered to, it’s just not in their blood like us partisan types. Every cycle just as the decidedly undecides starting tuning in to make their decision they use two events to judge the candidates – the convention acceptance speech and the Presidential candidate’s first executive decision on VP candidate. Some of the more serious undecides will watch and listen to everything, others will judge it by how others in and out of the media seems to perceive it. Depending on the year, the undecides may make the difference in a close election or simply pad the margin of victory. Ultimately, I believe turning out the base is the most important thing and by all measures the Democratic base is more enthusiastic this year than the Republican base so I’ve felt for awhile Obama would win and I’ve been looking to the undecides to provide the margin of victory. But that hasn’t been showing up in the polls yet so I’ve seen and heard a lot of hand wringing among Dems I know. It’s a natural reaction to how the last couple of elections have unfolded and I’m sure it will last until Obama takes the oath. But when the story of the 2008 Presidential Election is written, I believe the turning point will be fully encapsulated within less than 24 hours, the night of August 25th and the morning of August 26th.

More Americans tuned in for Barack Obama’s speech than tuned in for the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics and the American Idol finales. He spoke to those who could be convinced, the 70%+ who believe we’re heading in the wrong direction. And they got a speech that knocked down the patriotism attacks while making the attackers look petty, they got policy proposals and soaring and flawless rhetoric, and they got to see a man they could believe could be President. The expectations were high and he still managed to surpass them; he passed the test.

The very next morning, the other shoe dropped. McCain had named Sarah Palin as his running mate and across America a collective, “WHO?” rang out. Over the course of the next 2 days, it became obvious that McCain’s team hadn’t done the most basic of vetting. The choice was instinctual and a political sop to the base. In another year, that might have been okay but not considering recent history like the rush to war and the move to privatize social security, and recalling Republican appointments like Michael Brown, Harriet Meirs, and Alberto Gonzales, it was all too familiar and in 1 fell swoop it undercut McCain’s main argument against Obama and re-inforced Obama’s main line of attack on McCain, that a McCain Presidency would be more of the same.

There are only really two parts to the VP decision as far as the voting public is concerned. Number 1 is the heartbeat question. Are we comfortable with this person being a heartbeat from the Presidency? And number 2 and more importantly, what the choice says about the Presidential candidate. Context is very important. Quayle was an obvious sop to the right as the right was starting to really flex its muscles. But he had been in Congress for 12 years and the Senate for the previous 6 and Bush was a sporty, healthy WASP. McCain is a 72 year who has twice battled skin cancer and Palin is the 2 year governor of Alaska with prior experience as mayor of a town of 7,000. Barack Obama’s choice of Sen. Joe Biden was a serious choice who could easily step in to the Presidency at a moment’s notice. Barack passed. Outside the 28 Percenters, those that absolutely can’t see past their partisan blinders and still support Bush, John McCain’s choice was clearly questionable and no one believes she’s ready to be a heartbeat from the Presidency. So on the first test of a President McCain, McCain failed and he failed the same as Bush, playing to the base and playing politics with the future of America.

On the night of Thursday August 25th, Senator Barack Obama showed America a vision of its future. On the morning of Friday August 26th, Senator John McCain showed America a vision of its past, the past 8 years. Within that short time, John McCain lost the election and Barack Obama won it.

At least, that’s how I believe it will be remembered.

527s in 2008

by bk
I saw a comment on TPM by KD that suggested that if Obama hadn’t stopped the 527s, he’d be in a better position and it got me thinking about whether that’s right. I think KD is wrong and we’re actually better off so far in 2008 without the 527s because it’s harder to fight a proxy battle.

McCain’s attacks are coming from McCain not some third party “Citizens Against Celebrity” group, which is actually comprised of 5 billionaire Republicans. It’s his attack ad not some citizens exercising their First Amendment right so he can’t disown the attacks while allowing the attack to continue. Thus, he can’t enjoy the benefit from going negative without taking the hit for having done it himself. This is why I think we’ve seen the polls return to about where they were before the celebrity ads started. There was an initial benefit but then the backlash balanced it back out after another week.

Also when the attacks come from McCain directly, Obama’s campaign has only to confront McCain to respond instead of trying to take on a faceless 527. And so they are able to respond with the ads they did which point out 2 hypocrisies – the hypocrisy of the celebrity charge from McCain, of all people,and his hypocrisy in going negative as he so often said he wouldn’t. And because Obama didn’t go negative first, he’s simply responding to McCain’s ads, I believe there will be less backlash for Obama than for McCain.

If that’s the case then this will work out to a net gain for Obama and it will be very much because it wasn’t a 527 group shooting from the woods but rather John McCain, himself, in broad daylight. So everyone knows who did it and Obama has a clear target for returning fire.

My Int’l Travel Never Goes This Well

by db

When it comes to international travel, I’m the bizarro Barack. Sweat drips from my forehead as I haul tail down some concourse, inevitably the wrong one; I dehydrate with endless cups of bad airport coffee and I’m only over-hydrated when all nearby facilities are closed for cleaning; I check bags the day the conveyors break and don’t when I have a bottle of cologne with me that’s a half-liter too big to scan. Yep, I’m that guy. Sen. Obama: No mess here. This is one presidential candidate who travels well.

I knew this was going to be a well-organized tour. The Obama advance team, from where I sit, has always been stellar: signage in the right place, audience well-positioned, mikes set to the right levels. But a trip through the middle-east and europe is no multi-county tour of Ohio. Plus, with wall-to-wall coverage guaranteed, there was little room for error. Thus far, you could not have asked for a better executed trip.

The icing on the cake, though, has been the McCain’s non-stop carping about, of all things, the media’s supposed infatuation with Obama. Beside the fact it sends a clear-cut signal you have nothing to talk about and are drenched in increasingly visible flop-sweat, it’s just plain sad. What makes it more pathetic and laughable is that it’s coming from John McCain. This is a guy of whom Chris Matthews recently said “We are his base.” That’s right. The media is McCain’s base. No matter how egregious the gaffe, they are always there to skip over the embarrassing moments. No matter how blatant the flip-flop, they crown him with the title “maverick.” It doesn’t matter that even to this day (and I mean that seriously — there were two serious screw-up’s from McCain today both under-reported), they give him every benefit of the doubt. No. That’s not good enough for the McCain people. They decide their coverage isn’t good enough. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

But that’s all good.

Don’t tell the McCain campaign they could be spending this time explaining their plans to get the country out of the economic abyss it’s enjoying or whatever it is that “Dr. Phil” Gramm feels we’re whining about. Nope. Let them go on bashing the media. I’m sure that will help cut through the noise of the million some odd people who will show up to Sen. Obama’s speech in Berlin or the fact the Prime Minister of Iraq pulled the rug out from under their “endless surge” strategy. It may do neither, but at least it would display some seriousness about his positions on the issues and, who knows, it might change some voters’ minds. But do me a favor, don’t tell them that. Tell them it’s all the media’s fault.

Thank you, Sista Jesse

by bk

In light of the 4 polls out this week showing Barack re-establishing his lead in national polls, I’d like to thank Jesse Jackson. Far from cutting Barack’s nuts off, I say he has provide Obama with the Sista Soulja moment he’s been needing.

Hmmm Trying to pivot to the center? What better opportunity than having an icon of the left all pissed off at you. And better still, it was the kind of dirt Fox loves. So Fox and the rest of the MSN play in the dirt, which is job #1 at Fox, and help Obama pivot all at once and because it’s not a policy shift, there can be no flip flop charge. It’s just Barack Obama defending himself from the left for a full news cycle for all to see.

A special thanks to Jesse for his timing, right in the heart of the the post-primary, pre-convention center shift. Could hardly have been better.

George Carlin (1937-2008) – R.I.P.

by bk

“Scratch any cynic and you’ll find a disappointed idealist.” – George Carlin

As you’ve probably already heard, George Carlin died yesterday. We started getting HBO in 1977 and in the early years of HBO, they had a very small catalog of shows and movies. If you think HBO repeats stuff now, well it was far worse then. So I got the chance to see all of Carlin’s specials from a pretty young age, many times over and much of my sense of humor and world view was shaped by what he had to say. Which probably explains a lot.

So for me, this is no random celebrity death. He was possibly my all time favorite entertainer and I’m saddened by his passing. And although I’m still not a cynic, there is still time for my idealism to be dashed.

The happy news is he left us hours and hours of profound and profane material to enjoy. And lots of it is on the intertubes.

#1 – 7 Words you can’t say on TV – Phoenix, 1978 (10:38)

#2 – Baseball and Football, New Jersey, 1990 (4:48)

#3 – Have a nice day. – NYC, 1982 (3:51)

#4 – Stuff – Comic Relief, 1986 (5:09)

#5 – Kitty Cats – NYC, 1982 (9:01)

*There is, of course, lots of cursing in his routines so keep that in mind before playing in your office, around the kids, etc

iPhone 2.0: What’s to complain about?

by db

If you’re in the wireless business or just plain enjoy watching a master at his craft, I highly recommend checking out the ringmaster himself, Steve Jobs, lead another fine keynote at WWDC. This was, as per usual, a perfectly executed event and absolutely chock-full of truly impressive work on behalf of Apple and the iPhone team. It’s truly saying something about the iPhone that so much is happening on that platform that any data related to Apple’s next major OS release, dubbed “Snow Leopard,” (you know, the software that runs Mac computers), had to be pushed off the agenda entirely.

There’s more than enough fetishistic coverage of how great the new iPhone software and device will be so, instead, I’m going to reserve my comments for the hidden gems of the announcement, the elements that I don’t think got quite the coverage they deserved:
– Exchange compatibility: This was foreshadowed in last year’s announcement, but it deserves repeating. The iPhone Exchange integration looks, to use an abused term when it comes to Apple, seamless. Everything from the set-up to the execution (calendar, contact, email sync) appears to be better than any execution on a Windows Mobile device. Leave it to Apple to take a quality MS product (Exchange) and execute better than MS ever would on a mobile device. It cannot be said enough how much this enhancement breaks open the world of enterprise for Apple. Exchange is a given in most major corporations. There’s no email, therefore, much less remote access to it without support for ActiveSync. With it, Apple gains a foothold in the enterprise environment that has eluded it for decades.

– MobileMe: As a long-time .mac user, I have been frustrated by how piss-poor, frankly, the Web-based components of the service were, especially Email. As my wife put it correctly, “You know what would be nice on .mac? If it just worked. Seriously.” And that’s the gods-honest truth. .Mac Web-mail was long-since passed by, in terms of quality and innovation, from the likes of Yahoo! and Google. With MobileMe, which will be offered to all current .mac subscribers, it appears someone in Cupertino got the message. Further, MobileMe fills a nice hole for anyone who doesn’t have an Exchange server in offering the same push/sync experience. Nicely played, Apple.

– GPS: In all the hubbub around an iPhone finally having a 3G radio, the on-board, and well-supported (via software) GPS, seemed to get short-shrift. GPS support, while spreading through smart-devices and cheaper feature phones, is increasingly taken for granted, but what’s missed in all of the talk around GPS is any discussion of the software. Sure, you can easily find a smart-device that has on-board GPS and the carrier might have even made it relatively easy to turn on, but what matters is how you use the GPS. Most of the GPS app’s that are available for free (Google, Yahoo among them) fail in comparison to true turn-by-turn directions and, for that, you have to pay a hefty monthly fee (AT&T navigator, VZW navigator, Garmin). And, let’s face it, turn-by-turn is what you really want. You don’t want to know generally where you are, you want to be told in a rather serious-sounding voice to “Turn left in one mile.” Further, you may want to know what to do in the area, find the best burger within a half mile. Without the help of GPS (technically A-GPS, but you don’t care about the details), the iPhone directions and maps were one of the best out there, enabling users to easily search, find out traffic status, and map usable directions. With GPS, I can only imagine it’s going to be that much better.

So, all in all, there just isn’t much to complain about with the new iPhone, based on what Steve presented. And, against the competition’s offerings where there’s just so much to complain about right out of the gate, that’s saying something.

What was he doing for three months?

by db

You might be thinking the same of The Technocrat. Excuse us, we have been a bit, shall we say, preoccupied. Hoping to get a more regular flow of posts with professional lives calming down… a bit.

What I find truly surprising about the McCain campaign: How much it sucks. Seriously, this campaign is enjoying a high level of suckiness for an effort that has been essentially unchallenged for three-plus months. McCain has effectively had the nomination sewn up going back at least that far and the media was too busy with the waning Hillary-Obama fight to pay him much attention.

When I have those periods in my life, work slows down (or I’m in between gigs), I tend to do a little “me time.” Focus on finally cleaning out the office, shredding old bank bills, backing up the computers, maybe even work out (okay, that one not so much). That’s the way I roll when I have some down-time. The equivalent for a campaign, especially one that effectively won by default the way McCain’s did, is building the organization, finessing the message, researching the general election opponent, and raising money.

If last Tuesday’s abysmal and now-infamous “green screen” speech and comments since then (“when we leave [Iraq] doesn’t matter”) were any signal, it’s abundantly clear that whatever the campaign has been doing during this blessing of down-time, it hasn’t been getting itself in shape for the general. It’s akin to me taking up another Saturday to catch up on BSG episodes archived on TiVo rather than balancing Quicken. It’s wasted opportunity to get something done.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’m perfectly content to see the campaign roll out me-too slogans (“That’s not change we can believe in”) and pathetic, jingoistic tag-lines (“The American President Americans Can Believe In Americanly”). Added to this, the fundraising numbers remain pathetic. HardBall noted this week that only 8% of Bush’s Ranger crew, the high-flying, major donor class he so successfully leveraged in 2000 and ’04 cycles, have given to McCain. Now that’s a statement.

There’s the contrary view that it’s impressive McCain is within shooting distance of Obama in spite of the embarrassment his campaign has been the last few weeks. Uh, okay. Meanwhile, the Obama campaign essentially relocated the DNC to Chicago to streamline management between the two teams and kicked off a nationwide training effort of 3,600 volunteers. Those poll numbers will be cold comfort when the GOP starts worrying about states like North Carolina and Georgia in the fall.

But whatever the McCain campaign is or isn’t doing, here’s my advice: Keep it up.

Tip O’Neil was wrong

by bk

Social Security isn’t the third rail of American politics, race is and frankly we can tighten that up even more. “Race is the third rail of America.” With a short national history that includes, codifying blacks as 3/5th of a person, the Civil War and 100 years of Jim Crow, and the decimation of the Native American peoples, it is a solid line that runs thru our national psyche. And it’s pumping high voltage. In this decade in politics alone, it’s taken down Trent Lott and George Allen and Bill and Hillary got a mighty nice jolt from it in South Carolina last week.

When Bill Clinton brought up Jesse Jackson’s previous victories in SC, it was at worst awkward but I can see where people took it the way they did. That is simply the state of racial politics in America and you need to be ready for it. But if anyone has earned the benefit of the doubt on racial issues, isn’t it Bill Clinton? He has spent a lifetime in civil service on the side actually concerned with minorities rights. He didn’t get nostalgic for better days before Brown vs Board of Edu. and he didn’t let slip an obscure racial slur. He brought up that Jesse Jackson had won SC (albeit under different system and very different circumstances) twice and that he ran a good campaign and Barack has run a good campaign here and everywhere. That was all he said. The subtext, however, is wide open to interpretation.

Because race is a such a high voltage issue (and frankly so are the Clintons,) people bring tons of baggage to the subtext. If you’re especially sensitive to racial undertones, you see the effort to inject race. If you hate the Clintons, great chance to tee off on them. If you think Bill was the master, it’s very hard to believe he didn’t know exactly what he was doing. And if you’re the media, you are apparently still ready to continue peddling any anti-Clinton story you can. Maybe it’s because they hate them but it’s probably just ’cause it’s good for ratings. Either way, once the race card has been invoked it is not easily put away.

Personally, I’ve always held a generally favorable view of Jesse Jackson so 1) I don’t see that as a negative comparison and 2) it doesn’t remind me that Barack is black, I knew that by now. South Carolina democrats are over 50% black and polling was already showing a solid win for Obama so how could it benefit Hillary’s campaign in SC or afterwards? Did Bill think there were enough closet racists in SC to swing it to Hillary? It was too late to launch the “closet SC racist strategy” and actually impact the vote… if it would have even worked on the Dem side in SC. Or was he thinking it would work in Florida or beyond in NY, CA, NJ? Racist Dems in heavily multicultural states, not what I would call a swing demographic. No, he was playing the expectations game as he always does before a primary, he put on his professorial hat for the reporters and went with historical footnotes relevant to that state. Should he have compared Obama to JFK? Sure, Obama would love that but it doesn’t so much work for Bill, that’s his idol. We’ve only had one serious black presidential candidate in the entire history of our country and SC was one of the states he won twice so, yeah, his name came up.

The hardest part for anyone to believe is that Bill says anything by accident. He’s the master politician of his age he knows exactly what he is saying and doing at all times. But if he is, why would he inject race where there would be little benefit to doing so and tons of risk? And is discipline the word we really associate with Bill? I would suggest he’s masterful enough to know he can’t control race but needed a lesson in discipline and the explosion of the echo chamber since his last real race in 1992. He was attempting to lower expectations, and compared Obama to Jesse Jackson, the natural historical comparison. It was kinda awkward but not inaccurate or unflattering unless you choose to interpret it that way. Is it really offensive to compare a successful black politician with the only previous black candidate to achieved success in the presidential primaries?

It reminds me of a conversation I had with my in-laws in WI. They may be in a rural area but they are well educated, well read, and very open minded. And yet, I had to explain that simply calling someone a jew is not anti-semitic or insulting. But with the right tone, and a little bit of context, it can get there pretty quick. Comparing Barack Obama to Jesse Jackson is not in itself insulting but with the right tone and context it’s a short trip. I don’t think Bill went so far as to cross the line but I know we don’t all draw the line at exactly the same spot either. Which is why Bill might want to consider prepared and pre-approved remarks for the next few months because even the littlest asides can cause a helluva jolt if they are thought to touch the 3rd rail, race.

Side notes –
#1 – Bill’s discipline has always been a cause for concern. This and other recent events bring that right to the fore. It’s definitely a point to consider when choosing who to vote for.
#2 Considering the GOP’s stellar record of racial sensitivity, Obama may be a perfect trap candidate. How many Republican machine workers will get caught up with some racially insensitive comment when Bill’s getting it for such an innocuous statement? And will McCain be forced to apologize every time?
#3 I think the real racially insensitivity last week was when Barack was asked whether Bill was the 1st black president. It’s a cute line that been tossed around for awhile now. But to actually pose that in a question to the man who has a real chance of actually being the 1st black president, I was offended by that. Of course, Obama handled it so deftly but I still gotta think inside he was saying “No! He wasn’t! No matter what kind of friend he’s been to blacks, he’s just another link in a chain of old white men”.
#4 As a white guy, I have no doubt I have done or said things sometime somewhere, heck probably in this piece, that were construed as racist or at the very least ignorant by those of other races. I can almost guarantee (who among us is perfect?) I didn’t intend it that way. It’s an incredibly slippery slope for even the best intentioned.