Monday, July 28, 2008

A Two Week Break

I am about to depart on a two week vacation overseas and let news of the U.S. election trickle over to me by way of foreign newspapers and café conversations.

Expect a few photos over the next 16 days or so, but VERY infrequent postings.

Au revoir!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Two Weeks...

...til I can rock out to this in Barcelona...

Bring it on.

Friday, July 25, 2008

CNN Piles it On

After Obama left the stage in Berlin, CNN aired the following segments as their "equal time" of coverage for McCain:

1) Mitt Romney's ex-communication's guy getting ripped to shreds by two angry Obama supporters as Ben Stein tries to chirp in and defend McCain.

2) McCain holds a press conference about foreign policy in front of deli cheeses.

Panoramic Experimenting

Click to enlarge.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where McCain Can (and is) Going Wrong

How will history remember Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign?

To start, a lot of people didn't start appreciating her until she had practically lost the nomination to Barack Obama.

Though Clinton came across as "cold" and "impersonal," she could give a great speech, bring a crowd to its feet, handle a tough question, and make meaningful connections with those around her. Under the shadow of Obama, however, none of that seemed to matter. To the media and a large group of Democrats, Hillary was merely playing an old type of politics—one that went after Obama and didn't always play nice.

As an ex-Clinton supporter and (though not as a result of Clinton's defeat) a proud fan of John McCain, I see his campaign slowly falling into the traps that sealed Hillary's fate.

For one, McCain's campaign never seems to bring a story or issue to the media or change the dialogue of the campaign. Instead, McCain spends his time in the public spotlight giving good speeches about things that don't surprise us. I could have predicted McCain would talk about his two favorite issues—energy independence and Iraq—in Portland, ME on Monday, much the same way it was no surprise Hillary Clinton gave a very obvious speech about rebuilding America's infrastructure after the Minneapolis bridge collapse last August.

The thing is, both speeches were extremely intelligent, effective, and well-received, but they were delivered in front of small audiences at times when they'd attract little attention. That sounds like where McCain's finding himself right now.

When he should be focusing on creating publicity around his own campaign, McCain has spent most of his time going after Obama. Whether it's criticizing his foreign policy experience, his "anti-troops" remarks, or the media's love affair with him (though this actually does exist), McCain and the GOP are all about Obama. Check out the RNC's homepage this morning:

In 2000 and 2004 the Republicans always seemed to be on message and didn't resort to these silly little jokes about their Democratic opponenets; their attacks used to be mean, serious, and effective. Now, the RNC homepage is little more than a parody of itself.

During his speech in Portland on Monday, McCain repeatedly brought up Barack Obama—how he should of condemned's "General Betray-us" ad and that he lacked judgment in not supporting the surge in Iraq. Meanwhile, Obama travels the world speaking to presidents and diplomats about issues "larger" than partisan politics.

Whether or not Obama really does transcend party politics is up in the air, but McCain would be wise to get off Obama's case for a while and make a case of his own.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Little More Than "On Message"

PORTLAND, ME. John McCain;s "public event" in Portland yesterday was unlike any campaign stop I've covered. Part red and white checkered picnic tables and part jacket and tie affair, I was expecting to find a more sober scene outside the Maine Military Museum. It's common knowledge that the McCain campaign has been looking for ways of taking the media attention off of Barack Obama's trip to the Europe and the Middle East, but I was expecting a more spirited attempt from his schedulers.

To start, visiting Maine was an interesting choice by McCain. Though McCain could pass off the appearance as an opportunity to throw his weight behind Maine's freshman Senator, Susan Collins, who is up for re-election this year, she already leads her Democratic opponent up to 25% in recent polls. John McCain also faces a steep uphill battle in Maine against Barack Obama; the state has voted Democratic in five consecutive presidential elections, and that trend seems unlikely to change in a year Obama is making inroads in a handful of traditional Republican strongholds.

The McCain campaign likely chose the Maine Military Museum to surround their candidate with veterans and an audience that respects McCain's foreign policy credentials. McCain didn't hesitate to draw distinctions between McCain's military experience and Obama's perceived inexperience and decision to travel abroad to improve his international reputation.

"I'd rather be here at the Maine Military Museum than anywhere else in the world," McCain opened his remarks. Focusing on two issues of national security—America's dependence on foreign oil and the War on Terror—McCain worked to show that Obama's stances on critical issues fail to take into consideration larger policy implications.

Finally, after asking the veterans in the crowd to identify themselves (about one in four raised their hands), McCain vocalized his support for the current strategy in Iraq and General David Petraeus. Obama, McCain said, refused to condemn's "General Betray-us" advertisement last year. The crowd booed Obama and cheered for McCain, but it was far from the rousing moment McCain would need to overshadow Obama.

McCain is the more experienced candidate, especially on issue of national security and foreign policy, but he'll need more than patriotic picnics and friendly crowds to chip away at Obama's momentum.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Get Me Out of Here

I've been holed up in the attic editing videos all week, and while clips load and transitions render I've been surfing around YouTube and RealClearPolitics, reading and watching whatever I find.

As a result of working for, a website that compares the presidential candidates on the issues, I have learned a great deal about John McCain and Barack Obama on policies that matter a lot to me. Using VoteGopher's "My Ballot" feature and opting not to put unduly high emphasis on "Message" or "Controversies," my results came out to be a tie—22 points for McCain, 22 points for Obama.

To be honest, I was floored by those results. Back in June I took a similar candidate quiz and, though by a small margin, favored Obama. After spending hours and hours editing 25 videos comparing Obama and McCain head-to-head, things are getting a lot closer in my mind.

After hearing McCain and Obama talk about terrorism, Iraq, and Afghanistan on the campaign trail countless times, I no longer see Obama's move to pull out of Iraq immediately as a good thing, and after reading this today I wonder if Obama's foreign policy plans aren't based on some popular assumptions about Afghanistan as "the right war."

Now that I've sorted through position videos and papers about the two candidates' positions on education, I wonder if McCain is really leading the way by proposing to move towards the use of vouchers. This article makes it seem as if Obama's plan is a little "old school" in an un-Obama kind of way.

And on energy, I'm not convinced that we shouldn't explore options for certain domestic oil drilling projects. It seems stubborn to rule out cleaner and safer oil drilling as a healthy complement to the widespread introduction of alternative energies in the United States. McCain has long intrigued me on the issue of the economy, but he's now starting to convince me.

On top of it, all I seem to hear about Obama recently is "Speech in Berlin" and "Open Convention!" Not to mention a stead stream of creepy, Obama-cult garbage like this video on YouTube:

[If we're accusing Obama of having a big ego, we should label Will.I.Am and all the other celebrity political preachers in his videos similarly]

Give me an open road to Maine, some McCain events, and two days or so to clear my head from Obama—he and I really need some time apart.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


In the theater, waiting for the lights to go down.

Looking forward to some nice (apocalyptic) relief from a long work week.

371 Days Ago

A blog post to be proud of. Read it HERE.

Change "Primary Season" to "General Election."

Change "Hillary Clinton" to "Barack Obama."

Otherwise, the story is pretty much the same as it was last July.

If there's an underdog strong enough to fight to the finish, it's John McCain.


...Especially because McCain has very talented video folks working for him and has a whole slew of classier web ads and TV spots he could be putting out there. It's in these below-the-belt videos against Obama that McCain stands to lose credibility among crucial voting blocks, and I would much rather see either of the videos below than more of the "Obama doesn't support the troops" baloney:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Get Excited

Coming soon from this very site...

VoteGopher: Worth a (long and serious) Look

Because it pays to be an honest blogger and disclose this type of thing, I was hired to produce all of's video content, but they're a seriously awesome website nonetheless.

Once their new website is fully operational, do yourself a favor and check them out.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Hype Machine

Blah, blah, blah.

Per the New York Post:

Take his decision to deliver his acceptance speech at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver. It seems that the venue for the rest of the Democratic convention - the Pepsi Center (occupancy 21,000) - is just too small.

Obama says he wants to give the common folk more "access" to the process. Only a man with an Olympian's sense of entitlement to mass worship could describe such a choreographed descent upon a place called "Mile High" as an effort to bond with the common man. A demigod, it seems, is never so tall as when he stoops to bask in the adoration of the little people.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Jon Hecht, Candidate for State Representative

After seventeen months on the Presidential campaign trail, it's refreshing to return home to cover politics in the town where my campaign involvement began: Watertown, MA.

My current representative in the 29th Middlesex District, Rachel Kaprelian, has recently taken a job as the Registrar of Motor Vehicles and has left the district with the opportunity for a sticker/write-in campaign to fill her spot. Though Kaprelian was challenged in 2006 by Keith Mercurio, a Republican, she was running unopposed until she changed jobs.

A few days ago I received a flier for a ice cream social/meet the candidate event for Jon Hecht, so to feel like an informed voter and learn a thing or two about local politics I decided to stop by.

It was welcoming for once to attend a "campaign event" without much emphasis on issues like gay marriage, property taxes, or education policy—in other words, politics. here are sure to be debates and leaflets comparing the three Democratic candidates on certain issues (though I don't imagine there are too many differences between them), local politics revolves around volunteer organization and the mobilization of voters.

For what it's worth, Jon Hecht's campaign seems pretty darn organized, especially since there are still two months before the local Democratic Primary.

(All photos: Luke N. Vargas. 2008. All Rights Reserved.)


"Too much of today's travel writing focuses on where to stay, eat and shop, but I'm convinced that there is a breed of traveler out there that knows getting lost and having the details unfold spontaneously is what leads to the stories that can be fondly retold for the rest of your life."

So says Neil Schwartz, the editor of the online travel journal/photography collection magazine "Pology."

I happened across Pology yesterday when searching around Craigslist. It turns out that Pology invites travelers, photographers, writers, and anyone willing to take a trip the opportunity to submit content to the online magazine. Though Pology does not publish everything it receives, I was happy to see a wide variety of people contributing.

Formal and organized enough to seem cultured, yet bare-bones enough to keep the focus on the photos and writing, Pology is a great place to read about and experience foreign lands, or, in the case of the recent article about Gloucester, MA, a town just a few miles away.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Another Reason to Like the Clintons

2) Bill Clinton's doing some awesome work at the Clinton Foundation.

If I could scramble down to Harlem, NY for Thursday's event I definitely would. This just arrived in my inbox:

New York, NY – President Bill Clinton will deliver a major Clinton Foundation announcement on Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 12:45 PM at the Clinton Foundation Harlem Office. Currently, the Clinton Foundation works in over 44 countries on six continents to address some of the most pressing global challenges, including HIV/AIDS, climate change, childhood obesity in the United States and economic development around the world

What: Clinton Foundation Announcement

Who: President Clinton and leading drug manufacturers

Where: Clinton Foundation
55 W. 125th Street
New York, NY

When: Thursday, July 17, 2008
12:45 PM

Exciting stuff.

Ground Delivery

It took a long time to arrive, but Carl Bernstein's "A Woman in Charge" finally landed on my doorstep this morning.

Since the Democratic Primary season ended, my attitude towards my two heros of the past year—Chris Dodd and Hillary Clinton—have changed in different ways. As I hear more and more about Dodd's alleged acceptance of "VIP" loans from Countrywide, I can't help but think he really squandered a chance to be Obama's Vice President, and I wish he never would have gotten involved in any shady dealings.

On the other hand, I couldn't be more proud of Hillary Clinton as I continue to see her on the campaign trail and read about her life story and reflect on her campaign.

I'm thrilled to crack open Bernstein's work later this week.

Make it Two

Add a "Rochester, NH Town Hall" with John McCain into the mix for next week, and my excitement for next Monday as really escalated.

After three Obama events in a row I'm ready to hit the campaign trail with McCain again, especially in a city I've yet to visit for the 2008 campaign (Portland, ME) and a town where I already have a lot of great memories (Rochester, NH). 

On August 8th, 2007 I visited Rochester, NH's Opera House to see Hillary Clinton deliver a policy speech about the critical state of America's infrastructure. In case you don't remember, the Minneapolis bridge collapse had occurred just weeks before, and I was quick to jump on Clinton's case for delivering what I saw as an opportunistic speech. 

You can read my full post about the event HERE.

Though I was far from a Hillary supporter last August, the event at the Rochester Opera House would lead me to build a campaign friendship of sorts with an older couple in Rochester that would really open my eyes to Hillary Clinton and her message. It is safe to say that the event began to change the way I thought of Senator Clinton, and I will remember that event as one of the highlights of my time on the campaign trail.

So is McCain's event in Rochester next week destined to be equally memorable? Perhaps.

To start, McCain is holding his town in the same Opera House I visited almost a year ago...

Monday, July 14, 2008

A New State

Next Monday (July 21st) I will be in Portland, Maine to attend campaign events for Senator John McCain.

In a state John Kerry won by 8%, McCain currently trails Barack Obama by nearly double that margin. It will certainly be interesting to see what strategy McCain adopts in this large yet electorally-unimportant state as he tries to chip away at Obama's lead.

More than that, Maine will become the seventh state in which I've covered the 2008 campaign—a development I'm looking forward to celebrating. 

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Two Names for McCain

It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day excitement of the non-story that is the Vice Presidential search. 

...but if you can't help but speculate (or pretend to know what you're talking about...just as I am here), you'd be wise to check out Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Decide for yourself whether or not she sounds like a great choice for McCain, and if you're looking for a second good match look no further than Charlie Crist

Happy musing!  

The Joke's On Us

This humo(u)r's funny for the Brits cause they actually understand the concept of saving energy.

For a hearty dose of seriously smart energy talk for us Americans check out Mortimer Zuckerman's "Stop the Energy Insanity" article. Though I credit left-wing environmental/energy nuts for helping to get the energy discussion out into the public forum, real progress will come from energy "straight-talk" (not an endorsement of McCain) like Zuckerman's.

Note: The August issue of GQ features a fantastic guide to making smart energy/environmental decisions without seeming like a goof doing it. It's well worth a read, but sadly the article is not available online.

Barack, Say Yes Just Once

"No" to joint town halls with McCain. "No" to public financing. Now it's "no" to a town hall meeting at Fort Hood with John McCain.

Read it HERE.

Obama's free to do whatever he wants, and if he really does have a "previously scheduled commitment on the date proposed," than I understand why August 11th won't work for him, but check out the following from the NY Times article:

“I’m having extreme difficulty getting the Obama campaign to commit to this event, and we do not understand why,” said Ms. Picard, whose husband is deployed in Iraq. “We made it very clear to them that if they would commit to the event, we would work with them on dates.”

The organizers released details about the event in hopes that it would pressure the Obama campaign to agree to the event.

“This was a decision that was made with tremendous difficulty, to publicize it,” Ms. Picard said. “We were at a point where we had no other option. We got the impression that they could talk us to November.”
I'm starting to get the impression too that the Obama campaign turns down these offers time and time again only to scramble to schedule their own event on the date mentioned. 

How can Obama prove me (and a growing number of disappointed voters) wrong? Take McCain up on one of McCain's offers. 

Is John McCain really that much better in the town hall format, or is the Obama campaign simply going to script this election their way?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Preference Polls vs. Favorability Polls

People may make up their mind about who they're going to vote for at the last minute—something conventional polling cannot account for or predict—but candidate favorability/unfavorability polls shed light on why voters like or dislike candidates on political positions as well as more personal, emotional levels.

That's why I think Newsweek's set of Obama and McCain favorability polls released today are so exciting:

Obama: Favorable +24.0
McCain: Favorable +23.0

Obama's number is down from an all-time high of +36, while McCain weighs in relatively high after a few months of polling placed him somewhere between +/- 0 to +20.

Do these numbers show that Obama is losing supporters and is now more widely disliked than he was previously? No. But the polling shows that two relatively well-liked candidates are running for the Presidency this November, and that's pretty exciting.

Friday, July 11, 2008

My (Unpleasant) iPhone Encounter

When Final Cut Pro Studio HD (my very pricey Apple video editing software) encountered a series of critical errors this morning, I figured I could do no better than to walk half a block from where I work in NYC to Apple's United States flagship retail store on Fifth Avenue.

As it turns out, Apple was more interested in making sure trend-obsessed iPhone 3G seekers got their devices than I could have someone look at the thousands of dollars of equipment and software I also purchased from them could be fixed.

"Where can I go to get help? My job revolves around this computer and software." I temped the security guards and Apple staff at the door to let me in so I could "buy a new MacPro." Even offering to throw down $5,000 in the store got me nowhere.

"I'm starting to wonder if a great computer company is turning into a phone and MP3 company," I muttered as I trudged back to work, knowing full well I could not DO anymore work until I could get some hardware help at an Apple store.

From the office window I could see the line of iPhone customers stretching around the block and up Madison Avenue.

The iPhone/iPod era certainly helps Apple rake in the money, but I've yet to see it improve the quality of Apple's computers or my customer satisfaction. For today, at least, I was not a happy customer.

It's the Economy

Think of another issue that begins to come close to close to the economy this election year.

The Iraq war?


Health care?


America's economic crisis is and will continue to be the biggest issue this election. The trailer for "I.O.U.S.A." below, coupled with hearing Senator John Edwards on NPR's Talk of the Nation last week, made it clear how almost every issue of importance this year ties into the economic problems we're dealing with now. Even Phil Gramm's idiotic comments this week highlight a key part of our economic situation: the wealth gap.

Get worried:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Obama & Clinton New York City Fundraiser Photos

All photos: Luke N. Vargas. 2008. All Rights Reserved.

No Man's Land: Ralph Nader Style least he's enjoying himself.

Check out what Nader's been up:
Fri. July 4th 2pm
Nutritious and Delicious Independence Day Luncheon with Ralph Nader
Honolulu, HI

Not bad at all, Ralph.

Food for Thought

IMG_7592 copy

Before launching into the trademark conclusion of his campaign speeches—'if we come together, we can do more than win an election, we can change this country, we can change the world'—he said (not an exact quote) "both Hillary Clinton and I will work for you in Washington."

I have never been a supporter of the Hillary Clinton VP option, and I don't like to throw it subtly into whatever I write, but Obama's words seemed a lot different than the usual "Hillary Clinton is a great supporter and I appreciate her hard work."

Food for thought.

An interesting event—and more interesting once I can get my hands on a transcript of this morning's remarks.

Clinton Off, Obama On Stage

Hillary Clinton delivered a MUCH tighter speech than her Unity, NH introduction. Longer, punchier, and, because she is the local Senator here, much more comfortable.

After two weeks campaigning and fundraising together since Unity, Hillary Clinton has not only transitioned very naturally from Obama's competitor to Obama's fellow campaigner. In that new role Clinton seems able to reflect on her own campaign more smoothly; both she had Obama acknowledged the "ugly biases" that sometimes flared up during the primary fight.

Obama just took the stage and, despite the crowd's willingness to give him a long standing ovation, quickly thanked and quieted the audience before diving into his own speech; a typical move to help stick to the day's schedule (his next event is in 3 1/2 hours in Virginia), but a tad unnatural for Obama.

Photos look good, they'll be up later.

An Interesting Mix

Red, white, and blue Obama pins on expensive dresses. A girl with a green and yellow "Skidmore College" sweatshirt at a table with six women in pant-suits and fancy jewelry.

None of the campaign workers here will estimate the crowd size or how much it cost to reserve a table or a seat here, but knowing fundraisers, $1,000/person seems like a good place to start--access to John McCain's fundraisers begins at $500/person, with a sliding scale up to $2,300 for a VIP reception and photo op.

In short, there might be contrasts here visually--the sweatshirts and the sundresses--but Obama's fundraisers are still fundraisers, and the same rule applies: if you need to ask how much it costs to get in, you can't afford it.

Five minutes until the program begins...

[EDIT: The minimum donation per person for this morning's event was $250]

Live from the Hilton Towers, NYC

Talk about upscale.

Imagine Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and a ballroom packed with wealthy New York City women and couples.

The Obama staff has (so far) floored me with their level of organization and professionalism. Compared to the nightmare of Unity, NH, full breakfasts are being served (and I'm planning on nabbing one if there are empty seats by the end of the fundraiser) to what I would estimate to be over 1,500 attendees. I've heard no complaints so far, and New Yorkers are not the easiest crowd in the morning.

The morning's program is set to begin at 8:00.

Expect another quick update later and pictures online this evening.

McCain Campaign Begins NH Intern Hunt

Read about it HERE.

The real news is that Barack Obama has been on the ground with a team of paid staffers and a few dozen "Obama Organizing Fellows" for some months now.

Obama's early mobilization on the ground in New Hampshire could certainly help him, but McClatchy's David Lightman acknowledges a strength of John McCain that Obama's timing may not be able to cancel out:
"McCain starts his bid for New Hampshire's four electoral votes with an important potential advantage: He's not only well-known, he's something of a local hero."

Obama did well in January's Democratic primary but didn't emerge a star here. He finished a close second to Hillary Clinton and won 41 percent of the independent vote, the best showing of any candidate among New Hampshire independents but not an overwhelming tally.

Obama is holding a solid margin over McCain in recent New Hampshire polling, but if the recent Republican Primaries there are any indication, voters don't realize how much they admire McCain until it's time to vote....and that's a long way away.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


I've taken the bus from Boston to New York City a number of times—the past three times it has poured and stormed, delaying the trip by upwards of 90 minutes.

Today is no different.

Here's to 5+ hours on a (very) cramped Bolt Bus.

(as you can tell, the internet is still working, which makes up a little bit for the shameful lack of armrests)

On the Phone, in the Mail

Over the past year I've made my fair share of campaign donations:

$$$ to Hillary Clinton
$$$ to Chris Dodd
$$    to Joe Biden

$$   to John McCain
$      to Mike Huckabee

In addition, I am on the mailing lists for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and Bill Richardson. 

That comes to two points of contact with Republicans and a whole BUNCH for the Democrats.

Despite my numerous donations to Democratic campaigns and the number of Democratic politicians that have my email address in their mailing lists, I've been getting dozens and dozens of letters, surveys, phone calls (on my cell phone too!) from Republicans nationwide asking to "continue my generous support for Republican candidates across the country."

Whether it be a letter "from" President Bush, Mike Huckabee, or the GOP's 'Victory 2008,' the Republican Party seems to treasure my so-called support. On the contrary, I have not received any form of communication from former Democratic presidential candidates, the Democratic Party, or Barack Obama asking for money, etc.

I'm not going to vote for or give money to a Republican just because I receive a mass-email or letter, but I'd suggest the Democrats upon up all channels of communication with potential supporters, if not to help Barack Obama, but to cement unity among their supporters for years to come.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I Spy

Barack Obama's name has made its way into various pop culture slots for a while now, but mixtapes are new territory.

Above is a screenshot I took of a mixtape released yesterday, DJ Diggz and DJ R-Rated's "Change Gone Come."

Mixtapes are exchanged freely on the web, so give the tape a listen by downloading it HERE.


In case you didn't know, Chevron is behind the new website Not only is the name of the website crafty in its implication that an oil company is leading the way in exploring alternative energies and alleviating America's oil addiction (their business!), but the website is full of little games and tools that make it seem like Chevron is open to a number of options for America's energy future. Take for example their fancy little game called Energyville (click the name to play!) in which players get to choose which energy sources their futuristic city will rely on.

Despite my ability to fulfill 85% of my city's energy needs with a combination of solar, wind, and hydroelectic power, I wasn't surprised to discover it's impossible to complete level 1 without constructing a giant petroleum platform.

The "Your City Needs Petroleum!" message didn't disappoint me as much as some of the scenarios for the future that Chevron assumes in this cute little game. The fact of the matter is that cities today DO need petroleum to fuel cars, power plants, and other critical parts of our infrastructure, but Chevron takes the petroleum assumption too far by inserting petroleum into the energy equation long after it needs to be phased out.

For example, consider the "Breakthrough!" alert that popped up in year 2020 of the game:

Let's face it, oil supplies are finite and it's unlikely (to be generous with my words) technology can fix that. However, Chevron would like us to believe that with more research, more government funding, more tax breaks, and more time that they can discover ways to essentially create oil from thin air.

If you have a few minutes on your hands, give Energyville a shot. Even if the game isn't too "gamey," it's certainly fun to realize it's all a bunch of oil industry propaganda!

Monday, July 7, 2008

No Nonsense

My favorite sources for online political commentary are not the typical 'NYTimes, WaPo, Politico' roundup, but rather the Joan Walsh (Salon), New York Magazine, Vanity Fair trio.

Of particular interest to me this week (along with Gail Sheehy's "Hillaryland at War" in Vanity Fair) was Joan Walsh's "Slamming Wesley Clark." Cutting through ALL of the media hysteria that keeps begging the question, "are you sure Wesley Clark was not denigrating McCain's war experience?" Walsh presents the situation with Wes Clark very close to how I see it. One week after the initial "incident" occurred, I can't get over the fact that Clark has gone from a respected military commander and awesome Democrat to the black sheep of the Obama campaign.

Here is 80% of Walsh's column (read the rest HERE):

I was sorry to see the Obama campaign "reject" Gen. Wesley Clark's remarks about John McCain on Face the Nation yesterday. I think the context of Clark's remarks mattered (although that's gotten lost in the right wing blogosphere's attacks on Clark). Clark was baited into his statement by host Bob Schieffer, who took issue with some earlier, milder remarks Clark had made about McCain's military service not being direct preparation for the presidency.

Here's what was said:

Schieffer: I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean --

Clark: Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.

Schieffer: Really?

I think the most fascinating part of the exchange was Schieffer's "Really?" which teed up the whole MSM outragegasm over Clark's words. Really, Bob, it's true: Riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down are not, by themselves, qualifications to be president.

Obama needs military leaders and veterans who aren't afraid to stand up and question McCain's "experience" argument, when so much of it is tied to his military experience. Earlier in the interview Clark called McCain a "hero" for the way he endured five and a half years of torture as a POW, but he was credibly taking on the argument that McCain's military experience, itself, makes him uniquely qualified to be commander in chief. I'm not sure Obama had to reject what Clark said, which was otherwise unobjectionable. I think Clark deserved better.

Good stuff.


...some conservatives are ready to look beyond November and plan for a Republican resurgence AFTER 2008.

Call it a smart long-term plan or the famous (and effective) strategy of lowering expectations, but this coming election is in the Democrats' court.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Taking the Attacks off the Shelf

Barack Obama has had to dodge a few Republican bullets since Hillary Clinton ended her campaign last month, but he hasn't had to deal with what's about to come his way: massive anti-Obama advertising.

Head to head against McCain (debates, town halls, press conferences, etc.) I think Obama can defend himself well enough, but hundreds of millions of Republican dollars will soon be pumped into television sets around the country to try and change voters' opinions about Obama. It is the sad truth of modern day elections, but a large portion of the electorate will vote in November based upon their "impressions" of Obama, not what he actually stands for as a politician.

Some of these ads will be successful (think Swift Boat Vets for Truth...) and some won't be. But one thing is clear to me: negative advertising will be very effective in stopping Obama's inroads into new Democratic territory—Montana, Georgia, North Carolina, Indiana—where unpleasant half-truths about Obama will resonate with a traditionally conservative base of voters.

Mixing it Up, Again

The L.A. Times and DemConWatch are reporting that the Obama campaign will move Barack's nomination acceptance speech from Denver's Pepsi Center to Invesco Field. In terms that everyone will understand: they're taking the show from the basketball arena to the football stadium.

The New York Magazine's Sam Anderson presented (in a brilliant piece a few weeks back) three routes Obama could take for delivering his DNC speech this year:

1) To give a highly rhetorical and typical "brilliant" Obama speech.

2) To break the mold of the 'Great Obama Speech.' Says Anderson, "His greatest speech, in this situation, might actually be a bad one."

3) Anderson's third (and favorite) option was for Obama to "fundamentally reimagine the occasion, as he did with the race speech, and blow the roof off the building."

If Obama does decide to take his speech to a outdoor crowd nearing 100,000, the spectacle of the occasion could do a lot of the talking for Obama. Without saying a word, Obama would already have redefined the notion of the accepting the nomination.

[EDIT 7/7] The Obama campaign has confirmed Obama's speech will be held at Invesco Stadium. As reported by CNN: "Convention organizers portrayed the move as a reflection of Obama's success at encouraging people to vote for the first time."

I don't buy it—nobody was demanding Obama move to a larger venue for his speech. The Obama campaign should realize that voters demand more important things than to see their candidate at large rallies.

[EDIT #2] The location change is now being used as a fundraising opportunity.

To continue my above commentary, "The Obama campaign should realize that voters demand more important things than to PAY for the opportunity to see their candidate at large rallies."

Friday, July 4, 2008

Rewinding the Story: The One Year Anniversary

[Below is a revised version of a post I began writing shortly after my encounter with the July 4th, 2007 "Bill Richardson Hummer." I am leaving all the tenses in their original form—I was going to publish this story in early August, 2007]

This story began a month ago. It started quickly—with a keen eye and a few clicks of a camera—and was soon published on this very blog. Shortly after the post went online a handful of other bloggers caught on, most of them using the photos I took:

The Daily Background(with updates HERE)
The Politico's Ben Smith
Green Mountain Politics1

Along with a fair number of visitors at this and other blogs who were displeased with Richardson's actions were a few (some angry) Richardson people who cleared up the situation as quickly as they could. I checked in with the sources who were also carrying the sources and followed their lead by taking down what I had originally written. A month out, I still can't put down the story, so here I am again.

New Hampshire campaigning is a lot like New Hampshire itself—big flashy things stick out in the presence of rolling hills and pleasant landscapes. I was equally surprised to see a shiny black Hummer show up at the small-town Amherst Fourth of July parade with a trailer of Bill Richardson for President equipment in tow. I was all the more surprised to spot New Mexico plates on the vehicle, as well as the logo for "Santa Fe Protective Services." That name sure didn't sound like "Joe's Hardware" to me, so I committed it to memory.

Below is the logo for Santa Fe Protective Services from their's a match.

Light research into the company didn't turn up any direct explanation for its presence at the event--the company wasn't receiving money from the Richardson campaign and there was no mention of the Governor on their web page. I did, however, find the following listed on the company's "about us" page:

Christina Moya isn't on Richardson's staff either, but finding her name on the page began to unravel a complicated plot much more detailed than the response Richardson's campaign gave after the Hummer story broke: that the car was simply that of a supporter. Personally, I think of supporters as families in minivans or guys with old cars and bumper stickers that follow a candidate around and hold up signs. "Supporter" takes on a new meaning here.

Christina Moya is the daughter of Mr. Walter "Butch" Maki, a New Mexico businessman and recent home-buyer in New Hampshire.

Who is Butch? Check out the following articles:

(Business Wire, Jan. 5, 2005)
Walter "Butch" Maki, a former helicopter combat soldier in Vietnam, served as long-time district director for Congressman Bill Richardson, and formed professional relationships with New Mexico's federal, state, and local political and grassroots leaders.

(Albuquerque Journal, Feb. 11, 2007)

(Santa Fe New Mexican, Jan. 28, 2007)

So...Maki is a lobbyist and former aide of Bill Richardson, but what proof is there of Maki receiving any recent benefit from his relationship with the Governor? Well, here's one possibility that sticks out (from the Santa Fe New Mexican on March 3, 2005):

The [New Mexico] House approved the bill on a 56-6 vote without almost no debate.

One provision could provide some financing for a startup company that is negotiating to buy Qwest's telephone lines on the Navajo reservation. The company, Sacred Wind Communications, plans to use wireless technology to expand telephone service on Navajo lands.

A quick search of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission's website yields a searchable database of corporations operating within New Mexico. Using the search, Maki's name appears next to two corporations, one of which should sound quite familiar...

Sacred Wind—the company contracted under Richardson's administration.

Maki's ties to Richardson, as well as many members of New Mexico's political elite, undoubtedly helped him secure millions of dollars in government contracts during Richardson's time in office. 

It's not corruption when a business has very good relationships with politicians and can get terrific government's America.

[So did I overreact last year when I put up photos of "Bill Richardson's Gas-Guzzling Hummer" online? Yes, but was there more behind this "supporter's" vehicle than I was initially told (or angrily commented about) by Richardson's campaign? You tell me.]


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Start Believing

It would be truly stunning if Obama could turn Montana into a competitive state this November. George W. Bush won Montana’s 3 Electoral College Votes by twenty percentage points in 2004 and by twenty-five points four years earlier.

Rasmussen's latest Montana head-to-head poll shows Barack Obama leading John McCain by 5%.

As they say, truly stunning...especially when you look at how Montana voted in 2004.

Still Waiting

I've visited the site of NYC's World Trade Center three times in my life: first in early 2001 when the towers were still standing, and twice since the attacks of September 11 in 2004 and just a few months ago in March 2008. In those four years, as the Burj Dubai has gone from groundbreaking to becoming the world's tallest structure, I have seen no visible changes at the site. The lack of progress is saddening to think about, and I'm not the only one who feels that way.

Steven Malanga recently published a great (and frustrating) article about the WTC site. It's worth a read HERE.