Monthly Archives: October 2008

Hagan Employs the Best Counter-Attack

We’ve seen some things in this election cycle that we haven’t too often before:  the candidate, by him or herself, talking directly to the camera.  Obama has done it; I don’t remember McCain doing it. The most recent effective use of this technique is Sen. Kay Hagan’s response to one of the most despicable ads in recent memory, going back to some ads by Jesse Helms, as a matter of fact.

The Dole ad accuses Hagan of being “godless” and imitates her voice.

In response, Hagan speaks directly to the camera.

You don’t have to be a polished speaker to make this tactic work.  You must be honest, however.  Maybe too many politicians fear they can’t fake honestly.  Or maybe they are told by their consultants that they need to leave the ads to the professional. 

The same mind set infuses the overdone mailers.  Why candidates rely so heavily on the mail houses to write these things is beyond me.  If you can’t write, fine.  But if you can speak from the heart and put your words on paper, then all the mail house needs to do is shorten it and clean up the bad grammar.  If you’re going to tell us you can lead, you should be able to tell us yourself.

Speak directly to us.

And to boot, Hagan has filed suit.  Another nice touch.


Go Phillies!


Pedro Feliz drives in the winning run to make my hometown Phillies…

World Champions

First Borns

The first born are driven.  Being one myself, I’m not convinced it’s in the genes.  It may simply be the pressure to set a standard.  When I’d fight with my brothers or complain that they got something I wanted, our father would say “You’re older,” as if chronology demanded sacrifice.  “You should know better,”  he would say.  Somehow, even as children we first borns are expected to be responsible.

Even though I was a product of the 60s, but when I graduated college in 1970, I did not following the counter culture path.  No candle making or the musician’s life.  (That came later when I realized my mistake.)  After graduation, I applied for not only a real job, but a real boring job.  I went to work for the government.  My father had been a civil servant his entire post-war career.  So that was my path.  I immediately regretted it.  That, too, can be the feeling of a first born: the quiet desperation of responsibility.  It took a few years and a second responsible job as an analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency to consider an escape.  When they placed a two-inch thick environmental impact statement about asbestos on my desk, desperation finally overcame my first born genes.  But other responsibilities made leaving “a good job,” as my mother kept calling it, all the more difficult and eventually painful.

I always thought our first born would follow a similar trajectory.  She had the first born genes in spades.  Kate was always driven.  She wanted to be the best.  Or at least she always wanted to be thought of as the best.  Her self-image, I thought, could only be measured through society’s reflection. 

Sure enough, she studied for the LSAT, took it, and did fairly well.  But then, something in the DNA wiring short-circuited.  She never applied for law school.  She also went through the extensive application process for Teach for America.  She was offered a position in her first choice of cities.  But she declined it.

She had another offer, working for a start-up video production company.  She started in January of her senior year.  Well, I thought, it was a little off the beaten path, but she was working before she graduated.  She was still driven to be responsible.

The start-up didn’t make it and Kate looked for the next responsibility.  The best networker I’ve ever seen in someone so young, she went to Los Angeles to find a video production job.  Within days, she was freelancing.

But all the responsibility circuits weren’t firing.  She received a call from someone she had met while interning on Capitol Hill.  Would she come to Colorado to work for the Obama campaign?    No pay.  No bright lights of L.A.  She accepted. Then shortly after she arrived in Colorado, she announced she would be staying there for the winter.  She had gotten a job as a cook at the Vail resort.  She became an itinerant, idealistic political organizer and a ski bum.

I tried to deal with dashed expectations, not only mine but what I assumed to be hers.  No law school.  No buttoned up corporate job.  No sense of responsibility.

An eerie calm then came over me.  If I had to do it over again, would I become a bureaucrat?  Would I again have accepted mendacious responsibility so soon?

Truth be told, I would have worked for George McGovern.  I would have sought the bright lights of a dimly lit club, the musician’s itinerant life.  (I finally did a little later.  Though I never got that big record deal, it was a lot of fun.)

Some call what Kate is doing irresponsible.  But it really is being responsible to herself. 

Kate’s plans changed again.  Now, after the election, she has an offer to freelance in L.A. or New York for a few weeks.  Or after closing the Evergreen Obama ’08 office, she might head for Vail to work in a ski shop.  So many options, so little time.

Better to be idealistic and then carve powder while you can.  Traditional responsibility comes too soon and once arrived, hangs around for a long time.

Quoting the Cuplrits

Last Thursday, The Washington Post ran a story about the Congressional hearing of the credit-rating agencies.  In the coverage of that hearing, two quotes were often cited. 

One was an instant messaging conversation:

In April, 2007, Shannon Mooney, a senior analyst at rating agency Standard & Poor’s in New York, started gossiping with a colleague via instant messaging when the conversation turned to a rating the firm was about to issue.

“That deal is ridiculous,” the colleague, Rahul Shah, wrote.

“I know right … model def. does not capture half of the [risk],” Ms. Mooney replied.

“We should not be rating it,” Mr. Shah said.

“We rate every deal,” Ms. Mooney wrote. “It could be structured by cows and we would rate it.”

The Globe and Mail was the only publication I found that named the parties to this conversation.

The other exchange was also revealing.

Other credit-raters took a more whimsical tone in describing the risks of mortgage-backed securities. “Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters,” a high-ranking official at Standard and Poor’s wrote in December 2006.

Many publications, including The Washington Post, reported the email exchange.

I was curious as to why these publications seem so reluctant to name the people demonstrating such irresponsibility.  People that we taxpyers are now being asked to bailout.  So I wrote to the Post reporter and asked who it was. In an email, Paley responded:

I believe it was Chris Meyer.

Do you work at one of the credit-rating agencies?

I don’t know if Paley meant that a Chris Meyer told the reporter of the quote or whether Meyer was the one who made the “house of cards” comment.

I wrote back for clarification and not getting an answer within a day, I wrote to Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell and asked what where The Post’s guidelines were for naming people who are quoted.  I received no answer.

I asked for the simple reason is that I’ve noticed over the years that embarrassing quotes made by powerful people are often reported without naming the person.  It’s as if The Post wants to protect the rich and famous from embarassment.  Certianly, if that person is widely known, I imagine his or her friends would see them in a differnt light — as the callous and careless people they are…if not criminals.

Hypocrisy on CNBC

Today on CNBC was a perfect example of the hypocrisy of the on-air anchors.

First was a segment on the auto industry and whether taxpayers should bail them out.  Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, one of the more ludicrous right-wingers on CNBC, demonstrated the CNBC attitude towards workers.  The auto industry reporter, Phil LeBeau, said the industry should be saved because allowing one of the car makers to go bankrupt would put upwards of two million people out of work.  Caruso-Cabrera’s response, to paraphrase, “Sorry about that but that’s the way of the business world.”

Her cohort, Dennis Kneale, less than an hour later, interviewed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the avowed socialist.  He wants all employees of the nine largest banks to lose their bonuses because of the Banks taking taxpayer funds and their irresponsibility that it costing us all thousands of dollars.  Not just the top executives, but all employees.  Well, Kneale went ballistic.  Again to paraphrase, “Those secretaries, who are hoping for a measly $30,000 bonus, shouldn’t be penalized.  They didn’t do anything wrong.”

Well, the auto workers didn’t do “anything wrong” either.  If you require a taxpayer bailout, then you get no bonuses.  But that’s not how the banks see it.

According to an analysis in Forbes magazine, the nation’s biggest banks have already set aside tens of billions of dollars for year-end bonuses.

Baseball’s Disgrace

Baseball’s reputation took a big hit last night,  It was brought on by the very people who are charged with preserving the game’s reputation.

With the Phillies leading 2-1 in the fifth game of the World Series, it started to rain heavily in the top of the fifth inning.  Conditions were so bad that MVP shortstop Jimmy Rollins couldn’t catch a pop up looking into the rain.  But Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels got out of the inning.  At that point, had they called the game, the Phillies would have won the game and the World Series.  That’s no way to determine a national champion, but the problem is the usual rules regarding rainouts should have been suspended for the World Series.  Baseball’s leaders are responsible for that, too.

Instead, Commissioner Bud Selig allowed the game to continue.  In the top of the sixth, the Rays scored a run in sloppy conditions under which I have in 50 years never seen a game played. 

Then Selig called the game.  With the score tied, the game was suspended to be completed another day.  The decision let baseball executives off the hook.  But nobody is buying it.  They were responsible and derelict.

Shameful, indeed.


When considering what the McCain campaign thinks is top priority in selling Sarah Palin to the public, look to where it spends the money.  We know about the clothes.  Now this.

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  • What the VP does (with a convenient cheat sheet called the Constitution)
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Don’t Believe the Polls

If you’re an Obama supporter, worry…and work.  This race is still tight.

McCain is focusing on Pennsylvania for good reason.  It’s his best chance to get over the 270 Electoral College vote threshold. 

Virginia isn’t in Obama’s column yet, not by a long shot.  If the polls showing Obama with a big lead in Virginia are wrong, what about Colorado, Ohio and Florida?

But I suggest that why Dems should be nervous is not because some polls show a tighter race; it’s because the incessant coverage of polls might be impacting the electorate in ways we don’t yet understand.  I think there may be a tendency for mischief on the part of those who take part in polls.

Sure, most folks do not read, or the various tracking polls on a daily basis.  And clearly the news coverage is against McCain.  Still, most of the electorate sense they tenor of the coverage and the fact that McCain is clearly the underdog, with the media having a hard time not shouting, “It’s over!”

Would poll respondents lie?  Sure.  I have.  Wanting to get phone calls and mailers from the opposition, I have intentionally answered questions in a way I thought would put me on their “likely” list. 

But many voters must be getting a little pissed at hearing that a landslide is coming and there’s nothing McCain, and in turn they, can do about it.  Some might argue that hearing such stories makes them less likely to show up at the polls.  The same can be said of Obama’s supporters, too, their being too confident to pass up their workout or running an errand instead of standing in a long line.

But I wonder if a lot of folks, even those who would have voted for McCain but have been disappointed in him, might decide in the end to pull his lever, just to show those media elite that they can’t tell them what they’ll do.  After all, in a sample of 800 voters, how many can lie before they screw the results?  Probably not too many.

Polls tend to take the suspense out of election day.  This year, with more polls than ever and the constant coverage of them, some voters might decide to put the suspense back in it.

OK, I’m a nervous Democrat.  But it could happen.  It could.