Saturday, January 31, 2004

More Campaign Blogging - - Now even the New York Times has a token, almost pseudo weblog,. I say pseudo because the only links you’re likely to find will be for other New York Times articles. I do like the reminder that the only medium that remains make or break is still, as it has been since 1960, television. John Tierney suggests simply, “It's the living room, stupid.” Jeff Jarvis points out that there are even links to other newspapers (L.A. Times & Washington Post) on the feature’s sidebar.

I swear it was this big - - Caught “Big Fish” last night with my friend Dan. It was pretty interesting most certainly features a very grown up Tim Burton world. But don’t worry; it’s still his world.

Having seen it now, I'm surprised that it didn't garner more oscar buzz for burton since the film is so visually stunning. But it is probably too obscure for the voters.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Politics + Chimp + Dean Audio Clip = Comic Gold - - It might just be true, that I am a fan of just about every new political cable show that starts. Most of them end up failing (see “The Spin Room” & “Alan Keyes is Making Sense”). I’ve watched bits and pieces of Dennis Miller’s new CNBC show this week.

This is absolutely priceless. Tonight the opening sequence of him doing rifts on political news, while a chimp named Elle was pushing a large red button, which triggered the famous Howard Dean “Yeaaahhhhhhhhhh!” over and over again.

More chimps! More Chimps! You know there just aren’t enough chimps on television or in politics. Thankfully with Dennis Miller we have some more of both. His “Varsity” panel isn’t bad either. David Horowitz and Naomi Wolf seem to be the righty-lefty regulars. It’s a pretty lively discussion from what I’ve seen thus far.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

The Dean Bubble’s A-Poppin’ - - Say what you will about “Trucker Hat King” Ashton Kutcher, his endorsement of John Edwards remains a fairly hip and out of the box move. Anyone can endorse these other candidates, but to take a long shot that isn’t crazy (Madonna’s endorsement of Clark), takes a certain something. On the other hand, it’s unfortunate that the talented and very cute Scarlett Johansson who was snubbed by Oscar the other day is now consoling herself by wearing Dean badges when out in public. Clearly she lost something in translation (Stop me before I pun again).

cover But enough of this gossip. The Dean bubble is bursting and they are now officially rearranging the chairs on the deck. “Iceberg right ahead!” There are serious questions about the Howard Dean campaign as early as this morning as it became clear that while he raised more than $40 million, Dean may only have $5 million left. Enron couldn’t have botched Iowa and New Hampshire this badly.

As Dan Conley writes, “the Dean campaign has burned through it's treasury faster than a five pool table dot-com company.” Oliver Willis writes, “What did they do, smoke all that money like cheap cigars? The whole idea of a decentralized campaign is to save money, not spend money like you're Pets.com reincarnated. Nevermind that the ads they ran were crap.” The question everyone wants to know is what the Dean campaign spent all their money on exactly.

Which brings us to the news this evening that Dean is shaking up his campaign team. Joe Trippi, guru of the Internet revolution for ‘Dean for America’, is out and former Gore chief of staff Roy Neel is in. Technically Trippi resigned, but this is politics, and resignations are mostly cosmetic. Neel is getting lukewarm early reviews. Josh Marshall adds, “I'm no purist in political matters, but isn't Neel a Washington lobbyist? An insiders' insider? I don't think that makes him a bad guy. But isn't it a little out of tune with the campaign Dean's been running?”

The best analysis is by The Wonkette who says, “Trippi Bounced in Favor of Bigger Losers” and Mickey Kaus adds, “Beltway 1, Blog 0.”

Glenn Reynolds concludes, “This turn of events suggests, yet again, that Dean's big problem isn't the Internet. It's Dean.” So is Al Gore now unofficially “pulling the strings” of Team Dean?

CNN is reporting now that, “The campaign, which has raised more money than any other Democratic effort and opted out of public financing, may also be having financial problems. Sources told CNN that staffers have been told paychecks would be delayed for two weeks.” (See also the NY Times) This all the while the Dean Blog brags about growing grassroots and the fact that they raised $250,000 over the Internet today alone. Can this sort of thing sit well with Dean’s, with the Democrat’s, union support?

Exit Question: So can Dean, or any of the Democrats for that matter, make any hay, politically, about Bush’s bloated government spending and present himself as fiscally conservative when he can’t even properly manage his own campaign beyond the first two primaries?

Canada Political Notes: Wednesday Edition - - I know you've all been waiting for it. Tony Clement's redesigned website is finally up. Phew! Clement's slogan, "The Conservative for all Canadians" doesn't exactly inspire one to join, donate, or volunteer. And the site still isn't very good if you ask me. It looks like what a campaign website is supposed to look like but is about as exciting as watching paint dry, which is, sadly, is kind of what the whole Tony Clement campaign feels like. It looks like a campaign, feels like a campaign, so it must be a campaign right? So it just depends on what your definition of the word "campaign" means. If it screams, as exciting as "Joe Lieberman's" then Clement's your guy. Despite, or perhaps in spite of this, Clement picked up the endorsement of former MP John Crosbie. Nice blast from the past endorsement. Tony-mania picks up major steam!

Speaking of the Internet, CBC.ca has an interesting article by Dan Brown about the Dean Internet bubble and Belinda's website. It is mostly interesting since Belinda.ca's people wouldn't speak to him: "I would have loved to talk to the people at the Belinda Stronach campaign about the response to her website since she announced her candidacy for the Conservative party leadership, but for some reason they didn't want to talk to me." Yes, Dean has raised all that money and all it got him was third in Iowa, and second in NH. But let's remember Belinda isn't Howard Dean - for one, her blog totally sucks (three entries, come on Belinda.) And I doubt we'll see her crack into a red-faced rant.

Clement actually gets the Belinda treatment in this creepy article by Earl McRae. I only say creepy because of lines like this: "Belinda Stronach, eat your heart out: When's the last time Canadians were wowed by such a sexy hairstyle on a politician? Just the right amount of pepper and grey, and the scrumptious way it plays off his eyebrows -- it's reminiscent of that late, great Hollywood heartthrob Gregory Peck."

And this: "One cannot overlook, however, the importance in his quest for the leadership of his groovy underwear which -- and when asked he just winked one of his adorable eyes -- rumour has it are from his drawer full of Perry Ellis cotton-stretch briefs in various colours and patterns."

Do I want to hear about a candidate's underwear? If it's Belinda Stronach, yes absolutely. If it is Tony Clement, not so much really.

Meet Belinda Martin?Ryan Warawa thinks that Clement's site looks a million times better now, which is true but that isn?t saying much is it. Ryan also found this "Belinda Martin" site which wonders if there is a difference between Paul Martin and Belinda Stronach. If this is the line of logic that forces will use to defeat Stronach, I would only suggest that this might do more long-term damage. Pointing out that Stronach is like Martin might actually work in Martin's favor.

Sure Stronach will be done for in the Conservative race, but I think the tactic would help to highlight why people generally like Paul Martin. When people get real serious about voting in the next election and it is a choice between Martin and someone, like it or not, Martin looks pretty good. (And if it?s a race between Martin and Clement, or Martin and Harper, I think it's clear that there isn't, at this time, much movement likely)

Parliament Hill Barbie: The attacks upon Belinda are reaching a feverish pitch too. First there was this charming article that reports on the, "anonymous flyer labeling her 'Parliament Hill Barbie'" at an Ontario Tory convention. "The half-page, crudely compiled mock advertisement says the doll comes with a Rolex, Daddy's Chequebook and Policy (Sold Separately) and features campaign slogans that include 'Can I, like, fire voters?' and 'Daddy totally loves free trade now!'"

Charles Adler, who is always great, and I really respect his opinions, unloads the cannons on those preying on the Belinda campaign from within, in his oped yesterday: "If the www.belinda.ca spinners had an honest bone in their bodies, they would have told her not to run.

But how do you get on the nipple when you tell the babe that she is not going anywhere except the cartoon half of fame?

You feel you are not eligible to ride the gravy train if you tell her the truth. So you lie to her."

The "H" Bomb: In another piece in the Toronto Sun, Valerie Gibson, drops the H-Bomb:
"Now while she may also be joined on that list by the likes of Paris Hilton, the vacuous blonde who's famous for being mega rich and excrutiatingly superficial, at least Stronach is intelligent. And, perhaps a plus in her future aspirations, she eerily resembles a young Hillary Clinton." Lets get one thing straight, I've seen pictures of a young Hilary Clinton, and Belinda Stronach is no Hilary Clinton.

I think it's fairly obvious that for the first week and half this campaign has been solely about Belinda Stronach, and the media is having a lot of fun at her expense. The most interesting thing about the themes (she?s dumb, she?s a bad campaigner, etc) is that they help her to rise above a very lowered bar in, say, debates and early polling.

The PET Bomb: Is Belinda the Tory P.E.T?.: MEP's Brock Stephenson pointed out this local paper gem in the Squamish Chief, which my parents get at their place (I believe Papa Murphy once pronounced it the worst excuse for a paper, but I digress).

Cut One: "With apologies to supporters of former Canadian Alliance leader and front-runner Stephen Harper (including local MP John Reynolds), his victory would sound the death knell of the newly-united right before it can even contest an election."

Cut Two: "Remember, the last federal leader to come out of the political wilderness was also relatively young, also came from a fairly tony family background, and, while interested in politics for many years, never sought the hurly-burly of elected office before emerging from nowhere to claim the top job. That young man's name was Pierre Elliot Trudeau."

Both points are well worth thinking about. And from "The Chief" of all places.

The Media and the Conservative leadership race: After witnessing the gauntlet in motion that is the US Presidential nomination process, the presses roll is unquestioned. But weren't they all wrong both in predicting Iowa and New Hampshire? Well, yes, but they gave Dean a nice long 9 month ride to the top, then when it became time for people to actually vote, they helped to crush him. Now Kerry is on top, again.

In Canada's race, the media has been about as chilly to Belinda as the weather in most of the country. Baby it's cold! But that wouldn't be as much fun as a Belinda-Martin showdown later this year. And don't think that the press isn't crazy enough to help Belinda get there. Look for week three the roll out of Belinda 2.0 by the press.

See also 'comeback' articles detailing how she got her bearings on the campaign trail. Maybe. Exhibit number one: Susan Martinuk: "Let's be clear: I don't support Stronach's leadership bid. Her current policy platform is negligible, there are no novel ideas and, quite frankly, I don't agree with the positions she advocates for abortion and same-sex marriage. Her public speaking is tentative, she has no political experience and no academic credentials. She doesn't exactly evoke confidence in her leadership abilities. Drawbacks, yes, but she's certainly not the first political neophyte to boast a policy void and a lack of political expertise. Remember Brian Mulroney?"

Exhibit number two: "In Quebec, there are dozens of rotten boroughs, with no members. Stronach's campaign has signed up virtually every known Tory organizer in Quebec, and they are in the process of locking up the province for her."

Stay tuned for more regular Canadian political updates at Dispatches!

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

New Hampshire Notes - - Well, my future career as a political handicapper was tested again tonight. I got Kerry as the winner, but damned if I didn’t catch too much Edwards hype. Dean finished second (I had him third). But I did have Lieberman in 5th! That’s results baby. (Here’s the tale of the tape and the CNN easy to read chart.) Some more thoughts:

1. Kerry goes up 2-0 in Primary 2004. That’s 2 more than the others. You have to give it to the man. He was down so low two months ago he was six feet under, now he’s back. Kerry needs to watch, not Dean, but Edwards and as John Ellis notes, not let him off the post-NH floor. Is winning two primary’s a license to print money? Kerry is hot, cliché meter is too!

2. Ha, Ha, Ha, very funny New Hampshire. Seriously, what did you do with the real Howard Dean? This new Dean 2.0 (jacket on, less crazy = imposter?) just isn’t working for me. Andrew Sullivan gave Dean’s post-vote speech the gold star for the evening. But can Dean really keep this façade up for long? (Josh Marshall was there in the flesh and the speech impressed him. If only he’d done this speech in Iowa. If only! But doesn’t tonight seem so forced?) The jacket must come off one way or the other for some more Dr. Dean-Hulk outs. (Come on, play that really sad song from the Incredible Hulk.) The “And we will…” speech by Dean confirms that the real Dean might have been replaced by some sort robot.

And now that Dean has lost on the closet thing to his home turf in the next few weeks, how come he thinks he’ll start winning in South? I give it two days before Dean flagrantly fouls Kerry for an attempt at possession. It might not help, but it’ll be fun.

3. Is this really the end “Joe-Mentum”, Joe-mania, Joe-licious, (well perhaps not that, we’ll always have that) and Joe Lieberman for Prez? The Wonkette suggests all this Joe-Mentum might have been a figment of somebody’s “Joe-magination.” No! We refuse to accept this. Fifth is so way cool! Say it ain’t so Joe!

4. What happened to the Edwards momentum? Finishing fourth after Gen. Crackpot?

5. Gen. Wesley Clark…and you are? No, no. General, meet Lt. Footnote Of History. He’ll explain what happens for you in the next few weeks. Oh, and yeah, you’re done. “But I was third,” says Clark. Yes, Yes, that’s great. Oh, and before we forget. Try to time your future dropout speech when nothing else is happening so that you don’t get bumped by the media, for the actual winners speech. Whoops. And one more thing…no interviews, what up?

Other notable highlights, or lowlights, as you’d call ‘em or see fit: ”CNN’s Curtain Cam” as noted by NRO’s Chip Griffin was smoking. The high drama – you could literally cut it with a knife. Jeff Jarvis suggests that you might want to get some “red-hot” Joe-Merchandise before it’s too late. (And General Wesley Clark’s merchandise will make hot hot hot collectables too!) Apparently there was some late support for Howard Dean from Quebec. How typical.

Granite State Primary Predictions - - My Iowa predictions (of a Dean squeaker) were so wrong I felt, and I’m just guessing here, the same way as how the people who made “Cold Mountain” felt after being snubbed this morning at Oscar for all the big gold prizes. That’s probably overstating it slightly.

So it’s “live free and make a fool of yourself” time! The ‘blogosphere’ is full of New Hampshire Primary predictions. “The Wonkette” has a link-laden post full of them here. I like that post-Iowa there are a lot of “it’ll be either a huge victory for Kerry, or it won’t” insights. Insightful stuff really. And we’ll add, that either we’ll be in the ballpark with these predictions or way off the farm. I’m looking for another big Edwards night tonight but would be happier for big Dean night so we can get at least one more crazy red-faced rant in before he exits. And, later tonight Lieberman will probably get out of the race.


Dispatches Predictions:
1. John Kerry 30
2. John Edwards 24
3. Howard Dean 22
4. Wesley Clark 12
5. Joe Lieberman 8

The questions that today’s vote may, or may not answer: Will Liebermania be finished? Is Howard Dean another comeback kid? Wesley Clark what up? Is Edwards really for real or just a promising veep candidate?

Bloated Government Musical Chairs - - First of all, there is no need for a province to have this many high level cabinet members. Second of all, call me crazy, but most of this shuffling of his current roster looks like shuffling the deck of chairs on a sinking ship. Wait a second, it isn’t really that bad. But really: Minister of State for Mental Health, Minister of State for Immigration and Multicultural Services, Minister of State for Women's Services. Come on? What about the Management Services Minister? I thought these positions were insane when they were first announced, but actually shuffling people through them? That’s just crazy talk.

What I like best about Gordon Campbell’s government is this little nugget. “Ted Nebbeling, the Minister of State for the Community Charter and for the 2010 Winter Olympics, is out – as are Lynne Stevens, Katherine Whittred and Greg Halsey-Brandt. Nebbeling had announced earlier on Monday that he had married his same-sex partner in November.”

And yes the most odious part of this is that there really was a Minister of State for the Community Charter and the 2010 Winter Olympics.

And don’t forget one of the Cabinet members whose assistant was, and remains, suspended and is related to the ongoing investigation by police about organized crime was also dropped from cabinet. But there is nothing to see here people. Nothing at all.

Drew & Wes plus the Bush stand-up routine - - This is excellent. It seems that Drew Barrymore is on the campaign trail making a documentary and President Bush is looking for a position on the Daily Show.

Bush on Paul O’Neill: But what a stellar crowd," Bush continued. "It looks like the index of Paul O'Neill's book. Let me say something about that book. Paul said I was disengaged because he talked to me for 45 minutes and I didn't say a word. I wasn't disengaged. I was bored as hell and my mother told me never to interrupt.”

Sunday, January 25, 2004

What if you started a new party and nobody came? - - Expanding upon some of the themes on Dispatches this past week my weekly Enter Stage Right column is up and atom! (Worst. McBain reference. Ever. ) ”What if you started a new party and nobody came?” is about the continuing problems even a newly merged and stronger right wing in Canada is having selling its message to the apathetic and disinterested Canadian public.

“The truth is that the Conservative Party of Canada leadership race is plagued by non-interest and down right indifference by the majority of the Canadian electorate. The new political party formed to unite the right once and for all has failed to capture the imagination of the people and the three candidates for leadership are still all virtually unknown…” [Read the whole article here]

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Canadian Political Report - - Finally some real numbers. As the Conservative Party fights to get itself on the right path at infancy, the poll numbers look grim. The Globe and Mail reports today on the new Ipsos-Reid/CTV/Globe and Mail poll numbers. The Liberal Party remains strong with 48% support while the upstart Conservative Party wallows at 19% - that is down two points from December’s numbers and more troubling down from the 10% Alliance and 14% PC support they were getting before the merger. Coming in third but rising, within the margin of error, is the NDP at 16%.

In the important battle ground of Ontario the numbers are even more bleak: “In Ontario, the Liberals are riding high at 57 per cent, with the Conservatives at 18 per cent and the NDP at 17 per cent.” And people wonder why I’m willing to at least give somebody other than Harper a kick at the can.

Of interest is this nugget of information from the poll: “Perhaps worse news for the new party is that a majority of respondents had no opinion about any of the leadership hopefuls: Fifty-five per cent said they had no opinion of Stephen Harper, although he has been leader of a national political party for almost two years.” Ouch! That’s gotta hurt. Two years on the national stage and nobody knows who Harper is. Okay, they might know of him, but just not enough to care one way or the other - fire the media relations team quick! The other two candidates are even less known: 69% have no opinion of Belinda Stronach and 77% have no opinion on Tony Clement.

And on favorable/unfavorable? The Globe reports, “Of the 45 per cent who offered an opinion on Mr. Harper, 23 per cent viewed him in a positive light, while 22 per cent expressed a negative opinion. Of the 31 per cent who responded about Ms. Stronach, 20 said they had a positive view, while 11 had an unfavourable impression.”

But the real story this week is Belinda Stronach. Can an upstart millionaire with no political experience make a run for the leadership of a major party? On that question there appears to be two Belinda’s. The first Belinda is the one that the media, more or less, is savaging for being too short on policy. The other Belinda is the one that Canadians are going out to see at functions to see what she is all about.

”Dowdification” of Belinda Stronach - - Canada’s very own version of New York Times Columnist Maureen Dowd, Heather Mallick, tries to make the comparison that Belinda Stronach is the same as George W. Bush south of the border.
“Belinda Stronach is a female version of Junior Bush,” writes Dowd…I mean Mallick. “No, that's unfair. Even he borderline-graduated from university. Ms. Stronach dropped out. She runs a holding company handed to her by her father. Even Mr. Bush started one of his own, albeit financed by Daddy's friends. The list of powerful men associated with Ms. Stronach is a list of her father's pals. Where do her opinions come from? We'll get to her public statements to date, but I offer a parallel.”

Mallick goes on (and on, and on) “Sometimes newness is just cheap shine. When you rub it off, it tarnishes other smart, experienced women. I expected no better of the all-new, all-hateful Conservatives. This disgraceful pirouette on the national stage shames Sir John A's party and it shames me, who, like many women, has known the discomfort of being the token woman amid the guffawing of males. Worse, we have known the pain of being the token qualified woman amid the sniggers of unqualified males. It goes on and on and on, and Ms. Stronach's display of the drawbacks of nepotism make it even worse.”

Fine okay. She’s new and newness isn’t enough to neither win an election nor lead a nation. But go back to the polls. Nobody even knows the current frontrunner. And really, Heather, is Stronach really part of the all-hateful Conservatives? That’s outrageous isn’t it?

Last Mallick cut: “Now we have the Stronachs' nouveau riches to consider. And Mr. Martin and Jack Layton are intellectually streets ahead of all three Conservative leadership hopefuls combined,” continues Mallick. “I am confident that Mr. Layton, the highly intelligent, well-spoken NDP leader, can add. He can even add while speaking.”

Let me run a quick shorter Mallick column recap. Belinda: dumb, privileged, strumpet, puppet of all hateful conservatives. New NDP leader: Smart. ”Layton Mania” may have started this morning on Mallicks breakfast table. New Conservative Party: Still evil. Mallick: Still smug, elitist, know it all. Are you still with me?

Belinda Mania Status Report - - First, click here for an extreme closeup! So let’s get back to Belinda Stronach. If you believed everything you heard, she is stumbling fast. But there is still good news to be found and it is not all about buzz – there is some in the media willing to give her a shot. Dawn Walton, also in the Globe, writes, “More than 1,300 people -- so much interest that the Calgary Chamber of Commerce had to move the event to a huge conference hall -- offered applause throughout Ms. Stronach's speech and stood to clap as the 37-year-old political hopeful concluded.”

The National Post’s Rebecca Eckler writes, “Everyone wanted to shake her hand, and, apparently, she wanted to shake everyone’s hand as well.”

[Let me digress for a moment. Today is the last day for free content from The National Post.com. Let me get this straight I can get The USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, and so many others it’s not funny all for free online but the Post is going to charge me? Good luck with that. I bought both the print Post and Globe today. Other than the crackpot Mallick, the Globe wasn’t that bad, and with a better looking, easier to navigate, faster, and now cheaper website, You may be seeing more Globe links here. Time will tell.]

Where was I? Oh yeah, Claire Hoy, also in the Post, writes, “She certainly looks good and dresses well. And she too has no political experience. Unlike Mulroney, she is not fluently bilingual. But, like Mulroney, she is already getting a taste of the haughty dismissiveness so common among the political elite -- both in the media and in politics itself -- commonly bestowed upon anyone brazen enough to think they have something to offer to the system.”

Hoy cut two: “And while Clement reacted to her candidacy by reminding people of his political experience, Harper, the acknowledged front-runner, sadly resorted to some cheap shots about her wealth and considerable business success.

That's the sort of thing one expects from the NDP, and sure enough, NDP leader Jack Layton -- who came from a wealthy and influential family himself, and prefers big unions to big corporations -- noted that unlike Stronach and Prime Minister Paul Martin, he has not been a chief executive officer of a major corporation.”

Hey wait a second Heather Mallick never mentioned Layton’s background. I guess that would have messed up her analogy. Hoy also raised the prospect of how quickly Harper started to mention Stronach’s wealth. Again, this plays into the idea that all conservatives are hateful, but usually it’s not for whining about people being too rich. No wonder the NDP is gaining….

cover”The World At War” - - Is there anything better on a weekend than to sit back, relax, and watch a few hours of a great documentary like the landmark “The World At War”? (Thank you Sonja, thank you Sonja, thank you Sonja). I’ve made my way through the first DVD and am now working on number two. It is awesome and a must own.

I won’t bore you with a review of this epic. Instead in the episode “Alone” about the Battle of Britain there is a very interesting bit of BBC reporting on some aerial combat. It is hard to imagine any BBC reporter today taking an open and on-air delight in the splashing of a German aircraft. But they did.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Rest Easy Tonight Canada - - Our intrepid Prime Minister has finally invited a friend over for dinner and a speech at the House of Commons. Care to guess which important leader our man invited first?

If you guessed UN Secretary General Kofi Annan your prize will be forthcoming. Prime Minister Martin told the press, “We spend a lot of time in Canada talking about our relationship with the United States. That's important, but fundamentally our relationship with the rest of the world and how that world works is going to be the determining factor as to whether our children and their children after them enjoy the same quality of life that we do,”

So our economic future is entirely dependent on our relationship with the U.N.? Interesting. Here’s Martin’s speech from Switzerland.

More Vancouver Indie Movie Scene News - - My old and wonderfully crazy friend Mark Tuit just finished filming his latest indie film, “Shelf Life.”

Mark told me today that this film is super bloody (The pictures are awesome! Check out the director and a wounded looking actor Bill McDonald here) and he sounded very pumped up as they kick it into postproduction – truth be told he sounded about as excited as Howard Dean did when he finished third in Iowa (and that’s saying something!).

Check out the companies whole site. There are plenty of pics and more flash than you can possibly ever want to see on a web site.

Baseball? - - Apparently MLB Spring training is 21 days and change away. Check in with MLB's countdown clock too.

That's pretty awesome. Check in on all the news and moves as the days tick down. 21 days and Greg Maddux still doesn't have a home.

Worst candidate little buddies - - It’s getting hot in New Hampshire and candidates are still using some part-time endorser-celebrities to help them campaign. Some of them aren’t helping.

Filmmaker Michael Moore for Gen. Wesley Clark Andrew Sullivan picks up the story of what Michael Moore said about Clark’s War in 1999. Whoops, back in 1999 Moore didn’t think too much of him or the war. What about it Mike? Details, details, don’t bother Michael Moore with details. Besides he too busy making Gen. Clark look like an increasingly incapable crackpot. (I would put more faith in the executive judgment of Dennis Kucinich at this point.) Nice work Michael. Dude, what did you do to Gen. Wesley Clark?

Actor/Director/Meathead Rob Reiner for Dr. Howard Dean Ah Rob Reiner what a treat. Do I really need to get into this Meathead business? Well he was Dean’s man on Chris Mathews’ “Hardball” tonight. (The interview from today was inside the Dean campaign office. Did they purposely clear it out? I heard the phone ring at one point and they showed a few young people tapping away on computers, but the question is where was the buzz? ) On Dean’s “I have a Scream” speech, he told Mathews (and apparently anyone else who would listen today) that Dean would, “take full responsibility for what happened. I told him to name all the states and their capitals to show how educated he is.'' How clever. He also repeated the same stories about the young people energizing the campaign, failing to wonder why that didn’t help in Iowa.

Now, is there a direct correlation between these “little buddies” dropping poll numbers?

Gawker goes to Washington - - The new sister gossip page to New York’s “The Gawker” is Washington DC’s “The Wonkette”.

Gawker Media Publisher Nick Denton, on track to conquer the web via micro-niche publishing come hell or highwater, says, “Washington, DC has always been a mystery to me. So much power, and so little sex appeal. Hollywood for ugly people, as they say. But there's gossip, there just has to be. What DC lacks in sexiness, it makes up for in pomposity and hypocrisy. So, Wonkette, the latest blog in the Gawker stable. Wonkette is written by Ana Marie Cox, who used to write the notorious Suck column for Wired Digital, and now lives in the DC suburbs. She's funny.”

Excellent addition to the daily must read.

Jumbo Action Packed Night Cap roundup - - Before you read anything else surf on over to National Review and read this amazing dispatch from Davos on British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. It is absolutely amazing. “People will take positions, 'twas ever thus. But when Saddam Hussein was in power, people could not take positions, lest they be killed. True, we've found fewer WMD than expected, but we've found more mass graves. And now, people don't get shot for expressing their opinion.”

Andrew Sullivan had the Straw link, and also this rather amusing Dec. 5th John Kerry Political Obit from Mickey Kaus before he sounds off on an political grave stone of his own – this one about Gen. Wesley Clark. Oh, and even better than his pronouncement of Clark as “toast” is his words on everyone’s favorite candidate Dennis Kuccinich: “Kucinich just gets better and better: I have a serious hathos issue with the guy. He mesmerizes me - in a disturbing kind of way. Almost everything he says is nuts, but I can't help kind of liking him.”

Glenn Reynolds by way of Jeff Jarvis refers to Howard Dean as simply “Dr. McCoy” which reminds me that I did, at least I think I did, see a Priceline.com commercial tonight with both Willaim Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.

I not embarrassed that I looked it up just to make sure that I really wasn’t seeing things. (See Shatner in all his new Priceline glory here). And speaking of Dr. “Bones” Dean, Josh Marshall on the scene as “blogporter” (Blog Reporter) in New Hamphire thinks Dean is in “very bad shape”.

You want more Dean? Fine. Dean’s performance on Diane Sawyer’s show proved that he is no Bill Clinton. Although, Jonah Goldberg points out that Mrs. Dean’s performance exposes Hillary Clinton and “underlines how fraudulent she really was.” The only thing about the interview I found slightly creepy was that her husband’s running for the Oval Office and she won’t watch him on TV and doesn’t have cable. What does Mrs. Dean know?

Then again his performance on David Letterman’s Top Ten list was actually fairly funny. I am only concerned that Dean is making himself laugh at himself. Here’s an off the wild thing to think about today. Rep. Dick Gephardt did the Top Ten just before he got his butt whopped in Iowa and dropped out. Could Dean be next? Is there a “Letterman Campaign Killer Curse?”

One poster on the Dean’s “Blog For America” in response to the Dean-Letterman comedy nexus tonight wrote, “Howard Dean is cooler than the other side of a Miles Davis record.” Finding Dean’s cool mojo will be about as tough as finding WMD in Iraq okay. Just to be clear, that is surely something that even Howard Dean would deny. And really with so few days left in NH what was he doing in Vermont all day? Just asking.

I didn’t catch tonight’s debate, but Roger Simon did and by the sounds of it Kerry won this too. But he figures it wasn’t so much Kerry winning, as much as it was Kerry not losing. Welcome to the Status Quo New Hampshire Twilight Zone of campaigning? Well if that’s true we’re really in for it aren’t we. Cowboy up Granite State!

Let me also add this piece of flagrant armchair analysis: If Dean’s in bad shape and Clark is toast. (And throw Lieberman into this category too) What could the two of them, or one of them, lose by sticking their neck out and taking someone with them. Five days to blow the lid off this race with some good old fashioned mudslinging, down and dirty, outrageous negative campaigning. Seriously if Dean or Clark is going down…go down swinging boys.

[Ed: What about John Edwards? Good question. Tonight this is an Edwards free zone. He’s getting enough suck up “it boy” coverage for now. If Drudge is trashing him he’s like the new black. Ed: You just mentioned Edwards! Good point. And having blog-versations with yourself is down right silly! Lessoned learned.]

Thursday, January 22, 2004

From the Office of White House Strategery - - The first few months of Campaign 2004 have seen Democrats hit at the low hanging piñata which is Bush’s huge spending excesses. It’s been a great point for Dean, Kerry, Edwards, et al to hammer away at Bush.

“Slam!” What was that noise? Was that the sound of the Bush administration getting ready to announce a near freeze on government spending (outside of Military and Homeland Security) two days after the State of the Union (where Bush said 4%) and five days before the New Hampshire primary? Is this Karl Rove’s way of making an issue then 10 months before the election taking it away? If it is it’s amazing politics. Crazy, but amazing. If it’s just more talk, that would not be cool.

Ribs, Ribs, Ribs - - Sometimes you really just have to appreciate President George W. Bush. No, seriously. Even you doubters out there will have to admit this exchange is incredible.

Remarks by the President to the Press Pool

Nothin' Fancy Cafe
Roswell, New Mexico

11:25 A.M. MST

THE PRESIDENT: I need some ribs.

Q Mr. President, how are you?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm hungry and I'm going to order some ribs.

Q What would you like?

THE PRESIDENT: Whatever you think I'd like.

Q Sir, on homeland security, critics would say you simply haven't spent enough to keep the country secure.

THE PRESIDENT: My job is to secure the homeland and that's exactly what we're going to do. But I'm here to take somebody's order. That would be you, Stretch -- what would you like? Put some of your high-priced money right here to try to help the local economy. You get paid a lot of money, you ought to be buying some food here. It's part of how the economy grows. You've got plenty of money in your pocket, and when you spend it, it drives the economy forward. So what would you like to eat?

Q Right behind you, whatever you order.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm ordering ribs. David, do you need a rib?

Q But Mr. President --

THE PRESIDENT: Stretch, thank you, this is not a press conference. This is my chance to help this lady put some money in her pocket. Let me explain how the economy works. When you spend money to buy food it helps this lady's business. It makes it more likely somebody is going to find work. So instead of asking questions, answer
mine: are you going to buy some food?

Q Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. What would you like?

Q Ribs.

THE PRESIDENT: Ribs? Good. Let's order up some ribs.

Q What do you think of the democratic field, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: See, his job is to ask questions, he thinks my job is to answer every question he asks. I'm here to help this restaurant by buying some food. Terry, would you like something?

Q An answer.

Q Can we buy some questions?

THE PRESIDENT: Obviously these people -- they make a lot of money and they're not going to spend much. I'm not saying they're overpaid, they're just not spending any money.

Q Do you think it's all going to come down to national security, sir, this election?
THE PRESIDENT: One of the things David does, he asks a lot of questions, and they're good, generally.

END 11:29 A.M. MST

Useless AP story alert - - I caught this AP story this afternoon (surprise, surprise in The Toronto Star) about campaign blogging. Now, there is nothing wrong with the article per se, I guess. While they mentioned The Command Post, pretty much all the other blogs, especially the ones in the sidebar are all on one side of the political spectrum.

Shameless Movie Promotion - - This morning I send some mad props out to “The Snow Walker” movie (or “Snow Walking Movie c/o North Pole” according to Fred one time).

So it is probably pushing it to tell you even more, but Infinity Media the production company of Snow Walker, sent me their latest press release today. The release date is set for March 5 in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal with another round of screens opening on March 12 in Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Halifax, and St. John’s.

And while I’m at the other film I managed not to completely derail (actually this time I didn’t destroy one vehicle, really – on the Snow Walker there may have been a run in with a snow mobile and a frozen part of Hudson’s Bay, but I digress) by working on, “Saved!” (looks like MGM really blew the budget on the web site – I kid, sort of.) had its big premiere at Sundance this week. I noticed I didn’t get my invite to hang with the cast in Sundance. Damn them. It is scheduled to come out in February by the looks of it.

The Morning Grab bag o’ stuff- - Nice to see B.C. native baseball pitcher Ryan Dempster being picked up by the Chicago Cubs yesterday. And for only $500k, that’s not a bad investment if the old Ryan appears.

Film: Very cool to see that the film I worked on while back, “The Snow Walker,” will be hitting screens across Canada this March. That’s pretty damned cool.

I should add, that currently the film is in Thailand at the 2004 Bangkok film festival. A film festival in Bangkok? That's right who needs Sundance when you can hang out here. I'm just a little curious why Paris Hilton checked out Sundance rather than the fun at Bangkok. I hope my good friends Rob and Charlie are having fun!

The Quote: This was the funniest quote of the day yesterday from the Don Imus show:

Imus: "I could easily vote for John Kerry. I could do that in a heartbeat."
Bernie: "Wait a second. Your commitment to President Bush was solid about two months ago. Excuse me about two days ago."
Imus: "What does solid mean?"
Bernie: "I mean you were going to vote for President Bush hands down, that's it, no questions asked. You are going to break your neck jumping off various bandwagons."

Campaign ’04 Morning Buzz: Now the polls are showing Howard Dean trailing John Kerry in New Hampshire. Do the words “free fall” mean anything here. David Letterman last night was begging for Dean to be made President just for the fun of it. Hugh Hewitt, clearly not a Dean supporter by any stretch of the imagination, is offering up free advise for the next debate to get Dean back on track.

And NRO’s Jonah Goldberg of all people is wondering when the media will suddenly realize that they may have gone too far. “At some point very soon the media is going to realize that it's going "too far" with the Dean primal scream thing. In one sense I do think this hype is unfair. If you looked at it in a vacuum, I think most people would think it's not really that big a deal. I'm sure he's given that yell dozens of times before to his troops.”
Dean is even pulling out the big gun, his wife, for an interview tonight with Diane Sawyer. Richard Lowry, also in NRO’s ‘The Corner’, points out how far Clinton dropped in New Hampshire in 1992. (He links to this analysis from The American Research Group - Bottom Line: “In 1992, Bill Clinton dropped from 37% to 25% in 5 days, giving up the lead to Paul Tsongas. By the eighth day of his drop, however, Clinton was able to begin to regain support (by appearing on "60 Minutes" and holding a televised town meeting in New Hampshire, among other things). The Dean campaign does not have the luxury of time because the Clinton model would have Dean just beginning to regain support on primary day. Also, Clinton's campaign responded immediately to Clinton's drop”)

Two things spring to mind. One. Why is National Review pointing these things out? I would imagine helping get Dean back on track so he could win the nomination. And two. Will Dean have that “60 Minutes” moment to regain his momentum? Stay tuned.

Meanwhile Jeff Jarvis digs into the issue a little deeper and says, “It's the bad guys, stupid.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The State of the Union - - Okay, now that I’ve done two back-to-back Belinda Stronach posts, I figured that would be enough. Mens News Daily had my reaction article about President Bush’s State of the Union address last night.

“If there were ever any doubt that President Bush rises to the occasion it would be tonight. In a speech that didn’t follow major national tragedy or precede war Bush’s State of the Union address yesterday failed to light the national imagination on fire. On the other hand if there were any uncertainty as to whether he was politically up to the challenge of another election fight he certainly passed.”

Close encounters of the Belinda Stronach kind - - Since I’ve mentioned the potential of “Belinda Mania,” I figured I had to dig into this story a little. So I attended her first official function on the west coast this evening. It was a very informal get together with Ms. Stronach at a Vancouver Irish Pub.

The Scene: Let me first say that having her first event in downtown at Doolin’s was a pretty sweet move actually. The conventional wisdom is that conservatives aren’t very fun. But put them in a pub and they look like they can have as much fun as the next guys.

The Crowd: The pub was pretty well jammed packed. The television media was outside but there were more than a few reporters inside with notepads. I recognized Pia Shandel both schmoozing and following Belinda around the room. (Shandel by the way is proof positive of the power of makeup and soft lighting)

Who else was there? Let’s start by saying that you could, as MEP’s Brock Stephenson noted, literally “smell the money and power.” And that was a positive sign. There was a good mix of young and vibrant faces mixed in with suits. There were certainly more men than women. There was definitely at least one potential nominee for office there. There were lots of Tories there, some Alliance people, and some who were curious just to see what Belinda was all about. Let me also send a special shout out to some very cute girls, apparently from one of the University of British Columbia’s young conservative clubs. Let me get this straight, smart good-looking Belinda running for the leadership and there are cute supporters too. There was also one heckler, drunk of course, wearing a bright red shirt, blue tie, and suspenders.

Belinda: Okay, she was late. The event kicked off at 5:00, and Belinda showed up at around 5:45. That’s not good, but she really didn’t seem to have an army of handlers. She worked the entire bar and seemed to shake every single hand. She seemed very comfortable. She only spoke briefly, time enough to thank everyone and comment on how remarkable the reception she was getting. And that is a fact. Two days ago she was CEO of Magna International. Now she is running for the leadership of a new political party and she has the media following her big time and she just filled a pub at 5pm on a Wednesday evening. That is impressive. I saw quite a few people ask for an autograph, which was interesting too.

She was heckled once (by that drunk guy) who blasted something about Magna before stating something incoherent about voter turnout in Canada. Like a pro, she ate it up, acknowledged that that is a problem and hoped a different campaign like hers could bring more people into the system.

Meeting Belinda: Yes. I shook her hand; she smiled politely, looked me straight in the eye, and thanked me for coming out. I wished her luck, and she thanked me again. She is just as good looking in person as she is on camera. She’s probably about 5’7” and wore a smart gray business suit and she smelled nice. She’s cute, warm, and engaging. And she has a solid handshake. I wanted ask why she has only two posts on her “blog” but thought it wasn’t the right thing to do.

The Vehicle: Did she leave in a limo? Hardly, Belinda and her small team left around 7ish in a white “Mini-Van”. If there was anyone from the soccer mom constituency, she might have picked up some support.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Belinda Mania: The Web Battle for the hearts and minds - - Yesterday Iowa and Dean’s awesome meltdown (honestly how many times can you hear this in a day?) and then tonight’s State of the Union have been the news cycle. But here in Canada our own little political race heated up today and the race begun on the web today.

Earlier today Belinda Stronach entered the race for the new party’s leadership. No real surprise here. But what did surprise me was how quickly her web presence took shape today. I guess I shouldn’t have since her podium was a careful coming out party for Belinda.ca! Check out her fancy website here. At some point this afternoon “Belinda Mania” started spreading across the nation. Not only is it a nice looking site which takes its design from some of the candidate websites in America’s race this year (and stylish enough that I think Virginia Postrel might give it a nice nod of approval) but it even has the requisite blog. No “Maxim Magazine” style photo gallery yet, but she does have some pictures.

Now Howard Dean’s poor showing in Iowa showed how much of a letdown the Internet can be, for him. But the polls showed that it may have really helped Kerry and Edwards. Let’s put it this way, you can raise money on it, communicate, and it has to look good. And for Belinda her site is on the right track. By the afternoon I already saw banner ads saying “Belinda.ca Start. Right. Now” on Bourque.org. That was impressive enough but then there was this. Check it out: Google Stephen Harper and you get a Sponsored text link for, what else, Belinda’s website saying, “Belinda Stronach Campaign. Join. Recruit. Vote. Belinda.ca” That is an impressive opening Internet shot. Tony Clement? Same Belinda.ca text link. (Google her name? Same text link! Google Paul Martin? Same sponsored link! Try Conservative Party of Canada? Same deal. )

Now critics will point out that her site really doesn’t have much about policy. It is day one fellas just breathe and relax. And some have said how dumb she is for trying to compete with this lame site over at Belinda.com. Hey she’s working an Internet strategy and oh, did I mention the other candidate’s sites?

Looking for Stephen Harper’s site? Well it comes up in Google fairly low down the list as One Conservative Voice.ca (sure if you type Stephenharper.ca you get there too) It’s a lame site that doesn’t really beat Belinda’s on substance of policy, although the volunteer profile of cute Laura Rogers is sweet. I would label this site, the Al Gore of websites. Boring. Ugly Header – My god!

What about Tony Clement? Nothing to see here people. Did a 7th grader design this site? The options of PDF or Word documents was overwhelming. Please give me money…I don’t think so Tony, I’d feel more confident just placing my Credit Card Number right….here….

And you wonder why I say “Belinda Mania” Shame on you. She is organized and seems to have her stuff together online. Whether that translates into victory is a completely other question. But if you had to donate and sign up for a campaign, at this point, who would you chose? I thought so. My initial impression of her politics is Conservative, with a hint of libertarian. I might call this the candidate from the “electable wing” of the Conservative Party in this country. Sensible Conservatism if you will. From what I’ve seen, read, heard, looked at so far (going from zero to sixty in such a short period in politics is tough – ask Gen. Wesley Clark) she’s looking pretty strong. She already said military spending. She may have had me at hello. And yes, she's already won the all important "hair primary" if I can be so bold on day one.

Update: I guess I don't need to worry about the Belinda Web Campaign not reaching mainstream press. David Akin of The Globe and Mail has all the details here. The article literally touches on all the same themes I did last night.

Dean K-O'd! The Iowa Wrap-up - - Mens News Daily has published my latest article dashed off late last night. “Iowa Fallout: The Two Johns deliver, Dean disappoints”

But really there is one talking point this morning. Gov. Howard Dean’s speech. We are going to nickname it the cowboy up speech. 'YAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!' indeed Deaniacs.

James Lileks reax:

"Dean got pasted in Iowa. Why? Because this was IOWA, for heaven’s sake. It’s the Midwest. We can tell when someone is getting carried away with himself, and we know what to do: shun him, kindly. It wasn’t so much the substance of Dean’s recent comments; it was the persona behind him. I can imagine a nice Iowa lady of a certain age, sitting in a coffee shop, enjoying her pie, watching the TV crew pack up after Doctor Dean had blown in and out of Bev’s Chatterbox Cafe. “Well, he certainly does think well of himself,” she might have thought. Translation: she wouldn’t spit on his face if his nose was on fire.

This was not a rejection of the Dean message. This was a rejection of the messenger. He has only himself to blame; this race was his to lose, and he lost it. He inhaled his own vapors. Iowans decided that they wanted a second opinion - and I think New Hampshire voters will concur. But what do I know."

Monday, January 19, 2004

The Two Johns win big - - So I was way wrong. I really thought Dean was going to win, but barely. Turns out he lost, and big. The Two Johns beat the conventional wisdom of “organization, organization, organization.”

Here were Dispatches predictions early this morning.

1. Dean 26 (So close to finishing second that it feels like he lost big)
2. Kerry 25 (So close to winning on Tuesday Morning it’ll feel like he won anyway)
3. Edwards 23 (He’ll still be in this race for awhile yet and I really wouldn’t be surprised to wake up on Tuesday and find him in third coming out of Iowa, or second, or change your underwear John your in first!)
4. Gephardt 21 (He took his share. Dick meet Fork. Fork this is Dick. You’re done)

And here was the reality tonight:

1. Kerry 38 Winner.
2. Edwards 32
3. Dean 18
4. Gephardt 11

The Fall out:

Off into the sunset. Gephardt is apparently dropping out tomorrow. Enough said. As Glenn Reynolds suggests he’s like Charlie Brown and the football always seems to get pulled out of his line of sight. Decent guy. Key Word: “pssst Edwards”

People Powered Howard? Dean beat Gephardt by 7 points. Think about it. Then he used his speech to completely whip his core faithful into an utter frenzy. If there was a word for his speech it would “unpresidential”. Andrew Sullivan wonders if Dean’s failure to win the anti-war vote (to two guys who voted for it) in a place where ¾ of people said they thought it was a bad idea might be a bad omen.

Papa Murphy called to say that it reminded him of the victory speech of the one-time Premier of this province who proclaimed ridiculously, “let’s boogie.” (not pretty) NRO’s Jonah Goldberg puts it this way, “Dean reminds me of the Hulk in that interim stage just before Bruce Banner turns green and starts to rip his clothes.” Drudge summed it up as “Dean goes nuts.” Which is priceless. Gore, Carter, Bradley, Harkin, call your offices. Prediction: By Thursday the key meme in the media will be “Dean needs to win New Hampshire or he’s the Gephardt of NH. Period. Key word: “Wrestlemania”

Sunny Edwards. He actually was the only candidate to stay on message and keep going. As if he acknowledged his strong showing but took it for what it was. A ticket to the next round. He looked the strongest post-vote and the in the biggest contrast to Dean the most presidential. He is the new “it girl” I mean “it candidate.” Key word: “Classy”

And Comeback Kerry. The Big winner. The self-proclaimed, “Comeback Kerry.” I think as soon as he won he may well have soiled himself then quickly reverted to Kerry from three months ago. You won. Don’t get carried away buddy its Iowa pal, not the Super Bowl! And here’s a thought or two. Warning, the “internut” may not be the wave of the future. Cut your speeches down by 5 minutes starting…right…. now. And remember Dean can be your useful idiot. Mortgage another house and donate him some cash quick. Key word: “Eye on the ball”

Dispatches Iowa Predictions - - By popular demand I will give you my unscientific and best-guess-eyes-closed-tealeaves-reading predictions for today’s Iowa Caucuses. The final poll in Des Moines found that John Kerry and John Edwards were surging, Dean was slipping, and Gephardt, well, he still has the same 20-21 per cent that he had in 1988. So who are the top four going to be?

Well if you are to believe the conventional wisdom it is all about the organization, organization, organization. My weekly ESR article up today is all about conventional wisdom like this and depending on the results today, there could be some “cw” broken and new “cw” made. Check it out here.

Anyways, I saw Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday today and he made the point of saying, that in 2004 people can get themselves to the polls and figure out who to vote for just fine. But in Iowa it’s not as simple as following the polls.

Too Close to call! (is that a prediction enough for you?)

1. Dean 26 (So close to finishing second that it feels like he lost big)
2. Kerry 25 (So close to winning on Tuesday Morning it’ll feel like he won anyway)
3. Edwards 23 (He’ll still be in this race for awhile yet and I really wouldn’t be surprised to wake up on Tuesday and find him in third coming out of Iowa, or second, or change your underwear John your in first!)
4. Gephardt 21 (He took his share. Dick meet Fork. Fork this is Dick. You’re done)


[**I’m going to leave a shout out of 5 % for undecideds just for some well deserved yuks**]

Ultimate call: All four men are going on to New Hampshire for another week of fun. But Kerry and Edwards are the big winners here today. Why pick Dean to win? Well mostly, and again, for yuks. He’ll limp out of Iowa, only to get a full D-Day style assault by the rejuvenated “Two Johns” and fresh meat Clark and Lieberman. I think Dean’s best days are behind him and if he squeaks out a win he’ll live on for a time, which ultimately is more fun.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Dave Barry: “We Are the Gephardts” - - Rather amusing Dave Barry post about the catchy Gephardt chant he and his colleague can’t get out of his head. (Here’s more)

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Questioning Question Period - - A couple of thoughts on a small bit of pie in the sky dreaming. Oliver Willis thinks the parliamentary question period is a good idea. “It's one thing the Brits do that we should adopt, and its such a simple thing.”

What a crock. If you’ve ever really watched this question period more than once you would know that it is really an infuriating, fist pounding, showcase for shameless political grandstanding. And that goes just as much for the pompous questioning as the evasive answers. It is unhelpful at best. I used to watch Canada’s and it is a complete joke. We had question after question about the free spending buffet on some porked out programs and while they made some highlights of the news nothing came of it.

Keith Berry wants to go one step further and make it question period with a town hall group of citizens. That’s better, but if it is anything like any other town hall façade it will be complete nonsense too. No doubt Jefferson and the founders would scratch their heads over this one. Matt Welch hints at least at the more comical side of this proposal. It may be funny to watch, probably completely useless, but perhaps compelling like reality TV.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Every once in a while you have to give props - - I was chatting back and forth with someone at work today about France. He was shocked, and I mean shocked and appalled, that in Richard Perle and David Frum’s new book they advocate for treating France like the disruptive little poodle it is. I was pretty hard on the French in my response-and don’t get me wrong great wine, great people, great cheese and all that, but they’ve been a pretty lousy ally lately. But even the French poodle, like proverbial monkeys on typewriters, makes Shakespearean plays every now and again. So you have to give them their due.

Glenn Reynolds has the details on the French libertarian that Jeff Jarvis described simply as “a babe.” A few more feisty girls like that and the French might be welcomed back to the table. The babe in question, Sabine Herold, talks tough about Cuba, freedom, genetically modified food, Hollywood, McDonald’s, French media bias, and the war in Iraq. It’s a must read, and she’s a must watch. “I think the United States is a country of freedom. Our two countries have very strong historical ties. I don't approve of the fact that so many French people are anti-American, because we have the same culture. I like that America is a country of freedom, and a country where you can create and make yourself what you want to be.

I wouldn't say that America is a perfect country, but it's a country where you can at least try.”

Freedom loving French babes! There wouldn’t happen to be a cute neo-con over there? Oui, Oui!

France-a-polooza: Sometimes when a topic becomes hot it is everywhere. National Review had an very interesting piece on French media last week.

"Nobody reads the things: in a nation with a population of 60 million or so, the largest paper is the liberal Le Monde, with a circulation of just over 400,000. Libération, predictably leftwing, but broadly speaking a better and more interesting paper, circulates less than half that. Most readers of Le Monde, the centrist Le Figaro and Libération are political partisans looking for a daily dose of validation, and the kind of faux-intellectuals who explain away French Muslim anti-semitism by blaming it on Israel. If you're French and you want the news, you turn on the TV. In my little village, the largest-selling paper by far is the daily sports rag. By contrast, Germany's national dailies have huge circulations. In Britain, the daily circulation of the Sun alone is more than twice the combined daily circulation of every major newspaper in France."

Merde in France adds, "It's not surprising in a country where three production companies generate over 90% of the televisual content (talk about media concentration!)"

Don't forget to catch this amusing photo over at Blackfive:The Paratrooper of Love of what appears to be a US GI sporting the French, German, and Russian flags on his sleave under the caption, "Doing the work of," below his American flag. (Real or not it's completely priceless)

Speaking of Reality TV… - - My new Enter Stage Right column is up in this week’s issue. “Average Joe: Candidate” details the coming bore fest that might be the new Conservative Party’s leadership race. “To appeal to voters at large, not just current party members, the new party is going to have to sex up its image. In the past conservatives took this to mean wet suited stunts, which obviously didn't work. So if they think a Stephen Harper quickie marriage to Britney Spears in Vegas will do the trick they are also mistaken. But the reality TV theme isn't such a bad idea. That doesn't mean I want to see Harper, Stronach and the other candidates selling lemonade on the street in some elimination challenge (Well, actually I would).” [Read the whole article]

The latest: And as Stephen Harper officially got into the race today, Jim Prentice is out, and Peter MacKay looks increasingly like he might be out too. So someone has to emerge as the "anyone but Harper" candidate. Not that there is something particularly wrong with Mr. Harper, just that another political non-race isn't something that this nation really needs right now.

The Golden Age of Reality TV - - Let me just digress for a minute and make a small case for this next few weeks becoming the “golden age of reality TV.” I’m not ashamed to tell you that I watched “Fear Factor” (a special couples edition), “Average Joe 2” (that Larissa sure is cute), and the second coming of “The Surreal Life.” The latter, Surreal Life, is just too much to bear. Vanilla Ice, Eric Estrada, Ron Jeremy, and Tammy Faye (plus two other complete idiots) is genius, pure genius. Add to this “Trumps Prank Monkey,” all-star Survivor, Celebrity Mole and it is both insane and unrealistically compelling. I can’t seem to look away.

Email Subject of the day - - Pete Rose who? I can sympathize with NR’s Rich Lowry (who is a die hard Yankee man) posted the funiest Email subject after quite a few days of big baseball moves. “Subject: Just be glad Mike Mussina did not grow up around Houston, Texas.”

If you haven’t heard, Roger Clemens signed a one-year deal with his hometown Houston Astros instead of retiring today. Clemens joins his apprentice Andy Pettitte. Now that the Yankees have seen Pettitte, Clemens, and David Wells leave their rotation the Bronx Bombers will have a whole new look in 2004. Only the Yanks could lose these three yet still boast a rotation with Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina, and Javier Carlos Vazquez to start with. (See More: Replacement Level Yankees Weblog.)

Aside: It amuses me because watching the moves of the dreaded Yankees (even of just ex-Yankee players) and those who loathe them is the same as watching people like George Soros eat themselves with their self-destructing feelings about the Bush Administration. And it must said, that this must ring true to Bono’s buddy Paul O’Neill who is getting a dose of what it means to grapple with the Yankee, I mean Bush, Administration this week.

At this point you simply have to read the always interesting, and today particularly fired up, Daniel Drezner who is calling some of what O’Neill is saying “utter horse…”(Well read on.)

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Canadians don?t like Missile Defense - - At least that is how The Toronto Star tells us today. This must come as quite a shock to all those across Canada who have been glued to the national debate about missile defense. Fine, there has been no national debate, and it is a seldom occurrence while going out for coffee or hanging around the water cooler at work there are heated discussions about Canada?s role in the proposed missile defense shield.

Of course this doesn?t stop The Star from pronouncing, ?Canadians aren't missile defence enthusiasts. Nor should we be.? There is no poll numbers or evidence. While that it may in fact be true, silly me, I?d like proof that we aren?t, as a nation, interested.

The Globe and Mail fails even to mention who uninterested we are in the system which The Star says won?t work. And no mention here either. Instead mention of ?strong support in the Conservative Party of Canada for the project.? The Associated Press doesn?t have much of anything in their story. Nor does the Edmonton Journal.

More: I found this poll from May, of 2002 mind you, that suggests that 52% of respondents thought missile defense would make the world more dangerous while 42% said it would make them safer.

Related: Here?s an interesting article from Alexander Moens who taught at Simon Fraser University when I was finishing my B.A in the Boston Globe on Canadian-American relations.

Oh those wacky Democrats - - Earlier today I saw this story Gen. Wesley Clark’s. Clark guaranteed that if he was President there would not be a future 9/11 style attack. I think this is the sort of thing that is worse than saying, oh I don’t know, ”read my lips, no new taxes.” Josh Chafetz at Oxblog writes, “To promise that there would be no large-scale terrorist attacks on his watch? Either he's so arrogantly delusional that he thinks he can deliver on that promise or else he's willing to make that kind of promise knowing that it's not something he can deliver on. Either way, it's scary from a candidate whose supposed strength is national security.”

Friday, January 09, 2004

Getting carried away - - As I said yesterday, the pre-announcement of Bush’s new Space plans have been met with a tepid response. Gregg Easterbrook is less than impressed. His conclusion:

“What NASA needs right now is not an absurd, bank-breaking grand mission: It needs to spend a decade researching a safer lower-cost alternative to the space shuttle.

And why might George W. Bush endorse a Moon base or Mars mission? Either he's a science illiterate surrounded by advisors who are science illiterates, or it's a blank check for aerospace contractors.”

I think it’s pretty soon to say anything of the sort. And then this:

“The Mars ship will require a full operating theater and at least two surgeons on the crew, since what if the doctor is the one who gets injured? Probably an entire Mars ship would have to be assembled and sent there and back unmanned, just to ensure that the hardware works: meaning dozens of billions of dollars to fly an empty ship to Mars, and imagine how voters will like that.”

What happens if both doctors are injured? Fine let’s only send doctors. And what is the fun of sending an empty ship first to test everything. There is no adventure in that.

Atrios adds, “It's basically a plan to junk any money spent on pure science (sure, the shuttle and the station are probably worth cutting, but there are plenty of other things), and open the coffers to the aerospace industry. Lovely.” Of course it is. You know if we were on the eve of a Kennedy-esque visionary Democrat about to announce a resumption of space exploration…oh never mind. If there were only some way to build the rocket ship out of oil so it would cost that much more…

Thursday, January 08, 2004

From the Earth to the Moon then onto Mars - - Sometimes you just have to let George W. be George W. Already George W. was whipping the conservatives into a bit of a tizzy earlier this week over immigration reform, then word comes out that Bush will outline an audacious plan to get back to the Moon, stay there, then go onwards to Mars. Of course there is a bunch of people who think NASA is a codeword for expensive boondoggle (and well, let’s face it, it probably is).

But at least it will be fun. (Although resident space guru Rand Simberg is raising some very interesting preliminary questions.) Bottom line: Permanent settlements on the Moon? What will the French and UN have to say about this cowboy unilateralism? Better yet, what will Dean, Kerry, Clark, Gephardt et al have to say? (Will they be for or against it?)

Best. Hair. Ever. - - Okay, what is the deal with “The Donald’s” hair. Is that even conceivably natural? It borders on, er, creepy but the reality is that it’s a character of it’s own. A tour de force in hair if you will and inspiring to everyone, particularly Canada’s own Stephen Harper (patience young man and let your hair make all the decisions.). It’s hard to imagine that it has taken this long for him to have his own reality show-why did it take reality tv so long to get going?

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Canadian Conservative Leadership Idol - - Is this the leadership race to end all leadership races? It’s time for final round of ‘Conservative Leadership Idol’ as Canada’s newly formed Conservative Party seeks to find the one man or women who can defeat King Paul Martin.

Finally it’s looking like an actual race might happen. Before this week it looked like the hopes and dreams of the right wing in Canada would be found in the man best known for his extremely bad haircut Stephen Harper. And really judging him by his haircut is not that fair to Mr. Harper but the only thing capable of sexing up his image would be a quickie marriage to Britney Spears in Vegas. Paul Martin, no doubt, would probably counter with his own “Britney” move and kiss Bono from U2 before calling the election out of the blue. Fine, neither of those things is going to happen but it sure would help Canadian politics.

But seriously, now this race looks like it is finally ready to boil over. Belinda Stronach, multimillionaire CEO and supposed midwife to the new political party, is looking likely to throw her hat into the race.

The only real declared candidate is Calgary lawyer Jim Prentice who was the runner up in the most recent Tory Party leadership. Other likely contenders: the aforementioned Current Alliance Leader Stephen Harper is jumping into the race next week while the man who beat Prentice, Peter MacKay, is also likely to join the festivities. Former Ontario Cabinet Minister Tony Clement and MP Chuck Strahl may also take a kick at the can.

I don’t want to be “Simon Cowell” to all these charming candidates but if Stronach is gearing up for a race you would have to figure that she thinks she can not only sing better than any other candidate but also sing better than King Paul too-why else would she leave her comfy $9.1 million/year job? (And without knowing entirely too much about her, I would have to say she’s probably right. And I know what you’re thinking. No not an inner dialogue Magnum P.I. moment, well not really. Higgins release the ‘lads’. We’re all looking for the magic bullet to win an actual real election. That’s true, and she may not be the answer-good grief it might make things worse. But I can tell you with certainty; it’s worth a shot even if she was seen, once, hobnobbing or worse with Bill Clinton. Then again, keep your friends close and your enemies closer right?). If Harper, Prentice, or MacKay become the leader Martin wins. Queue the Simon: To Mr. Prentice: “If you would be singing (campaigning, whatever) like this two thousand years ago, people would have stoned you.” Or to Mr. Harper: "If you win this competition, we will have failed."

Perhaps that’s being slightly too harsh. Or too generous, it’s hard to say which at this point. Notice there has been no mention of policy in this discussion. Details, details. Show me a leader, then we can start talking about details and policy.

The Bush Immigration Plan - - Watching MSNBC’s “Hardball” debate on the topic tonight, most notably Pat Buchanan’s opposition to Bush’s immigration reform, and I was immediately taken by the plan’s boldness. It’s a theme in Bush’s presidency, I think, that will, win or lose in the election, serve him well on the stock market of history. If you’re going to be for a tax cut, go big. If you’re going to fight terrorism, think big. If you want to remake immigration policy while reaching out to the growing Hispanic constituency, think big and bold too.

Perhaps it is because I too hope to live and work in the United States but I like Bush’s move and am comforted by it’s audacious. Andrew Sullivan concurs: “Just when you think he cannot surprise you any more, he does. His outreach to undocumented aliens is a political coup de main. As an immigrant, I do not share others' view that Bush's expansion of temporary work visas for illegals is somehow anathema. On purely pragmatic grounds, it makes a lot of sense. They're here; they're working; they deserve basic legal protection; immigration is America's glory and demographic and fiscal savior.”

And of course, while this move has ruffled the feathers of many in Bush’s base-if John Kerry is against it, well you can figure out what I’m getting at with this right? Conservatives, including many at National Review, like Rich Lowry, are saying they should, “go to the mattresses on this one.” I’m sure there will be lots more on this.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

The WTC Memorial finalist - - They have picked “Reflecting Absence” as the final choice for the World Trade Center Memorial today. For first reaction I would be remiss if we didn’t check in with Jeff Jarvis. He’s not very happy with the decision and says, “the bathroom-floor design: pools lined in cold tile meant to display emptiness where the towers and their lives stood, all dripping with tears, the names of the lost engraved in haphazard order because that's the way they were taken. I want to scream. Here is what I said about it when I saw the model. It has only settled worse on my soul since. This is not how we should remember and learn and honor and teach and fight and defy and grow and heal. We are rushing into this and we will regret it.”

“Reflecting Absence” was the choice taken from over 5,000 submissions. How they narrowed it down to one is amazing (You can see the eight other finalists on that page too). But I can see what Jarvis means. But it is terribly difficult to imagine it without literally building it-before it becomes a place in essence. And by the sounds of things we’ll be seeing a modified version of it in the next week. But I’m not completely repulsed by the design so far. But it does seem, still, to be pretty soon to decide on something, anything really, that New York will, that we’ll, have to live with forever.