Ad Wars – Going Negative

John McCain released a new ad this week that looks to criticize Barack Obama’s celebrity-like popularity.

The 30-second spot, called “Celeb,” flashes video from Obama’s Berlin rally alongside images of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, while a narrator says “He’s the biggest celebrity in the world. But is he ready to lead? With gas prices soaring, Barack Obama says no to offshore drilling, and says he’ll raise taxes on electicity? Higher taxes, more foreign oil. That’s the real Obama.”

It seems ironic that, while he complains about the unfair media attention being given to Barack Obama, John McCain’s own ad uses Obama’s image and name so much. There’s nothing but the Illinois Senator for the first 25 seconds of the ad – I counted ten different images of Obama while it shows just one for McCain and Obama is referenced (by name and on screen) seven times. Until the last few seconds, you could be fooled into thinking this ad had nothing to do with John McCain. And looking back at the ads McCain has posted on his YouTube account, this is nothing new.

Since Obama won the Democratic nomination, McCain has made seven TV ads that go after Obama – “Celeb,” the highly-criticizedTroops,” “Pump,” an earlier version of “Troops” called “Troop Funding,” “Seal,” “Dr. No,” and “Words.” Some of them – “Seal,” “Dr. No,” and “Words” – don’t even mention McCain’s name at all. Not only does McCain run the risk of coming off as a grumpy old man telling everyone to stop getting their hopes up, he also could fall into the “Don’t Think of an Elephant!” trap with this kind of messaging. Here’s something John McCain might want to consider: how are you going to make people stop thinking about Barack Obama if even you can’t stop talking about him?


Stevens and the 2008 Elections

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was indicted today and is charged with making false statements on financial disclosure forms. You can find the story all over the internet, but I want to talk about the impact of this case on November, and what it means for the Presidential and Congressional elections. Stevens is considered one of the kings of pork (congressional earmarks Senators make for their state – it was Stevens who wanted funding for a $398 million to build a “Bridge to Nowhere“), and I think this investigation might allow the Democrats to make the 08 elections a repeat of the 2006 midterms.

There’s not much doubt that the Democrats will pick up seats in Congress this year (FiveThirtyEight projects them taking four more seats this year for a 55-45 majority), and if they can make Congressional elections this year about the same issues as 2006 – ethics – then they could pick up even more. Democrats retook Congress in 06 because voters were getting tired of Republican leadership in “the broken branch”: the Mark Foley scandal, Larry Craig, and none other than Ted Stevens, to name a few, lead to that frustration. This year, this Stevens scandal could lead to more ethics talk in Senatorial elections. Granted, the Democrats lead Congress this year, and there haven’t been very many big Republican scandals in the past two years, plus the economy and Iraq war will be bigger issues than ethics. But with a projected big night for the left already in the making, Ted Stevens’ indictment could make November 4th even more painful for Congressional Republicans.

New Heights of Mediocrity

I was at the Oakland A’s game Monday night. Not very many people can say that – there were just 12,464 of us, or about a third of McAfee Coliseum. The crowd was so abysmal that stadium operators didn’t even bother putting “Guess the Attendance” on the scoreboard. It would be one thing if the deserted Coliseum hosted a well-played game between two top teams that Arctic night (thank you, bay area fog bank), but the contest Monday was between the A’s and Royals. Oy.

Oakland hitters combined for 12 strikeouts and two runs, while starter Dallas Braden gave up two homers from Kansas City’s Jose Guillen and Alex Gordon. Times are, indeed, tough for A’s baseball. To give you an idea of how throughly uninspiring the game was, I took my seat before the start of the game, and only stood up three times: once for the national anthem, once for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and once to leave.

This, Lew Wolf says, is why he has to move the team to Fremont – because people don’t show up to the games. But the A’s trade away all the fan favorites and talent (such as Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, Rich Harden, Jason Kendall, Eric Byrnes… I can go on) for prospects nobody has heard of. How many Oakland A’s on the team yesterday were there in 2003? Two: the injured (perhaps permanently) Eric Chavez and Mark Ellis, who never sold tickets as it was. Fans won’t flock to a stadium to see players who will be good in three years – if they wanted that, they’d go see the Sacramento Rivercats – and they especially won’t go to watch a team where hitting over .250 makes you a superstar. Monday’s game showcased everything wrong with the organization: nobody came to the game, nobody knew who the players were, and (oh by the way) the team sucked. I suppose a good sports analyst would give advice to fix that, but this is the view from the stands: do something, at least make A’s baseball interesting again.

Sports and Politics

No, that title isn’t a list of my two favorite things in the world – it’s the reason why John McCain and Barack Obama should announce their Vice-Presidential picks in the next two weeks. On August 8th, the 2008 Summer Olympics begin in Beijing, and will basically dominate the news until the closing ceremonies on the 24th: the day before the start of the Democratic Convention in Denver. By the time that ends on the 28th, we’ll be days away from the RNC in St Paul, Minnesota. So for the presumptive nominees of both parties, time’s a’wasting.

Barack Obama and the Democrats already know that the news media will be completely focused on them from August 25-28th, so what’s the point of announcing then? It would be like my Wisconsin Badgers running up the score against Northwestern, when they could have used that energy to beat Ohio State (sports + politics = college football analogies). Also, he knows that any announcement in the days before the convention would lose its airtime to the closing ceremonies in Beijing.

And though it might seem like John McCain has more timing options since the Republican Convention comes a week after the DNC, consider this: Barack Obama’s accepts his party’s nomination for President on August 28th (a Thursday), and his party’s convention begins just 5 days later on September 2nd (a Tuesday). All through that weekend, the news media will be basking in the afterglow of Obama’s speech at INVESCO Field, and by the time they’re done with that, it’s show time in St Paul (and I’ll refer back to my Wisconsin football analogy). McCain may also want to lead the way with his Veep selection – he’s often been shown as reacting to Barack Obama, not making the first move, something he could change when he picks a running mate.

So if Barack Obama and John McCain want the most media play for their respective choices for Vice-President, they’ll do it sometime in the next 10 days – maybe late this week or early next week, so as not to run up against the Olympics’ opening ceremonies. Otherwise we, may hear this on CNN: “And we interrupt this discussion of Barack Obama’s running mate because someone has pole-vaulted higher than anyone else ever has before!!”

No, YOU’RE hipster!

Hipster: The Dead End of Civilization

We’ve reached a point in our civilization where counterculture has mutated into a self-obsessed aesthetic vacuum. So while hipsterdom is the end product of all prior countercultures, it’s been stripped of its subversion and originality, and is leaving a generation pointlessly obsessing over fashion, faux individuality, cultural capital and the commodities of style.

In true Hipster fashion, Adbusters, the ultimate Hipster magazine (self-described as “the journal of the mental environment”) has jumped on yet another bandwagon. Although deeply hipster itself, Adbusters just released the September/October #79 issue featuring a main article on Hipsters, titled “Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization.” The reporter, Douglas Haddow, makes the point that Hipsters simply absorb the life of other trends and cultures and do not generate any life or creativity of their own. They are consumers, not producers, he says.

The entire story centers around a Hipster party. Haddow writes of how he lurks around and comments negatively on what everyone is wearing and doing. He says everyone at the party has a “Fuck you” mentality, and points out whatever the person he is interviewing is wearing. By the end of the party, and by the end of the story, Haddow comes to the conclusion that hipsters are lazy, pessimistic hypocrites who are an unnecessary evil in this world.

But as a drinker of coffee, a listener of Andrew Bird, and a proud owner of a pair of skinny jeans, I’m here to defend the way of the hipster.

Haddow spends the entire article mocking the clothes and ways of the people around him, and then makes the point that hipsters spend all their time mocking the clothes and the ways of the people around them. He accuses them of being negative and without hope, as he pessimisticly generalizes their attitudes and writes of only the bad. He says they are shallow and aesthically obsessed as he judges every person he interviews. And worst of all, he’s writing an article making fun of hipsters for the magazine ADBUSTERS. Really, though?

Adbusters is only sold in natural, organic, vegan grocery stores. I wonder who will read this article!?!?


As Haddow attempts to separate himself from the Hipster label and world, he does not realize that part of the hipster culture IS to make fun of other hipsters. It takes one to know one. Every hipster is embarassed to be a hipster. Why? Because hipsters DON’T want to fit in, and if they’re just like all the people around them, then they do.

All Hipsters have an identity complex, Haddow included. And if he thinks he doesn’t, he needs to talk to Freud, and fast.

Read the entire article and another reflection on it:

SWoS Friday Roundup

Well just like I did on the politics blog, today I’m relinquishing my “blogger who actually gives analysis” role in favor my much easier “blogger who just links to strange/funny stuff they found online today” persona. Enjoy, a website with a streaming webcam showing a group of unhatched eggs, where visitors are invited to place bets on which will hatch first. Many questions come to mind when you think of this kind of gambling: how do you keep John Daly away from it? what gives egg #4 7-1 odds, while #5 is 10-1? and, the eggs won’t hatch for another two weeks, but can’t I take my eyes off the streaming video?

– ESPN Columnist Jerry Crasnick on former Oakland Athletics manager Dick Williams’ induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend

– According to EA Sports’ NCAA Football 2009, the University of Wisconsin’s (go badgers) Camp Randall Stadium is the #8 toughest place to play in the nation – and I’m going to be there next year. Score.

– Deadspin’s “Awful Announcing” rundown of Thursday’s top moments in sports includes USC coach Pete Carroll revealing his Indiana Jones tendencies, some deranged Packers fans (is there any other kind?), the MLS’s “Bitchy the Hawk,” and an (all joking aside) awful brawl from the minor leagues

Hey Everybody, It’s 1987 Again!!!

So I thought I would do some serious analysis today. There were some big issues to go after – Politico just had a good article on the blogging “Commentocracy,” I could do a reaction to Obama’s speech in Berlin, or I could talk about the McCain speech at the Schnitzengiggle… or wherever he was yesterday. I could have done all that, but then I found this.

“Pork Invaders” is John McCain’s online game where you shoot down pork (Congressional earmark spending) with vetoes from a McCain campaign sign. It’s amazing, it’s addicting, it’s a time machine: after 15 minutes of playing, I want to go drive a Ford Probe and listen to “Purple Rain” on cassette tape! It’s a Friday – can you tell?