Insight. Antics.

Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

Survey Says…

In Media, Politics on October 26, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Family Feud - 3 Strikes

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows the sturdiness of a public option: after some five months of trash-talking and mud-slinging, it’s still holding at 57% favorability.

But amid the myriad of health care questions posed in this survey, a surprising numerical morsel arose: only 20% of Americans now identify themselves as Republicans.

Mind you, this ain’t no Zogby or Rasmussen hijinx. Those competing pollsters, although not as mainstream, are actually just as credible, if not more so. Nonetheless, I’d hazard the ABC News/Washington Post names carry a bit more weight out in the public square.

20% is the lowest figure on this measurement in 26 years. What’s more, “Among Republicans themselves just four in 10 are confident in their own party.”

On its face the 20% number is actually misleading. Just because Republicans clock in at 20% doesn’t mean Democrats are at 80%. Those identifying as Independents, whether registered officially or just saying so because they feel disenchanted and all trendy-like, make up a sizable middle position at 42%. This leaves 33% who call themselves Democrats.

33% isn’t none too high either, right? I didn’t think so until I put it like this: comparing the 20% and 33% suggests more than twice as many Americans identify as Democrats than Republicans. 65%, in fact. Read the rest of this entry »

Can’t ‘Stan Ya!

In Media, Politics, War on October 16, 2009 at 10:25 am

Spc. Zachery Boyd, wears pink 'I love NY' boxer shorts in a firefight with Taliban militants after rushing out of bed to join his fellow platoon members - Photo by David Guttenfelder/AP

There are two massive debates going on in this country right now. One is health care insurance reform. I’ve spent a lot more time on it than the other: Afghanistan.

To that point, there was a striking documentary by Richard Engel called Tip of the Spear that aired in relative purgatory last Saturday night on MSNBC. It should have aired on NBC. In prime time on Tuesday night. It’s online and worth watching, at least a segment or two if you’re strapped for time. In addition to the recent feature on Gen. McChrystal on 60 Minutes, it adds useful context to the issue.

It follows a group of soldiers in the Korengal Valley, a 30-square mile area with a mere 150 servicemen. The area has been nicknamed the Valley of Death because of its barely passable topography and deft Taliban presence. It’s much, much harder than Death Valley Rally. Its terrain is worse than the Aggro Crag.

The focus narrows on a remote outpost called Camp Restrepo, an apparent strategic high point in the area, manned by 20 guys. The conditions and supplies (aside from tons of mortars) leave something to be desired, but the guys are hardcore. They average a firefight with Taliban insurgents about 1.5 times a day. This includes the story of the soldier who ran to his post during a firefight in his “I Love NY” boxers.

On one day, Engel follows a troop as he heads out into the hills to a town, to be seen by Taliban. He’s live bait. He’s hoping for an ambush. The plan is to be attacked! This will lure hostiles, so that his American comrades can pop out of hiding and turn the tide. It’s utterly brave. Read the rest of this entry »

No Bull Prize.

In Media, Politics on October 9, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Nobel Peace Prize Medal - Nobel Foundation TM

He should have turned it down. Obama gains little by accepting the Nobel Peace Prize so unexpectedly thrust upon him this morning. In the current climate, it’s the last thing he needed.

As White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in one-word email: “Wow.” Has anyone ever wanted a Nobel Prize less? Bono and Bill Clinton would kill for this. After saving a few thousands more lives with antiretroviral drugs, of course.

Chip Reid asked Gibbs in the daily briefing if the president considered turning it down: “Not that I know of.” Really? Was Gibbs on a bathroom break?

It’s true that this validates Obama’s worldview and that how we speak to each other is important. Yet, in “seeking to encourage Obama’s ideals rather than recognize concrete results, ” the committee sidestepped its founder’s vision: “Alfred Nobel stipulated that the peace prize should go ‘to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.’ ‘Shall have done,’ seems a tricky piece of language to write around.”

I don’t hold it against Obama, because I’m pretty sure he didn’t want it. Not now, anyway. However, I did think he would have the dexterity to decline gracefully and not offend the Nobel Foundation. Read the rest of this entry »

Condé Nasty.

In Advertising, Media on October 9, 2009 at 4:50 am

Gourmet Cover - August 2008

There’s nothing in the realm of media I associate more (fondly) with my mother than Gourmet magazine. For my whole life, it’s been an unfinished cookbook revealing new pages of recipes each month. They’re cut out and cooked up, tasted and tabulated: “Keeper? So-so? Garbage?” I couldn’t count on a centipede’s legs how many of its creations have become staples of my family upbringing and holidays.

I say this not merely for the sentimentality, but to demonstrate the power of a brand.

All of which makes the decision to shut it down a bummer. It was a magazine whose cover could make your stomach growl.

Kudos to those who saw this coming, but it’s a shame. And there’s a lot to unpack in its demise.

First is the paradox that it is falling even as we live in the “Era of the Foodie,” a time when more than ever the average person has the easiest access and most interest in the culinary upscale. As the eulogies poured in, the head of the Culinary Institute for America, Tim Ryan, echoed that:

“I am very surprised and saddened by the announcement. Gourmet was a high quality magazine and an iconic brand. Its demise is certainly not reflective of the public’s interest in food & wine, which is at an all time high; but more about the challenge of a print based business model in a digital age. Gourmet is just one of many print business dominos which are likely to fall in the next few years.” Read the rest of this entry »

Top Ten Tryst.

In Media, Politics on October 2, 2009 at 7:36 am

David Letterman Revealing Extortion Attempt on 10/1/09 - CBS

David Letterman has balls of steel.

He disclosed an unflattering $2 million extortion attempt against him and he didn’t have to. CBS says the instigator was a 48 Hours employee and TMZ figured out the guy’s name.

Early yesterday Letterman testified before a grand jury. If you were not aware, grand jury proceedings are secret: no jurors are allowed to disclose what is said in them. Only the witness is allowed to speak about his/her testimony out of court, if they choose to. Letterman did not have to go on network television and talk all about this: the full details would not necessarily have come out, as I understand it.

Rather, Dave had the dignity to come before everyone and tell it straight. He said something that above all stood out to me and distinguished himself. “The creepy stuff was that I have had sex with women who work for me on this show,” he admitted. He didn’t avoid the bad, unbecoming part or euphemize by saying “I was intimate with women” instead. He was blunt, uneasy, and contrite.

Media personalities have constituents, trustworthiness, and favorability ratings to maintain, just like politicians. So, like your Sanfords and Spitzers this is no small thing, but Dave will weather it. Read the rest of this entry »

Gaffe Factory.

In Politics on October 1, 2009 at 10:09 pm

David Paterson on Meet The Press on 9/27/09 - William B. Plowman/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

Ever since David Paterson became Governor of New York he’s been a different kind of politician. But not a successful one.

It’s a little hard to tell if the morass he finds himself in is situational or personal. Is he a capable but embattled leader forced to make unpopular decisions for the survival of the fiscal and social welfare of his state, or a wily State Senator with ineffectual executive faculties?

His State of the State address was actually a resolute, reasoned address for tough times (yes, I was the lone TV viewer), but his bungles have overshadowed that rhetoric.

Paterson has two big personal problems that have led to his political ones. First, he acts as if normal political guidelines don’t apply to him, yet is neither charismatic nor effective enough to be exempt.

In those early days he was a fresh face to most, perhaps even an exciting to inspiring one, as the state’s first legally blind governor and African American one.

He came into office and acted as a shrewder political mind than he was ever going to get credit for. Perhaps he felt that all he had gleaned growing up around an influential circle would enable him to maneuver common pitfalls and move beyond politics.

After all, his father Basil (is that worth a pesto joke?) rolled deep, with former Mayor David Dinkins, Rep. Charlie Rangel (possessor of one of the more ludicrous voices in Congress, neck-and-neck with Barney Frank), and civil rights activist Percy Sutton, in what was called the Harlem Clubhouse. Read the rest of this entry »