March 31, 2004

posted by Paul Smith @ 2:07 PM
Air America: Day One
The O'Franken Factor just wrapped, and I thought it was fine. I know Wonkette and others are more or less 'meh,' but I think us bloggers/blogreaders are going to be generally underimpressed no matter what they do. But let's keep it in perspective: it's a totally different target audience -- with healthy overlap, of course. I doubt right-wing bloggers send much time listening to Rush, Hannity, Savage, et al. We all have good reason to be skeptical because of Mario Cuomo's and Phil Donahue's failures, for example, but it's hard to see this new network as anything other than a good thing for liberal voices.

March 30, 2004

posted by Scott @ 6:39 PM
MP3 Players in the Car
This Slate article is a good guide to the options out there to play MP3s in your car, but as an IPod owner who has tried the cassette adapter and the FM tuner methods I'm a lot more pessimistic about the current choices. The FM tuner was completely worthless everywhere in the city and even when I was out in the suburbs the sound was full of static. I now use the tape adapter (a car mp3 player is too expensive for me) and it's a lot better than the FM receiver, but the quality is still really hissy and you really can't get the volume high enough. I love my IPod but using it in the car has been pretty frustrating. Anyone have any ideas?

posted by Scott @ 5:24 PM
Obama in Context
Sometimes Polis contributor Reuben Siris takes issue with Scott Turow's Salon article on Obama:

"SJ is correct that there are no new real insights in the Salon piece by Scott Turow. There is however an emerging fallacy, which we might want to call underdog revisionism. Turow writes that Hynes' "apparatus was fully behind him throughout the campaign." This I think glosses over the real dynamics that brought Barack the nomination. First, the "machine" was fragmented three ways-- Hynes, Hull (Mell) and Chico. Second, each of these splinters ran into problems of their own and failed to follow through on election day. Obama never really had to face the full force of the vaunted Machine (though there are question as to what that currently is). Instead he ran an impressive campaign against three wounded opponents-- Hull by his own past and hubris, Hynes by his lack of charisma and a machine divided by Hull's money, and Chico because of a split in the Latino community (yes, believe it or not, Puerto Rican and Mexican, let alone El Salvadoran are not the same thing). Chico was further wounded by the dissolution of his law firm (Thanks for pointing that out PDC). Without his opponents crumbling I believe Barack would have still won on his merits, but it would not have been the landslide
victory it was. In the end Barack's victory is certainly something to applaud but lets not overstate his feat with this underdog revisionism."

posted by Scott @ 5:19 PM
Fiction Break
Check out Jonathan Lethem's short essay in the New Yorker. I just read one of his novels, Fortress of Solitude and highly recommend it.

posted by Scott @ 12:07 PM
NPR Audio
A few weeks ago Zorn was interviewed on Eight Forty-Eight about blogs and political campaigns. He kindly gave us a plug and offered a really interesting perspective on the evolving and potential role of blogs in politics.
Also, check out Tavis Smiley's interview Obama from last week.

posted by Scott @ 11:53 AM
Ryan Divorce File Case Progresses
From these reports (Trib, Trib, and ST), it looks like the judge is leaning to have the most of Ryan's divorce files to be released.

""The issues raised in this case go right to the heart of public confidence in the judicial system," Schnider said. Those issues include the "transparency" of the court system and the demonstration by the courts "to show there is no favoritism to the rich and the powerful," Schnider said.

Schnider said he expects to keep sealed parts of the files that relate to Ryan's son. If, however, there are "allegations the [Ryans] made about each other," he expects to release portions of the documents related to any such allegations, Schnider said."

This doesn't look good for Ryan if there is anything damaging in the files. Last week on Chicago Tonight he categorically denied that there was anything damaging in the files. Eating one's words is nothing compared to lying to your party and damaging their chances for a Senate seat. Dems of course want this trial to drag on for a little while longer so whatever is released comes out closer to the Fall. Whatever the files eventually reveal, and of course that could be nothing, this guarantees press coverage on matters other than Ryan's prowess and momentum, which is being heaved on Obama by the boat-load. It's a long way to November, but this certainly isn't an auspicious start for Ryan and the GOP.

posted by Scott @ 11:48 AM
New Bush/Cheney Ads
Some funny suggestions here.
via Wonkette

posted by Scott @ 11:45 AM
More on the Bob Edwards Controversy
This NYTimes article is the first place where I've seen NPR's rationale for replacing Edwards. Basically, they are trying to move away from the anchor-centered newscast to a more flexible and live format. Apparently, they think Edwards' abilities have waned in recent years and that he wouldn't be able to adapt to this new style. Honestly, it's not clear to me from this article at least what exactly NPR has in mind with its format changes and moreover I haven't noticed Edwards' performance slipping. So I'm not sure what to make of NPR's move. On the one hand, I applaud them for trying to innovate, but until they are more explicit about what their new plan is and who the new possible anchors of Morning Edition will be, I have trouble supporting their decision. If you're adamant about them keeping Edwards, you can sign a petition here.

March 29, 2004

posted by Scott @ 11:59 PM
Salon on Obama
Nothing too new in this Salon piece by a friend of Obama, but overall a worthwhile read.

March 28, 2004

posted by Paul Smith @ 3:03 PM
Chicago's own
The Knight-Ridder papers are confirming earlier reports that the Air Force tanker contract really was a sweetheart deal for Boeing:

The Air Force gave the Boeing Co. five months to rewrite the official specifications for 100 aerial refueling tankers so that the company's 767 aircraft would win a $23.5 billion deal, according to e-mails and documents obtained by Knight Ridder.

In the process, Boeing eliminated 19 of the 26 capabilities the Air Force originally wanted, and the Air Force acquiesced in order to keep the price down.

The Air Force then gave Boeing competitor Airbus 12 days to bid on the project and awarded the contract to Boeing even though Airbus met more than 20 of the original 26 specifications and offered a price that was $10 billion less than Boeing's.

Sacrifice features and safety but at a higher cost and screw the French! That's the American way!

Nothing from the hometown twosome on the story as yet, but it really is a KR scoop. Is it me, or is the Trib awfully cosy with Boeing? The only news today from them on the company is this piece of sunshine in the Business section.

March 26, 2004

posted by Scott @ 7:15 PM
Power Point Fun
Slate runs the Pledge of Allegiance through everyone's favorite presentation enhancement software. This gag was fresher a few years ago when the Gettysburg Address was presented, but still Slate's bit is pretty good. Add one more "common error to be avoided" from my elementary school: "I pledge allegiance to the flag that Michael Jackson is a fag." Oh those innocent, glory days. Am I forgetting any other versions?

posted by Scott @ 2:43 PM
I'll Miss Bob Too
Perhaps not as much as Alexandra Marshall, but NPR's move to replace Bob Edwards seems ridiculous, especially considering there's no heir apparent to Edward's perfectly competant anchoring. Marshall isn't too thrilled about potential replacement Steve Inskeep:

"I'm listening to Inskeep this very minute on "All Things Considered" as he whispers from Kurdish Sulaimania about its new public library, "decorated with Roman columns and an entire wall of glass." His wide-eyed, Midwestern-ye-ye delivery has a mighty familiar ring: He's Justin Timberlake to Edwards' Michael Jackson. They might as well just turn the whole network over to Sunday "Weekend Edition" puzzlemaster Will Shortz."

Ahh....Will Shorzt. I've awoken hungover many a time on the weekend to you're geeky delivery. But the question is whether him running Morning Edition everyday would be more annoying than the pledge drive?

posted by Scott @ 1:24 PM
Dead Dogs on DVD
Last night, I sat down with my girlfriend, Amber, to watch Alejandro González Iñárritu's Amores Perros. I had been wanting to see the film for a while so I was pretty excited, but she hadn't really heard of it. I assured her that it would be a good film, but just as I was saying this the first scene featuring a viscous dog fight began. For some reason she is really averse to violence against dogs so she closed her eyes and asked me to tell her when the scene was over. And the scene went on and on and on.......then after a brief pause more dog fight scenes began. She exclaimed, "What is this, all about dogs being mauled?!" Not really knowing I said, "Of course not, just wait a minute." Well little did I know that the film more or less was about dogs being brutalized in one way or another, at least that was one of the major themes of the film. Suffice it to say that I ended up watching the film alone.
Now of course I don't enjoy or condone violence against dogs (or any animals), but I have to say I don't really get why people have such weak stomachs watching simulated violence against dogs. It's a movie, no actual dogs were injured. I'm not trying to single out Amber here, because I've heard a lot of people voice the same disdain, but it seems a bit strange that these are often the same people who are fine with watching humans being butchered in the innumerable ways we are used to in standard American films. I don't mind violence in films myself, but if you don't like blood and guts in film shouldn't you have less tolerance for violence against humans than against animals? If it's the realism that bothers you wouldn't you be more appalled by people getting killed? To me this is similar to the PETA people who spend money and do crazy acts of protests to protect animals. I hate the fact that animals are abused (and I should say that I'm a vegetarian, more for health reasons though), but shouldn't our priorities be to make sure every single human is fed and properly housed before we expend our energy on animals? Moral philosopher Peter Singer would label me a speciesist for priveledging the rights of humans over animals, and I think he's right to do so, but that doesn't really bother me at all. Animal rights in the West is a direct outgrowth of humanism, and it seems strange to me that those rights get extended to animals (and Gays...ooops did I say that) before humans are taken care of.
Anyway, I realize that people's aversion to violence against dogs probably has a lot to do with childhood attachments to pets etc., but it still doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Do check out the film though, it's really well done. I still haven't seen Iñárritu's new film, 21 Grams. Waiting for the dvd.

March 25, 2004

posted by Scott @ 8:36 PM
What Has Happened to Dennis Miller?
Forget the fact that he's become a right-wing ideologue, he's not even funny anymore. Watch this bizarre interview he had with Eric Alterman. I don't have cable so I haven't seen the show, but is it always this embarrassing?
(Via Tom Tomorrow).

posted by Scott @ 3:14 PM
Wake Up Call from Chomsky
Noam has a blog! And he's apparently using it to rail against idealistic stupidity:

"those who prefer to ignore the real world are also saying: "please ignore me." And they will achieve that result."

But of course, in true Chomsky fashion, it's hard to really tell what he's saying. For some entertainment read the comments section for some truly clueless political observations.

posted by Scott @ 2:03 PM
Inside Dean's Rise and Fall
A must-read.

posted by Scott @ 1:26 PM
Well That Didn't Work
A few months ago, the Oberweis campaign probably thought it was stroke of genius to meld his mediocre campaign with his ever popular dairy business. How many times did you see him or those endorsing him on t.v. without icecream within a 5 foot radius? They even icecreamed his name, replacing his "i" with a cone (in my opinion he should have been disqualified from the primary right there just on grounds of freakin lameness). Little did they know that immigrant bashing and dairy products don't mix. The Trib reports that Oberweis Dairy is admitting that they have been losing customers over his imfamous helicopter ad.

In an initial response to the controversy the Dairy even tried to deny that Jim was linked to the business:

"Mr. Oberweis and his campaign are not associated with the dairy."

Hmmm....I assume then that all that icecream was just a coincidence. Oberweis can't have it both ways of course: his family's company has to sink or swim with the campaign. This gets back to my original bewilderment over the logic of those ads. Who in their right mind thought that immigrant bashing was going to be an effective strategy? The reason that those ads were so funny wasn't because they were noxious to liberal sentiments; they were hilarious because of the extent that they misunderstood how unacceptable such attacks were to pretty much everyone on the political spectrum, except for a few extreme conservatives. Now after getting crushed in the primary the family dairy is taking it on the chin. Good, they deserve it. Not so much from being bigoted boobs, though that would enough for me, but from not seeing what a stupid strategy it was in the first place.

March 24, 2004

posted by Scott @ 8:08 PM
Ryan Digs In
I just finished watching Phil Ponce interview Jack Ryan on Chicago Tonight, and it looks like Ryan isn't backing down from his refusal to unseal his divorce records. Ponce grilled him about the sealed records, asking him outright if he was protecting himself under the pretense of shielding his son. Jack answered a big no. If the records do surface, as rumors suggest they will, this pronouncement will nail him to the wall. He's either confident that the records aren't tainted or gambling his whole campaign on the fact that the Dems (and the Trib) won't be able to make these records reveal themselves. My guess is that whoever thinks they have him with his back against the wall will wait till at least until summer to stir this up.

posted by Scott @ 5:39 PM
Who are YOUR Neighbors?
Mine are all maxed-out Bush contributors. Paul pointed out this great site last week, but I just figured out that you can check contributors by street address or zip code.

posted by Scott @ 2:26 PM
A few Senate Race Items:

WAPO's Jabari Asim envisions Obama as a role model for immigrants.

Pivotal choices separate Obama from Patterson

Ryan so far failing to appeal to black voters

Madigan skips the elections but still manages to deliver

Ryan's education policies on target

posted by Scott @ 2:15 PM
35th Ward Judges
Just wanted to add to Paul's comments on the foibles of election judges. It's not exclusively a 26th Ward matter of course. The judges in my precinct in the 35th Ward were equally amateurish. At the end of the night the count was 32 ballots short. This was because the judges, rather than having voters who over-voted recast a new ballot, categorized these over-voted ballots as provisional ballots. But over-votes aren't provisional, just spoiled ballots. Basically that means that 32 people in a precinct of 250 total voters were disenfranchised on the 16th. The election board was supposed to clear this up later that night, but this just further proves that the city has a serious problem of inexperienced election judges.

posted by Scott @ 1:01 PM
Attack Dog Dean
This time it looks like they are sicking him on Nader. Good. He's probably the only one who can effectively knock some sense into Naderites.

"To that end, according to a well-placed source close to Dean, Kerry and Dean have discussed Dean's projected role in challenging Ralph Nader, whose fourth run for president has Democrats, Independents and even some Greens apoplectic. Dean has been careful to praise Nader's accomplishments before urging people not to be seduced by a quixotic campaign. This is a tactical move to avoid driving people into Nader's arms by being too combative. But should Nader manage to get on the ballot in some key states and threaten to throw them to Bush, expect the gloves to come off."

Throw in Chomsky for good measure:

"[E]mphasized Chomsky -- who in no way can be mistaken for an accomodationist liberal -- "despite the limited differences both domestically and internationally, there are differences. In a system of immense power, small differences can translate into large outcomes.""

March 22, 2004

posted by Scott @ 10:52 PM
Iraq as a Nation
For a quick and solid history lesson on nationalism in Iraq, check out Juan Cole's review of two new books on Iraq's history. Cole is one of the few pundits out there that combines academic expertise and continuous everyday analysis of events in Iraq. Make a habit of reading his blog when you want to get up to speed on events there.

posted by Paul Smith @ 10:28 PM
Post-primary thoughts: 26th Ward
After the massive voter registration fraud that occurred in the 26th ward, the Board of Elections promised an increased presence on election day in the precincts watching the polls, supplemented by outside inspectors.

I spent election day mainly in six precincts of the 26th ward, and had friends in at least 12 others. As near as I can tell, the sum total of this heightened attention was a single media event at the Norwegian-American Hospital in the 12th precinct with Board of Elections officials, state attorneys general, and federal election observers parading in front of TV crews proclaiming their success at cleaning up the mess and restoring faith in the system.

I should say that I personally did not witness any attempt at overt voter fraud, nor was any such thing reported to me by my co-pollwatchers. But if you spent any time in the ward that day, it was clear that protecting the public from a faulty electoral process was not high on the priorities of the Board of Elections.

Granted, this was not the kind of election that produces funny business at the polls: there weren't patronage jobs at stake -- as evidenced by the lackluster Machine effort -- like there are in aldermanic and mayoral contests. But problems at the polls went beyond malicious intent to simple competence in the basic procedures, enough so that the system could easily have been manipulated for nefarious purposes.

In the 5th precinct, the team of six election judges were so confused and incompetent at their task that I witnessed five violations of the rules (judges are not allowed to handle ballots once issued to the voter, judges may not accompany the voter into the voting area (unless joined by a judge of the opposing party - which they were not), judges may not feed the ballots into the ballot counter - only the voter can do that, etc.) in the first two minutes I was in the polling place. As a credentialled pollwatcher, I was entitled to point out mistakes and raise objections, which I did, but egos and tempers soon got in the way, and I placed a call to the Board of Elections hotline. Two inspectors were dispatched rather promptly, but it was clear that in the absence of overt, malicious fraud, they were pretty much not interested. "These folks aren't really the best and brightest" I was told, and it was true: the judges in the 5th precinct were mostly either homeless or poor, in any case had little education and had attended the minimum amount of judges' training. I don't mean to come off as a scold or prejudicing these people who were working hard from early in the morning for 13, 14 hours, but as the last line of defense in our most immediate democratic process, they weren't exactly instilling a lot of confidence. Luckily, I had access to an attorney that day who was doing pollwatching pro bono on behalf of the Obama campaign; he was able to come to the polling place and bring a little order for the last few hours until polls closed. I asked him towards the end, was it really as bad as I thought it was? Maybe I was just being overeager and not cutting these people enough slack. His eyes widened and that said it all.

The most troubling thing to me was not the handling of ballots, which was in most cases a matter of helping the voter fit the ballot into the punch slot, an admittedly tight fit, but was the issuing of provisional ballots, or rather the non-issuing, I should say. Provisional balloting is an innovation designed to protect voters from being turned away at the polling place for possibly bogus or technical reasons, even when they are legally registered to vote. This means that a provisional ballot must be issued instead of a standard one in cases where the status of the voter is challenged for whatever reason. Provisional balloting should therefore also defend a little bit against aggressive voter registration fraud; however, in the precincts I watched, I saw very little issuing of provisional ballots in cases where it was called for: many times a voter would come and present an affidavit from a neighbor stating they were a resident of the area, and judges would issue a standard ballot. Isn't this precisely the kind of situation the Board of Elections claimed to be bringing more scrutiny to? Where were the lists of suspicious registrations they claimed would be provided? I never saw such lists, let alone them being checked against the names of voters who came in.

It turned out to be such a blow-out for Obama that almost no amount of vote tampering would have made a difference in the outcome (and again, I'm not at all claiming any such thing took place this time), but because of that, it may be harder to raise concerns about the process for future elections where things will likely be considerably closer. Part of the problem is finding qualified judges; there has to be a better way than the promise of a few dollars and free coffee in the morning. Unfortunately, getting people to pay attention to vote fraud takes a Floridian-style catastrophe these days.

posted by Scott @ 8:43 PM
Wrong Guy at the Wrong Time
Jonathan Chait offers a surprisingly sympathetic take on Scott McClellan that paints him as an honest guy in the wrong business. Unlike the slippery Ari Fleischer, according to Chait's sources, McClellan is just a nice person who isn't good at telling bald-faced lies. And Chait interprets McClellan's visible uncomfortability at the daily gaggle as part of the reason the press has woken up lately. I wouldn't lay the blame so much on McClellan. The press was asleep all Fall on his watch, and I would attribute the tanking of the SOTU and that Meet the Press interview as the real causes of the media's new-found aggressiveness. Still Chait makes a good point. Ari Fleischer would certainly have deflected most off the juicy shots the press have leveled on McClellan.

Incidentally, while contrasting McClellan with the devious Fleischer, Chait makes reference to one of my favorite Mamet lines:

"[W]eak-willed insurance salesman George Aaronow tells consummate pro Ricky Roma, "When I talk to the police, I get nervous." "Yeah. You know who doesn't?" Roma replies. "Thieves."

posted by Paul Smith @ 3:50 PM
The fantastic new Gadflyer has a nice piece on what to expect in terms of race in the Illinois Senate general election, by Charlton McIlwain:

Barack Obama's Race for the Senate

Most salient graf:

Obama and Kerry's election hopes will rise together or fall together. Kerry needs Illinois – and without the thousands of black voters turning out to support Obama, he won't get it. And Obama could definitely use what that necessity will afford him in endorsements, hundreds of DSCC foot soldiers, free airtime, and the morphing of Ryan into George W. – who will no doubt be right there in the Illinois mix with all of them.

(via Larry Lessig's blog)

March 21, 2004

posted by Scott @ 8:51 PM
Campaign News Wrap Up

Blacks united behind Obama

The race is on

Theories on support accrue in Senate race

Politicians not only ones who would wipe past

Think Kerry is liberal? Get a load of Obama


Jack Ryan's divorce woes just won't die

Obama's appeal spans racial lines

Ryan, Obama enter new ring


Not all sample ballots official

Senate hopeful Obama poised for run at making racial history

Avoiding Dean's Mistakes

Campaign investments offer poor rate of return

Hull campaign may yet achieve political honor

Candidate strikes the rightist chord

Big finish for Jack Ryan

Obama beats Hull's cash, Hynes' name

Hynes' loss puts machine in doubt

Republican was in front from start

Republican aims to unite party, but divorce issue refuses to fade

Daley: Let's not delve into candidate divorce records

posted by Scott @ 8:30 PM
Contrarianism Run Amok
Like Christopher Hitchens post 9/11, this NYT article reveals the inherent idiocy of punk rock ideology. Contrarianism without direction turns on itself.

update: I make the above criticism of punk rock ideology seated next to a giant stack of my own extensive punk collection. Bad Religion, Minor Threat, The Dead Kennedys, among others were essential elements of my political awakening as a teenager, but these bands really only take you so far. Most punk is pre-political; it exists only in opposition, unable to articulate it's own viability. Anyone who attempts to think politically through a punk rock model is as sad as that 40 year old guy who used to be at all the all-ages shows at the Rat (in Boston) when I grew up. Which is why these punks for Bush are such morons.

March 19, 2004

posted by Scott @ 7:33 PM
Polis 2.0
This blog has been devoted almost entirely to the Illinois Senate Race for the past few months. Now with the primary come and gone and the general election far off, Polis will be shifting gears a bit. There will still be plenty of Illinois politics to talk about of course, but we'll now be diversifying ourselves to fulfill the original purpose of the blog, which is to be a collective of commentators on all things concerning politics and the media. Paul has already introduced himself and hopefully other members of the polis will be up and posting soon. So keep coming by, leave comments, and let us try to entertain you..........

posted by Scott @ 5:10 PM
Reconsidering Kerry
Do we really want a president who is a mediocre snowboarder? I didn't think so. Thank god Matt Drudge is there to inform us of this important information about the projected Democratic nominee:

"On Friday, Kerry, his snowboard strapped to his back, hiked past 9,000 feet on Durrance Peak, then snowboarded down the mountain, taking repeated tumbles. Reporters counted six falls, although Kerry was out of sight for part of the descent.


Thanks for looking out for the American people Matt.

posted by Scott @ 1:37 PM
Poor Blair
This Trib article paints Hull as a victim, not of the media, but of his own consultants and his own naivete. 29 million couldn't hide the fact that this was a mickey mouse operation. I don't feel bad for Hull really, but his campaign was utterly sad because I'm convinced that he is a true philanthropist and that his money could have gone to so many other better causes than bad commercials and plastic signs. Well on second thought, I guess a true philanthropist wouldn't have let his ego delude him to think that he was senatorial material.

posted by Scott @ 1:22 PM
Election Day Observations: Part 2
In an attempt to do some actual journalism, rather than just comment on other reporter's work, I headed down to Obama's victory party on Tuesday night. Well, I just stood and watched so I guess I was just observing, no actual journalism, but you get what I mean. The place was packed and I stood near the tv camera setup in the middle of the middle of the ballroom. While Obama gave his acceptance speech (which was new material for a few minutes but then disappointingly fell back on elements of his stump speech), I watched Jesse Jackson try to hog the spotlight, Nancy Skinner scurry around hugging people, and Andy Shaw berate his sound guy and chug beers in between segments. If you watched the event on the boob tube at home you probably noticed that Sheila Simon introduced him to the stage. She's actually a pretty impressive speaker herself, but I couldn't help but notice that she was wearing the exact same outfit that she wore in the Obama commercials she was featured in. Odd, don't you think? So as you can see, I did some real hard hitting journalism at the event.

posted by Scott @ 1:13 PM
Election Day Observations: Part 1
On Tuesday, I spent the day as a poll watcher in the 35th Ward. Though it was just one precinct within the city and doesn't represent the statewide dynamics of the race, the experience did leave me with a few thoughts about the state of the machine.
A little background on the political landscape of the 35th Ward: the Ward’s Alderman is a guy named Rey Colon, who beat out machine drone Vilma Colom last year in a hotly contested runoff election. Colom drew the ire of the community for being a machine lackey, and Colon rose to challenge her after gathering strength as a community organizer. Earlier this year, Colon joined forces with other Latino politicians in the state, including Iris Martinez, Cynthia Soto and Miguel del Valle, to form a coalition in opposition to machine-as-usual politics. In general, Colon is still well liked by his constituents, as he has gone to great lengths to maintain the grassroots relationship with his constituents that got him elected. The three referendums on the ballot Tuesday are an example of this grassroots spirit.
In terms of the Senate race, Colon's coalition endorsed Obama very early on in the campaign and lent him significant organizational support on and leading up to election day. This move was certainly an attempt by Colon and Co to forge an independent pocket in the city and to further their clout as a non-machine coalition. Colon also ran (and won) for Committeeman. Backing Obama at a time when he was not considered electable was a bold move and was a direct extension of the independence begun in the 2002 election. The loss of Vilma Colom in 2003 deeply cut into neighboring Alderman Dick (The Dick) Mell's influence in the northwest side and backing Obama further challenged power of Mell, who endorsed Hull, in the area. Tuesday thus served as a battleground for this larger power struggle taking place in the 35th Ward and outlining areas. By siphoning support away from Hull and towards Obama, the Colon Coalition went on the offensive against Mell, and by extension the machine.
If you drove through the eastern edges of the 35th Ward in the past months, especially around the Boulevard between California and Western, you noticed the plethora of mammoth Hull signs. Driving further west deeper into the 35th Ward the sign landscape changed to Obama, but mostly in the form of small yard signs (rather than 6 X 8 billboards). The people who I spoke with said that in the weeks before the election, Mell’s paid henchmen had been fastening Hull signs to every available fence and surface within the 35th Ward and had also vacuumed up many of the Obama signs. All this a clear signal from Mell that he was not going to give up without a fight.
This insurgency by Mell into his former stronghold continued on election day, as he stationed paid workers at every polling station in the 35th Ward. The precinct where I was had 7 Mell goons, and I had the pleasure of standing and chatting with them all day. To be fair, most of them were young guys (early 20’s) just trying to get union jobs with the city. They were goof-offs with hardly any interest in the election beyond making an impressing their boss for the day, who could help them get jobs with solid health insurance after the election.
The two older and more involved Mell people at my polling station were real jerks though. They attempted to intimidate volunteers from other campaigns by questioning their credentials, they tried to challenge every other voter’s residency to stop them from voting, and they were generally just pain in the asses to the judges the whole day.
I guess that type of attitude is expected, but what was really interesting about this Mell crew was that they were only nominally backing Hull. They put up a good amount of signs, but the palm cards that they were handing out to voters for most of the day didn’t have Hull on them. When I politely asked the guy in charge why they weren’t pushing Hull, he blew up at me and said that he didn’t want to talk about it with me. They were pushing State Rep Toni Berrios pretty hard, but not Hull. I think that that shows that Mell knew he backed a loser and was just going through the motions on election day. Obama took 66.4% to Hull’s 10% in that particular precinct.

March 18, 2004

posted by Paul Smith @ 8:36 PM
Veep pool
A friend last night mentioned that it's high time we had a pool for John Kerry's VP pick: who will it be, and when will it be announced. He was thinking of the same person I was, though I don't remember what his choice was for when. I'll kickstart it:

Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, May 31

Any takers?

posted by Paul Smith @ 2:07 PM
Thanks to SJ for inviting me to join his polis. I'm happy to be onboard, and I'll spare you the seemingly requisite self-deprecating modesty of a new blogger.

I'll start slow and easy: Barack Obama is the Dems new superstar (annoying free registration required blah blah blah). Speaking of, I've found this site useful for bypassing free registration tar pits.

Also, a fascinating tool that lets you see who's giving how much to which presidential candidate, by name, address, or ZIP Code (via kottke.org). The one I tried first after checking for myself: Aaron Sorkin. There's also a map of donors for Chicago.

March 17, 2004

posted by Scott @ 9:17 PM
Holy Shit!
What a fucking blowout. I think everyone was in agreement towards the end that Obama was going to come away with the nomination, but by almost 30 points! Certainly not me, as my place in the Blog Bowl illustrates. I was out all day yesterday checking out the polls in Chicago and then attended Obama's victory event late in the evening so I have lots of observations to share. But I also have some of my own work to catch up on so I'll have to hold off posting until tomorrow morning. I hope everyone isn't bored with reading about the race by then.

March 15, 2004

posted by Scott @ 10:01 AM
I've never been good at guessing these types of numbers, but here are my predictions for the results of tomorrow's Senate race:


Barack Obama, 35%
Dan Hynes, 27%
Blair Hull, 20%
Maria Pappas, 11%
Gery Chico, 5%
Nancy Skinner, 1%
Joyce Washington, 1%

Jack Ryan, 48%
Steve Rauschenberger, 18%
Andy McKenna, 14%
Jim Oberweis, 14%
John Borling, 4%
Jonathan Wright, 1%
Chirinjeev Kathuria, 1%
Norm Hill, 0%

Since it will be a mild but cloudy day, I'm guessing turnout will be 33%.

March 14, 2004

posted by Scott @ 10:33 AM
Sunday News Around the Horn

Ad gaffe is new headache for Hull

Poll: Ryan, Obama hold Senate leads

If you yawn, you might miss fun of Senate race

Illinois needs senator who is like Fitzgerald

Senate rivals struggle to wash off mud stains

Can Machine hand it to Hynes with Obama in lead?

Test your knowledge of candidates

Clout on parade -- or luck of draw?

Primary patter . . .

No negative TV ads, but race got nasty anyway


Downstate vote looms large in free-wheeling Senate race


posted by Scott @ 10:24 AM
Hull in a Nutshell
The Trib sums up our favorite newsmaker nicely:

But if Ronald Reagan was the Teflon president, Hull has become something of a Velcro candidate, with scandal and controversy sticking to him at virtually every turn of his campaign in recent weeks.

Supporters can blame the press all they want, but every candidate is subject to their scrutiny. Some just have more substance to their candidacy to fall back on.

A note about the latest Hull ads: now that he finally has dissipated the scandals (after three weeks, nice work Hull consultants), he's now moved on to droning on about his trips to Canada to help seniors save on prescription drugs. Since he's into such short term solutions to solve such a big problem, I think he should unveil a new more effective short term solution in the final days of the campaign. He should load a fleet of buses with Illinois seniors, drive them across the border and then leave them there. Those seniors won't be complaining now, will they?

posted by Scott @ 10:13 AM
The Calm Before the Storm
Sorry for the light posting in the past few days, but I'll be on top of things until Tuesday for sure. People have been saying this all along, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the race will come down to turnout and organization. Though Obama has shown a good size lead in most of the polls that have come out in recent days, it's now a race against that margin and the organization that Hynes will unleash. Will the machine fully go to bat for Hynes in the City, downstate? Will Hull erode that traditional Democratic base enough to make a difference? What role will Obama's labor support play in diluting Hynes' organizational power? And will turnout be low enough to freeze Obama's momentum in the polls? These all seem to be the questions that will determine the race on Tuesday.
Regarding the question about Obama's union support my girlfriend, who is a CPS teacher, has said that their union hasn't done squat thus far to organize teachers on election day. That could change in the next few days, but I wonder if this is indicative of the relative weakness of that arm of OBama's support. Any reports of downstate teachers organizing? And what's the word about service workers?

March 12, 2004

posted by Scott @ 3:52 PM
The Ryan Rumor
What to make of it? I chose not to comment on this yesterday because it wasn’t clear if it was all just late campaign sliming. Today, there’s good reason to conclude that that’s all it was, but several questions need to be answered before this can be definitively put to rest. One thing is for sure though, this has certainly added yet another disturbing episode to this campaign season. But it’s not over, there’s still the weekend.
Here’s a quick recap of what transpired: for the past few days there were murmurs all across the web that something big was going to drop about Ryan. Then yesterday afternoon, Borling operative Rod McCulloch gave a press conference and released this document [Capitol Fax has since taken the doc down] claiming that there are damning incidents sealed in Ryan’s divorce file. Ryan refused to comment on the allegation and the press reported the incident but gave it little credence.
So what does this all mean? McCulloch claims that he is trying to save his party from nominating a candidate who will get blown out of the water when according to him this story will inevitably surface. A Tribune editorial agrees. But what gets stranger is that just when you are ready to file this as a desperate move to soil Ryan by the Borling camp, Borling comes out to distance himself from McCulloch and forces him to resign. Borling doesn’t dispute the allegation, but only says that he is at fault for not controlling McCulloch.
So now with McCulloch left out to dry, I can only think of two interpretations of his actions: either he is being sacrificed by Borling in a risky and desperate attempt to knock off Ryan, or he is a party loyalist martyr who is acting according to higher authority. Neither explanation is satisfying I think, because Borling is way off the lead and it seems strange that the Republican Party would want to put itself further in the political wilderness with this type of scandal right before the primary. Perhaps some Republicans are hoping that if these allegations are true the Democrats won’t push this issue in the general election for fear of being seen as going negative. The other side might be more skeptical that the story won’t surface. Or maybe McCulloch is being mislead by Soviet spies. So basically whether these allegations turn out to be true or bunk I’m stumped as to what the motivation is for McCulloch. ArchPundit offers some background and thoughts on McCulloch and if you have ideas let me know. Until then, I’ll just sit back and watch until things get sorted out more.
One thing that’s certain is that Ryan must be cursing Hull for making unsealing divorce records a possibility. Before Hull primed the pump, the other Republican candidates were certainly reluctant to go negative and bring up the divorce records issue.

posted by Scott @ 2:43 PM
For no apparent reason, when I woke up this morning the first thing that came into my head was Magnum P.I.. Specifically, I was thinking about the guy, played by John Hillerman, who ran the estate where Magnum was employed. Can you remember his name without googling? Bonus points for also giving the name of Magnum's Vietnam buddy. Extra bonus points for explaining to me why the hell I was thinking about this morning. Answers later this afternoon.

posted by Scott @ 1:01 PM

Scenes from a Senate campaign

Latinos denounce Oberweis

A Bright Hope in Illinois

Hull concedes he took cocaine in early '80s

Massive voter registration fraud case probed

Hynes Says U.S. Senate Primary Down to Two

Drugs, divorce dominate in U.S. Senate race

Mayor Officer says Hull offered cash for backing

Obama defends pro-abortion votes

Hull's $29 Million Lead -- Poof!

Campaign direct mail war heats up

Life doesn't begin until 40 if you're 'young and foolish'

posted by Scott @ 11:12 AM
Hull in a Tailspin
With each day that passes and with each desperate and negative flyer I receive in my mailbox, Hull’s campaign becomes sadder and sadder. The latest poll has him in 4th now, behind the bizarre Maria Pappas. It’s just one poll of course, but it’s clear at this point that his support is eroding fast. Yes, he’s been treated harshly in the press, but as a millionaire with no political experience he should have expected that. I guess all that money can’t buy you consultants smart enough to anticipate that voters and the press would put some pressure on an unproven outsider.
From the ads this past weekend to the tone of the flyers, Hull is clearly trying paint himself as a victim of the Illinois political machine, which according to him has had to resort to personal attacks because his outsider status was a threat to their inside game. That claim would have more resonance however if these attacks weren’t so revealing of how thin of a candidate he always was. Had he been an articulate man with more acumen in the public eye, he may have recovered from the Sexton affair. Had his platform been based on less rhetorical chicanery and more substance, he would also probably still be in a lead position. But none of that was true; leaving us with the lesson that money alone does not make a promising candidate.
What I think is most sad about his whole campaign is that he could have spent 1/20th of his money and ran for a statewide office and won with little difficulty. He could have then taken the rest of the 30 million and started any number of philanthropically organizations that could have worked to research and enact his grand visions of health care and educational reform. Six years from now, a guy named Blair Hull with legislative experience, a proven commitment to Illinois social issues, and a half billion dollars would be a formidable U.S. Senate candidate indeed.

March 11, 2004

posted by Scott @ 9:36 AM
Things Might Get Interesting for the GOP
There's been a buzz everywhere this week about dirt coming out on a top Republican candidate. Bet on it being about Mr. Ryan. Here's a hint from Capitol Fax:

"Meanwhile, there is a ton of chatter in the system right now about the Republican (US Senate) race. Brace yourselves, folks. If you thought the Dem primary was a sordid little affair, the Republicans appear to be almost ready to pull out the nukes.. "

Any predictions? Leave them in the comments section.

March 10, 2004

posted by Scott @ 11:54 PM
News Roundup

Man to watch in Illinois

Ill. Lawmaker Steps Up Senate Campaign

Obama leads in race for US Senate

Millionaire Senate candidate Blair Hull meets with seniors

Brenda Sexton Unhappy With Role In Senate Campaign

Candidate without faults is a rarity

Hull's ex-wife wants a different spotlight

Obama, Ryan out front

2 hopefuls are primarily long shots

Look at the big picture before casting your ballot

Domestic violence about power, not money

Congressman helps Oberweis push immigration reform

Barack Obama works to gain black vote

Asking candidates the hard questions

Disparagement of Obama votes doesn't hold up

Obama defends pro-abortion votes

posted by Scott @ 11:18 PM
Detrol is Back

With all the talk these days in the race about prescription drug ads, I couldn’t help but notice that Detrol, a bladder control drug, is back with a new set of commercials. Last year, one of my favorite ads was by Detrol and I wrote a short letter about it to a friend. Thought I'd share it here:

One of the most bizarre commercials on TV has to be one of Detrol's "Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now" spots, specifically the one in which a middle age women is caught with a weak bladder on jury duty. She can't get the bailiffs attention at first so she throws him a note ("Gotta go NOW!") and bolts much to the bewilderment of the bailiff and the judge. What's interesting about this spot isn't so much that it's a catchy overactive bladder commercial with a goofy premise (though I laugh my ass off every time it gets stuck in my head). Rather, what I think is eerie about it is the very end when she is cured of her bladder problem. She's apparently the head juror and is conducting deliberations, when the bailiff comes in to see if anyone needs a bathroom break (I guess they need to ask the bailiff when they are in the jury room as well). Of course she is cured thanks to Detrol so she answers with a giant smile of confidence, “Not me!” The message: Detrol allows you to get through your everyday life (even jury duty) if you have bladder problems. A bit corny but effective enough, right? But if you pay attention to that last scene, particularly to the upper right of the screen at the very end, things get a bit weird. As she is beaming with confidence for being regular again, if you look at the poster-board on her right you see a picture of a sinister, thuggish looking fellow with arrows linked to three innocent-looking women below. A murderer or rapists, maybe? Whatever he is on trial for it doesn’t look like it’s for a traffic violation. Apparently Detrol lets you put away society’s scum as well as carry on with life’s more mundane activities, and with a smile on your face to boot. What I find queer is that the commercial would have stood on its own without the poster, or with one depicting insurance fraud or something less dramatic. Why the scary looking guy? Who made that decision and what are we to conclude from that extra info?

Sorry, I can’t find the clip of the ad online to illustrate the criminal element. Trust me though, it’s there.

posted by Scott @ 10:45 PM
Polls, Polls, Polls
I haven't posted much about the polls this week only because I've been a bit busy this week. But they are starting to show some lasting trends. Here's the latest from Survey USA:

Data Collected 3/6/04 - 3/8/04

Dems (margin of error 3.6%)

Obama 44%

Hull 20%

Hynes 18%

Pappas 7%

Chico 6%

Other/Undecided 5%

Rep (margin of error 5.0%)

Ryan 37%

Oberweis 23%

McKenna 14%

Rauschenberger 11%

Borling 4%

Other/Undecided 10%

I'll let ArchPundit do the number crunching, but clearly this poll proves that Obama is the solid frontrunner. This is the second poll that has him substantially beating the margin of error. Ryan's lead is shrinking, but Oberweis has a lot of ground to make up in a very short time.

posted by Scott @ 10:21 PM
Channel 7 Debate Report Card:

First of all let me just say that this debate structure was a snooze. I understand that the individual response format was chosen to keep things positive and was meant to be an open platform for candidates to present themselves to the voters. That’s fine, but it just doesn’t make for a very interesting event on which to comment. It’s like getting your written information about the candidates from their official websites. Canned, neutered, and boring.
In my view there are two types of debate reviews. Those that assess the whole event from start to finish and those that measure how the public received the debate from the sound bites that get shown on the nightly news and in the next day’s newspapers. The latter type has more resonance and matters the most. But this report will be from someone who sat and watched the whole boring affair from start to finish. So take it for what it is.

One more note about the format. I think that it favored Hynes and Hull. Because Hynes is playing the ‘keep it positive’ game, this non-confrontational set-up played right into his strategy. In fact, the whole event seemed like a debate between five John Edwards clones. “You made a good point Dan. No, your point was better Barack.” The format also helped Hull, because he is a terrible speaker and an even worse debater. This allowed him to just regurgitate his canned lines (though even that wasn’t entirely successful).

On to the report card:

Pappas: Maria has the problem of not being able to distinguish between staying on message and just repeating that message. She was Scott McClellanesque with her parroting of her one talking point. Did you catch that she’s a different non-suit candidate? I understand that this is her angle to grab the woman’s vote, but there are more tactful ways of doing this than just plopping that line in front of every answer. I watched the debate with my girlfriend and she snickered at Pappas every time she opened her mouth. I can’t imagine other Illinois woman responded differently. She also looked amateurish when she kept looking down at her notes during her closing statement. How hard is it to memorize a two-minute speech that you have probably been sputtering out for months? Solid C-, and that’s generous because she seemed restrained tonight.

Hull: Basically, he was his usual wooden self: a few verbal blunders but nothing too bad. He didn’t make things any worse for him and the divorce incident might finally be off the front burner. But he also didn’t do anything spectacular to help him in any way. A perfect example was his response to the affirmative action question. Not that any of the candidates had anything substantial to say, but Hull just blabbed around the question with easy platitudes. He doesn’t have the verbal skills to gain anything in a live forum. I’ll give him a B for treading water.

Hynes: I thought his overall performance was just fair. Not nearly as good as the last debate, which is surprising because as I said above I think this format favored his ‘stay positive’ strategy. He continued with that non-confrontational style for most of the debate but did go on the offensive against Obama about his alleged acquiesce to the George Ryan machine. After the debate, he returned to this point, so perhaps we can expect to see a little more negativity from the Hynes corner in the next few days. [That this comment was the highlight of the debate should tell you how boring it was.] I have to give Hynes a hard time for his appropriation of the 2000 Al Gore tactic of using individual stories to frame his final response. Talking about the struggles of Billy Bob from East Who Cares’ doesn’t give you populist points Dan; it just comes off as contrived and awkward just like it did for Mr. Gore (interestingly Bush did this in his SOTU speech and that bombed). On a fashion note, who’s picking out his ties? And that hair has gotten more Republicutish since the last debate. He gets a B for lacking the poise that he showed in the last debate.

Obama: As the frontrunner, he played it pretty safe tonight with a few easy jabs at Bush. He continues to hammer home his legislative experience, which I think is key because he has a way to back up his rhetoric where the other candidates don’t. The Paul Simon name dropping is voter gold. Nothing flashy tonight for him, but all he had to do was stay just slightly above the fray. B+ for keeping his eye on the prize.

Chico: Too bad for Gery that the whole campaign doesn’t consist of debates, because he may be the best of the lot. Of course, being completely out of contention he hasn’t been tested at all, but I think that he would handle it well. But we’ll never know because he’s not even close to being in the race. In general, he’s clearly defining himself as the progressive candidate with his embrace of gay marriage and the attack on Oberweis. I’m giving him an A- for slick speaking and an otherwise solid presence.

Place your raw reviews in the comment section.

posted by Scott @ 10:07 PM
Say No to Drugs Guys
Now Hull went to rehab (from CBS2 10pm News)? Could it get any worse for him? Personally, I could care less if he was blowing lines before the debate, but this isn't going to look good if it makes any headlines. I hope that this doesn't have staying power in the news, against Hull or Obama.

posted by Scott @ 8:06 PM
Learn From the Pink Moon
Seeing yet another round of commercials in the final week and noticing the lame music that they use, I got to thinking why campaigns don't jump on the advertising bandwagon and use hip copyrighted songs. Remember Volkswagen's use of Nick Drake and the Orb in the late 90s? The trend hasn't let up with Modest Mouse schilling for some mini van (I still love that song) and even Ween getting into the action (Ocean Man). There are two obvious problems before campaigns can employ this technique. First, the cost of the songs is probably significant. True, but I think the point that Volkswagen made was that the extra cost pays off. Who didn't enjoy hearing Pink Moon every other day and certainly Volkswagen was transformed overnight into a hip brand. The second issue is that these songs have mostly been used for car commercials, which are aimed at young twenty-somethings in the market to buy wheels. But this is just an issue of song selection. Obviously, a Ween song wouldn't snag many votes, but the right tune could make a rather snappy and memorable ad. Rock music and campaigns is not a new combination by any means. "Can't stop thinking about tomorrow......." anybody. Here's a fun exercise. Write in the comment section which song you think would work best with each candidate. I'll select a winner next Monday and send him or her a bozo button.

March 09, 2004

posted by Scott @ 12:40 PM
Candidate Interviews
Zorn's blog has a nice collection of interviews from both sides. Check it out if you're looking for a little more beef than just soundbites.

posted by Scott @ 12:02 PM
Saudi Gay Culture
TNR’s John Bradley has a short but detailed article on homosexuality in Saudi Arabia. Like many countries that outwardly proscribe homosexuality, Bradley finds an implicit acceptance of gay culture in Jeddah in which nightclubs and internet sites thrive despite official prohibition. Though no where near the repressiveness of totalitarian Saudi Arabia, a similar gay culture exists just below the radar in the big cities of India. In popular culture, homosexuality still remains a major social stigma, but in Delhi and Bombay night clubs not so clandestinely sponsor singles nights at least once a week. Since a date isn’t necessary to be admitted, the clubs have become de facto gay nightspots. A friend brought me to one in Delhi at a major hotel a few years ago and from the sea of men dancing it was obvious what was going on as soon as you entered. The only curious thing was that floor lights were all on making for a strange lighted night club. Apparently, this was the only concession that had to be made to have the police look the other way and not shut the club down.

March 08, 2004

posted by Scott @ 3:18 PM
In the News:

Millionaire or fund-raiser: Which is worse?

Choice for U.S. Senate, Democrat
--Herald endorsement goes to Obama

Eight Republicans vie for Fitzgerald's seat

Illinois Senate Race Attracts 7 Candidates in Millionaire Range

Exclusive ABC 7 News poll shows Ryan and Obama out front

Candid Chat with an American Politician Who Has Roots in Kenya

Racing for the Senate

Democrats rip school funding

No quit in Senate long shots

Obama says there are important lessons in his book

Washington cites experience, diversity

Here's how those millionaires made it

Support for Obama step in right direction

Obama, Hynes talk jobs in race for Senate

posted by Scott @ 2:35 PM
Hull, the Media, and Fox News
Rather than allow the Sexton issue to naturally fade away, Hull decided to go on the offensive this weekend and paint himself as a victim of personal attacks from the media that attempt to derail the "Hull train" (Did anyone notice that this quote is from Fox News? If Hull is such a progressive candidate, what are we to make of him relying on Fox News to rescue his candidacy? More on this below. I can't find the article on the Fox News site, did anybody else find it?) Conventional logic would be to let this issue die, as it doesn't appear that there is much more to talk about after the barrage of articles last week. Furthermore, none of the other candidates will push it for fear of being perceived as going negative. With the weekend ad assault, I assume that the Hull camp reasoned that they have enough of a war chest to turn the issue their way by blaming the press and gaining the sympathy vote. We'll have to wait for the next poll that will record post-weekend reactions, but I think there is good reason to believe that this strategy backfired.

The first problem is that the ad just pissed off the press more by trying to suggest that there wasn't a story to report in the first place. There was and now Zorn and others will take yet another day in the media to point that out. Going on the offensive in last Thursday's debate angered Sexton and got him negative headlines Friday and Saturday, and now these weekend ads have pissed off the press and produced unflattering headlines on Sunday and Monday. If he keeps this up he'll have free press till the 16th, but of course not the kind that he wants.

One question however is how much this controversy has penetrated downstate where he is the strongest. Did the aggressive ads air at all outside of the Chicago media market?

The other unintended outcome of these ads relates to the Fox News quote. It's no accident that Fox News would produce a nice sound bite like that, because such liberal media bashing is what defines the network. I know that Hull's message in the ad isn't meant to conjure up images of a vast liberal media conspiracy against him, but in effect this is the impression that it leaves on the viewer. In form, his whining doesn't sound all that different from Bill O'Reilly's and this I think is a huge problem. Instead of being known as the liberal outsider, this ad morphs him into a kind of ranting blowhard who surmises that everyone is out to get him. If heÂ’s trying to woo the left this is the wrong tactic indeed. We'll see how it plays out.

It was also interesting to see how the tactic of unleashing the ads and keeping Hull away from the press this weekend affected the tv news coverage. On the ABC, NBC, and FOX local news, Hull's absense was the story and then the rest of the pieces on the Senate Race were of Chico, Hynes, and Obama shaking hands and working crowds. Maybe he can unleash a few more ads early this week vilifying the press for this biased coverage.

posted by Scott @ 11:01 AM
ArchPundit has a nice list of what papers have endorsed which candidate. Also check out his always astute commentary.

March 07, 2004

posted by Scott @ 9:44 PM
Fire Away
I finally set up the comment section under each post, so don't be shy and voice your comments, criticisms, and perspectives.

posted by Scott @ 8:59 PM
Free Trade Perspectives:
The Atlantic's Jack Beatty makes the case that the outsourcing trend represents a new wrinkle in the free trade debates that have existed throughout American history. Tom Friedman is his usual moderate, optimistic self in opposition. I'm not sure he's wrong about the long term effects of outsourcing, but I do question the empirical evidence he bases these types of declarative columns on. He spends one week in Bangalore, India talking to people who will parrot his views and churns out four columns. Similar critiques of his work in the Middle East on what he terms progressive Islam are often made.

March 06, 2004

posted by Scott @ 10:30 AM
Sexton Ain't Playing Ball
Well, it looks like this incident won't exactly be going away that quickly. Hull's decision to diminish the order of protection by claiming that Sexton was jockeying for money has elicited this response from her:

"I will not be victimized by him again about the events surrounding our divorce.........

But Sexton said a sworn affidavit outlining allegations of abusive behavior by Hull before their 1998 divorce was "an accurate account of the events it describes."

She wanted him out of house

She entered into a settlement with Hull only weeks after the incident "because I was very anxious to get Blair out of my home," Sexton contended. "If, as Blair now falsely claims, `this was only about money' I would have continued to litigate in court."

"There are those who think they aid Blair's candidacy by asserting that information in the divorce file is not true, but they cannot change the facts," she said.

"They were not present at the times in question. I was. I know the truth."

Sexton said she was "shocked and hurt" to see Hull intimate in a televised debate Thursday night and again Friday in newspaper and Internet ads that she overstated claims she made in their divorce case to extract more money from him in a settlement."

Well, that didn't work did it. Hull's camp continues to misplay this incident. Granted he's in a tough spot, he doesn't want to admit that he was violent but denying it completely brings Sexton's wrath. But this could have all been avoided if dealt with early on, like before the last month before the primary when reporters finally dug it up. Maybe it's because I'm watching this race so intimately, but I have to say that this ranks up there in terms of greatest campaign blunders. What are your favorites?

March 05, 2004

posted by Scott @ 3:56 PM
Latest Polls

-Southtown Poll-

Barack Obama: 28 percent
M. Blair Hull: 23 percent
Dan Hynes: 22 percent
Maria Pappas: 10 percent
Gery Chico: 3 percent
Joyce Washington: 3 percent
Nancy Skinner: 1 percent
Not sure: 11 percent

Jack Ryan: 44 percent
Jim Oberweis: 18 percent
Andy McKenna: 10 percent
Steve Rauschenberger: 4 percent
Other: 6 percent
Not sure: 18 percent

Hull's dip may not have that much to do with the divorce scandal:

"While recent news coverage of Hull has centered on claims by his ex-wife that Hull hit her when they were married, some 46 percent of likely Democratic voters polled had not heard of his contentious divorce."

I think everyone knew that the polls would even out once Hynes and Obama got on the airwaves, but I think that these numbers also reflect the deep reservations voters have about sending an unknown businessman to Washington. It's not just the order of protection, it's a list of defects: no voting record, bad debating skills, perception of trying to buy the seat, and no political experience. Measured up against Obama and Hynes, Hull just can't compete. Certainly the press has helped drive these points home, but this seems to have occurred mostly in the Chicago area. The questions is whether down staters will catch on to Hull's deficiencies in time.

Here are today's headlines:

Latest poll shows Ryan can take heat

Obama surges to lead in Southtown poll

Poll Shows Close Race For Democratic Senate Candidate

Ill. Dems move to Obama, away from Hull

Hull: Protection order was legal tactic

Sparks fly between Dems over Hull's ex-wife and money

Hull calls protection order 'legal tactic

Messy divorce tale told by Hull

Hull abandons above-the-fray, front-runner style

Four letters: Ponce, McKenna, Rausch, Obama, and Hull

Rivals hit Oberweis on immigration

Contribution from MJ helps Obama campaign fund soar

Senate candidates make loans to campaigns

posted by Scott @ 12:52 PM
The Debate: Winners and Losers
I wrote this immediately after the WTTW Democratic debate, so here are my immediate reactions.

The Overall Winners: Chico, Hynes and Obama.
For a guy with low poll numbers, Chico was surprisingly confident. Even though his gay marriage stance will be unpopular with most of the electorate, he sold it well and maintained this upbeat confidence throughout the debate. As a lawyer, debates are a comfortable venue for him and it showed tonight. Of course, as a non-frontrunner he didn’t get challenged much by moderator Phil Ponce or the other candidates, but still he exceeded my expectations.
Hynes made a good case for his accomplishments and abilities without being overbearing. That takes a certain knack and he had it tonight. He generally came across as affable and articulate even while sharply rebuking Hull for accusing he and Obama for having ties to special interests (more on that below). His attempt to equate his extensive organizational structure with genuine enthusiasm for his candidacy is laughable, but overall he was pretty solid and showed himself to be a legitimate frontrunner.
When commentators talk about the gravitas factor in campaigns, I generally interpret that to mean the rare combination of confidence and accomplishment, or more precisely the melding of those two factors. Whatever it is, Obama had it tonight. Every answer he gave was backed up by some legislation he had either passed or endorsed, and he handled Hull’s charge of being tainted by special interest money with aggressive poise by calmly explicating that he has consistently lobbied against drug companies despite receiving contributions from them. Even the moment in which Hull demanded an apology from him for discounting Hull’s anti-war stance was handled masterfully by diluting Hull’s charge and using the time to reiterate his own consistency on the issue. He’s the best debater among the five hands down and with the legitimacy that comes with the key endorsements he picked up this week this debate might be a springboard in the polls for him.

The Losers: Pappas and Hull
Yesterday, while assessing Pappas’ new commercial I was befuddled why it features this goofy circus music in the background. Now I know why. Because this is her strategy: she’s different from “typical” candidates and she’s going to show you that through quirky ads and whimsical debating tactics. The only problem is that she forgot the substance. Why will she be different in the Senate? Because she’s a woman and will concentrate on women’s issue? Because she has some progressive and/or radical tax, educational, or social plan? Well, we really don’t know what will substantively make her different, because all she keeps doing is repeating that she’s different, different, different. Snooze, snooze, snooze. Her performance tonight was a mess without question. Here she is with just over a week left before the primary with a shot (however long) to squeak by as Hull is tanking and this is how she performs? From the long expose about her commercial’s strategy (what better way to insult your audience than to tell them how you are trying to sell yourself to them) to the odd jabs at Ponce for, gasp!, asking her tricky questions, Pappas consistently embarrassed herself. I can’t even recall anything constructive she had to say because it was all garbled in her awkward and anxious stage presence. I want to like her, seriously I do, but she just gives you nothing but empty promises of being somehow different.
As for Hull, this debate was a fitting end to a nightmare week of bad press. Ponce was all over him all night and rightly so. With each question, you could see Hull try to steer away to an easy talking point, but Ponce would have none of that. At least four times, he interrupted Hull in order to get him to answer the question and that naturally recast Hull as being on the defensive. And he never shed that identity for the rest of the debate. Add to that Hull’s poor public speaking skills and things quickly turned into a disaster for him. The best example was his voting record. “Uhhh….uhhh….I voted in 1964.” You know that you’ve lost the audience when they start laughing after one of your attempted saves. His one attempt to go on the offensive against Obama for not recognizing Hull’s early anti-war comments backfired when Obama stole the stage and deftly dissolved Hull’s point. Rather than take a minute or so and talk about his own position on the war, Hull effectively passed the mike and gave Obama more free airtime. A classic backfire and basic debating mistake, especially when you could see in Hull’s eyes that he thought he had Obama cornered. To his credit, Hull finally fully explicated his position on his divorce incident, claiming that the order of protection was financially motivated. That seems to be a plausible explanation given Hull's otherwise clean record with women, but it remains to be seen whether women’s groups and voters will interpret this as minimizing the incident. In any case, why didn’t he come out with this version of the story early last week?
What was the most interesting thing about the debate however was the tag team that Obama and Hynes performed on poll leader Hull. I assume that they both think that they can win if Hull’s number drops down significantly, which is why they defended one other on several occasions against Hull’s special interest accusations. Being the frontrunner, Hull should have been expecting this, but he nonetheless didn’t handle these attacks well. His most effective point, that he is outside the special interest/politics-as-usual realm, was nullified as Hynes defended Obama and Obama saved Hynes.
Now I can see why Hynes would want to team up with Obama, but not the other way around. Given the media endorsements and rising poll numbers, I would think that Obama would want Hull to stay slightly in contention, because ex-Hull voters would probably go to Hynes. Doesn’t he want them to split that portion of the electorate?

March 04, 2004

posted by Scott @ 4:35 PM
Fiction Break
There's a nice piece in The New Yorker by one of my favorite writers, Hanif Kureishi

posted by Scott @ 3:49 PM
What's Skinner Up To?
This is bizarre. According to this S-T article Skinner is more or less spinning for the Hull campaign. I don't see this making much of a difference for Hull, but I can't for the life of me figure out what Skinner is up to here. Zorn says this:

"The only possible role Skinner and Washington can play in this election, particularly now that they have failed to qualify for the major televised debates, is to deny Obama a victory."

But to my recollection, Skinner has gone out of her way thus far to praise Obama. Why would she want to play spoiler now? What's Skinner's interest in this? Is she looking for a job this fall and betting on Hull to provide it (sorry Nancy the National Film Office is full)? This move certainly won't help her liberal cred, that's for sure.

posted by Scott @ 3:34 PM
The Trib Sees Low Voter Turn Out As an Advantage for Hynes:

"But the problems for Hull, who recently led in several polls for the Democratic nomination, have helped rival Dan Hynes. And while Hynes may be a bit short on campaign cash compared to his rivals, he was also assisted this week by the certainty there won't be a contested Democratic presidential primary in Illinois.

As the son of a powerful ward committeeman, Hynes has a field operation of political foot soldiers far beyond the scope of his opponents, something that could greatly help him if voter turnout is low. And that's more likely now that U.S. Sen. John Kerry has all but sealed the Democratic presidential nomination.

Although Hynes placed third of seven candidates in the most recent Tribune/WGN-Ch. 9 poll, the Illinois comptroller also has run a statewide contest before, another key advantage.”

Read the whole thing here.

Certainly, Hynes has the organizational advantage, but it remains to be seen whether manufacturing votes at the precinct level will be enough to put him over the top. Organization is great, but many of those who will be on the phones and knocking on doors for Hynes on election day aren’t necessarily actually pulling for him. They’ll mostly be either state/city workers or others whose livelihood is somehow tied to the local politicians who have endorsed Hynes. I haven’t been contacted by Hynes’ people yet, but I did get a phone message from a Hull worker. The woman sounded like she was doing her nails and watching t.v. while calling. All types of campaign support are not the same, and if Hynes has a legion of bored supporters his organizational advantage could be blunted. Also in terms of signage, as I drive around the city I don’t see all that much of Hynes--some but nothing overwhelming. Mostly it’s Hull or Obama.

posted by Scott @ 3:16 PM
Quick News Roundup:

GOP candidates sound off for live WTTW television audience
Check out Zorn today for his take on the GOP debate.

Obama reports $1.27 million in campaign fund

In Senate race, government experience comes in all flavors

Obama-Ryan match a ‘GQ race to watch’

Senate rivals urge Ryan to unseal divorce records

A pretty decent summary of the Dem and Rep field by MSNBC

Don't black politicians know who their people are?

posted by Scott @ 2:39 PM
Not That It Matter.....
......but The Illinois leader has endorsed Obama and in the process slams Hull for “appealing to the rhetorically anti-capitalist left” and “adopting the mantra of class envy and world government.”
Another great quote is this one:
“Hynes walks the line on abortion, guns, and gay rights while Hull and Obama figuratively compete to light the torch for the Seventh Gay Games coming to Chicago.”
Where would we be without the Leader?

posted by Scott @ 1:15 PM
I Can Already Feel My Free Time Being Sucked Away......
.....because of this new presidential election game. I haven't heard if it's any good, but for only $12 it's worth a spin.
Actually though it may sound better than it actually is. It doesn't mention whether you can play against other live people, which for me would be lame. Half of the fun about thinking about politics and campaigns is the conversations you have with other live people. I'm not sure if a video game can replicate that satisfaction. Link courtesy of The Filibuster.

March 03, 2004

posted by Scott @ 10:48 PM
Pappas Ad
It's OK. Go here to watch it. She's clearly going for the female vote by contrasting herself with a bunch of suits, and I see how that can be effective. But what's with that goofy circus music? "Who are the ad wizards who came up with that one?" Seriously, what's the thinking there? In terms of her speaking style in front of the camera, I think she's pretty good; a huge improvement from her debate performances. This should give her a bit of a bump.

posted by Scott @ 10:11 PM
Hull Takes Action:
From Capitol Fax:

"Blair Hull's campaign is likely going up this weekend with a huge barrage of TV ads, according to insiders. Hull has reportedly committed to spending as much as $8 million between now and the end of the campaign, several inside sources said.

So far, Hull has been unable to convince his ex-wife to appear in a TV ad to defend him against allegations she, herself, made against him about domestic abuse. Hull and his aides have tried repeatedly to make the case, but the deal has not yet been sealed. Hull's children appear in a new newspaper ad, however."

Having his ex in an ad would be huge for him. At this stage, it's probably the only way to get this mess behind him. He has the ad money to do it should she agree. If I were her I'd do it only if he could name me head of the National Film Office (or create the office if it doesn't already exist).

posted by Scott @ 6:34 PM
Sorry Blair
I know that lately it seems like this blog is all about Hull bashing, but that's not exactly right. Though I don't care for Hull as a candidate personally, my criticisms of him surrounding the divorce incident are not because of what he did but how he has handled it, or rather how his campaign has handled it. The most important thing for me is that a Democrat be in this seat next November. If Hull wins the primary, I will support him no questions asked.
Which is why I think his mishandling of this incident is so serious. What will the Republicans do to him next fall if he can't handle himself in the primary? Since he has no experience to dilute his now tarnished image, he'll be easily labeled as the rich domestic abuser and will get trounced. Goodbye Senate seat.
The combination of his lack of political experience, his weak rhetorical skills, and his inability to understand that this is the wrong way to handle a scandal make him a weak candidate, plain and simple. In fact, his misplay on this incident might be a blessing in disguise for Democrats. Without it, Hull would probably have walked away with the primary with ease. What it’s done is awoken the press to really scrutinize this guy (something I called for last month). Campaigns are long just for this reason, so the electorate can get a nice careful look at the candidates. Ask California what happens when you have a short campaign season.
But hey it's not over. With all that dough to accelerate the ad campaign, Hull is not out of this by any means. I just hope that voters wake up and realize that this guy is a lame horse to bet on.

I've said this before, but Kerry's big win yesterday can't be good for Hull. Less excitement about the 16th means less soft voters to the polls, which means less gimmees for Mr. Name Recognition.

In the last day or so, I've gotten a bunch of emails from people scolding me for describing Hull as "ferret-like." Let me explain. Of course a candidate's looks should absolutely be a non-factor in an election. I think we can all agree on that. But I think that we can all also agree that with so much emphasis on t.v. ads that ideal just doesn't play out. Those commercials are carefully crafted to play up whatever positive aspects a candidate has and also to play down their faults. They’re fake, they’re commercials (my favorite scene from the Candidate is when the Redford character views the commercial that used the “authentic” footage). Notice how Obama and Hynes, who are both decent orators, do most of the talking in their ads. Also notice that Hull's ads are mostly voiced over by some sugary paid voice. Then there's Hynes' new commercial featuring his attractive and successful wife (some sort of doctor). He'd be stupid not to push her in front of the camera, and that spot is partially successful because husband and wife are portrayed as a successful good-looking couple. My point isn’t to reduce everything to looks. It’s just to say that in the t.v. world they do matter (hell, my ugly mug wouldn’t help me much if I had commercials).
So in that post from the other day, I was commenting that Pappas' entry into t.v. land might be more effective considering she's not too hard on the eyes (I haven’t seen the spots yet, so that’s why I continue to use the conditional). I contrasted her projected ads against those featuring Hull, who, unless I'm missing something here, isn't exactly Clark Gable. Basically, I was saying that from the passive t.v. viewer’s perspective Pappas' ads would be a welcome change to the average looking Hull ads, which they have been inundated with for months. And I'm sorry, I still think that he looks a little like a ferret, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

posted by Scott @ 5:08 PM
Sun-Times Editorial Page Bodyslams Hull
First Sue Ontiveros softens him up with the camel clutch:

"What we know after reading the published accounts of Hull and Sexton's ugly confrontations doesn't sound good. According to the records and a police report, which Hull has not denied, he hit Sexton, threw a remote control at her, called her vile names repeatedly and threatened to kill her. If we had read those same incidents about a truck driver from the South Side, we'd call it abuse.
But Hull doesn't think so. Maybe that's the scariest part. He is a successful businessman who has given big bucks to pro-women causes -- so perhaps he thinks it's more civil, more acceptable, when his behavior gets ugly."

And then she tags Cindy Richards for the double leg take down:

"Experience should count. Records of accomplishment should count. And, yes, it should matter whether you hit your wife -- even if you only did it once during a contentious divorce."

Ouch. Seeing how badly the Hull camp has handled this incident is like watching a trainwreck in slow motion.
[update] Case in point: Hull calls in press, then takes a hike.

Anyone see the ads from his kids? I read online so I haven't.

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