Facts Are Fun(gible)

I just watched Obama’s first official State of the Union address. I thought he did a pretty good job, but it certainly wasn’t as memorable as some of his speeches in the past. I also thought it demonstrated his continued move to the political center, which doesn’t particularly thrill me.

Tom ForemanBut this post isn’t about Obama, or the speech, really. It’s about CNN, and my pal Tom Foreman, whom I’ve written about before, as I’m sure you’ll recall. (Sure, I’m sure.)

Wolf Blitzer told us that CNN’s great and powerful political team was going to be fact checking Obama’s speech. First he cut to Ali Velshi to discuss Obama’s claims about how many jobs have been created or saved by the stimulus, and Velshi was very clear from the outset: we don’t know.

Next Wolf introduced Foreman, who was posted at one of CNN’s touchscreen monitors (which I believe they still refer to as “magic”). Foreman’s monitor was filled by a form containing four checkboxes:

  • True
  • Somewhat True
  • Somewhat False
  • False

Foreman introduced video of this section of the address:

Let me repeat: we cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95% of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college. As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas, and food, and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers. And we haven’t raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person. Not a single dime.

We cut back to Foreman, ready for the truth, and he, putting a big X in the “True” box, said something to the effect of “Surprisingly, that’s true.” I was shocked. Even with the “surprisingly” or the “believe it or not” or whatever word or phrase Foreman used, he put that X in the True box. Wow.

Then he pointed out that some folks would argue that giving tax credits to people who make so little that they don’t actually pay taxes shouldn’t really count as tax cuts, and that some might say that a one-time reduction in taxes isn’t exactly a tax cut per se. Then he added an X to the “Somewhat False” box.

He marked two of the four boxes in response to one question. So CNN’s crack fact checking team has determined that Obama’s statement regarding tax cuts is both true and somewhat false.

That’s not fact checking. It’s pointing out that people with different opinions are going to come to different conclusions. Why bother calling it “fact checking” if you’re just going to tell us that?

No wonder I never watch CNN anymore.

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Obama Cabinet Appointments Continue

Obama and Optimus Prime
Today, President-elect Barack Obama announced that he has chosen Optimus Prime to fill the new position of “Car Czar” in his cabinet.

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Napolitano: From CB to DHS

Janet Napolitano and Johnette Napolitano

And you thought Al Franken had an unusual career path. He went from comic to comedy writer, satirist, left-wing radio personality, and perhaps to the Senate.

But Napolitano has now gone from “alternative” radio sweetheart (rumor has it Michael Stipe himself came up with the name “Concrete Blonde”. I wonder if he thought up the spelling of her name, too.) to Governor of Arizona, and now she’s on the verge of becoming Secretary of Homeland Security. And it looks like she’s keeping busy, too. Her MySpace blog indicates that she’ll be working with John Trudell on his next album starting after Christmas. I hope she can squeeze it in before she has to go to DC for her confirmation hearings.

Congratulations, Janet/Johnette!

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Choosing An Announcer

Obama coinSo, you’ve come up with the idea for a new product that you believe is going to tap right into the current zeitgeist and really excite the public. Congratulations. Obviously, you’re going to advertise online, since that’s such a cost-effective medium these days. Are you thinking about running spots on the eye of hell as well? That’s going to increase your costs, but it will guarantee a lot more eyes. And don’t forget that you don’t just have to pay for the time your ad spends on the air. You’ve also got to deal with the cost of production, which is likely to be a lot more than your web development budget.

A big part of that budget is going to go to getting a voice-over artist to read your copy. My advice is to spend the money to get this right. Listen closely to the people you audition. Obviously, you want them to convey the right mood. You want them to be able to get your audience excited about your product. But you also want them to sound like they know what they’re talking about. For example, if your product is powerful, and you want to make sure the public knows the product is powerful, be careful to hire an announcer who can say the word “powerful” without it coming out as “parful.”

Let’s say you’re selling a limited edition, uncirculated inaugural coin, layered in pure 24 karat gold. Sounds good? Well, that depends on how your announcer says those words. Don’t make the mistake these folks did.

Innoggeral? Uncirckalated? Those aren’t words. Laird is a word, albeit a somewhat archaic one, but I don’t think you want your potential customers to think they can buy a Scottish landowner who’s been dipped in gold — not from you, anyway. You’re going to have to deal with an awful lot of returns if you make that mistake.

Let this be a warning to you: if you’re going to advertise in a medium that requires voice-over talent, either choose an announcer who can say your words, or choose words your announcer can say. I don’t think that’s asking too much of you.

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Time to Fess Up

Did You Cry Last Night?

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Jesse Jackson cryingI remember my first vote: it was for Jesse Jackson, in the 1984 Massachusetts primary. I knew at the time that it was just symbolic, and I had no doubt that Reagan would win the election, but it mattered to me. When I saw Jackson crying last night… yup, the waterworks switched on.

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Obama Wins

Barack Obama…in Dixville Notch, NH. It’s official: 15 votes for Obama, 6 for McCain, 0 for Nader.

Hey, it’s a start.

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It’s All in the Branding

This site is probably going to be almost as busy as the NYFT today. Of course, since little of that traffic is likely to be coming from the Amarillo area, it’s not likely to make the owner rich.

Joe the Plumber

This isn’t the Joe the Plumber who was referred to some 25 times during last night’s debate. It’s just the lucky domain name owner of the day.

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Revenge McCain Style

Last night, Obama and McCain both spoke at a forum on public service at Columbia University. There weren’t many surprises — both candidates support public service — but there was one exchange between Judy Woodruff and McCain that I found rather interesting. It’s in the video below, from about 5:10 to 6:35.

Woodruff: Senator, at the Republican convention, a couple of speakers, most notably your running mate, vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, made somewhat derisive comments about Senator Obama’s experience as a community organizer. I’ve heard you say… you haven’t taken that tone, so I guess my question is, are you saying to others in your campaign and your supporters that that’s not the kind of language you want to hear… How are you approaching that?

McCain: First of all, this is a tough business. Second of all, I think the tone of this whole campaign would have been very different if Senator Obama had accepted my request for us to appear in town hall meetings all over America, the same way Jack Kennedy and Barry Goldwater had agreed to do so. I know that because I’ve been in enough campaigns. Look — Governor Palin was responding to the criticism of her inexperience in her job as a mayor in a small town. That’s what she was responding to. Of course I respect community organizers. Of course I respect people who serve their community, and Senator Obama’s record there is outstanding. And so, I praise anyone who serves this nation in capacities that frankly we all know that could have been far more financially rewarding to individuals rather than doing what they did.

I can forgive the lack of clarity in that last sentence. I got the gist of it, and I’m a lousy public speaker myself. His excuse for Palin is bogus, but that was to be expected, as was his effusive praise for service in general and specifically Obama’s service.

What pricked up my ears was his claim that the tone of the campaign would have been different had Obama agreed to go on a tour of town hall meetings with McCain. Just what is that supposed to mean? Did the McCain campaign start putting out lies because McCain was angry that Obama didn’t want to do things his way? Is this revenge? Maybe it’s an offer of a bribe: come on tour with me and I’ll behave.

I honestly can’t think of a logical explanation for that statement that doesn’t involve anger or revenge.

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Those Changing Mavericks of Maverick Change

maverickMcCain and Palin, “the original mavericks,” as they’re described in the video below, (I know McCain is ancient, but Palin’s younger than I am. How is she one of the “original” mavericks?) have now announced that “change is coming.” That’s right — they’re not just mavericks. They’re mavericks of change. You betcha.

I was watching MSNBC today, and they had a couple of those dueling pundits (or as Palin calls them, “pundints”) segments. The big stumper question they hit the democrats with, after pointing out how McCain and Palin had ostensibly taken that tough as nails maverick stance and bucked the established powers that be in their party, was “What examples can you give us of Obama and Biden openly disagreeing with the rest of the Democratic party?”

What bullshit.

First of all, how many of the examples of McCain or Palin being “mavericks” — really standing up to their party — are true? Of those positions, how many do they still hold? Standing up to your party and then changing your mind and agreeing with the bosses doesn’t count as maverick in my book.

Mavericks, my ass.

And they don’t really talk about what they’re going to change. They just say “change is coming.”

Considering the fact that Republicans have been in power for almost eight years now, and that for all but about a year and a half that power was absolute, “change” is represented by the other party. Who says you have to be a maverick Democrat to represent change?

So when someone points out that McCain has voted with Bush 90% of the time, and the counter argument to that is that Obama voted with the rest of the Democratic party about 90% of the time, the proper response should be that that represents voting against Bush well over half of the time.

And that represents change, whether Obama chooses to strap on a six-shooter, hop on his horse and call himself a “maverick” or not.

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Giddy Up

You know how sometimes you get a song stuck in your head, and it just won’t go away? Sure, that happens to everyone. What about situations — something happens, or you notice something about your surroundings, and there’s that damned song. I knew someone long ago who’d find a rock song, usually by the Stones, that she’d find relevant to almost any situation: if your shoelace was untied, Iris would somehow connect it in her head to Waiting on a Friend or Miss You, and she’d break into song with a voice that sounded like she’d never inhaled anything but cigarette smoke since birth — kind of cool considering she was 15 and didn’t smoke.

I find myself in a similar situation whenever I hear Joe Biden’s name. I don’t know for sure yet whether he’s going to be Obama’s running mate, but it’s looking more and more likely, and that means that at least until November, I’m going to be hearing his name a lot, and if Obama becomes president, I’ve got four or even eight years of hearing that name pretty damned often.

What song is it I hear whenever someone says “Joe Biden”? It’s Elvira, by the Oak Ridge Boys. Iris was lucky. She loved the Stones. Me, I can’t stand the Oak Ridge Boys, and I hate that song in particular. But that doesn’t mean I’m throwing my support to Johnny “Lotsa Houses” McCain. I’ll just have to deal with it. It’s my sacrifice for the future of this great land.

I guess I should consider myself lucky it’s not Thank God For Kids.

Joe Biden and the Oak Ridge Boys

Eyes that look like heaven, lips like sherry wine
That girl can sure enough make my little light shine
I get a funny feelin’ up and down my spine
‘Cause I know that my Joe Biden’s mine

So I’m singin’
Joe Biden, Joe Biden
My heart’s on fire Joe Biden
Giddy Up Oom Poppa Omm Poppa Mow Mow
Giddy Up Oom Poppa Omm Poppa Mow Mow
Heigh-ho Silver, away

Tonight I’m gonna meet her at the Hungry House Cafe
And I’m gonna give her all the love I can
She’s gonna jump and holler ’cause I saved up my last two dollars
We’re gonna search and find that preacher man

Now I’m a singin’
Joe Biden, Joe Biden
My heart’s on fire Joe Biden
Giddy Up Oom Poppa Omm Poppa Mow Mow
Giddy Up Oom Poppa Omm Poppa Mow Mow
Heigh-ho Silver, away

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