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January 2008

Swiftboating, viral videos and other campaign killers

This video was discussed on a CNN special investigative report called "Campaign Killers". The show highlighted political moments of the past and present and reflected on the effectiveness of negative campaign ads. It was made by a guy just sitting in a coffee shop. He was fired but the campaign was effective.

Here are some questions to be answered after watching the special.

1. What is "mudslinging"? Why do you think that some political candidates and organizations choose to attack opponents in their ads?

2. What is "swift-boating"? What is the origin of this term? Who sponsored the Swift Boat ad mentioned in the program? According to the video, why was the Swift Boat ad effective against John Kerry's campaign for the presidency?

3. Describe the negative ad seen in the video that ran against George W. Bush. What issue was the focus of this ad? Why do you think that some saw the ad as "race-baiting"? Do you agree or disagree with that label? Explain.

4. According to the experts interviewed in the video, why do negative ads often work?

5. How does Mark McKinnon, former media adviser to George Bush, account for the discrepancy between the public's distaste for negative advertising and its effectiveness?

6. What ad does CNN's Campbell Brown point to as "the first swift-boating attempt of 2008"? What is the point of this ad? What do you think of it?

7. What is MoveOn.org? How did the organization get its start? Describe the full-page newspaper ad that MoveOn bought in September in the New York Times. Who was the focus of this ad? Why was the ad controversial? What were the positive and negative political consequences of the ad for MoveOn?

8. What are some of the other ads that MoveOn has produced? What is your opinion of the MoveOn ads shown in the video?

9. Who is Richard Collins? What is the name of the political project that he has started? How would you describe his organization's treatment of Hillary Clinton?

10. Cite examples from the program of the use of humor in negative ads. Why do you think that humor is an effective tool in these ads?

11. Who is Michael Dukakis? What was the Willie Horton ad? According to the report, how did this ad impact Dukakis' run for the White House?

12. According to David Schwartz, chief curator at the Museum of the Living Image, why were the negative ads against Dukakis successful? What words of advice does Dukakis have for anyone who is running for president?

13. According to the video, for how long have attack ads been part of America's political landscape? Were you surprised to learn about the attack ads aimed at Thomas Jefferson? Explain.

14. According to the program, how has television impacted the reach of attack ads?

15. What was the issue behind the negative ad that Lyndon Johnson's campaign ran against Barry Goldwater in 1964? According to the program, why was this ad effective?

16. Who is Bill Hillsman? What kind of candidate does he typically represent? What does he mean when he talks about "contrast ads"? Why does Hillsman think that contrast ads are "a plus to the political discourse"?

17. According to Hillsman, how can a person "make a poll say anything"?

18. According to CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider, what is the difference between commercial advertising and political advertising? What is the Federal Trade Commission? How does this agency protect the public when it comes to commercial ads? Does it have a role in the production of political ads? Explain.

19. How can visual images be used to the benefit or detriment of a political candidate? According to the report, what "tricks of the trade" can producers of political ads use to enhance or damage a candidate's image?

20. Why did Phil Devalese decide to create a negative ad? What alias did he use when making his ad? Who was the target of this ad? Who was Devalese supporting for president? Where did his ad air? How did his ad get seen so many times?

21. What controversial comment by George Allen was captured on the Internet? According to the program, what impact has the Internet had on Allen's presidential hopes?

22. Do you think that attack ads that air on the Internet and television are necessary elements of free speech or have they gone too far? State your rationale.


Now there are two

John Edwards withdrew from the Democratic race for the White House. He was pretty much the odd man out anyway and his showing in his home state of South Carolina was indicative of the need to pull the plug on his campaign. Could he be back as a candidate for vice president? It's entirely possible.

With John Edwards stepping out of the Democratic race for the presidency of the United States, what of the voters that he has siphoned away from either Clinton or Obama? Super Tuesday will definitely be super.

The next Democratic nominee for President of the United States of America will be a Black man or a woman. Notwithstanding the historical and cultural significance of that, we would be wise to remember that regardless of who is next to occupy the Oval Office inherits an economy that is almost in the toilet; military conflict of which we need to withdraw from and not appear weak; an education system that continues to leave too many children behind and an environment in which resources are depleted far more than replenished.

Quite frankly, all of the Republican candidates frighten me way more than W. McCain is frightening than the others and is rumored to have Florida governor Charlie Crist under consideration as his running mate. If that happens, Crist's charisma will surely win voters for the Republicans.

Tonight's debate from California should be interesting with only two major Democrat candidates. Which one will become the nominee and which one is a better match-up against the Republican nominee? I don't know how we keep the energy until November but please watch tonight and let me know what you think.


My CrackBerry Blues

Last week was less than pleasant as I was without full functionality of my CrackBerry [BlackBerry] Pearl. I've become so addicted to my BlackBerry that I understand why it is referred to as a CrackBerry.

After a diagnostic routine I was talked through by the AT&T customer service rep, I was finally Crackberry1 granted a 'reconditioned' unit. I don't like that term reconditioned but what were my options, right? I was promised a unit in five days or given the option to pay for expedited shipping. Pay for expedited shipping? I didn't resort to profanity with the rep but my response to that question was not pleasant. I told the rep I understood that she was doing her job and asked her to let her supervisor know how irritating and inconsiderate I found that question to be.  As a customer with a defective unit through no fault of my own, I expected to receive a unit the net day, at the company's expense or be able to be made whole via replacement at one of their local stores.

I spend a lot of money with them each month and it may be time to mae a move to another provider. One of the reasons I use them as a provider is because my folks have the same service and our calls to each other are free.

Anyhoo, the trackball crapped out on my unit and I could not access my messages. I'd cleaned the trackball as best I could and that helped for a day or two. I was pretty much restricted to only using the phone feature. I couldn't check my messages and my calendar --- arrggh! Now, I've lost hundreds of messages, photos, utility software and ringtones I'd purchased. I can replace the software, with some effort, but I really don't have the time now. I think some of the photos are on my computer and I plan to be completely connected and functional by the weekend.

I forgot to mention that I have two BlackBerry units --- my personal unit, the Pearl, and an older model for my job. These last few days have forced me to admit that I am a CrackBerry addict and in need of a 12 13-step rehab program.

If you are addicted also, here are the steps for CrackBerry rehab:

From CrackBerry.com

The 13 Steps to Breaking a CrackBerry Addiction 

1. Admit we were powerless over our CrackBerries — that our lives have become unmanageable without the little gadgets and that, like Pavlovian dogs, we are slaves to its bleeps, vibrations, buzzes and rings.

2. Admit to the universe, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our CrackBerry addiction. Admit that while you might look like you're praying you are really just texting someone about that chick in HR/guy in the mail room. That you don't respond to your children unless they vibrate first. That your spouse communicates with you during lovemaking through e-mail -- 'To: Bob Smith. From: Wife. Subject: Left a little bit.'

3. We must come to believe that only the greater power of wireless-lessness can restore us to sanity.

4. We must make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the power of unconnectedness and eschew knowing if someone is mailing us at this very minute.

5. Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of our CrackBerry use – do we shamelessly put our BlackBerries on the table in a bar to present a false sense of importance; do we drive and compose e-mail at the same; do we rudely ignore our co-workers, loved ones and children in order to take that "important call" from Ron, the lounge lizard from accounts?

6. Make a list of all persons we have harmed through our rudeness, inconsideration and pretentious self-involvement, and make amends to them all. Sincerely and in person, not via text message -- 'sory 4 bng a rde bstrd. wnt hppn agn.'

7. Turn off the CrackBerry. Now. No "I'm expecting an important call." No "My life depends on Shirley getting me those numbers." No "I'm almost finished my Sudoko game." Turn it off now. Stop looking at it expectantly. Seriously, stop.

8. Realize that you are not the center of the universe. If someone can't get a hold of you they will have to wait. That waiting is a natural state. That failure to reach you 24/7 will not mean the end of the world. The universe will not implode, the apocalypse will not happen if Ron/Jeanie doesn't get a hold of you and has to wait until lunch time to find out if you got lucky with that chick from HR/guy from the mail room.

9. Set limits on BlackBerry use. Use only during business hours. Lock it up when on vacation – you can't do anything from Cabo anyway. Turn off the vibration feature. Yes girls this means you too. Set a time to review e-mail. Don't set that time when you are operating a vehicle.

10. Turn off the BlackBerry during all meetings, classes, presentations, weddings and funerals. No one wants you to interrupt the eulogy. Especially if you are giving it.

11. Know that the world actually functioned before BlackBerries and that people managed to survive with ancient tools like phones and desktop computers. While it was a long time ago (circa 2005) there are people still alive who remember this time. Seek out these people and ask them about life back then. And take their advice and learn from them.

12. Having fulfilled these steps know that you control the CrackBerry. It does not control you. That access is a two-way street. That it is a tool, not a chain. That you can relate to actual human beings too.

13. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, carry this message to all CrackBerry addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.


Think you can write whatever you want on your blog? Think again.

A Miami real estate agent lost his job Monday after postings on his blog sparked a $25 million defamation lawsuit by a developer. Yes, $25 million. Read more about it here. Do you think this litigation will spark other lawsuits?


Barack Obama’s South Carolina Victory Speech [Video and Text]

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Over two weeks ago, we saw the people of Iowa proclaim that our time for change has come. But there were those who doubted this country's desire for something new – who said Iowa was a fluke not to be repeated again.

Well, tonight, the cynics who believed that what began in the snows of Iowa was just an illusion were told a different story by the good people of South Carolina.

After four great contests in every corner of this country, we have the most votes, the most delegates, and the most diverse coalition of Americans we've seen in a long, long time.

They are young and old; rich and poor. They are black and white; Latino and Asian. They are Democrats from Des Moines and Independents from Concord; Republicans from rural Nevada and young people across this country who've never had a reason to participate until now. And in nine days, nearly half the nation will have the chance to join us in saying that we are tired of business-as-usual in Washington, we are hungry for change, and we are ready to believe again.

But if there's anything we've been reminded of since Iowa, it's that the kind of change we seek will not come easy. Partly because we have fine candidates in the field – fierce competitors, worthy of respect. And as contentious as this campaign may get, we have to remember that this is a contest for the Democratic nomination, and that all of us share an abiding desire to end the disastrous policies of the current administration.

Continue reading "Barack Obama’s South Carolina Victory Speech [Video and Text]" »


Barack Obama’s Win No Surprise but Did You Expect Such a Beat Down?

The U.S. presidential race and the successful candidacy of Barack Obama is a generational battle. Clearly, the 50% vote of whites 18-29 years-old is indicative of change in the United States. Yes, we still live in an America where racism, poverty and injustice are daily realities but this SC vote is a powerful statement of the possibility of a better America.

Barack Obama seems to be back on his game and running his race; that is when he is most powerful, charismatic and presidential.

Click here for CNN's analysis of the SC Primary


Spin or No-Spin Zone?: When the Media Gets it Right, Wrong or Ignores a Story

Check out Double Whammy by Raquel Christie at American Journalism Review. It is required reading if you are a journalist or involved in the business side of the media. If the mainstream media does not heed and correct some of the problems highlighted in this piece, traditional media will soon become extinct.


Suze Orman is Gay and How that Affects Women and Money?

Those words were part of the headline from an article in today's AlterNet. The author of the article, Susie Bright, tied Orman's sexual preference to her financial strategy. It's an interesting perspective but not one I'm sure how I feel about it. There is truth in our socialization as women and how we make life decisions in general but to somehow equate femininity with not making the best personally-beneficial financial decisions angers me. At the same time, the reality that women tend to be more nurturing, subservient and sacrificial is also a sometimes painful reality.

Orman's coming out was mentioned in an interview with Deborah Solomon that's almost a year-old; boy, do I feel like a troglodyte. I'm glad that she freed herself. I still find it fascinating that some public figures are so successful in concealing their homosexuality. That can't be a pleasant way to live even if the is person wealthy.

It's 2008 and far more women are single either through divorce or have never been married. Many women, though single, are also mothers. We must get our financial act together ---including me. We've proven that we are experts at saving money, now we must take the next step in the personal finance arena and become masters of our own financial investments.

I disagree with some of the author's points and I don't care that Suze Orman is gay. She is on top of the personal finance game and making big money to boot. Through her presentation on Women and Money I've learned to value my time and talents and not give them away.

Thanks, Suze Orman!


Barack Obama’s MLK Day Speech

I was introduced to the video below by Villager over at Electronic Village. It is of Barack Obama's speech on MLK Day at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the church home of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This is an excellent MLK Day speech reminiscent of MLK and JFK.

Villager asks if Obama can unify America.

Obama can unify America; will Americans allow him to do so?


The South Carolina Debate and Why Republicans Will Win the Presidency Again

Last night's debate between the Democratic presidential candidates in Myrtle Beach, SC was more akin to a boxing match than a debate. Were these the same people who debated a few months ago? At one point I wanted to change the channel. It was good TV but bad for the Dems and I'll get to that later.

Grading the candidates:

Last night's debate was very different from earlier meet-ups. The nastiness was more prevalent and I didn't care for it. Some folks think John Edwards won last night; I don't. Edwards gave one very good response basically chastising Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for squabbling. He also conveyed ways to address this country's economic issues and that was good also. Then he jumped in the fray and appeared to do a tag team with Hillary against Obama. Edwards will continue to vie for attention but he may not be long for this race if he doesn't win SC. The pandering to blacks because of MLK Day was annoying. Desperation: Not a good look.

Edwards:    B+

Barack Obama held his own. He has proven once again how much of a threat he is to the Clinton campaign and the Washington DC old guard. He was able to point out some of the Clinton dirty campaign tactics without actually calling them that. This is big-time politics so that's par for the course. Obama is obviously on the defensive and somewhat allowing Billary to control his campaign. Obama must remember to take the more parental, authoritative role when dealing with the Clintons. I did like the way he said he felt like he was running against Bill and Hillary.

Obama:        A-

Continue reading "The South Carolina Debate and Why Republicans Will Win the Presidency Again" »