Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Saturday Night Live Primary

With only a few short hours to go before the season premiere of Saturday Night Live, I wanted to make a few predictions about the upcoming season and the Presidential race.

I am of the firm belief that Saturday Night Live has an incredibly important role in crystallizing the impressions of the Presidential candidates. While any number of factors could be said to be decisive in a race as close as the Bush-Gore 2000 race, I really believe that Will Ferrell's portrayal of George W. Bush helped make his greatest weaknesses into lovable traits (e.g., "strategery.")

Much has been made of the decline of Saturday Night Live over the years. In 2005, the New York Times ran an article that I think correctly identified the main reason for the decline: after 9/11, the nations' humor appetites shifted away from politics--and SNL filled the void with celebrity based humor:
The skit perfectly summarized what has become the dominant form of humor on "Saturday Night Live": parodies of the foibles of hapless celebrities. In recent months, both Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan have appeared on "Weekend Update," which is generally devoted to political humor, to poke fun at their party-girl reputations.

Filling the SNL political void, the place for au courant political humor shifted first to The Daily Show, and then extended to The Colbert Report as well. Both shows had the advantage of being broadcast four days a week, and the pedigree of both shows attracted many of the best New York City-based comedy writers who may have otherwise ended up on Saturday Night Live in years past.

However, in this Spring's Democratic primaries, Saturday Night Live proved that it's still a relevant actor on the political comedy scene. After the writer's strike ended, Hillary Clinton benefited tremendously from both the "do you need a cushion, Barack" skit and Tina Fey's "bitch is the new black" monologue.

In my opinion, this was the result of an accident of timing that aided Hillary Clinton. Saturday Night Live was dark for much of the early primary season because of the writer's strike--and went off the air while Hillary Clinton was still the favorite. When they returned from hiatus, Hillary was down, and the stage was set for SNL to challenge the status quo, turning their comedic guns on Obama, the front runner. This was significant because Hillary was not the fashionable choice at all in the zeitgeist, but Saturday Night Live gave her boost—“strategery” redux.

One benefit of the polling inversion over the past two weeks is that Obama will now benefit from a similar accident of timing. Saturday Night Live is coming back on the air at the precise moment where Obama has seemingly become the underdog. This should, in my opinion, provide an opportunity—and political cover—for the SNL writing staff to tee off on John McCain and Sarah Palin—much, as I suspect, is the political wont of most the writing staff to begin with.

There is a second issue that Obama faces in the Saturday Night Live Primary: Fred Armisen’s impression of him is, to be generous, abysmal. He comes across as buffoonish and aloof. There is nothing remotely appealing about him. Darrell Hammond’s John McCain is a variation on his Dick Cheney, and not terribly likable either, but there’s no doubt that Saturday Night Live—like many other comedy shows—has really struggled with a comedic take on Obama.

I think SNL and Lorne Michaels recognize this. Before Hurricane Ike, Barack was set to cameo tonight. In many ways, this would have been a neat parallel to last year, where Obama appeared in a Halloween skit as himself (“And may I say, you make a lovely bride, Hillary.”) at a moment where he was looking weak in the polls as well.

It’s a bummer that he won’t be on the show. My guess is that, instead, the skits will focus on McCain and and especially Tina Fey’s rumored casting as Palin. With luck, the skits will take their shots at the Republicans, and Obama’s cameo will happen next week--just in time for him to take the early lead in the critical Saturday Night Live primary the weekend before the first Presidential debate.

Justice Palin

Dahlia Lithwick.

No fair arguing that Sarah Palin isn't experienced enough to sit on the highest court of the land. What matters—far more than experience—is one's unyielding moral certainty; one's gender, and being "relatable." And Palin has these qualities in spades. Washington's old-boy problem hardly begins and ends at the Oval Office. If ever there were a D.C. institution in dire need of a place to plug in a breast pump, it's the Supreme Court. And Sarah Palin has already proven that neither the courts, nor precedent, nor even the Constitution itself will be a match for the force of her will. In Sarah Palin, John McCain has found someone perfectly suited to put the "law" back into scofflaw. He shouldn't waste her talents on state funerals and photo ops.

To paraphrase Homer Simpson, "in case you couldn't tell, she was being sarcastic."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Every city needs a monorail

Captain's cabin. Disneyland monorail, Anaheim, California. September
11th, 2008



1,000 Readers!

Welcome to our 1000th reader in less than two weeks!

Matt Damon Doesn't Like Them Apples

(Yes, I'm waiting for the RNC press release saying that this title is somehow sexist.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I hope at the very least, John McCain is humiliated that he has become nothing more than a hood ornament on the Palin ticket.

Sullvan Cuts to the Quick

If this is what Andrew Sullivan was writing yesterday on his day off, it was worth it.

Final paragraph
McCain has demonstrated in the last two months that he does not have the character to be president of the United States. And that is why it is more important than ever to ensure that Barack Obama is the next president. The alternative is now unthinkable. And McCain - no one else - has proved it.

Forget Lipstick, Now The Pig Actually Has Wings

The McCain folks are overplaying their hand.

Bullish on their new momentum and energy, and feeling that Sarah Palin has completely innoculated herself from any sort of press scrutiny, the McCain camp has doubled down on flagrantly thumbing their nose at the media factchecks on the countless misstatements and out-and-out lies from their candidates.

It has gotten so bad that even Mark Halperin--the man who gladly claims "Drudge rules our world" and whose predilection for the most scurrilous and tawdry of the freakshow news story is topped only by his own desire for self promotion--actually attacked the media for their ridiculous, McCain-driven coverage.

This has to be seen to be believed.
But I think this is a low point in the day and one of the low days of our collective coverage of this campaign. To spend even a minute on this expression, I think, is amazing and outrageous.

He continues:

No. It's another thing that, again, I'm embarrassed about our profession for. She should be held more accountable for that. The "bridge to nowhere" thing is outrageous. And if you press them on it, they'll fall because they know they can't defend what they're saying. They're staying it on the stump as a core part of their message, it's in their advertising.

Tom Brokaw

There is no one that I have (very sadly) lost more respect for this year than Tom Brokaw.

Jobs nano

Steve Jobs: iPods get thinner every year, why can't I?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

For everyone who is panicking over polls

Please also read this:

But, interestingly, all three polls were also conducted using a higher sampling of Republican voters than in July, thus raising a question of methodology.

In a year in which Democrats have a lead of 11 million registered-voters over Republicans, and have been adding to that advantage through a robust field operation, are pollsters over-sampling Republicans?

While McCain is definitely getting a bounce in the polls, pollsters seem to be--at the same time--increasing the number of Republicans that they poll and decreasing the number of Democrats.

Now weighting polls is standard operating procedure, but making this change, while McCain is getting his convention bounce is amplifying the magnitude of this bounce. What is less than clear is if this is a real effect, or artificial.

On the other hand

Contra McKay:

Please accept that this contest is going to be close. Please accept that you will have to fight for it tooth and nail. Please accept that the GOP will feast on every single fucking instance in which you show even the slightest hint of entitlement to the presidency. Please accept that the GOP SOP is to win by any means necessary, and that they’ve cultivated an entire generation of political strategists and media lackeys who can’t think in any other way, and whose allegiance to the party is reflexive and far stronger than their interest in things like facts. Please accept that the entire thrust of the GOP strategy between now and November is to keep knocking actual issues out of the political news cycle. Please stop acting surprised and resentful about any of this. The GOP will crush you — again — if you keep doing it. For fuck’s sake, they’ve played you exactly the same way since the 2000 election. Will you please exhibit a learning curve. You’ve been here before.

A Call To Arms

Adam McKay, has one the best analyses of what's going on.

A must read.

So what is this house advantage the Republicans have? It's the press. There is no more fourth estate. Wait, hold on...I'm not going down some esoteric path with theories on the deregulation of the media and corporate bias and CNN versus Fox...I mean it: there is no more functioning press in this country. And without a real press the corporate and religious Republicans can lie all they want and get away with it. And that's the 51% advantage.

Adam McKay is a brilliant comedy writer and satirist. It is not a coincidence that he is also one of the most effective (and underappreciated) spokesmen for the liberal cause.

There is a reason why liberals are funny, and conservatives are not. The corollary to this is: there is a reason why conservatives are better at talking points than liberals.

The dominant ideology of the conservative movement is maintaining the status quo. The most effective way of doing this is repeating the same points defending the status quo over and over and over again until people believe this. We have another name for this: propaganda.

This is why non-conservatives are horrified by Fox News and their ilk. Why non-conservatives are horrified that conservatives don't respect science, or inquiry or pesky things like data.

In order for conservative messaging to work, information that is contrary to the conservative idea must be ignored.

The dominant ideology of the liberal movement is challenging the status quo. The most effective way of doing this is debate and argument. However, the most effectively delivery mechanism of debate is satire.

This is not a new phenomenon. This dates back to the tradition of the court jester being the only one allowed to speak truth to power (i.e., the King.)

Satire is used to challenge the status quo. That's why Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert exist on the left--and the Fox News attempt to mimic it end disastrously.

Today's Daily Apple

Today's Apple Event: I'm excited about NBC and HD tv shows coming to iTunes (finally), and the new iPods look cool, but I have to say a bit underwhelming.

Sullivan Found, But...

...something seems weird here.

Don't Whine to ABC on Friday, Act Today

E-mail ABC and Charles Gibson and demand that he gives the American people the interview deserving of a VP candidate who is a heartbeat from the presidency--not just a forum for her to deliver Steve Schmidt designed attacks on Obama, unchecked.

On Thursday, Charlie Gibson is giving Sarah Palin her first "press interview." We all know that this is going to be a complete joke. A sham.

Charlie Gibson is not in this to further the cause of a vibrant and independent press. He is in this for one thing: ratings. And as we've seen, Sarah Palin will deliver ratings. In order to get ratings, Charlie Gibson will go easy on her so he can get a longer interview that can air over more days. It's as simple as that.

Now, let's take a brief time machine trip back to the last time ABC and Charlie Gibson weighed in so one-sidedly:

April 2008, Pennsylvania.

Remember this:

The pushback that followed was staggering. Chuck Todd on April 18th:

*** ObamaNation’s power: Curious of what the bitterness and anger could look like if Obama is somehow denied the Democratic nomination? Check out the reaction from the ObamaNation over Wednesday’s debate. To put it simply, ABC was under siege yesterday. This may only be a taste of how the ObamaNation would react to a Clinton nomination. If MoveOn is motivated to do a petition campaign against the media over a debate, imagine what Clinton delegates and undecided superdelegates would face this summer if there is doubt. And as the Politico’s Ben Smith pointed out yesterday, it’s also what the GOP would face in the general election, especially if Obama is nominee.

Here's the problem. We knew it was coming. But we didn't act until after the damage had been done.

And let's be honest, for all of the pushback that ABC received, they still rolled over at the first sign of intimidation from the McCain campaign.

History repeats itself. ABC has made their intentions known, and we're not going to like the result. We have a choice now: wait docilely and get taken to the cleaners on Friday, or else preempt the shameless Republican pander and make noise about it now.

E-mail ABC and Charles Gibson and demand that they give the American people the tough interview they deserve.

E-mail MoveOn and get them to act now--before it is too late.

E-mail your local newspaper and news stations.

E-mail Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films

Diary this on The Huffington Post, Daily Kos and the other major blogs.

Do something today, or else don't whine about it on Friday.

O Sullivan, Where Art Thou?

Where have you gone, Andrew Sullivan? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you...

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Smart Way To Buy Apple Stuff

As a public service and as an amateur cupertinologist, I thought I would give you my easy to follow tips to buying Apple stuff in anticipation of tomorrow's Apple event.

Every time you turn around, it seems like there's good ol' Steve Jobs talking about his latest, greatest thing on CNBC right after the markets close. Once again, the 2GB iPod Mini that you bought now seems hopelessly outdated--and you fruitlessly curse the heavens wondering how this came to pass.

After spending a little bit of time (OK, a lot of time) looking at this over the years, I thought I could pass along a few helpful tips. These are not (mostly) set in stone, but they've proven to be pretty accurate.

  1. There is ALWAYS really cool new Apple stuff announced every year in the first week of January...less than two weeks after you've opened your Christmas presents.

    This one you can take the to the bank, because it happens every single year. This is when Apple announced the iPod Shuffle, the MacBook Air and most famously last year, the iPhone.

  2. Whatever gets announced in January, there will be a newer, bigger (memory, not physical size) version of it for cheaper by Christmas. Usually the memory will about be about double, and the cost will be about 25% less.
  3. There are (almost always) updated MacBooks and MacBook Pros in the summer--just in time for back-to-school shopping.
  4. There are almost always brand new iPods, and bigger/cheaper versions of old iPods announced right after Labor Day. (see #2 above.)
  5. There is usually one final price cut before Thanksgiving, just in time for the Christmas shopping season.

All of this can be summarized as follows:
  1. The time to buy the cheapest Apple stuff is generally between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  2. The time to buy the newest, coolest Apple stuff is usually in January & February, or right around Labor Day. (Conveniently, just in time for my birthday, in fact...)
With these rules in mind, shop away, and please keep making my Apple stock rise higher and higher.

(But before you make your purchase, make one last check here.)

Sarah Palin, Bookburner

Here is the list of the books Sarah Palin wanted banned from her local library.

Some highlights

1. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

5. Blubber by Judy Blume

6. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

22. Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes

26. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

27. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

28. Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

29. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

33. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

41. Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

42. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

50. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

61. A Separate Peace by John Knowles

68. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

70. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

87. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

88. Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

89. Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary by the Merriam-Webster

Yes, this is shameless

But I figured I had to share.

Bonus demographic fact: in 2004, John Kerry won Golden Retrievers by 97 points.

Things to look forward to this week

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Charlie Gibson?

Oh, that'll be tough.