Monday, December 22, 2008

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: “The Day the Earth Stood Still” wondering why Hollywood can’t entertain anymore

The remake of the 1951 nuclear-weapons-dreading “The Day the Earth Stood Still” into a post-Stone-Age-human-dreading bore is yet another example of how pervasive the global warming… er… climate change faith has enveloped Hollywood. I usually grade science fiction movies on a pretty gentile curve, especially if they deliver the computer generated effects. But this tired, preachy and uninspired film really makes me wonder what has happened to Hollywood’s ability to simply entertain. Apparently entertainment is not a core value in Tinseltown anymore. Watching it I was dogged by so many questions, here are a few:
  • Keanu Reaves has finally found the perfect role for his acting range… an emotionless alien who takes human form to communicate in short declarative sentences. Whoa.
  • No matter how “reality-based” the Leftists in Hollywood claim to be, ultimately, it’s because of an emotional exchange that our Rational Betters finally reconsider exterminating mankind… er… the human pestilence gripping the planet.
  • Does every depiction of the military have to be a cartoon characterization of cavemen in khaki?
  • Let me get this right, an omnipotent supernatural/extraterrestrial force lowers itself to our level by becoming human in order to communicate a transcendent message to the humanity only to be rejected… who said there was no originality in Hollywood?
  • And now for something completely different… our new priestly class is affirmed when John Cleese’s character is presented as a legitimate leader of Earthlings based solely on the fact that he was awarded the Nobel Prize. After all, Yasser Arafat was not available.
  • We never do find out what precisely we’re doing to hurt The Planet (and it should be capitalized as any deity worthy of worship deserves.) Is it global warming, ozone depletion, species extinction, MTV’s The Hills?
  • One question kept going through my mind throughout the movie and even still, a couple of days after seeing this movie… would someone please toss Jennifer Connelly a blueberry muffin or ham sandwich? This formally bright, cheery and pleasure-to-see-on-screen actress has morphed in the last decade into a depressing, brooding and heroin-chic waif who is no longer the knockout girl next door but the skeevy junkie from the alley.

If you’re looking for the latest bedwettery from the Luddite, anti-capitalist, anti-human faith currently all the rage among our social betters then “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is just the film for you. Otherwise, “The Dark Night” was recently released on DVD. Buy or rent it to see the best movie of 2008.

Look: 6
Story: 4
Acting: 4
Politics: 3
Goal: 5
Intangibles: 3
Overall: 4

Monday, December 15, 2008

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: “Bolt” a Pixar-like Success

I saw “Bolt” in all its 3-D IMAX glory and liked the movie a lot. As a dog lover, it’s irresistible. The quest/journey/self-discovery plot is predictable but that’s not why you go see these Disney animated films. It was fun and less dark than most other Disney classics. Rhino the hamster-in-a-clear-plastic-ball is an instant classic character.


The movie wasn’t done by Pixar. Instead, it was a thoroughly Disney production. I’m not sure what that fact holds for the future of a sequel franchise but I trust the expected profits will cause the powers that be to work through any sticky Pixar/Disney issues. I hope they find a good story to continue the adventures of this promising new Disney character.

Look: 8.5
Story: 7
Acting: 7
Goal: 9
Intangibles: 9
Overall: 8.5

Monday, November 24, 2008

"FaITH in America" Plan: Let's try a Federal Income Tax Holiday instead of bailouts

Here’s a radical idea… since we are dealing with such astronomically ginormous numbers in the ongoing rolling bailout … why not simply declare an individual and corporate federal income tax holiday for the 2009 tax year?

According the U.S. Census’ 2008 Statistical Abstract, individual income taxpayers paid about $1.1688 trillion in 2007 while corporations paid about $342.1 billion… that means annual federal income tax receipts are in the neighborhood of $1.5 trillion.

Instead of building enormous new bureaucracies and trusting our betters to allocate all of the taxpayer’s bailout money in the most efficient ways, let’s not collect the tax in the first place and let the bailout/stimulus package be a $1.5 billion tax holiday? If we are going to “put it on a credit card” anyway, why not keep future federal spending in a somewhat recognizable state so the taxpayer can better track it and judge its worthiness?

Just let us keep our own money instead of picking winners and losers and expanding the size and scope of federal government power. Maybe include a capital gains tax moratorium too?

Would all the economic activity spurred by a Federal Income Tax Holiday in America (“FaITH in America) plan be enough to end the recession/depression and get our economy moving again? I don’t know. I’m a liberal arts guy and not an economist. But if it could be "sold" as good economics to the financial markets, it would be easy for us regular folks to understand and embrace.

If the FaITH in America plan doesn’t work, at least we will not be saddled with exotic new bureaucracies with far-reaching powers eager to double down on their failed prescriptions. At worst, the taxpayer keeps their own money while increasing the collective public debt rather than paying their full tax bill and still increasing the collective public debt.
It’s easy to administer and we won’t have to turn over (more of) our economy to the central planners.

Though I’m half kidding about my FaITH in America plan, in some respects I’m not. I wish one of our leaders would encourage the Washington political and New York financial crowds to go through the intellectual exercise of how such a plan might actually work before we sign over another $300 billion guarantee to a bank “to big to fail.”

Imagine the popular outpouring of approval (and career advancing love) for the first politician to propose a workable FaITH in America plan.

Who knows, maybe we’re ready for radical ideas like a federal income tax holiday. We won’t know until someone asks.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Unions ready to recruit Hispanic workers if Obama changes organizing rules

Phoenix Business Journal – by Mike Sunnucks

Labor unions are poised to go after Hispanic workers in states like Arizona and sectors such as services and health care if new union rules are put in place by the Barack Obama administration and Democratic Congress next year.

Unions and pro-union Democrats want Congress and Obama to pass card-check legislation. The plan would allow unions to organize in workplaces if they get a majority of workers to sign cards supporting unionization. It would scrap 73-year-old unionization laws that require secret ballots for workers to decide whether they want their work forces represented by a trade union.

Card-check legislation is a top goal of unions such as the Service Employees International Union and AFL-CIO, who were top Obama backers.

Such plans have been blocked by President Bush, and the Republicans have enough votes to impede card-check in the U.S. Senate.In January, Obama takes the Oval Office and Democrats have more votes in the U.S. Senate.

Nate Niemuth, a partner and employment law expert with Phoenix law firm Ryley Carlock & Applewhite PA, said unions would like to sign up more Hispanic workers and unionize health care and service industries that are somewhat new to labor organizations.

“If passed, it will have a very dramatic impact,” said Niemuth.

Union members account for 12 percent of the U.S. work force, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The lowest level of unionization is among Hispanics, who have only 9.8 percent of Latino workers in unions and only 9.6 percent of Hispanic women.

Unionized workers also tend to be Democrats, and the card-check measure could help the party align more with Latinos. Hispanics largely supported Obama in this month’s election over U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., helping the Illinois lawmaker carry states such as New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. The focus on the economy and Republican tendencies to take hard-right stances on immigration hurt McCain with Latino voters this cycle after George W. Bush made inroads with Hispanics in 2004.

Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, worry about the card-check bill becoming law.

Unions and advocacy groups called American Rights at Work are lobbying Congress to move on the card-check legislation quickly next year. The American Rights group is a coalition that includes the AFL-CIO, National Council of La Raza, NAACP and former senator John Edwards.

Its chair is former Michigan congressman David Bonior. Bonior is said to be on Obama’s short-list along with pro-labor former Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt for U.S. Labor Secretary.

Jon Pettibone, partner with the law firm Quarles & Brady LLP, said card-check critics worry that union organizers will pressure rank-and-file workers to sign cards. He also said the card-check bill would impose tougher penalties on businesses caught committing unfair labor practices.

Card-check advocates counter that businesses also pressured workers not to unionize in the run-up to secret ballot elections.The issue could create some political quandaries for Obama and Democratic lawmakers in states like Arizona.

“A key test issue for President Obama and an emboldened Democratic Congress is whether to risk an early party split over union-backed check-card legislation. Democrats in Arizona’s congressional delegation and many in ‘red’ districts across the nation may not want to be forced to choose between their constituents’ interests and those of big labor,” said Farrell Quinlan, president of In the Arena Public Affairs, a Phoenix-based lobbying and consulting firm.

U.S. Rep. Harry Mitchell, Ann Kirkpatrick and Gabrielle Giffords, are Democrats headed into their first or second terms in districts previously held by Republicans. The trio was backed by labor unions in the 2008 campaign, though Mitchell has taken some pro-business stances such as opposing increased capital gains and dividends taxes.

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: "Quantum of Solace" a true Bond sequel

The 22nd Bond film is very dependent on the prior Daniel Craig Bond film "Casino Royale". I wish I knew that it completed that story so I could have reacquainted myself with the intricacies of its plot on DVD. This edition is a worthy chapter in the new Bond incarnation.

Look: 7
Story: 6
Acting: 6
Goal: 6.5
Intangibles: 7
Overall: 6.5

Thursday, November 06, 2008

McCain fails to win Latino support

Phoenix Business Journal - by Mike Sunnucks

Arizona Sen. John McCain was hammered by the Latino vote, hurting him in battleground states of Florida, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico as he lost his presidential bid to Barack Obama.

Obama took two-thirds of the overall Hispanic vote and McCain got 32 percent, according to exit polls conducted by NBC News. George Bush got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004.

McCain also didn’t fare well among younger and working-class voters and did not do as well as Bush with whites, middle-class and older voters.

Some say Republicans’ tough stance on immigration issues, including workplace crackdowns, border fences and opposition to amnesty programs, turned off Latino voters. McCain and Bush favor a guest worker program and path for undocumented workers in the U.S. to obtain legal status, while conservatives emphasize border walls, tough penalties for illegal workers and their employers and varying levels of deportations.

Immigration was not a big issue during the campaign, but both McCain and Obama ran Spanish-language radio and television ads in battleground markets, such as Denver, Albuquerque, Las Vegas and Miami. Obama’s ad hit at right-wing Republicans tough immigration policies.

Other analysts say the economy and $850 billion Wall Street bailout is what nailed McCain’s White House hopes.

“Latino voters are no different than non-Latino voters,” said Farrell Quinlan, president of In the Arena Public Affairs Inc., a Phoenix-based consulting firm. “John McCain’s campaign was fatally wounded by the financial meltdown that took an essentially tied race in mid-September to a decisive Obama victory on election day. Without the financial crisis, I believe John McCain would have equaled or exceeded George W. Bush’s 2004 support of two out of five Latino voters.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

God Bless Dick Cheney (Not That the Presidential Candidates Care)

At the first presidential debate in September, John McCain sent well-wishes to Democratic lion Ted Kennedy who had gone into the hospital earlier that day. It was a classy move. But tonight, John McCain called out Nancy Reagan for her recent injury but completely ignored Vice President Richard Cheney’s health scare earlier in the day. I immediately remarked to the Captivating Mrs. Quinlan that he chickened out and deserves no “class” points for the Nancy Reagan sentiment. Then I feared that Barack Obama would seize the enormous opportunity left him by McCain to burnish his bipartisan bona fides by mentioning Mr. Cheney’s emergency heart procedure at the George Washington University Hospital. Luckily for McCain, Obama didn’t exhibit that minimum level of class. No doubt the MoveOn-crowd would have been outraged not only at Obama’s gentlemanliness but for Cheney’s continued existence. But neither McCain nor Obama was man enough to honor a fine public servant... priceless.

Monday, September 29, 2008

At Least Herbert Hoover Was a Dog Lover

Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives customarily knock each other over and then crawl over their colleagues’ bodies to be identified with their self-proclaimed political godfather, Ronald Wilson Reagan. But on Monday, September 29, 2008 those same “Reagan” Republicans abandoned their affinity for one Republican president in favor of another who usually never gets mentioned in the GOP Presidential Pantheon of Greatness. Today they emulated Herbert Clark Hoover by rejecting the financial rescue plan.

It doesn’t really matter if the real culprits were Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats. It doesn’t matter that Barack Obama has offered inspired leadership the equivalent to a “present” vote. Republicans will be blamed for this neo-Hooverism, lack of leadership and failure to take control of the hemorrhaging on Wall Street. What good was all the handwringing about the potential costs of the “bailout” reaching as high as $700 billion when there’s an actual one-day evaporation of over $1 trillion in market value right after the bill goes down? John McCain’s courageous gambit last week now looks meek and enfeebled.

Will we look back this week as the week Barack Obama won the presidency? The conventional wisdom has been, like with Reagan in 1980, Obama has to reassure America that he is ready to be president and that he is not too risky to be given the power of the presidency. Who knew that the Republicans would deliver that verdict to Obama by default through their own demonstrated lack of seriousness and statesmanship?

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: American Catholics in the Public Square Explained in Denver Archbishop’s “Render unto Caesar"

Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput has done a great service to Catholics and non-Catholics alike in his important and very readable “Render unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life.” Archbishop Chaput does a great job of explaining the Catholic worldview and how Catholics are expected to live their faith. As a Catholic, I appriciated the clear, comprehensive discussion of the true meaning of Vatican II. For non-Catholics, this short book will give them a better understanding of the 2,000 year-old tradition of the Church and its interaction with the state from Constantine's conversion to today's abortion debate.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: “Case Against Barack Obama” Fair, Necessary Counterbalance to Fawning Press Coverage

The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media's Favorite Candidate” by the National Review’s David Freddoso is a valuable critical examination of Barack Obama’s thin public record and habit of questionable associations. Freddoso does a laudable job in making his points without degenerating into the paranoid conspiracy theory fever swamps of the full-mooners on the Right. What comes out in this book is a deep suspicion and profound worry about the kind of leader Barack Obama will be if elected president. However, it’s not a breathless screed that places the Democratic nominee somewhere between Caligula and Josef Stalin in its estimation of Barack's character and judgment. It is critical (it’s titled “The Case Against Barack Obama…” after all) but not unfair or hyperbolic. I recommend it to anyone who wants to balance out the gushing crush coverage Obama has been afforded by our “objective” mainstream press.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: William Rosen’s “Justinian's Flea: The First Great Plague and the End of the Roman Empire” valuable to understanding our history

William Rosen’s “Justinian's Flea: The First Great Plague and the End of the Roman Empire” is a very interesting and ambitious effort to explain how the outbreak of plague in the 6th Century was the historical pivot which turned the story of the West toward the creation of the Europe we recognize today. A sprawling narrative detailing such diverse topics as politics, military conquest, biology, architecture, religion, trade, demography, evolution and genetics, Rosen does a fair job of weaving all of these developments into a compelling story of what happened and why it might have happened to create our world.

In a nutshell, Rosen's thesis is the
AD 542 outbreak of plague in the Roman Empire of Justinian (reign 527-565) and the wider world of Late Antiquity so weakened the West/Rome that it allowed for the destruction of the ancient empire of Persia and pruning of the Roman Empire by the Arabs a century later. The depopulation of Justinian's Mediterranean empire and the Sassanid Persians left them open to conquest by the Arabs who dodged the plague. Justinian's dream of a re-established Roman Empire centered on the Mediterranean Sea failed after wave after wave of plague every 15 years wiped out about half of the empire's population over the 6th Century. The corresponding weakening of military and economic strength of Rome freed the fledgling barbarian kingdoms in western Europe to establish their staying power free of Roman authority and orientation. Europe's axis of power and culture moved north to the Frankish empire that found its fruition in the reign of Charlemange and his establishment of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Roman Empire bore the brunt of Arab attacks losing its rich North African, Egyptian and Syrian provinces to the new faith of Islam. Though continuing to call themselves "Roman", the Constantinople regime became more and more Greek and within two generations of Justinian's reign, they were fighting for their very existence. The world empire of Rome had become a regional power later called the Byzantine Empire by historians. The Frank, Goth and Saxon barbarian tribes solidified into the European nation-states we see today.

The plague's depopulation also set off an agricultural revolution in Europe that set the stage for the population explosion of the High Middle Ages.

Rosen's book is a easy read though the author sometimes assumes his readers might know more than the do about all of the different subjects he discusses. For instance, the geometry of the architectural sections on the Hagia Sophia lost me. But I'm not a math guy.

Overall, this book will give the reader a good bridge in the story of the West from the Classical Age to the Middle Ages. The so-called "Dark Ages" were not so dark and deserve more study and understanding. Justinian's Flea is a good place to start for the average reader of history.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Palin pick desperate or inspired?

At first blush, I thought the pick had a whiff of desperation. It seemed so unnecessary. Romney or Pawlenty would have been safe and logical. Normal, even. But John McCain proved that his Maverick sobriquet is not just an empty marketing concoction. Gov. Sarah Palin is practically unknown to me. When I saw her presentation and speech on Friday morning, it was the first time I'd ever seen her move or speak. After hearing her I was very impressed and saw the many pluses that caused McCain to pick her. When I heard the Obama-Biden campaign's immediate reaction to it, I was heartened by their poorly-disguised panic. This pick might just end up being inspired.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Joe Biden means war - Thank you, Barack

Joe Biden is the Republican's dream pick for Obama's vice presidential running mate. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Hugh Hewitt and the entire right-wing blog universe will be whistling while they work for weeks picking through the rich vein of Biden pomposity, gaffes and blowhardedness. Thank you, Barack. Thank you for ensuring that this election will be clear choice and not some namby-pamby rush to the mushy middle.

Biden means war. Biden is so sarcastic and full of himself, the entertainment factor is going to be the highest in many elections.

Willet Creek Dam has long been on the record favoring Mitt Romney first as the GOP nominee for president and then for vice president. I pray John McCain picks Romney so America can have the great pleasure of seeing the debate between Biden and Mitt.

I believe the Biden choice will make a Romney pick even more likely. Tim Pawlenty has never been tested nationally in a pure partisan, bare-knuckle fight that the Biden candidacy will be. Like him or not, McCain will want Romney's brilliance, relentlessness and presidential baring to take the fight right to the heart of the Obama-Biden ticket.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Veep Predictions: The "Should" and "Will" Picks or the "Rise of the Tims"

Like the Oscars where the announced winner is often different from the one who should have won, picking Obama’s and McCain’s running mate falls into a “who he should pick” and “who he will pick” dichotomy. Here are Willet Creek Dam’s picks for vice president for the Republicans and Democrats:

Obama Should Pick

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh

McCain Should Pick

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney

Obama Will Pick

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine

McCain Will Pick

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty

Friday, August 15, 2008

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” is More Fun, Less Filling

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” is a fun but hollow experience that suffers from never really making you feel any of the danger threatening our heroes. It feels formulaic in the most uninspired way… and I like formulaic movies that celebrate archetypes and mythology. The fourth Indiana Jones movie had a “son of Indy” plotline so does the fourth Mummy (I count the Scorpion King). The Imhotep bad guy of the first two editions had real gravitas. You could feel the evil and menace when he growled in his ancient Egyptian tongue. The Dragon Emperor in the latest movie only really becomes scary when he transforms into an actual dragon or an angry fu dog. The coolest creature in the movie turns out to be the Yeti (AKA: the Abominable Snowman). Maria Bello is fine as replacement for the newly high-falutin' Rachel Weisz. The Chinese setting was OK but I never really felt like I was in 1947 China… no Communist-Kuomintang Civil War or any allusion to the looming Communist takeover. It is a good-looking movie that benefits from being seen on the big screen. If you can, see it in a theater though waiting for high-def DVD will probably make you feel better that you decided to see Dark Knight again rather than seeing on the big screen.

Look: 8
Story: 5
Acting: 5
Goal: 6
Intangibles: 5
Overall: 6

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"We are all Georgians."

The national flag of the Republic of Georgia

John McCain at a town hall in York, Pennsylvania on August 12, 2008:

"As you know, over the past several days, we have seen that international aggression is, tragically, not a thing of the past. We thought we'd put a lot of that behind us at the end of the twentieth-century. But now we find it's rearing its ugly head in the twenty-first. The small nation of Georgia has been subject to Russian attacks that threaten its very existence.

"Some Americans, when they read this news, may wonder where Georgia is or why we should care about the conflict between Georgians and the Russian army. It's after all a small, remote and obscure place. But history is often made in remote, obscure places. And it's being made in Georgia today.

"Georgia itself, my friends, has a long and remarkable history. It was a fourth-century convert to Christianity, one of the first nations on Earth to convert to Christianity -- if you go to Georgia, as I have several times, you'll see churches that go back to the fourth- and fifth-century -- and it's been a part of the grand sweep that comprises Western civilization. But because of their location, their history hasn't been easy. Through the centuries, they have seen invasions and attacks from Mongols, Russians, Turks and Persians. And through it all, they maintain their language, their cultural identity, and their national pride. And as you know, they were part of the Soviet Union and were able to achieve their independence when the Soviet Union disintegrated. And they're facing terrible trials today, but they'll get through this, too.

"And, my friends, and I'll talk about this more in a minute -- but they're at a strategic crossroads. There's a pipeline, an oil pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, which brings oil from the Caspian to points west and traverses Georgia -- that's the very pipeline that the Russians tried to bomb. And I don't have to tell you about the price of oil and disruption of oil supplies.

"In this country -- it's that little country, a country whose territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty NATO countries reaffirmed at their summit in April -- terrible violence has occurred. Now let me just remind you exactly what has taken place here.

"On Friday, Russian tanks and troops moved through the Roki Tunnel, across an internationally-recognized border, and into the Georgian province of South Ossetia. Two years ago, I traveled to South Ossetia, my friends, and we went through this barricade, and as soon as we got into this place, which the Russians are maintaining hundreds and now thousands of troops, there's this huge billboard and it said, 'Vladimir Putin, Our President.' Have no doubt about Russian ambitions in this area.

"The Russian government stated it was acting only to protect Ossetians, and yet, on Saturday, its bombing campaign encompassed the whole of Georgia. Hundreds of innocent civilians have been wounded and killed -- possibly thousands. Military bases, apartment buildings, and other infrastructure all came under Russian fire. And the Russian Black Sea Fleet began concentrating off of the Georgian coast.

"Before the weekend ended, Russian troops drove the Georgians out of South Ossetia and stepped up their offensive in the region of Abkhazia -- Abkhazia is another area that the Russians have controlled in violation of Georgian territorial integrity. And Georgia asked for a ceasefire, and Russia responded by bombing the Tbilisi Airport.

"Yesterday, Russian troops advanced on one city after another. Gori, Senaki, Poti, and other cities were attacked. In 2006, I visited Senaki and reviewed the Georgian troops who had served with honor beside American soldiers in Iraq -- 2,000 of them served beside American soldiers in Iraq, and we're proud of that.

"President Medvedev stated that he has halted the offensive, but reports indicate that Russian military forces have continued attacks in some areas and the situation remains fluid and dangerous. Foreign Minister Flavor announced that Russia seeks regime change in Georgia, and that it's democratically-elected president 'better go.'

"In the face of this threat, the leaders of Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Latvia -- you know there's a common thread there amongst them, they all suffered under Soviet domination -- they've all announced that they'll travel to the region, and the French president is in Moscow in an attempt to help resolve the crisis. They understand that it's a responsibility of the leading nations of the world to ensure that history continues to record reform and make progress toward respecting the values and security of all free people.

"This is the situation in Georgia as we meet here this morning. The impact of Russian actions goes beyond their threat to a democratic Georgia. Russia has used violence against Georgia to send a signal to any country that chooses to associate with the West and aspire to our shared political and economic values.

"My friends, we learned at great cost the price of allowing aggression against free nations to go unchecked. With our allies, we must stand in united purpose to persuade the Russian government to withdraw its troops from Georgia. There must be an independent, international peacekeeping force in the separatist regions. And we should ensure that humanitarian aid can be airlifted to Georgia's capital, and stand ready to help our Georgian partners put their country back together. And we must make clear to Russia's leaders that the benefits they enjoy from being part of the civilized world require their respect for the values, stability, and piece of that world.

"My friends, today the killing goes on and aggression goes on. Yet, I know from speaking this morning to the President of Georgia, Misha Saakashvili, who I've known for many years, that he knows that the thoughts and the prayers and support of the American people are with that brave little nation as they struggle today for their freedom and independence. And he wanted me to say thank you to you, to give you his heartfelt thanks for the support of the American people for this tiny little democracy far away from the United States of America. And I told him that I know I speak for every American when I say to him, today, we are all Georgians."

Watch John McCain's Remarks

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" Only an Average TV Episode

The X Files: I Want to Believe,” the second X-Files movie in 10(!) years, feels too much like an average weekly installment of the popular 1993-2002 FOX television series. The new movie’s hardly worth the trouble of getting everybody together for a 202nd episode. I’m a fan of the X-Files and wanted this movie to succeed. The story was just so small. I know they were avoiding the alien abduction mythology but I can name a half dozen creatures and “wow” moments from the series that didn’t involve the aliens. Where was the cool shot of something you might expect from an X-Files movie? What Chris Carter has produced is not going to re-launch the franchise. Wait for the DVD if you liked the series. If not, there’s no need to expose yourself to these complex characters and there twisted back-story.

Look: 7

Story: 5.5

Acting: 7

Goal: 5

Intangibles: 6.5

Overall: 6.5

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: Ben Shapiro’s “Project President: Bad Hair and Botox on the Road to the White House”

Ben Shapiro’s “Project President: Bad Hair and Botox on the Road to the White House” is a good little book about all of the important things that go into choosing out greatest leaders. You know, the legnth of their hair, someone's height and whether you'd want to have a beer with them, the really important qualities.

[More to come]

CAMPAIGN 2008 MAIL CALL: 4 Days Worth of Mail

I’ve gotten a little behind in my survey of campaign literature from my mailbox. This report will encompass multiple days. I think the haul includes Thursday, July 31st through August 4th. Regardless, I still haven’t received my early ballot in the mail. So, in no particular order:

Mark Anderson, Republican for the United States House of Representatives from CD5 – The Anderson postcard on national security again highlights a quote from Arizona House Speaker Jim Weiers. The “Capture of Osama bin Laden and Defeat Al-Qaeda” gets only 20% of the attention on the back along with “Secure the Border,” “Support Second Amendment Rights,” and “Take Care of Veterans”. Those are all laudable stances but I wish real national security issues would get more attention in the CD5 race. Relative to his opponents, its good to see even this inadequate treatment of foreign affairs. Iran, anyone? I know it’s not popular to be a foreign policy hawk these days but if one of the Republican candidates was one, I don’t know it. Grade: B-

Jeff Dial, Republican for the Arizona House of Representatives from LD20 – Jeff’s latest mailing gets extra credit because it includes the words “Lower Gas Prices” which is a nice recognition of the voters’ number one economic concern right now. I’m sure these pieces were designed months ago, perhaps even in 2007. At least someone in the Dial campaign had the presence on mind to update the message with a nod toward fuel prices. Nice catch. Again, Jeff has stuck with his theme and design from his prior mailings and signs. Grade: A-

Andy Swann, Republican for the Arizona House of Representatives from LD20 – Andy’s first mailer stresses his impressive list of endorsements ranging from a long list of law enforcement groups to the Tempe Chamber of Commerce to the Arizona Republic. Not bad for a first time politician. The look and feel of his mail piece is consistent with other elements of his campaign (signs, website) which is something I appreciate when grading. Grade: B+

John McComish, Republican for the Arizona House of Representatives from LD20 – John McComish is the lone incumbent in the primary for LD20 House. His first piece to hit my mailbox has a nice photo of the candidate and what looks like a version of his signs in red and yellow on the address-block side. I’ve seen a few of these signs out on the roadways but in much lower frequency than his opponents (Dial, Swann and Schmuck). On the other side the McComish campaign highlights his business community leadership. All in all, a nice start. I realize he’s the incumbent, but in this volatile political year, I expected a more vigorous campaign from the only non-publicly funded candidate in the race. But maybe he’s got a “shock and awe” strategy that’s forthcoming. We’ll see. Grade: B+

Susan Bitter Smith, Republican for the United States House of Representatives from CD5 – “Stopping Illegal Immigration must be a top priority,” says Susan Bitter Smith in her latest 8 by 12 inch piece. Again Sheriff Arpaio’s endorsement is featured. Well, perhaps an all-illegal-immigration-all-the-time campaign will work for the primary. The problem is, former Congressman J.D. Hayworth tried it in his failed re-election bid in 2006 and got smoked. And he was the incumbent with a 17-point voter registration advantage. I’m eager to see what the Bitter Smith campaign has to say about other issues. Maybe she has something to say about Iran… maybe? Grade: B-

David Schweikert, Republican for the United States House of Representatives from CD5 – My wife (not the “household” as is common) got a hand-addressed envelope with a typical (non-political) return address sticker with a pink ribbon (breast cancer? – I lost track years ago what all the different colors mean) from “Joyce Schweikert”. It also has a regular first class stamp on it and looks like something a friend would send. Inside is a two-page letter “from the desk of Joyce Schweikert” written in a handwritingesque font plus a sharp glossy photo of David and the misses with a quasi-handwritten Post-It note stuck on it. There are also a couple of reply postcards to endorse and sign up for yard signs and the like. I think this is the best “political mailing of the year” so far. It’s creative, nicely packaged and powerful. Grade: A

Mark Anderson, Republican for the United States House of Representatives from CD5 – The Anderson campaign’s next piece has the candidate’s portrait picture over a nice scene of a mountain and a field of yellow flowers. Nice image but the better shot would have been to have Mark in that field, maybe with his family, instead of just employing stock photos. Before opening it up, I assumed this piece was about his commitment to the environment or something like that. However, it’s a tri-fold brochure with lots and lots of text. It has a few nice postage-stamp-sized photos of Mark with John McCain, Mitt Romney, a serviceman and Ken Bennett and Jim Weiers. These should have been much larger. It wouldn’t be a Mark Anderson mail piece without a glowing quote from Speaker Jim Weiers and this one is no different. I see the Anderson campaign working hard. They clearly have a strategy to hit high propensity voters in their mailbox over and over again. All this is great. But knowing this, I wish they would have broken up his message into 3-5 topics and have a mailer concentrating on each one in short, easy to remember language. Instead, I think each of these mailings try to cover all of the bases as if it’s the only mail piece a voter is going to see. They are making sure that’s not the case by their strategy. Honestly, I’m not reading them all and I’m paying attention. Grade: C-

Kevin Hartke, Candidate for the nonpartisan Chandler City Council – Hartke is running for re-election to the city council and his postcard mailer has a long and impressive list of endorsements. It looks nice and matches the signs I’ve seen around town which is a big plus with me. Grade: B

RNC Victory 2008 – A letter from the RNC’s Victory 2008 committee is “from” John McCain and has a “membership statement” in it like I’m continuing my magazine subscription. Ho-hum. Grade: D

John McComish, Republican for the Arizona House of Representatives from LD20 – John McComish’s second mail piece boldly proclaims “The Authority on Education” which is what the state legislature spends most of its time and our money on. It has four bullet points detailing his views and accomplishments on education and an invitation to get more information on his website ( It’s a clear and direct message that doesn’t feel like it needs to download everything to the voter all in one postcard. Good piece. Grade: B

David Schweikert, Republican for the United States House of Representatives from CD5 – The Schweikert campaign sent a postcard pushing his conservative credentials and highlighting his endorsement by the Club for Growth and by Arizona Right to Life. It’s nice but nothing special. Grade: B-

John Huppenthal, Republican for the Arizona Senate from LD20 – We got two identical letters from John Huppenthal’s campaign instead of the “household” mailing. That’s OK but the campaign could have saved the postage if they sent only one to the both of us. However, this is a very different kind of political mailing. My wife and I gave $5 contributions to John Huppenthal for his Clean Elections funding. These letters were “thank you’s” and a further call for $5 contributions. A Clean Elections form is enclosed and a stamped self-addressed envelope too. So a total of $1.68 in postage was dedicated to this mailing to us! Yikes. Huppenthal does not have any primary opponent so his tardiness in collecting his Clean Elections funding is not fatal. But in a down year for Republicans, he really needs to check this Clean Elections box as soon as he can so he can hit the campaign trail hard after the primary. I don’t really see any Huppenthal signs up yet either. Grade: D-

Susan Bitter Smith, Republican for the United States House of Representatives from CD5 – “Stop Illegal Immigration, Signed the ‘No New Taxes’ Pledge and Drill for Oil in ANWR and Offshore” is the theme of this brighter 8 by 12 inch piece which is an improvement over earlier, darker mailers. That Arpaio dude is prominently featured again. Grade: B

Jim Ogsbury, Republican for the United States House of Representatives from CD5 – The Ogsbury campaign sends a nice postcard with the “front” side claiming Jim’s the “Real Conservative for Congress” and listing his top four priorities, securing the border, cutting federal spending, cutting taxes and lowering energy prices. These are all laudable goals. What I really like is the address-block side where he has three photos with the following headers: “Energy prices skyrocket: And Congress takes a vacation” then “The economy slows: And Congress keeps spending” and finally “Our borders are open: And Congress looks the other way”. This is perfect messaging on domestic affairs. Still, no real discussion of foreign and national security policy (come on, illegal immigration is not the kind on national security problem I referring too.) Grade: A-

Jack Sellers, Candidate for the nonpartisan Chandler City Council – Sellers sends a magazine-like mailer that’s a carbon copy of his yard signs (good) on the cover but rather wordy on the inside. But assuming he doesn’t have a huge war chest, I’ll give him a break on that this time. He’s endorsed by current Chandler mayor Boyd Dunn and former mayors Jerry Brooks and Jay Tibshraeny. But his endorsements don’t end there. He lists in fine print on the back page a list of equally impressive endorsements including Secretary of State Jan Brewer, the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, County Supervisor Fulton Brock and the Chandler Law Enforcement Association to name a few. He really should highlight those folks more than he does in this piece. Also, it’s not often a candidate puts his actual age on his mail pieces. Sellers does (he’s 65). I guess the seniors vote will be decisive in the Sellers campaign’s estimate. But there’s no chance these older voters will ever be able to read the tiny-lettered endorsement list. Grade: C+

John McCain, Republican for President of the United States – The McCain campaign sent a fundraising appeal with a nice photo of John and Cindy McCain. Grade: B+

Laura Knaperek, Republican for the United States House of Representatives from CD5 – I thought I was getting a coupon from Kellogg's for its Special K cereal but instead it’s a Laura Knaperek mailer… “because it will take a Special Congresswoman to get Washington on a Diet of Change”. The entire piece takes elements from the cereal box and transforms them into campaign appeals. Even a mock UPC barcode is shown with VOTE 09.02.08 underneath. This appeal is clearly aimed at women and is clever. But is it to flippant? Is it serious enough for these serious times? It seems like a single shot mailer that (I hope) is not part of an overall theme. Grade: C-

Sorry for the mailbox dump all at once. I’ll try and make future reports shorter and more frequent.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

CAMPAIGN 2008 MAIL CALL: A Lonely Day #2

I’m struck by the (low) amount of campaign literature in Wednesday’s mailbox. I suspect the other campaigns are timing their pieces for the same day early ballots arrive or are just asleep at the switch. We’ll see. He’s may take on today’s haul:

Jeff Dial, Republican for the Arizona House of Representatives from LD20 – Jeff’s campaign sent me another stylistically and thematically consistent postcard titled “IMPROVING EDUCATION”. K-12 education is after all the top issue for voters in legislative races and the top spending priority of the state. Another good piece that builds on yesterday’s. Grade: B+

Frank Schmuck, Republican for the Arizona House of Representatives from LD20 – Frank’s campaign today sent an envelope with a longish letter, a wordy tri-fold brochure and a palm card with (you’ve guessed it) a dense block of text on it’s reverse. I have a biased toward less-being-more in campaign literature. I suspect few primary voters will settle down to read all of the material. I do like the campaign’s play on his last name (SCHMUCK… That’s Right! Frank Schmuck). It shows the candidate’s maturity and good humor. It also has the effect of relieving voters’ anxiety about his last name. I’m sure it’s a great icebreaker and gets voters off the hook for any embarrassment for their involuntary pause after first hearing it. Today’s mail piece has a distinct low-tech feel, especially in contrast with Jeff Dial’s professional and glossy offerings. Could this be valuable and effective counter-marketing? Does it save enough money to allow for more “touches” by the campaign on primary voters? Maybe. But a four-piece mailing is labor intensive and may not be a money-saver compared to a post card. Also, the voter must do something to see your campaign’s message (open a letter). If this is the only envelope mailing in a series of mailings utilizing various formats then it very well might be effective. However, if future mail pieces employ this cumbersome format, I think Team Schmuck is making a costly mistake. Grade: C-

Jim Ogsbury, Republican for the United States House of Representatives from CD5 – I got an invitation to an Ogsbury fundraiser at a private residence next week. The event’s theme… Hawaiian Luau. Whatever works I guess. I doubt this is a general campaign mailing to CD5 Republican voters so I won’t be grading it.

Mark Anderson, Republican for the United States House of Representatives from CD5 – I got a nice phone call from Rep. Mark Anderson yesterday regarding a fundraiser and he mentioned my comments about his last mailer on Willet Creek Dam. It’s nice to see that the candidate reads the blogs and took my criticism in stride. (Hi, Mark if your reading this now.) We talked about his eclectic sign strategy. As my prior comments demonstrate, I appreciate consistency of design and the value of a simple, powerful messaging to boost a campaign. He suggested that his unorthodox sign strategy might be the secret weapon in his campaign’s slow-but-steady approach. We’ll see. Back to today’s mailer… a postcard with testimonials from the famous and the not-so-famous on why Mark Anderson’s the best Republican to challenge Harry Mitchell. House Speaker Jim Weiers is used again along with House Majority Leader Tom Boone to good effect. A national parent of the year and local business leader are shown too. More impressively is a nice quote by Mitt Romney and an effusive endorsement by the American Conservative Union’s David Keene. My suggestion, pump up the Keene and Romney bits and consider building an entire piece around the Keene quote in an effort to deflate David Schweikert’s Club for Growth love. Grade: B

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: “The Dark Knight” is the best superhero movie of all-time, best movie of 2008 so far

Wow. The Dark Knight is an outstanding movie. [More soon]

Look: 9.5

Story: 10

Acting: 9

Goal: 10

Intangibles: 9.5

Overall: 9.5

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

CAMPAIGN 2008 MAIL CALL: Early Primary Voting Season Has Begun

I’ll be blogging on the campaign literature I receive in my mailbox as the primary and general election seasons unfold. I’m a Republican who has voted in every state and federal election since I moved to Arizona in 1994. I do miss the odd local election but I’m what the professionals call a high propensity voter. Moreover, I’m a precinct committeeman for the Republican Party and 2nd Vice Chairman of Legislative District 20 Republicans. So, my mailbox should be hit hard over the next few weeks and months.

Without further delay, here’s what I got today:

Jeff Dial, Republican for the Arizona House of Representatives from LD20 – Jeff’s postcard is very well done and carries through with the design theme that his signs have through the district’s roadways. His sign design is the best in the race. It’s benefited by the ease at which one can display his 4-lettered name. He realizes that his first name is much less important than his last and his simple, clean design exudes competence and sobriety. Back to the mail piece… His top issues are "fighting illegal immigration," "improving education" and "strengthening our economy." He emphasizes his "conservative values" and has nice smiling photos of himself. The part I like the most is the big tagline: THE CHANGE ARIZONA NEEDS. It could easily be viewed as cynical or sarcastic. Either way, it shows a fearlessness uncommon in most cookie-cutter candidates. Grade: B+

Susan Bitter Smith, Republican for the United States House of Representatives from CD5 – I’m confused. Is Joe Arpaio running for this congressional seat? If I wanted Sheriff Joe as my congressman, I’d vote for him. But he’s not on the ballot. The Bitter Smith campaign sent a (roughly) 8/10 landscape-oriented fold-over booklet that tries to tie the candidate to two far more popular politicians, Arpaio and Ronald Reagan. Does it work? Speaking as someone unmoved by Joe Arpaio’s smoldering sexuality and Capraesque good cheer, I’m unimpressed. Grade: C-

David Schweikert, Republican for the United States House of Representatives from CD5 – The Schweikert campaign sent an 8/11 magazine-style 4-page mailer that boldly announces the candidate in word and picture on the "cover" (which is suitable for autographing and framing… sign right there David on the flag’s white strip to the left of your elbow…) The inside is less engaging. Too many words. The Bitter Smith piece had the right amount or fewer words than necessary. If you err on this count, err on the side of less rather than more. Your website is for details… which was nicely promoted on the excellent cover by the way. Take the "stuff" crammed on the back page and move it to the centerfold. Grade: B-

Mark Anderson, Republican for the United States House of Representatives from CD5 – "Representative" Mark Anderson has "a proven record of improving education" on his 6/11 glossy tri-fold brochure that is heavy on K-12 education. I see a nice blue-white-yellow banner in the inside that would have made a fine sign for the intersections of our district. Sadly, the drivers in CD5 are aesthetically assaulted by the Anderson campaign with a motley amalgam of conflicting sign designs. It’s one thing to recycle legislative signs from one election to the next but pick a theme and color scheme and stick to it. When you run for Congress, kitsch is goofy not frugal. The mail piece… wonderful if he were running for state legislature but not Congress. No one really cares what Arizona Speaker of the House Jim Weiers thinks of Mark Anderson. In fact, Jim Weiers’ name ID in CD5 must be in the single digits… even among Republicans. As for "Education Committee Vice Chairman" Rep. Andy Tobin’s endorsement… Grade: D

Proposition 200: Reform AZ Payday Loans – Wow, it’s July. Why am I getting a nice glossy 8/11 fold-over from my friends from the payday loan industry 98 days before the general election? Since the piece doesn’t show "Proposition 200" on it I doubt the average, or well-above average voter will long remember this mailer. It looks like it was printed weeks if not month ago. Its language has a clear defensive tone when it talks about "real" reform as if there’s another option. There was when this was printed apparently, but the anti-industry rival initiative failed weeks ago in its signature gathering effort. Grade: C

That’s it. With my early ballot due at the end of the week, I suspect I’ll be seeing many more specimens tomorrow.

Friday, July 25, 2008

East Valley Tribune: "Group takes aim at Pearce's state Senate bid"

By Sonu Munshi

Rep. Russell Pearce is the target of a new political committee that aims to block the Mesa Republican's bid for a state Senate seat.

Pearce said the organizers of the group, Judgment Matters, are people with ties to the business community who are upset with his staunch support of laws that make it tougher for employers to hire illegal immigrants.

Farrell Quinlan, a lobbyist and former executive with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said only that his group is raising money to "inform" voters about Pearce's record as a legislator. Quinlan did not link the effort specifically to Pearce's sponsorship of legislation that makes it tougher for illegal immigrants to live and work in Arizona. Quinlan did say that the first priority of Judgment Matters is to prevent Pearce from winning the Senate seat in District 18, which includes central and west Mesa.

"We hope to show District 18 Republican primary voters a more complete picture of his public record and show that some of his positions may not represent their interests or views," Quinlan said.

Quinlan did not divulge how many people had pledged support or how much money has been raised thus far.

But voters can expect some "information" to hit their mailboxes around the same time as early ballots arrive at the end of the month.

Pearce, who is being challenged in the Republican Senate primary by Kevin Gibbons, said business groups are going after him because of his support for measures like Proposition 200, the 2004 ballot initiative that barred illegal migrants from receiving state benefits.

Pearce also led the drive for a law that went into effect this year that allows prosecutors to shut down businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

"It's all being done by the open borders, fast food, cheap labor crowd," Pearce said. "These people fought me on Prop. 200, sued me over (the) employer sanctions law and now they're coming at me with a vengeance."

As an independent committee, Judgment Matters cannot coordinate its efforts with Gibbons, but can raise and spend money urging voters not to vote for Pearce.

Pearce said backers of Judgment Matters are the same people who support the Stop Illegal Hiring Act, which he said would "gut" the new employer sanctions law if it is passed by voters in November.

Quinlan is a former vice president of the state chamber of commerce's policy development and communications department. Mark Ogden, a labor lawyer and chairman of Judgment Matters, could not be reached for comment.

Pearce said he believes another newly formed committee, Mesa Deserves Better, is also targeting his campaign. Nathan Sproul, chairman of Mesa Deserves Better, did not disclose the reason behind the group. Sproul is the former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party.

But Pearce isn't too rattled by these committees. He said he has enough Republican support to win the Sept. 2 primary.
"I'm the most Republican representative in the Legislature, yet they're trying to take me out because I'm for the rule of law?" Pearce said. "Independent group hoping to be a factor in LD18"

By Evan Brown Political Reporter

There is a newcomer to the Legislative District 18 senate race, and it’s not a candidate. Judgment Matters, a new political action committee, is trying to raise funds for a “primary voter education and mobilization effort in Arizona Legislative District 18” - one that opposes the Arizona Senate candidacy of state Rep. Russell Pearce (R-Mesa).

The group is urging donations so that it can mount “independent expenditures” - usually advertising - against Pearce in his primary fight with Kevin Gibbons.

“A surgically-timed contribution from you and others can help excise Russell Pearce and his strain of politics from Arizona’s legislature,” read the Judgment Matters pitch.

Farrell Quinlan, the Chandler political consultant and former vice president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry who is heading the group, told it is “not partisan-based.”

“There are a lot of Republicans, Democrats and independents who don’t like Russell Pearce’s style of politics,” said Quinlan.

“From the very beginning there are a lot of folks in the crowd that are anti-Russell,” responded Paul Bentz, a political consultant with HighGround AZ who is working on Pearce’s campaign. “I think it’s been very clear and articulated who they are. They’re going after him on being fiscally conservative and a national leader on immigration.”

Bentz said it was primarily “open borders” advocates who were aligned with Judgment Matters. Farrell Quinlan was part of the No on 200 campaign, aimed at defeating Proposition 200, which toughens identification requirements when voting or applying for state benefits as a way to stop illegal immigrations from taking advantage.

Quinlan said he and his group are looking at other races to get involved with, but it will be a “function of resources” whether they engage in those contests or not.

“We’re not in position now of discussing those,” said Quinlan. “Right now we’re focusing on this effort, then we’ll see what happens.”

Kevin Gibbons, Pearce’s opponent, is welcoming the group’s help.

“Our campaign is based upon changing the tone and principle at the legislature and we welcome anyone who would like to contribute to our cause,” wrote Gibbons in an email to “Of course, we cannot and have not coordinated in any way with this group, but welcome their support and anyone else that shares our vision.”

Arizona Capitol Times: "Pair of committees set out to ‘excise’ Pearce from Legislature"

By Jim Small

A pair of committees backed by businesses and other opponents of the employer sanctions law appears to be aiming to defeat the law’s architect this fall in his bid for reelection to the state Senate.

One of the independent expenditure committees will target Mesa Republican Rep. Russell Pearce in this September’s primary election. Farrell Quinlan, a volunteer political consultant for the Judgment Matters committee, said the committee likely will spend money in several races, but the District 18 Senate race between Pearce and Kevin Gibbons is its top priority.

“Rep. Pearce has been a leader of a certain brand of policies, and many people in the business side of the argument have decided to come together,” Quinlan said.

He declined to say who had contributed to the committee or how much had been raised, other than to note there were “a lot of verbal commitments” from the business community.

A letter Quinlan wrote and e-mailed to potential donors asks for “surgically-timed” contributions to “help excise Russell Pearce and his strain of politics from Arizona’s legislature.”

The other committee, Mesa Deserves Better, was created by the chief supporters of an employer sanctions ballot measure that would relax hiring restrictions on businesses. However, committee Chairman Nathan Sproul declined to elaborate on the group’s intent and strategy.
“Mesa Deserves Better is an independent expenditure committee. That is all we are publicly disclosing right now,” Sproul said.

Pearce said he expects both groups will oppose him and characterized their supporters as being opposed to the rule of law.

“They have no respect for the public,” he said. “It’s profits over patriotism.”

Although Sproul would not say whether Mesa Deserves Better would work to defeat Pearce, his involvement indicates that likely will be the committee’s purpose. Through the end of May, Sproul’s two consulting businesses — Sproul & Associates and Lincoln Strategy Group — were paid more than $500,000 to run the campaign for the employer sanctions ballot proposition.

Sproul also has been directly involved with Wake Up Arizona!, a coalition of businesses that formed last summer to oppose the employer sanctions law.

At that time, the group said it planned to work to defeat legislators it viewed as responsible for the law.

Pearce said he was not surprised that opponents of the sanctions law were lining up to defeat him in his bid to replace the retiring Karen Johnson in the Senate. The additional attacks thrown his way won’t change his campaign, or his eventual victory, he said.

“Let them do whatever they’re going to do. I stand solid behind the U.S. Constitution,” he said.

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: "Hellboy II: The Golden Army"

Hellboy II: The Golden Army"

Look: 8.5
Story: 5
Acting: 6.5
Goal: 6.5
Intangibles: 7
Overall: 6.5

CRITIQUE & REVIEW: "Hancock" A Little Fun, Forgettable

Look: 7
Story: 6
Acting: 7
Goal: 6.5
Intangibles: 6
Overall: 6

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Toe-Sucker Morris: “Powell, Rice, Lieberman, Huckabee — but not Romney!”

After reading this Dick Morris op-ed more closely, I think it deserves more than just a flip “toe-sucker” ad hominem comment.

First, let's establish a few undeniable facts. Morris is not a conservative. He's not particularly “principled” in a political way which is proven by his ‘bipartisan’ clientele over the years (Bill “Slick Willie” Clinton and Trent “Go Dixicrats in '48” Lott). And Morris is by no means a socialist. He's as rapacious a capitalist as you'll find.

I truly believe Dick Morris was privately pulling for a Hillary Clinton nomination victory and then a Clinton Restoration despite protestations to the contrary. Why? How many more quasi-insider books would a Hillary win have been worth? Morris has been milking the Clinton cow for decades now, he doesn’t want to stop now!

Regardless of his preferences on the Democratic side, Morris was an early and oft critic of Mitt Romney's campaign for president. I remember numerous columns throughout the first nine months of 2007 and before where Morris would discuss the GOP presidential field either without mentioning Romney or simply dismissing him.

Morris' case against Romney as made in the recent column is so stale that the best a major league spin-meister like Morris could do to dress it up is to label it “vintage” or “old school.”

Romney's change of position on gay rights and abortion were so well vetted during his presidential campaign, I dare not try to expand on it here. What I will say though is that Romney did flip but he didn't flop on these issues.

He made “liberal” policy statements as a candidate (in 1994 and 2002) before achieving election that he later 'betrayed' as a public official. That's a flip. A flop would be a return to the old position.

The folks that deserve to be angry at these flips in my opinion are the one's betrayed – the pro-choicers and gay marrriage advocates. I've never understood the conventional wisdom that moving to the conservative position on these and other issues ought to be greeted with suspicion by conservatives, pro-lifers and advocates of the sanctity of marriage. These constituencies ought to be emboldened by such 'evolution' and not be bullied by the mainstream media and non-conservatives like Morris into being aloof from such people. Don’t we want to persuade people on the other side of these issues to move in our direction? If not, why bother engaging in the debate?

Moreover, when it counted, when he was in power and able to do something about conservative social policy, Romney did the right, and Right, thing at the most important time. Judge him by his pro-life and pro-marriage deeds as Governor rather than prior statements as a candidate. Those campaign positions have been specifically repudiated and Romney has clearly stated he was wrong in taking them. Conservatives must welcome converts, not shun them.

So, I contend social liberals rather than social conservatives should be Romney's greatest detractors on the “flip-flop” issue. And morally-challenged Dick Morris' thinly veiled hate-Romney attitude proves this out.

Conservatives decided to support Romney too late in the 2008 cycle to allow him to capitalize on his fundraising and personal wealth advantages over his better known rivals. The John Connally in 1980 swipe makes no sense and is ahistorical especially in light of the 2008 campaign itself.

Rudy Giuliani's 2008 campaign easily bested Romney's in ineffectiveness and profligate spending vis-à-vis delegate totals. Phil Gramm's 1996 bid too was much worse in regard. John Connally? Jeez, what's next? Dusting off some arcane nugget about Bob Taft against Ike in 1952? Let's stay in the here and now.

Is Morris right in essentially calling Romney a loser?

Consider, Romney was (perhaps is) largely unknown to voters outside the Bay State. He was running as a conservative in a conservative Republican presidential contest against no fewer than three rivals with near universal name recognition (John McCain, Giuliani and Fred Thompson). He had to counter their long (decades in many cases of) exposure to voters by spending lots and lots of money to jump start his campaign and introduce himself.

He ended up beating two of these three. Not bad when you consider he was the target of all of the other campaigns because they feared him the most as a rival.

I contend that Romney's failed presidential campaign can be viewed as a qualified success in the sense that he clearly defined himself as an articulate, tough and hardworking leader for conservatives for years to come. After all, Reagan lost his first (1968) and second (1976) runs for the Republican presidential nomination. That's my kind of loser.

As I mentioned, conservatives finally did unite (somewhat) when other candidates withdrew and embrace Romney as their candidate. But it was too late to reverse the outcome of a GOP nominating process rigged with mostly winner-take-all contests.

Also, Mike Huckabee's stalking-horse campaign to split the social conservative vote from the economic and national security conservative blocks doomed Romney's ability to get a one-on-one contest with McCain.

Back to Morris.

His points against Romney on policy (not an authentic conservative) and politics (the money/delegates thing) are lame. Besides, those arguments are designed to sour conservatives and Republicans on Romney. What do they mean to the general election voter? Not much.

Who does the conservatives' best friend (Morris) suggest John McCain pick for a vice presidential running mate? He first offers (pro-choice) Colin Powell then (blank slate on social and economic issues) Condi Rice then (pro-choice and Democrat) Joe Lieberman as veeps. Finally, he pushes former client and the Republican's modern day imitation of three-time loser William Jennings Bryan – Mike Huckabee.

Puh-lez! A McCain/Huckabee ticket could lose 40 states.

What do we take from this column by Morris?

First, he has an unnatural antipathy for Mitt Romney that defies rational explanation. It's got an oddly emotional, personal and deep-seeded quality that begs closer examination. Did Mitt run over Morris' cat or lose him a bunch of money in the market when Morris was short on a company Romney resurrected? Or does he have a problem with a man that doesn't drink alcohol and cheat on his wife?

Could it be that Romney represents the kind of man that Morris and the cynical Beltway political class just don't “get”? Aren't all politicians personal reprobates like Morris? Would the success of the milk-drinking Romney undermine their vision of a corrupt America? Or is he just an anti-Mormon bigot? I don't necessarily see evidence of that but remain open to convincing.

I do think Mitt Romney frustrates and complicates the worldview of the cool kids from the 1960's. And what's so bad about that? I welcome it.

In conclusion, Mitt Romney is not the second coming of Ronald Reagan let alone Jesus Christ (Barack Obama has that shtick working right now.). But he's objectively a rising conservative star who has a bright future in a McCain Administration whether as vice president, secretary of the treasury, chairman of the RNC or whatever.

If McCain fails in November, Mitt Romney will be a strong voice in conservative opposition to the Obama/Pelosi/Hillary regime. He will be a leading candidate for the 2012 Republican nomination and Dick Morris will be free to write more hysterical columns dismissing him.

Keep it up Mitt, if Morris is vexed, you must be doing something right (and Right.)