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.