Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Romney Wins Michigan By the Tips of His Fingers

You can go home again, just don't expect a landslide. Mitt Romney faced a tough challenge in his home state of Michigan, the state he left in 1965 to make his name in the world.

That's almost half a century ago. True, his father was a popular governor of the state in the 1960s, but that's ancient history for anyone under age 50. Yet somehow the Michigan primary became a make or break contest for Romney.

In a state shaped like a mitten, it appears that Mitt scratched out his win by winning the fingers. The Romney strength in the white collar suburbs of Detroit was not surprising. Nor was it surprising that Rick Santorum won many of the rural counties, as he did in Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri.

And it wasn't so much the fingers as the tips of the fingers that went for Romney, from Huron County at the tip of the thumb to Traverse City at the tip of the pinky finger. And Mitt won a long thin row of counties running up the middle of the mitten, if you know what finger that is.

I think this could be a bad beat for the morale of the Santorum campaign. They would have come out of Michigan turbo-charged with a win, and the close result may leave the bitter taste of the fumes of what might have been. A leisurely drive north from Detroit up I-75 to Mackinaw City and St. Ignace and back down through Traverse City and Kalamazoo may have been all that they needed.

Back to that old saw that you can't go home again. It was a close night in Michigan for Romney but not in his old home Oakland County. His 32,000 margin of victory there about matched his margin for the whole state.

After a short stop for the Washington caucus on March 3, it's on to Super Tuesday on March 6 when 10 states vote. Even if Romney loses Georgia and Tennessee to Gingrich and Ohio to Santorum, that leaves 7 states Romney could win.

As long as Mitt Romney keeps winning delegates at his current rate he doesn't have to win them all. While no one can quite agree on the delegate count, Romney is leading on all scorecards.

Mitt Romney 149 167 181 157
Rick Santorum 86 87 61 58
Newt Gingrich 29 32 39 30
Ron Paul 18 19 33 15
Jon Huntsman 2 2 0 2
Total 284 307 314 262

That gives Mitt Romney 52% to 60% of the delegates so far, and if he holds that margin the brokered convention talkers have nothing to broker. Still, Mitt can't clinch it until May. Happy Leap Day!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rick Santorum Comes Out of the Closet

Yes, what you've may have long suspected but dared not whisper is true, Rick Santorum is a Democrat. And he'd like you to to join him and his fellow Democrats in voting for him in the Michigan primary this Tuesday.

I was always suspicious of the sweater vests. Some susected an affinity for Mr. Rogers, but I always knew it was lust in his heart for Jimmy Carter.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Oscar for Participation Goes to Hugo, The Artist, and Meryl Streep

It has occurred to me that the Oscar is the ultimate green ribbon, given not so much as an award for superior or even good performances, but to certify those who showed up and played the Hollywood game.

How else do you explain the 2009 Best Picture Oscar for The Hurt Locker winning over Avatar and Up not to mention The Blind Side, Inglourious Basterds, and Precious. That year they gave Best Picture to the worst movie nominated. If you haven't seen The Hurt Locker and don't feel qualified to judge, you are not alone because almost no one has seen it. With only $17 million at the U.S. box office, it was truly a movie for the 1%.

For 2005, George Clooney was nominated 3 times for 2 unwatchable movies, Good Night, and Good Luck, and Syriana (he won Best Supporting Actor for that piece of propaganda). George has also been nominated for the very forgettable movies Michael Clayton and Up in the Air, and a very sketchy Best Adapted Screenplay nomination this year for The Ides of March. Clooney was also nominated this year for The Descendants, which may be worth seeing, if you discount his bad track record.

Then there is Meryl Streep who deserved her Oscar for Sophie's Choice and maybe her Kramer vs. Kramer win and The Deer Hunter nomination. But Meryl has also been nominated for The French Lieutenant's Woman, Silkwood, Out of Africa, Ironweed, A Cry in the Dark, Postcards from the Edge, The Bridges of Madison County, One True Thing, Music of the Heart, Adaptation, The Devil Wears Prada, Doubt, Julie & Julia, and The Iron Lady. What a long list of mediocrity. Is it any wonder the guys who did Meryl Streep's makeup for The Iron Lady were given an Oscar this year? Yes, they gave Meryl one too. "Whatever," she says.

This year's Oscars were a bit refreshing with the family film Hugo racking up an impressive 5 wins in technical categories (score another win for 3D). But how many of those were for the success of the film, and how many for director Martin Scorsese? You see, the film has only earned $116 million against its estimated budget of $150 to $170 million.

The 1920s retro silent picture The Artist also racked up 5 Oscar wins. It was reportedly produced at a cost of 13.5 million euros, around $18 million in real money. With $59 million taken in worldwide so far, it may be the better movie from a capitalistic return on investment perspective.

One might have expected The Help to win more awards (it got 1). One of my cousins told me last summer that the book was great and I've heard that the movie did not disappoint. But it's made $275 million in box office and DVD sales, which Hollywood often figures is reward enough. The hilarious comedy Bridesmaids, which is one of the few Oscar-nominated movies I have actually seen, has done $345 in business. No Oscar for Bridesmaids.

I also enjoyed Woody Allen's escapist film Midnight in Paris. And doubly-enjoyed that he didn't even bother to show up to collect his green ribbon for Best Original Screenplay. Still, I'd have to say that Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig who wrote Bridesmaids were stood up at the Oscar altar.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Vote Santorum: Jesus Didn't Pick His 12 Disciples on Brains Only

The received wisdom on the January 2012 Iowa Caucus is that Newt Gingrich was beaten by Mitt Romney's SuperPac-funded negative ad machine. Or was it uncoordinated efforts by many individual politically active citizens? iPacs.

Don Brantz is a farmer, member of his local chamber of commerce, and former county supervisor from Mills County Iowa. He took the ad above out in the Clarinda Herald-Journal the week before the January 3rd caucus.

I nominate "Jesus didn't pick His 12 disciples on brains only" as the best Vote Santorum tagline ever. As Don's hometown is Glenwood in Mills County not Clarinda in Page County, I'm guessing he ran this ad on his own nickel in several local newspapers.

How Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich polled in Mills and the four corner counties in Southwest Iowa:


That's quite a contrast. Don't sniff at the low totals, Santorum won Iowa by only 34 votes. iPacs like Don Brantz may be the unsung story of Iowa and this whole Republican primary season.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why It Always Pays to Vote for Yourself

The talk around Cambridge this afternoon, if people here were to actually talk of such things which we don't, is that the city finally has a new mayor.

The old mayor's term expired on December 31 following the November 8 election. But voters in Cambridge do not select the new mayor, that task instead falls to the newly elected city council. Cambridge has a city manager to run things, and the city council is often so slow to fill the mayor's job that it becomes a joke whether one is actually needed.

The mayor's job comes with a $35,000 stipend on top of the $70,000 city councillor salary, so the usual practice for at least the first few ballots is for every city councillor to vote for himself or herself. All for one, and not for nothing, I suppose.

This year two factions emerged in the voting. Leland Cheung, the second-term city councillor who received the most votes in the November election, was backed by newcomer Minka vanBeuzekom and former mayor Denise Simmons. Marjorie Decker, the twelve-year veteran city councillor some in this city love to hate, was backed by former mayors David Maher and Ken Reeves.

Craig Kelley, Tim Toomey, and Henrietta Davis were unwilling to join either camp. As these 3 councillors are neither newcomers nor former mayors, one suspects each held out hope that it was their turn for the job. Plus, Kelley and Toomey are reputedly arch-rivals on the council. You can see why this might take a while. With the 2 leading candidates unlikely to vote for someone else, that means 5 of the remaining 7 councillors had to agree on a candidate to get someone elected.

Ultimately, the Cheung party collapsed with Denise Simmons breaking away to vote for Henrietta Davis. She was joined by Minka vanBeuzekom on the next ballot along with David Maher and Tim Toomey for the five votes needed.

So congratulations to Henrietta Davis, the newly elected mayor of our fair city.

Ron Paul Fakes Out Rick Santorum in Arizona

Ron Paul says he's a fake and "I'm real, I'm real" was all Rick Santorum could say in response. That's the moment from the Arizona debate that people will remember.

But the real fake on fiscal conservativism may be Ron Paul. He claims that in all his years in Congress he voted for only one appropriations bill. Fiscal conservatism is not the guy who says No, No, No to the final bill while arranging to take care of his district in committee. It's the guy who talks the legislators into voting Yes, Yes, Yes for lower levels of spending.

So what if President Ron Paul vetoes every single appropriations bill that comes to his desk as President, if the Capitol Hill game is that his veto gets overridden every single time.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Newt Gingrich Out-Sniped on Chevy Volt Gun Rack

"You can't put a gun rack in a Volt," Newt Gingrich has been laughing along with his audiences at campaign stops in Georgia and Oklahoma.

Not so fast, responds GM spokesman Rob Peterson, sticking up for his American-made product:

"Fuel efficiency -- not the availability of a gun rack -- is one of the top purchase considerations for all new vehicles. "However, if accessories for the Volt are that important to Mr. Gingrich, we'll gladly send him a product brochure."
But the better response comes from a Chevy Volt owner, who simply mounted a gun rack in the back of his Volt:

I'll bet you could also put a pistol in the console or under the front seat. In fact, one of my high school teachers in the 1970s kept a loaded pistol under the front seat of the little Datsun he drove to and from school.

I have been thinking about getting a Volt for a year now, even though I have no interest in making new car payments and living in the city I have no place to plug it in. The battery fire stories also dampened my enthusiasm a bit. So I guess I'll keep driving my Jeep.

You can say what you want about cool SUVs and pickup trucks, but these hybrid electric cars are cool too. I rented a Prius a few years back on a trip to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, coasting down from Hurricane Ridge with no sound but the wheels on the pavement and driving up the beach at Washington Shores with the window down and nothing but the crunch of the sand and the roar of the Pacific.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rombo Ad May Miss the Mark

This is a great ad. But in a race for the conservative vote, would you rather be the cool assault weapon guy or the stiff cardboard cutout guy? OK, it's just a paintball gun, but where can I get one of those?

I think this ad may motivate some conservatives on the sly to vote for Rombo. Rombo, what a great nickname for Mitt Romney.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Be My Valentine, Little Debbie

Contains 10 creme-filled cakes.

Twin-wrapped, twin-unwrapped.

Friday, February 10, 2012

CNN Smacks the Ish Out of Roland Martin

Roland Martin has gotten himself suspended from CNN for some tweets he made during the Super Bowl:

"Ain't no real bruhs going to H&M to buy some damn David Beckham underwear!"

"If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham's H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him!"
Here's is the David Beckham ad that got Roland so agitated:

Now Martin claims was that he was dissing Beckham as a soccer player, a sport that he does not give any respect. And he could also have been dissing the tattoos. Or dissing that particular style of underwear, which looks uncomfortably restricting, for a real bruh, if you know what I mean.

Earlier in the day Martin had tweeted:

"Who the hell was that New England Patriot they just showed in a head to toe pink suit? Oh, he needs a visit from #teamwhipdatass."
Here's the picture of that sharp-dressed man:

Obviously Roland's remark is an offensive African-American pimp stereotype. Oh wait, Roland is African-American, that can't be it. Offensive to New England Patriots fans? Nothing wrong with that, outside of New England.

So who did take offense? Maybe we should cut to the obligatory CNN apology.

"Roland Martin's Tweets were regrettable and offensive. Language that demeans is inconsistent with the values and culture of our organization, and is not tolerated. We have been giving careful consideration to this matter, and Roland will not be appearing on our air for the time being."
Well CNN is clearly apologizing to someone, we just don't know who. Maybe Roland Martin's apology will clear this up:

"To those who construed my comment as being anti-gay or homophobic or advancing violence, I'm truly sorry. I can certainly understand how someone could come to a different conclusion than the one I meant. I'm disheartened that my words would embolden prejudice. While public debate over social issues is healthy, no matter which side someone takes, there is no room for debate as to whether we need to be respectful of others."
I'm glad we settled that. We can't have anyone tweeting offensive remarks unless we know who is offended. Maybe the Gay and Lesbian Aliance Against Defamation thought "ish" was a homophoic slur. Actually it's hip-hop slang for "shit" as in "smack the shit out of him." Someone at GLAAD needs racial and cultural awareness training. The meeting between Roland Martin and GLAAD has already been scheduled.

Who is Roland Martin? He's a CNN political commentator who just a year ago was being talked about as anchor for a show on the competing network MSNBC.

I guess he won't be going anywhere any time soon in that shirt, except maybe to that meeting with GLAAD. Or he could wear his pinkish-organgish shirt that the Washington Post is flaunting.

The Hollywood Reporter also puts the pink on Roland:

I'm getting the strong impression from these photos that Roland Martin is a stylish dresser who likes to express his very strong opinions about fashion choices he disagrees with. He is not a man afraid to wear pink.

Nonetheless, the case against Roland Martin was judged open and shut by GLAAD's Communities of African Descent Media Field Strategist Kimberley McLeod:

"This brings me to my next point, gay men, lesbians, transgender folk, or any other oppressed minority, are NEVER wrong when they point out your privilege and/or hurtful words. I’ll say it again; THEY ARE ALWAYS RIGHT. As oppressed people, we dictate when what you’re saying is homophobic, transphobic, or generally problematic, you don’t. As a straight man, you do not get to define what homophobia looks like, sounds like, or feels like. Why? Because I said so. You have never and will never have to grapple with the harsh reality of negotiating your identity as a Black gay man, and that, in-and-of-itself, disqualifies any opinions you may have on delineating homophobic actions, statements, or stances. Capisce?"
Capisce? That's the phrase associated with implied threats of mafia violence. Italian-Americans will be offended.

Roland Martin's original sin is this post on his website from February 2006:

"My wife, an ordained Baptist minister for 20 years, has counseled many men and women to walk away from the gay lifestyle, and to live a chaste life. She has asked heterosexual men and women to abstain from sex until marriage. For her, the obligation is to her calling as a minister of the Word, rather than bowing to societal pressures. She loves gay and lesbian church members dearly, and prays with them, talks to them, and breaks bread with them. But what she cannot do is compromise the integrity of the teachings of Christ."
For that offense, as much as for the Super Bowl tweets, Roland Martin will be glaad-handed into bending it like Beckham. But let's remember, people come to Baptist ministers for counsel voluntarily. Can you condemn the minister without condemning the ministered? And when did we start condemning the minister’s spouse?

So it comes around that Acting GLAAD President Mike Thompson has had to issue his own form of apology:

"GLAAD is aware that several members of the LGBT community have used racial epithets and race-based insults toward Roland Martin, his family and broader African American community. We unequivocally condemn the use of racial slurs when addressing issues of homophobia and strongly discourage the use of hate speech in any context. We look forward to a healthy and productive dialogue with Roland Martin and members of the community."
That is truly bending it like Beckham.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Nancy Pelosi Going Viral "Tomorrow" with Attack on Stephen Colbert

I can't decide whether this ad is coordinated or uncoordinated. Nancy Pelosi ends it with "Americans deserve a better tomorrow, today." The slogan for Stephen Colbert's Super PAC is "making a better tomorrow, tomorrow."

Only 304 views at the end of the day Thursday. Well, Nancy, you can always go viral tomorrow.

Update: 157,716 views as of 4pm EST Friday. Maybe this could go viral after all.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Republican Delegates Are Harder to Count Than Cattle

A herd of cattle can be hard to count in the field. A small cow may be hard to spot walking behind a larger cow. A cow may mess up your count by turning back after she has gone by you, while other cows rush past. But usually you can at least get a rough count.

Mitt Romney 94 112 115 107
Rick Santorum 71 72 34 45
Newt Gingrich 29 32 38 32
Ron Paul 8 9 20 9
Jon Huntsman 2 2 0 0
Total 204 227 207 193

We may not get a true count on those Republican delegates until the August roundup in the arena at the national convention in Tampa.

Rick Santorum Proves Nice Guys Finish First in Middle America

The Republican race has a new frontrunner, with Rick Santorum sweeping the field in 3 states with 40% and more of the vote.

With Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich duking it out with negative ads and snarky comments, and Ron Paul calling everyone unconstitutional, Republican voters issued the ultimate rebuke by voting for the nice guy Rick Santorum.

That means Santorum has one half of the states that have voted too date:

Rick Santorum: Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri

Mitt Romney: New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada

Newt Gingrich: South Carolina

Ron Paul: None
In Missouri the rebuke was especially severe with Santorum winning every county and racking up 55% statewide with Newt Gingrich not even on the ballot. It may be all over but the shouting for Newt. He needs to prove he can win outside the South or his campaign has no place to go. The nail in the coffin would be if he loses his home state of Georgia on March 6.

The Romney campaign will have its own problems if Santorum keeps winning Midwestern states Mitt Romney had expected to win. Mitt faces the acid test in his birth state of Michigan on February 28. All bets are off if Romney loses Michigan to Santorum.

Actually, it appears that the effort of evangelicals to coalesce behind Rick Santorum is beginning to show results. That may not bode well for Rick in the voting in Maine which is ongoing or in retiree-heavy Arizona which votes alongside Michigan on February 28. But it could bode well for the Washington caucus on March 3. That could set Rick up for the big prize on Super Tuesday, March 6.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Clint Eastwood for President

I think I've found my candidate for President:

This is a Chrysler ad. And if "thanks for the bailout" is one of its messages, I can only respond "you're welcome." That's not to say that I supported the bailout, but I appreciate the thank you nonetheless.

As to Karl Rove and certain other windbags who think this is some sort of subliminal Obama reelection ad, I have this thought to offer:

Now it happens I drive a Chrysler, a Jeep Cherokee that I bought in December 1992. It has been such a high-quality American-made product that I haven't needed another in these last 19 years. No airbags or electric door locks. You want to open the window, you turn the hand crank. They don't make them like they used to.

Here is the Super Bowl ad Chrysler ran a year ago with Eminem largely expounding on the same themes:

YouTube shows 4,404,648 views so far on this year's Eastwood ad and 14,354,069 views for Eminem. The bad news for Chrysler is that the GM Silverado ad at this year's Super Bowl did better at 5,745,841 views so far:

GM, you can keep your new Silverado, in the event of apocalypse I'll take my Jeep with its limited electronics.

By the way, the Bush administration authorized the $17.4 billion bailout for GM and Chrysler in December 2008. The incoming Obama administration was left to the task of administering the bailout. I do respect Ford, which didn't take a bailout. Maybe my next vehicle will be a Ford.

The problem the auto industry faced in 2008 and 2009 was not of their creation. Most people can't buy a car without a loan. And the banks stopped lending, not because credit risks on auto loans went south, but because the banks went south themselves by losing so much money in the housing market collapse.

Update: As usual, Iowahawk kicks it between the goalposts with A Fistful of Rebates.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mobile Street Art in Harvard Square

Nudes, Bare Boards, and Naked Glass at the MFA

"Woman Seated on a Bathtub". Edgar Degas preferred to be called a realist, but several rooms full of these nudes left quite an impression.

A woman is paid to guard an exhibit of mounted varnished planks by Ellsworth Kelly with this bare board that leaves me flat.

These delightful pieces of naked glass have infinite depth in "Endlessly Repeating Twentieth Century Modernism" by Josiah McElheny.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog Day for Mitt Romney

Here in Massachusetts we had a beautiful 55 degree day on February 1, with another warm but raining day in the outlook for February 2. It looks like we'll be getting an early spring.

What about our own Mitt Romney, who certainly sprang to life with his big win in the sunshine state of Florida? If Mitt Romney wakes up this morning and sees his shadow, that means there will be six more weeks of campaigning for the Republican nomination for President. But what if he doesn't see his shadow? If this gloomy fight goes on state by state, just how long can it go?

March 24 in Louisiana - the earliest date Mitt can clinch the nomination, but that would assume the impossible of winning all the delegates even in states with proportional allocation rather than winner-take-all.

May 15 in Oregon and Nebraska - it's reasonable to assume Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul will win a third or more of the delegates across proportional states and a few winner-take-all states. If Mitt wins two-thirds of the delegates, he doesn't clinch until May 15.

June 5 in California and 4 other states - If Mitt is winning less than two-thirds of delegates, it will go all the way to June 5.

June 26 in Utah - as the last state to vote, Utah is the tie-breaker, and in that case we can expect the Mormon voters of Utah to give the win to Mitt.

So Mitt Romney can expect a long winter before he clinches the nomination. He'll be lucky to get one of those classic New England springs that linger about a week before summer arrives.

What are the wild cards and potential game changers?

Missouri on February 7 - Rick Santorum goes head to head with Mitt Romney in this nonbiding primary. Rick could sure use a win to regain his lost Iowa momentum.

Virginia on March 6 - only Ron Paul is on the ballot against Mitt Romney. If conservatives want to demonstrate they can beat Mitt Romney by consolidating behind a single candidate, this is their chance to prove it.

Other southern states - looking at Mike Huckabee in 2008, as well as the results in South Carolina and the Florida panhandle in 2012, it would be no surprise if Newt Gingrich wins some states in the South. The endorsement of Texas Governor Rick Perry might even win Newt that big prize. More Mitt wins in the South to follow Florida would seal Newt's fate.

Industrial states - Mitt would face a real threat if Rick Santorum can put it together in his own home state of Pennsylvania and midwestern states like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The primary calendar does not cooperate, putting Pennsylvania a long way away on April 24.

Update: I don't know about the goundhog, but Mitt Romney did trump the field by winning the endorsement of the wet raccoon: