Monday, February 25, 2008

The Winds Of Change

A funny thing happened to Barack Obama on the way to the Democratic nomination; He started getting criticized in the press. I know this is hard to believe considering the unprecedented level of adulation that he has received to date, but if you sample the political headlines, you will see that the number of critical articles has expanded exponentially. Perhaps it just goes with the front runner status that he now enjoys, or perhaps reporters are just responding to the criticisms that that they have been giving Obama a free ride. Or perhaps Hillary Clinton's campaign's talking points are finally starting to take hold (this photo of Obama in traditional African garb was circulated by Clinton staffers this weekend and picked up by the mainstream press).

The Clinton campaign must be thrilled to see that the press is finally starting to turn a more critical eye toward her opponent, but they must be asking themselves, "What took so long"? For months Hillary has been hammering the point about her opponent’s lack of experience, but the press seemed not to care. The articles questioning whether Obama could actually deliver on any of his rhetoric are now starting to appear with much more frequency. There is an actual point to make about whether Obama, with an essentially liberal platform, would be able to somehow bring enough Republicans over to his side to move legislation forward in Congress. The Republicans will no doubt pick up on this tact and try their best to label Obama a typical, liberal, tax and spend Democrat. While Hillary cannot attack Obama for being a liberal, the Republicans will have no problems in making that argument.

I have also read a few articles about another subject, which up until this point has been only whispered about, and that is the subject of assassination. Obama was provided with secret service protection at the earliest point of any nominee for President in history. However the press has been reluctant to even broach the topic. The New York Times broke that unspoken pledge when it ran a front page story about the real concern over the safety of the Senator as he moves further along in the primaries.

There are also articles which try to link Obama to the Presidency of Jimmy Carter and George McGovern's disastrous '72 campaign. Here's just a list of titles of the some the recent articles about Obama, "1972 All Over Again", "Turning Obama into Jimmy Carter", "Inexperience Can Look A Lot Like Change", "Obama, It's about Me", "Hillary has a point, Obama is a Gamble", "Obama, the Messiah of Generation Narcissism". There have always been negative stories about Obama, but it seems to me that the volume has certainly been turned up in the past few days.

Will any of this have an impact moving forward? Undoubtedly it will sway some voters; the real question is how many. Has the press' long standing infatuation with Obama finally come to end? Has that Wizard been unmasked? I don't think so. The last debate showed that Obama has come a very long way in this campaign. He is now able to sit and debate Hillary without appearing to be outclassed. There are very real questions that he has to answer (especially the seemingly conflicted goals of a liberal agenda along with bi-partisan cooperation), but he has managed to fend off every challenge to date (bringing to mind another Teflon candidate, Bill Clinton). Hillary has a chance to bring out some of the concerns that the press has raised tomorrow night in their last debate before "HIGH NOON TUESDAY". Perhaps this is her chance to try and make something negative actually stick to Obama. If she can successfully point out the inherent contradiction in his message, her campaign might just live to see more than one more Tuesday.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A really, really unreasonable man.

In an e-mail to supporters just leaked to the press Ralph Nader outlines the task before the next president as "Cutting the huge, bloated and wasteful military budget, adopting a single-payer Canadian-style national health insurance system, impeaching Bush/Cheney, opposing nuclear power - among many others."
Why would Ralph Nader be outlining goals?
Because he's about to run. -Yeah, I know.
Now I don't agree with Eric Alterman (of The Nation) and others who maintain he cost John Kerry the election (The numbers don't add up, kerry's losses are not corrected/increased toward a win when you throw Nader's numbers in), but I do believe he had a hand in Gore's defeat in 2000.
While I have always believed that 3rd party candidates raise issues and concerns that are otherwise swept over by the Democrats and Republicans as their respective "messages" are further honed into smaller and smaller sound bites (the 3rd party candidates tend to get increasingly specific as their end nears), I don't see what Nader can accomplish in that regard, except possibly to illustrate how effectively 3rd party candidates can be shut out of debates.

In the last month, Barack Obama has shown that he can take supporters thought to be part of Hillary's locked-in base. Hillary Clinton, for her part, has not shown an ability to siphon away any elements of Obama's perceived base, with the possible exception of getting the Reverend Calvin Butts to endorse her in New York. However, I believe in Ralph Nader. I believe wholeheartedly in his power to disrupt and fracture voting blocks. As I have said in this blog before, the next president will have a chance to determine the posture of Supreme Court, for a generation or two. We simply cannot afford another Social Conservative president, or worse one who feels he has to act like one (Read: John McCain). If you think Ralph Nader can't ensure a Republican victory by driving wedges, however small, across states I ask you to think of how fragile the support for a black man or a woman is in this country. Really think about it.
There is a tremendous amount of rancor and anger since the last two election cycles on the American Left. Ralph Nader is still embroiled in lawsuits from 2004, when Democrats, who believe he prevented Al Gore from winning in 2000, kept him off many state ballots.
Ralph Nader thinks managing the military budget, national healthcare, nuclear power, charging and prosecuting Dick Cheney are not at the forefront of either of the Democratic hopefuls' agendas. I'll tell you who else isn't thinking about it at all: the Republicans.

So here's my letter to Ralph Nader, actually my plea:

Dear Ralph Nader,
Stay home. Stay home and fight. Get back to work. It's where we need you, in your office-for-life, as the world's preeminent consumer advocate.
I would love to see you take on the credit card industry and their lobby. Someone should remind Americans that usury used to be illegal in the United States. Someone should point out that interest rates should never, ever be double the rate of inflation or more. Someone should defend the average working person who is being destroyed by the runaway greed of the transnational banking system. Someone should remind every working person that while we pay 30 cents out of every dollar we earn, the rich pay half of that, thanks to the 8 cent cut that President Bill Clinton instituted in the 90s, and the subsequent 5 cent cut that President George W. Bush gave the rich.
That somebody is you, Ralph Nader.

-SJ


Friday, February 22, 2008

I Hear The Train a Comin'

The Showdown in the lone star state was fairly anti climactic; especially after a day of the McCain press frenzy. The lasting memories of last nights debate may just be Hillary Clinton getting booed and Hillary Clinton getting a standing ovation. She got booed for once again bringing up the plagiarism argument and she got a standing ovation when she appeared to be basically giving a concession speech. In my opinion the later moment was a direct result of the earlier one.

The Clinton campaign has been trying to find an attack issue that would resonate with the voters since it became clear in Iowa that they were in a dog fight. The latest attempt has been to try and paint Obama as someone who steals his best lines from someone else and doesn't give them any credit for it. This issue first came up in Wisconsin and they have been trying to hammer this point home ever since. However there has been little interest among the Democratic ranks. This issue has lived among the pundits on TV and in print (as they continue to get email blasts from the Clinton campaign harping on the subject), but there seems to no traction among Democratic voters. Hillary tried last night to once again raise this issue by using a clearly prepared line ("change you can Xerox") and was met with open hostility from the crowd in the form of boos and hisses. I believe that was the turning point of the debate. Up until then, she had at least attempted to engage Obama with a somewhat competitive tone. After that moment, her will to fight seem to have been taken from her.

Her closing comments, in which she said that she was honored to share the stage with Obama and that she would be "fine" regardless of the outcome of the election, was a moment of resignation. She actually admitted to herself, in front of a live TV audience, that she might lose this race. I don't think that it was akin to a concession speech, but it did show the toll that this contest has taken on her. It played as a genuine moment and although some have questioned just how calculated that was, I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on this one.

There are many in the press who say that this is the Hillary that we need to see more often, but that's just nonsense. Could you imagine what the press reaction would be to Hillary breaking down and crying every day? They talk about the genuine moment in New Hampshire when she was brought to the verge of tears while answering a question. Many credit that moment for her comeback win in that state. But seriously folks, who wants the leader of their country always being on the verge of tears?

Will that moment energize the Hillary supporters as it did in New Hampshire? Will women once again come to her aid? Obama has been making significant in roads into her base of white females, but will her performance last night stem that tide? Stranger things have happened. However, given her performance last night, it looks like Hillary has decided that the scorched earth plan is not the way to go. She played it nice last night and with only one more debate between now and "High Noon Tuesday" (I've got the trademark on that one), her opportunities to score a big blow against Obama are dwindling to a precious few.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

All The News...

The New York Times had a front page story today in which they detailed a supposed inappropriate relationship between John McCain and a lobbyist during McCain's failed bid for the Republican nomination in 2000. The story claims that members of McCain's staff had to intercede to end the relationship for "his own good". While both parties involved have denied that there was a physical relationship between them (McCain most recently in a press conference this morning), the article hints that their relationship may have been more than just friendly.

The story is based on a "number" of unnamed inside sources from the McCain camp. This story has apparently been in the works at the NY Times since January. In fact it was leaked on the Drudge report and McCain denied any wrong doing at that time. The lobbyist has also denied that she had any time of physical relationship with McCain. McCain's record of voting in the senate from that time period also does not have any red flags that would show that he was being unduly influenced by any outside forces.

So the NY Times, the gold standard of American daily papers, decided to run what amounts to a rumor, on the front page today. They might as well have turned into the NY Post and run a real tabloid headline. How about "Lobbygate: McCain caught in sex scandal", or "Mac in the Sack: McCain gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar". I have no idea if this story will turn out to be true, but neither do the editors of the NY Times. Unless they have some real evidence of inappropriate behavior, they should not have run this story. To sully the reputation of a public figure based on innuendo and conjecture is National Enquirer territory. There have been reports that The New Republic was about to publish a story about the in fighting that had been taking place over this story and so the NY Times felt that they needed to get to press with it before that story came out.

The NY Times may eventually produce information to support this story, but to publish it at this point was a mistake. This isn't fact based, it's rumor based. The NY Times should not be in the rumor business. What's next, Brittney Spears rehab stories? All the news that's fit to print? I think not.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Train To Nowhere

There is apparently a struggle in the Hillary Clinton campaign about what their next steps should be. One side is arguing for a full on frontal attack, while the other side is arguing for a more positive campaign. The answer to which tact they chose will show if Hillary really is willing to win at all costs or whether she has any concern about the future of the Democratic Party.

At this point her message has been unable to sway enough voters to her side to tip the delegate count in her favor. If she goes negative from here on out (the scorched earth plan), she may indeed end up the victor in the Democratic primary, but it would at a tangible personal cost. Her already high negatives would undoubtedly inch higher and she may end up alienating a large portion of the very voters that she would need to win the fall. Negative campaigning has been shown to be effective in the past, but it usually works better when the opponent is from the other party. Taking down people in your own party is seen as political suicide by many political insiders. Even if you end up winning against your opponent, you end up causing a fracture inside your own party and most times leaves your campaign a loser on Election Day.

The voters in this country are clearly unhappy with the way the country has been managed for the past seven years and for the most part they blame the party that controls the White House. The Democrats therefore, are positioned very well to add seats to slim majorities in both houses of Congress. What could derail that? A bitter and divisive campaign between the two candidates for the Democratic Party nomination would go a long way to assuring that doesn’t happen. Also by attacking your opponent, you give the other party ammunition to use against that candidate in the upcoming race (assuming that the attacks don't work well enough to ensure his defeat). The rest of the party would also look none too kindly on a candidate who was willing to destroy their parties chances just to avoid a personal defeat.

Hillary could decide that the best thing to do would be to run a positive campaign (the good neighbor strategy). One that focuses on her own vision of the future and her past accomplishments and rely on the debates to show the contrast between the two candidates. If she feels her experience makes her a better candidate, then she should feel confident in allowing the American people to make an honest evaluation. If she were to win, it would show that she had the superior plan and that the majority of voters agree with her. I'm sure that she feels frustrated at this point by the fact that Obama has been given something of a free ride by the press. However if she were to adopt the Good Neighbor strategy her only recourse would be to continue to point her strong points and hope that the contrast gains her the greater share of votes. The key benefit to this strategy is that if she were to lose the nomination, she would maintain the moral authority to be perhaps the dominant democratic voice in the US Senate or position herself for another run at the presidency in 2012 if McCain were to win.

Win at all costs or preserve dignity with an eye toward the future? That's the choice that she is faced with. Of course Obama could make a major mistake in the upcoming months or her message could actually begin to break through. If either of those things happens, the Democratic Party may be spared all out catastrophe at the convention or at the polls in November.

Now I'm a believer.


"Sen. Barack Obama is poised to get the endorsement of the powerful Teamsters, the second major union endorsement for the Democratic front-runner in a week, union officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.... Obama will meet with Teamster President James P. Hoffa in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday. The endorsement is expected to come soon thereafter, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the planned formal announcement."
-Jesse J. Holland, Associated Press, February 20, 2008


As a former welder, who worked in the trade roughly 6 years, on and off (mostly on, and under threat of violence), as someone who knows first hand just how exclusionary unions can be along racial lines, I have to say this is the first legitimate surprise I've had since McGreevey declared himself a "Gay American".
Now, even I have come to believe he just might win... not the presidency mind you, but the democratic nomination.

-SJ








Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Don't Call It A Comeback

I know that Hillary Clinton has been all but dead and buried by the mainstream media outlets, but the Clinton's are at their most dangerous when they are counted out. The race is still extremely close and it certainly could turn around based on a major gaff by Obama or one of his minions (his wife's statement about this race being the first time that she is "really" proud to an American is a place to start). Post Super Tuesday, Hillary has lost 8 straight contests. Will Wisconsin and Hawaii make it 10? That remains to be seen. I do have a blueprint for her to get back in the race and it really wouldn't be very hard for her to get that ever elusive and basically non-existent "momentum" back on her side.

Here are the next 10 states to vote after today: Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Wyoming, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina and West Virginia. In theory, out of the next 10 states, Obama might be favored in two races; Mississippi and Wyoming. Clinton should have the edge going into every one of the remaining states. So her run may be 8 out 10 including the huge states of Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The press would have to admit that she has "momentum" on her side and that Obama would be in desperate need of wins to stem the tide. This scenario is not just a pipe dream, it's very possible. If Obama where to falter in Wisconsin and not pull off the upset in Texas, then he would be in for 7 weeks of consistent bad news. And while I have never seen a group political crush like the press are currently engaged in with Obama, even they would have to admit that things were not going his way.

The final primaries are in Kentucky, Oregon, Montana, South Dakota and Puerto Rico. Hillary would be favored in at least Kentucky and Puerto Rico, so that she would end the primary season on a definite upswing. Would those victories be enough for her to retake the delegate lead? I haven't done the math and frankly, I was told there would be no math, so I'm not going to try. However the "momentum" would undoubtedly be hers. She could end the primary season on a 10-5 or better streak. What would the super delegates do then? I'm sure that Howard Dean and the rest of the Democratic leadership are going to bed praying that his scenario does not come true, but I put the chances at 50/50 this will actually happen. An Obama win in Wisconsin and then in Texas can derail this scenario. In fact if Hillary loses both Wisconsin and Texas, I think that on March 5, she will be fielding calls from every non-committed party leader asking her to step aside.

As we have seen, the pundits are very impressed by what is happening today. It's almost as if they an extreme case of myopic vision. In a race where Obama leads by 130 pledged delegates out of more than 2,000, I don't think it's time to throw in the towel quite yet. A surprise win by Hillary in Wisconsin tonight can start the ball rolling toward the democrats may yet come to call, "March Madness".

Monday, February 18, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

On the eve of the Wisconsin and Hawaii vote I just wanted to write about something that Barack Obama has said repeatedly during the campaign that I have to take issue with. He has said that he's not sure that Hillary can attract his voters, but he's sure that he can get hers. On the face of it, the statement seems to have some merit, but on closer inspection, I don't think that it holds up.

In order to take apart that argument, you just need to look at the bases of each of the candidates. Obama's base is made of African-Americans, college educated whites, and young people. Clinton's base is non-college educated whites, elderly white women and Hispanics. The question is which base is more likely to vote democratic even if their candidate loses? I would argue that Obama's base is much more likely to go along with a Hillary candidacy. While Blacks and college students may be somewhat deflated if Obama doesn't get the nomination, I still believe that they will tow the line and vote for the party ticket. I don't believe that the opposite is true for Clinton's core supporters.

Clinton core group of supporters would be faced with a very hard decision if she is not the candidate. I think her supporters would splinter into three groups. One group would vote for McCain, one group would vote for Obama and one group would stay home. The percentages would probably be fairly evenly split. The Obama supporters would more likely be split between staying home and voting for her (with the much larger percentage voting for her), while the Clinton supporters would provide a boost for John McCain. Elderly white women are her most loyal support group. She has never lost them in any primary to date. I think that they, in particular, would be drawn to John McCain as an alternative to Obama.

Obama has run as the "unity" candidate, but the truth is that he may be more divisive to the democratic base than Hillary would be.

VHS versus Betamax... and the illusion of choice.

"The death knell of Toshiba's HD DVD format sounded on Friday when Wal-Mart decided to stock only Blu-ray DVDs and DVD players from now on. The manufacturer is expected to announce it is officially abandoning the format as early as this week, after trying to put a positive spin on the loss of Warner Bros. as a supporter." -Cindy Turner, Cynopsis, 2/28/2008
***
I sat out the first steel-cage matches between "formats", namely the Drive-ins versus the multiplex (I was too young, seeing my last Drive-in movie, "Two Minute Warning" when I was eight), and the second such duel between formats "Betamax versus VHS" (My mother wouldn't buy either one) . I won't go into the various audio formats that have forced some of us to buy the same recordings over and over again. Nobody needs to own Pink Floyd's "Animals" three times: on LP; cassettte; and CD. For my part I went with an mp3 download before ever buying the compact disc, that meant waiting roughly 10 years. But honeslty, I figured I just wouldn't listen to that album again after already have been "taken" on albums like "Revolver" and "Rubber Soul". Nobody needs three copies of anything, seriously.
The interesting thing about this latest, wasteful, license-oriented battle between corporation incubated formats? In the most transparent manner in recent history, it was not in any way decided by the consumers (In some ways mirroring that Sony Betamax debacle of the eighties). When one thinks about it, none of the past options for recorded media ever were. Currently there is an increasing move away from projected film in theaters (which actually started in 1999). When I told John Nubian, (Yes, that John Nubian, one of the founders of Black Fimmakers Foundation and one of the smartest and perceptive guys I've ever known and worked with) about this years ago, he said "the public wouldn't stand for it". I reminded him that it was already happening/had happened. Shortly after that, Steven Spileberg's "Minority Report" was projected digitally in many theaters in New York City. Some film houses advertised the novelty of the technology, others simply did it without telling anyone... And that's the point. While there is an illusion of choice, ultimately the final answer is determined by anonymous corporate players. Ultimately we will not see projected celluloid films anymore, -not because the new technology is better, but because it is cheaper and easier. Understand that what you want is not important, the distributors will give you what you'll settle for, and charge you more.

The final outcome of "choice" in America is determined, not by quality, not by accessibility, not by ease of use, but by profit/loss margins identifed by the supplier.

It's a scary statement I know. It essentially means the laws of "supply and demand" are a fiction in America, and the rest of the world, thanks to the machinations and back-door dealings of transnational corporations. If it appears I'm defending Capitalism, you're absolutely right. It needs defending. It's long been exposed as a "fixed-game" where success is achieved by whomever flouts the rules in the most excessive and secretive way possible. In theory, (in the theory still taught in grade schools, high schools and colleges in the U.S.) it is supposed to be a membrane or flux in which fair play is guaranteed, in which you fail or die by the soundness of your thinking and planning, buoyed or sunk by the strength of your efforts, advancing only when you identify consumers' "needs/demands" and meet those demands with the products and services you supply. Capitalism, as practiced in the last four centuries, is a race to see who can screw the public the fastest and the hardest, and do it repeatedly. I don't pretend to know how Adam Smith would have felt about all this, I just know it's not compatible with his written hopes for the world and its economy. It's all due to the "illusion of choice".
...And while you may think that doesn't mean much, that "business is business" and that a VCR is just a VCR, (and it is, -it's just an entertainment device) I would like to suggest that you examine what I am calling the "illusion of choice" as it pertains to education, housing and construction, healthcare and finally our government:
A squad of candidates were funded by corporations and big business for the last year and a half, to meet our demand for a new president. Do you think we're getting better candidates?, or just the ones that we'll settle for?
A Happy President's Day to you all.
-SJ


Friday, February 15, 2008

Hope Spring Eternal

The Clinton camp has decided to follow Pat Buchanan's advice which was "to go negative, or go home". They have staked everything on the outcome in Texas and Ohio and they have decided that their best hope and maybe last hope is to begin attacking their opponent. Their new line is that Obama makes good speeches, but she offers solutions. I don't know if this new tactic will work, but the truth is that they have to try something. Bill Clinton has been especially fervent in hammering this point home. It can be hard to be the anti-hope candidate, but that is exactly what the Clinton campaign is now trying to sell.

The Clinton camp has also finally decided to start contesting every primary. Their strategy going in was to basically win the big states and bypass the smaller ones. That strategy has backfired however. As an example, in New Jersey (with 107 delegates), Clinton netted 10 delegates, but in Idaho (18 delegates) Obama netted 12. In a race where delegates mean everything, the strategy to give up on the smaller states was a critical error. The margins that Obama ran up (sometimes as much as 4-1) have allowed him to gain a commanding lead in the pledged delegate count. At some point the campaign probably realized their error but didn't have the funds or the organization in place to do anything about it. This week, they have decided to contest Wisconsin, but Hillary herself won't show up until Saturday. It may be too little too late, but Wisconsin does show some promise for her and if she doesn’t win, she can at least make it closer than it would have been if she skipped the state altogether.

The latest polls show Clinton with a commanding 20+ point lead in Ohio, but a much smaller 8 point advantage in Texas. With more than two weeks before the big primaries, it certainly leaves enough time for Obama to try and cut into her lead in Ohio and perhaps even build a small lead in Texas. The upcoming debates are critical to the success of each campaign and with Hillary being in the more vunerable position she will certainly come out with both guns blazing. I think that Obama needs to be able to defend himself from the onslaught that is coming.

During the first debate, I think he should make a pledge to the American people, that even if neither of them have the required number of delegates, he will not take the race to the convention if he ends up with both less pledged delegates and overall sanctioned votes than Hillary (not including Florida and Michigan) after the primary season. He should then ask Hillary to make the same pledge. Since her campaign has been making the most noise about seating Michigan and Florida delegates and about the super delegates not being swayed by the primary process, this would put her on the defensive immediately. He should couch it in the terms of party unity. He should make it so that Hillary couldn't possibly disagree, less she be seen as wanting the nomination at any cost. Of course he won't do it, but I'm just saying it might well be enough to seal the nomination for him.

I'll leave you with a few words from a presidential candidate offering up some hope:

"Though our challenges are fearsome, so are our strengths. And Americans have ever been a restless, questing, hopeful people. We must bring to our task today the vision and will of those who came before us. From our revolution, the Civil War, to the Great Depression to the civil rights movement, our people have always mustered the determination to construct from these crises the pillars of our history. Thomas Jefferson believed that to preserve the very foundations of our nation, we would need dramatic change from time to time. Well, my fellow citizens, this is our time. Let us embrace it".

"Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world but the engine of our own renewal. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America. And so today, we pledge an end to the era of deadlock and drift; a new season of American renewal has begun. To renew America, we must be bold. We must do what no generation has had to do before. We must invest more in our own people, in their jobs, in their future, and at the same time cut our massive debt. And we must do so in a world in which we must compete for every opportunity. It will not be easy; it will require sacrifice. But it can be done, and done fairly, not choosing sacrifice for its own sake, but for our own sake. We must provide for our nation the way a family provides for its children".

"Our Founders saw themselves in the light of posterity. We can do no less. Anyone who has ever watched a child's eyes wander into sleep knows what posterity is. Posterity is the world to come; the world for whom we hold our ideals, from whom we have borrowed our planet, and to whom we bear sacred responsibility. We must do what America does best: offer more opportunity to all and demand responsibility from all".

"Americans deserve better, and in this city today, there are people who want to do better. And so I say to all of us here, let us resolve to reform our politics, so that power and privilege no longer shout down the voice of the people. Let us put aside personal advantage so that we can feel the pain and see the promise of America. Let us resolve to make our government a place for what Franklin Roosevelt called "bold, persistent experimentation," a government for our tomorrows, not our yesterdays. Let us give this capital back to the people to whom it belongs".

-William Jefferson Clinton (first inaugural speech)

Steve Rogers 1917-2007... I don't think so.

*BTW-If you happen to be one of those writers or artists think that there’s no “real” writing in comic books, (mainstream or otherwise) stop reading this post now. I argued with you pretentious assholes in the classrooms, on the schoolyards, in college and I’ll fuck you up now. You smug pricks who think comics are low-brow or unsophisticated are the problem. Too many of you who can’t write well enough to get your prose published are slumming in the currently fashionable/profitable “graphic novel” ghetto. Well, fuck you. Stop saturating the bookshelves with your mediocrity.

Have you heard Ed Burns is doing a graphic novel? Are you inspired by this news? “Oh! oh thank you Ed Burns, the world needs another shitty comic book, please save us!” Well fuck you too, Ed Burns. Go back to making bad movies and leave the comic books alone, but before you do, sit down and read anything by Will Eisner, Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis Alan Moore or Brian Azzarello so you’ll know exactly how much of a dick you are for even attempting a comic book. Dick.

But I’ve digressed before I hardly began...

Seth Tobocman, is one of the most talented and perceptive comic book writer/artists I have ever known. A mentor to just about anybody who works with him; Seth once told me, “(in comic books) bad writing doesn’t show up as readily as bad drawing, it’s the reason so many comics just suck.” Any of Seth’s stories make the best documentaries on PBS look like glossed-over shit. Pick up one of his books if you ever want to wake up from this fucking nightmare we’re calling early 21st Century America.

I am forced to wonder, why is it that every few years or so, some unimaginative hack either pitches the death of an iconic superhero, -or- is ordered to kill that hero off in some scandalous manner (scandalous to dedicated comics readers’ sensibilities) by some stupid editor in chief.
To me the calculated clich├ęd shocker death (or that decline of a titular character’s success with the public which generally precedes said death) means only one thing:

bad writing.

Writers who kill off characters (with the noted exceptions of Chris Claremont’s killing of Phoenix in 1982 -AND- Marv Wolfman’s killing of Barry Allen in 1985, which frankly was made all the more poignant lo these years by its apparent permanence) are simply out of ideas. A character doesn’t have to die to move a title in a new direction. Here’s a counter example: Jim Shooter, the oft maligned EIC at Marvel for much of the 80s oversaw the move of Walt Simonson to “The Mighty Thor” as writer and artist. At the time, the comic book was dying at the newsstand (this was before the supremacy of Diamond distributors, back when comics had a more scattered sales channel). There had been rumors of cancellation or a reduction in frequency. Marvel’s Thor, a nearly omnipotent being, was a challenge for writers for many of the same reasons his counterparts at DC were (Superman, Captain Marvel). After all how do you orchestrate peril and conflict for someone who is so ridiculously powerful?

It was no secret that Walt Simonson loved the character and it showed, as Simonson took this franchise character, no less than a branded god on Earth, and took him through one of the most harried, exciting and apocalyptic trajectories ever in mainstream super hero comics. He did it with edge-of-your-seat plots, disastrous turns of fortune and serious character development. I remember and am still influenced by Simonson’s draftsmanship and artistic skill (He was the first to put his own distinct spin on Asgard’s architecture, design and aesthetics since the great Jack Kirby left the title years earlier, no small feat) on that first issue. But thinking back, it was that first story, where Thor is laid low, has lost everything including the love and respect of his father, his power, his very self all within the span of 28 pages or less that left me slackjawed. I really thought there was nothing left to do with that character and I was wrong. Today, they’d just kill Thor off and then resurrect him, driving up single copy sales with the god of thunder’s impending return from the grave. Walt Simonson’s run on Thor is a case study of how you handle an exhausted franchise: You hire the right person for the job.

Which brings me to the tragic case of Steve Rogers.His story, as told by legendary creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby stands as one of the great enduring American myths. It is the only myth about biochemistry/biotechnology from America that I know of (Frankenstein being its European predecessor). I don’t use the term myth in its modern connotation; I refer to myth from the original Greek “Mythos”; a story or legendary narrative, usually of gods and heroes, or a theme that expresses the ideology of a culture. The story of Steve Rogers, too weak and infirm to defend his nation and its ideals against the advancing fascist forces across the Atlantic, volunteering his life, allowing his government to experiment on him, in order to transform him in to the ultimate soldier and defender of the United States, -is a myth (The discussion of where this intersects with propaganda is for another post). This character, who battled the Nazis, who dodged machine gunfire that rained down upon him, and liberated death camps recently died from a sniper’s bullet. It was a silly end that heralded an undignified but all too familiar continuing trajectory in comics. Iconic super hero characters in print for more than thirty years are increasingly being scuttled down this path: the “temporary death”, constructed to be sensational, making readers of all ages flock to titles they had previously ignored.

The funny thing is, all of these titles’ lead characters had something in common prior to their abrupt deaths: an apparent lack of possibilities and exhausted potential... at least as far as the writers and the audience was concerned. Steve Rogers, has had a particularly tough go of it in the last 25 years. He’s had the Captain America uniform and shield taken over at least ten times by other characters by my count, maybe more, I’ll have to ask industry expert, Jeff Rice. Steve Rogers is Captain America. The passing around of his uniform, shield and name shouldn’t be allowed. It turns the idea of him into a “brand” or uniform that anyone can wear and demotes Steve Rogers from a legend, into a footnote in a soap opera. John Byrne’s run on the comic in the 1980’s was a classy rework of the character that gave him a tremendous and unique profile opposite other heroes. He turned Captain America from old and worn to “classic”.

It’s time for someone with the same degree of skill and focus to write this character just as he is meant to be, no brainwashing schemes, no impersonations, no clones, no memory implants, no alternate realities, just…Steve Rogers, born on the 4rth of July, 1917, on New York’s Lower East side, a sickly young man who was transformed into the perfect human weapon to fight the Axis powers. You want to read a good Captain America comic? You want to see how it’s done? Read Millar and Hitch’s “the Ultimates”. The rest of you hacks are hereby ordered to stay at least 50 feet away from Captain America at all times.

That means you too, Kevin Smith.

-SJ


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day... no, not really.


Valentines' Day is the "Lifetime Channel" of phony holidays and observances. While on the surface it has long seemed a fairly benign and harmless "celebration", it is in fact a day of grand and unrelenting nuisance; guilt; and panic. Men with better things to do, everywhere in America, have to scramble like idiots to show their wives and girlfriends that they "care" with some overpriced piece of crap, or an overpriced piece of jewelry (jewelry: the height of decadent thoughtless uselessness in our modern age) .
The result is always some manner of browbeating, since some man, some where, will always do something more "thoughtful" (i.e. more expensive) for his woman, making all other gifts look like sculpted excrement by comparison.

Just hope and pray his girlfriend doesn't know your girlfriend.

If I appear bitter or cynical, I assure you the phoniness of Valentine's Day is not its only flaw, and not its worst aspect and consequence. Not by a long shot.
The reckless, inconsiderate, wanton consumerism that Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day and all those other "days" (especially Christmas) inspire is one of the many forces in this industrial age that is shoving this planet's ecosystems to an uninhabitable state for human beings. Bullshit you say? -Think about all the junk populating landfills.
Valentine's Day after Valentine's Day, the countless miles of red fabric, red wrapping paper, heart-shaped boxes etc. accumulate. Add to that, the tonnage of garbage in cards, candy wrappers, keychains and other empty testimonies of affection made of plastics that won't ever be recycled and won't degrade for 1,000 years in many cases. -Then add the obligatory gifts from all the other holidays and it's amazing our landfills don't have their own flags, ambassadors and embassies.
As far as jewelry is concerned, I can't think of a worst way to show a woman you love her, than to give her a piece of arbitrarily overvalued material (think how little gold and diamonds would be worth if they were as ubiquitous and commonplace as sand), -material that has so much violence and exploitation inherent in its procurement and manufacture that it's surprising not to see human blood caked over the box it comes in.
If Valentine's Day does mean something to you, I would suggest you do something meaningful together outside of the house and create a lasting, profound and personal memory between you. Spend some time on it. Think about it. Yes, I know, it's much harder than going to Macy's. I know any man out there can think of a better gift for the woman in his life than the prepackaged garbage-to-be merchandise available in department stores...

...or just buy her a hallmark card, a heart-shaped box of chocolates and a gold chain. Yeah, let's see how mother Earth recovers from that foot in her ass.
Happy Valentine's Day.

-SJ



Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bittersweet Symphony

The really sad thing about the race for the Democratic nomination is, they've both destroyed any chance of one selecting the other for a running mate. The fallout from their campaign strategies have spawned a heads or tails scenario. Clinton (feels weird referring to Hillary and not Bill) has repeatedly maintained that Obama is just not experienced enough (read: qualified to lead) to be president. So how could she now turn around and ask him to be her second in command? Obama has repeatedly painted Hillary as a part of the '90s Washington establishment (read: corrupt). Conversely, how then, could he pick her as a running mate? With both of them inspiring "unheard of" numbers at the polls, in historically apathetic counties and states, it would be a shame to see any of that now active, energized Democratic voting block staying home should their candidate not get to the nomination. Why is this important? Because a Democrat, any Democrat, has to win. The Supreme Court has several judges over the age of 70. It's entirely possible that the next president will have the opportunity to replace them... scared of a McCain/Huckabee ticket yet? McCain himself is 71, approaching the age Reagan was at the end of his second term. Should he die in office... ladies and gentlemen of the United States, I present to you, President Huckabee. Yeah, the apocalypse just keeps rolling along.

- SJ

The Big Mo

Barack Obama scored another round of impressive victories last night in the "Potomac Primaries". He won with impressive margins in Maryland, Virginia and DC. He has now overtaken Hillary Clinton in the overall delegate count and is now officially the front runner. Everything really does seem to be going his way. Of course we've been here before. After his victory in the Iowa caucus, he seemed to have a head of steam that could not be stopped heading into the New Hampshire primary. And then he lost. To paraphrase a baseball axiom, momentum is only as good as your next days starting pitcher.

The states have lined up perfectly for Obama since Super Tuesday. It would have been a surprise if he had lost any of them. What has been surprising has been the margins of victory. The polls showed Obama with about a 15 point lead in Virginia and Maryland heading into the primary. He ended up winning Virginia by 29 points and Maryland by 22. And while he may have made some inroads into Hillary's core constituency in those two states, I would not be too quick to proclaim that this is the beginning of a trend. Momentum is a strange beast and just as quickly as you can claim it, "Poof, it's gone".

The pundits are falling over themselves to be the first to predict the end of the Clinton campaign. She has had a particularly bad week. From losing 8 straight contests to the resignation of the first and second in command of her campaign to money issues, the wind is definitely not at her back. But at every moment in the past when the Clinton's have been counted out, they have always been able to rise from the ashes in spectacular fashion.

There are two more contests before the March 4 primaries in Texas and Ohio and the Clinton campaign seems to willing to concede those to Obama. No one knows what exactly Hawaii will do since there has been no polling done there (It is assumed that Obama has an advantage in the state because he was born there, but I really have no idea), but Wisconsin seems like a very winnable state for her. Given the makeup of the voters (white, working class), she seems to have a natural advantage. Polls taken a week ago gave her a 10 point advantage, while polls taken this week show her behind by a few points. Wisconsin is more than Madison and Milwaukee and the Clinton campaign needs to spend some resources in order to try and get the more rural voters to the polls. She can offset Obama's natural strength among young voters and the well educated, but taking her campaign to the farms and fields of the state. The problem is that while Obama gave his victory speech from Madison last night, Clinton was holding a rally in Texas. That sends the wrong message to the people of Wisconsin. Basically what she is saying is that Texas matters more to her. And while that may be true because of the greater number of delegates at stake, no state wants to be perceived as an afterthought.

So what happens if she does lose Wisconsin and Hawaii? Not much really. Her strategy now seems to be to focus all her energy on winning in Texas and Ohio (which is well within her grasp). The "Firewall" strategy, which was made infamous by Rudy Giuliani, is what the Clinton camp is counting on to turn this race around. Their thoughts are that big wins in both Texas and Ohio will basically put them back on equal footing with the Obama campaign. As with the Giuliani campaign, there are significant risks to this strategy. The first has already shown up, which is the press coverage of constant loses becomes a major theme. The second is that your supporters start to become disheartened and are less like likely to contribute money or turn out to vote. The third risk is that you can become irrelevant as Giuliani did by the time his firewall burned down in Florida.

Currently Hillary is running ahead in both Texas and Ohio (she has almost a 20 point lead in the most recent polls). The conventional wisdom is that the Hispanic vote in Texas will carry her to victory because they represent about 20% of the vote. What has been overlooked by most observers is that Black vote in Texas is roughly equal to the Hispanic vote. Obama has shown that he can carry the Black vote by a 4-1 margin, while Hillary can count on about a 2-1 margin among Hispanics. This will leave the decision in the hands of the white voters. Obama has shown surprising strength among white males in some of the most recent primaries, but Texas ain't DC or Virginia or Maryland. Texas borders Oklahoma and Louisiana where Obama has had particularly poor showings among white voters. Rural portions of the state are where Clinton will probably run the strongest. Obama has to hope that his support in the big cities of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio can offset some of her strength elsewhere. I think this race will end up being a lot closer than Clinton really needs it to be. I don't think that Obama can win, but I think he can keep the delegate count within 10 or so (or about the difference in delegates that he picked up DC alone).

Hillary's best bet for a big win comes from Ohio. Her current 20 point lead in the polls notwithstanding, Ohio sets up perfectly for her. There are a lot of people who have been affected by the economic downturn; there a lot of rural areas and the African-American vote is minimal. I think Obama will make some headway here, but she should win the state comfortably by something in the 10-13% range.

Will a close win in Texas combined with a comfortable win in Ohio be enough to reclaim the front runner status for Hillary? Probably not, but those wins along with toss ups in Vermont and Rhode Island will be more than enough to stem the supposed Obama steam roller. Before March 4 there will a lot of commentary about the race possibly being decided on that date. I think that most of it will be wishful thinking. Plus, the press doesn't want this to end. This is too good a story. We may see the press do slightly less fawning over Obama in the coming weeks and perhaps be a little more critical of him and his ideas.

Of course if Obama does happen to win in Ohio or Texas then the race will be all but over. He still won't be able to get to the number of delegates needed for the nomination before the convention, but the Super Delegates will step in and put him over the top. Now might be a good time to take up hot air ballooning. There's going to be so much hot air expended between now and March 4 that you should be able to stay afloat for weeks.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

End Run

The campaign continues to roll on with the chance of the contest continuing to the convention growing every day. Obama has been on a roll of late and Hillary has had some internal issues to deal with, but the delegate count remains a virtual dead heat. Both candidates continue to try and paint themselves as the underdog as they make their stump speeches. While the online money is still coming in at an incredible rate for the Obama camp, the Clinton camp has said that they have been collecting money at a rate of over $1 million a day since Super Tuesday.

There is a dark specter hanging over the race however. The Clinton's camp call for the Florida and Michigan delegates to be seated at the convention could throw the entire process into absolute chaos. If the possibility of a brokered convention wasn't enough to provide the members of the DNC with endless sleepless nights, the chance that there may be a serious push to get the delegates of both states seated might be forcing them toward thoughts of suicide. Both Florida and Michigan primaries were penalized for moving up their dates to take place before Super Tuesday. All the candidates agreed not to run advertising or to campaign in those states before the primaries were held. In fact all the candidates, except Hillary Clinton, got their names removed from the Michigan ballot. No one could have foreseen the current situation in which both candidates may actually come up short of the required number for nomination before the convention.

The issue at hand is that both the Michigan and Florida committee's were informed that their decision would result in severe penalties and ALL the candidates agreed to abide by those rules. The Clinton campaign has now begun to make noise about allowing both delegations to be seated. Hillary Clinton happened to win both contests and her campaign is talking daily about the fact that it would a mistake to disenfranchise the voters of the state by not allowing their voices to heard at the convention. I wonder if the calls would be as loud if they had lost both of those states. Would we hear Hillary or Bill bemoaning the fate of those delegates if the count would favor Barack Obama? Call me a cynic, but I think not.

The DNC has said that both states can file to have another primary or caucus in their states to decide the correct apportioning of their delegates. So far neither state committee has taken any steps in that direction. The Clinton campaign wants no part of a caucus in either state because of the strength that Obama has shown in those contests. The Clinton camp likes things the way they are now. They would like the votes in Michigan to stand when the voters weren't given a choice of who to vote for (45% of them still decided to vote "uncommitted" instead of pulling the lever for her). And they would like the votes in Florida to stand, where Hillary made several fundraising visits before the vote took place (while not a violation of the letter of the agreement not to campaign before the primary, it certainly looked like a violation of the spirit of the agreement).

There have been some suggestions made, such as having the delegates be apportioned based on the national delegate total (which would basically split them 50/50), but the Clinton campaign seems hell bent on having these delegates split based on the primary results. If for some reason this gambit were to pay off and the delegations were seated and allowed to vote based on the unsanctioned primary count, it may very well set off a catastrophic upheaval in the democratic party. The Obama camp would undoubtedly cry foul and his supporters would be up in arms. The prospect of the super delegates casting their votes for the candidate who is trailing in the pledged delegate count and thereby usurping the will of the voters is unappealing enough, but having the election rules changed at the last second to benefit one candidate over another could result in the worst split in the democratic party in modern times. Obama supporters would leave the convention at best disillusioned and at worst angry. They would probably take their votes and go home and stay home for the general election as well.

The democrats have always protested that the Supreme Court overturned the will of the voters in the Bush-Gore contest and have always presented themselves as the party of the people. It would be contrary to everything they stand for as a party to have the nomination decided, not by the people, but by a small group of DNC members on the rules committee (who will have the ultimate say about who will be seated at the convention). This is a crisis that would for all intents and purposes, rip the party in two. Any candidate coming out of that kind of convention would be mortally wounded. The general election in November would be a forgone conclusion. I would ask this question of the Clinton campaign, "Is it worth destroying the party to secure the nomination"? I don't have the answer to that question, but my gut tells me that at Clinton headquarters, nothing is off the table.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Roll With It, Baby

Super Tuesday has come and gone and we are no closer to anointing a winner in the Democratic primary than we were on mundane Monday. Both camps are claiming a victory after yesterday's showdown. The Clinton camp can point to the big states of NY, NJ and California as proving that their candidate is the one who has appeal to voters on both coasts. The Obama campaign can point to Missouri, Illinois, Connecticut and Georgia as good indicators of their candidates appeal.

My pre-vote predictions (of Hillary winning 13 of the primaries) took a hit when Obama eked out a win in Connecticut. That state along with Delaware and Missouri provided him the margin of victory in the "states won" category (although I did point out in my predictions article that those states were among a group of five that he could win). It was very important for the Clinton camp to hold on to NJ and Massachusetts because some late polling indicated that Obama might actually have overtaken her in those states. If Obama had been able to pull off the upset in either one of those states, he would have been anointed the front runner. His campaign prefers the underdog role, so it would not have been a label that they would have been comfortable with, but the press would have done so anyway.

The delegate count will be fairly even between the two candidates when all the dust settles. Obama may actually come out with a very small lead in actual pledged delegates from Super Tuesday. The Obama camp will point out that it is all about the delegates and at the end of the day; they performed better than Clinton did. The Clinton camp will say that he built that small advantage in small states that traditionally vote Republican in the general election and where they didn't spend any money to try and compete. However those delegates count just like the delegates in California do (however unlike the delegates in Michigan and Florida).

The next group of primaries and caucuses may in fact provide Barack Obama with the momentum that he needs heading into the next "Super Tuesday" in March when Ohio and Texas voters will head to the polls. There have been no polls taken in those states recently, but Hillary should have a natural advantage given the make up of the states. Obama's hope is to build up a significant head of steam with victories in Louisiana, Washington, Nebraska, Virginia, Maryland, D.C., Maine, Hawaii and Wisconsin in order to try and cut into Hillary's lead in the Texas and Ohio primaries. It is possible that he could sweep all those states, but Hillary will try to make a stand in Virginia and possibly Wisconsin in order to blunt his charge. At this point her campaign will try to focus their resources on the March states. They will depict themselves as the underdog and try to minimize any victories that Obama racks up, while making the most of any "upset" that might occur in Hillary's favor.

The race still has a long way to go, but for the first time I can actually see a way for Obama to win. It has been proven that the more time that he has in front of the voters of a state, the more support he picks up. Given the lag time between the remaining primaries and his significant lead in fund raising, he may be able to simply overwhelm the Clinton campaign. If he were win both Texas and Ohio (an extreme long shot), I believe the chorus of people calling for Hillary Clinton to step aside would become too loud for her to ignore. I still think that Hillary will find a way to win. She is certainly competitive with Obama in all the states before March and if she can win a couple she can stem his momentum. Also, Obama has yet to show his ability to beat Hillary in a big state where the African American vote is not decisive (Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania would all fall into that category). She can parlay her wins in those big states to corral as many super delegates as possible in order to win the first vote at the convention.

It is starting to look like this may very well go all the way to Denver and the democratic convention (In fact I see that as the best bet for Hillary Clinton to win the nomination). I think every political reporter and political junkie would feel like they had died and gone to heaven if that were to happen. A brokered convention is the stuff of legend and hasn't happened in over half a century. It's probably not the best thing for the Democratic Party, but at this point it may be inevitable. And while the back room deals are being cut with the super delegates, the future of the country could be decided on which side is willing to give out the better deals.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bean Counter

Here's my estimate of the Super Tuesday Delegate count: Clinton 871/Obama 819. After today's voting the totals will be (not including super delegates): Clinton 919/Obama 882. So Clinton will emerge from Super Tuesday with a lead approaching 50 delegates. That is a conservative estimate which could swing more heavily in her favor if the early voters in California actually push her to a victory in the 10% range. I'll let you know how I did tomorrow.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Close Call

Here's how I see the Super Tuesday results breaking out:

Clinton:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, Oklahoma (which will provide her with her biggest margain of victory) and Tennessee.

Obama:
Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois (his largest margain of victory), Kansas, Minnesota, Utah and North Dakota.

The final tally will 13 to 9 with Hillary claiming most of the big states. I think her win in California is all but sealed because of the number of early voters. The early votes (over 2,000,000) will most likely provide her with the margin of victory. Obama will get close in a number of states (AL, AR, NM, NJ, MO, CT, CA, DE), but close is not a win and the Clinton spin machine will be out in full force to make sure that the press reports the story that close only counts with grenades and horseshoes.

Of course if just two of the battleground states swing the other way, the Obama camp will be able to claim a victory because they would have been able to stand toe to toe with Clinton in a national primary. The most likely to switch to the Obama column are Delaware, New Jersey, Arizona, Connecticut and Missouri. While Minnesota and Colorado could end up as part of the Clinton tally. So while the final tally of states could be fairly even, I see it as more likely that Hillary will end up with even more than 13 that I have predicted.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

It's Just a Flesh Wound

A new poll came out today showing Barack Obama with a slight but statistically irrelevant lead in California. It's the first time that any poll has shown him ahead in that state. There are also other polls showing him closing the gap in Missouri and New Jersey. It appears that the endorsements last week by the Kennedy's and the momentum are helping Barack Obama. What didn't help him, or at least hasn't helped at this point is John Edwards dropping out of the race. Nationally, the Edwards vote seems to have split equally between the candidates with a small portion heading into the undecided column. What we do know about the Edwards voters at this point is that their support is fairly soft. Meaning that come election day those voters could change their minds when they cast their votes. That could make a huge difference in a few of the close states.

While it does appear that the more people see Obama, the more like him, I just don't believe that there is enough time for him to overcome the huge lead that Hillary enjoyed early on in the campaign (which amazingly was only a month ago). As I've stated before, the delegate count will not be decisive coming out of the Super Tuesday, but will make a difference is the perception that Hillary Clinton will be seen as the winner. She will win the majority of the states including the big prizes of New York, New Jersey, Missouri and California. The only big state that Obama will win is Illinois. He may also win Alabama, Colorado, Georgia and Kansas (and few other small caucus states), but it won't be enough to offset the sheer number of victories that the Clinton campaign will claim. She may exit the day with about a 100 delegate lead which will be practically impossible to overcome considering that delegates are awarded proportionately.

A lot of the so called "super delegates" have been non committal at this point and I believe that they have been waiting for the winner of the super Tuesday vote. Even though the delegates will be split, Hillary will be the winner and the super delegates are sure to follow. Delegate count and money will keep Obama in the race, but come Wednesday morning, he will know that the race is lost.

Democrats have been given a historic choice and they will have made the choice not based on policy (where they both mainly agree), but with who they feel more comfortable with heading into November. The latest polls show that Obama would actually win a head to head showdown with McCain, while Hillary would lose. However there is a long way to go between now and November. Early polls, as we have seen in this primary season, are practically useless. Just six months ago Rudy Giuliani was the overwhelming choice of Republicans and now he's out of the race after spending upwards of $50 million and winning one delegate.

Watching the pundits on TV is like watching a bunch of kids in high school climb all over themselves to heap praise upon the most popular boy in school. I don't think I've ever seen a love affair of the scale that the press in now engaged in with Obama. The press usually leans to the left, but this love affair may just be unprecedented. In the end though, I don't think it's going to matter. Obama has shown that Clinton does have chinks in her armor, but after Super Tuesday, it's Obama who is going to playing the role of Monty Python's Black Knight. His spin machine will go into high gear to try and convince America that close losses are indeed victories. He will try to convince the voters that losing a leg is "only a flesh wound". The press will eat it up and the race will go on. Obama certainly has the money to compete beyond Tuesday, but it's a damaged campaign that will head into the next primary.

There is one chance for Obama and that is if he can somehow pull off an upset in California or Missouri. California is important because of it's size and Missouri is important because they are almost never wrong. Missouri is a moderate to conservative state and like the saying about NY goes, "if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere". If Obama can somehow convince the voters of that state that he is the best candidate for the Democratic party then he stands a good chance of getting to the convention with no worse than an even split of delegates. California isn't really a good indicator for the rest of the country, but they the sheer number of delegates at stake means that it will be very important in picking the next nominee. I have to say, that in my mind, it's a longshot that one or both of those states are going to go Obama's way, but then again, I have been wrong before.