Wednesday, February 06, 2008

SUPER TUESDAY SPECIAL: The Sheeple Have Spoken

There are primaries yet to come, and it’s a long way out till the party conventions in summer. Still, after yesterday’s Super Tuesday contests, it might fairly be said that the “sheeple” (pictured, left) have spoken.

Prospects for the wannabes shifted but didn’t effectively change. Save for Mitt Romney, who surely is dead mutton no matter how hard he says he intends to keep fighting. His big chance to make an inroad into the Tuesday gains of John McCain and Mike Huckabee was California, but he trailed McCain by 17% by the time a third of the vote was counted. Heck, he even came in third in Missouri. You can keep on going, but you can’t keep on losing. Romney finished third in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee too, all states won by his arch-nemesis Huckabee. That had to sting. Too few victories overall, insufficient drawing power in the South, and getting trounced by McCain in New York, New Jersey and Illinois spell the end for the Mittster, and he oughta withdraw before they make an eponym out of him. (“Yeah, I interviewed for that job three times, but I pulled a Romney.”)

Huckabee made an impressive showing, especially for a guy whose campaign is running on fumes. He won five states, including his home state of Arkansas, and clearly certain folks rally to him in ways they don’t rally to Romney. Huckabee doesn’t hide the religion thing, but that’s not all he’s about. He speaks reasonably about every topic, and he’s surely more worldly than your average Bible-thumping Baptist. (McCain, by the way, is also a Baptist, in case you didn’t know.) And Huckabee’s got this Fair Tax idea, and it’s not bad at all. In that regard, he’s probably gained the attention of Libertarian types, who otherwise voted for Ron Paul in modest numbers. Paul didn’t do badly for a third-party candidate masquerading as a main-streamer. A serious third-party could be built around what Paul has pioneered in ’08, so long as his followers really want to excavate for the future.

As for Dem wannabe Barack Obama, well, he had a good night. He rung up more victories than Clinton and proved to be an impressive percentage vote-getter. When he beat her, it was usually by far stronger numbers. The guy has charisma and all, but alas he couldn’t halt the Clinton machine in New York, Massachusetts and Cali. Obama did snake out a crafty little “W” in Connecticut, practically Clinton’s backyard, and that was a good sign. But where he could have sent a real message was in Missouri, where the vote was closer than anticipated but where Clinton emerged with more delegates. Obama kicked Clinton’s (fairly) fat ass in Illinois, which is his home state, but—good to remember—is also her home state, where she was born and raised before embarking on her lifelong indulgence in carpetbaggery. Yet his Cali performance was a huge disappointment. That was where he could prove something big—like, maybe, he could actually win Hispanic votes?—but even Oprah couldn’t save him there. Joining the ticket as veep looks like his destiny (if he's got the stomach for it). Heck, he wouldn't even have to finish out his first term as a U.S. senator.

So while the nominations remain contested, it’s probably wisest to get used to the inevitable: Hillary Clinton (“The Pantsuit Who Would Be King”) vs. John McCain, who will rapidly size up as “the doddering old man who is not Ronald Reagan.”

You might as well also get used to hearing White House reporters hollering “Madame President!” at press conferences. (At least that’ll be something new for crusty old hen correspondent Helen Thomas, who’s been cackling “Mr. President!” for about a century.)

Even at this early juncture, projecting the general election doesn’t look too tough. Billary—yeah, don’t forget, Bubba’s back in town (Gawd! Chelsea, too!)—and McCoot will cancel each other out on many issues, including immigration (’cause he’s a softie on that, and if he gets tough he’ll lose all the Hispanic voters who love Mamacita Clinton).

Unless something extraordinary happens between now and November, watch for the inevitable tide of Democrats to ride in on the heels of eight dour Bush years that even real conservatives are tired of. So tired they may all stay home.

At least we've all been here before: Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton... It's dynastic deja vu all over again.

So you’ve been warned. Get ready for the new sitcom: "The Harridan of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue." (You won't laugh even once.)

The sheeple have spoken.

[Update: Barack Obama eventually won the Missouri Democratic primary, defeating Hillary Clinton 49% to 48%. Each candidate emerged with 36 of the state's delegates to the national convention.]

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Alway$ Follow the Money: Who’$ Giving What to the Politico$, Tenne$$ee Edition

Ever wonder about those vast sums of political money that keep flowing in to campaign coffers? I know I do. Mainly ‘cause I can’t afford to give hardly a penny.

With football season out of the way, and sports in general in the doldrums until March Madness, we’re going to get more political around here, and that means introducing you—if you’re not yet hip—to FundRace2008.

Thanks to the ever-increasing miracles in computer-search capabilities, and the enterprising sponsorship of Huffington Post—love that Arianna, both pretty and smart—any average Joe can use FundRace2008 to track the campaign donations of the high-profile and rich and famous nationwide.

This is a delicious mode of snooping, and you can narrow your search to name, address, city, occupation or employer.

A few basic ground rules of understanding about personal campaign donations:

  • Individuals are limited to a single primary or single general election contribution, to each candidate, of $2,300. In other words, you can donate a max of $4,600 to any one candidate, but the candidate can only use half of that ($2,300) for the primary run. The remainder (the other $2,300) has to be held in abeyance until it might be used in the general election. However, if you’re the type to hedge your bets, you can do this for however many different candidates you want.

  • Take pop singer Bette Midler. From a Nashville Music Row address of 1222 16th Ave. South, Midler has made a single $2,300 contribution to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, each of whom has doubtlessly used the money for the primary run. Now, assuming they both remain in the race after Super Tuesday, they can each solicit Midler—if they haven’t already—for another $2,300 for use in the general election campaign, though obviously only one will actually be able to exercise the option of using it.

    Here’s another show-biz oddity: Jon Bon Jovi—using his real name, John Bongiovi, and from the same Music Row addy as Midler—has contributed a max of $4,600 to Hillary Clinton. His wife, Dorothea, also from the Nashville address, has also donated $4,600 to Clinton.

    Nashville industrialist and noted arts patron Martha Ingram’s search brings up interesting results. From two separate addresses, Ingram contributed $2,300 to ex-candidate Fred Thompson. For whatever reason, Ingram donated $1,000 from one address, and $1,300 from the other. There’s probably a good accounting reason for that. (Or maybe she had to think two separate times about giving to Fred.)

    Check out other locals:

    Jack Bovender, chairman and CEO of health-care giant HCA, donated $2,300 to Mitt Romney. Ditto Mrs. Bovender.

    Mike Curb, chairman of Curb Records, donated $2,300 to Fred Thompson. So did wife Linda.

    Ronnie Dunn, of the music duo Brooks & Dunn, also sprung $2,300 for Thompson, who was definitely getting his share of Music City money.

    Others on the Thompson bandwagon—when there was one—include former U.S. senator Bill Frist, record exec Joe Galante, singer-songwriter John Rich (Big & Rich), music producer James Stroud, “Redneck Woman” singer Gretchen Wilson, arts patrons Steve and Judy Turner, retired producer Billy Sherrill, and eye surgeon Ming Wang.

    Giving it up locally for John Edwards were music producer Paul Worley and ambulance-chasing lawyer Blair Durham.

    Other notables:

    U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper—Obama ($2,300)
    Andrea Conte (Mrs. Phil Bredesen)—Bill Richardson ($2,300)
    Hazel O’Leary, president of Fisk University—Clinton ($2,300)
    Monroe Carell—Romney ($2,100; couldn’t part with the other $200, apparently)

    The point is, because of the magic of online technology, you can hardly do a public act without the public finding out. And in politics, donating money can sometimes mean more than just helping someone pay for a few dinners.

    Since money is the one area that we interested political onlookers can’t compete in, the best we can do is keep tabs on the fat cats. Besides, it’s just interesting to see who they like.

    Check out the site. It’s fun and informative. And you might get a surprise or two along the way.

    Monday, February 04, 2008

    Super Bowl Dumb Stuff

    Great Super Bowl. Loved every minute of it. I had a very dispassionate but totally sincere interest in the game. If the Giants won, we had a cool upset. If the Pats won, we had history. Once the Pats took a 14-10 lead late in the fourth quarter, I kinda thought it was over, and I was all for history. When the Giants kept battling in their final drive, I thought, “Well, if they can pull it out, more power to ’em.” And after David Tyree made the catch of the century, I was pulling for the Giants all the way. So congrats to the Giants. Awesome game.

    Now here’s all the dumb stuff:

  • Why did they give the MVP trophy to Eli Manning? He ended up playing a very good game statistically, but for three quarters he had put exactly 3 points on the board. His escape of the Patriots’ rush on the Tyree play was remarkable, but Tyree made that play. If he hadn’t, we would’ve said Eli flung the ball wildly and we’d’ve been right. The MVP should have been given to Osi Umenyiora or Michael Strahan, or maybe jointly to the Giants’ defensive line. Because of them, the Patriots only scored 14 points. THAT was the game. The Giants’ offense actually sucked, scoring only 17 points against a much more vulnerable Pats defense. Eli is still a player with some rough edges, and any sharp observer will tell you that. He proved spunky yesterday, he made some plays, and honestly, I’m happy for him. It’s a very good story. But why do they always try to find a way to give the big award to a QB, when the DLs are the guys making it happen? Dumb.

  • Why does Chris Berman call the Giants the “G-Men”? Is that a term he coined? Why does he say it on TV as if it’s some time-honored nickname? I’ve followed the Giants for years in print and on TV, and I never heard this term until Berman started bellowing it, what, maybe in the mid to late ’90s? It sounds dumb, and dumbly fabricated by someone trying to call attention to himself. Berman’s a blowhard. Enough, already. Someone tell him to stop it.

  • Deion Sanders is another blowhard. In a postgame interview, he came on to Tom Coughlin with the accusation of the Giants coach being “old-school”—the actual implication was clear: “old”—and then asked him how he was able to “turn it around” and “relate” to his young players. Just a stupid, cliche approach. Totally dumb. Coughlin is a vet coach, who’s been much-maligned, especially by the New York press, and he toughed it out in Gotham, having to listen to unfair, impatient criticisms from reporters and pundits and ex-jock dummies like Sanders and Tiki Barber. (“How do you like me now, Tiki? If you’d stayed one more year, you’d’ve gotten that ring. LOL.”) Coughlin proved a graceful guy, actually appearing quite humbled and not the testy, flustered martinet that he’s been portrayed as for all these years. Nice guy, nice story. Too bad there were dummies on the scene, clueless how to approach him.

  • Oh yeah, remember Tiki’s criticism of Eli last year? About his leadership qualities? You’re a dumb schmuck, Tiki. And a loser.

  • Ever notice the dumb look on Joe Buck’s face as he’s forced to look upward at Troy Aikman when they’re in the booth in a “two”-shot? It’s hilarious. Poor Joe. Desperately trying to be taken seriously, with all his pietistic pseudo-dramatic commentary, then he’s immediately dwarfed both by Aikman’s broad shoulders and the ex-QB’s superior skills as a communicator. If Buck told us one more time about 41-year-old Giants punter Jeff Feagles trying to get his first Super Bowl ring you’d have started to think he was being paid off by Feagles’ PR firm. He latched onto this theme early and never let it go. Boring. And dumb too. Buck is a dummy, and one lucky stiff.

  • Why do they continue to have geezer acts for halftime entertainment? Dumb. Tom Petty? He’s not even a good geezer act. Just plain dumb. I thought his music was boring even when he wasn’t a geezer.

  • Also dumb: those of us who predicted a Patriots victory. No problem-o. The better story prevailed, and we’re all better for it. What wasn’t dumb was how I managed to completely avoid all the pre-game TV hoopla, watched the first half, then went to the store during halftime—thus gratefully missing Tom Petty—timing my return perfectly for the beginning of the second half, which I then watched with rapt attention and fortified by fresh munchies. The only thing that matters is the game, folks.

  • Have a great off-season. (We’ll be back for the draft in April.)

    Friday, February 01, 2008

    A Bill Belichick Fantasy; plus, the SMA Super Bowl Prediction

    [University of Phoenix Stadium. Glendale, Arizona. February 3, 2008. The New England Patriots locker room. Minutes prior to Super Bowl XLII.]

    Bill Belichick: Well, fellas, here we are. One game away from perfection. 19-0. Where no man has gone before. At this point, after this long season—including some early-season BS that cost me half a million dollars—it seems like there really is nothing more that needs to be said.

    Nevertheless, I want you to listen up, and I want you to listen up good.

    We’re going out here to play a football game against another professional NFL team. A team that has won 13 games this year. And if there’s one thing every single one of you guys knows, it’s that in football, sh*t happens. No matter how well a team has prepared, no matter how natively talented its individual players are, no matter how remote the chance that a lesser team might beat a better team—sh*t f***in’ happens. Balls take weird bounces. Somebody catches a break. Then that same somebody gets lucky on an interference call in the end zone. Then they get an early score that no one ever figured was possible. Suddenly you’re behind. And just as suddenly, this same lucky team picks off a pass that might’ve been thrown just a little more accurately. Suddenly, they’ve got field position again and maybe they kick a field goal. Then the lucky team’s defense starts to get aggressive, and you suddenly realize that they’ve got some talented physical guys playing on the defensive line—guys who aren’t just lucky, but who are capable of kicking ass. Then they start to kick ass, and suddenly all bets are off, and you’re in the game of your life.

    Well, today, I don’t WANT the game of my life. I want to go 19-0, and I don’t want the embarrassment of having to talk to some ESPN lady who’s shoving a microphone in my face as I leave the field, asking me “Coach, what happened out there?” Or, “Coach, what’s going through your mind right now?” I don’t want to go to a postgame press conference where dozens and dozens of reporters are going to want me to dissect every little detail of a game we lost.

    Trust me, you guys don’t want that either.

    So, what are YOU gonna do about it?

    Well, I’ll tell you what you’re gonna do about it. You’re gonna go out there in that first quarter, and you’re gonna play your asses off like you know how. You’re not gonna take these guys for granted. Instead, you’re gonna show ‘em how to play professional football in every phase of the game. You will make precise, crushing blocks to protect your quarterback and open up holes for your running backs. You will run precise routes and you will not drop one pass. You will play defense like it’s the last game you’ll ever get the chance to play on this earth. You will never let up. You’ll sprint to every ball carrier or receiver on every single play. You’ll rush the passer with all the fury you’ve got, because he’s trying to deny you your destiny. You’ll deliver bone-crunching tackles on every play, and you won’t lose your cool and do something stupid like get flagged for a personal foul. If you get flagged on some sh*t questionable pass interference call, you will suck it up and clamp down on their receivers on the very next play without second-guessing yourself. You will give up your bodies on every single special teams play.

    Ideally, if we do what we’ve been doing all year, only with the ultimate effort I’m asking of you, this thing will be over at halftime.

    If you let these sonofabitch Giants steal your destiny, I will never forgive you. But most of all, you will never be able to forgive yourselves.

    Now let’s go play some football.

    Super Bowl XLII
    New York Giants (13-6) vs. New England Patriots (18-0)
    Feb. 3, 6 p.m. EST, FOX-TV

    I keep wondering if there is any way the Giants can actually win this game. But no matter how you slice it, it just doesn’t seem possible. Let’s look at some of the key markers.

    1. History: Superior teams usually win the Super Bowl. It’s just a fact.

    2. Quarterback: Tom Brady vs. Eli Manning. Arguably the greatest quarterback ever against Peyton’s little brother, who’s had a nice little run here in the playoffs avoiding errors and making enough passes to win.

    3. Running back: We kept waiting for the Giants’ Brandon Jacobs to take over a game. He plays well, but he doesn’t dominate. Fleet-footed Ahmad Bradshaw is an interesting case. Is he the Timmy Smith of 2008? But for overall dependability, the Pats have Laurence Maroney, who can run inside and out. Plus, they have Kevin Faulk and Heath Evans, who ensure variety in the ground attack.

    4. Receivers: Well, you could be deferential to the Giants and call this a wash. Both teams have talented wideouts and tight ends. Except Brady is throwing to the Pats receivers, which probably makes them the better squad.

    5. Defense: The Giants have an excellent defensive line, but their secondary is suspect. The Patriots’ bend-but-only-break-a-little-sometimes D has some encroaching age, but it’s doubtful that it’ll affect their performance critically for one more game. They play well as a unit generally, and as long as the Pats’ offense is putting points on the board—the line must protect Brady sufficiently, which they usually do—the final tote should put the Pats in the plus column.

    Prediction: Patriots 27, Giants 20