The Phony Campaign

2012-03-25 Update

[phony baloney]

President Obama maintains his huge phony lead this week:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Barack Obama" phony 137,000,000 -8,000,000
"Mitt Romney" phony 1,160,000 -7,080,000
"Gary Johnson" phony 1,060,000 -40,000

Some weeks I have to search for the phony news. Looking at this past week, there's been nothing but:

  • Monday night, Vice President Joe Biden spoke at a New Jersey fundraiser about the nailing of Osama bin Laden:
    You can go back 500 years. You cannot find a more audacious plan. Never knowing for certain. We never had more than a 48 percent probability that he was there.
    Many people hopped on that "audacious" thing. (As Inigo Montoya said to Vizzini: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.")

    As a one-time physics major, I'm more intrigued by the 48% probability thing. Apparently Osama was the modern-day equivalent of Schrödinger's Cat. And Obama was enough of a quantum mechanic to collapse his wave function. <sarcasm>That's impressive. Biden should have made that more clear.</sarcasm>

  • On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office refused to play the President's class warfare tune with respect to the so-called "Buffett Rule", a proposal to (roughly speaking) ensure that people earning $1 million or more annually pay at least 30 percent of that in taxes.
    A bill designed to enact President Barack Obama's plan for a "Buffett rule" tax on the wealthy would rake in just $31 billion over the next 11 years, according to an estimate by Congress' official tax analysts obtained by The Associated Press.

    That figure would be a drop in the bucket of the over $7 trillion in federal budget deficits projected during that period. It is also minuscule compared to the many hundreds of billions it would cost to repeal the alternative minimum tax, which Obama's budget last month said he would replace with the Buffett rule tax.

    Why, it's almost as if the President's taxation proposals are more designed for their demagogic appeal than a serious effort to restore fiscal sanity.

    Sorry, forgot the <sarcasm> tags there.

  • On Wednesday, we had a New York Times op-edder professing to tire of the phony-outrage industry. Instead:
    I have a better idea. Let's have an amnesty -- from the left and the right -- on every made-up, fake, totally insincere, playacted hurt, insult, slight and affront. Let's make this Sunday the National Day of No Outrage. One day a year when you will not find some tiny thing someone did or said and pretend you can barely continue functioning until they apologize.
    Excellent idea. If only it had come from practically anyone at all other than the actual author: Bill Maher, million-dollar Obama contributor, under fire himself for various offensive slurs.

    So it comes off as just a tad self-serving. And, for someone who claims to be a comic, remarkably unfunny.

  • On Wednesday, President Obama did a radio interview, and demonstrated the amusing results when he is asked even a slightly-tough question.
    "Are you doing your 'all-of-the-above' strategy right if that's what we have to show for it - Solyndra?" asked Kai Ryssdal, host of "Marketplace" on American Public Media, in an interview with Obama.

    The solar energy start-up Solyndra, which had been the poster child of Obama's initiative, went bankrupt in 2011, putting 1,000 employees out of work. It had received more than $500 million in federal loan guarantees through a Recovery Act program. The loan process is now the subject of a congressional investigation.

    "Obviously, we wish Solyndra hadn't gone bankrupt," Obama said. "But understand: This was not our program per se."

    The linked article notes that Solyndra's loan was awarded by (yes) the Obama Administration, under legislation passed in 2009 without a single Republican vote.

    Some bright people in the GOP whipped up an effective video in response:

  • Later that night, Romney campaign advisor Eric Fehrnstrom went on CNN to spout off to Soledad O'Brien and friends, one of whom asked whether Mitt's need to appeal to conservatives during the primary season would weaken him with moderates for the November election. Fehrnstrom replied:
    Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.
    To put it mildly, this reinforced the primary argument people make about Mitt: that he's an unprincipled political chameleon, perfectly willing to take whatever positions on the issues he thinks will get him the most votes.

    Fehrnstrom provided a shining example of what is sometimes called a "Kinsley gaffe": someone blurts out a truth that they weren't supposed to say.

  • On Thursday, President Obama, continuing his "energy" tour, and apparently concerned of losing ground to Mitt in the phoniness area, travelled to Cushing, Oklahoma to try to (as the linked article's headline puts it) "take both sides in the Keystone Pipeline debate."
    The President's political advisors are no doubt counting on the fact that Obama's non-announcement about "fast tracking" the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline would play well in the sound bite media.

    And they are right. One headline announced: "Obama changes course, fast-tracks Keystone pipeline."

    Look beyond the headlines and you will see nothing of the sort. The President promised to "make this new pipeline a priority". But Obama is attempting to take credit for the southern portion of the pipeline even though the project is likely little more than 60 days away from breaking ground with or without him. There is little he could do to stop it and even less he could do to speed it up.

    Impressively phony!

Last Modified 2014-12-01 2:57 PM EST

A Lonely Place to Die

[3.5 stars] A Lonely Place to Die (2011) on IMDb [Amazon Link]

This 2011 movie was apparently only seen briefly in UK theatres and film festivals before its DVD release. But it's pretty good, a straightforward good-vs-evil thriller set in the Scottish highlands.

It starts out with 5 young adventurers (Alison, Ed, Jenny, Alex, and Rob) out for a vacation of mountain climbing and hiking. (Yes, they have mountains in the UK. They aren't very tall, but you can still get seriously killed if you fall off them.) Through sheer happenstance they discover a terrified young girl who's been buried in a plywood box in a remote forest. The kid doesn't speak English, but the group (correctly) surmises that she's a kidnap victim, they're all in peril, and they need to all get back to civilization as quickly as possible. Their trip is harrowing and suspenseful. Particularly nerve-wracking are the initial parts, where their pursuers are deadly and unseen.

It's not the greatest movie ever made, and there aren't any huge stars involved, but it held my interest all the way through. Sometimes movies like this have "why didn't they just" moments; this one either didn't have them, or things moved so quickly that I didn't have time to notice. There's a particularly good twist around the middle where one of the characters seems to be coming out as a cowardly weasel, but a few minutes later is revealed to be utterly heroic, above and beyond the call of duty.

Last Modified 2012-09-24 4:37 AM EST

My Week With Marilyn

[4.0 stars] My Week with Marilyn (2011) on IMDb [Amazon Link]

I had an unexpected amount of fun watching this movie about how, over a half-century ago, a glamorous, frivolous, American movie star interacted with a bunch of stuffy Brit filmmakers. It's not billed as a comedy, but I laughed out loud more than I did watching some self-proclaimed comedies.

The story is allegedly truth-based, told from the viewpoint of Colin Clark, son of Sir Kenneth. He was a gofer for the production of a 1957 movie called The Prince and the Showgirl, starring Marilyn Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier, directed by Olivier. The production was fractious, with Olivier reportedly continually frustrated with Marilyn's tardiness and lack of discipline. Marilyn takes a shine to young Colin, and they ditch the movie-making for an idyllic week in the English countryside.

This movie does just about everything right, thanks mainly to the acting by the insanely wonderful cast. (Not much really happens in the movie, so it's really about watching the characters bounce off each other.) Both Michelle Williams (playing Marilyn) and Kenneth Branagh (playing Olivier) got Oscar nominations for their performances. There's also Judi Dench, playing actress Dame Sybil Thorndike; Hermione Granger herself, Emma Watson, playing wardrobe-worker Lucy; Dougray Scott playing Marilyn's then-husband, Arthur Miller; Julia Ormond as Olivier's then-wife, Vivien Leigh.

All these good folks make the characters in a clever script come alive. Michelle Williams, in particular, channels perfectly the combination of Marilyn's sexy charisma with her (eventually fatal) fragile insecurities and dependencies.

It's rated R, but only for a few more F-bombs than you can get away with in a PG-13. (As Marilyn puts it herself: "Oh, you have that word in England too.")

Last Modified 2012-09-24 4:35 AM EST