The Phony Campaign

2012 Final Update

[phony baloney]

With two days before the election, it's time to assemble our final results. They are unsurprising:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Barack Obama" phony 7,130,000 +120,000
"Mitt Romney" phony 2,640,000 -40,000
"Gary Johnson" phony 703,000 +38,000

Phoniness has been rife this week:

  • Sarah Palin weighed in at Fox about President Obama's visit to post-Sandy New Jersey:

    According to Palin, Obama used the trip to the storm-torn state as a phony show of bipartisanship.

    "Well, it is quite a shame that, you know, Obama got what he wanted out of that, and that was the photo ops with a Republican governor so that he and the mainstream media could kind of fake that bipartisanship that in no way, shape or form does President Obama represent. He is the most partisan president I think that we have ever had. So he got his photo ops out of that, unfortunately, because then he got to jet off and you know, here he goes again -- party in Vegas with Jay-Z."

  • But Democrats are no less likely to detect inauthenticity in their rival. Ex-governor Ted Strickland was unimpressed with Mitt Romney's charitable efforts.

    Democrat Ohio Governor and top Obama surrogate Ted Strickland just said Romney can't even "fake compassion" and made fun of Romney's food drive for Sandy victims.

  • I don't spend any time at World Net Daily, but their efforts to publicize the Obama campaign's unwillingness to check the possible illegality of their donors is funny:

    Using a Pakistani Internet Protocol and proxy server, a disposable credit card and a fake address, "Osama bin Laden" has successfully donated twice to Barack Obama's presidential re-election campaign.

    The "Bin Laden" donations, actually made by WND staff, included a listed occupation of "deceased terror chief" and a stated employer of "al-Qaida."

    My cynical take: since campaign finance laws are written by politicians, my guess would be that when "illegal foreign contributions" occur, the penalties are mostly or entirely aimed at the contributor, and the politicians simply have to say "oops" and give the money back, perhaps pay a token fine. Anyone know for sure? (Certainly the story of Norman Hsu tends to confirm this.)

  • An AP Story details some last-minute underhanded campaign tactics.

    People in Florida, Virginia and Indiana have gotten calls falsely telling them they can vote early by phone and don't need to go to a polling place. In suburban Broward County, Fla., a handful of elderly voters who requested absentee ballots say they were visited by unknown people claiming to be authorized to collect the ballots.

    So don't fall for any of that. The same story also describes the mass-mailing of a DVD documentary alleging that Barack Obama's real father is not the guy from Kenya we've all heard about, but Frank Marshall Davis, a Communist who lived in Hawaii at the right time.

    I take it the actual evidence for that being true is low. Although it would take the air out of birther sails.

  • But did that make you think "break out the DNA test kits"? Unfortunately, the Presidential DNA is considered to be top secret. Why? Because with access to that information, someone could design and target a deadly bioweapon. As reported in the Atlantic:

    […], consider that the DNA of world leaders is already a subject of intrigue. According to Ronald Kessler, the author of the 2009 book In the President's Secret Service, Navy stewards gather bedsheets, drinking glasses, and other objects the president has touched--they are later sanitized or destroyed--in an effort to keep would-be malefactors from obtaining his genetic material. (The Secret Service would neither confirm nor deny this practice, nor would it comment on any other aspect of this article.) And according to a 2010 release of secret cables by WikiLeaks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton directed our embassies to surreptitiously collect DNA samples from foreign heads of state and senior United Nations officials. Clearly, the U.S. sees strategic advantage in knowing the specific biology of world leaders; it would be surprising if other nations didn't feel the same.

    Suddenly, guns and bombs seem so brutish and old fashioned!

So that's it! Assuming we're still around, we'll pick things up again in 2015.

Last Modified 2014-11-10 5:08 AM EST

Damsels in Distress

[4.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Writer/Director Whit Stillman is whatever the opposite of prolific is. This is his fourth movie in over two decades, and the first since 1998. We saw his 1990 movie, Metropolitan, earlier this year. This movie has (as I type) a mediocre IMDB score, but the critics liked it (75% on the Tomatometer, 67/100 at Metacritic.) And (unusual for me) I'm with the critics on this one. I loved it.

The plot centers around a group of young college women attending "Seven Oaks" (As we're told, it was the "last of the Select Seven to go co-ed".) The ringleader is Violet, a well-meaning, self-serious student. Violet's general goal is social work, making her fellow students a little happier, a little more well-adjusted, sweet-smelling, and civilized. Her methods and viewpoints are … slightly unorthodox.

As the movie opens, she recruits new student Lily to be part of her gang, introducing her to various missions. For example, they run the campus "Suicide Prevention Center". (Unfortunately, the word "Prevention" keeps falling off their sign.) Donuts and coffee are offered to those in a precarious mental state. And only to those people; Violet calmly explains that was part of the deal they made with the supplier, otherwise just anyone would come in for free donuts and coffee.

Violet's other goal: start an international dance craze.

The movie is filled with hilarious lines, mostly delivered deadpan. Greta Gerwig is wonderful as Violet, turning what might be a grating, unpleasant character into a complex and sympathetic one. And I laughed all the way through. Can't ask for more than that.

One Shot

[Amazon Link] Attempting to catch up with Lee Child's series of novels featuring ex-MP Jack Reacher; this is the ninth, published in 2005, so I'm merely 7 years behind.

There's a Jack Reacher movie coming out next month, starring Tom Cruise as Reacher. Color me skeptical about that casting choice, but Lee Child, the author, seems OK with it. Coincidentally, the movie is based on this book. (So, as you may have noticed, I got the "movie tie-in" edition with Cruise's mug on the cover.) I probably kind of spoiled the movie by reading it. That's OK too; I'd rather spoil the movie by reading the book than vice versa.

The plot: a small Indiana city is shaken by a mass murder. Five innocent victims are gunned down by an expert marksman shooting from a parking garage. The cops spring into action, execute a brilliant crime scene investigation, and arrest an ex-Army sniper. The evidence is overwhelming, the case is a seeming slam-dunk. But the arrestee claims they have the wrong guy. And demands that they "get Jack Reacher."

(Yes, it's page 50 and we haven't even seen Reacher yet. To make up for it, he's on nearly every page afterward.)

I thought I knew the story. Cliché! Old Army buddy Reacher rescues his pal, returning an old favor or something. Whoa, that turned out to be wrong.

As usual, Reacher is a masterful, dogged, investigator. His adversaries are a ruthless and nasty bunch, but Reacher is also resourceful and deadly. Lee Child's prose is deceptively spare, conveying a lot of mood and character in short punchy sentences.