Friday, February 12, 2010

Still Early, But...

We turn from sports to the sporting news on the 2010 congressional elections. About a year ago, the media drone was about the deep hole GOPers were digging for themselves after devastating election losses in 2008. This year the drone is about how Democrats are facing disaster, even loss of both houses. Which tells you, first of all that the media drones a lot and amplifies and inflates the same message, and second, that things change.

But given the endless campaign I suppose it's getting to be time to get serious about November. You'd have to think that there are several factors at work. One is the number and identity of incumbents "retiring." Right now, for all the publicity some Dems have gotten (including Patrick Kennedy in Rhode Island today), there are still more GOPers retiring than Dems. Which are from safe districts is another question, and the last time I looked, Nate Silver was suggesting a net loss for Dems.

Two is the quality of candidates, and neither side has a lot going for it. Those are the structural considerations.

In terms of political issues, there is of course the economy. At the moment, things are looking up. The unemployment rate dropped a little, jobless claims just dropped considerably, and today it was announced that retail sales are up. Plus, a new poll shows that voters still blame the Bushies (31%) and not Obama (7%) for the crappy economy.

If there is noticeable recovery by the time voters start paying attention to the election, the Dems won't be hurt. If the Dems have passed health care and a jobs bill, they will quell the current state of grumbling among Dem voters.

But the wild card is the extent of voter anger at all incumbents, which is partly because of the perceived inability of Congress to get anything done (not entirely true, especially comparatively), partly to generalized fear which verges on the apocalyptic, partly to the spoiled "independence" of voters who want instant solutions and fall for the latest new face.

How strong will the "throw the bums out" sentiment be come November? We won't really know until the day after the election. It's been a big factor in recent elections but hasn't yet dominated. It's certainly an understandable feeling, but it usually leads to stupid choices. It's so easy to exploit. And with more corporate money likely to be in play, we could see a lot more new faces--promising to solve problems and cut taxes-- sold like beer.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Don't Give Up

Here is a potent article about President Obama's influence on children, particularly black children. For instance, some DC schoolkids:

They say they saw Obama's taped speech to students. Jean felt that he was speaking to the kids directly. Like he understood them. Like no other president. Like he cared about them: "He said, 'Don't give up.' "

One kid is inspired to run for school office, and he wins.

A few weeks later, Khalil wins the school election. During his acceptance speech, he tells his classmates: "Just because I'm president doesn't mean that I can change everything, such as changing the water fountains to soda fountains, but we can try to find ways to have more after-school clubs and sports teams. I will do my best."

Sounds like he's been listening to President Obama more recently.

But the most potent message seems to be the first one:

Jean watched Obama's education speech in September. And those words stayed with her. "At times, I was really stressed out" about school, she says. "I would want to leave school badly. Then it did hit me. He said, 'Don't give up.' It was in my head after hearing the speech."

By the way, this was the speech that the Rabid Right tried to stop, because the President was going to indoctrinate children.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Saints Go Marching In! The most exciting Super Bowl I can remember (that the Steelers didn't win, that is) and very well played--few penalties and I believe only one turnover--and that was a doozy, a perfectly timed Saints interception and 75 yd. run for the TD that sealed it. Lots of dramatic moments, several surprising running plays and of course lots and lots of passing. That New Orleans won it--and deserved to win it, with skill, grit and fearlessness--makes this one to remember. Probably no city outside of Pittsburgh has a closer identification with its team, and the Saints identify with their city more than anybody. So a great win for a beleaguered city with an amazing history.
The Who rocked halftime--not as great as the Boss, but fun anyway. Great music--from what's turned out to be the high times of rock.
The commercials were appalling, in their confusion, violence, and what they say about American culture. The one with Jay Leno and David Letterman, with Oprah between them, was funny, and Hundyai had some good ones, scoring with a funny Brett Favre bit and voiceovers from the likely Best Actor winner this year, Jeff Bridges. Otherwise, more efforts to turn women as well as men into beer-sucking infants. Ugly, ugly, ugly. But everything else was fun.
Update: Ratings say that this Super Bowl was the most watched TV show in history.