Friday, May 30, 2008

Snark and the City, Scotty's True Confessions and Rachael's Fashion Faux Pas

A four-day week means, sadly, just as much work for us. But we toil for you, fair reader.


At LONG last, the primary season is ending... with a whimper. While the last voters prepare to weigh in (Puerto Rico, Montana, New Mexico and South Dakota, locales unaccustomed to the current flurry of candidate attention), the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Panel will meet Saturday to sort out the Michigan and Florida meshuggahs. Though the Obama campaign has urged followers not to protest the meeting, watch for grassroots stirring in both camps.

Pharma-giant Pfizer launched a PR blitz this week, with full-page ads in the majors, to defend the anti-smoking drug Chantix. It's been linked to neuropsychiatric side effects, but so what? The biggest push comes next Thursday, June 5, when Pfizer kicks off a series of roundtables with medical correspondents in America's top five media markets. Expect this story to explode as the press smells blood. Pfizer usually wins these fights, but it doesn't make the back-and-forth flackery fireworks any less spectacular.

The climate-change debate heats up (thanks, you're too kind) in Congress next week with the introduction of the Lieberman-Warner "Climate Security Act." The right wing is sinking big bucks into ad buys for the kill. It will be a rough-and-tumble week for enviros and their foes with the whole mediasphere watching. Monitor cable news for pundits' takes on the issue and check in regularly with Media Matters to see which Club for Growth flunkies twist the facts the hardest.

The ACLU membership conference will be in Washington next week, with heavyweight speakers like Arlen Specter and Arianna Huffington. Watch the progressive blogs for interesting dispatches from the event. It's been a while since the group has grabbed headlines and they're certainly due.

Sex and the City digs its four-inch stilettos into theaters today. As husbands and boyfriends nationwide dive for cover, the Queendom of Snark shall enjoy the hurrah. Can you guess which of the fab four we identify with most? The guys got to watch a grizzled Harrison Ford swing around the jungle last week, so Kim Cattrall is quid pro quo.

The Week That Was

As the media devours the confessions of former WH press secretary Scott McClellan, we wonder whether journos recognize his implicit indictment of their craft. Does investigative journalism now mean "wait for someone to confess"? As Helen Thomas put it to her lesser colleagues in the WH press corps recently, "Where is everybody"!?

Or, we add, "What are you doing? Are you outta your mind!?" CNN's Jessica Yellin admitted that while she was at ABC News, the network squashed a plethora of stories investigating the Administration from 2003-2007. Digs about liberal bloggers are starting to lose their edge, eh?

Emily Gould's New York Times Magazine cover story on compulsive confessionalism spawned a fresh flurry of handwringing about women blogging TMI about their personal lives. And in a sort of postmodern spirally-virally way, this has generated a huge amount of blogging and further confession and analyses. The topic is old (hello, Edith Wharton) but the Times chalks up some points for its ability to create a media storm.

Dunkin' Donuts stirred up some chatter with its ad showing Rachael Ray wearing a keffiyeh, about which, for the uninformed, the Internet will explain. Here at TR Central, we suspect someone at that shoot must have done a double-take, but Rachael, like, totally needed something to dress up that shirt. Long story short? Rach, get a new publicist! People are watching, be it for 30 minutes or 30 seconds, and one person's innocent accessory may be another person's loaded symbol.

Non-profits take note: The World Bank has pledged $1.2 billion in new loans to aid countries hit hardest by the spike in food prices. Will this spark more debate on the bank's methods vis-à-vis globalization? As the food crisis continues to afflict people everywhere, we'll be monitoring international reactions to the solutions put forward by world leaders.

The more militant wing of our research staff at TR Central has unearthed the latest weapon to fight global warming. Literally. In Germany, they're designing a "green bomb" that will be more environmentally sound but just as lethal. Imagine your recycling bin setting people on fire and you get the idea. With more green tech like this, we can solve global warming and crush our enemies at the same time! Killing people to save them - isn't that how the war in Iraq began?

Finally, saying goodbye to both Dick Martin and Harvey Korman reminds us of when we were a wee princess staying up late and laughing with the parents. For those of you too young to recognize those names, you have our permission to move along...


We predicted that the administration would try to dodge a war-funding debate with the Dems. And we were right. News from the Pentagon came this week that they'd like to transfer funds from other departments to pay for the war instead of relying on Congress for the money. This is probably the slickest game of Three Card Monte we've seen. Progressives need to take note - it could work.

Snark on, and have a great weekend.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Painful Gas at the Pump, at Free Republic and from McCain

As we all unfurl our rolls of twenties this Memorial Day weekend for $4-per-gallon gas, look for journalists everywhere - as well as polar bears migrating south for some cooler weather. But promise neither a ride unless assured of good story placement or the real skinny on the melting Arctic. As the Queen sadly knows, flacks never truly take a vacation, they just use their über-persuasive skills to browbeat friends into better restaurant and hotel choices on long weekends. Or, in the case of journalists and polar bears, the best newly-formed ice floes in chilly Ocean City. Read on if you can stand it.


Govs. Jindel, Crist and Romney will be guests at Johnny-boy's BBQ this weekend. Is this a line-up of Veep contenders? Maybe, but at TR Central we see a larger picture emerging: McCain needs all the bona fides possible to shore up every faction of the GOP to support him. He must be perceived as uniting the party while the Dems are divided in two. It's a magnificent two-step, which will lead to more photo ops in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Obama will tour the swing states of Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. He's shifting into general election campaign mode - or maybe he's embarking on a fact-finding tour to assess possible roles for Hillary in the future of the party. Meanwhile, O still has to make good with the Jewish community to show he's the man with the plan for the Middle East. That's a lot of mouths to feed before the convention. We think the spoonfuls will start next week.

The DNC will convene to decide whether and how to seat Florigan. Why didn't they choose to meet in, say, Peoria, rather than reporter-infested DC? We really don't need a front-row seat to watch the Democratic Party possibly implode. Expect more "I must save Democracy" rhetoric from Hill, more chilly superior silence from O and continued O-McBush dialogue on issues large and small. Even though the public has not yet fully made its views known, political dialog will increasingly exclude Hill as the press decides this battle is over.

In the latest showdown between Congressional Dems and the White House, the Senate approved new money for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but tacked on Democratic social programs. How will it look if the President comes out against military spending on Memorial Day weekend? Stay tuned for the whirlwind!

And Ticketmaster is about to roll out a "paperless ticket" system for concerts and other shows, which will require purchaser ID and thus make the shady tradition of scalping much harder. As squeaky clean as the gesture seems, this is Ticketmaster we're talking about, AKA the Blackwater and Halliburton of the live music world. What other strategies might the company devise to vanquish all other avenues of ticket resale? Surely the folks at eBay and Craigslist are waiting for the other show to drop (heh).

The Week That Was

Ted Kennedy's illness has given us all a bit of a pause. He's been able to make grander gestures and take bigger risks in his career because he and his family have experienced so many tragic losses in public service to the American people. But, even at this time, the bruises are still being piled on. Members of the Free Republic community were so jubilant over the news that the site had to shut down its forums multiple times. And the right wing wonders why they can't mobilize a decent online base.

And, of course, we can't contain ourselves over the story line emerging from Kennedy's health crisis: "So Hill, Senate Majority Leader's not enough for you? Ted Kennedy has a cancerous brain tumor, so the way is opening up for you to come back from your increasingly quixotic presidential bid and be the conscience of the Senate. Pretty please? Just give up on this Florida-Michigan thing, 'kay?"

Joe Lieberman's had a busy week. Aside from penning a Journal op-ed full of crusty Cold-War-era platitudes, he's been calling for Youtube to remove all videos produced by terrorists. Youtube has pushed back - this online channel is a free speech haven, ya know. It's sort of weird that the community which houses gems like the "dramatic chipmunk" would be the modern day equivalent of Clarence Darrow. But we'll take what we can get.

This Thursday on "Ellen," McCain's attempt to nullify the gay-marriage issue was garnished by quiet mutterings and uncomfortable facial expressions, topped off by hearty laughter so we could move on as quickly as possible. While we appreciate Ellen's effort to grill McCain on a "hot" and, for her, personal issue, the whole thing seemed a little bit too much like what happens at Thanksgiving dinner when you're stuck next to an offensive uncle and doing your darndest to maintain the family peace. We're sorry, girlfriend, but no dice. You should have had a dance-off instead.

Our final piece of McCain news (last one, we swear) comes from his online campaign. They're asking supporters to go to various blog sites and "make your opinions supporting John McCain known." And, after asking commentators to report on what they said, they'll be awarded points through the McCain Online Action Center. Some progressive bloggers consider this "recruiting trolls," but we think it's less insidious than that - merely another indulgence in nostalgia from our septuagenarian candidate. Green Stamps, anyone?

In a hopeful development on the human rights front, the Dalai Lama said he would consider appearing at the Beijing Games this summer if the Tibetan peace talks prove productive. The catch is that an invitation from the Chinese does not seem to be forthcoming. Someone's suggesting smuggling him in in Yao Ming's Nikes. Do they make Odor Eaters that size? Yikes.

And American Idol ended this week! But didn't the whole thing seem sort of like an Orwellian idea of choice? David A. or David C. We can't remember the last time television was this un-good.

Reader Comments

A prominent blogger and Philadelphia newspaper publisher was kind enough to note that we made her week with the Hillary comment, "Shouldn't we be glad that little girls all over America are being taught not to give up?"

And our own dear Minister of Art and Culture heard from her mother: "Now that you're a minister, do we have to put up an altar for you in the house?" Do, commands the Queen. We all have our own altars to Katie in the office, so why not at home?


The GI Bill passed the Senate this week by an overwhelming margin. But it became real news in a more tangential way as Jim Webb parlayed its success into an opportunity to grab the national spotlight. He IS a tempting nominee for Obama ticket. Still, our prognostication on the headlines remains as sharp as ever.

More on the scorecard - the Queen knew in her black little heart when we went to press last week that the political storyline was moving to a direct O-McBush dialogue. We knew Hill was about to get cut out, but we wanted to give her at least one more week. There's something to her contention that she's winning all the battleground states, even in her run against RFK (oops, we meant O). But with historically-high Democratic registration and turnout matched against historically-low Republican showings, maybe that won't matter so much in the general elec-- Hmmmm.

Behind our light-hearted snark, we hide our pain over the disasters in Burma and China. We saw the flood of human-misery stories coming from a mile away and see it stretch into the foreseeable future. May it inspire us all to open our wallets.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

The TR: Neville Chamberlain, San Francisco Weddings and Child Mayors

We're as weary as Hillary winning WVA to no applause, but, alas, without the iron lady's mega-watt-for-the-cameras smile. It's hard to be cheerful with all that mess in Burma and China. Come right in and cheer us up, dear reader.


Expect continued hand-wringing over when and how Hillary quits the race, regardless of the number of wins or delegates she racks up. That old quid-pro-quo rumor is making the rounds again: "Please quit and we'll make you Senate Majority Leader." Perhaps the ink's not yet dry on that deal, or maybe her primary victories are keeping her hopes alive (she is projected to take Kentucky), but we see no signs that she'll drop out. And shouldn't we be glad little girls all over the country are being taught to not give up?

In the bat of an eye the "100 Years War" has shrunk to five. McCain promised on the stump this week a greatly reduced presence in Iraq by 2013, perhaps in response to DNC attacks. He must be running for Miss America. This mother of all flip-flops will make the Sunday show rounds.

O apparently is NOT Adlai Stevenson -- he's Neville Chamberlain and pro-Hitler... oops, I meant Ahmanijead. Wow! Who knew? MSM is appalled and conservative talk radio delighted that Lame Duck President makes moves to change presidential dialogue BACK to terrorism. Hillary, though, is saying nice things about O but claming SHE'd do it all differently.Who wins this one? O, of course, 'cuz he's the guy to beat. Expect more blather. IOW, it'll be just business as usual in the talking heads biz.

Burma and China will stay in the news -- and how could they not? Just as the world was struggling to cope with the devastation in Myanmar, a 7.8 earthquake left tens of thousands dead in Sichuan province, China. Expect journalists to further highlight how each country's attitude towards human rights has informed its response to the humanitarian crisis.

We'll see some political grandstanding on China and Burma, too. Though with the cost of fighting two wars, a possible third, and bailing out the mortgage industry, there's not much left to pull out of the US cupboard -- there are no Narnias back there, after all. If you'd personally like to help, here are two TR-approved charities: Mercy Corps and Save the Children.

President Bush is slated to veto the coming Farm Bill, which should reach his desk sometime next week. Expect a rare override (c'mon--Congress has been working on this pork-barrel charade for months). Don't you just love a multi-billion dollar corporate giveaway while Joe and Mary Six-Pack are struggling to buy food and gas? Where are the objections of Senators Johnny-boy, Hill or O? Oh, yeah, it's election year.

In a close decision, the California Supreme Court overturned the law restricting same-sex marriage. While the victory for fairness and equality gladdened our black little hearts, how exciting to have a new political football just in time for the desperate right. Keep an eye out for the resurrection of divisive legislation that asks senatorial presidential candidates -- or just plain senatorial candidates -- to take a side on the issue.

The Week That Was

So you're Hillary Clinton. After you crushed Obama in West Virginia, you plan to record interviews with everyone in a media blitz. Things are going swimmingly well, then -- BAM! -- John Edwards endorses O, and becomes the "get" of the evening. Poor, poor Hillary.

Meanwhile, NARAL threw its support to Obama, much to the public chagrin of EMILY's List. They might have changed their minds if they'd seen Obama calling a female reporter "sweetie" before giving her the brush off. Is it any wonder Hillary has commanding leads among women? (And just when the Queen thought it was safe to fall back in love with the Big O. Sigh.)

Bill O'Reilly's decade-plus old tantrum on the set of Inside Edition is the viral video de jour. Does it tell us anything new about the man? Probably not. But it's a powerful reminder that in a digital world, buried sins don't stand much of a chance of staying buried long.

Google has now passed Yahoo! as the most popular website in
America. To all of you Gmailers with your ever helpful Google Readers, your day has come. With Google's top-tier status now thoroughly cemented, we'll be trolling around over the next few weeks to see what young upstarts are trying to upstage the new King of the Mountain.

And The Hill has asked the remaining 97 senators who aren't running for president whether they'd accept a VP slot on either ticket in the fall. It's little tests like these that either prove a senator's sense of humor (i.e. Ted Kennedy and Lisa Murkowski) or his or her deep psychological issues (Claire McCaskill). Our favorite response was from Larry "Wide Stance" Craig, who, in the fine tradition of Limbaugh's Shock and Awe campaign, simply replied, "I'd say, 'No, Hillary.'"

Finally, next week, Muskogee, Oklahoma will inaugurate its new mayor, John Tyler Hammons. So why is this news? He's a nineteen-year-old college freshman who ousted someone 51 years his senior. We just hope his mom doesn't serve PB&J at the after party -- we all must be sensitive about kids with nut allergies. TR tip: "friend" Tyler now, because he's destined for Internet stardom.

Reader Comments

We received many guffaws from readers over the stolen-from-Slate comment that Hillary can only win by single-handedly capturing Osama Bin Laden (but only if O is caught on tape punching a baby). Perhaps Gail Collins at the New York Times was also reading, as she wrote today that Hill could turn the tide only if Thomas Jefferson's head on Mount Rushmore came to life and started shouting, "You go, girl!"


NRCC Chair Tom Davis' meltdown fulfilled our predix better than even we could have anticipated. His forecast: a "bloodbath" for the GOP in the fall. This comes on the heels of the GOP special election loss in Mississippi. Hey, if you can't win with a Rev. Wright race bait in the heart of the Confederacy, where can you?

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