Friday, September 26, 2008

The TR: Baleful Bailouts, Wasilla Witchcraft and Debates, Debates, Debates

Bleh. The furious winds blasting from the bailout negotiations and the autumn chills coming from Mother Nature herself make you want to buy a Snuggie. Curl up with this week's TR! We can guarantee you at least a little warmth, and we won't make you look like a crazy person. Unless, of course, you want to wear the TR, too. In that case we can't help you.


After three days of this "will they/won't they" debate drama (Sam and Diane all over again), it looks like they're going through with it. So we'll get to see Obama wearing a shadow of a smirk on one side of the stage and an ultra-grumpy My-Shenanigans-Didn't-Work McCain on the other. Fun times tonight with Johnny come lately, sheepishly skulking onto what's become Obama's stage.

Looks like both the right and left sides of the netroots are stoking backlash against particulars of the Federal Bailout deal. All that effort may be unnecessary, though, since a sizeable chunk of voters are getting pretty worked up all by ourselves: What? We're struggling to pay more for food and gas, and they want us to fork over a trillion dollars?! To "comfort" bank presidents and slush fund junkies?!?! (For visual, add froth at the mouth.) Here at TR Central, we're putting good money down (just a little money) that this backlash will endure through Election Day.

Funny, however, that Sean Hannity and others on the right haven't noticed the rightwing netroots going bananas against the bailout. Our own in-house marathon right-wing-media analyst "The Crank" reports that Hannity has a new theme song -- our friend O singing in falsetto: "I'll be there - if you need me, just call me." In other words, the wingnuts have convinced the conservative base that McCain won this round (and, uh, we guess he believes them, since he's already declaring victory -- that ad up there is real, no photoshopping from us or HuffPost to be had!). Just, you know, in case you feel differently.

Did you know that PacMan has a name, and that name is JP Morgan Chase? Today, the financial giant plopped down a paltry $1.9 billion and gobbled up Washington Mutual, the nation's largest savings and loan with $188 billion in deposits. Over the coming weeks, expect many more stories about the hollowing out of the financial industry, with big banks getting bigger, smaller banks minding their own business, and middle-sized banks -- well, looks like there won't be many left once the dust settles, just like the middle class, eh? Under a rock somewhere, an evil free-market genius is rubbing his hands in glee. It's all going according to plan.

Sarah Palin might be shying away from the media, but there is no doubt that they're her No. 1 fan. Women's magazines like Glamour, More, Ladies Home Journal -- they're all pumped about Palin coverage. That noise you hear? Oh, just Hillary grinding her teeth. As for actual news about Sarah, expect as little as possible as the McCain campaign attempts to pull closer the shroud of darkness around their media darling, who's so far only managed to prove her mastery of talking about new babies with world leaders and making the new president of Pakistan very excited.

The Week That Was

Today's DC newspapers reflect the country's mood, with their different angles and wide shots of -- a conference table? We are really getting down to business at the White House, people. Johnny Boy is front and center, showing the media and the rest of us that he is really committed to both solving the country's problems and dragging the media sideshow with him. We're all feeling a little out of sorts at the moment, John; trying to pull the media coverage back on you in the middle of a crisis most Americans really don't understand does not make you a problem solver. And, anyway, the summit wasn't a great success. As one staffer put it: "We may have gone backward." Sweet.

Remember all the gains we made earlier this year negotiating with the North Korean government? Poof! Gone. They've kicked out the U.N. inspectors and are now restarting their nuclear power plant. Phew, that's a relief... for a second there it looked like Bush had hired, you know, real diplomats. Anyway, the war starts Monday. Bring a sack lunch.

The latest cover of Entertainment Weekly has Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert resurrecting the famous tongue-in-cheek, Obama-phobic New Yorker cover of months past. Yep, it's proof that sometimes there are really only two people in the world, at any given time, who can truly get away with anything.

There's a viral video going around showing Sarah Palin being blessed by her pastor against witchcraft. Hmmm. Hey, FOX, whatcha waitin' for?

Ed McMahon is still alive! And the news only gets better from there. Uncle Ed, Johnny Carson's longtime sidekick, will be starring in two gangsta rap videos for This reeks of "someone needs money," although kudos to him for letting us learn from his mistakes. Doesn't he have one of those humongous checkbooks lying around his mansion -- uh, house, somewhere? Or maybe you have to win your pension from Publisher's Clearing House too.


We predicted tomfoolery with Palin's trip to the U.N. and the McCain people didn't disappoint. They barred comprehensive coverage of the visit until a fierce media backlash by all networks forced them to relent. Y'know, the media may sometimes seem like a bunch of frat boys and sorority girls goofing off, but once you take a shot at them they can toughen up reeeaaal quick. Oh, and they can make or break you. Our advice: Just don't go there.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, September 19, 2008

The TR: The TR: Poached Emails, A Professor's Polemic, and the Politics of Hip-Hop

America, we love you, but does it really take tsunami-sized financial waves and grim-faced officials to wean you off of the usual TMZ pabulum? Even if the media is being "wimpy about it."
The Forecast
While the entire banking industry either devours itself or begs Uncle Sam for a roll of $20s and a place to crash, there's an important little story that could get very big. In the midst of the massive market free fall, Morgan Stanley may be selling about half of its assets to China's CIC. For those of you keeping score, yes, this is China beginning to check us on our massive debt. Who said the fun had to stop once the Olympics ended.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will need to have some reassuring answers when he testifies three times on Capitol Hill next week. Good 'ol Congress - if there's one thing the people are crying for, it's a more compelling C-SPAN schedule to sooth our economic fears. More substantially, Dems might seize this moment to push through some quick economic reform packages.

We gotta point out the obvious: There's electoral politics and then there's real life. Around the world, we're seeing central bankers and other titans of the financial system, people who don't offer what they can see from their house as part of their credentials, pulling together to find a way out of a mind-bogglingly complex international economic meltdown. Thank goodness they have a LOT of experience and a good education, right? Even Nigeria joined the carnival of central banks working together to make sure the money keeps flowing. Results right now and into next week.
Elsewhere on the international front, Israel may soon have its first female prime minister since Golda Meir. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni captured the Kadima Party's nomination for the post and has over a month to successfully cobble together a governing coalition in the parliament. Her defeat of hawks within her party may signify a changing of the guard in Middle Eastern politics, with the possibility of fresh policy coming in the door with a new US president in 2009.

Oh, so NOW Sarah Palin wants to talk foreign policy. Jeez, Guv'nah, just because in the Great White North everyone stuffs their savings in mattresses doesn't mean you should visit the U.N. when Wall Street is just a few blocks south. Priorities, people!
Attention all flacks. Ad spending this fall could be severely impacted, thanks to our economic woes. What does it mean for you? Find creative and cost-effective ways to get your message out. Could this mean a whole new wave of embracing cheap and easy Web 2.0 capabilities? Hah, we jumped on that train long ago. Welcome to this century.

George Allen will be a headliner tomorrow at a GOP "unity" rally at Edison High School to reach out to minorities in Virginia. Um--wow. If you're around and have a video camera, please go and capture any new bon mots from the Macaca Man and report back to us.

The Week That Was

As Nate Silver astutely pointed out, Obama's language on the economic downturn has reminded people of the issues that hit them the hardest. Now that the post-convention-bubble has burst, McCain once again finds himself in the back seat as the first presidential debate looms on the horizon. McCain needs to shift his strategy away from blaming straw men and nameless faces on Wall Street and start pumping in some substance. People don't want revenge, they want answers.

Has any one seen the President lately? Guy with big ears and a really loud helicopter? Well, if you're a reporter, we'll wager the answer is no. The White House has been taking cues from the McCain campaign: limited media exposure for Bush's last months in office. Granted, this final act isn't exactly the last third of a Shakespearian tragedy, but last-minute decisions from a dying administration are always dangerous. TR Central wants everyone to keep an eye out for small executive orders that could snowball later on.

While no one was looking this week, two soldiers stationed in Iraq were murdered by a third, who is now in custody. Normally this news would be absolutely devastating, but the Army's muzzle on this case has proven to be unusually strong. So what else aren't we being told about conditions on the ground?

Hackers broke into Governor Palin's private Yahoo! account, spreading the contents of "top secret" e-mail across the blogosphere (and while we normally respect the complexity of hackers' skills, this one really wasn't that difficult). Jeez, hasn't anyone learned anything from Gonzogate? Now the AP is resisting Secret Service requests to hand over some of the e-mails in a misplaced display of journalistic integrity. Of course, if Palin had her way, such integrity would be taking the place of polar bears on the endangered species list.

Alana Taylor, an enterprising NYU journalism student, was caught critiquing, for PBS's MediaShift blog, the decidedly old media course she's taking. Course instructor Mary Quigley responded by putting a moratorium on blogging and Twittering about the class. One would think that anyone teaching a course called "Reporting Gen Y" would know that in the Digital Age information will break free.

Finally, the Culture Minister's pop-culture news roundup: Joining Tupac, Mozart has a new single out; the world's oldest man is 113 and says the key to longevity is sobriety (tell all your friends that at happy hour tonight, 'kay?); MTV's iconic Total Request Live is dead; and Fat Joe challenged Daddy Yankee to a political debate on MTV Tr3s, who, um, can't pencil it in. We would have LOVED to see that last one!

We were right! We were right! The new ads on high-fructose corn syrup have stoked some serious heat in blogger and foodie circles. But (sigh) we were wrong as well. Jerry Seinfeld's TV spots with Bill Gates have been dropped by Microsoft after they failed to capture the public's imagination. Would Apple have countered them by hiring Larry David to do their ads? Oh well, we can still dream.

Monday, September 15, 2008

In Case You Missed It...

I can't imagine you missed it, but JUST IN CASE... let it never be said that the TR Blog would ever let you walk away from this one!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The TR: Viral Vegetables, Prettified Porcines and Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots

Tired of Sarah Palin yet? Or are you abjectly binging like we are? All this gossip is positively addictive, and we're going to have to consider some serious rehab after this election thingy gets decided. Maybe when Lindsay Lohan gets back from her honeymoon she can make some recommendations. Anyway, it's Friday... TGFS! (Thank God for Snark!)


Charlie Gibson landed the first serious interviews with Sarah (does she need a last name anymore?), two of which have already hit the air, and even though she had the home-court advantage reviews of her performance are not good. The last installment will form the special prime-time edition of 20/20, tonight at 10pm. Cynical bloggers (are there any other kind?) are wondering what the deferential Mr. Gibson really thought of her. What we want to know is, does Sarah speak in tongues? If you're tuned in tonight, log on to the TR Blog afterward and give us the scoop!

The Obama campaign is finally engaging the 527s, after resisting their help for months, and hinting they should go after McCain -- and none too soon. With the fall TV season in full swing, people should be getting their first look at the no-holds-barred phase of the campaign. We predict a new media strategy on Obama's side to counter some of the recent ugliness.

So it turns out we've been conducting military operations on the borders of our beloved ally Pakistan. Huh. While we scour the International Intrigue section of the TR Law Library, we expect to hear much more about the Bush administration's dirty laundry as his presidency reaches history's trash compactor. What's next -- did W have brother Jeb planning a coup against Castro?

One dark horse news story that may yet make waves is China's high-level trade talks with the U.S. next week out on the West Coast. While the press has been good enough to completely ignore this, FYI our trade deficit exploded over the summer. Look for a small blurb in a back page somewhere about a new agreement between the superpowers.

Since food makers are contending with rising market costs and Mom and Dad's tightening budgets, industries are realigning their advertising to appeal to middle class families. What's the easy road to revenue? Stick ads right in the kids' mouths. And nobody does it like Sara Lee, with her ingenious licensing tie-in to High School Musical 3. More sugar to go with DVDs that feature frequent musical numbers on constant repeat? Sounds like a slumber party!

If on Saturday night you're trying to drown out the musical talents of Zac Efron and co., tune in to SNL and catch Michael Phelps (Culture Minister: "WOOOO!"), Lil Wayne and... Obama! The Big O's a Lil Wayne fan himself, or at least knows who he is, because he name-dropped the famous rapper when he told high school students in July:

"You are probably not that good a rapper. Maybe you are the next Lil Wayne, but probably not, in which case you need to stay in school."

If you missed Obama's last SNL appearance, check it out here. (We're still waiting to see if Tina Fey will do what everyone thinks she will.) Set your TiVo!

The Week That Was

We've hit that stage in the presidential elections where the goal is two-fold: First, flood the media with scary, hyperbolic imagery, no matter how nonsensical. Then make sure people are so frightened and disoriented that they gravitate to the first familiar face on the horizon. McCain's twisted sex-education attack ad and his allegations of sexism were a sharp one-two jab. As bad as it's gotten so far, we expect this Rock 'Em Sock 'Em cage match to get worse.

When the government tries to offer you health care, it's godless communism. But when it takes over all the houses in your neighborhood, it's prudent economics. The long-fabled Fannie-Freddie government bailout means that now we're all subsidizing the housing bust. Never fear, though; the McCain-Palin ticket has the solution: write an op-ed saying you'll never do what the government has already done. Oops.

Has anyone noticed that the economy has being going to hell every single day since the McCain-Palin ticket was, ahem, divinely inspired? And, if you have, would you please notify the candidates? So far, the stock market has been consistently falling and the unemployment rate has skyrocketed to over 6 percent. Wait, those don't have anything to do with pigs OR lipstick. Never mind.

Also this week, Bush declared that there will be no further troop reductions in Iraq for the remainder of his presidency, more or less ceding any foreign policy plans to whatever promises the GOP thinks we'll swallow. Judging by Bob Woodward's latest book, "The War Within," maybe that's what he was doing in the first place. Woodward's portrayal of the White House ignoring all military advice on the surge has proved what we've suspected all along: that the war's been run by RNC talking points.

The words "fast food" and "viral" probably shouldn't appear in the same sentence -- they just don't go together. Wendy's put 'em together anyway with its new viral video (a head of lettuce devouring one of their bacon whatchamacallits). The video's getting thumbs-up on MySpace and thumbs-down on YouTube... you decide.


So much for gentle John. Airing ads that paint your opponent as a child-stalker blows gentle out of the water. But with Sarah invading our Culture Minister's Virginia backyard and talking small town values, we feel like we might have a bead on the VP hopeful's "aw-shucks" narrative. Dems had better get wise to her but quick, and keep her out of TR Central's backyard.

As you know, the 7th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks was yesterday, commemorated by the official opening of the Pentagon Memorial dedicated to the people who died there. We'll take a snark-free moment to honor their memory, and encourage everyone to visit the Memorial. We send our best wishes to the families of the victims. You all are in our hearts.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The TR: Pugnacious Palin, Pigskin, and Punitive PR

Ladies and gentlemen, the conventions are over. We're quite well-rested, actually, since Johnny Boy's speech put us to sleep faster than Tylanol PM after a hard day's blogging. But we digress; how are you? Did you survive these past couple of weeks without us? We missed you too!


Last night proved that McCain plans to be the Good Cop of the ticket. His race to the middle is a time-honored strategy, and the focus on the economy in his speech was a surprise to everyone. (Although, when your wife pieces together an outfit that costs as much as a Scottsdale split-level, you might want to tread carefully). Expect to see Gentle John for at least the duration of the month. But the GOP is very much the party of Sarah Palin -- and on the whole, it'll be merciless.

The Caribou Barbie media sideshow finally hits the road next week, as she tours the swing states for the first time with McNice. (If you've been missing the blogosphere explosion over Palin, check out our Culture Minister's round-up for the quick scoop.) Hey, McCain campaign, Palin may go over great with the 700 Club, but with practical-minded suburbanites, not so much. Keep her on the "small towns matter" messaging and away from, er, her political beliefs. Politico agrees with us, smart people that they are.

We certainly haven't heard the last of the Bristol Palin/Levi Johnston saga. Watch for an interview with Bristol and/or her terrified baby daddy in the near future. You'd better hurry, Couric; Tyra's already chompin' at the bit.

Tonight ABC, NBC, and CBS will simultaneously air the star-studded fundraising event "Stand Up To Cancer." What's more, Youtube, Myspace, Blogger, Twitter, and even iTunes are being utilized for an online appeal. So we can watch TV, liveblog from our PC, Twitter from our PDA AND cure cancer, all at the same time?! We're sold.

Lest you forget there are actual policies in politics, coming off a five-week recess next week,Congressional Dems will push for a bill that allows limited drilling in Alaska. Of course, effective Republican messaging on the issue moved the Dems from their previous no-drilling stance. The inches they're giving conservatives can now turn into miles, no matter who is elected in November.

And football is now underway! Remote controls all over the nation will be held hostage until February. We'll try to keep the cheese puffs off the furniture.

The Week That Was

Luckily, the Truth Squad finally showed up this campaign season, with the AP's Jim Kuhnhenn providing a thorough screening of the hollow truths of Gov. Palin's prime time screed. But it isn't as if the GOP is actually responsive to reporters these days. According to leaked campaign memos, this is all part of the plan.

McCain's snub of Larry King over CNN's scrutiny of Sarah Palin, combined with Palin's anti-press rhetoric on Thursday, are only the latest shots in the campaign's all-out war on the 4th estate (but the reporters say they're sorry!). We can now add CNN to a blacklist that includes Time Magazine, NBC, MSNBC, The New York Times, US Magazine, internet news and, uh, Van Halen (we're still A-listers, of course). Is it any wonder that Palin's first interview was with People Magazine? If McCain wins, insiders tell us he'll give his first interview to Soap Opera Digest, then leak it to Perez before it's published. Oops, who's that "celebrity candidate" again?

While St. Paul recovered from Hurricane Sarah, a counter-convention organized by, um, Drizzle Ron (Paul) attracted 1,200 people, to the dismay of the RNC. The party that's always fallen into line behind its standard-bearer is losing its base, bit by bit.

Just in time for back to school, the Army has released its first line of civilian clothing through Sears -- it's truly the softer side of war. (What, Wal-Mart passed?) Thanks to this latest recruitment ploy, middle-class high school and college students can now use REAL camo to better evade the school-approved recruiters prowling their cafeterias.

Ah, the cruelties of social network ads. The Post's Rachel Beckman provided a mortifying look at how Facebook has been singling out her flaws through its super-spy-techno-targeted ads. It's likely you've experienced the same thing too, dear reader. Whatever, Facebook, your redesign is confusing and your logo is... fat. Hmph.

A Virginia man convicted of slamming into a police car while DWI is being sentenced to... PR! In addition to his traditional punishment, David J. Stout was ordered by the presiding judge to help publicize the state's Move Over program, meant to curb accidents with patrol cars. PR as punishment? The folks at TR Central Booking are all for it -- this would REALLY free up our schedules. Ex-cons can totally handle Kinkos employees and Starbucks baristas, right?

From Pam Avery at our Western Office, a tribute to Ike Pappas:

History will remember Ike Pappas, who died in Arlington, Va. on Sunday, as the CBS news correspondent whose on-the-spot coverage of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald, JFK's assassin, rocked an already shell-shocked nation. And it was his voice heard 'round the world announcing in awe humankind's first walk on the moon. Ike covered Vietnam, national and international disasters and much more until he was unceremoniously dumped by CBS in the late 1980s for having a "face fit for radio, rather than TV." What many don't know is that fighting Greek that he was, Ike picked himself up and created Ike Pappa Productions, producing and narrating some of the finest documentaries -- including a stellar series on NASA's mission to the moon -- in the country. I met Ike while searching for a host for my nationally syndicated radio program, EarthWire. Ike became more than the host. He became the de facto executive producer, a business partner, and my mentor. His sonorous voice commanded attention and respect. No EarthWire script passed his lips until it had been polished into a verbal gemstone by Ike. He was a master of the fine phrase; but more, he was a stickler for the truth, which was reflected in his news coverage, his documentaries, and in every episode of EarthWire.

Thanks, Ike, for being a great mentor and friend.


Coming off the focus on Gustav and with Ike and Hanna on the way, storm coverage this season has been as attentive as we predicted. The TR Weather Center is imploring the media to at long last link all of this to climate change. Don't make us design a PowerPoint about it, people.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bad Politics? Awesome Puns!

Sooooooo... yeah.

The rumor-machine has transformed into, well, a Decepticon, and I'm edging towards overwhelmed. I get new emails about Palin every day; everywhere I go, people are talking about Palin; my own mother figured out how to IM me so she could talk about Palin. There are those who would say that any press is good press. But is this good press, or pure literary gold? When the Examiner editors are having a field day as good as this one (see below, left), the answer is obvious.

I'll let you share your own opinions about Palin, Palin, Palin (in the comments section, natch) but here're some juicy tidbits to get you going. Yeehaw! Blog Round-Up!
  • Save the best for first: US Weekly had an awesome cover.
  • Lindsay Lohan is making sense, so you KNOW that something weird is going on. (Yeah, that's right, we just linked to Lindsay Lohan's Myspace.)
  • Oh, what the hell, we'll link to Perez too, since he let us know about the babby daddy. Whom we'll see at RNC08. We quote: "Sarah Palin is scheduled to address the Republicans tonight and, traditionally, her family - which now includes Levi - would join her at the conclusion of her speech."
  • Oh, Michelle Malkin has an opinion.
  • The Economist also used a great pun and told Republicans to "stay the course." Despite, uh, y'know. Her.
  • The Caucus has a nice run-down of how she's been preparing for the convention, in case you were wondering. We weren't, but now we know.
  • Teen pregnancy is "in" for fall. Thanks, CNN. Oh, and by the way, guys, John McCain doesn't like you anymore.
  • culture kitchen shows that, really, no one was prepared for all this. Poor planning. (Aaah, more puns!)
  • Daily Kos teaches Johnny Boy a thing or two about Judgment Day. (OMG, creationism puns!)
  • Alas! A Blog takes on the abortion issue. (No puns. Not funny at all.)
  • Debra Saunders defends, and a lion of a pun in the headline: The Palin Feeding Frenzy.
  • Break-Away Sarah!
  • Conspiracy theories!
  • Sex scandals!
  • And, finally, my favorite... a FUN NEW GAME! Even better than Jack Bauer.
What have we learned, children? Sarah Palin is not only the mother of five; she's inspired unabashed creativity in editors, writers, bloggers and college students everywhere. It's more of a word-play party than we could ever have imagined. Like many of you, I'm simultaneously amused and horrified.

(What, you want more? Read her blog.)