Saturday, June 21, 2008

Just a thought...

Isn't it interesting that Obama's $22 million May fundraising is his worst month so far and McCain's $21 million is his best month? I mean, McCain could only do that well 2 months after clinching the nomination and with basically nothing draining his resources, Obama was in the midst of his primary battle with Hillary Clinton (diverting his campaign away from fundraising), and they raised about the same amount of money? Wow. McCain should enjoy this closeness while he can because I have a feeling that it's the best piece of fundraising news he's going to get during this election.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Why Obama shouldn't fear a backlash about public financing

I’m getting a little tired of all the hay being made of Obama’s decision to opt out of public financing. There has been a lot of hand-wringing by Republicans and some claims of the media that Obama’s decision constitutes a grand shift. While I am personally an advocate for fully publicly financed campaigns for public office, I fully support Obama’s decision. Let’s look at a couple of the issues surrounding the move.

First, Obama never said that he would take public financing. What he said was that he would discuss it with McCain’s campaign. They discussed it, and Obama’s campaign says that McCain wasn’t interested in reigning in outside groups or 527 organizations that don’t adhere to campaign finance restrictions. Obama has started to do that because we hear today that will cease its 527 activity, which is a pretty big deal. is (at least perceptually) one of the larger and better noticed groups out there, so their move to back off really helps Obama perceptually more than any ads they would have put out could have done. The only “shift” for Obama is not meeting with McCain when he said that he would to figure something out. While the two might not have met personally, the campaigns do appear to have had some contact. They could have put forward more of a good faith effort if they were looking to appease the McCain campaign, but I’m not sure they need the McCain campaign’s approval. Sure, McCain will say it’s a breach of trust, but it’s difficult for them to translate this technical maneuver into a longstanding pattern of lying or breaking promises.

Second, while I support the decision, I am a little flabbergasted at the Obama campaign's fairly milquetoast defense of the move. Apart from some bloggers (Kos in particular), most of the people defending Obama have just recited his mild argument that the system is broken. It has fairly simple counterarguments, and it comes across as at least somewhat disingenuous. I don’t know why Obama isn’t just stepping up and saying, “Look, these objections would make sense if we got most of our money the old fashioned way (with lobbyists and PACs), but we don’t. Our campaign is directly people-powered. We are functionally a publicly financed campaign. The point of campaign finance laws is to prevent the use of money to influence a candidate’s positions. People give our campaign money because they believe in me. It would be wrong for me to return the investment of these great people just so we get caught in this rigged system (one that McCain is scamming).” Obama and some of his people have been making a similar argument kinda half-heartedly, but they can and should be much stronger in saying that this is a different kind of campaign. The direct nature of the funding for this campaign makes everyone’s complaints moot. Just. Say. THAT!

I like the decision, and I think ultimately the objections will dissipate in time (only Republicans will continue to whine about it after a few days). I just wish that the Obama people would more vigorously defend the decision and stop giving the opposition’s complaints as much credit as they have.

UPDATE: David Corn over at Mother Jones has a similar defense of Obama, but he tries to come across as more even-handed.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Desert Island Discs: Dummy

My favorite kinds of albums (regardless of genre) are the ones that you listen to a few times when you first get them, put them away or don't really listen to for a few months or even years. Then, you come back to them and re-engage them with a different perspective than the one you had when you first heard the music. Somehow, the latter listens feel deeper, richer, and more robust than the first time, even though it's been a while. I can do that with a few, special albums more than once. If you haven't done something like that, I would recommend it. It's really a nice experience. The trick, of course, is remembering to come back to the album in a few months.

I mention this little side story because it applies to my desert island disc of the day: Portishead's masterful debut record Dummy. It's an album that you cannot listen to just once. It begs for repeated engagement, on both musical and lyrical fronts. The more you listen, the further in you go into the emotional journey that Beth Gibbons and company weave with so much complexity that sometimes you can forget where you are or have been. That's ok, though, because the journey itself is more important than figuring out a destination. The opening arppegiated chords of the album's first track "Mysterons," with that echo, set the mood: dark and mysterious, yet welcoming. The album's primary single was "Sour Times" with the chorus "Nobody loves me, it's true/ not like you do" that translates dispair well, although in some ways this song sticks out from the rest of the album. I tend to find more comfort in the warmth of songs like "It Could Be Sweet," "Wandering Star," and "Roads." Also, let's not forget the spectacular closer "Glory Box." This song still keeps the dark moodiness, but it ends things on a slightly optimistic note that seems to take charge. Gibbons demands "Give me a reason to love you/ give me a reason to be a woman." Such a commanding stance feels like a source of power. It's not just that I feel a need to love others; I want to know that investment of my time and energy is worth something to them. Overall the songs come together well, and they have complemented various moments in my life, some good and others bad.

Also, let's talk about genre for this record. There are elements of jazz, soul, alternative rock, and yes...most certainly the genre the album is most known for: trip hop. They essentially inspired trip hop with this CD, and it makes sense why. At the time there really wasn't much like this record out there, so it felt so new and creative. Even to this day I think it's a very creative record, and it's part of why I'm so into their long-awaited Third album (it's one of my favorites of the year so far...I have a mini-review of it a few posts ago).

What this album does for me more than anything else, though, is just exist as a companion. It recognizes that life has problems. The waters are turbulent, yet I feel ok with the turbulence when I listen to this record. We don't need to have all the answers to questions or problems. It's enough that we have a relationship with the world around us. That relationship is changing, and it invites participation. It begs for us to engage with it. Dummy gives me the strength and perspective to do so without feeling like I'm giving too much of myself in the process. I get as much as I give. For me, the record's strength isn't so much that I feel like Beth Gibbons understands me (or anything like that) as much as it is that I feel a connection in the kinds of feelings she conveys independent of specific experiences or perspectives. Isn't that enough, though? Even if I have no idea what someone else is going through and can't relate through sharing similar life experiences, isn't it enough sometimes to share an emotion, or more basically, an affect? I think so, and that's why I heart Dummy.

Previous Desert Island Discs
Radiohead - OK Computer