Why Dean will win
Well, not entirely. I think Dean will place a close second (within 5 points) in the New Hampshire primary, for two reasons.
1.) Kerry’s ground team is headed up by Jeanne Shaheen, the former governor who nearly lost the state for Gore and lost her own Senate campaign in 2002.
2.) The Iowa caucus results are stupidly reported – Kerry won 38 percent of the precincts, but not 38 percent of the voters. We don’t know how many voters he swayed.
I expect Kerry to take about 30 percent of the New Hampshire vote, and Dean about 26 percent. Edwards and Kerry will take most of the rest, and Kucinich will do better than expected (maybe 4 percent). Lieberman will get under 10 percent, but will prove too stubborn to quit.


Dean backers: “Yeaaaaaaagh!”
If you can learn anything from the official blog of Dean for America, it’s that his supporters are working up a paranoic flop-sweat about the media. Curiously, they’re also easily led by simple slogans (I had to stop counting the number of Dean posters who used their time to parrot campaign fundraising lines like “SWING THE BAT!” and “The tea is in the harbor.”). As a political reporter, their antics are especially funny.

Kerry’s support among moderates is stronger. Which is strange, since Dean is in fact more moderate than Kerry. But, the media has been talking about Dean as ‘liberal’ for months, and has only recently ‘discovered’ that he’s has a centrist record. If they had actually done their job, they had known that all along. But that’s too much to ask, as we know.

Oddly, this guy manages to deride the entire media while providing zilch for counterexamples. But that’s standard. Reporters have always known that Dean had a centrist record. In fact, he knew had to surmount that record to win Democratic primary support, and did so by coming out strong and early against the Iraq war, all Bush tax cuts, and current campaign finances laws/special interests.

Kerry is definitely more to the Left than Dean. The Media is saving that for the race against Bush if they get their man nominated.

That’s why it’s Dean that is much more electable that Kerry. Besides policy, Dean has a personality.

The media is very worried about Dean.

I really have no idea what this means. I think he’s trying to say the media is right-wing so they want to nominate Kerry because he’ll be easily beaten. This has no footing in reality, of course, but hey.

If you want to make a comparison to Clinton, you should have pointed out that Clinton got 2% in Iowa in 1992, as compared to Dean’s 18%. When you think about it, Howard Dean had plenty to shout about.

Oh, I love this one. I adore amateurs who take talking points from their campaigns and try to use it to pillory real journalists. Here are the facts.
1.) In 1992, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin was a candidate for president. Democrats did not seriously contest his home state, and Harkin won with 76.4 percent of the vote. The other candidates fought for single digits.
2.) In 1992, the Iowa caucus took place on Jan. 21. The New Hampshire primary was held on Feb. 18 – FOUR WEEKS after Iowa. Clinton had three extra weeks to build organization and momentum.
3.) Clinton’s “comeback kid” speech came in response to his trouncing in the polls during the Flowers scandal, not because of the Iowa results.

Stop watching those ridiculous TV shows! Get out the vote and swing the bat instead. The media will fight us to the end, so (just like trolls), it’s prudent not to get too excited by their sheer idiocy.

What media? This media?


Double feature
A Chronicle fundraising job paid its first dividends today, and the paper is getting back into the black. To celebrate, I watched two movies.

Mystic River
I heard of a movie called “Mystic River” that was bound for Oscars and universal acclaim as one of the best movies of 2003. Is this the same movie? Really? I completely don’t see it.

We open on three scamps who will grow up to become Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, and Kevin Bacon. Young Sean is a snarky hardass who carves his name in cement, and he grows up to be an ex-con. Young Kevin is a reflective soul who grows up to be a cop. Young Tim, immediately after we are introduced to him, is abducted and molested, and grows up into a broken husband and father of iffy employment. Sean’s daughter is found dead the same night that Tim comes home covered in blood. Kevin is investigating the case. And events proceed predictably.

I bought the premise of “Mustic River,” but not the execution. The plot is one long, wriggling red herring, predicated on how everyone thinks Tim’s molestation must have messed him up, but no one having the wherewithal to ask him how. There’s a subplot about Kevin Bacon’s failed marriage – his estranged wife keeps calling him and staying on the line without talking – but I swear I could not see what it had to do with the movie or its themes.

For all the talk about how “The Return of the King” “had too many endings,” I thought the conclusion of “Mystic River” was fatal. There are several scenes that would make perfectly servicable endings, portraying the characters as they soak in the enormity of their decisions. But we keep cutting to long, obvious, wrapping-up conversations that don’t express anything meaninful. Call me a philistine, but I was underwhelmed by the whole package.

On the other hand, this movie tore my heart out. It’s as good a melodrama as I’ve ever seen – and it is a melodrama, because it toys with the brutal facts of Aileen Wuornos’ life and crimes and creates a sympathetic character. But I like that. This isn’t a movie about a woman who goes insane and starts ripping men apart. She doesn’t even have deep-rooted, de Palma reasons for killing. She kills a trick who’s tied her up and planning to rape her, and finds that she can justify killing more men in order to get the life she wants. As time goes on, she find new ways to justify it. This is completely realistic, which makes it even more pathetic and terrifying.

The scariest moments in “Monster” aren’t actually the murder scenes. I winced twice. After her second murder, Wuornos comes home in the car of the man she’s just killed and heads into the shower. Her girlfriend (a sad Christina Ricci) asks why the car’s there – she says she’s borrowing it from a friend, because they’re moving to an apartment. Then we see Wuornos toweling herself off and looking at the blood that covers her torso. She doesn’t blink. Five minutes later she’s making out with her girlfriend. My second jolt came when Wuornos was interviewing for a secretary job at a law firm, sans resume. The interviewer dresses her down, and Wuornos loses all compunction, curses, and humiliates herself. For some reason, this scene (part of a sequence when Wuornos is making a pitiful effort to go straight) reminded me of “Erin Brockovich” and how completely pedestrian and movie-of-the-week it was. It made “Monster” shine much brighter.

I’m sure some people will see this movie and feel manipulated, but I felt tortured and moved. Easily one of the 5 best movies to come out of 2003.


Downhill Dean
My more trenchant and persuasive remarks will appear in Friday’s Chronicle, but for now, I’m driven to confusion by Howard Dean’s latest campaign strategy.

… the soul of our nation is at risk because the corrupting influence of special interest money is eating away at the core of our democracy.

Oh, yeah. This argument will light those nouveau Kerry and Edwards supporters on fire for Dean.

To those who say that it’s too difficult to raise money in small amounts to run a successful race – we have one answer: we’re doing it.

Yes, in the future ALL candidates can blow huge leads and win 18% of the vote in states where they visited every single county!

Last year, public disgust at the influence of money in politics finally led to enactment of the McCain/Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act …

What’s your definition of “public disgust”? Here’s the Harris poll taken in February 2002, a month before the bill was passed.

“What do you think are the two most important issues for the government to address?”
Terrorism – 27%
The economy (non-specific) – 26
Education – 12
The war – 8
Taxes – 7
National security – 7
Employment/jobs – 7
Health care (not Medicare) – 7
Afghanistan – 6
Social Security – 5
Homeland/domestic security/public safety – 4
Foreign policy (non-specific) – 3
Enron – 3
Federal surplus/deficit/budget – 3
Defense/military – 2
Drugs – 2
Domestic/social issues (non-specific) – 2
Crime/violence – 2
(Programs for) the poor/poverty – 2
Welfare – 2
Abortion – 2
Programs for the elderly – 2
Campaign finance/electoral help – 2
Medicare – 2
Immigration – 2
Osama bin Laden – 1
Homelessness – 1
Environment – 1
Ethics in government – 1
Middle east peace process – 1
Housing – 1
Prescription drug prices – 1
Air travel safety – *
Peace/world peace/nuclear arms – *
Religion (decline of) – *
Anthrax/biological attack – *
Race relations – *
Issues involving children – *
Family values (decline of) – *
Human/civil/women’s rights – *
Gun control – *
AIDS – *
Prescription drug prices – 1
Military issues – 1
School safety – 1
Not sure/refused – 12

As Howard would say, “YEAAAAAAAAAAAAGHHHH!” Feel that public outrage!

Now, here are Howard’s proposals.

Increase the public match. Match the first $100 of every donation on a five-to-one basis.

Which would double the amount of taxpayer money given to Lyndon LaRouche.

Improve incentives for candidates to accept public funding. If one candidate opts out of public financing and exceeds the spending limits, his opponents should receive additional public funds to level the playing field.

In other words, if the special interests donate tens of millions of dollars to their candidate, taxpayers should foot the bill to bring Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton and Howard Dean up to that level.

Take Back the Public Airwaves. Reclaim the public airwaves by requiring that TV and radio broadcasters offer a few hours of civic broadcasting every week around election time. Low dollar contributions will be matched with advertising vouchers. This will be funded entirely by a small spectrum use fee – an entirely fair reclamation of the public airwaves.

Which would, of course, provide free public TV time for Lyndon LaRouche, Al Sharpton, and Howard Dean.

Look, I’m just at a loss as to how the Dean campaign could propose something that would obviously funnel millions of dollars to fringe candidates who often run just for the heck of it, or for their own self-aggrandizement. The accidental beauty of our current system is that, if you are a kook, you are unable to play on the same field as legitimate candidates, because people don’t have to give you money.

I like the 7th point (non-partisan redistricting) – I wish it was tied to a less asinine policy proposal. And it would help if it was from a candidate who might actually win the nomination …

UPDATE: Stephen Green agrees, in his snarky fashion.

The way I read this is, Dean now wants you to buy him a third-place finish in Iowa.

That, and free TV time for Dennis Kucinich’s eyeballs!


Gollum agonistes
Hey, New Line – quit bitching about “Big Fish.” “Return of the King” is going to break $1 billion worldwide and become either the 7th or 8th biggest movie of all time stateside. “Big Fish” is a great movie, and it works to legitimize, even more, the fantasy genre that usually gets pooh-poohed at the Oscars.