How to Win

David Plouffe seems to be every bit the opposite of Lee Atwater, and a welcome change for politics. He used Deval Patrick's campaign for governor in Massachussets as a test case for Obama's grassroots popular appeal, and the strategy worked. This is a welcome change from the win-at-all-costs strategies of Lee Atwater and his protege Karl Rove.

I can't find the Chicago Trib David Plouffe article referenced on his Wikipedia page, but found it on this howieinseattle blog:
As Sen. Barack Obama's campaign manager, Plouffe was the mastermind behind a winning strategy that looked well past Super Tuesday's contests on Feb. 5 and placed value on large and small states.

The campaign had the money to make such a potentially low-yield wager, and Plouffe had long understood that the Democratic Party's complex system for apportioning convention delegates meant winning even one congressional district in a state could help generate the total needed to reach the magic number.

From his 11th-floor Michigan Avenue office, he sent resources to such states as Nebraska, Idaho and North Dakota that Sen. Hillary Clinton virtually ignored, putting extra emphasis on those with lower-turnout caucuses instead of primaries.

The plan, which had been in his head at least as far back as late 2006, was partly out of necessity because Clinton's early name recognition and party ties gave her advantages in big states.

The strategy proved itself in the two weeks after Feb. 5, as Obama won 11 contests in a row and achieved a delegate lead he never would lose. In late February, Plouffe reportedly confided to a colleague that he believed a mathematical tipping point had been reached.

'A rare talent'
Marking one of the biggest upsets in U.S. political history, Obama himself saluted his behind-the-scenes general at the start of his victory speech last week in St. Paul.

"Thank you to our campaign manager David Plouffe, who never gets any credit, but who has built the best political organization in the country," he said.

As Obama's campaign transitions to the general election, Plouffe (pronounced Pluff) will lead the way. Ironically, it will be against someone he listed in 2003, in a Washington political journal, as his favorite Republican, Sen. John McCain.

In a campaign filled with alums from the 2004 presidential efforts of Sen. John Kerry and former Rep. Richard Gephardt, Plouffe comes from the Gephardt branch.

In 2003 and early 2004, he served as a senior adviser to Gephardt's short-lived presidential bid, a dozen years after getting his first taste for presidential politics working on a campaign for Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa.

That Iowa experience helped him understand the state's arcane presidential caucus system and just how important an early win there would be in knocking the air of inevitability out of Clinton.

Lean and about 5 feet 10 inches tall, Plouffe can seem almost shy compared to more gregarious campaign personalities. But he can swear like a sailor, and his near-broadcast-quality voice exudes confidence on the many conference calls he holds with reporters and donors.

"He's not a weirdo, and a lot of the people who you meet at the senior level of presidential campaigns are eccentric or difficult or egomaniacs," said friend and Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf. "If you look at the high command of the Obama campaign, normalcy seems to weave through them."

Plouffe, 41, is a business partner with Chicago-based media strategist David Axelrod and worked with him on Obama's winning 2004 U.S. Senate campaign. But Plouffe, unlike Axelrod, rarely appears in front of television cameras.

"He's the most disciplined and focused person I have ever met in politics," said Elmendorf, who previously supported Clinton. "It is very easy to get distracted by the press and donors and activists. David just has a great filter and he doesn't let any of the noise bother him. In a presidential campaign, that's a rare talent."

Stealing bases, not show
Plouffe, who declined to be interviewed for this article, believes the airing of campaign disputes in public should be avoided at all costs and that the candidate should always be the focus. Even with a rapidly growing staff of about 800, unintentional leaks are rare.

"He is smart and scrappy and doesn't bring a huge amount of ego to the table," said JoDee Winterhof, a political strategist who has worked with and competed against Plouffe at several points of his career.

Like a baseball manager who knows it is a long season, Plouffe tends to avoid highs or lows, similar to his candidate. While his boss cheers for the White Sox, Plouffe prefers the Phillies (a reflection of a childhood in Delaware).

Plouffe's singular focus on running the campaign was displayed last week when he refused, despite encouragement, to fly with Obama to Minnesota for a victory rally. He stayed behind with the staff in Chicago, where he gave a pep talk about the historic moment.

"He was about as happy as we've seen him," a campaign aide said.

Guarding the coffers
Plouffe's campaign office door is always open, but his wallet isn't.

Although Obama's campaign has shattered fundraising records, Plouffe, the survivor of congressional campaigns that have run short on money, is well-known for his frugality.

Staff members are often paid less than their Clinton counterparts were, many double up in hotel rooms while on the road, and the "L" is the preferred form of transportation to and from Chicago's airports. At least early on, workers who wanted business cards were typically expected to pay for the printing themselves.

By guarding the campaign's coffers, Plouffe was able to ensure Obama had the money he needed after an expensive Super Tuesday advertising surge.

A specialist in tactics, Plouffe also understands the workings of the media and has offered lines for Obama speeches that were powerful enough to make the final cut, a skill he honed working on many other campaigns and with Axelrod.

'They will have a plan'
While there is no time for the sandlot this summer, those who have worked with him say he brings his same zeal for statistics to politics as he does when he is pitching in recreational leagues or following the batting averages of his favorite players.

"He's fascinated by numbers," said Democratic consultant Bill Carrick, who worked with him in 1999 and 2000 when Plouffe was executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "He just has an insatiable appetite for this stuff and he could keep all of it in his head."

Carrick credits Obama's success with his campaign's long view.

"From the very beginning of this campaign, David was very focused on the calendar and the sequence of it," he said. "The Obama campaign planned for the potential of it being a longer campaign all along."

In politics since college, Plouffe worked with Axelrod on the successful 2006 campaign of Deval Patrick for Massachusetts governor. An earlier big win came in 1996, when he managed the campaign for Bob Torricelli to fill Bill Bradley's U.S. Senate seat.

Plouffe joined Axelrod's consulting business in the winter of 2000 and was named a partner of AKP&D Message and Media in 2004 (the "P" is for Plouffe).

"He has the capacity to handle more details in his head at one time than anyone I know," Axelrod said. "David is very determined at whatever he does."

Elmendorf, meanwhile, said he looks for more of the same from Plouffe in the general election.

"It was probably the best-run presidential campaign in a generation," he said. "They will have a plan. It may not be clear yet, but they will execute it."

1. Frontline: Boogieman, the Lee Atwater Story
2. Wikipedia: David Plouffe
3. McCormick, John (2008-06-08). "Obama's campaign chief: low profile, high impact", The Chicago Tribune. [broken link]
4. Howie Martin: "Obama's campaign chief: low profile, high impact"


A Father Dies

21 years. You could even say more because it was 21 years since it was published. Gestational periods vary on a first born. So his baby grew up into a privileged college junior who probably took one of his own classes and showed up, feeling superior and special, clever and ironic, and pissed him off so much that when it graduated early he thought there was nothing more to do but hang himself.

Now, his child, fresh out of college and entering the workforce, can do nothing but slave away in the marketplace and die the same anonymous death that most of the masses face, never reaching the level of fame or renown as it's father. Sure, people talk about it, but talking about its birth and growth is not the same as appreciating its accomplishments, the things it was able to do on its own, the lives it transformed, single-handedly, without any help from Daddy.

It's sad, though, because its father is always in its shadow now-- and that becomes part of the narrative of its own life-- did it cause his death? The question is as unanswerable as why it was born.

DFW 2/21/62 - 9/12/08


The Economy

September 15, 2008

This morning we woke up to some very serious and troubling news from Wall Street.

The situation with Lehman Brothers and other financial institutions is the latest in a wave of crises that are generating enormous uncertainty about the future of our financial markets. This turmoil is a major threat to our economy and its ability to create good-paying jobs and help working Americans pay their bills, save for their future, and make their mortgage payments.

The challenges facing our financial system today are more evidence that too many folks in Washington and on Wall Street weren’t minding the store. Eight years of policies that have shredded consumer protections, loosened oversight and regulation, and encouraged outsized bonuses to CEOs while ignoring middle-class Americans have brought us to the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression.

I certainly don’t fault Senator McCain for these problems, but I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to. It’s a philosophy we’ve had for the last eight years – one that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. It’s a philosophy that says even common-sense regulations are unnecessary and unwise, and one that says we should just stick our heads in the sand and ignore economic problems until they spiral into crises.

Well now, instead of prosperity trickling down, the pain has trickled up – from the struggles of hardworking Americans on Main Street to the largest firms of Wall Street.
This country can’t afford another four years of this failed philosophy. For years, I have consistently called for modernizing the rules of the road to suit a 21st century market – rules that would protect American investors and consumers. And I’ve called for policies that grow our economy and our middle-class together. That is the change I am calling for in this campaign, and that is the change I will bring as President.

Monday, September 15, 2008

ARLINGTON, VA -- Today, U.S. Senator John McCain issued the following statement on the situation in the financial markets:

"The crisis in our financial markets has taken an enormous toll on our economy and the American people -- first the decline of our housing markets followed by the collapse of Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and now Lehman Brothers. I am glad to see that the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department have said no to using taxpayer money to bailout Lehman Brothers, a position I have spoken about throughout this campaign. We are carefully monitoring the financial markets, including the duress at Lehman Brothers that is the latest reminder of ineffective regulation and management. Efforts must also be focused on ensuring that the deposits of hardworking Americans are protected.

"It is essential for us to make sure that the U.S. remains the pre-eminent financial market of the world. This will be a highest priority of my Administration. In order to do this, major reform must be made in Washington and on Wall Street. We cannot tolerate a system that handicaps our markets and our banks and places at risk the savings of hard-working Americans and investors. The McCain-Palin Administration will replace the outdated and ineffective patchwork quilt of regulatory oversight in Washington and bring transparency and accountability to Wall Street. We will rebuild confidence in our markets and restore our leadership in the financial world."

McCain's bullshit stinks more.


Separated at birth?

McCain's new VP candidate Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin and SNL alumna and 30 Rock Creator Tina Fey.


Conspiracy theory or controversy?

Is the press focusing on black leaders and black controversy?
In what may seem to be a conspiracy theory in advance of a historic presidential race which may lead to the first black president in American history, stories about black people in power and their actions and reactions to racial issues are creeping into the headlines at an alarming rate.

In a moment reminiscent of the Human Stain, where Coleman Silk, a black professor passing for white innocently calls two black students he has never seen in his class "spooks" and inadvertently causes his own downfall, a black county commissioner in Dallas took umbrage when a white commissioner used the term "black hole" to describe how traffic tickets seem to get sucked into the county's collections office and never come out. From the reaction, you would think he said they were being processed in CP time.

This controversy came on the heels of a Denver Jazz singer's interpretive reworking of the National Anthem, prompting many reporters to get Barack Obama's response (strangely, I don't remember what John McCain said about it, nor do I see him being turned to whenever an elderly person does something controversial, like Max Mosley's S&M German war fantasy). This was followed by Jesse Jackson's swift apology for his hot mic castration comment on Barack Obama, before it even had the chance to blow up into a full-fledged controversy, and Charles Rangel's recent impromptu sidewalk press conference on his four rent-controlled apartments. These garden-variety (is that a safe term? Please don't misinterpret) scandals wouldn't mean much if there weren't a black Democratic Presidential Candidate with overwhelming support and a promise for true political change running against an aging, forgetful, and frankly, losing candidate on the Republican side.

What worries me is that these talking points, intentional or not, may come back as disassociated doubts in voter's minds come election day in November, thanks to some new studies reported recently in the Times ("Your Brain Lies to You"). This source amnesia occurs when facts, true or not, stored in the hippocampus, are transferred into long-term memory. Even if a lie is qualified as such, it can become true in the few months it takes to be transferred from short-term memory to long-term.

The studies go on to show that in the long run, the old adage is true, people only hear what they want to hear (unless they are encouraged to keep an open mind-- but who does that?). It doesn't help that the focus these days continues to be about race rather than unity.

1. Jazzy Anthem
2. Jesse's nuts
3. Black holes
4. Rangel-controlled apartments
5. Human Stain book and movie
6. Mosley sex scandal
7. What is a fact anyway? (Your Brain Lies to You)


Potential Running Mates

For Discussion:

Edwards' politics are more in line with Obama's than any of the other candidates.

This might be the worst of both worlds, with Hillary and Bill to contend with, Barack would find it difficult to make the changes in his administration he promises in his campaign. Plus, he has already categorized Hillary as a divider rather than a unifier.

(No, not the little girl). Bill may not be eligible for the number 2 spot. I'd have to check the constitution for that.

While not a winning combination, the difference in style between Sharpton and Obama would be a field day for the press. Again, Obama is looking for someone who bridges gaps, not creates them.

Jackson certainly has been around, but would not add anything to this ticket.

Kennedy could get the feeling for the reigns of Executive power without getting his hands dirty holding them. He could take a page from Cheney's book and be the real power behind the throne. Is this the future of American politics?

The year 2000 was such a long time ago. Why was Lieberman on any ticket?

Oprah certainly knows how to unify people -- or at least the target audience for her show.


How trustworthy are Google Ads?

Doublingstocks.com promises untold riches for only $47.00. For less than the price of a coffee machine, you can get daily picks of penny stocks that promise to break trend and move up drastically, according to Marl, an automated "stock picking robot" that scans the market, analyses trends, and picks only the best stocks poised to breakout in a matter of days. Want more? You can licence Marl outright for $28,000.

Sound too good to be true? Well, apparently, it is. A group of people in a number of forums have investigated Marl and the claims of Doublingstocks.com, and found them to be, for lack of a better term, bunk. Mistlethrus, a commentor on skeltoac.com, bought the program and decompiled it to review the original source code to find that the program merely contains a database with two tables-- one with random stock symbols that scroll rapidly through the application with randomly applied messages such as "Good Buy!" and "Stock is Recounding," while the other table contains Marl's "pick of the day."

Many others chimed in as well with similar stories, including how it seems the stocks that Marl "picks" jump in value at the same time as the newsletter goes out, and quickly degrade after. Could the programmers of Marl be profiting from their advance knowledge that they will be sending this pick to hundreds or thousands of hungry penny stock traders? Apparently, Marl is also a good poker player. The same graphics and picture of the programmers (albeit, with different names) were featured on Pokerbobby.com, an automated online poker player, which is now defunct.

The good news is that the company they use to process payment, ClickBank, is not a fly-by-night. They honor refunds and stand behind the product, even if it does appear to be nothing more than a smokescreen to promote the stocks of companies that pay to advertise their shares.

The more disturbing aspect of this story is that Google seems to be, inadvertently, in on it. Allowing a questionable company like this one to advertise using Google Ad words dillutes their brand. If any fly-by-night scammer can pay a small fee to appear on every page on Google that mentions stocks or the stock market, or in a respected newspaper like the New York Times (The Stock Trading "Robot" was advertised on the Times business page today), how are consumers to trust other Google Ads?

Granted, most may not trust this ad, believing that what sounds too good to be true usually isn't, but what of the person who is taken in? A Google search does not point users to a fair assessment of this application. As an added twist, the creators of "Marl" have co-opted the "too good to be true" idiom in fake reviews that appear first in a search results list when you search for "doubling stocks scam" on Google. These links point back to the DoublingStocks.com site. By allowing unfiltered advertisements into its system, as well as no method for judging the trustworthiness of the companies behind them, Google is doing a disservice both to its customers and its brand.



They've had an android Philip K. Dick since 2005. At first it just repeated what it was programmed to say, but after upgrades installed to make it learn, it started writing. At first the books were derivative rewrites of PKD originals, some better than others, the most inventive going off on new, modern tangents, incorporating the latest technologies in the paranoid fantasies of Dick's old works. But most were long-winded and in need of a good editor. Lawrence Sutin, Dick's formal biographer, edited a few, but soon grew tired when they proved to be as popular as Dick's original works when they were first published-- that is, not very. Pulp didn't fare well in the 50's and 60's when Dick was writing and was even less popular in the 00's, with competition from movies with computer-generated graphics, video games, and the internet. It was only after the android completed rewriting all of Dick's work that it started to become noticed, particularly with the sequel to Dick's last work, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, itself the third book of a trilogy.

The sequel picks up 10 years after the previous book ends, and follows the lives of Angel Archer's fraternal twins, a boy and a girl, Philip and Mary, whose lives parallel what might have been the lives of Philip K. Dick and his unborn twin sister, had she lived. The book follows the twin's lives as they grow and separate. Philip becomes a failed novelist unable to publish more than one work. Mary is a successful public speaker, who speaks to a growing fan base of the links between science and religion. Mary ends up funding studies and experiments that attempt to bridge the gap between faith and fact, ultimately trying to build a telephone that talks to God. Philip, meanwhile, loses his apartment and ends up sleeping on the street, quietly resenting his sister as he sleeps under posters that advertise her latest speaking engagement. "How can she draw so many in just by talking," he wonders? As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Philip intends to kill Mary as he dreams of a life without a sister, where he is a successful author of novels blending science and religion. But before he can carry out his wish, in the final pages, as he confronts his sister in her office, the telephone to God rings and Mary encourages Philip to pick it up.

There is a lot more in the book. As in a typical Dick book, the lines are blurred between fantasy and reality. Philip's dreams of becoming a famous writer act as a pseudo-biography of Dick himself, complete with his yearning to know his sister who died at birth. Sometimes the real Philip can't separate himself from the dream Philip, and he wakes up depressed, believing he doesn't have a sister, then, seeing the poster of her above him, exists in a limbo state where he actually loves her and wants to get to know her, before he reverts back to anger and rage at her success.

There are religious facts and fantasies, including one that supposes that God talked to man regularly at one point in history. It is all very surprising and the book is greeted with wide success.