Archive for June 2007

Do Candidates Really Need a Theme Song?

June 26, 2007

Originally Published on, 6/26/2007 4:23:02 PM

Apparently they do, and it didn’t start with Bill Clinton, whom the Reasonable Reporter is just beginning to forgive for his appropriation of Fleetwood Mac in 1992. FDR’s theme song was “Happy Days Are Here Again,” according to one pop music expert.


Hillary Clinton occupied considerable news consciousness last week with her announcement of “You and I” by Celine Dion as the official theme song of the Hillary Campaign.


Several experts in the field of precision music selection agree Celine Dion is perfect for the job. She’s upbeat, family-friendly, and has no negative headlines associated with her. (These experts – all radio programming executives — have forgotten that Court TV and the entertainment press gave copious coverage several years back to claims that Dion’s husband had sexually assaulted a woman in a Las Vegas hotel. Hubby was ultimately cleared, and the claimant was charged with extortion.)


It’s interesting to note that the radio format known as AC, or Adult Contemporary, has heated up, ditching artists like Dion in favor of younger and skankier singers. Celine is too soft for AC and too young for Oldies, the experts say. While she has clear appeal to women 35 and older, she’s not receiving significant airplay on any radio format. No longer popular, but perfect for Hillary?


America’s really not that hip, says Chuck Taylor of Radio and Records Magazine.



Who Loves John Edwards? Part I


A thousand or so Democrats were looking for a presidential candidate to love this weekend at the Damonte Ranch High School auditorium. But John Edwards didn’t seem to wow them the way Obama and Hillary wowed them.


Even by his own account, the central theme of the Edwards campaign is not a political slam-dunk. Edwards told the assembled Nevada voters he’ll nonetheless continue to talk about the “two Americas.”


He doesn’t mean rich America and poor America. The “two Americas,” he said, are the very rich, and everyone else. 


As one of the very rich, Edwards has been repeatedly put on the defensive about his own lifestyle relative to the lives of the poor. Edwards came to life as he defended himself on this point, catching fire for the first time, 20 minutes into his 30 minute speech:


“Reporters ask me…’How can somebody with your resources talk about the poor?’ 

I don’t claim to be poor. But does that mean I can’t speak out for people who don’t have a voice? Does that mean I can’t stand up for the disabled, the disenfranchised, the poor? I’m here to tell you whenever you do that you’re going to get attacked. Every time you do it, you’re going to get attacked. 


“It’s always true in American history. Because people who have wealth and power, they do not want to hear this. They want this message to be squelched, and so they try to kill the messenger. Let me say this very directly, they are not going to kill this voice. As long as I’m alive, I’m going to stand up for people who need somebody to speak for them.”


Is poverty high on the list for Nevada Dems? The admittedly unscientific applause meter says they are more focused on the Iraq war, to which Edwards devoted 3 minutes, or ten percent of his prepared speech. His call to get out of Iraq drew a standing ovation. The far more detailed, more researched, and lengthier discussion of poverty received standard town-hall-meeting applause.



Who Loves John Edwards? Part II


Assemblyman David Bobzien, (D- Dist 24) and Assemblywoman Debbie Smith (D- Dist 30) were front-and-center for the Edwards appearance. Are they endorsing? No. Both said their presence should not be so interpreted. But they have been pitched – by Edwards and everyone else. The presidential campaigns never stop hounding Nevada politicians for support. 


“It’s relentless” said Smith. 


Bobzien and Smith said they were there to perform due diligence on the candidate. 


“Nevada’s elected officials owe these candidates the respect of showing up,” added Smith.


Bobzien disappeared for about 15 minutes behind the makeshift “backstage” curtain in the Damonte Ranch High School gym. When he returned, he took the stage and introduced the candidate.


Evolution Complete

June 18, 2007

Originally Published on, 6/18/2007 11:36:43 AM

Just a dozen or so years ago, before the field was invaded by millions of energetic marketing and political science grads with goatees and a demonstrated preference for unattractive eyewear, the internet was mysterious territory. Those who understood it were largely infantile and anti-social young men, most of whom never had tread before into the conference rooms of large companies, and rarely had stepped away from their computers. They tended to stay up all night coding, and when they ventured into the daylight to instruct the “newbies” – businesspeople who were expressing interest in the internet — they were surly and intimidating.

These were, of course, real Silicon Valley and San Francisco Media Gulch geeks circa 1994, before the word “geek” had any friendly connotations. They were developing a love-hate relationship with establishment types whom they viewed with scorn, but whose money they soon realized they could earn in previously unimaginable amounts.

Meanwhile, in marketing offices, whole careers were made by affixing an “e” to any word that described a transaction. E-commerce was born, and e-dating and e-trading. A secretary who took the initiative and learned HTML was immediately dubbed the office internet guru. Management was busy grappling with the proper use of the medium, and whether it was worth the money. Few upper managers bothered to become intimate with the technology. They should have bothered. Millions of dollars were ill-spent because they didn’t. It was only the sex merchants who needed no instructions. They had an immediate and complete grasp of how to harness the internet’s massive capabilities and do it well.

Organized politics came to the party late. But they’ve gone straight to the punch bowl, and are imbibing wildly.

Now instructions on the proper use of the internet come from an organization chaired by Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has put together a guide to internet campaigning. It would truly have been horrifying to those anarchists and libertarians who ruled the bohemian Bay Area allies of the mid-90s that such information would come from Washington, and that it would be as simple as the kind of interoffice memo it was replacing. (If they’d known, many of them might have chosen to forfeit the riches, and keep the internet to themselves.)

The NRSC’s nine steps to using blogs and on-line video are simple and obvious, and that bespeaks more-or-less complete evolution of the medium in just over a dozen years. That an elephantine institution like a national political party gets it indicates that there’s really not a lot left to get.

At the same time, it’s worth noting that cost of a run at the White House has been established now at 100 million dollars, much of which is necessary to purchase media advertising. This is a fact lamented by good government types and outsider candidates.

It seems to the Reasonable Reporter that in a world where a YouTube posting can generate a million viewings its first day, and the NRSC is instructing campaigners to “make the blogs your first point of contact,” the high cost of campaigning is about to come down. Maybe not this year. But soon.

Read more about the NRSC internet guide at

Bond. Highway Bond.

June 6, 2007

Originally Published on, 6/11/2007 11:39:24 AM

Many are neither shaken nor stirred by discussions of public finance. The politically dramatic transportation hearings at the end of the 2007 legislative session, for instance, were actually two parts financial math and one part politics. We reported the politics, announced the large figures that sum up the story, and glossed over financial details.

It’s easier, and more interesting, let’s face it, to focus on prisoners bunked three to a cell, teeth blackened from meth use, or fraud perpetrated on the elderly, than it is to buckle down and understand bond funding. Or the GASB financial reporting requirements which now affect discussions of public employee benefits. (Government Accounting Standards Board.)

Maybe these financial topics should be introduced into our grade schools. Let’s say six or seven years after kindergarten, full-day or otherwise. As long as a grasp of these subjects is optional, opting out will be the preferred course of action.


Mockus Caucus

Nevada Democrats held caucus practice sessions last week led by real Iowa caucus veterans. There’s intense pressure to make sure the January Caucus goes smoothly in Nevada, they told registered Dems who showed up for the “mockus” in Washoe County on Saturday.

To that end, a group of about 80 emulated the caucus process, nominating a pizza instead of a presidential candidate. Pepperoni, Cheese and Anchovies are useful stand-ins for the presidential hopefuls, since party officials can’t allow any candidate preferences to surface, and just about everyone has a preference. The participants split into groups that reflected their pizza preference, and then tried to recruit each other’s members.

“Pepperoni is something your kids will eat,” shouted members of one group, trying to persuade an uncommitted Democrat. “Cheese is pure,” the cheese group countered. “There are many kinds of cheese, which means lots of choice. Cheese has a big tent.” Supporters of the Kitchen Sink promoted a pizza called “Everything,” which could probably have been better named. But the group was able – more or less honestly – to promise “everything,” which is a very enticing promise.

The Caucus was noisy and chaotic, but the Iowans insist it works. There’s a precise formula for assigning delegates. In this case, thirteen people standing firm for pepperoni was equal to one delegate. There’s also a formal reporting process for an accurate tally of the state total. And, they say, it’s more fun than a primary.

It’s worth noting that the “uncommitteds” were snatched up quickly and easily. A tiny number of holdouts must surely be a sign that Nevadans have no caucus experience.

Utterly Transported

June 5, 2007

Originally Published on, Published: 6/5/2007 5:37:52 PM

Better than a movie. An incredibly long, three-part, guy movie with lots of fight scenes and hardly any female stars. The Senate hearing on the Big Transportation Bill was the best of the year in its genre, for conflict, cliff hangers, and a tight wrap-up that allows all the characters to come back for the sequel, Big Transportation Bill 2. It’s due out in 2009, and promises to be a bigger, bloodier and more expensive production.


Great moments: Senator Bob Coffin (D – Clark 10) challenges the governor to back off his no-new-taxes pledge in order to raise the tax on diesel fuel. Senator Randolph Townsend (R-Washoe 4) decides, about four hours into the epic, that there’s been enough rhetoric leveled at the governor, and says, in effect, “knock it off.” Paraphrasing, of course. Senator Townsend would never actually say “knock it off.”   Instead, he reminds the assembled that the Clark County transportation crisis has many fathers, including the Clark County Commission and southern Nevada legislators.


Some members of Nevada’s news media were stunned, and others amused earlier this year when Governor Jim Gibbons said he’d heard rumors the Wall Street Journal might have been paid to run a story about the FBI probe into his activities on behalf of software maker Warren Trepp. The WSJ piece on Gibbons was one of many that ran on the paper’s front page, over many months, probing the business and lobbying connections of quite a few congressmen you’ve never heard of, in districts throughout the country. 


Once the snickers died down, the unattributed rumors dropped off the radar screen. Until this week, when the New York Times carried an unflattering recap of Gibbons’ interactions with the legislature, his campaign misadventures, and his stewardship of Warren Trepp’s product.


Speculation bubbled up again in the cold, fast-running current of Carson City politics about whether the nation’s most venerable newspapers might allow their product to be tainted by the influence of big-spending advertisers. And some here in the Silver State truly believe the rehash of the Governor’s troubles was dropped into the pages of the NYT to coincide with whatever final showdown might occur between Gibbons and the legislature in the closing week of the 2007 session.


Dropped by whom? It would have to be someone with both a stake in Nevada politics, and the ability to manipulate editorial decisions at of one of the most prestigious publications in the world. Only God and the Gray Lady know for sure.


The question, though, would be worth contemplating on a theoretical level if it could be severed from Gibbons and the presumed conspiracy. Repeated for emphasis, when you ISOLATE THE QUESTION from discussion of Gibbons and those who would revel in his downfall, it’s an interesting topic. How elastic are ethics in a struggling industry?


Declining newspaper penetration, and revenue erosion caused by a robust “new media” have prompted some organizations to drastically alter the news product. What other impacts might occur below the surface, as the financial picture worsens?


A profession can be ethically practiced only so long as there are four walls within which to practice it. As management teams seek above all to preserve the business, what will be compromised, and to what degree? Will blind eyes be turned to flirtation between advertising and editorial? How bleak would things have to be for a large-budget advertiser to successfully push a political agenda into the headlines? Anyone’s headlines, much less the headlines on the sacred pages under discussion?


Don’t snicker, because none of this is funny. Political operatives have been known to sink quite low. The wild card each time is who meets them in the basement.


The Reasonable Reporter hopes and prays there are always a few staid national news sources that leave fingers black and smudgy, and deliver honestly gathered and utterly reliable news. (To the extent that news is ever utterly reliable.) But the business will get more difficult and more desperate, and this is not merely a technological shift, or a demographic shift, or a phenomenon of post-literate America. It is all of those, but it is also the redefinition of an industry, with the attendant financial fallout, and all the unseemly possibilities that suggests.