Campaign wildcards

GOP Presumptive nominee for President John McCain has caused quite a stir with his latest set of ads attacking his Democrat counterpart Barack Obama. In the first ad titled “Celeb” McCain compares Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and makes the point that while Barack Obama is incredibly popular but has little leadership experience at McCain’s level and that celebrity can’t sustain a commander in chief alone. The ad does well do underscore this point however it fails because it concedes another: Barack Obama is incredibly popular. By the technical definition of popular vote (a good measure of how elections are won — electoral colleges being another story), McCain concedes that Obama may not be ready to lead the country but that McCain isn’t ready to win the presidential election. The ad, by including Spears and Hilton to make a comparison to Obama was successful in getting a lot of intention for its at-first-glance superficial character and belittling tone.

In the second ad named “The One”, McCain’s campaign compares Obama to a messianic character that can do no wrong. The ad is mocking in tone and is good red meat for the base, perhaps the other front besides the swing vote that McCain needs to convince to give him a shot at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue.

The “Celeb” ad is rumoured to have spoiled a surprise appearance by Obama in Chicago at this past weekend’s Lollapalooza where insiders say he was ready to introduce rapper Kanye West on stage. The Obama campaign is said to have been spooked by the ad and didn’t want to fuel talk around the coming volley from McCain. Given this song by rapper Ludacris endorsing Obama over McCain (a song lighting up the American right-wing blogosphere), Obama likely made a good decision by removing himself as an element of a perfect storm of bad publicity. Obama, celebrity, Kanye and Luda. It would have fit well into McCain’s narrative (and all by chance).

The latest in this entertaining story is an entry by Paris Hilton, the famous-for-being-famous celebrity featured in McCain’s ad. First consider McCain’s ad

and now Paris Hilton’s response

See Paris Hilton Responds to McCain Ad and more funny videos on FunnyOrDie.com

In election campaigns, its impossible to predict the wildcards such as the Ludacris endorsement. Further it’s the nature of the race that Obama would have to respond carefully to McCain “Celeb” ad by allegedly canceling on Kanye. Equally as unpredictable is this response by Hilton, which is more tangential to the core, but more viral among those with a surface view of the presidential race so far. While insiders will dismiss this as fodder for Entertainment Tonight and Jay Leno, though that’s where the populace is watching. And for McCain it’s unfortunate that Obama is popular.

Thoughts about Live Earth

Yesterday, on seven stages around the world over 1 million people attended a mega-concert event geared to raise awareness on the issue of climate change or the “climate crisis” as billed by event organizers.

News reports claim that the event had a reach to about 2 billion television watchers around the world.

Despite the disputed logic of the cause by some, it was heartening to see so many people interested in attending a rally for what they truly believe to be a good cause. It is good to know that there is a lot of positive energy out there ready to be channeled to fight for good causes whatever they may be.

However, it is unfortunate that these concerts do not do much to raise “awareness”; often participants of such mega-concerts are the most aware of these issues. I’m not sure how many people tuned in and said “Global… warming? Really? Thank goodness for John Mayer or else I would have never known”. On a more useful note, Billy Corgan made me aware that his new Smashing Pumpkins CD is about to be released. Thanks Billy.

Despite the good intentions of these mega-concerts, the problems that they purport to address still exist and for the most part, have not really advanced along a good track. Live Aid, and most recently, Live 8 meant to raise “awareness” of poverty in Africa. Despite the collective efforts of our mothers (“eat your vegetables, there are children starving in Africa”) and the calling upon the power of rock to solve the world’s ills, poverty still exists in Africa.

Often, the logic behind such efforts is paradoxical. Dumping money and aid on Africa, according to some economists, is exacerbating the problem there. Further, the music industry is the vanguard of consumerism. How does flying Madonna’s 100 member entourage from New York to London on her private jet to express a message of conservation ring true to anyone? Media is to be consumed and the music industry cranks out a lot of plastic, puts a lot of rubber on the road (and CO2 in the air) while musicians tour, and demands terawatts of electricity to power countless speakers and to illuminate hundreds of millions of TV screens.

As for the Live Earth mega-concert, the worst moment was at Giants stadium in New Jersey (billed as New York), when Petra Nemcova, the supermodel that survived the Asian tsunami took the stage to help raise awareness about our “climate in crisis”. I would never shrug aside Ms. Nemcova’s harrowing ordeal, however, no serious scientist would ever link that particular tsunami with climate change as the 2004 tsunami was caused by an earthquake, not by CO2. It is unfortunate that the tragedy of that event would be used erroneously to advance such a debatable call to action on a debatable cause.

There were a few ironic moments including rap superstar Ludacris telling the audience (in song) that “if you ain’t got no money [sic], take your broke ass home”. Of course, this lyric is a part of a song that he sings on with Fergie (of Black Eyed Peas fame) which also includes the songstress singing “We [sic] flyin’ first class / Up in the sky / Poppin’ champagne / Livin’ my life / In the fast lane / And I wont change / By the Glamorous, oh the flossy flossy”. The video pictures Fergie flying in a private jet, ironically the vehicle of choice of some of the Live Earth performers. Irony is being told by some of this world’s greatest CO2 producers to cut our consumption. Ludacris’ other credits include a starring role in 2 Fast 2 Furious. Was it a movie about plug-in hybrid cars? Not likely. The film has inspired a generation of nitrous-infused street racers. Oh well, I’m sure he got some carbon credits in his gift basket to help offset the guilt. Ludacris! [sic]

Finally, if the intent of the mega-concert was to be a massive information campaign to finally bring everyone, united, onside to fight climate change, why the divisive elements? Melissa Ethridge chastised Bush’s ‘with us or the terrorists’ refrain by saying that in addressing the world’s problems that there is no “us and them”. She proceeded to drive a wedge between left and right by calling both Nixon and the current Republican president “criminals”. In fact, Ethridge’s performance was more of an anti-war screed than a call to unite against climate change. Macy Gray’s appearance also sought to alienate a significant proportion of the American population by having her stage performers wear anti-Bush and anti-Cheney t-shirts. The concert became an appeal to the left and had the effect of preaching to the choir while it did little to reach out to what should have been its intended targets: the skeptics on the right.

Were you one of the “2 billion” that tuned into the Live Earth concerts? What are your thoughts? If Al Gore runs for president (and wins) will we be fighting a costly war on warming AND a war of terror? Will Gore have any better luck bringing China and India into the Coalition of the Cooling? Will you be buying the new Smashing Pumpkins album when it comes out on July 10th? Consume, but don’t consume!