August 14, 2004

There aren't enough words for this kind of stupid

A lot of people have noted the GOP's recent "boast" about the increase in minorities at the 2004 Republican National Convention- the dominant element being what could be a new record for excessive spin:

With President George W. Bush leading the ticket, the Republican Party has experienced historic growth in minority delegate representation. This year, African-American representation is up an estimated 65 percent and Asian-American representation is up nearly 40 percent. This August, Hispanic delegates will be the largest minority group represented, adding another 15 percent to the 100 percent surge Republicans saw between 1996 and 2000.

President Bush's policies are producing results for all Americans and minority voters are joining the ranks of Republicans across the nation working to re-elect our president. Republican minorities make up a record 17 percent of total delegates and alternates, up from 10 percent just four years ago.

Unlike the Democrat's quota system, the Republican Party's open process has garnered a percentage increase 4 times greater than the percentage increase of minorities at the Democrat Convention since 2000.

Greg even puts up the graph over at the Talent Show. For the hell of it, I'll wait a moment for what I'm hoping will be most of you to make the obvious observation about this before giving the actual numbers.

Okay, here they are. As you likely realized on your own, the GOP boasting more increase in minority attendance than the Democrats against previous conventions kind of skips the part about how both the 2004 and 2000 Democratic conventions already had countless more minorities than the Republican ones.

The Republicans, by their own numbers, have 17% of their delegation as non-white. The Democrats have nearly 40%, and for the previous two or three conventions have constantly had nearly twice as much a percentage of minorities. But, since the Republicans this year have made a huge leap in correcting their own disparity, the fact that the Democrats don't have one is a sign of Republicans being better on race. Grown-ups wrote this. Think about that.

The entire argument relies on the GOP using the concept of percentage increase versus actual percentage. To put it in contrast, for the Republicans to say that they have a better bead on minority involvement because they've increased minority ranks at a rate larger than Democrats is like saying at the end of the American Civil War that the Confederacy was more supportive of blacks because they were freeing slaves at a rate higher than the Union.

That the GOP would try to spin it this way shouldn't be considered admirable. Minorities should feel insulted that the Republican Party thinks they're stupid enough to believe this. In a fit of irony where stupid or manipulative fight for top honors to describe it, the Republican party is deliberately using deceptive wording to imply a commitment to minority inclusion. Apparently, this is easier than actually having a platform that minorities support.

But what do I know. I'm just one of those quota-based Democrats- not like those Republicans who oppose the idea of statistics and numbers to parade minorites around... and have a web page filled with the statistics and numbers to prove it.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 2:25 PM

August 13, 2004

Alan Keyes is Completely F*$%ing insane, Day 5

Keyes: repeal 17th Amendment and eliminate elections for Senate.

CHICAGO - Alan Keyes said Friday he would like to end the system under which the people elect U.S. senators and return to pre-1913 practice in which senators were chosen by state legislatures.

The Republican Senate candidate in Illinois, asked about past comments on the election process, said the constitutional amendment that provided for popular election of senators upset the balance between the people and the states.

"The balance is utterly destroyed when the senators are directly elected because the state government as such no longer plays any role in the deliberations at the federal level," Keyes said at a taping of WBBM Newsradio's "At Issue" program.

According to Keyes, the State doesn't interact at a Federal level. Except, of course, for those people that the State elects to represent them in the Federal government. Perhaps you know about those people, Alan. You're, you know, trying to be one of them.

Alan Keyes believes that becoming a Senator shouldn't involve the people of the State voting for him. If it makes him feel any better, they're not going to.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:39 PM

August 12, 2004


I was actually going to write- I am not kidding here- a post today about how yesterday was my last day on the job as a legislative aide for New Jersey Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg. It's an easy joke, but yeah: you leave the office for one day...

I'm absolutely blown away by McGreevy's revelation. That said, I can't really feign ignorance about the issue. For professional reasons, but mostly because I simply don't have details to provide, I can't and won't name specifics about what I had already heard/known through people both in Bergen County and Trenton about the secret of Jim McGreevy. But I can't pretend I didn't know about much of this. Basically, McGreevy wasn't gay the way Israel doesn't have nuclear weapons. It's no one's business to ask, no one that counts would tell you the truth, but... come on.

That said, the suit from McGreevy's (let's abandon the pretense of "alleged" here) former lover is likely frivolous. It's apparent that Golan Cipel knew exactly what would happen as the result of filing such a lawsuit, and this was his intention: not to actually legally punish McGreevy, but to ruin his life. Hell hath no fury like a lover scorned.

Other than that, I'm out of information. I'm unlikely to provide the smarmy and unnecessary attempts at humor of the type Wonkette will derive from a story like this, and too admiring of the man personally to launch the intevitable attempts at humor of the type Matt Drudge will derive from this.

As for the merits of McGreevy's private choice of lifestyle beyond his "honesty" with the people of New Jersey, I think a casual reader of my site would know that the basic issue of homosexuality is irrelevant to me. That he is who he is isn't just irrelevant, beyond this post it's the last I plan to speak of it in terms of McGreevy's character.

Character, however, I'll make a note of. I have met McGreevy, only once, and only briefly. But his attendance at the event where I met him - signing a bill honoring and establishing benefits for a fallen 9/11 firefighter at a Ridgefield Park Hook & Ladder station, depicted a man who, amidst personal issues undeserving of media scrutiny, a genuinely decent human being. McGreevy was a good man who chose some really bad friends. Take that for what it's worth, as a significant percentage of the country won't.

Politically, clearly McGreevy is beyond dead; he's vapor. This could very well affect a few Congressional seats in New Jersey, a large portion of the farm-area populace of the Garden State still in that mentality's corresponding cultural era. So, with that, I make the bold, and obscenely rare statement following today's events: I haven't for the moment a goddamn clue what's going to happen next.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 5:40 PM

Fool me once

U.S. troops begin "major combat operation" in Najaf:

NAJAF, Iraq - Thousands of U.S. troops and Iraqi soldiers launched a major assault Thursday on militiamen loyal to a radical Shiite cleric in Najaf, with explosions and gunfire echoing near the holy city's revered Imam Ali shrine and its vast cemetery.

The coalition forces were trying to crush an uprising led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose fighters have been battling U.S. troops in Shiite strongholds across Iraq for a week. Hundreds of people have fled in the last few days, moving in with relatives and friends in quieter neighborhoods, or out of Najaf entirely.

"Major operations to destroy the militia have begun," said U.S. Marine Maj. David Holahan, executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines Regiment. He said thousands of U.S. troops were taking part.

You, yes you in the back. What's that?

Yes, that's correct. The President was on an aircraft carrier a year ago with a banner reading "mission accomplished." What does that have to-

Say, that's right. Bush said something in a speech that day. Something about something being over. What what it that he said was over again?

Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:27 AM

August 10, 2004

Pandering to the crowd with people's lives

The results of the Colorado GOP primary haven't come in, but the timing of this annoucement leaves little to the imagination:

DENVER, August 10, 2004 ( - Peter Coors, while on leave to campaign for the U.S. Senate, announced that his family's beer company will no longer be offering abortion coverage as previously covered by the company health plan.

"We're revising our health care plans right now for the fall when people have to sign up again," he announced last week during a conversation with a Christian Coalition of Colorado official. "It will not be in there."

The Denver Post first reported the contents of the tape, including that Coors expressed surprise to the Coalition member when he learned that the company had been covering abortions before this time.

The idea that Pete Coors doesn't know what goes on at the Coors brewery is obnoxiously unbelievable. Certainly, it's not as plausible as the idea that a Republican candidate would publicly announce on the day of his Senate primary that he was going to ban abortions from his company health plan to cull the favor of Republican voters who by a vast majority would be against abortion.

And why not? It's not like he's manipulating the liberties of half his employees for political gain or anything like that. Owners of companies who happen to be running for the Republican nomination for Senate coincidentally discover that they provide a service that their key constituency opposes and thus choose to publicly condemn it on the very day those constituents would have to decide if they should nominate him for their Senate candidate all the time!

What a perfectly disgusting human being.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:47 PM

Compassionate Conservatism at play!

My brother's on his college's rugby team; he got a kick out of this one.

I suppose Bush's response will be "well at least I didn't call the guy a son of a bitch."

Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:04 PM

My HMO doesn't cover cutting off the nose to spite the face

Talkleft notes a new proposal from Congress that ties $1 billion for immigrant health care to a new requirement to gather information about said immigrant patients.

This is a profoundly bad idea. A major foundation of universal health care is the concept that, when people have free access to health care, they're far more likely to get health care more frequently, thus reducing extended exposure to health problems. This policy, which essentialy deputizes doctors as INS agents, will scare the hell out of the several million undocumented immigrants in this country into not ever going to a hospital. That's not just bad for them, but bad for the general state of health care in this country.

Health care for as many people as possible isn't just a basic human rights issue, it's a matter of practicality. Reducing the likelihood of preventative medicine applied to immigrants will cost the government more in the long run- a notion that, sadly, will fall on the deaf ears of politicians who realize punishing immigrants is a much better election-year strategy than helping them.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:42 PM

Scott Kurtz, Underpants Gnome

There's been a lot of talk in the comics world about Scott Kurtz (author of the webcomic PVP) and his offer to "challenge the syndicates" by offering his strip free of charge to any newspaper that wants to print it. As you can guess, the flamewar started instantly between the syndicated print cartoonists and the web cartoonists. Whee.

Now, here's where it gets confusing: Kurtz wants to do this because he disapproves, if I got it right, of the syndicates' demands to have control over the artist's work, ownership of characters, merchandise rights, etc. Kurtz's offer entails that the newspaper prints his strip- nothing more, nothing less. That's where I sort of nodded my head like a dog coming across televised porn.

I first heard about this on a MetaFilter thread, where I'm culling most of my comments in blockquote, as I really have no desire to just retype them here. My first comment still remains my general point:

Okay, to start: I'm a cartoonist who's only seen on the web, save for the occasional request for a reprint. So let me explain why Scott Kurtz is a bit unfair in this statement: because he's Scott Kurtz.

I like PVP; I read it every day and I have no animosity or jealousy or malice or anything like that towards him. Just so we're clear on that. However, the very user who posted this FPP noted the key element of Kurtz's "throwing down the gauntlet:" he already has hundreds of thousands of readers.

Kurtz's offer is INCREDIBLY easy for one who has already made it as a professional and doesn't really need to earn more money out of it. The gauntlet makes a great impact when it's dropped from an extreme height.

Kurtz is a bit misguided as far as his "keep your rights" stuff goes because there are many cartoonists in papers who do this: they're called alternative cartoonists. Small press cartoonists. Comics can get in the paper without syndication (Tom Tomorrow prints in 150 papers and magazines and has never been with a syndicate), and some cartoonists like Ted Rall and Ruben Bolling ARE syndicated and still own their own strip. Kurtz didn't get an offer that let him keep the rights to his strip, so his response evokes the mentality "well screw you, syndicate! I'm popular on the web, so I can just give out the comics for free!"

You know who can't do that yet? Me. And about six thousand other people. I love the webcomics, PVP included. But, to be honest, the constant philosophising from the six or seven webcartoonists on the surface of the entire planet who "made it" taking about how great and wonderful it would be to shift paradigms because they're comfortable gets to me sometimes.

Kurtz misses the fact that syndicates are what put a single strip in hundreds of papers, reaching out to contacts in a way a single person can't do alone. I can make the annoucement Kurtz made on my site tomorrow and I won't get an offer, because I get about a thousand readers to Kurtz's hundred times that. "Great plans" can't involve "pre-existing audience of thousands" and actually be feasible.

That's not to say I like syndicates. If I could get my work printed, I'd prefer to not to have to go through them. But Kurtz is challenging a structure in very infeasible ways: syndicates like McMeel/Universal and Tribune Media Services don't just own the rights to strips, they own the papers that print them. They get a cut of merhandise that they share with the cartoonist. Why, if they control many of the publications that fuel this merchandising machine, would they accept a free strip that equally profits them nothing, when they can put a property they own in that space?

Imagine, if you will, that you make beer in your basement. You'd like it to promote it. You decide to go to your local bar, tell the bartender you know a lot of people who like the beer, and you'll give away all your beer to patrons for free. Oh, but you own the rights to the beer. He can't make or sell the beer himself. And any donations of sales of merhandise related to the beer go to you, not him. Explain to me why he'll do that for you when he's got a hundred customers in the back happily paying two bucks a bottle of Budweiser, with him getting a profit from the sales. Because that's basically the logic that Kurtz just dished out, and I guess I'm just really confused.

In the following weeks, there has been the typical whine-fest and claims of superiority from all avenues of the genre. But in the weeks Kurtz has had to clarify this business model, he simply hasn't.

Kurtz has an update on his site today:

Make no mistake, whatever the syndicated cartoonists say, this IS possible. It's already been done before I came along. You can get your strip into papers. You can convince editors to drop Alley-Oop and put your strip in it's place.

The only differnece, and what puts me in a unique position, is that no one has offered PvP to the papers before. No one has ever offered a strip that has an established readership and has the book and toy deals already in play. Usually the papers come first and all that comes second.

The bottom line is that I've heard from all these guys before. In fact, it was six years ago when I was first posting my strips to the web and suggested I could make a living from an internet comic. They called me crazy then, and now that I've come back to tell them it worked, they're still calling me crazy.

Sh'yeah...crazy like a FOX!

And yet he once again doesn't explain why a syndicate, or a newspaper, should care about a fan base, and especially the merchandising deals already in place, when they see none of it.

Kurtz, popular as his strip his, is very naive as far as his "power" over a syndicate is. PVP, which is probably in the top five webcomics, gets about 100,000 readers. A syndicate can distribute one strip to 500 papers, each of which have a readership of anywhere from 10,000 to 1.2 million people. Factor this in with the fact that many syndicates, such as Knight-Ridder and Universal/McMeel, actually own many of their own newspaper chains. There is no competition. There is no threat. Kurtz, I love ya, but you will never- I repeat- never- beat Garfield through the internet in terms of distribution.

What he can, and will do, however, is beat the newspapers in terms of profit ratio - that is, a higher amount of money offered per consumer. Kurtz likely takes in from one average fan what a syndicated cartoonist needs from ten times that, because of the cut going to the syndicate and legal people and all that.

I met Jon Rosenberg of Goats fame and the rest of the Dumbrella crew at a comics show last month, and I'm amazed at the potential Dumbrella has to profit almost entirely through merchandise. That's, frankly, something the published cartoonists rightfully should be drooling at the prospect of. That's the model I'd love- I think seeing someone wearing a shirt with one of my characters on it beats someone telling me they loved this week's strip any day.

The problem is that this model is very selective- for example, most political cartoonists can't make huge merchandising deals. Kurtz's method establishes the premise that comics shouldn't be considered worth paying for... simply because he offers his for free and profits. But the ratio of that success is up there with most local lotteries. Syndicates and publishers take a cut, and can be unfair. But they also get the artist money and recognition. The problem, as noted with Garfield, is how few of those strips actually deserve the money and recognition. In a perfect world Jim Davis would be a greeting card artist and Jon Rosenberg would be lighting stogies with twenties.

What is needed is an alternative, not an opposition. Instead of expressing a fantasy of "destroying" the syndicates, Kurtz could easily set up another great idea: make his own. A combination of Keenspace-style promotion and actual hands-on print-media PR staff could easily let the "popular" webcomic crowd handle press awareness for a distribution model for print media. Kurtz's problem doesn't seem to be as much with the concept of syndication itself as he is with the idea of controlling rights when syndicated. So why not make a new syndicate with its own rules?

But Kurtz doesn't want to do this. He wants to use PVP's pre-existing success to "shut down" the stranglehold the syndicates seem to have. I can't really do that. Kurtz seems to rely on this model:

1. Become internationally famous online cartoonist with a readership in the hundreds of thousands and profits from merchandising.
2. Offer your comic for free to promote your admittedly already-established-as-successful comic.
3. Profit!

Which is all fine and good- for Scott Kurtz. Penny Arcade chipped in yesterday as well:

Some people just say the same thing over and over again - how will Scott make money giving away his strip for free? How will he do it? They await his failure with delectation. I have news for those people, these lampreys fucking latched on to the ground down bones of an old order: Scott Kurtz is already a success. Idiots. He has a monthly book through Image, and characters millions of people love. He can't fail. All he can do is remain Awesome. I know you're looking forward to seeing another young buck go down. You go ahead, you ride your fucking corpse to the bottom of the sea. You can say hi to all the other outmoded exiles from modern life.
Outmoded exiles like, say, all those internet animation sites that based their model on offering free content without a pre-existing fan base. But I'm sure that's different.

I love Penny Arcade, and Tycho is a verbal genius, but Jesus, these guys are starting to sound like the Ralph Nader of the cartoon world. The answer to "well, how will you complete in the face of this?" can't be "we're the wave of the future and we're here to stay! Those syndicates won't know what hit them!" Ummm... great. That explains how this will work... how?

Tycho has missed, as has Kurtz, the glaring fallacy of his business model- because they are successful. Of course that goes against a syndicate, the purpose of a syndicate is to make a comic successful. Their properties are investments. Whether you agree with their practices or not (and like Kurtz, I don't) to say that your plan is better when your base model is the requirement to be successful in advance- something 99.9% of the people who would like this model to work aren't- then it's really grating to be offered invective when you point out the glaringly obvious fact that this new business model makes no sense whatsoever.

I don't dismiss Kurtz's plan- I would- and let me make this clear- LOVE for it to work. But in three weeks, no one has ratioanly answered this non-yet-successful cartoonist his simple question- how does this plan work when you're not successful? How does the Scott Kurtz plan work for people who aren't Scott Kurtz?

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:12 AM

August 9, 2004

How can you not?

"Sure, he's a right-wing lunatic, but he's our right-wing lunatic."
-Michael Moore on Alan Keyes and his show's endorsement after Keyes agreed to jump into a mosh pit
I've been heavy on the linking to Oliver in leiu of actually doing my own work, but I can't help it when I agree so much with him about Alan Keyes. The man is an art form in himself.

I am very confident that Keyes will be the opposite of everything the Illinois GOP hoped out of him: useless in "countering" Obama (unless the "counter" to Obama means reflecting how sensible and effective a politician he will be by placing him next to a thrice-failed ultra-conservative nutcase) and ineffective at bringing credible conservative issues to the table. Throwing Keyes in the race to promote the logic of the Republican Party is like making Ronald McDonald the new mascot for PETA.

Keyes is going to make Republicans in general look like idiots, and not just because of who he is, but because of how well Obama is going to do simply by the nature of actually being a suitable candidate for Illinois' newest Senator. In the meantime, I will share in Oliver's delight at the entrance of Keyes to Illinois politics that suits a man of his talents:

Day 1 of Keyes for Senate: My opponent is like a slaveholder. I'm just like those 9/11 firefighters. Three months to go, I'm so excited.
We all are, Oliver. Crank up the TV; I'll make the popcorn.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:46 PM

A wet sock and a mud brick

Now, that's lowering the tone. (Flash, requires sound) Via reader Jason Pauley; I take no credit for this whatsoever.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:38 PM

Newest comic - "My god, it's all coming back to me!"

Perhaps it was naive of me to think that the "you're with us or with the terrorists" mantra was done with, but the concept goes far beyond the country songs. We all know of the highly-profitable-for-Daryl-Worley "Have you Forgotten" song, but as a testament to pretending to be accurate in this cartoon, I'll make a note that the sign held by the courteous gentleman in the third panel is in fact real, the product of war supporters who, at one time, I considered capable of rational thought. Fool me once, shame on you, you fool me can't get fooled again.

Sarcasm has always been my most preferred tool in this comic, and when first hearing about the suggestion to ask people if they forgot about 9/11 because they don't like aspects of current foreign policy, I assumed that it was sarcasm as well. Most of them with weblogs, I guessed that the part of the brain responsible for archiving memories of watching 3,000 people murdered with hijacked airplanes rests in a different area of the brain as the part that stores information on how to code HTML. Other than that, how people can write on the internet while coming up with ideas as stupid as this escapes me.

Meanwhile, the only person in the country who actually acts as though he forgot what happened on 9/11 is the guy in charge of achieving justice for it. That someone can say being against the Iraq war is a sign of forgetting about 9/11 when the Iraq war is, you know, the finest example of forgetting about Osama bin Laden is a tribute to how far gone you can go if you just really want to.

Oh, and it goes without saying that you should be buying stuff.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:09 AM

August 8, 2004

What was the GOP saying about a "Coalition of the Wild-Eyed" again?

As discussed earlier, this was apparently a banner week for right-wingers going completely insane. Aside from Alan Keyes, who's always good for a larf, and the Swift Boat guy who turns out to be borderline-coherent, we had some Fox News guy losing his mind about gay people at Disneyworld. (I'm not kidding, scroll down if you missed it)

So joining the crazy Fox News guy is yet another Fox News guy, the much more famous Bill O'Reilly, who decided to elevate the national debate by calling Media Matters for America the equivalent of Communist Cuba and the Ku Klux Klan. This information was provided by MMFA employee Oliver Willis, who as a young Northeastern black man clearly embodies the iconography of today's modern white supremacy group necessary for the equating to his employer.

I wrote just a year ago about Ann Coulter and how the idea that her psychotic babble is a sign of actual mental illness isn't accurate. It's clear to anyone studying very hard that Ann Coulter knows exactly what she's saying. She's the punditry equivalent of a message board troll- throwing incendiary rhetoric to incite flustered anger from her opponent. Five minutes on the blogs proves that most people incapable of gathering facts and analysis resort to one-upsmanship. When a lefty and a righty fight online, the winner is the first person to accentuate their point with a meaningless joke about a high-ranking meember of the Senate belonging to their opponent's party of choice. And that's Coulter.

The problem isn't that she exists, but that people might actually listen to her. People got bored with Coulter, and I believe right now the darling of this genre is Michelle Malkin, author of the recent book about the benefits of Japanese internment during WWII, Hey, it's not like we cremated them alive or anything.

But O'Reilly, as was proven tonight, is not this type of person. O'Reilly is not just a pundit who wants people to believe his random bullshit, he actually believes it himself. And given the secluded, abject-denial nature of Fox News, it's very easy to understand how Bill O'Reilly might feel cornered and utterly defensive when faced with a constant refuting of... well, almost everything he says.

Ann Coulter plays a right-wing nutcase on television. Bill O'Reilly plays a bully. And when stood up to, he has to prove his image. He's failing miserably. In the field of acting the part of whatever theme you want your badass Republican secret identity to be, O'Reilly just doesn't meet Coulter's level. I've seen lunatics, but she's a professional.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:45 PM