Jan. 29, 2012: From the State of the Union to unions in the state
The presidential primaries were on hold this week while our sitting president, Barack Obama, made the annual State of the Union address on Wednesday evening. If you haven’t yet seen it, take a look at the official White House “enhanced edition” here or below:
(Note that the original broadcast did not feature the graphic “enhancements” you see here, but only showed Obama speaking and, at times, reactions to his words.)
Earlier today I was looking up news stories about Obama’s address, and I started with a few standard web searches. To my surprise, virtually none of the commentary that I found actually seemed positive. Perhaps it’s a sign of voters’ discontent that the best news about his speech was the underwhelming 37.8 million viewers he got. Obama has delivered three State of the Union addresses, starting in 2010 (his Feb. 2009 speech technically wasn’t a State of the Union address), and this was his lowest viewer tally to date. Worse yet, a Kantar Media study indicated that 27% of viewers changed the channel within the first five minutes of the broadcast, missing the speech entirely. His audience further declined throughout the address, although according to New York Times political blogger Jeremy W. Peters, “there was no single moment or line in the president’s remarks that caused viewers to leave en masse.” Maybe the lack of interest makes a degree of sense, though, since the biggest news item over the past six has been the stagnant employment and economic numbers. It’s been one depressing update after another rather than any big shock-and-awe event that would captivate us. And since many analysts are saying that he neglected many key topics, didn’t barely mentioned the flagging economy beyond denying economic problems, and as some put it, lacking any connection to reality, the speech itself may have been a 65-minute missed opportunity.
Still, not all of the analysis was quite so anti-Obama. Consider this piece which lambasted the Republican Party for their treatment of working-class Americans and, like some other commentators, applauded Obama for highlighting Warren Buffett’s secretary, Debbie Bosanek, who he said paid a higher tax rate than her billionaire boss. (This spawned an entire side debate about whether Bosanek herself makes a six-figure salary; most of this argument is summarized by this Forbes article and a response via CNBC.) With that said, I’d cite more support for this year’s State of the Union, but I’m honestly having a difficult time finding much more to that effect. Such support is surely somewhere out there, but it’s not very prominent, which may itself be meaningful.
On the other hand, some analysts have been singing the praises of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels for his cutting response to Obama’s speech. This supposed support should be qualified, though, since most of the analysts who actually bothered commenting on the Republican response were themselves right-leaning figures. As a counterpoint, consider USA Today’s fact check of Daniels’ response. It certainly calls Daniels’ ethics into question, even if the majority of his audience will never actually see their analysis of his words. In any case, if you missed the response, you can watch that video below to see whether you think it was an effective retort or a misfire:
Let’s turn our attention back to the 2012 campaign. Did you think Mitt Romney had the Republican nomination all wrapped up? He doesn’t. Real Clear Politics’ national average across all current major polls shows Newt Gingrich with a lead of almost four percentage points. Three of the four polls give Gingrich a clear edge, while the fourth, called for Romney, is a CBS News/New York Times survey which is a full week older than the other three polls. Granted, Romney still has the advantage due to his early win in New Hampshire and his virtual tie with Rick Santorum in the Iowa caucuses, but that advantage could evaporate if he keeps committing political missteps. NBC’s legal department is asking Romney to pull an advertisement that consists almost entirely of a “Nightly News” segment about Gingrich — it seems that Romney’s campaign used that material without the network’s permission — and further questionable statements on the campaign trail and in debates have tarnished the image of invincibility Romney held while fighting off his fellow Republicans just a few short weeks ago.
Gingrich, for his part, has pledged to remain in the primary race until the end, while Santorum is taking a 24-hour break, effectively conceding Tuesday’s Florida primary to his opponents due to his cash-strapped campaign. If that makes you wonder how much it costs to become president, you’re not alone. I have to wonder what our founding fathers would say if they saw how many millions (or billions) of dollars it takes to run an effective campaign in the 21st century. In any case, with Gingrich quickly emerging as a serious threat to Romney, Florida may be the turning point that ultimately decides the Republican challenger to the incumbent Obama.
Okay. Anyone from Indiana should know what story is coming next: Are you ready for some football?
If you’re involved with Occupy Wall Street or the “Right to Work” movement then, uh… no. No you’re not.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Occupy Super Bowl is on its way.
Forgive my cynicism, but I’ve spent the last three months talking about the Occupy protests, so I’m not going to spend this post rehashing the same issues. Right now, I’d honestly rather talk about Super Bowl XLVI itself, especially with just one week until Tom Brady and the powerhouse Patriots meet Eli Manning and the scrappy Giants in their Super Bowl XLII rematch. Both teams have a lot of holes to patch if they want to raise the Lombardi trophy. Let’s face facts: the Giants were actually outscored by their opponents 400-394 during the regular season, narrowly making the playoffs on a week 17 win over the rival Dallas Cowboys to reach a 9-7 record. But among those nine wins was a victory over their Super Bowl opponents, New England. As for those Patriots, their 13-3 regular season record might be a little flimsier than it appears, since they didn’t beat a team with a winning record until the AFC Championship Game (23-20 over the Baltimore Ravens), and they only beat the Ravens because of a missed field goal in the final seconds. As ESPN The Magazine reporter Seth Wickersham put it, “Call it the Romney Bowl, in which the finalists appear strong only because the rest of the field is so weak.” Both teams boast defenses as sturdy as a slice of Swiss cheese, but many commentators still think the Patriots are building a dynasty. To be fair, it’s difficult to argue with one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history, but if next Sunday is a repeat of the Patriots’ 2008 collapse, we’ll all be reassessing the question of whether a superstar offense will ever again have the last laugh over balanced opposition, mediocre though it may be. Either way, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell seems to be as happy as anyone in America about the recession/depression, as he argues that fans’ longing to be part of a group draws them toward NFL patronage when times are rough. That’s either an inspirational note about solidarity and the power of the American spirit to overcome adversity through togetherness, or the painful tone of a multimillionaire using the downtrodden economy to his advantage and laughing all the way to the bank. I haven’t decided yet.
You know my penchant for wacky news by now, so let’s close with a few more offbeat stories. If watching the Super Bowl isn’t enough excitement, you can always engage in a friendly wager. Like whether Kelly Clarkson will forget a word in the national anthem, or how long it will take her to sing the anthem, or what she’ll wear while singing it. Game? What game? The real gamblers in the room will be in the replay booth, checking whether Clarkson’s bare belly was showing at any point during the anthem. (One has to wonder, of course, why they’re so obsessed with the former American Idol winner.) Still, the big money will always be in the lottery. According to Andrew Duffelmeyer of the Associated Press, a New York attorney tried to claim a $7.5 million Iowa Lottery prize on Thursday, then quickly withdrew his claim after he couldn’t answer lotto officials’ basic questions about how he obtained the ticket. The ticket in question was purchased in December 2010 at a Des Moines gas station, and 76-year-old lawyer Crawford Shaw tried to claim the 13-month-old prize less than two hours before the winning ticket would have expired. Shaw says he doesn’t know who purchased the ticket, which is a problem for lottery officials who have to ensure that the ticket wasn’t stolen and was purchased by a valid player (as opposed to, say, a minor). Instead of telling officials by Friday who bought the ticket, as requested, Shaw withdrew his claim. Those officials are now asking the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Iowa attorney general to investigate.
Weird stuff, to be sure. None of that, though, compares to the Egg McMuffin of strange news stories. (Pardon the pun, but it was just too easy.)
Earlier this week, 17-year-old British factory worker Stacey Irvine collapsed, and she was rushed to the emergency room while struggling to breathe. Doctors discovered a host of symptoms ranging from anemia to swollen veins in her tongue, all of which stemmed from severe nutrient deficiencies. She was in such bad condition that emergency room staff actually had to inject vitamins and nutrients directly into her bloodstream. But why was she so nutrient-deprived? Because she has eaten almost nothing but McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets since she was two. Apparently Irvine’s mother let her try a McNugget 15 years ago, and the toddler immediately fell in love with the fried treat, adamantly refusing to eat anything else. To this day, Irvine has never tasted fresh fruit or vegetables, and considers a balanced meal to be McNuggets, occasionally with fries or a slice of toast. Doctors continue to tell her “to change her appalling diet or die,” and Irvine herself now says, “I am starting to realize this is really bad for me.” Well, Ms. Irvine, I’m just glad that the emergency room trip wasn’t too subtle of a hint for you.
Other articles of interest:
College presidents wary of Obama cost-control plan
Six Costa Concordia cruise shipwreck survivors file suit in Miami Federal Court seeking $460 million in damages
Connecticut killer sentenced to die for “unimaginable horror”
Erin Brockovich investigating mystery illness affecting NY teens
Tainted imported orange juice banned in U.S.
French ELLE Article’s Racist Remarks Spark Boycott
Twitter Gives Itself Added Flexibility to Censor
Nintendo predicts first annual loss, lowers earnings forecast
Apple iPad: Happy 2nd Birthday
Apollo 1: The Fire That Shocked NASA
Awwww: Read a 7-year-old’s heart-melting letter to Kyle Williams
Tags: AFC Championship, American Idol, Andrew Duffelmeyer, Associated Press, Baltimore Ravens, Barack Obama, CBS News, Chicken McNuggets, CNBC, Crawford Shaw, Dallas Cowboys, Debbie Bosanek, Des Moines, economy, Egg McMuffin, Eli Manning, ESPN The Magazine, Florida, Forbes, Great Britain, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa caucuses, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, Iowa Lottery, Jeremy W. Peters, Kantar Media, Kelly Clarkson, Lombardi trophy, McDonald's, Mitch Daniels, Mitt Romney, NBC, New England Patriots, New Hampshire, New York, New York Giants, New York Times, Newt Gingrich, Nightly News, Occupy Super Bowl, Occupy Wall Street, presidential primaries, Real Clear Politics, Republicans, Rick Santorum, Right to Work, Roger Goodell, Seth Wickersham, Stacey Irvine, State of the Union, Super Bowl XLVI, Tom Brady, USA Today, Warren Buffett