Monday, January 30, 2012

Facebook, 2012, and Times Square

Want to share your views on the pressing issues of the day? Want to see your face and views up in the lights of Times Square?

According to an article in today's New York Times, Facebook users will have the opportunity to vote on key political issues using the new app 2012Matters. The non-partisan polling app will touch on nine issues during the course of the election cycle including: the economy, health care, immigration, social issues, energy, Social Security, debt, national security and the environment. 

After users rank what they see as the personal importance of these nine issues, they'll have the option of sharing their poll rankings (and their Facebook photo) on the Nasdaq billboard in Times Square. The billboards will highlight how the importance of these key issues varies by state.

The 2012 Matters app represents an interesting bridging of political sentiment with new technology and allows users to express their political viewpoints in one of the most public of spaces -- Times Square. Moreover, the app is designed to encourage political engagement among those who might not normally follow political campaigns or issue debates that closely.

The analytic capabilities for academic researchers are promising as are the benefits with respect to civic and political engagement. The new effort reminds me of some clever work analyzing the sentiments present in New Years Eve wishes by colleagues in computer science from UW-Madison.

For more check out the app, here.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Stephen Colbert -- Children's Book Author?

While the interplay between Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on campaign finance reform and who should control the Super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow is receiving a lot of attention and is a recent focal point of the two shows, sometimes it's nice to pause and appreciate the comic abilities of the show hosts.

This past week Stephen Colbert broadcast a series of interviews with legendary children's book author Maurice Sendak. The dialogue in the clips is particularly amusing and helps to showcase Colbert's ability to do what he does best -- comedy. So often academic researchers, myself included, focus on the political implications of everything Stephen Colbert or Jon Stewart say and do on their shows. Sometimes it's important to just appreciate their work as comedians and be entertained -- just for fun's sake.

In the spirit of focusing on comedy and a good laugh, here are the two interview clips. Enjoy for a good weekend laugh!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Michael K Williams (aka Omar) in a new PSA for Marriage Equality

If you're a fan of The Wire, it's quite possible that Omar is one of your favorite characters and Michael K. Williams is therefore one of your favorite actors on the series.

Whether good or bad, for those outside Maryland, Omar and The Wire drive impressions of Baltimore.

As it turns out, Michael K. Williams is the latest in a string of of folks who are speaking out for marriage equality in Maryland. Check out the PSA below:

Same-Sex Marriage debate heats up in Maryland

Both Washington state and Maryland will be considering the same-sex marriage issue yet again this winter. A report in today's New York Times suggests that the Washington legislature now has enough votes to pass the measure, making Washington the seventh state to legalize gay marriage.

Can Maryland be the 8th state?

A new report in today's Baltimore Sun outlines the specifics of the bill Governor O'Malley submitted to the state legislature last night. Included are greater protections for both religious leaders and institutions that oppose same-sex marriage. While there was strong support for an alternate bill in the Senate last year, the bill fell short of the votes needed to pass in the House of Delegates. This year O'Malley plans to be more active in the debate, leading the push to see the measure passed.

Stay tuned as both sides gear up for a battle in Maryland.

For more, check out coverage of the effort in The Washington Post.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Lack of Coordination: Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart Push Ahead in South Carolina

One of the best things about Jon Stewart taking over the Colbert Super PAC, now aptly dubbed The Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC, is that the two comedians get to push the legal boundaries of what it means to not coordinate.

Here's just one example of non-coordination that aired on last night's episode of The Daily Show:

Seems as non-coordinated as Gingrich's call to the Super PAC supporting his candidacy -- Winning Our Future -- to correct any inaccuracies in the attack videos airing against Mitt Romney. The Colbert/Stewart effort also seems as non-coordinated as Mitt Romney's connections with those running Restore Our Future which has already spent $2.3 million dollars on ads in South Carolina.

I don't know about you, but I'm eager to see some more non-coordination between Stewart and Colbert. Their on-air meetings have added a new twist to the shows and presumably the ratings.

Colbert South Carolina Ads

Feel persuaded to vote for Stephen Colbert in the upcoming South Carolina primary on January 21st?

I don't know about you, but I'm enjoying the ads even if I can't vote in South Carolina.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Not Sure about Mitt: Vote Colbert in South Carolina

If you subscribe to emails from the Colbert Super PAC like I do or if you're just a frequent viewer of The Colbert Report or even someone who spends time on social networking sites, you'll by now know that Stephen Colbert has turned over the leadership of his Super PAC (Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow) to Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show.

Colbert is taking a step back from the Super PAC so that he can be considered as a candidate for president in the upcoming South Carolina primary on January 21st.

Here's Stephen's take on his electability in South Carolina and his popularity as a Mitt-ternative.

Since candidates are technically not allowed to coordinate with super PACs, it makes sense that Stephen Colbert can't remain as the director of Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. Trevor Potter, Colbert's lawyer explained the prohibition on last night's show. Here's a clip of the discussion and Colbert's handing over the reins to Jon Stewart. It seems it doesn't even matter that Stewart and Colbert are business partners. That doesn't count as coordination. Really?

While Colbert's candidacy is meant as a joke, his Super PAC and involvement in the 2012 campaign has attracted a fair amount of media attention. Check out Brian Stelter's piece in today's New York Times for just one recent example. It's also important to note that the piece appeared alongside articles about more "serious" candidates running in the 2012 South Carolina GOP primary.

While there are in fact some obstacles to Stephen Colbert actually being a legitimate candidate in South Carolina, there is the possibility that he may attract a small but decent amount of voters and actually be seen by some as a potential alternative to the current pool of candidates.

All in all, the transfer of Super PAC leadership and the focus on attracting voters in South Carolina increases the profile and impact of Stephen Colbert and even Jon Stewart. This latest development brings attention yet again to campaign finance reform and the ability of Super PACs to influence elections given their ability to purchase television airtime for these non-coordinated ads.

Looks like it will be a fun week or so as we approach the South Carolina primary.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Santorum continues to Offend

All eyes are on New Hampshire this evening as the GOP primary there draws to a close.

It seems that Rick Santorum has continued to ruffle feathers -- this time his comments aren't directly tied to the gay and lesbian community -- now he's making controversial comments about members of the African-American community and entitlement programs. Specifically, Santorum is reported to have commented on January 1 in Sioux City, Iowa:

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum singled out blacks as being recipients of assistance through federal benefit programs, telling a mostly-white audience he doesn't want to "make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money.

Of course, like any skillful politician, Santorum is trying to deny that he really made the controversial remarks directed at African-Americans. In fact, Santorum said that he wasn't really saying the word "black," -- just a simple twist of the tongue. Here's Stephen Colbert's take on Santorum's comments from last night's broadcast of The Colbert Report.

And for more on Santorum and other GOP candidates controversial remarks, check out Frank Bruni's latest column in the NY Times.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Many Talents of Stephen Colbert

This weekend's NYT Magazine section has a great cover story on the many "faces" of Stephen Colbert. Comedian, family man, and now chairman of his own Super PAC (Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow), Colbert is living proof that late night comedy can truly influence American politics.

And of course there's Colbert's ability to influence everyday American life:

There is a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor named after Colbert (Colbert’s Americone Dream) and a NASA exercise device (the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Elliptical Trainer, or Colbert) and a minor-league hockey team mascot (Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle) in Saginaw, Mich.

I'm a bit partial to the NASA device -- here's an illustration:

Of course, it's Colbert's performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2006 that really started to help the comedian capture the attention of mainstream news outlets and political junkies alike. For a flashback, check out the video below.

All in all a great read for those who are big fans of The Colbert Report and for those of us academics who have shown through research that exposure to political comedy can help to inform the electorate -- particularly younger citizens and those who are less likely to pay attention to politics.

Stay tuned for more research on the impact of The Colbert Report and other late night comedy programs like Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Santorum: The Butt of the Joke on The Daily Show & The Colbert Report (pun intended)

While Mitt Romney is technically the winner of the spoils of Iowa -- by a mere 8 votes -- it seems that Rick Santorum is the media's new darling.

For late night political comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, Santorum's surge and his infamous "Google Problem" provided some rich material for the start of the new year.

The Stewart clip below is laugh-out-loud funny and will make you think twice about digging into that leftover holiday box of chocolates.

The Colbert clip offers a nice primer on Santorum's "Google Problem" for those in need of a refresher on the alternative definition of "santorum."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Iowa 2012: Victory for V-Neck Sweater Vests (and Santorum)?

I'm anxiously awaiting the results of the 2012 GOP Iowa Caucus. Will Mitt Romney be able to secure more than 25% of the vote? Will Ron Paul eek out a Mike Huckabee style victory? Or will Santorum and his v-neck sweater vests make the most of some recent momentum?

While the New York Times sweater vest story (link above) is a funny one, nothing beats these proposed Santorum newspaper headlines, a fun list that pays tribute to Santorum's Google problem.

While Romney remains as the presumptive nominee even with a second or third place finish in Iowa, a second place finish (or even a good showing) for either Santorum or Paul will keep the respective #2 candidate in the media spotlight.

If it's Santorum in the news, you can bet the headlines, the sweater vests, and the association with the Google problem will only continue on to New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Speaking of Same-Sex Marriage: Bill Maher's Rules for the New Year

Bill Maher, host of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher offers his list of new rules for the new year in today's New York Times. You can read the full list here.

My personal favorite:

New Rule You can’t be against same-sex marriage and for Newt Gingrich. No man has ever loved another man as much as Newt Gingrich loves Newt Gingrich.

Happy 2012!

Obama's Surrogates and the Issue of Same-Sex Marriage

President Obama continues to "evolve" with respect to his stance on same-sex marriage. In recent months, he's repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell, instructed the Justice Department not to defend DOMA, and supported the statements of surrogates like Hillary Clinton and others who are championing the cause of gay rights, in this case on an international stage.

Whether Obama shows his support for same-sex marriage before the November 2012 election remains to be seen, yet speculation abounds. While recent polls have shown that a majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage, it may be more prudent for Obama to wait until 2013 to reach "total evolution." Much of this will of course depend on how his poll numbers look among key groups of swing voters. In the meantime, look for federal agencies and cabinet officials to pick up the slack and champion a more inclusive outlook.