Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Scariest Thing on Halloween


Whether the larger point here is for kids to stop wearing plastic "ugly teeth" on Halloween, or to ban or heavily regulate the kind of trash that China floods the American market with is for you to decide....

Sunday, October 28, 2007


My life will be in danger after I post this.

But if any baseball fan thinks the Red Sox win as much as they do because of the support of "Red Sox Nation," incredible team spirit, and playing in "America's Favorite Ballpark" they are forgetting one very important thing...


The Red Sox have it, others don't.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

From the State House to the White House

Barack Obama was in town tonight for a rally with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. This time last year it was Obama who made campaign stops during Patrick's gubernatorial campaign, but today was Patrick's turn to weigh in on the presidential election with a nice juicy endorsement of his own.

The Obama campaign says they drew a crowd of 9,500 on the Common, but the numbers are less important than what the event means for the presidential election right now: Hillary can't slack off.

Sure, Clinton may lead in early polls, but if college students and energized Americans can skip studying and prime-time television for a few hours to wait for and listen to Obama in threatening weather, they might just take a break to vote for him in the coming election. Throw in the high number of Clinton supporters who say they aren't completely sold on their candidate, and you've got a recipe for surprisingly strong showings from Barack in Iowa and New Hampshire.

If an idea for a longer event summary comes to mind I'll write it up this weekend.

(all photos: 2007 by Luke N. Vargas. All Rights Reserved.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

It's Over.

Chuck Norris endorsed Mike Huckabee today, end of story.

"When the boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris."

Giuliani, Romney, and Thompson better start watching out for Huckabee too--this guy is no benchwarmer anymore.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The First Domino Falls

Word is that Senator Sam Brownback will be the next to drop out of the 2008 presidential race (read it HERE).

I never spent much time following Brownback around New Hampshire, but the few times I saw him summed up his campaign's basic strength and biggest barrier pretty easily: Brownback was interesting enough to listen to, but neither charismatic or bold enough to seek out. In fact, the one memory I will have of Brownback once the '08 election wraps up is that he had a joint campaign stop with Democrat Joe Biden on their Iraq federal proposal.

So what does this mean for the GOP field?

Is a Brownback endorsement for Huckabee or John McCain coming?

Though Brownback never rallied the entire Christian right as he hoped, throwing his weight behind Huckabee would be a big move, and one that could really kick-start the Governor's campaign and give him the traction he needs.

And with that, best of luck to Brownback in the 2010 Kansas Governor race!

(photo credit: 2007 by Luke N. Vargas. All Rights Reserved.)

Huckabee, $$, and Ron Paul

All the analysts say Mike Huckabee has the charm, but not the traction to be a viable GOP candidate. Those analysts can make whatever claims they want, but the newest Rasmussen poll has Huckabee at 18% in the state, only 7 points behind Mitt Romney, and statistically tied with Fred Thompson.

So what's holding Huckabee back on a national level? Let these two graphics from the homepages of Huckabee and Ron Paul:


-Ron Paul-

Yeah, that's right. Ron Paul is looking to raise $4 million before the end of the month. Huckabee on the other hand is looking for only $200,000.

Since starting this post a little over 20 minutes ago, the Paul campaign has brought in an additional $2,000 versus Huckabee's $300.

Regardless, these two guys have spent a combined $4 million on their campaigns--can Mitt Romney, Clinton, or Obama say they've done so much with the money they've spent as Huckabee and Paul have done for elevating political discourse in this country?

I think not.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Just Photos

Sadly, Hillary Clinton's event at Boston's Symphony Hall left me with few words to say--and not in a good way.

Maybe the two hours of speakers introducing her, the hip-hop cover band, or the Goo Goo Dolls wore me out before Clinton got on stage. I'll make sure to avoid fundraisers in the future.

(All photos: Luke N. Vargas. 2008. All Rights Reserved)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sticking Around

My audio recording from Joe Biden's event at Plymouth State University this past Saturday is the longest in my collection—2:35:17 is how long it lasts.

I expected to stick around to hear Biden speak for around an hour before heading back down south for a Romney event in the evening--what would Biden have to say anyways?

Turns out Senator Biden kept me enraptured just listening to him, and I ended up clearing my planned events for the rest of the day.

The event took place in a small hall at Plymouth state that could probably hold ten times the number of people who showed up, and Biden began talking by pulling out a line he picked up in his years as a politician "there are crowds too small to give a speech to, and too large to have a conversation with." Erring on the side of intimacy, Biden said he'd enjoy conversing with those assembled, and he certainly didn't hide behind a podium.

Throughout the hour and a half Biden spent speaking and answering questions from the audience, he would repeatedly take a seat next to the person asking him a question, hold someone by the shoulder and speak directly to them, or put the weight of his leg up on an empty chair. Even Biden's idea of a conversation was more affectionate than most of the event's attendees could have anticipated, and the relaxed atmosphere allowed both Biden and the audience to loosen up and answer and ask questions in a more straightforward fashion.

Hillary Clinton take note—your "conversations" with voters ain't nothing like this.

Biden is known as the "foreign policy expert" of the field of presidential candidates, and is often mentioned as the ideal Secretary of State for the more "viable" candidates, but his knowledge of America's foreign policy wasn't the only bit of intelligence that stood out. The questions posed by professors and students of Plymouth State, as well as some local residents, were by far the most articulate, detailed, and sincere questions I have seen asked of any candidate since the presidential campaign season kicked off early this year. And unlike the candidates who stumble when the zingers are thrown at them, Biden shined the most when the details of his federal proposal for Iraq were asked about in detail, or another example when he was asked to explain the intricacies of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and how it could be remedied.

Yes, after only two questions that brought out passionate and well-crafted answers from Biden's amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill, one member of the audience expressed enough confidence in Biden's way of thinking that he was curious to see what the Senator thought about one of the most difficult and nuanced conflicts in the world. For a moment it seemed as if the audience of professors and parents were asking questions of some visiting professor themselves; Biden's course would certainly be an enlightening one.

"Professor, how do you fix the conflict between two hostile nations?"

Biden tackled the question by first asking if anyone else had questions that had to do with Israel and Palestine, obviously preparing for a long string of remarks that could be adapted to address whatever anyone wanted to know about.

Nobody else had anything to add, and Biden took about twenty minutes to give his explanation. For every minute, however, both the political science professor and the first-year undergraduate nodded in approval. Biden's words fit in perfectly with the educated and historical perspectives the teachers and students were familiar with from their studies. Unfortunately, in presidential politics it is often the professors and students that watch in disbelief as our leaders repeat every mistake of history and see the world through naive eyes and make imprudent decisions.

Biden is often labeled as "long-winded" and "rambling," but those words seem better fit on someone who doesn't know what they're talking about and ends up tracking all around an issue before finding the answer they want. Biden instead is intelligent and well-versed in the things he talks about, and his mastery of public speaking enables him to adjust his volume and passion whenever he becomes involved in explaining an issue.

I thought Biden would hop in a campaign vehicle and speed off after he finished answering questions, but he did nothing of the sort. True to his thorough tendencies, he not only signed his campaign posters and took photos with students, but he answered questions one-on-one for over an hour. As time passed, Biden grabbed a bottle of water, took off his suit jacket, and took a seat in the first row of seats. Around him a small group of reporters, students, and supporters filled in the chairs around, and I even felt so comfortable to take a seat on the floor in front of him.

A true conversation began--those who stuck around, myself included, would throw in words in the middle of Biden's sentences, seeking more specific explanations or suggesting possible ideas to him. Many candidates can't afford to take the time to engage in such a personal interaction with voters, but if I'd never seen the true "New Hampshire campaign way" before, this was it.

(all photos: 2007 by Luke N. Vargas. All Rights Reserved.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Obama + Energy Plan = Success

Finally, Barack's paired his biggest strength with the one thing I didn't think he could do: combining his inspirational vision for America with a detailed and progressive energy policy. The result is a great plan that stands out as one of Obama's new biggest strengths.

I have been proud of my solid support of Chris Dodd's energy and environmental proposals--they are truly tremendous and deserve the widespread support they have received from influential members of the environmental community--but Obama's plan somehow stands out as being feasible, inspiring, and very forward-thinking all at once.

I could comment on some of the details of Obama's plan, such as establishing a grant program for states and cities that implement energy efficient building codes first, creating a Clean Technologies Development Venture Capital Fund to pump money into new technologies, and sharing those new American technologies with developing countries around the world. I could also talk about how much enthusiasm for his proposals that I heard in the invitation-only crowd after Obama's remarks. But of everything today, the one thing that stuck out the most was hearing Obama ask questions of the woman touring him around newly-built and green Portsmouth Library.

After being told about the building's construction and reduced environmental footprint, Obama adroitly asked what percentage of the building's emissions came from heating and cooling. It turns out that the issue of providing air conditioning and heat for construction is one of the hardest areas to reduce emissions in, and Obama knew that. Even when the librarian stumbled on her words regarding the project's environmental initiatives, Obama stepped in and moved the discussion back on track and talked about the need for new government construction be emission-free by 2025.

Obama's speech also showed one of his biggest strengths: his ability to eloquently continue one of his points through the interruptions of applause, laughter, or because his head wasn't pointed at one of his prompters. Sure, Obama couldn't touch Joe Biden on a script-less foreign policy debate, but for the first time in the campaign he seems to have found something he can talk about with confidence and conviction anytime and with anyone.

Does he stand a chance against Hillary in the coming months of the campaign? Who knows. Obama isn't a lightweight anymore though, and his dedication to his energy proposal shows he has the rare ability of staying true to what issues matter most even when you're in the spotlight.

Keep it up.

(all photos: 2007 by Luke N. Vargas. All Rights Reserved.)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Answer and Walk Away

I was thinking this morning about these two guys who showed up at the Mitt Romney event on Saturday morning. One of them I've seen at about a dozen events around New Hampshire the past few months, and every opportunity he gets he asks a question about arresting dying people who are using medical marijuana. John McCain. Mike Huckabee. It seems every Republican has been nagged by this guy.

Honestly, the prospect of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes doesn't scare me too much, so I have nothing against a question about the topic being asked. My main complaint is the way these medical marijuana people are trying to get attention.

It seems that Granite Staters in wheelchairs are the new ticket to asking the medical marijuana question. In the middle of Romney's speech it was just such a person that quietly wheeled his way to the side of the stage and waited for Romney to finish speaking before stating that he had tried every prescription medicine with no success and wanted to know if Mitt would "arrest me and my doctors."


I wouldn't criticize this kind of setup if the guy asking the question wasn't being filmed by the medical marijuana man, was actually worried about having his dogs taken away, and had no access to any basic form of communications that would easily inform him that Romney and the other top Republicans will NEVER advocate the legalization of marijuana--it's like asking Pat Robertson if he supports abortion.

Romney listened intently to the man in the wheelchair's question, but he realized quickly what situation he was finding himself in with the question. After a short while Romney stood up to walk away and restated to the man that no matter what story he had or what case he would make for medical marijuana that he would not support it. With that, the man with the video camera pointed his lens straight at Romney, raised his voice, and asked why he wouldn't answer the question from a GUY IN A WHEELCHAIR!! "I believe I just spoke with him," was Romney's response.

Because god forbid a candidate not let himself be continually trashed by medical marijuana activists at the expense of seeming rude to a disabled person!

The guy with the camera quickly marched off to the back of the room (but not outside to his car--why actually stomp out in anger if you could linger around and try to get at Romney on the way out?) and muttered "asshole!" loud enough for everyone to hear him.

Decide for yourself, but I like the way other interest groups are getting their issues out there way more than this medical marijuana thing. PrioritiesNH drives their busses around and is greeted with curious smiles wherever they go, the "I'm a Healthcare Voter" people ask insightful questions and prepare creative presentations for the candidates (ex. health care invoices), and the SEIU just wants candidates to see what it's like to work like one of their union members for a day. Those groups are smart because they know when to stop being pushy and understand that voters come to campaign events in New Hampshire for the honest and intimate atmosphere, not for the spectacles of annoyance that video cameras and excessive bird-dogging cause.

(all photos: 2007 by Luke N. Vargas. All Rights Reserved.)

Only a Wife in Name

Yes, Elizabeth Edwards is THAT good.

Ms. Edwards' first words in Concord, NH on Sunday were that she was going to focus the event on health care. With a husband as invested in health care as John Edwards is, it's not hard to know where her knowledge of the issue comes from. Blowing my expectations away, however, Ms. Edwards knew about more than health care; she eloquently answered questions about Darfur and other topics, took tremendous effort to address specific questions tried to clarify what she was being asked if it wasn't clear (it seems easy, but most politicians use those opportunities to jump to their talking points), and spoke and connected with people from the heart.

Some have criticized the campaign tactics of John and Elizabeth of late, but the one story I never jumped on was the $400 haircut fiasco. Why? Because I've never doubted the honest intentions of the Edwards family. I know that John is dedicated to the issue of poverty in America and I can feel the compassion and caring of Elizabeth when she speaks with voters, especially those afflicted by serious illness. "Hope" means one thing from Barack Obama, but it means something else from John and Elizabeth Edwards.

I can't help but think that I ended up at Elizabeth's event by accident--a spur of the moment New Hampshire stop after showing up a week early for an environmental conference in Manchester. John Edwards is one of the only candidates I haven't spend much time covering in New Hampshire, and I certainly won't avoid him the next time he's in the state. And that's all because of his wife--only Bill Clinton plays at this level.

People often tout Bill Richardson's name around as a potentially-successful Senator, and while his home state of New Mexico is of more importance to the Democrats than North Caroline, Elizabeth Edwards sure seems like she'd make an exceptional politician herself. Ms. Edwards is only a wife by name--too often the word in politics comes to symbolize the Stepford spouses that hold their husband's hand and visit preschools--she's a terrific orator and public servant.

Though she may not have the businesswoman look of Michelle Obama, the riches of Cindy McCain, and the convenient phone-calling of Judith Giuliani, Elizabeth Edwards brings to her husband's campaign even more of what it thrives off of--honesty, compassion, intelligence, and the aura of a best friend. Whether speaking on increasing nursing education, the importance of personal diagnosis from local doctors, or the courage shown by one man at the event who had learned the complex processes involved in caring for a loved one, Elizabeth Edwards confides in her audiences rather than pontificate to them.

The media is quick to announce that Ms. Edwards is breaking campaign convention by maintaining such a high profile and hitting the trail herself, but on the ground her presence is so welcomed and refreshing that it seems strange anyone would need to make a big deal of it. The atmosphere at Sunday's event was so comfortable that Elizabeth would, in an unembarrassed manner, blow her nose when she needed and accept an offer of a small pack of tissues from one man in the audience. Maybe that only happened because she's not a big-shot politician who relies on a pack of eager staffers to give her whatever she needs a moment's notice, but as long as she keeps doing what she's been doing, she'll be one of the greatest factors working to the advantage of John Edwards in the coming months.

(all photos: 2007 by Luke N. Vargas. All Rights Reserved.)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Few Days Behind

I havn't had time to write up anything about the events of today or yesterday, but that doesn't mean I will forget them easily.

To say that Joe Biden's event at Plymouth State yesterday was anything short of unforgettable would be a disservice to his character, his extraordinary political knowledge, and his exceptionally generous and warmhearted campaign.

In fact, I ended up staying at Biden's event for nearly three hours, consciously allowing myself to miss the final two events I was planning to cover yesterday. I couldn't have cared less.

Throw in some Mitt Romney, yard sales, what felt like a summer day at Lake Winnipesaukee, and Elizabeth Edwards and you've got two busy days in New Hampshire.

(all photos: © 2007 by Luke N. Vargas. All Rights Reserved.)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The sun will rise in 25 minutes, and it won't set for another twelve hours.

Before then, according to GoogleMaps, I'll have logged 5:38 minutes of driving time....minimum.

Bring it on.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

As Far as Predictions Go...

I'm not an Obama fan, but I'm a big fan of the new video his campaign has put together of his speeches in opposition to the Iraq war dating back to 2002.

As far as predictions of troublesome conflicts go I'd be a lot happier with Obama than I am with Dick Cheney. There's flip-flopping and then there's ignoring everything you once believed:

Monday, October 1, 2007

Freedom Facts?!

For some reason I ended up on the Operation Iraqi Freedom homepage today and couldn't help but notice the "Freedom Fact" on the right side of the page.

Man, I'm just overjoyed that the Army Corps of Engineers has been so successful in getting Iraq's oil extraction capacity up to 3 million barrels a day! I'm sure the citizens of New Orleans will be rolling with happiness to have cheaper gas prices the next time their levees crumble and they need to evacuate again.

Also, since when was one of our goals for success in Iraq "increasing crude oil infrastructure"?