Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Lyricist stares REALITY in the face ... and lazily rewrites THE ART OF THE POSSIBLE to fit the mood

Understanding the "normal" constraints of Hollywood careers far more than he lets on, the Lyricist -- who doesn't compromise when any "reasonable" person would -- expresses empathy, but not forgiveness ... in song:


[SUNG TO THE MELODY OF EVITA'S
"THE ART OF THE POSSIBLE"]


Low budget films
are not precise.

You're forced to cut
the corners twice.

Some-times ... it's not nice
practicing ... the ART ... of the possible.


The time you have
is not enough.

The polished dreams
must be left rough.

Lies and ... PR puff.
Practicing ... the ART .. of the possible.


When someone buys
the pitch you made ...

... the show goes on
though plans you've laid ...

... aren't right. Now you're afraid.
HOLLYWOOD ... the ART ... of the possible.


BULLSHIT's required
to start "the game."

Then make it true --
almost the same.

SOME-TIMES ... you can't tame
what you tried... This time ... it's impossible.



[I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to Veritas saying something ... like, um, Veritas would say it ... but, of course, inspired by all this singing {smile} ... to a sublime new state of Veritas-ness.]

P.S. (A CLUE) CUT the bullshit and EMBRACE the impossibility of what was attempted. Consider a different editing "frame."

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Waiting for the chickens to cross hit the road, Lyricist sings of "El candidato de la gente" (Argentina's Reality TV Political Experiment)


While Veritas -- adorned in a fetching little black dress -- paints the town in phosphorescent clue-revealing dust ...

... the Lyricist ponders Apples and Googles ... but then settles
on another song fragment from
Evita:


[SUNG TO THE MELODY OF EVITA'S "WHAT'S NEW, BUENOS AIRES"] (Duh!)
WHAT'S NEW ... Buenos Aires?
YOU, TOO ...
CAN BE A LEADER ...
... all you gotta do is GET IN LINE!


We ... know ... you'll ... do fine.

JUST WAIT RIGHT HERE ... Buenos Aires.
STEP BACK ...
UNTIL your name is called and we will see ...
... if you've got a touch of star quality.


Pin that badge ... on your chest ... Take a rest.
There's eight hundred before you.

Prime your head... for the press ... There's a journalist
waiting to grill you.

All you'll get ...
is a moment to express ...
just WHAT you are... IN TERMS THE PRESS can handle.

YOUR TURN, Buenos Aires.
T-V ...
might leap you to the very top ...
... of so-ci-e-ty.


The chances ... you missed ...in your life
may now all be transcended.

A new People's Party ... with you at the head
when show's ended.

SIXTEEN FOLKS ... from the hundreds that are here.
THE PRESS-CLASS makes that CHOICE ...
and THEN comes voting.


THAT'S HOW ... Buenos Aires
PLAYED IT ... A lot more open than what happened HERE:
where it's closed... but queer.

[AND AS THE MUSIC FADES ... NOTHING EXCEPTIONAL HAPPENS ... NOT YET.]

Monday, June 28, 2004

The Lyricist Sings of the much less than "one thousand" (applicants)


SUNG TO THE MELODY FROM "EVITA"
3. ON THIS NIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS


[CHE-ME SPEAK-SINGS THE INTRO]

SOME PEOPLE COMPLAIN: ...
"What's happened to this blog-space?"
... "Has Veritas been smoking weed?"

"Analysis gone! ... It's crazy Broadway re-writes!"
("She was our clear-eyed 'bitch,'
from the time they hit Keene.")

... "Would the Broadway singers GET OUT?!?
These Broad-way sing-ers...

[SPOKEN] "Lyricist" ... Who is he?
[SUNG]Who has the distinction of being the first
man to
use this form to ... (Fill in this blank space.)


[THE LYRICIST SINGS THE SONG]
Who told you ... there's ... a ... "thousand stars?"
Don't look now ... there's just three ninety-eight.
They've been falling like Chinese with SARS.
They don't like their fate.

In the GLOW ... OF ... THEIR ... video lights ...
where they sought im-mor--tal--i-ty ...
Then signed away ... all ... their... video rights ...
to the powers ... that be.

[BRIDGE]
They never dreamed Cutler would ... cloak his eyes with his hood,
and not see they could shine.

How could it turn this weird... so much worse than they feared...
Cutler crossed the line.

Some pulled down their page ... out of justified rage ...
but most people remain.

The three-ninety eight ... who worked hard just to wait ...
That's insane.

[THE BIG FINISH]
It's not right. ...
It's not right. ...
It's not right ...
they ... chose ... other folks ...
by an arrogant power play.
They treated us ... like ... some mangy jokes.
NO IT'S .... NOT ... O ..... K!

[AND AS THAT HIGH NOTE HOLDS FOREVER ... WE FADE OUT FOR TONIGHT]

Friday, June 25, 2004

American Candidate Showtime: Veritas Enters Left

Where oh where has my Veritas gone …
Where oh where can she be?


I'm sure I heard that, somewhere.

Here?
Where
the art of the possible has suddenly shifted to covering AmCan as Evita?

As a mere observer of American Candidate's
tasteless phenomenon, one has to admire the
PR management of the press.
There again perhaps I'm more than a mere observer.

Look at my blog – New York was on the money –
the place where stage, management, and marketing meet.

Evita's and AmCan's
Big Apple.
And look! It's even Gay Pride Week.
The perfect chance for AmCan to say

I'd Be Surprisingly Good for You
to the gay community … as Showtime proudly sings its celebration of 2004 Pride with American Candidate.

There again, though, perhaps I'm just confused.
As confused as the press that can't see the issues
through AmCan's sleight of hand and lack of news.

Kidnapping will do that to you.

But there's a song there below.
So why not start there and see where
this musical will go?

The lyricist left off where the story begins of the press,
and the perfect missing of the point.
I'll give it a try.

(SUNG TO: "Oh, What A Circus" from EVITA --
beginning at the bridge)


Sing you fools! But you got it wrong
It seems you're duped by Am Can's songs.
The show is dead, and Cutler's through.
The vision has been turned to poo!

Show business kept the scam alive
until the press released the FIVE.
The idea was gone, and the hope worn thin.
That's a pretty bad state for a show to be in.

But Showtime's still trying to use the press
to repeat old news and miss the real mess.
And most of them do – it's hard to resist.
They haven't said much so why get so pissed.

And who am I who dares to keep
my voice still raised against this heap?
Why the exception to the rule?
Opportunist? Traitor? Fool?


Or simply one who watched it all
and saw a good idea fall
from lack of care and stupid moves –
confusion that the press approves!

Supporter buttons. There's one case
to show AmCan's quick fall from grace.
But those who cry out Perfidy!
Have focused wrong and cannot see.

Supporter buttons aren't the point!
Just clues to MORE that's out of joint!



Don't cry for Joe Caulfield's high clicks!
For he knew clicks were fixed, and not to be trusted.
THEY'RE NOT the story -- quite un-important.
And undeserving of such attention
Unless we think harder, I think we should.
WE MUST LOOK FARTHER ... BEYOND the BULLSHIT.


(And now, I can hear the outrage.
How dare I dismiss him on stage!
Joe knows he's a villain, okay.
He accepted the role and played.

And now that's gone and stopped the flow.
May as well break and see where this goes.)



How am I doing so far lyricist?

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

AmCan Sham, The Musical! - The Lyricist's Song for the Angels (who are deciding whether to invest ... more)


With Veritas mysteriously away from her truth-seeking-duties... The Lyricist sings in a voice strangely like Mandy Potamkin on an unusual day (to the tune of "Oh, What A Circus" from Evita):



Oh what's this AmCan ... T-V Show?

Argentina has run this down ...

... and found ... it turned out a ... "hurt hybrid of death."


"The Rev-o-lu-tion"
... just cannot ... grow out of ... misleading ...

... the people ... to waste so ... much time --

when they're NOT... CONSIDERED ... AT ALL.


Look for an exit! ... That's what I'd do.

Don't let Sumner ring your curtain down ...

for being a player who hasn't a clue.


The jig is up guys! ... Cutler has blown it

and may not survive ... with all of his luster intact.

This may be Lewinsky for him.


But who is the saint who could save you?

THE ONE who ... knew HOW ...TO DO THIS.

You never asked him...
So now you suffer --

The price of BULLSHIT.... Yes, that's what this is.


YOU START WITH BULLSHIT ... you can-not fly.

It's best you just stay on the ground ...

or land just as soon as you possibly can.


THERE'S NO RE-DEMP-TION ...

There's only... the price of ... the mess that ... you made

of something that had something good ...

at the HEART ... of it all.


(Sing something Spanish.
Fill in ... this part ... the ... Chorus sings.

La la la la ... La la la ... La la ...

I would bet you ... can do this... much better ... than I.

Why am I vam-ping? ...
Just waiting ... for news of ... what NEW sil-ly thing ...

the candidates are going to do ....
... -- I don't CARE anymore!)



You let down the people, Oh AmCan !

You were supposed ... to have been ... a good show.

But you're a stinker.... Because you screwed them.

You led them on... Now WE are angry.


NOW USUALLY that wouldn't matter ...

BUT NOW ... the world... is changing.

The ways of power... slip out from under

you as you sit there... Yes WE are right here...



[SOUND FADES OUT ... FOR TONIGHT]

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

American Candidate (Showtime): Start Spreading the News!

Coming to the Whitechapel Theater off Broadway TODAY "REAL" SOON, it's

AmCan Sham, The Musical!

We'll be running for a short time only, and we need your help!

Word is, Showtime and Viacom have already bought the box seats in the balcony, so we really need a good turnout in case they actually show. Call your friends and family, break out those e-mail lists, and get the word out for
AmCan Sham, The Musical!

See it all set to music and great songs as all your old favorites are remade for this groundbreaking show. And dancing too, featuring the AmCan Can Girls and the Divas of Democracy in their sassy boots ready to walk all over you. (Legal releases in the lobby before showtime)

Will there be a special appearance by that mystery candidate? Backstage gossip? The Schadenfreude Singers? We're not telling, unless you come and see!

But we'll be covering this event all day, and letting you in on the inside scoop and backstage for all the excitement.

Anyone with a valid drivers license can take in the show and you don't even have to live in the area. So, help fight for a political musical you can be proud of!



Saturday, June 19, 2004

American Candidate (Showtime): Scamming the Sham

It’s a plot! A scam! A dastardly plan to hijack the sham!

THEY are trying to take control and the TRUTH is …


… the truth is they are doing what they always do, and flaws in Cutler's design are making it possible.

Joe Trippi may not think Cutler's hand-picked candidates are "worried about special interests," but organizations related to several of the candidates are showing them some very "special interest." And since Cutler still has been unable to really get his candidates interacting online or in public with sizable audiences who end up wanting to vote based on interaction, the "special interests" may well be skewing the votes.

Want to know what's going on? Ask yourselves a few questions.

When the Keene rally and gatherings were small, and the press conference in Allentown even smaller,

When the flyers handed out in Keene contained candidate phone numbers for voting rather than the issues,

When the press got candidate bios in Allentown, but the public did not,

When "whirlwind stops" and AmCan secrecy meant people in the towns themselves didn't even know what was happening, much less folks in the entire states, and

When AmCan's Internet sites offer next to nothing about these candidates …

Just how did all the people who voted for candidates in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania decide who they were going to vote for?

They didn't get the information from the press covering the events or trying to talk to the candidates. (According to one report in the Keene Sentinel an "invitation only" press event after the rally never occurred)

Most of the print and TV press coming out Keene didn't even list the candidate's names, and the opinions offered of the candidates from people who did get to talk to them indicated Keene residents were largely unimpressed. And I somehow doubt all of New Hampshire was reading the articles in the Union Leader and the Keene Sentinel within the short time they had to vote.

In Allentown, even after a press conference where the press was given the seats and the public, small as it was, was told to stand back behind the film crews, the news reports coming out were very brief and very general. Most repeated the standard press AmCan has been giving out for months, and gave almost nothing about the candidates or their issues – unless you count their names and the phone numbers to call. The press conference didn't even rate a brief mention in the "color" segments of the evening news outside the small area surrounding Allentown.

Anyone who might have tried to check out the candidates before voting also got darn little information from American Candidate's online sites. In my last entry, I told you that I've been unable to find a single message board post from any of the remaining eight candidates.

In addition, of the eight, five of them had AmCan webpages appear in the middle of the night just before filming began, and obviously had little time to spend on those. They contain almost no substantive information for a voter to base a decision on.

Lisa Witter is leading the campaign diary race amongst the five with a paltry two diary entries posted the night her webpage went active, one of which is only three sentences long. Keith Boykin and Chrissy Gephardt have only posted one entry each – and both of those also were written right after their campaigns went public. Joyce Riley and Jim Strock have never bothered to post entries.

The remaining three candidates who actually had webpages before they announced their candidacies – Malia Lazu, Bruce Friedrich, and Richard Mack are faring no better. Lazu has five entries in her diary, and the latest two are from her campaign manager. One is a standard and general "Why Malia is running for president," while the other is a brief note about her first "test" and a copy / paste of a news article. Richard Mack and Bruce Friedrich have no entries posted.

Mack (or AmCan?) did visit his page, though, and finally made the effort to remove the entry directing readers to his Mack For Governor webpage. Well done! Perhaps we can now convince Mack to actually use the AmCan webpage!

And yeah, I'm being sarcastic in that last bit, but there is a point to even that. The public is not getting quality interaction from the candidates on these "whirlwind stops" (on to Charlottesville next! Another two day quickie!). Yet, "votes" are being tallied in each state to determine who moves on and supposedly reveal to us who we think, out of Cutler's choices, is the best choice.

But, given the situation I've been describing, how the heck are people choosing? How is this engaging people in the political process in new and valuable ways? How are people able to look at all the candidates and make informed decisions based on the "vision" Cutler and American Candidate say these candidates have, or their passion, or their grasp of the issues?

I have one answer for you. They can't.

And I have another too, one that undermines still more Cutler's original ideas for what American Candidate might be.

The special groups and parties associated with many of the candidates are getting the word out in these states by telling people to vote "party lines." I've done some checking, and this is happening.

When Cutler abandoned his original claims and hand-picked "activist" candidates with power bases already in place, he made it possible for this to happen, and his attempts at secrecy and the lack of interaction exacerbate the problem.

Where AmCan is reaching few and offering little information, groups associated with some of the candidates are reaching more people and telling them to vote. But, naturally, these groups aren't offering a balanced look. They're not encouraging the people visiting their websites, message boards or forums to look at all the candidates, nor are they telling them that on their e-mail lists. Instead, they're telling people the name and phone number of the candidate associated with that party or group.

To give only a few examples, the Libertarian Party has put its power behind Mack, who was running for governor of Utah on the Libertarian ticket. PETA has thrown its weight behind Friedrich. Multiple parties associated with the gay community are getting the word out about Boykin and Gephardt. And the radio shows and conspiracy theory websites associated with Riley are also calling their faithful.

Now, some of you may be thinking, "So what? That's what always happens in politics." But remember, American Candidate was supposed to be something different, something new. American Candidate was supposed to engage voters in a meaningful way. What's happening now is NOT what American Candidate was supposed to be.

Groups that normally would not gain a majority vote from the general public on a wide range of issues are trying to control who advances to the next round based on their own special interests. It's becoming a battle based on which group can get out more votes through the back-channels, and if it continues, the viewing public is going to be treated to a showdown between, say, the libertarian and the animal rights activist.

No need to know their ability to lead or inspire, their grasp of the issues the general public holds dear, or even their names. All you need to know is to dial 1-800-libertarian or 1-800-PETAguy.

It's another kind of sham – one Cutler might not have planned for, but a sham just the same. And Cutler's current American Candidate can't counteract it.

That convention by the other candidates, what one is calling a "big tent revival" for democracy, is looking better every day. At least they would have participants from all over the country – participants who've taken time to see beyond the standard party and "special interest" labels and gotten to know each other's views. Given their months of work already, I suspect those folks would provide a truer example of what democracy could and should be.

And if Cutler could get his web designers to do some work on the American Candidate site, even the public could have the chance to examine the stances, styles, and abilities of the convention candidates. All it would take is a simple search function added to the message boards that would enable readers to actually locate the posts candidates have made.

Imagine it. Having access to months of conversations and information directly from the candidates. Not missives from campaign managers, not carefully edited sound-bites from spin doctors, not notes filtered through the press, and not Cutler's carefully crafted take on politics. Real conversation from the actual candidates and real examples of how they interact with others and argue their issues.

Imagine meetups. Real ones, staged by the candidates in your area. Ones where you could truly meet the candidates without Showtime handlers telling you can't have a seat but you can stand in the back behind the press. And votes at those meetups, even if you don't have some sharks around.

Imagine all of it building to that convention, and a chance, finally, to make your choices for yourselves based on something real.

I like that idea; I like that story.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

American Candidate (Showtime): Can Something Be Salvaged from the Ruins?



In Allentown yesterday, eight of RJ Cutler's candidates spoke to reporters and a small crowd gathered inside a long-abandoned building that had once served to generate power for the Lehigh Valley Transit Company's trolley cars. The day's focus was ostensibly jobs, and Montel told the group gathered there that the backdrop was a visual representation of what's been "left behind, which is like so many people in America feel about the political process."

As I watched the various video streams of the press conference, however, it occurred to me that Cutler's chosen location also served as apt commentary for a show that had somehow gone off its rails and was losing power fast.

The question is, can Cutler get it back?

If the post rally reactions coming in from Keene and some of the press from Allentown are any indication, it's going to be tough, but there are few indications here and there that something might be salvaged from the wreckage.

First the tough part. Chrissy Gephardt was a no-show in Keene, and so far, it looks like she wasn't required to participate in Allentown either. In footage from the conference, only eight candidates sat behind a table draped with bunting, above them were only eight photographs with their candidate call-in numbers, and only eight were listed in the print news coming from Allentown. But, if you listen to news streams, Montel's emphasis when he speaks of "the eight candidates that are here," suggests Chrissy may still be playing, just not the same game as all the others.

When her non-presence at that table and in all the news was noted on the AmCan message boards, one of her supporters posting for the first time claimed "I was at the Allentown rally today and saw Chrissy Gephardt give a GREAT speech about gay rights." But, I've reviewed all the clips several times over, and I have to wonder about that.

If she was there, she wasn't sitting at the table before the press with all the other candidates, and she somehow escaped the notice of every print journalist and every news camera that's reported in so far. Hard to believe, given the flood of press that resulted from her original announcement.

Even if that poster wasn't mistaken, Cutler's still letting Chrissy play by rules that don't apply to all the others, and that's a problem.

Another problem in evidence both in Keene and Allentown appears to be sheer lack of preparation, on several fronts.

As I told readers, the week before the Keene rally, the Keene Sentinel reported that American Candidate's producers were confused. The day after the rally, Benjamin Yelle of the Sentinel wrote that the rally itself was "confusing," and comments by Keene's Mayor Michael Blastos suggest producers themselves were still a bit confused too. Blastos holds hopes for the show, "if the producers get better at determining what they expect from the communities where they film." But, when it came to Keene, he remarked “I don’t think these guys were really quite sure what they wanted."

There was also confusion and discord over what some residents thought they'd been told by producers. In a scene reminiscent of the one that played out for American Candidate applicants in general and in reference to Richard Mack in particular, some Keene residents gave strong criticism of what they felt were unfair dealings on the part of American Candidate producers.

Radio host Al Kulas was angry at American Candidate because he felt they'd "misled" him. He said he was surprised to see Kerry supporters bearing signs at the rally, because producers of American Candidate had led him to believe "real politics had to be kept out of the filming" and "I thought we couldn't do that, shouldn't do that, or it would be illegal." As a result, he left his Bush sign at home, and ended up feeling "lied to" by the show's producers.

Other Keene residents were literally surprised to find the show filming in their small town. Cutler's team had tried to keep almost everything secret, right up until filming, so when his candidates blew in and out of town, many Keene residents were caught completely off-guard.

In her blog, "Hoarded Ordinaries," Lorianne Schaub wrote about a beautiful, sunny weekend in a town suddenly "invaded" by an "infestation of 'candidates'," whose purpose she only learned after-the-fact. She described a cheerful girl working for Jim Strock who handed her a "cheaply-produced campaign flyer" like others she'd seen discarded in the Square, but neither Strock nor any of the other candidates got Schaub's vote.

Why not?

Apparently, because the flyer for Strock contained little information other than telling her to "'Help Fight for Politics We Can Be Proud Of!' By calling in for Jim Strock," and Strock's campaign worker "failed to outline the issues at stake."

A poster on the AmCan message boards calling herself "NHLady" gave similar comments in a post entitled "Whirlwind stops." She wrote, "In a real campaign, there is abundant information about the candidates, preceding their campaign swings, but with the 'American Candidate', first impressions are the only impressions. In a real election, I would want more info before voting for anyone."

The town's newspaper described several residents who actively participated as being "unimpressed." Keene city councilor and local pub owner Randy Filiault interviewed some of the candidates and was unsure if he even would cast a vote. Filiault told the Keene Sentinel that, "candidates didn't seem prepared to answer tough questions about their platforms," candidates weren't well-rounded enough in his opinion, and "They're not going to B.S. their way around us." The Sentinel's executive editor, Kathleen O'Donnell, attended a house party for the candidates, but her impression was that "most of the people at the house party knew more about national issues than the candidates."

The small crowd in attendance at the Calo building in Allentown yesterday morning suggests a similar lack of preparation, and a comment on the message boards from an American Candidate applicant who attended the rally reinforces the impression that locals just aren't getting enough information from American Candidate.

"Blue Star Blues" posted a reply to "NHLady," saying "In Allentown today, the press was given packets with bio pages for each of the remaining candidates. The public, however, received no such information. Too bad, as they're the ones who were urged to vote by phone."

(If you're wondering why that applicant has the blues, it's because American Candidate still hasn't been able to fix the tech. problems and provide the blue star applicants are supposed to have when they post.)

The public might try for some information by hitting the American Candidate webpages or the message boards, but none of the competing candidate webpages have been updated, most lack diary entries, and even those that have entries under "Issues" provide only short sound-bites. And although many of the applicants spent considerable time on the message boards discussing their platforms and working out their views on the various issues and how they might present them to the public, the candidates Cutler chose did not.

Bob Vanech, who appears to no longer be in the running, made only four short and very general posts online. I have been unable to find any posts by Mack, Lazu, Freidrich, Gillespie, Witter, Strock, Riley, Boykin or Gephardt. None. In other words, this is still a one-way conversation, and Cutler's chosen candidates aren't talking much where the public can actually hear them.

So where's the hope in all this?

It's appearing in spite of and outside of Cutler's off-the-rails design.

Although Riley's and Mack's supporters are still keeping moderators working overtime by posting frequent diatribes on the message boards and informing readers that anyone not supporting Riley or Mack is either a sheep, an idiot, brainwashed, stupid, has his head up his ass, etc …, if you can get past their posts, there are some good ideas on that board. And some posters are trying to think and talk about democracy in the ways Cutler's show and his chosen candidates are not.

It's not just on the AmCan message boards either. American Candidate originally formed a partnership with meetup.com to promote the show and ostensibly encourage applicants to gather supporters. AmCan didn't follow through on the meetups, and even though the next one is scheduled for June 21, none of the chosen candidates or the show's producers seem to be doing anything to actually use meetup. But, a few applicants seem to have recognized the potential there that American Candidate producers can't see.

The vast majority of American Candidate meetup message boards are empty, but the Santa Monica board stands out both in terms of activity and content. One participant there that the LA Times described as "an artist known as Boke" has been pushing readers to think about what the hundreds of applicants and the hundreds of American Candidate meetup members might actually do with their collective power, and how they might use meetup to create gatherings that are fun and worthwhile for both the participants and a TV viewing audience.

He's created a "Democratically Electrified Society of Doomed Orators" called DESODO, and humorously suggested that if candidates intend to debate, those the audience deem losers will be fed to the sharks off the Santa Monica Pier. Sounds silly, but he's also been writing about ways audiences and candidates could actually, really, interact using electronic mediums. Ways that both could be part of the show and the dialogue -- outside the usual fare of rallies and press conferences such as those Cutler's been serving up.

Elsewhere, a group of American Candidate applicants have formed their own message boards and website called "American Leaders," and they too are discussing possible alternatives to Cutler's design. They've been tossing around the idea of organizing and putting on a convention timed to coincide with the climax of Cutler's American Candidate.

Presumably, the point would be for the applicants Cutler "left behind" and out of "the political process" to use all the work they've put forth discussing the issues and ideas on meetup, the message boards, and their own webpages, to build momentum in the electronic mediums in a real and open democratic process well beyond Cutler's closed version. Then, to hold that convention and select an "American Candidate" from their own ranks – one that could challenge Cutler's choice for the public's vote.

Now that's something that actually might cut through the cynicism Cutler's design has created and really get folks involved in new ways. That's something I'd pay to see.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

American Candidate (Showtime): RJ Cutler's Credibility is on the line, but his American Candidate picks are making it hard for him to keep it.

Eight posts in, and I've gotta start making these entries shorter. Too much information and writing on the fly makes for some seriously long posts. And if I'm irritated by the way this show seems to be shaping up according to the AmCan publicity and the regular press reports out there, I'm betting the applicants are too. Someone send me a TV project I can actually praise – quick – before I lose what's left of my sense of humor!

RJ Cutler's credibility has been taking a beating in the press and online lately, but he's still trying to convince folks that American Candidate is the real deal. Unfortunately, his actions and those of the candidates are creating discrepancies in the story faster than Cutler can say "no comment."

In a scene last weekend described by a writer for the Keene Sentinel as
"as real as a movie set," Cutler had Montel Williams emoting for the cameras and asking the crowd "to take the show seriously, saying 'We're going to change the way America thinks about the election process'." Since Montel is scheduled to hold a news conference tomorrow morning at the Calo Building in Allentown, we'll probably get a similar stump speech from there.

It may not work though, considering how the candidates' own antics and Cutler's design are making AmCan look more like a regular reality show every day.

First there was the disingenuous encouragement American Candidate gave to regular applicants to keep them publicizing the show and providing window dressing. Then, the ongoing problems with the AmCan websites, where even trying to participate was like a tech geek's version of a Fear Factor perseverance test.

Then came an article in the LA Times, where American Candidate
Bob Vanech told some AmCan secrets, but managed to catch himself and show some good old-fashioned "emerging political skills" as Lynn Smith of the Times wrote. As she put it, "in exchange for keeping his remarks off the record," Vanech said "I'll give you some better stuff later." Readers here will recall that Bob Vanech also courted favor with the producers by providing them free advertising and is now trying to buy supporters by hawking the chance to be on TV. If this is vision, I think Cutler's in trouble.

Next, American Candidate
Keith Boykin goofed and revealed that he knew so little about the actual application process regular folks had to go through, and so little about the American Candidate website, that he practically admitted to the world he'd been ushered to the front of the line and granted an exemption from the "rules."

Now it looks like
Lisa Witter's campaign has been caught in a fib.

Remember the questions surrounding the after-the-fact appearance of American Candidate websites for five of the handpicked pols? Lisa Witter's campaign was facing the same problem as Boykin's. She was announcing a candidacy when she didn't have a webpage on American Candidate, yet anyone could see the 416 webpages for applicants who had met American Candidate's April 9
"final deadline."

How could she explain the obvious discrepancy … particularly when the regular applicants were already raising the issue?

Lisa Witter's press release told readers,
"Due to technical difficulties Lisa's profile does not yet appear on the Web site. Showtime is working to post it as soon as possible." It seemed reasonable at first glance. After all, anyone looking on the American Candidate message boards would see multiple complaints about that.

Except in Witter's case, it seems there weren't any difficulties. A secret source in the know has revealed to me that Witter's American Candidate webpage was active less than an hour after she typed her first entries.

Meanwhile, Cutler and Montel want us take the show seriously, but Lynn Smith reported that Greenblatt was talking entertainment and suggesting that
"some offbeat characters might make it into the final 12." If Joyce Riley's and Richard Mack's online supporters are any indication, at least two did. One poster wants us to know that Riley and Mack "are the only two legitimate candidates in this race," that the two are "friends" and that Mack "has been on her show several times." That's a show heavily featured on just about every conspiracy theory site out there.

If you're wondering what some of those sites might be, just check the login names for some of the Mack and Riley supporters. They're using the addresses as names, and some have been spamming the American Candidate message boards demanding readers go to their sites, or posting expletive laden attacks (quickly deleted). Several are warning readers of dark cabals secretly controlling America and a coming police state, while also telling us 9-11 was, as one puts it,
"an inside job," and "None of your issues matter. NONE."

Even without his supporters' tendency to spam, Richard Mack has been creating credibility problems for AmCan with his very presence on the show. American Candidate originally asserted that "contestants will not be 'testing the waters' for a candidacy for public office" and the eligibility requirements on their application forms made it look like running for a real office wasn't allowed.

While the application forms did change after American Candidate altered the age, citizenship, and travel time requirements, the public office question remained the same:
"ARE YOU CURRENTLY HOLDING OR SEEKING ANY PUBLIC OFFICE (MUNICIPAL, CITY, STATE OR FEDERAL LEVEL) BETWEEN NOW AND NOVEMBER 2004?" (Those are their caps., not mine)

Given that American Candidate had already discussed eligibility requirements in the press and even with the FEC, applicants believed that holding or seeking public office disqualified them. One even dropped out when he decided to actually run for a local public office. American Candidate had led them to believe that, under
"Determination of Eligibility" on the application, contestants were required to answer "NO" to holding or seeking public office. But now it looks like that question didn't apply.

American Candidate now says that the chosen candidates simply can't be running for office during actual
"production" of the show, but that contrasts sharply with the words "currently" and "between now and November 2004" on the application still available in cache form online today.

There's another slight problem with all these assertions, new or old. Since American Candidate's website went active in March, they've been inviting the public to
"See How They [Candidates] Run" and featuring Richard Mack prominently, with not only his photograph and a link to his AmCan page, oftentimes on the front pages of the entire site, but also in the written text of their invitation that they explicitly describe as a "race," and an "opportunity to build up public support on this website," by "campaigning online and in person." In other words, American Candidate has been and still is asserting that the people featured on their websites have been running, campaigning, and building public support since March.

In their own words, Mack has been too. And until the first week of June, he was also campaigning, really campaigning, for governor in Utah. More importantly, he was using his AmCan website explicitly to campaign for governor. In fact, his AmCan site still contains no American Candidate campaign entries, but rather, directs readers to his campaign site for governor,
mackforgovernor.com.

Apparently, American Candidate, would like to have it both ways. They want to claim the window dressing was actually meaningful campaigning and use it as part of the show, but they also want to claim that it isn't part of the show when it comes to Mack. There's a new twist on how to think about "the election process."

Finally, I told myself I wouldn't do it, but I just can't resist. Cutler keeps trying to assure us his picks for AmCan are new and different from the politicians we're used to. But, according to John Lapp, a former campaign manager for Dick Gephardt, when it comes to
Chrissy, "If we can't have Dick Gephardt, we'll have the next best thing."
Let's hope Lapp isn't managing Chrissy's campaign … for Cutler's sake.

At this point in the mess, I could almost feel sorry for Cutler, except for one thing. When SF Weekly's Matt Smith questioned Cutler about the credibility of the selection process, Cutler said
"The decisions as to who gets on the show are made by producers of the show – by me – and by Showtime working together. I take full responsibility for that."

Sunday, June 13, 2004

American Candidate: See How They Run … With different rules for a few, webpages outside of AmCan, and more sham.

The Candidates continue their faux runs, and the cognitive dissonance continues as the "rigorous paces" of running on reality TV don't apply to Chrissy, Showtime publicists offer excuses, and RJ Cutler and candidates provide soundbites contrary to the evidence and off the AmCan un-interactive sites.

If readers held any doubts as to whether the game was rigged, they need only look at how it's being played. While some of the candidates not eliminated in Cutler's clueless first test – a sham body count – continued onto New Hampshire, one of Cutler's privileged choices did not.

When you choose well-known candidates instead of those
"from the ranks of ordinary citizens" as Cutler once claimed, it seems scheduling can be a problem. Ms. Gephardt didn't participate in the rally at Keene NH. Presumably, this was because of her previous commitments in DC at "Capital Pride," a week long gay pride event that began on June 6th and continues throughout tonight.

Perhaps Showtime publicist John Walsh was unaware that news of Chrissy's prior gig is easily available on the Internet, because when a writer in the Keene Sentinel asked about her absence, Walsh
"without mentioning her by name," coyly replied that "the 10th candidate 'might have taken ill'."

Given that Ms. Gephardt also has a commitment to speak at a fundraiser in Atlanta on July 16th and 17th, if she's still on the show, she may also "fall ill," or get a free pass during that phase of American Candidate as well. Cutler touted American Candidate as "designed to test" the "presidential mettle" of those chosen, but in a design move that illustrates just how skewed and scripted his tests are, privilege, as usual, means making exceptions for the power players.

AmCan states on its website that candidates
"will be put through the rigorous paces of anyone running for this office," but we can safely assume that if golden girl Chrissy was ill, that promise didn't apply to her. Especially since RJ Cutler told a journalist from The Union Leader that Chrissy "was not competing in that phase of the competition."

In a repeat performance of the "special rules" by which many of the chosen candidates were allowed to participate, Cutler seems intent on illustrating for viewers that in his compromised system the privileged can play whenever they like – whether that means having access to the show long after the deadlines for participation set for the regular Joes and Jills, or skipping portions of the show's tests entirely. What's more, several of the candidates Cutler once claimed he would choose for their "vision" appear to see no problem with this state of affairs.

Lisa Witter's AmCan Webpage highlights her assertion that "Our common enemy is unchecked privilege, our common weapon an active citizenry," and that others have "convinced us to deplore politics as a dirty sport." On her brand new blog outside of AmCan, created after she announced, she adds "We learned about basic principles of fairness at very early age – at home -- in school -- at the playground. And, we are deeply offended by those that don't play by the rules."

Yet, given that Ms. Witter's page never even appeared on AmCan until the waning minutes before midnight June 7th, after her press release announcing her candidacy, and two weeks after AmCan stopped adding a few window dressing applicants here and there, one can't help but wonder if she ever made the April 9 deadline AmCan claimed it had set for the long application and accompanying video.

The question has been put to the chosen candidates on the AmCan message boards, with the added note that "videos" created by anyone associated with AmCan would indicate a "privilege" not accorded those who played by the regular rules, but to date, none of the chosen have replied. Some regular candidates have, however, and revealed that they spent not only time but also money in order to play by AmCan's rules and deadlines with overnight packages.


This active citizen would like to check Ms. Witter's privilege, amongst others already noted in this blog, because it sure seems to me that Cutler's running this game with a whole different set of playground rules, closer to a dirty sport and far from fair. But don't expect any disclosure from AmCan.

In an about face from Showtime's claim that “The purpose of the ‘American Candidate’ series is for the American people to select a 'People’s Candidate',” and Cutler's assertions that "the whole philosophy of this show is to make the [political] process available," and "engage people in the political process in a way that has never been done before," Cutler has DIS-engaged himself from any comments that might reveal just how Candidates like Witter were selected. And whether they went through the same process as the regular Joes and Jills.

Questions of selection seem particularly pertinent in view of Showtime's and Cutler's claims that we, the American people, would be making the selection. And in light of comments such as Ms. Witter's about fairness and one set of rules for all. But in Keene, Cutler refused to say how candidates were chosen, and remarked
"Eventually, we will discuss the criteria but at this phase of the show that is confidential."

When RJ? One would think an examination of the process of selection you undertook for us, the American people, would be PRIORITY ONE. Unless, of course, you're more interested in making a regular piece of entertainment, one that doesn't create any new ideas about the political process you're imitating so well, and contrary to your stated goals.

In another twist, millionaire Bob Vanech, a golden boy from Choate and Boston College, reveals that his "vision" for the participation of the American people begins by offering us pseudo-fame. Bob's site on AmCan hasn't been updated since March 31, but he's got another website he's using instead, where his main lead-in to entice supporters is the fresh new vision "Would you like to be on TV?" and the boast that his "volunteers and supporters are frequently filmed by Showtime's American Candidate camera crew for many hours a day... if you are there, you will have a great chance to be on camera... guaranteed."

Yup, that message is so important that Bob's decided to lead with it as his most persuasive pitch to reveal his "presidential mettle." Since he can no longer use his cash to buy out and out influence, it seems Bob's experience has led him to believe that the American people can be bought with the promise of fleeting TV time.

Thanks for thinking the best of us Bob – we appreciate your view of us as caring most about a possible few minutes as extras on reality TV.

It's a humorous take though, coming from a big business guy who gave free advertising to American Candidate but now claims he's going to challenge "big business" and fight against those who wield money's power to influence politics. Keep in mind too, Bob says, "To keep the campaign 'pure,' I will not accept financial contributions."

Good thing Bob … since your early efforts weren't exactly pure, the FEC has told American Candidate that contributions are a big No-No, and the news that you CAN'T accept contributions has been public for months.

But even if candidates can't buy their way through the show, as we've seen, money, clout, and privilege, sure could help when it came to getting on it.

AmCan hired gun and political consultant Joe Trippi told The Union Leader's Gil Bliss that American Candidate
“is about a system that isn’t working." He was right, and Cutler is recreating that system just fine.



If you reached this spot via google's individual page archiving, and you'd like to read more, just click AMERICAN CANDIDATE: The AmCan Sham

Friday, June 11, 2004

American Candidate (Showtime): AmCan Updates Its Web Presence to Remove the Promise.

Yesterday, this blog reported on American Candidate's interactive promise that was a promise only in word. Today, even the words are gone.



Demonstrating unusual alacrity, American Candidate has altered its webpage by deleting its promise that "it won't be a one-way conversation." Although they still claim to want "The Vision Thing" – a wonderfully obtuse phrase that will be addressed in full, later – the offending lines with which this blog castigated them have disappeared.

Except here, where credibility is an ongoing issue, and one not to be taken lightly.

Curious readers can compare the images below and see how American Candidate's one-way vision has become clearer, at least for readers.







If you reached this spot via google's individual page archiving, and you'd like to read more, just click AMERICAN CANDIDATE: The AmCan Sham

Thursday, June 10, 2004

American Candidate (Showtime): Get the Scoop … Once every three months. Maybe.

American Candidate assured participants "it won't be a one-way conversation." But, for the last three months, it mostly has been as applicants' online efforts provided "window dressing," and they were kept in the cold about what was going on beyond the VIP velvet rope and inside the process Cutler claimed he'd be inviting the regular public to.

Folks who thought they might have a chance with AmCan asked again, again, and yet again, for any word and received resounding silence in reply. And though American Candidate still has not officially announced who the hand-picked pols are, in the first new, news release since their webpage went online in March, they want you to know Montel will be hosting. But that's all folks.

Non-potential candidates, those regular folk who applied for the show unaware that they needed a pedigree, have been asking for news for months on American Candidate's UN-interactive website.

Occasionally, usually after a persistent applicant sent multiple e-mails and called multiple times, an e-mail reply was sent offering no news except that they still had a chance and encouraging them to keep posting on the online message boards. But it was up to the regular folk to spread the word, since American Candidate couldn't be bothered.

Except, evidently, when it came to those privileged few American Candidate's hired experts had contacted privately and invited to participate. As Keith Boykin says on his website, "I've known about the show for the past few weeks."

Only weeks Keith? How ever did you get your application and video completed and mailed in by April 9?

And let's not forget the marvelously misleading American Candidate "ON THE WEB: See How They Run" that also appeared in early March, proclaiming, "For the next four months, AMERICAN CANDIDATE applicants have the opportunity to build up public support on this website."

Well, some of them, some of the time. For the most part, the ones not hand-picked. Remember, when Keith Boykin's new supporters were confused by his lack of a webpage a few days ago, after he announced his candidacy, Keith told them "I am not on the website because the website does not list the finalists." His page and others such as Joyce Riley's, Lisa Witter's, and Chrissy Gephardt's, were added deep in the night June 7th-8th after the press, not American Candidate, released the news. So, you couldn't see how they ran at all.

Evidently, what you could see was what some participants have rightly called "window dressing." American Candidate suggested to participants that their online diaries on the AmCan webpages could matter in the selection process, saying "We do read the boards and extra info helps, but we read the Diaries more." It seems, however, that candidates who offered AmCan less reading had better odds. The chosen ones who actually did have webpages offered remarkably few of the diary entries that AmCan was supposedly reading "more."

Malia Lazu appears to have offered the most. A total of three entries: two in mid April and one the first week in May.

Park Gillespie also offered only three on April 30th and May 12th and 13th. The first informed readers of the website address for a company he co-owns, and the second announced the birth of a baby. To be fair though, Mr. Gillespie's third and final entry, prefaced with the remark "Well before the campaign starts," did actually venture into politics. Apparently, Mr. Gillespie didn't realize that webpage was supposed to be for campaigning already, but decided to start early. It's been almost a month since, but presumably now that the "campaign" has begun, he'll post again. Someday.

To date, Mr. Freidrich and Mr. Vanech each have offered one entry. Mr. Mack has never posted in his diary, and under the heading "Issues," he simply tells readers "see mackforgovernor.com." We would Mr. Mack, but that page is offline now that you've ditched those supporters for a reality show.

The "opportunity" American Candidate offered applicants and readers didn't pan out very well anyway, so perhaps the chosen ones simply lacked the persistence and passion displayed by some of the regular applicants.

Several applicants kept trying to use their webpages despite rampant problems. When multiple e-mails to the "help" address provided them went unanswered week after week, several resorted to posting on American Candidate's message boards complaining about webpages that wouldn't appear even after they'd been told they were "live." Others discovered that no matter how hard they tried to update their pages, nothing happened. Some found that their entries landed in an AmCan limbo while the show's censors checked their content or edited portions out. And American Candidate removed one candidate's webpage without prior notification when they didn't like his comments.

Perhaps the "opportunity" should have come with a disclaimer. Something along the lines of "Abandon all hope ye who attempt to participate here."

Post Script:
In one of the few and far between e-mails from American Candidate that a frustrated applicant kindly posted to the message boards for others to read, "Rob" explained that American Candidate has "a small staff (me, on Web)."

Presumably, that's Rob Barrett "currently developing the interactive format for Actual Reality Pictures' American Candidate." And although Rob's eagerly sought after e-mails are rare, if you'd like to see more of his writing, you can always visit his other gig at ConsumerWebWatch where he's a regular contributor.


If you reached this spot via google's individual page archiving, and you'd like to read more, just click AMERICAN CANDIDATE: The AmCan Sham

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

The American Candidate Showtime Sham:

RJ Cutler's Clueless "First Test" gets an "F."


Looks like Cutler's whole idea of the Keene New Hampshire episode of his American Candidate as one-on-one, hand-shaking, baby-kissing, press-the-flesh "RETAIL POLITICS" got lost on the way to Keene.
So, your last minute planning for Keene was a mess,
And even Keene's Mayor was getting distressed.
When you film on the cheap and your management's weak …



Hmm, sounds like the beginning of a fun little
American Candidate Showtime limerick.
But then I'd have to change the Mayor's
comments to the Keene Sentinel to make
them fit, and they're just too good to pass up.


By now, no doubt, Keene residents have
read the news and discovered AmCan's
opening kick-off rallies took place last
night instead of in Keene. Candidates may
still be going through the usual motions
of shaking hands and kissing babies that
Keene residents know so well, but it may
seem like some of the magic's been lost
by then. After all, at least half of
the contestants are old hands at this
kind of thing. Not the fresh political
hopefuls still outside the system, not
the ones who can suddenly shift our jaded
views by granting us a glimpse of how
the world might look if opportunity
could be shifted to those who haven't
already played the game.

And if the communication process at AmCan
is holding true to form, Keene found out
through the press, not AmCan.

Even e-mail, the quick and dirty common
courtesy of our day seems too much for
American Candidate to manage. Wonder
if the poor producers know that Yahoo is
free? But I digress …

Back in Keene, Rebecca Waddingham from the
Keene Sentinel staff reported last Friday that
American Candidate producers were confused. One
who asked not to be named "couldn't speculate
about the format of the show,"
because "it's not
clear how the candidates will be voted off."


And the Mayor? The one waiting patiently
while American Candidate's producers
tried to decide this week where they could
hold their rally for as little cash as possible?
When "asked if the logistics and planning
seemed last minute,"
he replied, "The whole
deal is kind of last minute, isn't it?"


You betcha sir, but it seems RJ Cutler has
a cost cutting plan. It doesn't involve any
viewer voting per se, but it will help him out.

Filming and following candidates, even fake
candidates, costs money. At least $1,000
a week for each American Candidate and
his or her campaign manager. Then there's
plane tickets, hotel rooms (they're sharing
to cut corners), food, and all those other
extra costs for life on the road campaigning.

If Showtime and Cutler don't want to pony up
$12,000 for Keene to close the streets, and
provide police and other services, imagine
how important it is that Cutler quickly cuts
his costs by three or four thousand bucks.

So what does he do? He eliminates two,
on the fly with a sham, before costs can accrue.


Oooh, this rhyming thing could be addictive!

Showtime's "groundbreaking" "American Candidate
Revolution"
is once again covering the same old
ground and giving viewers the same old political
"ground amendments." IE: Bullshit.


Now I know, you're thinking Wait a minute.
Lisa Witter's campaign manager Dean Nielsen,
who's the Washington state director for Progressive
Majority says "I've been involved in political
Campaigns full-time for the past 10 years and, so
far, what they've asked us to do has been exactly
like a real campaign."


Exactly. Let's think about this a bit more.

Candidates had one day's notice and only $100
to spend to hold a rally. The two candidates
with the lowest turnout will be eliminated.

What's the object here?

A body count.
NOT the Power
of the candidate's speech
or message.


As Keith Boykin announced on his website,
"The producers of the show will count attendees
based on the number of people who pass through
the entrance between exactly 6-7 p.m., so come
even if you can only stay for a minute (literally).

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO STAY FOR THE
ENTIRE EVENT. WE DO NEED YOU TO
PASS THROUGH THE ENTRY DOOR
BETWEEN 6-7 P.M."


That "literally" and emphasis at the end is Keith's,
not mine.

So let's recap. What's the first "groundbreaking"
and "unprecedented!" (Showtime's favorite words
to hype American Candidate) challenge "designed
to test their presidential mettle,"
and "find an
unknown leader from the ranks of ordinary citizens
who could catapult to national prominence and
demonstrate that he or she possesses the leadership capabilities and talent to be President"
?

How many warm bodies a candidate can get to pass through the doors on short notice.
No need to worry about the message,
or whether the candidate can inspire or
evoke passions.
It's the count that counts.


Ms. Gephardt, ever the lady, declined to capitalize on cold bodies, telling reporters "I mean, I'm making my announcement, I'm not really going to be campaigning," and "Part of the thing is that my schedule is dictated by Showtime. I probably would have refrained from campaigning if it were up to me. I have the utmost respect for Ronald Reagan and his presidency."

Not to worry though, it didn't hurt her chances
since her announcement was publicized around
the globe, she was able to use the Phoenix Park
Hotel near Capitol Hill for her rally, and she even
got her famous, former presidential candidate, and
possible VP father to attend, as well as reporters
from the Washington Post and CNN.

But that's the mettle of an "unknown leader from
the ranks of ordinary citizens"
who needs help
from Showtime's American Candidate to "catapult
to national prominence"
for you. Good for you
Chrissy! It must have been a real challenge for
you to get the Phoenix Park Hotel where your
father announced his run and gather people on
such short notice!


Now who do you think had the advantage in
this first test of American Candidate that Cutler,
according to the LA Times, hopes will
"encourage nonpros to run," and "help break
down financial and media-related barriers to
seeking office"
?

Hmmm … could it possibly be the pros
Cutler handpicked? The ones with clout and
connections who ALREADY HAVE NO
"media-related barriers to seeking office" and
can get a great rally location for free because
of their clout and their politically connected
rolodexes and blackberries? The ones who
can draw a crowd already because they're
anything but obscure and had media cranking
pr machines at their service already?


Is it clear to you now that cash is king?
And those without clout won't have a thing?
That cutting candidates with a sham test pays,
and leaves the pros with more room to play?


I know, some of you are thinking, Wait a
minute
again, and Maybe the reason
they've got all that is because they've got
that Abe Lincoln quality Cutler said he was
looking for, that "vision" he said he's trying
to find that "could turn on the public in an
exciting way."
Those "new and diverse ideas"
American Candidate said it wanted.


Oh really?

Is that why only the body count mattered,
And not a VOTE from those in attendance?

Is that why the audience only needed to
Show up and NOT INTERACT?


As for the vision, I took a look,
And it looks like Cutler's goose is cooked.
The show's as new as day old bread,
stale for the stuffing in talking heads.
Proof's not in the pudding, 'cause there is none
here,
The pols aren't sweet, they're just plain drear.


And, no, I ain't done yet, but for those
who'd like to know …


One reporter noted "Witter's speech conjured
images of a typical political speech."


Another quoted Freidrich as saying, "I want to
Be president of the United States because the
current candidates do not represent the interests
of the American People,"
and "Americans want
security in education, security in health care and
security in old age."


A member of Boykin's audience opined, "The speech
was generic liberal, emphasizing inclusion, domestic
programs, harmony, and equal opportunity. He steered clear of any policy proposals or strong positions on any divisive issues."


And Gephardt? She says she's in the game "to promote universal healthcare, more funding for education, and equal rights."

Welcome to Cutler's and Showtime's American Candidate Reality, where reality really is the name of the game, and you can pay to watch pols give you more of the same.



If you reached this spot via google's individual page archiving, and you'd like to read more, just click AMERICAN CANDIDATE: The AmCan Sham

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

AMERICAN CANDIDATE: Rigging the Game So It Stays the Same

So you want to produce a political reality show, but you've gotta do it on the cheap.

You can't even afford to pay the city of Keene, NH to use their square and Keene State College can't lend you the quad because the Lions Club has already got an event that day.

Heck, your budget may be so tight that you've only got one person on the web to deal with your supposedly interactive website. You know, the website with a news page hasn't been updated since it went online in early March. The one that's so under-funded, AmCan can't even manage to announce the show's finalists … even though the finalists are announcing themselves.

And on top of all that, the folks who applied for the show really are what you advertised for – regular Joe's and Jill's with a passion to make a difference. But, most of them are missing the connections, clout, and cash politicians need … and it turns out, you need too if you want to make your show.

What to do?

If you're RJ Cutler, the solution might be simple.
Forget what might be possible. Instead, do what's already been done.

RJ Cutler told CNN: We are always saying that the right people, the people who really could be great leaders are turned off from politics. Whether it's the money or they think they have to have gone to Yale or their fathers had to have been president, or they have to be worth $250 million.

And when interviewer Kagan asked: Where would they get that?

Cutler replied: I don't know. But somehow they get the idea and they're turned off to the process. This is opening the process up to people.


Well, thanks to RJ Cutler and the AMERICAN CANDIDATE SHOWTIME SHAM, we can now SEE where they get that idea -- from politics as usual and RJ Cutler, who'll make the rigged game manifest for everyone on his new show. Yup, he's really showing us just how rigged it is.

Here's what Cutler meant.

Meet Bobby Vanech (who one candidate calls Wicked Bob Vanech): Bob's a white, middle-aged, millionaire with connections of his own who'll cost next to nothing to promote. Especially since Bob bought a mobile American Candidate Billboard that American Candidate used on it's website for weeks. He paid to give them free advertising.

Meet Chrissy Gephardt: Ms. Gephardt's father is Dick Gephardt. Not exactly president, but a past contender, and a possible Vice-President in the upcoming elections. Ms. Gephardt is a very well-known PR consultant, a major player in the National Stonewall Democrats, and exceptionally well connected. Not exactly one of those regular gals plucked from "obscurity" that AmCan said they were looking for, but certainly one who will be easy to promote and draw viewers to Showtime on the cheap.
(Wonder if Ms. Gephardt applied like the regular folk and sent in her application by April 9. Poor gal didn't get a AmCan webpage until the dead of night last night … after the competition began.)

Meet Keith Boykin: Boykin has enough clout that he announced his candidacy on the CBS Early Show … and his rally tonight will be NATIONALLY TELEVISED. Another candidate who can give Cutler and American Candidate lots of FREE publicity that they couldn't afford to pay for. Boykin is President of the National Black Justice Coalition, a former Special Assistant to President Clinton, and a sought after public commentator. And let's not forget, Boykin didn't go to Yale, but he did go to Dartmouth and Harvard. Ivy League anyone?
(Keith's another one who had no webpage until the wee hours of the night … suggesting he too didn't fill out the application, make the video, and send it in by April 9.)

Meet Richard Mack: Mack has been running for governor in Utah. Although he said on his mackforgovernor website (now offline except in cache form) "After careful thought and prayer, I have decided to withdraw my candidacy for Utah governor so that I may spend more time with my family and pursue a unique opportunity," he'll be leaving his family for six to seven weeks to be on American Candidate. Not to worry though, he too can bring in the publicity on the cheap for RJ Cutler. After all, he's been campaigning for real in Utah for quite a while, and all those supporters for his previous campaign can now just switch right on over. Wonder what'll happen to all those donations he accepted for that campaign … even while trying to get on a reality show, when he knew he'd have to ditch the governor campaign if AmCan came calling.

Meet Jim Strock: Strock "served in President Bush’s sub-cabinet as Assistant Admin. For Enforcement of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency," and he's a triple threat middle-aged, Ivy League, white guy -- Harvard College, Harvard Law School, and Oxford University. Also, a fairly well-known author, counsel to a US Senate Committee, and of course, so well connected he doesn't really need American Candidate, but they sure need him if they want to do this on a shoestring.
(Strock's another surprise late comer to the game specially selected by Cutler)

Meet Bruce Freidrich: Freidrich is a Director at PETA, and according to a PETA press release announcing his candidacy, "the man behind such PETA stunts as passing out "Unhappy Meals" to children to try to get McDonald's to improve living conditions for its chickens," among other highly publicized stunts. Another candidate that can garner loads of free press for American Candidate and will hardly cost them anything. Cutler must count it a huge asset that Friedrich already has a platform for politics with PETA … and all the press power he needs since PETA is handling his press, hosting his rally, and spreading the word. Yup, clearly he's another one plucked from obscurity so RJ Cutler can give him the resources an average Joe like he needs. Definitely a guy to whom the political process was closed before RJ Cutler found him.

Meet Joyce Riley and Lisa Witter too, but you can just google them, because I'm tired of typing. You'll have no trouble finding them – though their American Candidate webpages didn't show up until the early hours this morning. No doubt, they too filled out the application forms, made the videos, and sent them in by April 9. Especially Ms. Witter who speaks eloquently about "fairness" and "one set of rules" for everyone in her press release. Both ladies have the connections and clout most folks don't have, and they know the political game well.


In an LA Times article, it was suggested that Cutler wanted to "help break down financial and media-related barriers to seeking office," with this show. He told the LA Times "We wanted to open up the process. The whole philosophy of this show is to make the process available to those who don't otherwise have access to it."

In reality, Cutler's reinforcing the barriers, and getting more bang for his carnival buck. Quite a game – keep politics the same and make the process available to those who already have access to it, those who can help Showtime get access to more viewers and help RJ film on the cheap.

It's a Shame … on him and for us, the public. This could have been something more than the same old BS.




If you reached this spot via google's individual page archiving, and you'd like to read more, just click AMERICAN CANDIDATE: The AmCan Sham

AMERICAN CANDIDATE (SHOWTIME) SHAM

AmCan's Greenblatt said, "The ideas upon which this country was built – that anyone can run for public office and each voice counts – seem to be a thing of the past,” and he sure meant it -- even for a reality show that claimed it could be otherwise.

Hundreds of regular Joe's and Jill's applied for the show and were led to believe they stood a chance.

What they didn't know was that AMERICAN CANDIDATE had other ideas.

For RJ Cutler and the AmCan staff, the "Revolution" meant handpicking candidates not "from out of obscurity" as Greenblatt claimed, but from the same old political playground.

As of this date, it appears that at least FIVE of the finalists didn't even have to go through the same process as all the regular folk who got caught in the flim-flam. But, American Candidate is trying to add their "candidate webpages" quickly before the public notices.

Still, they were a little too late for Keith Boykin's supporters, who went to his regular webpage, since he didn't have one on American Candidate's website, and voiced their confusion. One wrote "when I went to that web site you are not listed as a candidate" and "Please advise."

Boykin revealed just how little he knew of the process the regular folks had to go through when he replied, "I am not on the website because the website does not list the finalists. The site only lists the thousands of people who applied."

Keith was right, it only listed those who applied, but he got the number wrong. It was 416. But they're adding the handpicked politicians as fast as they can, even giving a few of them multiple webpages.

Another handpicked finalist who never appeared on the website before her candidacy was announced has tried to belay confusion about her original non-status with a coda to her press release.
Supposedly, Lisa Witter doesn't have a webpage "due to technical difficulties" -- ones that evidently kept her off the webpages right up until last night. Even though the supposed application deadline was April 9.

Richard Mack did have a webpage, but since he was running for governor of Utah, and linking to his Utah Governor campaigning site on his AmCan webpage, most assumed he was disqualified. AMERICAN CANDIDATE originally stated on its eligibility requirements that someone running for office couldn't play the game.

Lucky for Mack and the others, RJ Cutler's American Candidate Game is the same game that's always played.

Joe's and Jill's without enough cash, connections, or a political pedigree, need never have applied.



If you reached this spot via google's individual page archiving, and you'd like to read more, just click AMERICAN CANDIDATE: The AmCan Sham

AMERICAN CANDIDATE (SHOWTIME) is a SHAM

RJ CUTLER called it groundbreaking.
SHOWTIME claimed it was a Revolution.

But AMERICAN CANDIDATE turns out to be
as rigged as a carny flim-flam,
and as old news as politics as usual.



If you reached this spot via google's individual page archiving, and you'd like to read more, just click AMERICAN CANDIDATE: The AmCan Sham