Jones of the Nile

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Long time, no blog

Hi all! As you can probably tell, I haven't been blogging recently. The reason? I refuse to blog, or eat for that matter, until Sanjaya Malakar gets kicked off of American Idol.

Kidding. But WTF? You fast to end a genocide or because you were wrongly imprisoned; you don't fast for a tv show starring Paula Abdul.

No, the truth is that I'm actually kind of discerning where I want to take this blog from this point. I'll still post as I can over these coming weeks, but I'm really looking to focus more on something instead of being so all over the place. It's just I don't know what that something will be.

I've also joined a writing group, so perhaps this will also become a vehicle for me to showcase my work (or attempted work).

Or who knows; I might just see some fascinating news story about Jennifer Hudson, and just post. So be patient, and I'll be back to regular posts soon.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The web of politics: Duncan Hunter

This week I was supposed to offer a review of Kansas Senator Sam Brownback’s website. Unfortunately his website has been down for part of this weekend, and I don't want to link to a broken website.

Sam Brownback’s website is down, you say? That sounds like a shady trick by a rival campaign. But I won’t speculate. (*cough* *cough* Mitt Romney *cough* *cough*)

So instead of following the yellow brick road to, I’ll follow the Duke Cunningham money trail to Duncan Hunter’s website,

Most folks might not know of Duncan Hunter. For instance, you might think he’s the man behind the cake mix. Or you might think he’s the 1980s TV police detective. Surprisingly enough, Duncan Hunter is a member of the House of Representatives from California, and the former chair of the House’s Armed Services Committee (2002-2006).

Is he a credible candidate? I’ll let the punditry decide that. But here’s an interesting piece of news: in a straw poll held this week in South Carolina, Duncan Hunter came in a statistical tie for first with John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. Is the sky falling, or have conservative Republican voters finally found one of their own? (After all is said and done, Hunter technically finished third despite his spin. But finishing third by only a few votes is pretty much the same as victory for someone as unknown as Hunter.)

To the website! is a take-off on the American Flag, like practically every political website ever created (save for maybe Tom Vilsack’s, and he’s no longer running). Some standard good things are there: an email newsletter sign-up in the upper right-hand corner; links to donate, volunteer, “tell a friend,” and “become an e-leader” on the homepage; links for a media center and an “in the news” section; and of course, myspace. If you would have told me two years ago that Duncan Hunter would have a myspace page, I would have assumed you were drinking.

Extra kitsch exclusive to Duncan Hunter offers “60 second weekly updates from the campaign trail,” which are short videos from the field. You can also send an “e-yard sign” to your friends. There are also a list of reasons to vote for Duncan Hunter, and a salute to Duncan Hunter from a military general.

As for the look of the homepage, it’s visually OK. I like the square motif of highlighted items, and I think the slide show on the left side of the homepage is nice (though some diversity in pictures would be nice. The first eight look like they were taken during the same speech at some VFW hall, and then picture nine (right) looks like a sample wedding photo taken by the Sears Portrait Studio in 1987). Design-wise, I’d say this site passes the bar, but by no means lands in the stratosphere of legendary website design.

As for content, I have to chuckle about a couple of things. One, on the “Reasons to vote for Duncan Hunter” link, the site only lists four reasons. Seems like you’d want to give more reasons for being the leader of the free world. And there’s no hogwash like “I’d like to unify the country,” or “I’d like to end the partisan politics of the past seven years.” Hunter is fast and hardcore:
  • Hunter is the “national security” candidate and knows defense;

  • Hunter originated the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border;

  • Hunter is pro-life;

  • Hunter is a strong proponent of fair trade.

  • In other words, Hunter is one bad ass motherfucker, ready to take on the brown people, the feminists, and the unions. Which, sadly, may be why he finished IN A TIE FOR FIRST in the recent South Carolina GOP straw poll.

    (To be fair, on this page Hunter offers 24 reasons, in six-point type, describing where he stands on certain issues. But this page is not featured prominently on the homepage.)

    Another item on the site, the “send an e-yard sign” is totally a ludicrous idea. The purpose of an actual yard sign is to visibly show your support for a candidate. The purpose of an e-yard sign is to spam your friends. For fun, I created a Hunter for President yard sign, and had a blast. I was able to type in a title, “Duncan Hunter is scary,” and also a message, “I think Duncan Hunter is a nutjob.” To top it off I was able to choose background music, and so I chose Brazilian salsa music just to stick it to the Representative who loathes foreigners. Then I sent it to my friends.

    The “In the news” section is a laundry list, which I hate. But thankfully, unlike the Bill Richardson website, Hunter’s site has the common sense to break the laundry list up into seven small pages, so you’re not scrolling through the inferno.

    The media center page offers five videos, which are a mix of “official announcement” coverage, and interviews with the likes of MSNBC and Wolf Blitzer. Not bad for a media room, at least for this early in a campaign. But it pails in comparison to the online media war rooms run by McCain’s and Obama’s camp.

    The biography page. is informative and unoriginal. There’s a creepy photoshopped side profile of Hunter (see right...and the image name is "Bust.Duncan"!), and lengthy paragraphs in six-point font (is Hunter tailoring this website for owls? Seriously, make the fonts bigger!) about his Vietnam service, his law school education, his triumphant first run for Congress, and his leadership on the House Armed Services Committee. At the end is a paragraph about his wife and family, and it mentions that his house was lost in the October 2003 wildfires. The paragraph reads like an obituary:

    Hunter resides in East San Diego County with his wife Lynne where they, like many of their neighbors, just completed re-building their Alpine home after it was lost in the October 2003 wildfires. In 2006, Duncan and Lynne celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary; they have two sons, Duncan Duane, who served two tours in Iraq in the U.S. Marine Corps, and Sam Hunter, a business student at San Diego State University. Duncan D. and his wife, Margaret, have three children, Duncan Lee, Elizabeth Grace and Sarah Louise, and reside in Boise, Idaho. Sam was married on Valentine’s Day 2004 to the former Theresa Heger of Jamul and they had their first child, Marin, in October of 2006.

    Theresa Heger of Jamul? I don’t know what that means, but it sounds like royalty from the last Star Wars movie. Was this the Jimmy Smits character?

    The contact page and the donate page are nice, and I like how Hunter includes the maximum $2300 donation is his list of donation options. That’s good sense. It’s something the other websites are doing, too, and I should have praised that earlier.

    The blogger page is at least current, though it’s clear that only one person ( or is updating the blog. Perhaps that’s OK, but at least don’t headline your page “bloggers for Hunter,” if it’s just one guy in his studio apartment, staying up too late and munching on Doritos.

    Hunter also has 133 friends on his myspace page. By contrast, Barack Obama has nearly 3,800 wall posts on Facebook. Get busy, Hunter.

    But my favorite of Hunter’s myspace friends are by far “pro-life Matthew” (see below right...his myspace page is NSFW...go figure, his name is "pro-life Matthew" but there's a naked woman with saran wrap around her body on his page) and “Amanda” (see above). “Darin” ain’t so bad either.

    On a scale of one to five alpine homes, I give this site a 3. Is the site perfect? Hell no. But is the site average enough to appeal to Hunter’s base, and make him seem at least somewhat tech-savvy? Yes.

    Like the South Carolina straw poll shows, Hunter might prove competitive, even if he’s seen as kind of a fringe candidate. It will be interesting to see where The Fix, Hotline, and others place him in their GOP presidential candidate rankings from this point forward.

    Stay tuned next week for a look at the website of Democrat John Edwards.