We're deep into primary election season in California, meaning broadcast TV is saturated with political advertising. A lot of it is unintentionally humorous -- the attacks between the Dem governor candidates, Steve Westley and Phil Angelides, have been especially funny, featuring flimsy appeals to the sort of cartoon-villain archetypes that might appeal to Dem primary voters: "evil real estate developer", "negative campaigner", "negative campaigner" (the other guy, now), "favor seller", "tahoe polluter", "friend of Schwartzenegger".
My favorite unintentionally funny ad, though, is in the down-ticket race for the Dem controller nomination. The candidate, Joe Dunn, claims to be "the man who cracked Enron" because he chaired a committee investigating California's 2000-2001 energy crisis, including Enron's involvement. (Never mind that none of the recent convictions for Enron heads Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling had anything to do with Enron's operations in California.)
However, Dunn's heavily-played TV commercial poses the question: can a man 'crack' Enron if he can't find it on a map?
The 'action scenes' (set to 'action music') of the commercial are interspersed with tracings on a map showing Dunn's travels during his investigation. But here's the key frame, for me:
Astute students of geography will note that Dunn's team has rendered Houston on the Mississippi, deep in Louisiana, essentially where New Orleans is. (Or perhaps, to be precise, Baton Rouge.) The real Houston is about 300 miles west, where that other bay is on the left side of the Dunn ad frame. For those needing a refresher, here's a helpful map from the Washington Post:
Now, neither gulf coast transplants nor the geographically astute are likely to be swing voters in the Dem primary. And perhaps it doesn't matter. For example, I can't find any other references to anyone who's noticed this error.
But for the office of controller, the "Chief Financial Officer of California" who must "account for and control disbursement of all state funds" and "determine [the] legality and accuracy of every claim against the State" -- I'd rather have a 'detail guy'. Someone who sweats the small stuff, checks anything in doubt, and expects the same of his team. So bragging about an investigational trip to Houston, but plotting it on a map as New Orleans, just looks comically inept.
(Dunn's opponent, John Chiang, has some cheesy TV ads good for grins too, especially as they show Chiang marching stiffly around downtown business districts, snapping law books shut, and finally staring sternly into the "wind" -- generated by a just-offscreen fan, no doubt. But they don't have the same whiff of incompetence about them as the Dunn ad, and it appears Chiang at least has some tax and finance experience compared to that of a grandstanding lawyer.)