Rand Paul goes Xtranormal to `Audit the Ted;’ Abbott flying Air Adelson to Israel/Davos

Good day Austin:

A week ago today, the Senate blocked Sen. Rand Paul’s bid to enact the Paul family’s signature Audit the Fed legislation. The  Senate voted 53 to 44 to invoke cloture, seven votes shy of the 60 needed to permit an up-or-down vote on Paul’s bill.

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Who were the three senators who didn’t vote?

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Coats, Cruz and Franken.

Wait. Cruz?

Cruz was a co-sponsor of Paul’s bill.

He has talked about that on the campaign trail.

But on Tuesday, he was on the campaign trail instead of voting in the Senate.

From the Hill:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) ripped Sen. Ted Cruz on Tuesday after the Texas Republican skipped a vote on his “Audit the Fed” proposal.
Paul, who is competing with Cruz for the Republican presidential nomination, said he was “disappointed” Cruz “didn’t show up for work” for a procedural vote on Paul’s legislation.
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Cruz missed the vote because he is campaigning in New Hampshire. Even if he had voted in favor of Paul’s bill on Tuesday, the legislation would have still been short of the 60 votes needed to overcome Tuesday’s procedural hurdle. 
 
Paul has repeatedly criticized Sen. Marco Rubio for skipping Senate votes to campaign for president. The Florida Republican voted in favor of Paul’s legislation. 
 
According to GovTrack, Cruz has missed 24 percent of Senate roll call votes over the past year, second only to Rubio.
Rubio wasn’t the only presidential candidate who took time away from the campaign trail to vote with Paul. So did Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, and was one of only two non-Republicans to vote to audit the Fed. The other was Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.
Here was what Cruz told Glenn Beck explaining his missed vote:

Unfortunately, it was clear early on that yesterday’s vote wasn’t going to succeed (it fell 7 votes short),” Cruz wrote in an email, which Beck later published on his Facebook profile. “And, at the same time that the vote was scheduled, I had longstanding commitments to be in New Hampshire.”

Cruz went on to write that he was speaking at a Second Amendment rally in the Granite State and was delivering a State of the Union town hall, which the GOP hopeful says was to be attended by 1,500 people.

“If my vote would have made a difference in it passing, I would have cancelled my campaign events to be there,” Cruz reassured Beck. “Because the vote was not going to succeed, I honored my commitments to be with the men and women of New Hampshire.”

Cruz did offer one major conciliation, though, for those who are angry with him for skipping the vote: “As President, I look forward to signing Audit the Fed legislation into law.”

Paul, of course, would rather be the one to sign Audit the Fed legislation, and on Monday, the Paul campaign upped the ante against Cruz with a very clever web ad.

He – Did you hear about audit the Fed.

She – Yes, Rand Paul is trying to audit the out-of-control Fed.

He – Do others support the audit the Fed?

She – The Ted Cruz said so but did not show up to vote.

He – Why did he not show up?

She – He was too busy campaigning.

He – Campaigning costs money. Where does the Ted Cruzz get his money from?

She – I hear Wall Street money. Millions. Even $1 million from the Goldman Sachs.

He – Does the Goldman Sachs want to audit the Fed?

She – I don’t think so. They are the Fed.

He – Why does Ted Cruzz take their money if they are the Fed?

She – I don’t know. That is strange.

He – When Ted Cruz ran for Senate he did not legally disclose a loan he got from the Goldman Sachs.

She – How much did Ted Cruz take from the Goldman Sachs?

He – Over one million dollars.

She – Wow. What does this mean?

He – It means Ted Cruz received favors from the special interests.

She – So why do they call him a grassroots candidate?

He  – I don’t know.

She – But doesn’t he claim to be against the establishment?

He – Yes.

She – Then which candidate for president is the grassroots candidate?

He – I hear good things about the Rand Paul. He is for individual liberty, the free market and auditing the Fed.

She – Yes. I like this Rand Paul. And his hair. Maybe he should audit the Ted as well.

He – Yes. I think we need to audit the Ted.

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The spot was created by Vincent Harris of Austin, who said it was Paul’s idea and he worked with Paul land Doug Stafford, the campaign’s senior chief strategist, on the script.

Here is something about Vincent Harris from Harris Media’s website.

Vincent Harris is CEO of Harris Media and Chief Digital Strategist for Senator Rand Paul. Previously he has worked on the digital side of three Presidential races, having run all online operations for Texas Governor Rick Perry and Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 2012 campaigns. In 2014 Vincent was hired by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to oversee the digital operations for his Likud party’s successful campaign. Vincent spent over three years working with Ted Cruz, whom many have credited his successful use of the web as part of his incredible underdog win. Under Vincent’s watch, the nationally acclaimed firm, Harris Media, has grown into a successful company with over 20 employees proudly headquartered in Austin, Texas. Vincent is a strong believer in the power of the internet as a tool to influence the public arena, and his firm’s successes have been noted in numerous publications and news outlets. His expertise stretches from practical application into academia where he is working towards a PhD at the University of Texas and is blessed to be guest faculty at Baylor University. He was named the youngest “Rising Star” in Politics by Campaigns & Elections Magazine and was recently profiled in Bloomberg, where he was dubbed “The Man Who Invented the Republican Internet.”

I had an email interview with Harris this morning.

FR: That’s  in the style of Xtranormal, right?

VH: Yes it is!

FR: It works so well, but why is that?

VH: Works so well in the sense of fitting together and being a little funny? I think it’s because Xtranormal already has a fan base out online, one that a lot of libertarian-minded folks love, so the campaign piggy-backed on top of that. This style of video has been something Senator Paul has been aiming for his campaign to do for a while now. A reason I continue to love working for Senator Paul is that he pushes everyone on staff to be creative. He’s generating constant ideas, and it’s amazing to be able to work for him and see some of them played out like this one.

FR: Why the British accents?

VH: Why not!

FR: Why the article “the” before Goldman Sachs, and Ted Cruz, and why the alternate pronunciations of Cruz/Cruzz?

VH: To make the video more fun to watch and more entertaining to viewers. Uniqueness and small items that lend themselves to those in the know always help virality of web videos. The average person in a recent study released watches videos on Facebook for :22 seconds long before discarding them. If we can keep people watching longer by having more fun and being spontaneous, then it’s a success.

FR: Am I reading too much into it that, based on the British accents, the trees and the resemblance of the characters to South Park Canadians, you are subtly planting the idea of Canada in viewers’ minds?

VH: “What we see depends on what we look for”- Sir John Lubbock

FR: I’m transcribing the text and I’m not getting what comes between “I like this Rand Paul” and “maybe he should audit the Ted as well.” Is it “I like this Rand Paul, and his hair?”

VH: Yes it is! 🙂

FR: Any sense of response yet to the new ad?

VH: Great response across age demographics. The campaign is spending some money promoting the spot in early states and to the Senator’s fans nationally. It’s the kind of unique spot that plays very well online with sharing and interaction. It’s gotten some on the left fired up as well calling it stupid, but the attention and name-calling is appreciated and we on the right wear it with a badge of honor.

When every ad seems to be the same. :30 seconds of trash talk with black and white clips of opponents and swirling text bashing them, this is a different and more subtle and fun way to make a point.

In today’s digital age, if a voter doesn’t want to watch something, they can simply flip it off. The Senator’s goal for this spot was to create something that folks online would actually watch to completion and keep their attention. So far from the metrics we’ve seen, this is doing exactly that.

FR: Any other unique content you are doing for the Paul campaign that I should mention?

VH: We were the first campaign to do a day long live-stream, the first campaign to release a vector file of his logo, the first campaign to crowd-source a TV ad that money was put behind, and I would guess the only Republican campaign that has a plurality of website visitors and engagement on social media be from the 18-35 demographic. Keep on the look out for some more to come in the last couple of weeks here before Iowa!

What is Xtranormal, or, more accurately, what was Xtranormal, which shut down two years ago”
Here is a press release explanation of Xtranormal from 2011:

REDMOND, Wash. — Xxtranormal’s  tagline, “If you can type, you can make movies,” describes both the company’s mission and how to use its text-to-speech system to create animated movies. The Microsoft BizSpark One member is working to transform movie-making into an everyday activity, as simple and commonplace as composing a text message.

“We want to make animated movies ubiquitous,” says Graham Sharp, CEO of Xtranormal . “I’d like to see people using the Xtranormal platform like they use Microsoft Word: just opening a document and starting to type.”

You might have already seen a video created using the Xtranormal system. The most recognizable characters are large-headed bears who speak in measured tones, using whatever words each video’s creator has typed in.

Several Xtranormal videos gone viral on the Internet, receiving millions of views. Xtranormal estimates that during an average month, 10 percent of its 4 million registered users are actively creating videos, with an unknown number of people using the service for free without registering. At that rate, more than 5 million Xtranormal videos are being produced each year. And Sharp reports the site gets between 200,000 and 250,000 new registered users a month.

Although many people use Xtranormal to make videos for their own entertainment — to poke fun at their workplaces, to make a political statement or in hopes of creating a viral sensation — others have more serious goals.

“We reckon about 60 percent of our paying users are making videos for education or business,” says Sharp. “Teachers or students use the videos to spice up coursework, while companies use them to promote or advertise products, for training or as part of their public relations efforts.”

To inspire potential users and show what’s possible with its technology, Xtranormal also creates and posts its own animations on its website, via the Xtranormal Studio.

The Paul universe is no stranger to Xtranormal

In his video from 2011, Steve, an over-programmed Ron Paul supporter, responds to every interaction in Paul babble.

 

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Liberty, Constitution. Liberty, Constitution. Liberty, Constitution.

Straw poll. Straw poll. Money bomb. Money bomb. Straw poll. Straw poll. Money bomb. Money bomb. Straw poll. Liberty. Constitution. Straw poll.

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She: What about Rick Perry or Jon Huntsman? Do you think they have a chance?

Steve: Alex Jones. Bilderberg. Liberty. Big banks are out of control. Don’t regulate the big banks. Free market. Alex Jones. Money bombs Liberty. Republicans suck. Ron Paul is Republican. Liberty. Liberty. Ron, Paul, George and Ringo. Liberty. The end. I win the debate.

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She: Steve, You are not making sense.

Steve: When Ron Paul becomes president I will be riding my jet patch to Washington to work in the Department of Liberty and Free Wheat. We should meet up.

And on and on.

And here is Ron Paul being pestered by a reporter about whether he actually wrote the newsletters that bore his name.

Here also are a couple of other Xtranormal classcis.

 

 

Meanwhile, Rand Paul had a town hall on MLK Day yesterday at a Platinum Kutz, a black barbershop in Des Moines.

Paul didn’t get a haircut.

 

Greg Abbott flies `Air Adelson’ to Israel/Davos.

From the Jewish Insider yesterday:

Israeli Delegation at Davos: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former President of Israel Shimon Peres, American Jewish Committee’s Rabbi David Rosen, Bank Hapoalim’s Yair Seroussi, Bank Leumi’s David Brodet, Yossi Vardi, Sami Sagol, Ehud Shapiro, Matan Hoffman.

AIR ADELSON: Also on the guest list for Davos is Texas Governor Gregg Abbott. Yesterday, Haaretz’s Avi Scharf tweeted asking why Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands’ 737 flew from Austin to Tel Aviv and who was on board? Well, a source confirmed that the plane brought the Texas Governor’s delegation to Israel prior to his trip to the Swiss Alps. Last night, Abbott tweeted a picture from the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and we’re told he plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett today. Unclear if Adelson’s plane is also flying the delegation from Israel to Davos and, if so, who else might hitch a ride.

And then, from Jewish Insider today:

JI’s SCOOP: “Abbott’s office confirmed that the governor flew on Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands 737 after it was initially reported Monday by Jewish Insider… After his stop in Israel, the governor will fly to Switzerland later this week for a stop at the World Economic Forum in Davos. An Abbott spokesman said Monday that flight will be made on Adelson’s plane as well.” [DallasMorningNewsTexasTribune]JERUSALEM SCENE: After a day packed with meetings, including with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and a visit to the Western Wall, Texas Gov. Abbott attended a reception last night in his honor at a penthouse apartment in the Rechavia neighborhood of Jerusalem. According to a source, attendees included former Gen. Yaakov Amidror and his wife Dorith, Saul & Wendy Singer, Cecilia Abbott, Aryeh Lightstone, Rabbi Steven Burg, Rabbi Avi Berman, Shmuel Winiarz, Miriam Peretz, Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi, and Rivka Kidron.

How It Played: ”In Israel, Abbott affirms block on Iran investments” [Chron] • “Governor Abbott Meets Israel’s Netanyahu” [CBSlocal] • “Greg Abbott Meets With Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu” [TexasTribune]

From Brandi Grissom at the Dallas Morning News:

Adelson has invested generously in GOP candidates, spending at least some $93 million on primarily GOP-related causes during the 2012 presidential election, according to the Washington Post.

Adelson and his wife, Miriam Adelson, are also prolific philanthropists, supporting Jewish causes and Israel through the Adelson Family Foundation.

The casino magnate has made appearances in Texas before, urging lawmakers in 2009 to allow resort-casino-style gambling here. Those efforts failed, as have casino gambling proposals before and since.

Abbott and the conservative Texas Legislature have been vociferous opponents of gambling expansion.

From Edgar Walters at the Texas Tribune:

The billionaire recently made national headlines when he was revealed to be the mysterious purchaser of The Las Vegas Review-Journl in December. He also owns the newspaper with the largest circulation in Israel, a free daily.

Here from Jason Zengerle at New York Magazine in September:  Sheldon Adelson Is Ready to Buy the Presidency. He just hasn’t decided which Republican candidate to back.

And here is Adelson a few years ago talking about dropping an atomic bomb in the Iranian desert, and then telling the Iranian regime that, unless it ends its efforts to make nuclear weapons, the next atomic bomb will be dropped in the middle of Tehran.

Overnight, I sent the governor’s press office a few questions about why the governor flew on Adelson’s plane?

How come? Is Adelson bearing the cost or being reimbursed? Was it the whole Texas delegation on the flight, and have you put out a list of those in the delegation? Was Adelson, or were some of Adelson’s people, on the flight? How did this come about? Do the governor and Adelson have a relationship?
Is Adelson providing transportation to Davos as well, and then from Davos back to Texas?

 

Abbott spokesman John Wittman replied, “I can confirm the Governor took Adelson’ plane to Israel,” and would be flying on Adelson’s plane to Davos and back home to Texas.

Here is the governor’s press release advancing the trip:

Governor Greg Abbott will lead a business development mission to Israel and Switzerland from Monday, January 18th through Friday, January 22nd, 2016. Governor Abbott’s trip will focus on increasing foreign direct investment in Texas. During the trip, the Governor will tour businesses, hold meetings with public officials and business executives in both countries, and participate at the World Economic Forum in Davos. This will be Governor Abbott’s third international business development trip since taking office.

“The combination of Texas’ low-tax, low-regulation environment and our skilled workforce is attracting more foreign direct investment to make the Lone Star State a hub for global commerce,” said Governor Abbott. “Our proven model stands out among states and, indeed, among nations as a beacon for free enterprise and economic prosperity. I look forward to building ties with new international business partners and strengthening Texas’ economic relationships across the globe.”

Governor Abbott’s trip comes after IBM’s 2015 Global Location Trends Facts & Figures report named Texas the #1 state in the United States for foreign and domestic investment, based on the number of jobs.

“TexasOne is proud to support Governor Abbott in his efforts to expand business relationships and create additional trade opportunities for the State of Texas in Israel and Switzerland,” said Tracye McDaniel, President and CEO of Texas Economic Development Corporation and TexasOne. “We look forward to further strengthening economic ties in these key markets and to identifying opportunities to grow Texas’ target industries—life sciences, financial services, manufacturing and energy.”

“Israel appreciates the close relationship that Governor Greg Abbott has nurtured, both economically and politically. We look forward to many more collaborations, especially in the areas of water, energy and technology,” said Consul General Eitan Levon, Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest United States.

The trip will be sponsored and paid for by TexasOne, the state’s Economic Development Corporation.

 

 

 

 

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