Obama, 9 votes

>> Friday, October 31, 2008

Compare the story of the rather sad McCain GOTV and volunteer efforts with this video from the obama cmapaign,

If there is one thing that people should take away from the obama campaign is that the media people in it were incredible. I cant actually recall a visual or media screw up like say, mccain's green screen.

so can you get 9 votes?


Sad, Sad, Story

But the other story, the story on which we've had a running eight-week exclusive in 36 separate On the Road pieces and counting, is that John McCain's ground campaign is just not happening. It hasn't been happening, without Sarah Palin there might be four or five volunteers across the entire nation left, and now, per Mosk's piece at WaPo, it looks like it will be happening even less.

Head over to 538 and read the tragedy that is McCain's ground game at work. Look at the photo's by Brett Marty and tell me you dont feel bad for the people in the photos.


Ted, you were convicted.

“I’ve not been convicted yet,” Stevens said Thursday in a meeting with the editorial board of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. “There’s not a black mark by my name yet, until the appeal is over and I am finally convicted, if that happens. If that happens, of course I’ll do what’s right for Alaska and for the Senate. ... I don’t anticipate it happening, and until it happens I do not have a black mark.”

Stevens reiterated that position during a televised debate late Thursday night, declaring early in the give-and-take with Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, “I have not been convicted of anything.”

Hmm...brief reminder,

CNN reporting that Sen. Ted Stevens has been found guilty on all seven counts of making false statements on his financial disclosure forms.

Look, being on appeal does not mean that the conviction is set aside until the appeal is resolved. Its a rebutable presumption. You are convicted unless the appeals court decides to overturn. Any one in Alaska who votes for this guy should really think about what is important to them and whether they would teach their kids the kind of values Stevens displays.


The Coming Blue Dog Wars

As dems and the media have been focused on the circular firing squad that is the gop the congressional implications of wiping out the republicans has been to a certain extent ignored. To be fair the election is not over yet and it is somewhat premature to treat it as if it is. Still, it is worth looking into the future just a little to examine the next moves of the dems as they consolidate power on the hill.

While the gop bloodbath occurs out in the wilderness there is going to be an internal struggle in the democratic party for control of the agenda. One one side will be the liberal activist wing led by people such as Kos and on the other side will be the Blue Dogs and the corporate interests.

While the democratic party expands into more and more conservative districts the dems elected there are going to reflect a more conservative view point. This is not to say that they are going to be DINO's but that it is still not possible to elect a pro-choice democrat in every part of this country. These members are important because they are better than having a republican in that seat but for the most part they are not progressives and many of them are simply corporate place holders under the guise of conservatism. As their numbers grow they will be the ones most likely to scuttle the reform agenda of a President Obama and the liberal base of the party. Unchecked the Blue Dog Coalition is only going to grow in power.

To understand how the blue dogs operate read this oped by former Sen. Bob Kerry,

My worry is not with increased threats from abroad. I am convinced those threats will be reduced with Obama's election and the beginning of a much more sensible and trustworthy American foreign policy.

By my lights, the primary threat to the success of a President Obama will come from some Democrats who, emboldened by the size of their congressional majority, may try to kill trade agreements, raise taxes in ways that will destroy jobs, repeal the Patriot Act and spend and regulate to high heaven.

This is where Obama's persona is invaluable. He can withstand the arguments and pressure of the liberal wing in the Democratic caucus if, once elected, he is guided by the best instincts he has displayed on the campaign trail.
Last, I believe this is likely because Obama understands that to succeed, he must make peace with John McCain just as he has done with Hillary Clinton. When this historic election concludes, I expect the two to sit down, without precondition, and negotiate an agenda of reform.

But that will only be the beginning. To build up the political capital for the kinds of changes needed in these difficult times, Obama will need to communicate the following to Congress, in no uncertain terms: The Democrats have not won a mandate for all their policies. Rather, the American people have resoundingly registered their frustration with a failed status quo, and the next President must chart a new, less partisan course.

This is just too much nonsense. Say Obama wins the election by 5 points. His policies have been out there the entire time. After that he is supposed to just discard them and throw the base of the party under the bus to side with the people the country just rejected? What would it take for kerry to understand that the people have approved obama's stated agenda? When the party took the advice of people like Kerry we lost and lost hard. Only when people like Kos and Dean, the liberals, started getting a voice did the dems make a comeback. The centrists and corporate backers were unable to make a case against Bush because they had been "bi partisan" in their attitude.Glen Greenwald runs down what happens if we let the Blue Dogs play their game,

Unlimited and unconditional funding for the Iraq war. Vast new warrantless eavesdropping powers and retroactive amnesty for their telecom donors -- measures the administration tried, but failed, to obtain from the GOP Congress. The ability to ignore congressional subpoenas with utter impunity. A resolution formally decreeing parts of the Iranian government to be a "terrorist organization." A failure to outlaw waterboarding, to apply the torture ban to the CIA, to restore the habeas corpus rights abolished by the Military Commissions Act of 2006, to impose the requirement of congressional approval before President Bush can attack Iran. Confirmation of highly controversial Bush nominees, including Michael Mukasey as attorney general even after he embraced the most radical Bush theories of executive power and repeatedly refused to say that waterboarding was torture

Pelossi and Reid definitely bear a great deal of responsibility for this stuff. They are the ones accommodating the Blue Dogs and the corporate interests at the expense of what the people really want. As congressional leaders focused on gaining larger and larger majorities in congress they have failed to take any advantage of those majorities because they cannot get the blue dogs to heal. there is no point in pursuing greater margins if those margins are filled in by people who do not advance the people's interest. At the same time the dogs are more than willing to cross party lines and scuttle the base's policy desires, most notably on fisa. This cannot continue.

In order to prevent the Dogs from undercutting things like health care reform they need to know that there are consequences for taking the corporate side with the republicans against the base. The means for removing the dead rot and keeping the more corporate elements in the democratic party in line is the primary challenge.

Primary challenges are excellent weapons because they allow a progressive force to fight on a battle field within their own party where the challengers have the chance to not only win but force the corporatcrat to spend resources and weaken himself to the point where he might lose. Now in an environment where every seat is essential the loss of the bad dog might carry some negatives but when the dems have an overwhelming majority as they will after the election the 2010 the loss of one or two seats is not a death blow. We trade one house seat for better policy and better representation. That is the goal, best representation possible as Kos noted in an interview with Glenn Greenwald,

...there are so many, right now, in the House, and even some in the Senate, who have lost touch with the fact that they serve the people, that they're supposed to represent their constituents, and that they're not there for their own ego, for their own aggrandizement, or to serve corporate interests, who have seen the law, many of those people. So, what we wanted to do is, is we want to teach these people who is really their boss, and that's their local constituents, not the K Street lobbyists.
You have a - obviously, every district is different; some of them are more conservative than others, and you have situations where, say in Alabama or Louisiana, where you cannot be a pro-choice Democrat and win. And it's just the reality of those districts. But, there is nowhere in the United States where voting for bankruptcy bill that benefits the credit card companies is going to cost you an election. It may cost you some lobbyists money, but it ain't going to cost you votes. There's nowhere in this country where voting for retroactive immunity for telecommunication companies is going to cost an election. It may cost you money from the AT&T and Verizon lobbyist, but it's not going to cost you votes. So, there's a difference between representing your district because of its conservative/liberal leanings, and then there are issues that really transcend partisanship or ideology and are really corporate issues. And this is where we, at least that's where I put a lot of my attention, is congressmen and senators who have lost touch with the fact that they represent their constituents, and are actually working to represent corporate interests that have absolutely nothing to do with the well-being of their district.

So, we're not going to go after representatives, congressmen, that are conservative just because they are quote "conservative." We're going to look at those districts, with representatives that elected officials that have lost touch with their constituents, and not providing their constituents service, are not voting in a way that helps the well-being and the welfare of the people who are in those districts. So, it's not a left versus right sort of thing; it's really more of a corporatist versus populist approach to governance. We think that elected officials should represent their constituents and not corporate interests.

You can get the full transcript and listen to the interview here. Kos goes on to make a really important point about this fight. It is not an ideological purity quest. Those simply dont work. You want to have as big a tent as possible. Generally modern political parties are so perfectly sorted that the most least liberal dem is still more liberal than the most liberal conservative. It is on the issues where broad swaths of the country agree that the dogs do the most damage. This point about backing corporate interests is not widely understood.Ed Kilgore deals with why we should just ignore the blue dogs,

There are three big problems with such a campaign: defining the targets amid wildly varying estimates of the necessary degrees of Democratic unity and progressivism; mustering the means to carry out primary challenges in territory not always hospitable to the net-roots point of view; and most of all, dealing with a post-Bush political environment in which many of the long-heard complaints about Democratic "timidity" may be far less relevant.
And aside from continuing public ambivalence about how, exactly, to end the war in Iraq, there's simply not much evidence that issues like FISA or habeas corpus, much as they should matter to voters, actually do, even in the ranks of the Democratic "base."

Kilgore either misunderstands or proves Kos's points. I have already talked about the ideological purity nonsense and the district makeup corollary. Politicians like Bill Foster proved that you dont have to run away from fisa or other non ideological issues. On many issues its a clear choice between the people and the corporate interests and too often congress has backed the corporate with no consequences. The people must come first and if kilgore and the other villagers paid attention they would see that the primary efforts of kos and others do work. greenwald conducted a second interview on the same day as kos's with jane hamsher

Well, dial back to 2006, when the Democrats first got their congressional majority. We saw people like Ellen Tauscher running as, this is a chance for a conservative Democrat to be corporate-friendly and take all kinds of K Street money, and we have to get rid of these liberal committee chairmen. And, the blog went nuts, and she was very much targeted as people started looking at her district to see who could run against her, and she changed her tune really fast. She signed on to the letter saying that timelines needed to be in any budget for getting out of Iraq, and she really backed off the hard core - at least publicly - George Bush love, and the same thing happened with Al Wynn. Al Wynn was running against Donna Edwards in Maryland as we all know, and whereas before he had been Mr. Bankruptcy - very corporate-friendly, basically saw himself in his seat as what can you do for Al Wynn; he really back-pedaled, and so we were kind of surprised that the threat of having a primary, just the fact that we were talking about it, really made a change in behavior right then, instantly, in 2006. We didn't have to wait 'til 2008 to see a change in behavior.

So the plan is ready. Run primary challengers against select targets in order to incentivise good behavior on the part of congress critters. Make them responsible to their voters and the people as opposed to corporate masters. The key is how to do it. The tool that has been formed to carry out the plan is called Accountability Now. The Pac's members include, SCIU and the Steelworkers' Union, and Daily Kos, MoveOn.org and Color of Change. These groups have banded together so that they may pool resources to take out the worst offenders in congress.

Now these groups all have varying interests and agenda's but what it evident from recent legislative battles is that the worst cp are rarely beholden to one interest group or corporate sector. These people will take money and deliver legislation from whoever has the cash to donate. The group currently has a war chest in excess of $500,000 and has until 2010 to build further. Not only will they need funds but challengers willing to run as progressives against the rotten members.

To bring everything back full circle Accountability Now will work hard to ensure that President Obama has the opportunity to govern like a progressive without being dragged back to the corporate side by people like Kerry. This means keeping those Corporate Congress Critters and Blue Dogs honest and afraid for their careers. To accomplish this will take a great deal of time and effort.

As Hamsher explains in her interview with greewald,

If we can find that person early on, and help them get the resources they need, a year in, a year and a half in, we'll be able to see who's really got the right stuff, who has the capacity to be a Donna Edwards. And at that point, these groups can come back and say, yes, I want to target this person, no, I don't want to target this person, yes I believe in this candidate, let's get behind them. And we run what is known in Washington DC speak as a Steve Rosenthal special, where everybody comes together and supports alternative candidate.

This stuff will be very important to the future of the democratic party and to the country. if the net roots and other progressive orgs can band together and successfully alter the behavior of the chronically corporate then not only Obama be able to govern and pass the policies he was elected to but we have shot at undoing the horrendous damage bush and the corrupt gop have done to our country.

At this point i expect that all of the focus is going to be on electing obama, defeating prop 8 and 4 and winning the other pivotal battles of the election. I wont include a fund raising link for AN because the funds, if you have any left, would be more valuable if given at the kos act blue page. After tuesday, be prepared for the next stage of the battle. The election is only an opportunity for change and it remains up to us, the people, to fight and insure that it happens. Dont lose sight of the goal.


Stop Cherry Picking PollS

>> Thursday, October 30, 2008

I hate it when people cherry pick one poll to support their narrative. i hate it that pollsters write narratives when they release their numbers. A single poll is not all that valuable. That is why 538 and pollster and the other polling sites deal in aggregate polls. one poll is just not reliable enough on its own. the more polls that cluster around a value the more reliable. Picking one lone poll that shows obama tied with mccain in tennessee is not worth reporting on. just stop.


Determinist v. Free Will

As the campaign winds down there is going to be an ongoing narrative war. There will be two camps, the determinist and free will. The determinist camp will be supporting the idea that no matter what events happened in the campaign mccain was going to lose and that the macro factors such as general anger at Bush and Republicanism were most important. the free will camp will hold that McCain was in this campaign and that he, more than any other republican could have overcome the macro factors because of his unique campaign branding. these people look at the tactics and strategy employed by mccain and use those as the determining factor of the election.

I tend to come down in favor of macro factors setting up the playing field tilted in obama's direction to the point that mccain needed to run a flawless race with obama running an average or bad campaign. Just the opposite has happened. McCain has run a terrible race. Many will assert that mccain has not actually run a bad race, they will point to the numbers coming out of the convention and during the summer as an indicator. This is a flawed argument because the numbers coming out of the convention fit in line with historical trends coming out of conventions. Also, the polling during the summer has never been a particularly great indicator of where the race is going to end up and that held true here.

Instead McCain made a series of highly visible and very poor choices. He made the choice to run to the right in an attempt to salvage his "base". He ran as a pure conservative after the primary in defiance of his brand name. He made the conscious decision to embrace bush instead of creating separation. McCain figured at the time that he could win on an experience versus change argument and that by throwing bush under the bus he would be making too great a concession towards change. McCain proceeded to run a fairly traditional Republican campaign on matters of national security and taxes. The when it came down to crunch time after a fairly forgettable summer he picked sarah palin.

Palin was a terrible pick. She was a complete reversal on the one consistent message mccain had, experience. McCain needed to present a perfect image to the voters to separate himself from the macro factors that weigh down genric republicans. he not only failed to rise to this challenge but ran away from it and into the arms of his party hardliners. Then he failed in his response to the financial crisis making himself look erratic and foolish.

So McCain had a mountain to climb at the beginning of the election. It was not an impossible climb but it was a really tough climb. In the end he has put his foot wrong one too many times and it is doubtful he recovers. Be careful of anyone who attributes things solely to either the macro or micro factors because the truth is in the middle.


Obama's American Documentary

People are calling this several things, "The Ad", "The Informercial", but really this thing plays more like a ken burns documentary than an ad or an informercial. the production values and the stylings and the tone scream documentary. By the way, Obama can narrate very well. Its 27 minutes long and it feels like the documentation for the obama campaigns goals and values. I cant say how many people it will convince to vote for him but i dont think it really hurt his chances.

Some people have really gone contrarily and said it was too good, too well made. This is pretty weak. Olbermann and maddow both brought this up and i really could not have disagreed more. If Obama had a couple more it would certainly be a pbs mini series called, the american experience.

McCain of course followed up with a heavy attack ad buy. i cant help but tink this turned people off especially given the stupid "yet" added to the end of an ad attacking obama for not having enough experience.


McCain and the Press Coverage

>> Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Politico has a story up on the press coverage of the election. Specifically they are addressing the issue of bias in media coverage. The entire post is very interesting and worth a read. Look particularly at the premise of the piece contained in the first line, "thats not balanced". This is a major signal that one group is upset that the stories run are not perfectly equal in tone and tenor. Here is happens to be coming from the McCain campaign.

The McCain campaign would very much like for the stories about the election to be "balanced". Balance is a term of art that means every time you mention a negative thing about mccain you have to cancel it out with one about obama. This of course fails to take into account a situation where one candidate, mccain, is far more negative than the other. McCain has been almost exclusively negative personal attacks since the convention. The only exception might be this socialism stuff he is floating although that is so dubious and lacking in support it really is a personal pejorative. The McCain people are upset because the stories actually reflect reality,

The Project for Excellence in Journalism’s researchers found that John McCain, over the six weeks since the Republican convention, got four times as many negative stories as positive ones. The study found six out of 10 McCain stories were negative.

What’s more, Obama had more than twice as many positive stories (36 percent) as McCain — and just half the percentage of negative (29 percent).

You call that balanced?

No, i call it the truth. The truth is that mccain has been more negative and more personal this election cycle. his attacks have not only lacked effect the have lacked merit. Having been informed of both of these issues McCain has not opted to go the traditional route of apologizing or defending and pulling the ad. Instead what he has done is push on with discredited ads in the face of press opposition. The politico crew call this, the mccain backlash.

One is McCain backlash. The Republican once was the best evidence of how little ideology matters. Even during his “maverick” days, McCain was a consistent social conservative, with views on abortion and other cultural issues that would have been odds with those of most reporters we know. Yet he won swooning coverage for a decade from reporters who liked his accessibility and iconoclasm and supposed commitment to clean politics.

Now he is paying. McCain’s decision to limit media access and align himself with the GOP conservative base was an entirely routine, strategic move for a presidential candidate. But much of the coverage has portrayed this as though it were an unconscionable sellout.

Since then the media often presumes bad faith on McCain’s part. The best evidence of this has been the intense focus on the negative nature of his ads, when it is clear Obama has been similarly negative in spots he airs on radio and in swing states.

Now you can certainly take issue with he idea that Obama's ads have been as dirty and untrue as mccain's ads have been. Obama has stayed on policy, attacking mccain relentlessly on policy and on his policy reactions in the campaign. The part about the media assuming bad faith on McCain's part is certainly true. I dont want to give the politico crew too much credit because they really do try and carry mccain water in a couple places,

It is not our impression that many reporters are rooting for Obama personally. To the contrary, most colleagues on the trail we’ve spoken with seem to find him a distant and undefined figure. But he has benefited from the idea that negative attacks that in a normal campaign would be commonplace in this year would carry an out-of-bounds racial subtext. That’s why Obama’s long association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright was basically a nonissue in the general election.

Journalists’ hair-trigger racial sensitivity may have been misplaced, but it was not driven by an ideological tilt.

Rev Wright was a nonissue because it was not an issue. It became an issue because of race. Politico is making the assertion that had it been a white pastor and a white candidate we would be seeing all wright all the time and we know thats not true. See sarah palin and her witch hunting pastor. The truth is that many of the attacks were raced based. anything having to do with his middle name is a racial thing.

Politico finishes the piece with a look at the systemic biases institutionalized in the media and i think this is possibly the most important section.

Beyond the particular circumstances of McCain v. Obama, there are other factors in any race that almost always matter more than the personal views of reporters.

The strongest of these is the bias in favor of momentum. A candidate who is perceived to be doing well tends to get even more positive coverage (about his or her big crowds or the latest favorable polls or whatever). And a candidate who is perceived to be doing poorly tends to have all events viewed through this prism.

Not coincidentally, this is a bias shared by most of our sources. This is why the bulk of negative stories about McCain are not about his ideology or policy plans — they are about intrigue and turmoil. Think back to the past week of coverage on Politico and elsewhere: Coverage has been dominated by Sarah Palin’s $150,000 handbags and glad rags, by finger-pointing in the McCain camp, and by apparent tensions between the candidate and his running mate.

These stories are driven by the flood of Republicans inside and out of the campaign eager to make themselves look good or others look bad. This always happens when a campaign starts to tank. Indeed, there was a spate of such stories when Obama’s campaign hit turmoil after the GOP convention and the Palin surge.

For better or worse, the most common media instincts all have countervailing pressures. Countering the bias in favor of momentum is the bias against boredom. We’ve seen that several times this cycle — an outlying poll number being pumped to suggest big changes in a race that is basically unchanged. There’s a good chance you’ll see this phenomenon more in the next week.

Then there is the bend-over-backward bias. This is when journalists try so hard to avoid accusations of favoritism that it clouds critical judgment. A good example were stories suggesting Palin held her own or even won her debate against Joe Biden when it seemed obvious she was simply invoking whatever talking points she had at hand, hanging on for dear life.

Finally, one of the biases of journalists is the same one that is potent for almost all people: the one in favor of self-defensiveness. That’s why, even though we think ideological bias is pretty low on the list of journalistic maladies in this election, it is not viable for reporters to dismiss criticism out of hand.

I am loathe to run through each of these things one at a time. It suffices to say this stuff is true. it is one of the times that media people actually tell you what they think and why they run a story. They admit here to cherry picked polls to try and create artificial news. They admit to relying on the gossip and process stuff instead of focusing on policy. Everything the press is routinely criticized for is in this last section.

Politico seems to be hanging their hat on the simple proposition that reality says one campaign is winning and the other is losing. They luck out here in a way because even if mccain was actually winning with these tactics he would deserve just as much scrutiny. Sure we might see fewer process stories but i doubt it. Reporters just love that stuff too much. instead of negative wardrobe stories we might being seeing stories on how palins look was helping mccain. his ads however would still be 100% negative. if the presss covered the negativity different because he was winning that would not be right. The entire talk of balancing stories is something that needs to go away. Politico crew sums it up best when they say,

As it happens, McCain’s campaign is going quite poorly and Obama’s is going well. Imposing artificial balance on this reality would be a bias of its own.


Todd Incident Reveals Media's Race Beliefs

>> Tuesday, October 28, 2008

If we have learned one thing from this election cycle it is that race has not gone away. the racial fault lines of our country have simply been covered over with a thin veneer of media and societal denial. Race is an important topic for discussion in this country and it needs to be addressed. One of the areas of particular importance is in the media. the coverage different events receive based on the color of the protagonist or antagonist in the story.

From The Debate Link

As the echo of Ashley Todd's false claim of being assaulted by a Black Obama supporter fades into the political background, I found in interesting to observe how the incident was racialized. There did not seem to be any doubt amongst the commentariat that this was an effort to spark a racial response in the electorate. But Ms. Todd's actions were not seen as a signifier or example of White character as a whole. Her accusation was not something "they" (White people) do. It was a "callback" to a bygone era, or it was an aberration from general White practice.

Contrast that to how, for example, the fictive claims in the Duke Lacrosse case, or Tawana Brawley, were treated. They were racialized as well, but unlike Ms. Todd they were used to make broad, sweeping statements about what "they" (Black people) do with regards to putative racism -- namely, just make stuff up. It was not seen as exceptional, or aberrational. It was a valid measuring stick from which to look at all claims of racialized White-on-Black violence.

The instinct, I feel, in Ms. Todd's case was the proper one. Take note of how race is being used by the perpetrator of the fraud to create a certain reaction, and condemn those who exploit that sentiment without proper verification. But don't impute the event wholesale onto the entire race. White folks do not want Ms. Todd's frame-up to become the standard by which we are measured. But fair is fair -- if we want the benefit of the doubt, we have to give it when faced with parallel situations on the other side of the racial divide.

Pay close attention to the discussion going on in countdown. Fast froward to the 2:05 mark to hear the historical argument straight from Eugene Robinson.

One of the reasons that this became so linked to the historical acts is that it fit the narrative too perfectly. It was readily apparent to anyone who read to kill a mockingbird in high school. Of course in real life there were precious few people willing to stand on the side of african americans accused of such crimes. Instead there would be lynchings, mob "justice".

When David makes the comparison between this case and the Duke Lacrosse case he is revealing one of the major racial faults in the country. White people really dont see racism as such a societal problem anymore while african americans do. A Gallup survey from July found

About two-thirds of white Americans (63%) say they are very or somewhat satisfied with the way society treats blacks, while more than one-third of black Americans (35%) say the same.

Gallup dug deeper into race relations in August with a poll that found 51% of whites ,59% of Hispanics, and the vast majority of blacks 78% view racism as widespread against blacks in the United States. These numbers, as striking as they are barely scratch the surface. Looking at four issues in particular the divide is clear,

On all four issues, blacks are more likely than whites and Hispanics to see racial discrimination as a major factor. In fact, a majority of blacks say racial discrimination is a major reason each problem is occurring.

Among Blacks the percentages of those who thought racism was a major problem was 64% for education, 71% for income levels, 57% for life expectancy, 80% in prison rates. If you throw in the people who thought it was a minor factor you get 89% education, 92 income level, 85 life expectancy and 91 percent of blacks who think racism is a problem in prison rates. Compare this to whites where only 32% 35% 25% and 44% found racism to be a major problem. Aggregated the number of whites who perceive racism as a problem climbs to 68 76 62 and 77 for the four categories. The numbers are clear, whites dont think racism is as big an issue as blacks. There was of course big split in partisan id with dems perceiving more racism indys less and republicans the least. this corresponds with the higher levels of african americans in the dem party.

The reason that these numbers matter is that the people who control the media and determine story lines cover things generally from a white perspective. The white narrative is the dominant one in the media. The media is aware that black people perceive high levels of racism and this conflicts with their own views that there is much less racism and that where it does exist it is less of a problem. Thus they will tend to discount black claims of racism just as the villagers did in the boy who cried wolf.

I agree with David that we should not generalize from one incident and apply that broad brush to the larger racial groups. Race is a nuanced an volatile issue. the media's handling of it is a disaster in that it generally discounts black and liberal views on the racial issues in this country. Black people perceive racism in this country and instead of simply dismissing the claims and assuming the voting rights act took care of it the issue should be addressed head on and the concerns evaluated. that is the only way to move forward.


No on 4 in California

I have been seeing this ad on tv.

The ad depicts a teenage girl who has fled to a dingy abortion parlor in TJ because she wants to get an abortion in California but is afraid of the notification provision. As far as ads go i think it is pretty clear in its message. The opponents are saying this is what happens, is it what you want? The only way it could be tougher is if they simply had a picture of a clothes hanger with a voice over.

This is the third attempt at passing this particular parental notification initiative. The previous two attempts, Proposition 73 in the November 2005 special election and Proposition 85 in the November 2006 general election failed and the advocates are hoping third time is a charm. A Field Poll on the measure was released mid september,

The poll finds that 49 percent of likely voters intend to vote for the measure while 41 percent say they are against the proposition. The poll found that 10 percent of the respondents are undecided.

The 8 point ‘yes' side is 1 point down from the 9 point advantage the measure had according to a Field Poll conducted in July.

This is similar to a more recent Survey USA election poll conducted in early October which found 52% in favor of the measure. Clearly the measure is going to be very tight. The deciding factor is going to be the turnout on the dem side and the support among those dems.

Latinos in the September Field Poll appeared to be favoring the measure 62 percent to 31 percent, a 31-point margin. In 2006, the second consecutive year in which a similar parental notification initiative failed at the California polls, the margin among Latinos was 22 percentage points, according to Field Poll officials.

The Survey USA poll showed Democratic support (38 percent) and women's support (52 percent) for Prop. 4 increased since 2006, when polls found only 33 percent of Democrat voters and 44 percent of women supported a parental notification ballot measure. Regionally, support for Prop. 4 is strongest in the Central Valley (60 percent) and the Inland Empire (60 percent), with narrow approval in the greater Los Angeles area (51 percent).

The question is if this ad will knock down the support among women and among the latino population. I think we see this one squeak by and notification become the long of the land.


Shame to Increase Turnout

>> Monday, October 27, 2008

Shankar Vedantam of the WaPo takes his turn reporting on turnout effects highlighting the famous (or infamous) shaming experiment. As part of the experiment several versions of a letter were sent to different groups. The letter contained increasing levels of information on the voting habits of the target and targets neighbors.


These were the most homely pieces of direct mail in the history of direct mail," said Green, who works at Yale University. "They were sheets of computer paper. They had no graphics and used block courier type. They are the exact opposite of the slick four-color mailings that campaigns send out."

Homely though they were, the letters had a powerful effect. The control group's turnout rate was slightly less than 30 percent. Among those who received the "civic pride" letter, turnout was 6 percent higher than the control group's. Among those who were told they were being studied, it was 12 percent higher. Among those who were shown whether they had voted in the previous election, the turnout was 16 percent higher.

And telling people what everyone in the neighborhood had done the previous Election Day -- and letting them know that they would be similarly informed about the current election -- boosted turnout by 27 percent.

The effectiveness of snitching on neighbors exceeded that of live telephone calls and rivaled that of laborious, face-to-face canvassing, the political scientists wrote in an article published in the American Political Science Review this year. Direct mail costs peanuts compared with other techniques.

I have mixed feelings on this experiment. While i applaud the idea of getting more people to vote i have to believe that we care about intent. By doing this type of mailing we are essentially coercing people into voting with the threat of a public shaming. these people are being coerced into voting. something about that just seems wrong in a society founded on the right to vote. Every right comes with the ability to not exercise that right if a person chooses.

On the other side is the fact that democratic societies rely on the voting public to keep them strong. if people do not participate in the process then politicians will not be held accountable. people will be further turned off of politics as a result of seeing those same politicians go unpunished for ignoring the people. Maybe we need to provide a little incentive for people to use their right. Social pressure is an effective tool in curbing behavior found unacceptable in society. Smoking is down as a result of not only greater education but a stigma attached to it. Not voting has that same stigma which is why people lie about voting. Now though they cannot get away with that.

Some countries even require that people vote or suffer some form of actual punishment. i cant see that ever happening in the states if only because certain interests would prefer that people not vote. This notification letter might be as close as we get.


Mail in Voting on the rise

The LAT contains a piece on the rise of mail in voting in California,

At least 40% of the state's registered voters already have decided they want to vote by mail, according to data compiled Friday by the California Assn. of Clerks and Elected Officials. The percentage is expected to grow as Tuesday's deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot approaches.

California isn't the only state where voters are eschewing a trip to the polls. A majority of voters prefer their mailbox over the ballot box in Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, according to the Early Voting Information Center at Reed College in Portland, Ore.

Twenty-eight states allow residents to vote by mail without the excuse -- sickness, disability, being out of town -- that traditional absentee ballots have required.

My personal opinion is that vote by mail and absentee voting is the way to go. It allows people to take their time voting and research the propositions and other candidates. It reduces time pressures that occur on tuesdays, like work or babysitters or simple apathy. Voting by mail also make challenging voters at polls much more complicated as voters who register for absentee ballots must be registered to vote. You cant just show up and demand to vote. Despite the big pluses the system has its detractors,

The increasing popularity of voting by mail in California and elsewhere has prompted some election experts to question whether convenience should trump concerns about ballot secrecy, fraud and the complications of processing mail-in ballots. The growing debate is leading some registrars and voting-rights advocates to call for a renewed discussion about how far the state should go to promote voting by mail.

"Some would like to see California become entirely a vote-by-mail state," said Kim Alexander, president and founder of the California Voter Foundation, a nonpartisan voter-education group. "I would suggest we take a closer look at it."

Some experts said that residents who vote at home may be more susceptible to coercion by spouses, friends or co-workers to vote a certain way. They also worry that those who cast their ballots early could miss important campaign developments that might have changed their vote.

The phrase grasping at straws comes to mind. With every advance comes the idea that we are sacrificing some essential part of community or Americanism. People talk about some sense of community being built at poling places but my own experience is that most people vote in schools or other places in a non communal way. they get in to vote and get out back to work. People talk about getting rid of caucuses yet Caucasus are the perfect example of the type of community building advocated here.

The idea that people are going to be coerced because they have the ballot delivered to their house is absolutely absurd. Are husbands going to steal their wives ballots and fill them out? Are parents going to nab their kids ballots from the mail then force them to sign the "under threat of perjury" line? I really really doubt that. The fears of intimidation are way overblown.

The allegation that people are going to miss campaign events that would change their minds sounds plausible. Most people are not changing their minds once they are made up. 90 in 100 people vote based on self identified partisan ideology. very few people are truly undecided and these people would still be free to hold onto their ballots till the end.

Over all i think the pros out wiegh the cons for vote by mail systems. every state should adopt at least a partial system letting those who prefer to vote from the kitchen table do so.


McCain:Pop Quiz if Elected

>> Sunday, October 26, 2008

Surprise! John McCain has informed us that there will be a test if he is elected.

“I have been tested,” McCain said, with a certain gritted-teeth look at the state fairgrounds in New Mexico. “I’m gonna test them. They’re not gonna test me.”

Of course who exactly he will decide to test is up for debate. I put my money on Iran or maybe Cuba.


Palin v. McCain: Republican Rumble

The McCain campaign has become a microclimate of the GOP. Constant discord and strife, infighting and circular firing squads. The epicenter of this most recent fight is blame over McCain's failing campaign. One side wants to blame palin for being incompetent and a complete drag on the ticket. The other side blames the McCain team handlers for not letting Palin be Palin. It all kicked off with a report by politico's ben smith

Even as John McCain and Sarah Palin scramble to close the gap in the final days of the 2008 election, stirrings of a Palin insurgency are complicating the campaign's already-tense internal dynamics.

Four Republicans close to Palin said she has decided increasingly to disregard the advice of the former Bush aides tasked to handle her, creating occasionally tense situations as she travels the country with them. Those Palin supporters, inside the campaign and out, said Palin blames her handlers for a botched rollout and a tarnished public image — even as others in McCain's camp blame the pick of the relatively inexperienced Alaska governor, and her public performance, for McCain's decline.

"She's lost confidence in most of the people on the plane," said a senior Republican who speaks to Palin, referring to her campaign jet. He said Palin had begun to "go rogue" in some of her public pronouncements and decisions.

"I think she'd like to go more rogue," he said.

Smith goes on to outline the palin camps frustration over her very restrictive treatment and the McCain camps counter charges of her complete and utter unreadiness. Palin essentially sees the writing on the wall and wants to make sure her career and political future is not destroyed by being tied to McCain. Personally i think that ship has sailed. However Plain clearly does not and just as clearly the McCain team wants to make sure she becomes the top line reason for the loss. They are attempting to generate conventional wisdom that blames palin for dragging everything down.

Instead of triggering denials and push back that everything is peachy keen in McCain land Cnn ran with the story and included more quotes from McCain aides and Palin stalwarts detailing the campaigns inner battle.

Several McCain advisers have suggested to CNN that they have become increasingly frustrated with what one aide described as Palin "going rogue."

A Palin associate, however, said the candidate is simply trying to "bust free" of what she believes was a damaging and mismanaged roll-out.

McCain sources say Palin has gone off-message several times, and they privately wonder whether the incidents were deliberate. They cited an instance in which she labeled robocalls -- recorded messages often used to attack a candidate's opponent -- "irritating" even as the campaign defended their use. Also, they pointed to her telling reporters she disagreed with the campaign's decision to pull out of Michigan.

A second McCain source says she appears to be looking out for herself more than the McCain campaign.

"She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone," said this McCain adviser. "She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.

"Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves, as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom."

This is simply the explicit stating of things that some were observing under the surface. MSNBC's Chuck Todd commented on the apparent lack of chemistry between the two after the recent brian williams interview.

"When you see the two of them together, the chemistry is just not there. You do wonder, is John McCain starting to blame her for things? Blaming himself? Is she blaming him?...We are at a critical juncture inside this campaign for the McCain folks and that is who is trusting who? You have got people worrying about their reputations. Now you are wondering do the candidates trust the staff? Does the staff trust the candidates? This is a dangerous time in a campaign that is behind."

The underlying story here is clear. The McCain people think that Palin has no idea what she is doing and is undercutting and creating distractions. They view her as incompetent and someone who needs to be tightly controlled to minimize the damage. They are right about that. Palin has failed in just about every attempt to answer substantive questions. She draws attention to her inexperience and captures the news cycle with stories that put mccain on the defensive.

But two sources, one Palin associate and one McCain adviser, defended the decision to keep her press interaction limited after she was picked, both saying flatly that she was not ready and that the missteps could have been a lot worse.

They insisted that she needed time to be briefed on national and international issues and on McCain's record.

"Her lack of fundamental understanding of some key issues was dramatic," said another McCain source with direct knowledge of the process to prepare Palin after she was picked. The source said it was probably the "hardest" to get her "up to speed than any candidate in history."

The crux of the problem is that you cant blame palin. She has her political future to think of. From every indication she is confident in her abilities. She truly believes that she should be given more room to do what she wants and she is going to make that room. She was picked by the McCain people to be the VP and that alone should give her a self belief. No the people responsible for this are McCain, Black, and Schmidt. This is possibly the best quote of the entire cycle and it shows exactly why those three people are responsible.

After that first brief meeting, Davis remained in discreet but frequent contact with Palin and her staff — gathering tapes of speeches and interviews, as he was doing with all potential vice-presidential candidates. One tape in particular struck Davis as arresting: an interview with Palin and Gov. Janet Napolitano, the Arizona Democrat, on "The Charlie Rose Show" that was shown in October 2007. Reviewing the tape, it didn’t concern Davis that Palin seemed out of her depth on health-care issues or that, when asked to name her favorite candidate among the Republican field, she said, "I’m undecided." What he liked was how she stuck to her pet issues — energy independence and ethics reform — and thereby refused to let Rose manage the interview. This was the case throughout all of the Palin footage. Consistency. Confidence. And . . . well, look at her. A friend had said to Davis: "The way you pick a vice president is, you get a frame of Time magazine, and you put the pictures of the people in that frame. You look at who fits that frame best — that’s your V. P."

Schmidt, to whom Davis quietly supplied the Palin footage, agreed. Neither man apparently saw her lack of familiarity with major national or international issues as a serious liability. Instead, well before McCain made his selection, his chief strategist and his campaign manager both concluded that Sarah Palin would be the most dynamic pick...

The next morning was Thursday, Aug. 28. Salter and Schmidt drove Palin to McCain’s ranch. According to Salter, the senator took the governor down to a place where he usually had his coffee, beside a creek and a sycamore tree, where a rare breed of hawk seasonally nested. They spoke for more than an hour. Then the two of them walked about 40 yards to the deck of the cabin where the McCains slept. Cindy joined them there for about 15 minutes, after which the McCains excused themselves and went for a brief stroll to discuss the matter. When they returned, McCain asked for some time with Schmidt and Salter. “And we did our pros and cons on all of them,” Salter told me. “He just listened. Asked a couple of questions. Then said, ‘I’m going to offer it to her.’ ”

There is no way that the McCain people are allowed to complain about Palin being uniformed. They knew she was uninformed. They picked her for the same confidence on display right now. Viewing the Charlie Rose interview they admired her tactic of latching onto pet issues and never letting go. They knew everything they needed to know about sarah palin before they picked her and not only didn't they care about the flaws they admired them. They were right that she was a dynamic pick and she does look good. It just so happens that the other things like policy matter too. Her strengths have been weaknesses and her weaknesses have been fatal flaws. Palin has been who she is but it turns out that who she is is not what the McCain camp projected they were getting.

It was all there but it took someone better than schmidt mccain and co to see it. Now they are repenting at leisure a marriage they made in haste as the pick they thought would put them on top has instead begun to tear them apart. Palin will continue to fight for her personal future and set the stage for her dream 2012 run against Huckabee and Romeny. The McCain loyalists will continue to paint palin as the backstabbing diva who cost them the race and dems everywhere will sit back and enjoy the schadenfreude.


Palin's Clothes and Female Political Expectations

>> Saturday, October 25, 2008

A topic making the rounds of the great and expansive internet is Sarah Palins expenditures on clothing and makeup. She has spent almost 200k on those two categories since being chosen as the vp candidate for the Republican ticket. There are a number of lines of thought on the topic including one that the entire matter is irrelevant, one that justifies her actions on the basis of expectations for female politicians and one that holds that the expenditures matter and that she should not be excused.

First the who cares argument courtesy of yahoo answers

So, she has expensive clothes. Whoopty friggin' do. I don't see Obama wearing rags. Why doesn't the media get off of her rear end about this?

So why is it important that she spent so much money on the clothes? Simply the hypocrisy of claiming to be a hockey mom, a regular gal and then running up a tab that far exceeds the amount of money that an average person makes in a year for the span of a couple months. The spending on appearances only reinforces the theme that the gop is not about substance but about appearances. Palin was picked not for her ability to govern or her policy but because she is a conservative who happens to be pretty and can filibuster a question. She is essentially a campaign ornament, a gilded VP candidate.

The other aspect of this argument that has been played up is the donor base's outrage. I think they have a decent argument here. It is not about the fact that the expenditure is totally illegitimate. Palin needs to be outfitted and a hair and makeup person could also be requires. The problem is that the McCain campaign has been getting killed in advertising. They are having to cut back in some swing states and shift those resources to formerly solid Bush States. The donors seem to think that the money spent on outfitting palin could have been better spent on ads etc. This is supported by the McCain camps reliance on robo-calls a tactic that traditionally flies under the radar and has the added benefit of being very cheap. As McCain lost a lot of the media good will during the course of the campaign he lost the free positive advertising that went with it. Now he has to fight the negative narrative with limited resources. The donors dont see the expense as justified.

There is clearly an issue here. The defense must consist of more than the terse response of McCain that she needed the clothes. The one i find most grounded in legitimate thought is this one from The Debate Link

To my mind, the burden being put on Gov. Palin is just an extreme version of the Jespersen dilemma. Jespersen was a female bartender working for Harrah's who was forced, under new grooming regulations, to wear makeup to her job. This imposed an additional hurdle to her entering the workforce: though men also had grooming requirements, they were generally less expensive to maintain than those given to women. In such a case, women are being penalized upon entering the workforce solely for being women: that second X chromosome means that they can be required to shell out more as a threshold requirement before they are allowed to compete for the same job men are going after. Likewise, Gov. Palin, because she's a woman, has to spend a lot more time and resources on her attire and appearance before she can compete as an equal in the political arena.

From a feminist perspective (which wants Gov. Palin to lose, but not because she is hobbled from competing as a woman), there are two angles of attack on this. On the one hand, you could indict the norms of appearance that require so much more out of women than men. Alternatively, one could (perhaps provisionally) accept those norms, and demand offsets so that the costs of their enforcement do not fall on women but on some other party. For example, if Harrah's Casino wants to demand women alter their appearance above and beyond their requirements for men, it could be forced to pay for the difference in value (I imagine if that requirement did exist, the gender-differential would be eliminated quite rapidly).

The Jespersen discussion is valid in this case and as it relates to politics in general. The biggest and most oft cited case is going to be that of Sen. Clinton. The constant focus on her pant suits, her laugh, her cleavage, her ankles, her hair, was all incredibly patronizing and sexist. The problem is that Sen. Clinton may not be the best example of women in political arena despite her ground breaking candidacy. She is a very unique figure in american political history having been the first lady. Her relationship with the press was formed on that basis and imo has never been a good one. Discussions of appearance and double standards between genders need to include discussions of female politicians as a class. That means including barbara boxer, kay baily hutchison, darcy burner, nanci pelosi, lois capps, kathleen sebelius etc. Are these women receiving the same type of strict scrutiny in terms of wardrobe choices? How much of the flak that clinton takes over this is directly attributable to her relationship with the press? Searching around the internet Clinton is actually synonymous with pantsuit in a way no other female politicians are. For the complete defense of the focus on female politicians appearence there is this article in the times from last august,

It is precisely because our interior selves are essentially inscrutable (most of us can’t unscramble the psychological coding of our spouses much less the machinations and motivations of public figures) that we depend so much on surface clues. The whole superficial shebang — from hairstyles (who can forget Hillary’s little-girl headband?) to accessories (remember the fuss about Cherie Blair’s pricey Tanner Krolle handbag?) — provides us with the contextual tools to read the Other, the person who is not us, be it the stranger across the room or the stranger angling for political office. Power pearls and multipurpose, dashingly knotted scarves define Nancy Pelosi’s crisply efficient approach to getting work done; a Joan of Arc white suit or starched white blouse complemented Ségolène Royal’s newly capped teeth, lending her Socialist program a purist glow (but didn’t save her from her own plodding rhetoric); and a curve-ball glimpse of cleavage on a contender who normally favors black pantsuits added a touch of coyness to Hillary’s slightly humorless demeanor.

When it comes to women who seek power, the pressure to create a recognizably consistent persona (whether authentic or fake-authentic) under the distorting glare of television close-ups and digitalized replays only intensifies. Increasingly these days, pixels tell the all-too-easily fragmented story. The trick is to make those little square-shaped microdots that appear on our various and endlessly proliferating screens cohere into a simulation of verisimilitude, into something approaching a Chuck Close portrait rather than a Seurat-like haze of Pointillist impressionism. The wrong footwear can decompose the whole picture — Ségolène clicketyclacking around the slums of Chile in stilettos or Condoleeza Rice wearing what one commentator called her “butchy boots” — leaving us stuck with unmatching pieces of a puzzle.

We study our female politicians as closely and obsessively as we do in part because they still remain something of an anomaly — we are, quite simply, less used to women standing in the spotlight demanding our close attention — and in part because their costuming is less homogenized than men, offering up an abundance of opportunities for inductive analysis: we study their shade of lipstick, we listen for a note of defensive shrillness in their voice, we infer, we project, we accept or discount official positions for reasons that are neither fully conscious nor even rational. Camille Paglia’s snide response to Hillary’s performance at an early Democratic debate focused almost exclusively on her manner of communicating by way of a facile and highly speculative reading of the family dynamics that shaped her: “In the second half, she overplayed her hand and began to intrude and domineer. What was surfacing in Hillary was the old family psychodrama of the daughter contemptuously outflanking her befuddled, resentful, mediocre brothers at the dinner table. It wasn’t a pleasant sight — and all too reminiscent of the bullying Rosie O’Donnell compulsively hogging the spotlight on ‘The View.’ ”

I recommend reading the whole article if only to see why people view sexism in the media. the entire piece is simply a series of excuses about why the media is allowed a double standard in assessing womens clothing and appearance. It might be one of the worst articles i have read in a long while. All of this seems to lend credence to the Jesperson argument and credence to Palin's choice to spend a fortune on clothing. However Palin is not dealing with the same type of preconceived notions that Clinton, Sebelius and other female politicians do.

Palin deals with the opposite end of the spectrum. Palin has played into the womens appearance stereotype. Nobody is arguing that she should not spend a decent amount on appearance, after all being on tv and in front of large crowds demands that the politician look put together. However, there was no cause to spend that kind of money on the clothes. Professional women across the country manage to outfit themselves in a style that would certainly serve a politician for far less. Palin is far too concerned about appearances. He problem is that people view her as a diva, a pretty but empty vessel.

By spending such a large amount on clothes palin only accentuates this. had she instead chosen to go the subdued route of simple navy and black pantsuits i really doubt that her appearance would have been a recurring issue. Instead the RNC chose to accentuate her looks, go with high style and a nontraditionally professional look. Palin could certainly have gotten away with a simple look to emphasize her policy skills, had she had any. The equivalent example is if male politicians went around wearing lavender or camel colored suits. Women with command of policy and who are more than competent at their jobs seem to do fine with a professional dress, for example Gov Sebelius who won Topeka's best dressed female in 2005,

Topping their lists for Best-Dressed Man and Best-Dressed Woman were Arnold Downing Sr., of Topeka, marketing and events coordinator at Harrah's Prairie Band Casino, and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Sebelius says she does her own shopping.

"And I really like to shop, but don't get much time anymore. Most of my purchases are done in person," she said.

The one item of clothing she wouldn't give up are her running shoes.

"They must fit right and provide support, or you end up with too many aches and pains," Sebelius says.

Women all over the country win elections without spending all of their income on clothes. Palin more than any other female politician in history is being judged on her policy more than her appearance and what she wears. People did not speculate about her clothes after her couric interview, it was her train wreck answers. I think the jesperson argument has validity for many women but the simple discrepancy between what is required for other women professional women and what palin spends makes it less persuasive in this case.


News from Iraq on SOFA

Periodically is do a post on the Status of Forces Agreement between the US and Iraq that provides the legal framework for our presence and has been under negotiation for several months. Last week it looked like a deal had been done between Bush Co and al-Maliki that covered the central sticking point of Iraqi Legal jurisdiction over american soldiers. The deal had to go through several phases of approval before it could become law and one was the Political Council for National Security. Apparently it was a no go. McClatchy reporting,

Fearing political division in the parliament and in his country, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki won't sign the just-completed agreement on the status of U.S. forces in Iraq, a leading lawmaker said Friday.

It appears that the same sticking points that have been holding up the agreement all along went unsatisfied in the eyes of the Political Council. There are a number of political reasons for these failures including the Iraqi political classes unwillingness to associate with the americans before the upcoming elections next year. The politicians are trying to balance the appearance of working with the americans with being the tools of iran. This has lead to an impasse with the result that al-Maliki now has to go back to the UN to get the mandate renewed for the coming year or risk the US being unable to perform operations within the country.

Here is a 15 minute in depth expose on the situation from al-jazeera english.


Challenging Votes is UnAmerican

>> Friday, October 24, 2008

There has been a lot of talk about unamerican activities recently. Apparently significant swaths of the country are self hating. who knew? There are real parts and virtual parts of our country. this is of course utter and complete fail. I do believe that there is one thing being done in a systematic way across the country that is truly and deeply unamerican. No its not voter registration fraud and no ACORN is not responsible. The idea of challenging people's right to vote and making them prove that they have the right strikes me as deeply and unfailingly unamerican.

There are few things more sacred in our country than the franchise. Voting in our country represents the ability of the populace to legitimize the government, to participate in the course of the country. People have died in the effort to allow minorities and women the right to vote in this country. Voting is not a burden on a citizen it is the defining right of citizens in a democracy. When that vote is challenged and that citizen is told that he does not have the right to vote unless he can prove that he does that is wrong.

The entire system that allows for American citizens of legal voting age to be forced into a "provision ballot" should be abolished. Provisional ballots are a system where a person is guilty until proven innocent. Based on a challenge with an incredibly low burden of proof we tell citizens that they cant vote unless they can prove they are ok. the burden of proof is totally on the wrong party in this action. In our country the burden of proof is on the prosecution and make no mistake thats what these vote challengers are, citizen prosecutors alleging crime. They should not be aided by this rebuttable presumption in their favor. If anything it should be the other way, a person is assumed to have the right to vote unless it can be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that they do not.

We know that systematic voter fraud does not happen in this country. the allegations of it are done with one purpose and one purpose only, to stop people from voting. The people that are inevitably stopped are the poor, the black, the brown. The people who need to vote the most because the policies of the government will affect them the most. To go around the country and tell these people they dont deserve to vote because of a scrivener's error flies in the face of the ideals of liberty and democracy.


I am Spar..Joe the Plumber!!

>> Thursday, October 23, 2008

Really, it had to be done.

Now Compare

Cmon, this entire economic strategy built around Name the Occupation is about the most stupid and juvenile thing yet. It is beneath the dignity of a serious political campaign, luckily mccain is not running a serious political campaign. Serious political campaigns deal with issues and the concerns of voters, neither of which mccain addresses.

McCain has been running around telling people the center piece of his campaign is the economy. Clearly this is a laugh line. The center piece of the mccain campaign are lies innuendo and smear currently being spread by robo calls. Go over and read the NYT preview of the mccain campaign article. This pretty much sums up the mccain campaign

After that first brief meeting, Davis remained in discreet but frequent contact with Palin and her staff — gathering tapes of speeches and interviews, as he was doing with all potential vice-presidential candidates. One tape in particular struck Davis as arresting: an interview with Palin and Gov. Janet Napolitano, the Arizona Democrat, on “The Charlie Rose Show” that was shown in October 2007. Reviewing the tape, it didn’t concern Davis that Palin seemed out of her depth on health-care issues or that, when asked to name her favorite candidate among the Republican field, she said, “I’m undecided.” What he liked was how she stuck to her pet issues — energy independence and ethics reform — and thereby refused to let Rose manage the interview. This was the case throughout all of the Palin footage. Consistency. Confidence. And . . . well, look at her. A friend had said to Davis: “The way you pick a vice president is, you get a frame of Time magazine, and you put the pictures of the people in that frame. You look at who fits that frame best — that’s your V. P.”

Could you ask for a more shallow and incompetent way to pick a running mate? Truly this explains why palin spent 150K on clothing, she was picked to look pretty distracting viewers from her filibuster and lack of knowledge. I mean they knew about the abuse of power investigation and ignored it. This validates every thing said about how the gop operates, they live to win campaigns and not to govern.


This is a two party system...

>> Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I was reminded of this today...

Brilliant stuff.


Obama Cmpaign Robo Calls

Obama has his owm Robo Calls out there to fight those of John McCain.

Here's a script:

Hi, this is Jeri Watermolen, calling for the Campaign for Change. I live in Green Bay and, like you, I've been getting sleazy phone calls and mail from John McCain and his supporters viciously -- and falsely -- attacking Barack Obama. I used to support John McCain because he honorably served our country -- but this year he's running a dishonorable campaign. We know McCain will continue many of Bush's policies, and now he's using George Bush's divisive tactics. In fact, he hired the Bush strategists whose attacks even McCain once called hateful.

Barack Obama will turn the page on these negative politics and stand up for the middle class. That's the change we need, and it's why I have changed my mind about John McCain. Join me in voting for Barack Obama. Paid for the Campaign for Change, a project of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, 608-255-5172, and authorized by Obama for America.

People want to know if robo calls work and i think the answer is that no they do not. People just dont listen to the calls. Calls with volunteers are the only call method proven effective. However that is hardly the point of these calls. The point is that now anyone mentions robo calls obama's will be included because of the need for balance. Obama will be able to get his message attacking mccain for being sleazy out in the free press echo chamber and now millions who would otherwise never been exposed to them are. It is similar to what mccain has been doing with his video press releases.


Its all they know how to do.

>> Tuesday, October 21, 2008

2000 and 2004 were elections where the country felt it was in a relatively good place. Sure 2004 had the War in Iraq but the war was not universally loathed at that point in time and Bush still had a 50% approval rating. Bush strategist Karl Rove ran a campaign based largely on smoke and mirrors. He focused on cultural and other distraction issues designed to fire up his base and win on turn out and voter suppression.

Fast forward to 2008 ans Rove protege Steve Schmidt is running the McCain campaign. Schmidt is a veteran of the Bush campaign and he headed up the war room in 04. He spent his time learning at Rove's right hand. He has a masters in GOP campaigning. Unfortunately for him the election is not taking place in 2000 or 2004. The country is in a bad way. For the first time in a generation an election is about more than cultural issues. Sadly for the GOP those are the only things they know how to do.

Commentators and Bloggers have been looking at the mccain campaign and asking why they persist with ayers, acorn, etc when that stuff is totally unimportant to the public. it seems to make no sense. The answer is that this is all these people know how to do. it has been their specialty for the past two decades. It is all they have ever needed. Now though they are being asked to do something new and different and they are totally out of their depth. So they try to up the game on what they do know getting slimier and slimier. Unsurprisingly they are not succeeding. Schmidt and co is out of their depth.

This of course frustrates them. They lash out and they look desperate, because they are. They simply dont have a handle on what to do against obama and in the face of an actual crisis because they have waged the past elections with smoke and mirrors. When it comes time to deal with problems though tricks dont get it done.


Political Speech in the Classroom

As a current student still involved with the dichotomy between free speech in the classroom and undue influence i can say that students will definitely feel pressure if the stated beliefs of a teacher conflict with your own. This is never more true than in political instances. Matters such as gay marriage and abortion are volatile and if you know that your teacher comes down on the opposite side that you do you will always feel that there is a risk of retaliation there. This retaliation would be totally unjustified but the anxiety never goes away. That is why i am choosing to highlight the decision of Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan that it should be up to individual school districts to determine whether buttons in the classroom interfered with learning.

From the times article,

it should be up to individual school districts to determine whether buttons in the classroom interfered with learning. He cautioned, however, that “school officials may not take a sledgehammer to freedom of expression and then avoid all scrutiny by invoking alleged professional judgment.”

The judge said that while a majority of students would probably understand that a button represented a teacher’s personal view, there would be “inevitable misperceptions on the part of a minority.”

It is my own personal opinion that teachers of k-6 are not going to make any disruption in the educational environment if they were a button. The friction and disruption occurs at higher levels of school where students have more defined political opinions. It is the potential conflict between one student's thoughts and the teachers that makes learning tough. Are these kids feeling pressure from their teachers to act in a certain way based on a button? Probably not. At the same time though i do not see the need to bring a campaign button into the learning environment.

I know that my teachers were always unwilling to discuss their own personal political opinions in class, even government, to avoid any issue. I do not feel that my education suffered from that and it probably benefited from that because no one felt restrained in voicing their own opinions out of fear of retaliation. Some of my classmates growing up were actually very conservative and learning would have been made more difficult for them if they had to fear teachers thrusting their opinion on them.

This is not to say that truth telling about the political events of the day has no place. If a child asked about the race and whether obama was a terrorist or even if his tax plan does what he says it does the teacher is more than free to respond. They are not forced to deny objective reality to be balanced.

Teachers should be non-partisan while in the class room. On their own time they are allowed to live their lives as they please, run for office, write letters to the editor etc. In the classroom though non-partisan is the way to go. After all, the truth has a liberal bias so teaching it should really sink the gop.

BtW, I found this to be amusing,

The government, like any business, has the authority to tell its employees what to do so that it can continue to operate effectively. A teacher cannot spend each English period talking about baseball, or each physics class teaching false scientific theories.


Death Penalty, Troy Davis, and Legal Process

The case of Troy Davis has become somewhat a cause celeb for anti death penalty activists and people interested in justice generally. Troy Davis is sentenced to death for the murder of Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail. He maintains his innocence. There was no physical evidence against him and the weapon used in the crime was never found. The case against him was built upon witness testimony. While he has been on death row all but two of the state's non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony. Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Troy Davis. One of the remaining witnesses is Sylvester "Red" Coles who also happens to be the principle alternative suspect. There is new evidence implicating him as the gunman. Nine individuals have signed affidavits implicating Sylvester Coles.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Davis' appeal ending the appeals process available in the courts. There is a very distressing picture that an innocent man is going to be executed. If the case against him is so weak and undermined after all these years why is he going to be executed? The answer seems to come from a utilitarian, process argument, policy. This is what has been advanced by the prosecutor in the case .

Mr. Lawton makes several arguments to refute the idea that Mr. Davis is innocent and that he deserves no further review. Among them he asserts that there was physical evidence that linked Davis to the shooting; shell casings that matched an earlier shooting Davis was also convicted of, the shooting of one michael cooper. Reading the record,

At trial, Kevin McQueen, who was at the Chatham City jail with Davis, testified that Davis told him there had been a party in Cloverdale on the night prior to the victim’s murder; Davis had argued with some boys and there was an exchange of gunfire. (T. 1230-1231). Davis told McQueen he did some of the shooting. (T. 1231). After the party, Davis went to a girlfriend’s house and intended to eat breakfast at Burger King. Davis stated that he was with a friend and they ran into a guy who “owed money to buy dope.” (T. 1231). There was a fight, Officer McPhail appeared, and Davis shot him in the face. As Officer McPhail attempted to get up, Davis shot him again, because he was afraid McPhail had seen him that night at Cloverdale. (T. 1232). Davis also told McQueen that he was on his way out of town to Atlanta. (T. 1232).

This was undermined by the recantation of Kevin McQueen,

“The truth is that Troy never confessed to me or talked to me about the shooting of the police officer. I made up the confession from information I had heard on T.V. and from other inmates about the crimes. Troy did not tell me any of this… I have now realized what I did to Troy so I have decided to tell the truth… I need to set the record straight.”

Mr Lawton also attacks the recantations themselves.

Would it not be ironic, for instance, in a case such as this one, if affidavits claiming coercion by police were themselves obtained by coercive tactics?

He accuses Amnesty International, in their zelous anti-death penalty ways, of coercing the recantations. In a true head spinner the high number and percentage of recantations is not actually an indication that they were originally false or coerced but that they were coerced now.

My favorite view has come from The Debate Link

There's a lot of hand waving going on here, but basically the reliability of the recantations comes down to whether or not you think it is more likely that witnesses are subject to intimidation by police investigators, or by groups like Amnesty International investigating potential wrongful convictions. My default stance is to be suspicious of unrecorded police questioning in Black on White crimes in Georgia. The affadavits Amnesty provides are compelling to me because of their consistency -- they all give very similar accounts of police harassment, and come back to a consistent theme that the police wouldn't let the witnesses leave until they said what the police wanted to hear.

This was a cop killing in georgia. Cop killers do not get off. You can bet that there is behind the scenes pressure from the cops at every turn to keep this man on death row. Is it far fetched to believe that the cops wanted to get someone for killing one of their own and bent the rules to suit? Maybe thats too much tv talking. However i do find Lawton's reliance on due process as a justification for killing davis to be incredibly disconcerting. In putting someone to death process is not enough, it must be more than that.

Lawton blames the media and the anti-death penalty people as either being ignorant of the laws workings or of being ideologically biased so that they cannot be neutral fact finders. I submit that this characterization is simply false. Simply because something is processed through a system does not make the outcome just or legitimate. This is how the courts review a case as Lawton cites,

“Particularly in this death penalty case where a man might soon be executed, we have endeavored to look beyond bare legal principles . . . to the core question of whether a jury presented with Davis's allegedly new testimony would probably find him not guilty or give him a sentence other than death.”

Considering the evidence at trial, favoring it, and considering the post-trial evidence, “We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Davis' extraordinary motion for a new trial.”

Over throwing the discretion of a lower court is not something a higher court takes lightly. If the court thinks there is a 50+1 chance that Davis comes out the same he fails to get a new trial. So we could have a 49.9% chance the jury comes out with an answer other than death and that is not enough to merit a trial or commutation of the sentence? To me that sounds like killing on a coin flip.

That's where the process arguments come back with the argument that if the standard were lower we would have too many new trials in death penalty cases. Ahem..So? Maybe we should not be killing people with this strong a showing of doubt? Reconcile the idea of beyond a reasonable doubt with the 50+1% requirement to affirm his death. Certainly 40%+ chance that he does not get death is a reasonable doubt.

Thats what makes the death penalty so problematic. We are putting people to death. Death is it and to consign someone to this fate we cannot have these kinds of doubts. The law is ultimately about applying justice. is it just to the family of the officer who gave his life in the line of duty to kill an innocent man in the place of his killer? IMO this is too sketchy a situation to put a man to death.


Powell Against Bigotry

>> Monday, October 20, 2008

I am really glad i get to write that headline. Too often we see people in the public sphere pull punches in regards to bigotry and racism. General Powell pulled no punches in his endorsement of Obama when he took on the anti muslim bent of the gop,

"Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no. That's not America. Is there something wrong with a seven-year-old Muslim American kid believing he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion that [Obama] is a Muslim and might have an association with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

"I feel particularly strong about this because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay, was of a mother at Arlington Cemetery and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone, and it gave his awards - Purple Heart, Bronze Star - showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death, he was 20 years old. And then at the very top of the head stone, it didn't have a Christian cross. It didn't have a Star of David. It has a crescent and star of the Islamic faith.

"And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan. And he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was fourteen years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he could serve his country and he gave his life."

This country has been far too quick to equate arab or muslim with terrorist and to make that group the new communist. A muslim child in america should grow up with the same chance at life, love, and happiness as any one else. They should not be handicapped by their faith. To do so is unamerican. i am glad to hear Colin Powell bring that point home.


McCain loses last bit of honor

Too often, i think, we separate the man from the politician. We see that idea reflected in the press coverage of McCain where reporters are shocked and dismayed that McCain is using lies and smears to target Barack Obama. "This is not the real McCain. He is too honorable. You can tell he does not like to do this." You can hear the yearning in for McCain to throw off the shackles and be free! This is of course utter nonsense.

A campaign for the president is a grueling test of a persons' principles, ethics, and morals. Presidential nominees are pulled in thousands of different directions by various interest groups and demands on their time. They must prioritize who and what is important to them. Then these priorities are put to the test when the campaign hits a bumpy spot. Will a candidate stay with their proffesed princples or will those be thrown under the bus in a quest for power? We know the answer with Sen. McCain. If you doubt that he has thrown out any shred of honor he had watch this

Video Description from Greg Sargent

McCain defended his robo-slime by saying that the calls directed at him were worse than anything his own calls said about Obama.

"These are legitimate and truthful and they are far different than the phone calls that were made about my family and about certain aspects that -- things that this is -- this is dramatically different and either you haven't -- didn't see those things in 2000," McCain said.

McCain said his robo-slime was highlighting "a legitimate issue," which is the question of whether Obama is "being truthful with the American people," a clear reference to his robo-call attacking Obama's association with William Ayers.

Actually, this is false. McCain's robo-call about Obama and Ayers says absolutely nothing about whether Obama is telling the truth about his relationship with the former Weatherman. If you don't believe me, you can listen to the full call right here.

Text of the call

"You need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge's home, and killed Americans. And Democrats will enact an extreme leftist agenda if they take control of Washington. Barack Obama and his democratic allies lack the judgment to lead our country."


racism is alive and well

>> Saturday, October 18, 2008

i think we can put behind us the idea that discriminating or hating on the basis of race in america is no more.

Surprise, shock and some fear in a local neighborhood, after an anti-Obama display is hung from a tree. The display is at a home at Symmes and Hicks Road in Fairfield.

And the person who put it there says the message isn't political, it's racist. Shawn Ley spoke with the man who isn't shy about his views.

There it is, right above the "McCain-Palin" sign: a make-shift ghost, hanging from a noose. A Barack Obama sign attached upside down. Obama's middle name: "Hussein" spray painted and misspelled above.

Mike Lunsford hung the ghost in his yard. He spoke to us off-camera, saying his views could hurt his employers business ... but he says make no mistake: He doesn't want an African American running the country.

Lunsford says he believes Barack Obama is not a "full blooded American." And he says the United States is a white, Christian nation - and only with white Christians should be in power.

This is so unacceptable. His reason for doing this was to respond to a cartoon of mccain in kkk robes chasing obama. Explain to me exactly how this is meant to respond to that? If anything it only reinforces the idea that mccain supporters and the gop is racist.

I look forward to hearing Sen McCain condemn this but i look forward to hearing gov palin condemning this as well. That is one of the big points is that mccain is playing good cop bad cop with this topic and this is not a situation where games need to be played. So McCain get your house in order because this is what you tolerate, out and out racism.


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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