Saturday, August 21, 2004

Dispatch from Jeb Bush's Florida 

Bob Herbert reports on the latest tactic in the ongoing strategy to suppress voter turnout generally, and black voter turnout specifically: sending out armed members of the FL Dept. of Law Enforcement to "visit" the homes of (often elderly) black GOTV volunteers, under the auspices of some sort of "criminal investigation" involving the mayor of Orlando.
One woman, who is in her mid-70's and was visited by two officers in June, said in an affidavit: "After entering my house, they asked me if they could take their jackets off, to which I answered yes. When they removed their jackets, I noticed they were wearing side arms. ... And I noticed an ankle holster on one of them when they sat down."
Though apprehensive, she answered all of their questions. But for a lot of voters, the emotional response to the investigation has gone beyond apprehension to outright fear.

"These guys are using these intimidating methods to try and get these folks to stay away from the polls in the future,'' said Eugene Poole, president of the Florida Voters League, which tries to increase black voter participation throughout the state. "And you know what? It's working. One woman said, 'My God, they're going to put us in jail for nothing.' I said, 'That's not true.' "
What is especially sinister about this is that it seems to involve "cracking down" on people involved specifically in absentee-ballot GOTV efforts. We already know that the Jeb Bush administration sent out official messages assuring Floridians of the infallibility of the black box voting machines, while privately sending out letters to Republicans encouraging them to vote by absentee ballot. It seems clear which voting method Jeb Bush has more faith in. Hence, perhaps, these polite house "visits" to old black ladies.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Her Life Changed Forever 

We were all inspired by the performance of Carly Patterson, who became the first American since Mary Lou Retton to win the all-around gold medal in gymnastics. Retton herself enthusiastically hailed her newly-crowned "successor":
"I feel as excited now as I did for myself," Retton said by telephone. "I scared my kids because I was screaming so much.

"I had been waiting 20 years," she said. "Do you hear me? Twenty years. The crown has been sitting and waiting for the next all-around champion. Carly Patterson, it's yours."
As the NBC commentator noted, Carly Patterson's life has been changed forever by this extraordinary event. A whole new future of possibilities has opened up for her.

Let's just take a moment to wish Carly a perhaps different life path than the one Retton has pursued. Retton, a prominent Baptist, is the author of the book Gateways to Happiness. She says:
I pray every single day, all day long about it, organization, preparation and my key, of course, my husband. He's wonderful. We have a joke in the Kelly household (that's my married name) that I win a gold medal every day in his eyes.
Indeed. Retton now spends her time appearing in a children's program aired on Christian television stations. The show, Mary Lou's Flip-Flop Shop (no, it's not John Kerry's Flip-Flop Shop--it's Mary Lou's! Ha! HAA!)

from what I can gather, is meant to destroy children's imaginations and souls.
The characters include:
--Jumpy: Mary Lou's enthusiastic sidekick and best friend Jumpy exudes bouncy, acrobatic playfulness. Though Jumpy does not verbalize her enthusiasm, her infectious energy conveys the fun in being physically active.
--LZ Bones: Moving at half-speed, LZ Bones would rather sleep in his favorite chair than pitch in at the Flip Flop Shop. While he usually gets dragged against his will into singing or dancing, LZ Bones ends up enjoying and learning from the Shop's activities.
Mary Lou's Flip-Flop Shop is promoted by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson, whose catalog includes such perennial favorites as The Crippled Lamb.

Carly, dear, I know you can do better.

This weekend: Learn how it works 

Political Campaign Fundamentals Training
Saturday August 21, 12:00p-5:00p

The Tank, 432 West 42nd Street
Between 9th and 10th Avenues
Suggested donation $10 to defray costs of travel & training site

Becca Sharp, Training Director at EMILY’s List will be training local organizers on the fundamentals of running political campaigns. Topics to be covered include: how to develop a message, design a detailed field plan, develop a media outreach plan, write press releases, generate press coverage, and talk to the press. Also included will be best practices for voter ID, persuasion and GOTV, voter registration, organizing constituencies, effective targeting and community outreach.

This event is hosted by the New Democratic Majority. RSVP to Tim at tpaulson@newdemmajority.org.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

A Milestone in American Letters 

This is just astonishing. I think this may very well be the worst piece of English prose published in a nationally-distributed news periodical during the past decade. Courtesy of Jonathan Alter, "writing" for Newsweek about the deeper meaning of the McGreevey outing/scandal. From "The Layered Lives We Lead":
Too many of us increasingly live our lives according to some external narrative that we think represents "success" or "acceptance" but has little to do with who we really are. In other words, ordinary Americans are becoming more and more like politicians. That's right--the very profession we claim to despise has turned into one of the templates for modern life. It's not just that we occasionally make promises we can't keep and tell convenient white lies and are a little too eager to please those who might do us some good. That has always been true, which is why our elected officials may represent us better than we know. What has changed is that the outer-directedness of politicians--their relentless need to be in touch and feed off other people--is now leeching into the larger culture.
It's like Vogon-poetry-bad. Nearly le-chien-bad. (OK, I won't go that far.) If you can stand any more:
Today, with cell phones and instant messaging like umbilical cords, the whole dorm would riot if someone managed to cut the connection. Even the meek have inherited the BlackBerry.
Yep, you read that correctly: "the meek have inherited the BlackBerry." (In case you didn't catch that, Alter is "alluding to" the Bible in order to make a kind of "joke.")
But these are different lives than led by earlier generations--stretched thin between outer and inner selves, self-absorbed without being self-knowing.
I have to ask myself: what would I do if one of my students handed in an essay with a sentence like that? (Other than do a quick Google search to see if s/he was plagiarising from Newsweek.)
The character flaws that allowed Bill Clinton or Jim McGreevey to exercise such appalling judgment are particular to them and ultimately unfathomable. All we know for sure is that neither Clinton's shame, nor McGreevey's, will prevent others from making their mistakes over and over again; human folly (or cries for help) trumps rationality on a regular basis, especially if we manage to stay in touch with everyone except ourselves. When life spins ever faster, the odds increase of its spinning out of control.
This prose is straight out of something Orwell quoted. It should be used to teach from. Alter deserves a laurel. A shining shit-laurel.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Put your energy into a swing state 

Downtown for Democracy, a Brooklyn-based artists-for-political action group, is sponsoring a canvassing trip to pivotal Columbus, Ohio this weekend.

The bus leaves from Williamsburg on Thursday, August 19 at 10 PM and returns Sunday, August 22. $20 buys a ticket on the bus, lodging at Ohio State University, and an invite to a party they’re throwing when they get there.

For more information, or to reserve a spot, contact getonthebus@downtownfordemocracy.org or call 718-290-9153.

More info on the trip and Downtown for Democracy here.

If you can’t make it this time, they’ll be doing trips through November to Ohio and Pennsylvania. It’s worth the time if you can spare it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Stop the fraud, preserve the victory 

Take a second and sign this MoveOn petition demanding a paper trail for electronic votes. It's probably too late for this measure--the best idea is the one proposed today by Krugman, that we have independent exit polls--but it can't hurt to sign this. I don't know what else to do, and I feel like I have to do something besides praying to the black gods. A clean victory for Kerry would be better than riots in the streets following another stolen Florida election.

Also: read this long article by the British novelist Andrew O'Hagan in the London Review of Books, about the Democratic National Convention. He's not totally up on the details of the campaign, but the piece is still very good. I was expecting some sort of jaded, snide account by a sophisticated British intellectual--and there are some very funny, novelistic descriptions of the orchestrated, empty excitement--but finally O'Hagan is more respectful of Kerry than any American writer I've come across. It seems that the outsider's perspective--the anthropological perspective, really--allows O'Hagan to see as obvious and inescapable a lot of things that we indigenous lefties complain about. Really: how else can a Democrat win the U.S. presidency--winning the majority of votes, winning the votes of many Republicans--apart from making an array of painful compromises that the cynical refer to as "selling-out" and that the malevolent refer to as "flip-flopping." Building consensus is grinding, boring, painful work that involves no small measure of self-sacrifice; but it is absolutely necessary. It is, perhaps, a form of selfless service to the greater good. In retrospect, anyway, I cannot imagine any of the other Democratic contenders for the nomination having had the strength, the discipline, and the intense single-mindedness that Kerry has shown in doing what is necessary to win. And at this level, winning is what matters. Virtuous stands are good, but are utterly irrelevant without victory.

Monday, August 16, 2004

"Down with Keyes!" 

A brief update on the incredibly suspenseful senatorial race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Alan Keyes in Illinois. Keyes went this weekend to a huge Chicago parade in celebration of the city's African American community, where he was, according to the Chicago Tribune, greeted by "a resounding chorus of jeers and boos that bordered on outright hostility."

It seems that the humiliating appearance somehow got Keyes' brain-juices flowing: afterwards, he told reporters that abortion is tantamount to the "genocide" of African-Americans.

Also: did you know that Alan Keyes is himself African-American? I had thought that Barack Obama, himself an African-American, was a lock in this race, but now that I've discovered the interesting fact that Keyes is also African-American, I think that the race might be closer than I expected. After all, how will voters know which African-American man to vote for?

The End is Near 

Although I was beginning to lose hope a couple of weeks ago when Bush began to titillate his fat, white, brain-dead, crucifix-licking legions in the South and Midwest by issuing "terror-alerts" based on irrelevant intelligence, thereby allowing them to enjoy the feeling of being "inside" a cool movie about terrorism while of course remaining fundamentally unafraid--although I was beginning to lose hope then, it seems now that hope is warranted.

Better than a post-convention "bounce" is what has happened over the last two weeks: a period of slow and sustained gathering of support, in the teeth of Bush's terror-pornography, support which now gives Kerry a small but decisive lead in the polls. This two-week increase (see the series of posts here for more information) is better than a bounce because it reflects a gradual consolidation of support, rather than an ephemeral post-convention name-recognition buzz; this kind of consolidation should last. The unprecedented crowds that Kerry has been drawing on his two-week "Believe in America" tour seem to attest to a mustering of force. The final event in Portland drew upwards of 40,000 people, what city officials say is the largest such crowd in the history of the city. Check out this picture:

So it seems that things are going OK for Kerry, despite the fact that he has incompetent surrogates who seem unwilling to defend him (Joe Biden announcing to swollen, red-faced hemhorroid Russert that he voted for the $87 billion with no strings attached; Wes Clark referring to Cheney's inane death-rattles about "sensitivity" as "the worst kind of gutter politics" without saying why Cheney's noises was so meaningless [hint: Cheney and Bush had been using the same word repeatedly in recent speeches]).

And things are OK for Kerry despite the fact that he is somehow the one responding to the asshole-birth about Iraq, rather than posing the questions himself. I urge all AmCoppers to call the Kerry campaign and ask whoever answers the phone why, why, why won't Kerry start attacking the failed Iraq reconstruction, specifically by attacking the corrupt and incompetent awarding of no-bid contracts to companies like Halliburton, who have failed to do the job, as opposed to Iraqis who might thereby be given an incentive to deal with the Americans.

Anyway, things are somehow OK for Kerry. In fact, I can't see how he'd lose, if a fair election were held. People know what the asshole-birth is at this point. So the end is near. Unless Kerry's life is itself brought to a sudden end.


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