Archive for March 2008
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Wed, 03/26/2008 – 9:32am
I was never a Trekkie growing up, but I feel like I’ve been channeling Spock lately.
Spock was the “highly logical” Vulcan on “Star Trek.” I’ve been watching the raw and pure emotion pouring out of the battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. I’ve read the e-mails from readers, from friends, heard strangers at parties pour themselves out over who they support and who they don’t support.
Spock wasn’t very popular at times for being so unemotional. McCoy often derided him for his lack of emotion in crucial situations. But Spock was a natural contrast to the emotional leadership of Captain Kirk, as played by William Shatner. Without Spock, the crew would have been too emotional. He wasn’t always loved, but he was valuable.
Maintaining logic is lousy when you are behind a candidate, but vital when you are trying to cover a campaign. But don’t confuse cold logic with uncaring. My focus is on the prize, a Democrat in the White House and significant increases in Democratic ranks in the House and Senate along with state House, Senate, and governors races.
One phrase we have repeated is that we intend to fully support the Democratic Party candidate for president, regardless of whom that is. Some readers have a hard time believing that. I can understand their point, but to quote Spock, their positions are “highly illogical.”
But these readers believe that we might do something different because they are caught up in that necessary emotion.
Many have come down to Obama and Clinton from other candidates who they cared passionately about. I saw a lot of that spirit at Yearly Kos last summer in Chicago. People could not be swayed from their chosen candidate, regardless of what kind of chance that person might have in the race.
These people have gone from emotional to logical (when their candidate withdrew) and back to emotional.
And that is how it should be. In January, February, and now late March, having your emotion is necessary and wonderful. That emotion is why over 4 million Democrats, a new record, registered in Pennsylvania for the April 22 primary.
And let’s be thankful for one thing. There wasn’t this level of emotion for John Kerry in 2004 and even Al Gore in 2000. If this emotion can be channeled into one candidate in November 2008, the possibilities to accomplish multiple Democratic goals are actually within reach.
This may be hard to believe, but the Democratic convention in late August is a long, long way away. And November 2008 is even further away. But there is a lot of ground work to be done, especially in purple states. And the level of emotion is heightened well beyond a normal presidential race. So keep the emotion for now, but know that is logic is right around the corner.
So right now, Spock isn’t the cool one in the room. And yes, I realize right now, that’s me. But when it’s time to rally around the presidential nominee, Spock will not only be the cool one in the room, but also he will be the one people will turn to for reinforcements of logic.
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Thu, 03/20/2008 – 1:34am
FURTHER, A MAJOR STIPULATION — NO ADVERTISING — IN FLORIDA. OBAMA ADVERTISED IN FLORIDA, A FLAGRANT VIOLATION OF DNC RULES.
This is literally, capital letters and all, from a letter we received. But was it a violation? And more importantly, was it a violation of rules or an agreement? Does that make a difference? And if it is a violation, what was the penalty?
When I have written about the Florida-Michigan debacle, two things are clear. One, most people disagree with what I have written, and Two, rules are rules and rules shouldn’t be broken.
Okay, I get that rules aren’t to be broken. But what about agreements?
The rules were if Florida and Michigan went before they were supposed to, none of the delegates would be seated. For the sake of this piece, I won’t go any further about that.
But what about the agreements? I ask that initially because of The New York Times essay written by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Debbie Dingell, member of the Democratic National Committee, and wife of prominent Rep. John Dingell (D-MI).
“While Michigan Democrats were disappointed that our state was not selected for one of the four early contests, we appreciated the new rule for adding a bit of much-needed diversity to the early nominating process, and as a first step toward breaking the Iowa-New Hampshire lock. We announced that we would abide by the new calendar provided that other states did the same.
“But last August, the New Hampshire secretary of state indicated he was going to schedule his state’s primary before the date specified, clearly defying the sequence and timing the party had set. Michigan Democratic leaders repeatedly asked the Democratic National Committee if it intended to penalize New Hampshire for this violation, but the committee refused to act.
“Rather than allow this broken system to persist, we challenged it by deciding to apportion our delegates according to the results of a primary scheduled by the Michigan Legislature for Jan. 15.”
They use the word “rule” but it seems more like an agreement to me, but I’m not a lawyer. Assuming what Levin and Dingell are saying is true, did New Hampshire break the rules? Did New Hampshire break an agreement? What were the consequences?
The other reasons I bring this up are the side agreements the DNC had with candidates. And again as a non-lawyer, I figure you have to have agreements if rules don’t apply. The DNC had rules to not seat delegates. But the DNC felt like it had to have agreements on top of the rules. The punishment against Florida and Michigan apparently wasn’t enough — the DNC compelled more from the candidates on top of the punishment given to the two states.
You could easily argue that why would candidates go to states where the delegates didn’t count. But why did the DNC have agreements to further punish the states? Wasn’t the punishment, as laid out in the rules, not sufficient? The agreements went above and beyond the rules; they were outside the rules.
The agreements were to not campaign in those states (depriving voters of at least hearing from these candidates), not to be on the ballot (so voters could at least express an opinion, even if it would ultimately not count), not advertise in those states (so local TV stations wouldn’t get any money). But they did allow fundraisers — so to the people (not the parties) of Michigan and Florida, their cash was good enough but spending time with voters wasn’t?
So when the candidates violated those DNC agreements, were they penalized?
Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, Mike Gravel, and Dennis Kucinich all appeared on the Michigan ballot. Were they penalized for being on the ballot?
You would be surprised how many people have written in complaining that Barack Obama advertised in Florida. Obama did run national ads. And as someone who covered marketing for a living and has worked in broadcast media, national ads are national. You can’t run a national ad in only 48 states. Did the agreement only apply to local ads or any advertising? So if national advertising “counts” as advertising in Florida, did Obama break that part of the agreement? Were Obama and other candidates prohibited from running national ads because they would air in Florida? And if Obama violated the agreement, was he penalized for his actions?
And finally, did the candidates have an option to not sign the agreements in the first place. The DNC wanted the candidates to sign, but would there have been a punishment if they never signed it in the first place? And is an agreement binding if one party is forced to sign a deal? Again, I’m not a lawyer.
You could argue that the DNC doesn’t have to release every punishment for every infraction, but you would think that announcing penalties would deter future actions.
For right or wrong, many felt that the RNC would ultimately seat all the delegates, even though its punishment was denying half of them. And some felt the DNC would ultimately seat some if not all of the delegates. Again, I’m not sure that was a good thing or bad thing to think. The state parties of both major parties likely gambled that their delegates wouldn’t ultimately be denied.
It was a very bad gamble to take, but sometimes, organizations take those risks if they don’t feel like rules and agreements will be enforced. Levin and Dingell argue that Michigan’s stance stemmed from a lack of enforcement over New Hampshire. Selective enforcement of rules and agreements is a rather easy way to destroy trust. So if rules and agreements aren’t meant to be broken, we need to know that is true up and down the line.
It has been pounded into my head that parties have the full discretion to make up their own rules. But political parties aren’t monsters, they are human beings trying to do the best they can. They are us. If you can stand up in a room and proudly proclaim you are a Democrat and that you strongly support Democratic candidates, then you should have a say in how the Democratic Party is run.
We’re told by right-wing people “America: Love it or Leave it.” We reply that we want to make America better by making improvements. I don’t like the “Love it or Leave it” mentality; I would like to make the Democratic Party better by making improvements. One way to start is making sure rules and agreements are consistently applied.
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Wed, 03/19/2008 – 10:35am
Controversy is in the eye of the beholder. So when the “controversial” comments from Barack Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, were made public, I shrugged my shoulders.
I am white, but I know we live in a racist nation. I should know because I grew up in a racist community. Alex Kotlowitz wrote about St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, Michigan in “The Other Side of the River.” He mentions the alternative name for St. Joseph by blacks (St. Johannesburg) and the alternative name for Benton Harbor by whites (Benton Harlem).
Two small communities literally separated by the St. Joseph River, yet miles away on race. According to the 2000 census:
|City||White pop.||Black pop.||Household income|
chart courtesy of Wikipedia
I heard the n-word a lot growing up. Heck, I have heard relatives of mine from the South use that word.
I heard all sort of negative stereotypes about black people growing up. I even worked in restaurants where it was whispered that black people don’t tip well. It’s certainly possible that some black people don’t tip well as well as some white people. But if you treat a customer any less because of some element, including color of skin, you might not get a good tip. If you treat them with the same respect, you have a much better chance of getting a good tip.
When Michelle Obama spoke up about how “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country,” I wrote that I could relate to her thoughts.
But the frustration she felt and the tone of Rev. Wright’s sermons speak to something white people aren’t used to hearing — the black frustrated, angry perspective.
I’ve been sitting here for awhile asking why does our society gladly accept the hurtful things said by white preachers such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, current John McCain endorser John Hagee, Rod Parsley, and more. As a white person who believes in Jesus, I find their misinterpretations of the Bible to be anti-Christian, horribly divisive, and anti-human. I find their comments to be controversial, yet they have power and favor in our society. The MSM won’t dare to touch or criticize their stands.
Rev. Wright is being criticized by many people, including Obama, as being divisive at times. And I do agree. And I agree that Louis Farrakhan should not be ratcheting up the rhetoric in such a way as to demean Jews.
But if we are going to agree on those things, we also have to agree that some white evangelical preachers are also horribly divisive. No Republican politician has been asked in a major way to disavow any divisive religious figure on their team.
Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen for one simple reason: White America doesn’t mind if white people say hateful, hurtful things. We can talk bad about Mexicans, even though they speak a different language and only want what the Irish, Polish, and Italians wanted when they came here. We can talk bad about blacks, even though people can still easily remember when we had a country where white people were afraid of black people using their drinking fountains.
Occasionally, when prominent white people say these things, we stand up and object. When our buddy says them, we remain silent. Yes, we stood up when Geraldine Ferraro said what she said. But Don Imus said something worse, and found work relatively quickly.
But if someone from Black America says hateful, hurtful things, White America stands up loud in protest, even if what they said isn’t even in the same realm as the “White” hurtful things.
Some of that frustration comes from realities in the black community where the white community is oblivious. As Stanford Law School professor Richard Thompson Ford recently wrote in The Washington Post:
Many of our nation’s cities are as racially segregated as they were in the era of Jim Crow, many minority neighborhoods are crime-plagued and bereft of opportunities for gainful employment, and one in three black men between 20 and 29 is in prison, on parole or on probation.
If one in three white men between 20 and 29 in America were in prison, on parole, or on probation, it would be on the news every single night.
Barack Obama is absolutely correct that we do have to look past all of this and focus on the issues as a society.
“when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.”
Obama is also right that we — all of America — have to acknowledge that there is black frustration and anger over the differences in our society.
“But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.”
So perhaps the “controversy” of the Rev. Wright’s statements opened a few doors that needed to be aired out in this country. And Barack Obama rose to the occasion and gave us the speech we needed to hear. After all, as Jon Stewart put it best last night: “At 11 a.m. on Tuesday, a prominent politician (Obama) spoke to Americans about race as though they were adults.”
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Mon, 03/17/2008 – 11:48pm
The Florida Democratic Party has announced that there won’t be a do-over in the state’s primary. So the voters of the state of Florida aren’t being given an option to make their voices heard in who they think should be president. Well, at least, those who vote Democratic.
Those who voted Republican have their votes counted. Irony is sad.
Now, I have written about this debacle, placing the primary blame on the DNC. That really didn’t go over well. I’m not here to apologize or take back anything I said. But there is a deeper read into this story and perhaps, some consensus. Perhaps not.
I don’t think the current Michigan and Florida results should count. I’ve thought a lot about that, but since the DNC is willing to accept a second vote, the process should have happened.
I don’t blame Florida (or Michigan) for trying to move up. These are two truly crucial bellwether states for who would be the best nominee for president of the United States. The DNC had their reasons to pick South Carolina and Nevada. But Florida is a more balanced state than South Carolina in terms of demographics. While Nevada is a good Western choice, Michigan is also a more balanced state, and states with heavy industry are ignored early on in the process.
And I still think the DNC punishment was too harsh. I think the RNC punishment fit the rules violation. But let’s make this adamantly clear: a punishment was deserved.
And the state Democratic parties of Florida and Michigan knew the risks of what they did. I lay a significant chunk of the blame on them for not having contingency plans to make their voters’ voices were heard. The voters of the two states had no say in whether they would be penalized for the actions of the parties.
The state parties also knew that it might have to come down to a do-over. If you are going to go into a battle, whether your cause is justified or not, you have to be ready for all scenarios. I realize the Bush Administration didn’t do this for Iraq, and look what happened.
The state parties knew that if the DNC stuck to their guns, the citizenry of their states would be silenced. That was not an acceptable scenario.
All sides of this debacle (except the voters) have been more concerned about petty squabbles than democracy. The state Democratic parties feel an outrage over the process of who goes where. The DNC feel an outrage that a state would usurp their authority and would jump ahead. And neither side has been concerned about the voters.
If this were a typical primary race, where one candidate had a significant amount of delegates, the DNC and the state Democratic parties were very willing to not have the will of the voters of Florida and Michigan be considered in any form. They have been almost happy about it since, to them, their battle was more important than democracy. And regardless where you stand, nothing should overrule the right to vote.
Yes, I have heard from many people, replies to past articles, talk around the office, and even outside functions that the parties have a right to set up their own rules, and if you don’t like those rules, you can leave the party. All of that is true, but it misses the big picture.
In our classrooms, we talk about the treasured right to vote, and how important that is. But let’s look at the reality of the history of the United States. In the beginning, white, male, property owners have the right to vote. And yes, laws were passed giving males of color, and later women, the right to vote. But given poll taxes, felony lists, intimidation, and racism, among many factors, I wonder if we ever really had an election where everyone who could get to vote got to vote.
In Canada, there are two people who are prohibited from voting: the Governor General (representative to the Queen of England) and the person who runs Elections Canada. Every other citizen (of age) is considered eligible to be a voter. Sounds like a better system than what we have.
After the tragedies of the 2000 and 2004 elections, the last thing, the truly last thing anyone connected to the Democratic Party should do is deprive people of their right to vote. Especially in Florida.
This decision by the Florida Democratic Party to not have a do-over means that the Democrats will not win Florida in 2008. House representative races will suffer as a result. And if Michigan goes the same route, the Democrats’ chances in that state would be severely diminished.
As for the money, it should have been paid for by some culpable party, either the state parties, the DNC, or both, should pay for it. If the do-overs could be privately funded, so no one else will have to pay, that’s fine as well. But in any way, a re-vote should have happened.
All sides of this debacle (except the voters) have behaved like children, and perhaps that is insulting to most children. The residents of Florida should confront the state party (and if Michigan does the same thing, the state party should receive the same wrath) over this issue.
Because even though I still think the DNC has more blame in this than the state parties, the state parties did start the battle. They do deserve to be punished, and if necessary, if no one else will pay the cost, the state parties ultimately should dish out the money. If the state party paid for it, and confronted the DNC later over the money, that’s a fight for a different day.
Perhaps that isn’t ultimately fair, but punishments aren’t always fair. Democracy should be more important than money or petty squabbles. But this isn’t true in Florida.
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Thu, 03/13/2008 – 10:31am
“It’s not the sex, it’s the money.”
How many times have you heard that phrase this past week? And better yet, did you know before this week that the Mann Act was still on the books?
As any lawyer can tell you, state and federal law books are filled with amazingly obscure laws that somehow still exist on the books. And we should do something about it.
We have made fun of the Bush tax cuts that weren’t permanent. But maybe we can adapt that philosophy to some laws. Maybe we can find a way to have laws such as the Mann Act taken off the books.
This isn’t to excuse Eliot Spitzer’s behavior or David Vitter’s or any other politician ever caught with a hooker. But we chastise a society where the Mann Act still exists, yet we don’t do anything about it.
The mania that surrounded the perception of “white slavery” brought on the Mann Act. The law was used against Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight boxing champ for actually having white girlfriends. And we know from stories from this past week that Charlie Chaplin, Chuck Berry, Frank Lloyd Wright, and even Charles Manson.
And laws that involve any action across state lines always make me nervous. I grew up near a state line, and the vagueness of the Mann Act makes you wonder what qualified under that law for many, many years.
“Whoever knowingly transports any individual in interstate or foreign commerce, or in any Territory or Possession of the United States, with intent that such individual engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both”
It’s not just prostitution — depending on the jurisdiction, it could have meant homosexual acts or even more recently, use of sex toys in the South. The use of sex toys was illegal in Texas until February 2008, so even in the privacy of the home, you could be charged under the Mann Act. After all, it says, “or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense.”
Something along the lines of a Constitutional Convention could work. We also could have laws like patents with a limit of years. It’s highly doubtful we would not pass a renewal of murder being illegal. But we might let the Mann Act slide. And we might even let prostitution slide as well.
Before you say how radical it would be to make prostitution legal, there is a major country close by where prostitution has always been legal: Canada. That’s right, prostitution is legal in Canada, but soliciting isn’t.
And if you were to argue that prostitution should remain illegal, you would have to prove why that is still viable. The emphasis would change from getting rid of laws to justify keeping them. Very few people can honestly stand up and say the Mann Act is a good thing.
We pride ourselves on a society of laws. But laws that don’t have relevance diminish the power of the law. Fewer laws that are more relevant to our society strengthen the law and strengthen society.
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Fri, 03/07/2008 – 1:40am
UPDATE: There is this follow-up story, again from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “The U.S. Secret Service on Friday defended its handling of security during a massive rally in downtown Dallas for Barack Obama, saying there was no “lapse” in its “comprehensive and layered security plan,” which called for some people to be checked for weapons, while others were not.” Others in the article disagree with this assessment. Still, someone on the national scene should have brought some attention and asked some questions.
Finally, I found a media outlet that is wondering whatever happened to the story where the Secret Service stopped checking for weapons before a Barack Obama rally at Reunion Arena in Dallas.
Was it The New York Times? The Washington Post? International Herald Tribune? USA Today?
Nope, it was Candorville. What’s a Candorville?
When I did a Google news search to find which outlets were on the story, there were no recent stories on the subject — no follow-up, no speculation. So are we reduced to keeping the question alive thanks to a comic strip? Is this what the media is reduced to?
Obama received Secret Service protection long before any other presidential candidate (Hillary Clinton had Secret Service protection all along from her role as First Lady). Given the assassinations and near assassination attempts (just look at poor Gerald Ford — twice in one month) in our history, the protection seemed well deserved. So we have to wonder whether Obama is getting the full protection everyone seems to agree that he deserves.
This was the story BuzzFlash.com ran at the time about the incident on February 20.
“Dallas Deputy Police Chief T.W. Lawrence, head of the Police Department’s homeland security and special operations divisions, said the order — apparently made by the U.S. Secret Service — was meant to speed up the long lines outside and fill the arena’s vacant seats before Obama came on.”
This accuses the Secret Service of giving the order, but we don’t know whether it’s true, or why the order was given. We don’t know.
Given the nature of the Secret Service, we might understand if we didn’t learn much in the two weeks plus since the incident occurred. But we haven’t even had the line of questioning. Candorville stepped up where the NYT, WP, and IHT did not.
On the heels of the recent protest over the lack of minority cartoonists, Darrin Bell, the creator of Candorville, may have felt an increased responsibility as an African-American cartoonist to step up and ask the important questions. If nothing else, we see why comic strips of color (even if they are in black and white) are vital to our media.
If any presidential candidate had a breach from the Secret Service, the media should cover it. I hope the reasons the media have ignored the issue aren’t because Obama is African-American; the fact that an African-American cartoonist is the primary one to bring it up speaks volumes on the differences we still have.
When young, blond women disappear, we know the cable news channels will put their faces on TV. African-American families wonder if their young women disappear, whether TV will care.
So, attention MSM: Hey, The New York Times, The Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, USA Today: find someone in your newsroom to ask some questions. Oh, CNN and MSNBC, let’s not leave you out, put some pressure on this. Don’t get outshined by a comic strip.
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Wed, 03/05/2008 – 9:51am
Having children requires a certain bit of maturity, so when punishments need to be dealt out, the punishment should be appropriate to the violation. My late father worked as a social worker, and growing up around social workers, I heard enough stories (people’s identities not revealed) of misguided punishments.
Let’s look at two violations and see how the punishment was carried out. Two states decide to move up their primaries, not beyond Iowa and New Hampshire, but beyond South Carolina and Nevada. Let’s call those states Michigan and Florida.
Now one “parent” told the “child” that half of the toys (delegates) would be taken away, but the integrity of the process would remain intact. Let’s call that parent the RNC.
The other “parent” told the “child” that all the toys (delegates) would be taken away AND people caught up in the violation would be severely punished by having their rights (more important that toys) stripped from them. And these people were truly innocent victims. Let’s call that parent the DNC.
Now I don’t have children, but it’s fair to say by looking at those “case studies” that one punishment is much harsher than the other. And having grown up in a household where even though I was the good kid, I was punished more severely and often for things I didn’t do. So I tend to get really uncomfortable about punishments that aren’t fair.
Parents aren’t supposed to punish children in anger; they are supposed to be mature enough to let the punishment fit the “crime.” And if the parent does go too far, they have the responsibility, the requirement, to do something about it, even if it means telling the child they were wrong. A child will learn more about life if a parent owns up to an improper punishment.
It’s scary when the Republicans introduce a process in Florida where every vote counts and the Democrats introduce a process in Florida where no vote counts. Think about that.
Yes, Florida Governor Charlie Crist has stepped up and said let’s do a primary. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm should step up and say so as well. But the ultimate responsibility lies with Howard Dean and the DNC. They are the parents in this relationship.
No one is saying the child shouldn’t be punished. Punish the child, but do so with the required maturity to the situation. Punishing the voters of Michigan and Florida in anger for something they didn’t do is something where parenting classes would be recommended, if not court-ordered.
This isn’t about the delegates. Somehow delegates will get seated, but will they reflect the voters of those two states?
And this isn’t about the candidates. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and their camps should stay completely out of this. If any candidates should be upset, it should be John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel, who would have been on the ballot in Michigan and Florida, but likely won’t be in this “do-over.” In a do-over, those in Michigan and Florida should be able to vote for any of those candidates, not just Clinton and Obama.
This is about the voters of Michigan and Florida and democracy itself. The DNC got us into this mess and should work their tails off to fix this problem. If it comes down to who should pay for the do-overs, the DNC should handle the purse strings as its punishment for getting us into this mess.
Even with a do-over, the bad feelings will linger. But a rectified situation will allow the healing to begin, and hopefully those wounds can be mostly healed by November 2008.
Yes, Michigan and Florida overstepped their bounds. But the punishment was metted out of anger, and draped over into voters, innocent pawns in the game. It takes maturity to step up and say “the punishment was over the line.” The children are listening — are the parents ready to be mature enough for responsible parenting?