Saturday, October 28, 2006

Congressman Alex P. Keaton (R-OH) on stem cell research

Sometimes I like to get back to the Columbus suburbs to rub shoulders with the people who sent me to Washington. It’s my job, after all, and if I don’t listen to them, they can hardly be blamed for tossing me out. I’ve held my seat since I was swept to power in the Revolution of 1994, and while I’m pretty safe thanks to a clever gerrymander on the part of Governor Taft, I don’t want to lose touch.

My constituents voted for me, Representative Alex P. Keaton (R-OH) and by extension voted for President Bush’s tax cuts, for bringing the War on Terror to the terrorists in Iraq, for deregulation of the petroleum industry and for the consolidation of media companies. I listen to them. One of my constituents is my father, who works for the local PBS station. Dad and I don’t agree on much. I remember we stopped talking for a couple of years after I voted to jettison safeguards blocking consolidation of media ownership, but that’s Dad for you—always fussing about the little guy, even when the little guy’s stock portfolio is in jeopardy. Dad uses FCC Chairman Michael Powell’s name like a swear word these days. It’s kind of cute.

Dad and I made up last Christmas, and I’ll call him from the Hart Office Building now and again, just to see how he’s doing. We try to avoid talking about my job, because what I do just makes him mad. That it’s the people’s business doesn’t seem to calm him down. But we did manage to agree on one topic—stem cell research. I’ll be honest: I’ve never really given it much thought. Whenever Newt or Hammer or Denny would drop by my office to talk about an upcoming vote on the matter, I’d just do what they wanted, which was always to oppose it. It’s a pet issue of the megachurches, you see, and the health of the Republican Party depends on those megachurches and the voters they supply. I’ve never personally met James Dobson or Jerry Falwell, but I’m sure we’d get along. (Rod Parsley did contribute to my campaign, and we had dinner a couple of times, but I’m not exactly in his pocket, you understand.)

Stem cell research, though, is a good idea, and it could cure a lot of diseases. So I’m for it. If you check my voting record, you’ll see that I’ve never voted for it, and I probably never will. But that doesn’t mean I oppose it. It’s just that, as an elected United States Representative from the 19th District of Ohio, I have to do the will of the people who elected me, so I have no choice but to vote their convictions instead of mine. I’m morally bound. I’m more of a fiscal conservative than a social conservative, anyway.

Voting is over for the 109th Congress. I’m sure I’ll get reëlected to the 110th, but I won’t change my position. I’m committed to delivering tax cuts and rollbacks of social programs to the America people—and above all to the people of the 19th District of Ohio—and I can’t do that without the support of the social conservatives, and the social conservatives want opposition to stem cell research, so what can I do? If I want to get my agenda done, I have to help them with theirs. That’s politics, after all. And that’s how I do the people’s business.

I’ve been asked by supporters of stem cell research, “Congressman Keaton, how would you feel if you came down with Hodgkin’s or Parkinson’s or some terrible disease that could possibly be cured by stem cell research?” The answer is, of course, I’d be crestfallen. Who wants a disease like that? Certainly no one deserves to get those diseases. But if the people don’t want stem cell research to be encouraged by the government, what can I do? I have to do what they ask me to. While my personal convictions may skew one way, I have to vote the other.

If you really wanted to put me in a box, I’d say you could call me fiscally conservative but socially moderate. So don’t judge me harshly on this issue; I think the same way a lot of you do. I just can’t vote that way. But I still support the idea of research, if not its legality or its funding.

And by the way: if you ever get Parkinson’s, don’t ever go on TV to show off your condition like that one actor did recently. People shouldn’t have to see that. It’s undignified.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Why Rush attacked Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's

Small wonder Rush Limbaugh is beating up on Michael J. Fox—the Parkinson's ad really works.

The HCD Research and Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion (MCIPO) conducted a survey of American voters who'd seen the ad to see just how effective it is. Significant portions of those who saw it found the ad credible, and were more likely to vote Democratic after seeing it. The results were consistently the same among Democrats, independents and Republicans. This is not what accomplished gasbag and bloviating multimillionaire media personality Rush Limbaugh wants to see happen. Rush, always a diligent footsoldier for the messiest missions of the jihad, attacked Mr. Fox personally because he knew he couldn't attack the facts put forth in the ad. Smearing the messenger instead of the message—that's the way the modern Republican Party works.

And this is a big problem for the Republicans, too. During this election cycle, they're relying on the conservative coalition that Bush has cobbled together between rich people who want to raid social services and religious extremists who want not just prayer in schools but to squelch science itself. These are broadly unpopular positions, though essential ones to support if the Republican Party wishes to clutch to power. Their anti-science platform will hurt them in 2008, as well, when their candidate for president will either buy into his party's fourteenth-century worldview or wind up alienating those who do—thus making the Republican candidate's job extra difficult.

In the long run, this issue is only going to get worse for the Republicans. You read it here first—but I'm sure you haven't read it here last!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Democratic confidence and overconfidence in 2006

I forget whose quip it was—maybe Kos's, maybe the New Republic's; I'm not sure. The quip was that Democrats have only to worry about money and overconfidence this year—and with the way Democrats have performed these last few elections, it's hard to find such a thing as an overconfident Democrat.

I think confidence this year is merited, but we do have to watch out, lest we lose touch with the facts. We've got to believe that winning is possible every year, even though that's not true. The difference is that we're putting an effort into winning this time, which is making the difference. Instead of just challenging twenty or so seats in Congress, the Democratic Party is going at it with both barrels. And what's the result? Seven Republican-held Senate seats in play (possibly nine,) and 71 Republican-held House seats in play (according to Congressional Quarterly, at this writing.)

It's not reasonable to suggest that we can or will win all of them, but with the Republicans having to play that much defense, there's no way they can defend every single one of those seats. They have to surrender at least some of them. They could defend twenty, though, if that's all we were targeting this time.

Karl Rove's strategy in the 1994 midterm elections was one that he's used throughout his career: if you win by a hair, you call it a landslide; but if you lose by a hair, you litigate until they declare you the winner anyway or you've wrecked the winner's career through a messy fight for his or her job. Rove kept challenging Democratic candidates' victories in the South for state senate seats, judgeships, etc.—dragging things out for over a year in some cases. It was an audacious strategy, but it let Rove widen an already huge margin of victory for the Republicans in 1994.

That's exactly the same tactic Rove and friends used on Al Gore in 2000. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Rove does the same thing with the midterms this year: challenging some Democratic victories, enough to land an ugly smudge on the Democratic victories in general. Rove's strategy depends on being a sore loser while accusing your opponents of being sore losers. That creepy business in Florida in 2000, which we all watched so closely for five agonizing weeks, could come to pass again. And maybe it'll work, too. I won't rest easy until after the election—and maybe not even then.

This folderal was originally posted as a response to this post at Jersey McJones. Click here to see what got the cobwebbed gears of my brain turning this afternoon.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

These are the stakes

They're at it again:

Looks like it's that old "Vote Democrat and die!" strategy. This strategy generally works, as the linked story explains (plus it gives a clip of Johnson's famous 1964 "Daisy" ad.)

The real brilliance of this ad is that it's a cheap one to produce—costing about $20,000—and it's supposed to run only on about five paid spots today, October 22. However, with all the controversy it's been getting, news programs have been running it for free, and it's been all over the net before it's supposed to officially run—and it'll run for free well afterward, as well.

With the Republican Party strapped for campaign cash this year, they could use a break like this. Whether or not this scare tactic will work remains to be seen. It's worked before, though.

These are the stakes.

Cliff Schecter and good manners.

I gotta say, I'm usually a big fan of Cliff Schecter. Schecter's a Democratic consultant who gives as good as he gets, and better. When some Republican talking head comes out and tries to damn the Democrats as weak on terror or soft on defense or some crap like that, Schecter fires back with both barrels.

However, this latest episode of Mr. Schecter's doesn't make me feel so good:

Now that She refused to thank her host. Man, these Republicans sure take this "hate the media" thing seriously!

Cliff shouldn't have interrupted her, though. It diminished the good points he was making. He was right, she was wrong, but apart from Karen's graceless finish, she did behave better than he did, even though her talking points really were inane.

Cliff should also have brought up the fact that there's no such group as "The Terrorists." The idea that such a coherent group exists is a fake argument if there ever was one.

But that aside, Cliff's real missed opportunity was to be polite in taking apart and taking down Karen, who deserved it. Style counts; just because Republicans like to hide behind rude, pushy attack dogs like Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly doesn't mean we need to follow suit.

I hope Cliff Schecter cleans up his act in the future. He's much better than this episode shows.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Christy Mihos: the last of the true Massachusetts Republicans

It's election time here in Massachusetts. We've got a Senate race where a gadfly is challenging Senator Ted Kennedy. We've got ten House races where there's no real opposition to any of the incumbents. And we've got a governor's race, which is actually interesting. A little bit interesting, anyway. It's an open seat, with Governor Mitt Romney dropping out early to run for president, as he's been doing since he was elected Governor of Massachusetts in 2002. Four candidates are trying to fill the job, though the race is far from tight.

Deval Patrick looks like a shoo-in at this point. Patrick will probably be the first Democratic governor in this state in sixteen years. His nearest competitor is Republican Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, Romney's hand-picked successor, whose shrill campign is running far behind Patrick's. There's Grace Ross, a Green candidate who's managing around 1% of the vote in nearly every poll. And last—but certainly not least—is Mr. Christy Mihos, an independent candidate whose campaign has been more of a thorn in Healey's side than in anyone else's.

Christy Mihos would be running as a Republican this year, but he's not because his party has gone off the deep end and doesn't want an energetic moderate like him anymore. It's embraced psychotic Southern right-wing latter-day John Birchers like Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, Tom Coburn and George Allen—out of touch and too far to the right for New England. Acceptable in the Deep South, though.

I wouldn't mind if Mihos won, though if he were the Republican nominee, I'd still vote for Patrick, because then Mihos would still be beholden to the national Republican Party, which is a party full of crazies, and I don't believe in helping them, not at all. I still like Patrick better than Mihos, but Healey is downright offensive, and the thought of her as governor is intolerable. That would be almost as bad as four more years of Romney, frankly.

If the Republican Party weren't becoming a far-right regional party beholden to Southern conservatives, I might vote for a Republican now and again. As it is, I haven't voted Republican since 1994, when I, as a Pennsylvania native, cast my ballot to elect Tom Ridge governor. I won't say "Never again," but I will say "Not in the foreseeable future."

If Massachusetts could create a more moderate third party to promote candidates like Mihos, it would serve this one-party state much better. I'd probably still be a Democrat, but I'd be more interested in listening to what that party had to say than I would the Republicans. The Republican Party as it is today doesn't speak for Massachusetts; there's no reason to consider voting for those nuts.

And you know, it seems that Republicans understand what a burnt-out hulk their party has become in this state. That's why Romney ran for governor here in 2002 with an eye to running for president in 2008, having no interest in, y'know, governing Massachusetts. Former Governors Weld and Celucci also blew outta here the first chance they got. And it's the same with Healey—she's probably running for governor with plans to run for the Senate in 2008 or 2012. After all, if John Kerry runs for president in 2008, he won't be able to run for the Senate at the same time, since his term expires that same year. And Ted Kennedy won't be around forever. Healey's as interested in governing Massachusetts as Mitt Romney was—which is to say not at all.

If Massachusetts is going to have any opposition to the Democrats, it's going to have to be through some third party. And if there's any place in this country where a third party could be formed, it would be in Massachusetts. (That's all the more reason to vote yes on Issue 2 this year, by the way.) Otherwise, Massachusetts elections are going to be like the elections in New York City: the winner of the Democratic primary becomes the effective winner of the general election. Not that that would be intolerable, but it wouldn't be as good as having more than one party.

Mihos supporters ought to court Republicans, and woo them away from Healey. It's not a good thing for the Republican Party, but considering that the Republican Party is a party that speaks more for Southern evangelicals than Northern moderates, wouldn't Massachusetts be better off without it?

After this election the most powerful Republican in Massachusetts will be Frank Cousins, the Sheriff of Essex County. With the Republicans so far out of touch with what we in the Northeast want and need, a regional third party would serve Massachusetts well. And as a Democrat, I'd appreciate it, too, because the Democratic Party, like all parties, sometimes needs something to keep us in check.

On November 7, Deval Patrick is going to win. I don't think there's any doubt of that. He's beating Kerry Healey in most polls by around twenty points; there's no way she could make up that ground. So when you vote, either vote to support a man who's going to be a good governor—Deval Patrick—or vote for a man who could represent the future of Massachusetts' genuine opposition—Christy Mihos. A vote for Kerry Healey is a vote for the past, and a wasted vote. Please think of the future.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Pardon me while I plotz, Mr. Hayworth.

Arizona Representative J.D. Hayworth is all kinds of crazy, but apparently he's really gone off the deep end, and it looks like he's going to learn that he can't walk on water, after all. This shmendrik's story appears on Hayworth's opponent's campaign site, but the story is easily verifyable elsewhere.

Idolizing Henry Ford's nativist models is crazy enough, sure. But to send you handlers to Temple Beth Israel in Scottsdale, Arizona, to lecture them about how Baptist J.D. Hayworth is a "more observant Jew" than they are borders on sheer insanity—and I don't just mean that from the viewpoint of political strategy, though it certainly is political suicide. I've never run for office, myself, but it seems that you shouldn't have your handlers say to congregants, "No wonder there are anti-Semites," particularly when you're standing on the temple's bimah.

Hayworth's district was already in play, but he had the advantage in the campaign. I wonder if that's going to change? After this outburst, I sure hope so.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Jim Baker: "Change course in Iraq" (a song parody)

So we've been hearing that Jim Baker has a few recommendations for changing the course in Iraq. I call it progress, and progress raises a song in my heart. So I wrote one. Well, I wrote the words. Someone else wrote the music, some forty years ago. But it's a good song, and I hope you like my words.

(All apologies to the Beach Boys.)

Well he got his daddy's job
And he's occupyin' Iraqi land now.
Seems he forgot all about the budget,
(Kinda just like his old man now.)
And with the insurgents blasting,
The U.S. is losing (so, what's the plan, now?)

And he had fun fun fun
'Til Jim Baker called the army away.
(Fun fun fun 'til Jim Baker called the army away.)
Well the Dems can't stand him
'Cause he talks like we're still gonna win now,
(He walks like an ape now he walks like an ape)
He makes Benito Mussolini look like Monty at el-Alemein now.
(He looks like an ape now he looks like an ape)
A lotta pols call him out,
But still he pisses on world opinion now.
(He's driving us ape now, he's driving us ape)

And he had fun fun fun
'Til Jim Baker called the army away
(Fun fun fun 'til Jim Baker called the army away)

Well you knew all along
Saddam didn't have DubyaMD's now,
(You shouldn't have lied now you shouldn't have lied)
And since your dad called on Baker
You've been thinking that your fun is all through now
(You shouldn't have lied now you shouldn't have lied)
Gallup pegs you at 33
'Cause you're in a job you clearly can't do now,
(You shouldn't have lied now you shouldn't have lied)
And you'll lose seats seats seats for your party come Election Day!
(Seats seats seats for your party come Election Day)

(Repeat last two lines until November 8.)

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Anti-immigrant voting scam in California

So it looks like someone's out to stop immigrants from voting. A number of California Hispanics got a letter written in Spanish stating that if you're in the country illegally, or if you're an immigrant, you could face jail time. This might come as a surprise to some xenophobes, but immigrants can legally vote. It's always been that way.

This reveals the true colors of the right wing, who insist that they "love legal immigrants." The fact that they're running around with the made-up complaint about illegal immigrants voting (which hasn't been provent to be happening anywhere) just so they can intimidate Hispanics from showing up at the polls. Hispanics vote Democratic more than Republian.

I swear, there's no end to what these scumbags are willing to pull. None.

Ken Blackwell mulls Third World-style power grab in Ohio.

Ken Blackwell is the Ohio Secretary of State, and is running for Governor this year. Blackwell was also Bush's 2004 campaign manager for the state of Ohio—a job he held simultaneously while Secretary of State. Blackwell got to run the election and disqualify voters in this crucial swing state that decided the 2004 election. Due in part to Blackwell's glaring conflict of interest, many still hold the entire 2004 presidential election's results in question.

But this year, Mr. Blackwell is planning to outdo himself. Blackwell is running for Governor, and as Secretary of State, he has the responsibility to oversee elections. Blackwell has already pulled a lot of the same shenanigans in 2004 to depress voter turnout among minorities, who vote predominantly Democratic: inadequate numbers of ballots at polling places, vaguely defined voting districts, voters improperly purged from the rolls, etc. But Blackwell's gubernatorial race, where he's trailing Democrat Ted Strickland by 28% in most polls, requires something special: Blackwell is reported to be considering disqualifying Mr. Strickland as a candidate.

Blackwell's argument is, according to today's New York Times, this:

"One of [Blackwell's supporters] filed a complaint alleging that Mr. Strickland, who is a member of Congress, does not live in the apartment where he is registered to vote. Mr. Strickland owns a condominium in another part of Ohio, and the complaint alleges that he actually lives there. If Mr. Strickland was not a qualified voter, he would be prohibited from running for governor."

So Strickland, who is an Ohio resident any way you look at it, could be expelled from the race three weeks before Election Day based on a technicality that doesn't relate in the least to Mr. Strickland's actual qualifications for the office. I'll admit that I never thought Republican chutzpah could reach such a level, and although Blackwell hasn't tried it yet, it's bad enough that his people are talking about it. And to make matters even worse, the above decision was decided by the county board where Strickland lives. They decided on this 2 to 2, split along party lines. Today's Republican Party is reaching toward new heights of disgrace.

Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if he does it. If Blackwell pulls this autocratic power play, I wouldn't be surprised to see riots in Ohio. At least, I'd hope the good people of Ohio would be sufficiently incensed by this. I would expect nothing less.

Full New York Times story here.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Why require a photo ID to vote?

Requiring photo IDs for all voters is a good idea if...

— want to keep poor people from voting, because they often don't have current IDs.

— want to keep legal immigrants from voting, because they often don't have IDs with addresses on them.

— want to keep people who move around a lot from voting, because they often have non-current addresses on their ID cards.

— want to stop voting by mail, because think about it: how can you present ID when voting by mail? And wouldn't voting by mail be more susceptible to fraud, anyway?

— want to make sure that people with religious backgrounds that forbid photographs of themselves are either disenfranchised or made to feel uncomfortable.

— want your state to pay to train poll workers about how to spot fake IDs, which they'll have to be able to pick out, if this law is going to mean anything at all.

— think it's more important to harass every individual citizen in the name of fighting polling place corruption—instead of going after the particular suspected poll workers whose coöperation would be crucial to making this kind of fraud possible in the first place.

Requiring photo ID to vote: little incoveniences making your life less pleasant, while solving problems that don't exist.

Kerry Healey vs. the U.S. Constitution

Here in Massachusetts, our absentee governor, Mitt Romney, has decided to move back to Iowa officially, and terminate his residency in the state after one term of padding his résumé by serving as our nominal governor. He's leaving his hand-picked successor, Lieutenant-Governor Kerry Healey, as his heir apparent. She's running against Democrat Deval Patrick. Healey has been launching increasingly shrill attacks on Patrick, and it's only getting worse. In case there are any errant Kerry Healey supporters cruising through this site (and I know you're out there!) I've got something to point out to you about her attacks on Democrat Deval Patrick, whom she regularly says "defended murderers and rapists."

Notice how the Healey campaign is making a big deal over how Deval Patrick "defended" murderers and rapists? When you hear that, what do you think? That Patrick is for murder and rape?

If you do, then you're doing just what Healey wants you to think. What she won't mention, of course, is that as a defense lawyer, it was Patrick's job to defend them. In fact, the Constitution guarantees that everyone has a right to a lawyer to defend them.

When Kerry Healey complains that Deval Patrick defended these criminals, she's complaining about the U.S. Constitution. Now we don't have to like the Constitution, but it's the law of the land, and the governor of Massachusetts doesn't have the right to change it. If you want to change the Constitution to deny everyone the right to a trial by jury, it's better to talk to your congressional representatives. If you think you can get the Constitution changed and deny these people their rights by voting for Kerry Healey, you're going to be disappointed.

But if you do manage to change the Constitution so that not everyone has a right to a laywer or to a trial by jury, well... you'd better hope no one ever falsely accuses you of some crime...

Me, I don't support changing the Constitution. I support Deval Patrick.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Lieberman: no opinion on who should control the House

If you ask most Democrats running for Congress which party they believe they hope controls Congress, they'll say, "Why, the Democratic Party, of course." Not surprising, and less surprising is that probably all Republicans would say the Republican Party should control Congress. When you're running for a seat on the platform of a particular party, you tend to favor that party. That's how it typically works.

Typically. But clearly that's not always the case. Apparently, Joe Lieberman told the Hartford Courant, "Uh, I haven't thought about that enough to give an answer." When asked whether he backs Democrat John DeStefano for governor over Republican Jodi Rell, he stammered and said he'd rather his decision "remain private."

It's true that Lieberman needs to excite Republican voters if he's going to manage to win this election, but he'll also need to appeal to a certain number of Democrats if he expects to get reëlected as, y'know, a Democrat. Which he still is. Nominally.

However, with this kind of enthusiasm for his own party, can we really expect Lieberman to stay with the Democratic Party after Election Day? I've started to wonder.

If you're in Connecticut and you really want a senator who's really a Democrat, vote for Ned Lamont. If you don't want a Democrat, there's always Republican Alan Schlesinger. Or, if you're willing to wait until the 110th Congress convenes to have your Republican, there's also Future Republican Joe Lieberman.

Air America files for bankruptcy

Apparently a combination of bad management and less-than-stellar ratings has brought down the liberal version of rightie talk radio, which is known by the flag-waving name Air America. I hadn't heard about the poor management of the company, but as to the talent: I've tuned in before, and I can't say I was ever too impressed. I guess the idea is in some ways good, but the idea of a carbon-copy liberal counterpart to the right-wing partisan blather of Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, Liddy, et al strikes me as, well, illiberal.

The right-wing noise radio is predicated on the notion that there are a lot of angry people out there that don't want thinking to clutter up their opinions. And while I've met some thickheaded, obstinate people who clew to the political left, I don't think there are as many of them out there to sufficiently savor this politics-cum-circus that right-wing radio breeds. I always had the suspicion that Air America wouldn't thrive, and even if the business side were well managed, I'd stand by my conviction.

A better angle would probably be to create a center- to left-of-center news station and shuffle in commentary shows, talk shows, rant shows, satire shows... put them out there and see what happens. Some would likely succeed and some would likely fail, just like on regular TV stations. Where Air America is concerned, it had big names and probably the big egos that come with them, which would make innovation difficult. Couple that with the big ambition that it had, spreading all over the place instead of concentrating on succeeding in one or two markets first, it seems they tried to accomplish too much with too much. While you might think that's possible, apparently it isn't.

Bottom line: you can't take the conservative formula and make it work for liberal content. Conservatives and liberals approach this kind of thing in fundamentally different ways, and their numbers tend to be more concentrated in fundamentally different demographics. Liberals need a new formula. I hope they find it.

Oh, and by the way: if anyone out there needs a writer for some sort of liberal comedy show, I've got a portfolio to show you! ;-) Seriously, drop me a line at I'm getting sick of nine-to-fiving it!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

City of Philadelphia sued over multilingual voting.

Apparently the city of Philadelphia is getting sued by the federal government for failing to provide assistance to Spanish speakers at polling places.

You're not required to know English in order to become a U.S. citizen. That's always been the way it works. It helps, but it's not mandatory. In my hometown (also in Pennsylvania) there are still people today who speak German and Serbian, but never picked up English. Hell, I couldn't speak English when I became a citizen, and I was born in the United States, but by the time I was three years old, I'd picked up a good working knowledge of it, and have only improved from there/

Even if you do speak English, ballots should be supplied in your native language, if reasonable. And by reasonable I mean if there's a significant number of people in your community who are native speakers of your language. When you're a nation of immigrants, you need to make sure that elections are as clear, open and above-board as possible. This is the best way to do it.