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September 30, 2005

Barack Obama and the Netroots

Posted by tunesmith at 07:39 PM

It was a big day over at dailykos today. In the runup to Roberts' confirmation vote, Senator Obama criticized the partisan elements that excoriated the senators like Leahy who pledged Yes votes. There were several diaries at daily kos that wondered about Obama's motivations, and many members who felt betrayed by Obama's stance.

Today, Barack Obama wrote a diary over at dkos, explaining and defending his views. Here's the main section:

According to the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists - a storyline often reflected in comments on this blog - we are up against a sharply partisan, radically conservative, take-no-prisoners Republican party.  They have beaten us twice by energizing their base with red meat rhetoric and single-minded devotion and discipline to their agenda.  In order to beat them, it is necessary for Democrats to get some backbone, give as good as they get, brook no compromise, drive out Democrats who are interested in "appeasing" the right wing, and enforce a more clearly progressive agenda.  The country, finally knowing what we stand for and seeing a sharp contrast, will rally to our side and thereby usher in a new progressive era.

I think this perspective misreads the American people.

First, I'm now officially on the Barack Obama bus. There's probably room for me now that many of the people who merely saw him as a black progressive savior jumped off.

There were two response diaries to Barack's diary, both disagreeing in different ways. One immediately accused everyone of sucking up to Obama.

Anyway, first can I say, isn't this just all exhausting?

There is a huge partisan element to the GOP success. Poisonous and unfair. And rising to meet it is a huge partisan element among the Democratic side. And they are both growing, when, in my opinion, what we really should be working towards is shrinking both of them.

I imagine Senator Obama might be feeling discouraged at reading the the response to his words.

Part of the problem is that even as many of the activists at dkos protest and fight against the negative frames asserted onto the Democrats, they are also reinforcing them.

For instance, the thing about Democrats having no vision. Here's a snippet from Rena's response diary.

Ask yourself this: why is it that the vast majority of progressives who frequent Daily Kos are able to sum up the Republican party's platform in six words?  Strong Military.  Lower Taxes.  Family Values.  Yet this pool of often brilliant thinkers can't do the same for our own party.

Well, duh. Maybe it's because "Strong Military. Lower Taxes. Family Values." is dumb policy. And maybe it's because Democrats tend to actually be interested in fashioning smart policy. And maybe it's true that smart policy tends to be a tad more complicated than dumb policy.

But the diarist and many of the commenters insist on playing into the "Democrats are visionless" frame. It's hogwash. What they're actually whining about is that they aren't being spoonfed enough.

We have a long way to go to get past our own liberal self-hatred before we can be more effective. It should be obvious that the Republicans currently have far less of a positive vision for America than the Democrats do, but instead we fall into the trap of describing the Democrats as disorganized, ineffectual, weak, and visionless.

The activist base is guilty of everything that they accuse the Democratic leadership of being guilty of. They cannot communicate a standard by which the Democratic leadership should be held, and yet they criticize them for failing to meet the standard. The activist base prides themselves on being united in partisanship, not policy, as if it's a good thing. When the truth is that while the activist base is united in excoriating the Democratic side for not living up to their vision of a progressive vision, every activist's progressive vision is different. Yes, that's a good thing, but how do you expect ideological purity if there isn't even supposed to be a pure standard to live up to?

I understand the narrative. If you've already bought into the narrative that our leaders are weak and that they fold under pressure and sacrifice too much, then every vote - every vote - is going to be further confirmation of that narrative. But frames are harmful. That's what a frame does to you - it restricts your ability to see beyond its edges.

What I saw today at daily kos was Barack Obama trying to break a frame, and then being shouted down by those still within the frame.

September 26, 2005

"I'm So Stupid"

Posted by tunesmith at 03:11 PM

Boy, when you've lost the six-year-old vote....

September 18, 2005


Posted by tunesmith at 11:30 AM

For those who have been trying to comment, there was a misconfiguration that was keeping comments from successfully posting. That's fixed now.

September 12, 2005

Intelligent Design

Posted by tunesmith at 09:25 PM

Here's what I don't understand about Intelligent Design:

It seems that all of the reasons and rationales used to support the existence of Intelligent Design could just as easily be used to support the existence of Magic.

I mean, look at the complexity behind it all. But there is also an order to it! It certainly cannot be random. And in a way it is beautiful. That cannot happen by mere chance and happenstance alone! It is mystical in nature, and mysterious. What other possible explanation could there be? I certainly don't understand it! That means it is completely un-understandable! And for something to have order, and beauty, and mysticism, and mystery, and yet also be beyond the mental capabilities of us mere mortals? Why, it must be God Magic! It simply must!

Anyone want to start a campaign to support the teaching of Magic Design in schools?

September 10, 2005

2006 House Race

Posted by tunesmith at 06:39 PM


1a/b. To begin, suppose the elections for U.S. CONGRESS were being held TODAY ... Would you vote for the Republican Party's candidate or the Democratic Party's candidate (ROTATE) for Congress in your district? [IF OTHER/UNDECIDED, RESPONDENTS WERE ASKED] As of TODAY, do you LEAN more toward... the Republican or the Democrat (ROTATE)?


Rep/Lean Rep Dem/Lean Dem Undecided/Other

Current Total 38 50 12 =100

I just ran a quick and dirty analysis on the 2004 election. (Yay perl!)

In 2004, about 50.8 million people voted for Democratic House candidates.

About 54.3 million people voted for Republican House candidates.

Right now the GOP has the House, 231-202.

Given the percentage breakdown of the people voting, you'd expect the House breakdown to actually be 224-209 in favor of the GOP.  So the GOP has a significant gerrymandering advantage right now.  It's actually a bigger advantage than that because I didn't count any Green votes or Independent (Sanders) votes.

I'm unsure how to figure that advantage in mathematically.  But if the advantage is truly 7-10 seats, and the undecideds would break evenly, then a 56-44 split would normally mean Dems up 244-191.  The gerrymander would mean 234-201 in favor of the Dems, or basically a mirror image of where we are now.

I'm going to try a more mathematical way of figuring it out, though.  If we're going from 51.6% GOP to 44% GOP, that means about 14.7% of GOP votes would switch.  If I apply that to every congressional race nationwide, so that 14.7% of the GOP votes become Dem votes, then I get 33 switched seats, which would mean a Dem advantage of 235-198.

That's honestly more responsive than I thought.  However, while this does take gerrymandering into account, it does not take into account the incumbency advantage, which would help protect the republicans from some of those losses.

September 08, 2005

Katrina Torrent

Posted by tunesmith at 08:42 PM

It's a bit eerie that "torrent" fits so well with Katrina, but anyway... there is a torrent making the rounds that puts together about twenty-five video clips of the media behaving like they've found their spine again. The more people that try to download it, the easier the download. Try it out...

Katrina Torrent.

September 04, 2005

Rehnquist and Chief Justice Duties

Posted by tunesmith at 02:07 AM

Excuse my insensitivity in not writing about the titanic momentous career of Rehnquist. Just one small point here. One of the common questions about the Chief Justice is why the Chief Justice even matters, beyond just being a status symbol and a figurehead.

One large reason is because the Chief Justice decides who will write the opinion if the Chief Justice is part of the majority.

How can this affect the operations of the Court? There have supposedly been several examples where Rehnquist:

  1. Would have dissented in the minority
  2. Swapped sides to become part of the majority
  3. Assigned himself to write the opinion
  4. Severely limited the scope of the majority opinion, so as to limit precedent for future decisions, while the rest of the majority would have wanted to write a more expansive decision.

Katrina Technology

Posted by tunesmith at 01:31 AM

One of the sites that a lot of people have heard of by now is MoveOn's Hurricane Housing. Very cool that it came up so fast.

But another site that I think deserves a lot more attention, and which I've found not as many people know about, is Air America's Public Voicemail service. The way it works is that you call 1-866-217-6255, and then enter in your phone number as it existed before the disaster, and create a message. People that may be looking for you can then call the service, enter your phone number if they are looking for you, and hear your message. They might be able to leave a message, too. It's a great way to try and find people or be found.

The hard part of that one is that it seems more valuable to the people who are currently lost, and I'm not sure how they'll find out about the phone number. Hopefully it is being publicized on the radio.

September 02, 2005

New Orleans

Posted by tunesmith at 12:39 PM

(courtesy of dailykos member highacidity)

I'm actually not sure where to give money at this point. There are a lot of organizations that are starting to match 50c on the dollar, dollar for dollar, etc.

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