Oct
29

For People

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In the flood of campaign email and glimpsed web pages yesterday, someone commented on a campaign using the slogan (IIRC), “For Education. For People.” Education has become a near ubiquitous Democratic theme this year.

But what was eye-catching was the stark simplicity of “For People.” And the fact that somebody thought being for people is a snappy message for contrasting a Democrat with the opposition. “For People” sounds so bland, yet asks a stinging question. If your opponents are are not for people, what are they for?

I like it. In an age when one major party believes money is speech and corporations are people, you have to wonder. In an economic system striving to turn people into commodities and every human interaction into a transaction, what is the economy for? In a surveillance state that treats citizens as future suspects, what is freedom for? In an election where red states view voters as unindicted felons, what is democracy for?

Republicans themselves must be asking what they are really for, given the rebranding campaign released a month ago:

The party of Cruz and Ryan and Gohmert wants you to know Republicans really are normal people. No, really.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


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Oct
28

You can’t say poll tax

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The 1981 recording of Lee Atwater explaining the Southern Strategy finally made it onto the Net a couple of years ago. You know the one. It’s the interview where he says:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites. … “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

It’s the decades-old racial strategy that RNC chief Ken Mehlman apologized for to the NAACP in 2005. For what that was worth.

Jeffrey Toobin muses this morning in the New Yorker about recent court rulings on photo ID laws and what voting rights activists might do to counteract them. He includes quotes from federal district court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos’ opinion — struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court — that the Texas photo ID statute, SB 14, “constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax” with an “impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans.” But reading the words this time recalled the Atwater quote.

Maybe it was the photos Dante Atkins shared from a naturalization ceremony at the L.A. Convention Center last week. Afterwards, newly minted citizens crowded the Democrats’ voter registration tent. At the Republican table nearby? Crickets.

Just as in the heyday of “forced busing” debates, Republicans have gone abstract. The dog whistles are pitched so high, many among their base don’t recognize them for what they are. They insist that photo ID laws are not discriminatory (as Ramos ruled), and they get quite testy if you suggest it. If photo ID laws hurt “a bunch of college kids” or “a bunch of lazy blacks” more than older, white Republicans, “so be it.” That is, as Atwater said, a byproduct.

So poll taxes are back, targeted not just at blacks and Hispanics, but at other groups that tend to vote for Democrats. Only in 2014 you can’t say “poll tax.” That backfires. So now it’s “election integrity,” “ballot security,” “restoring confidence,” etc. A hell of a lot more abstract than “poll tax.”

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


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The headline from the Colorado Independent caught my attention more than the story (which I already knew): O’Keefe uncovers hypothetical support for hypothetical voter fraud.

The story itself is a week old. The Project Veritas filmmaker (no longer on probation), baited staffers from lefty organizations in Colorado with hypotheticals about committing voter fraud. The object? To get them to say something embarrassing enough on video to prove … something about voter fraud:

Left out of the reel are the many accounts reported by Mother Jones of campaign folks shutting down O’Keefe’s hypothetical voting-fraud schemes or even calling the police when his team refused to disengage. Ultimately, in fact, nearly all of the fraud in the video is hypothetical.

All of it, in fact, except for O’Keefe.

The object of these propaganda efforts is to lead viewers to infer that in-person voter fraud is being committed undetected somewhere, anywhere, everywhere. The same way Bush-Cheney spokesmen repeatedly juxtaposed Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda in public statements until over two-thirds of Americans falsely believed Saddam was connected to the 9/11 attacks.

One of O’Keefe’s most celebrated cases of hypothetical voter fraud took place at a Washington, D.C. polling place on Primary Day in 2012. A Veritas operative presented himself as Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General, but ran out of the place before signing the roll book. That is, he walked right up to the line — put his toes on the line, figuratively — but for reasons unknown would not demonstrate how easy it is for anyone to get away with committing an actual felony punishable by up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Go figure.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : News, Vote Suppression
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Oct
26

Sunday Morning Music

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Y’all knew it was coming sooner or later:


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Technology has a momentum all its own. It has a tendency to take us places before we consider whether they are places we need to or ought to go.

From the realms of my fuzzy memory: Twenty years ago I caught a noon broadcast by Paul Harvey on my car radio. A wealthy California couple had been killed when their small plane crashed. The childless couple had been trying to have a baby through in vitro fertilization. Their efforts remained frozen in a refrigerator at the fertility clinic. As the news reached the public, selfless local women were coming forward and volunteering to carry to term the heirs to the couple’s millions.

I laughed all the way home about technology getting out ahead of our ethics.

Yesterday at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk offered a darker tale about the development of artificial intelligence:

I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.

The classic formulation of that warning comes from a one-page, short story by Fredric Brown, titled “Answer,” from Angels and Spaceships (1954). After finally networking computers from ninety-six billion planets, the lead scientist puts the first question to the new supercomputer: “Is there a God?”

The mighty voice answered without hesitation, without the clicking of single relay.

“Yes, now there is a God.”

Sudden fear flashed on the face of Dwar Ev. He leaped to grab the switch.

A bolt of lightning from the cloudless sky struck him down and fused the switch shut.

Around the coffee urn at the NSA, they must think, “How cool is that?”

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : Science
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I was hoping someone with a clue would pay attention. They reference my Thom’s Tholl Road op-ed in both commercials:

Democrats Attack Tillis Over North Carolina Toll Project


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“We’re not a democracy, we’re a republic,” friends on the right will cheerfully correct when a Democrat refers to this country as a democracy. It’s true — a true fact, if you hew to the right — but that’s not why they’re so adamant about it. For some reason, Republicans just like the sound of republic better.

But they also don’t really like the idea of democracy itself. It’s a plutocrat thing, Paul Krugman writes, quoting Leung Chun-ying, the leader of Hong Kong, on why full democracy there would be a bad idea: “You would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than $1,800 a month. Then you would end up with that kind of politics and policies.” Plutocrats worldwide (and their sycophants) really hate the idea of having to share power with people they consider inferiors. Recall Mitt Romney’s 47% and the makers-takers narrative? Krugman does too:

For the political right has always been uncomfortable with democracy. No matter how well conservatives do in elections, no matter how thoroughly free-market ideology dominates discourse, there is always an undercurrent of fear that the great unwashed will vote in left-wingers who will tax the rich, hand out largess to the poor, and destroy the economy.

In fact, the very success of the conservative agenda only intensifies this fear. Many on the right — and I’m not just talking about people listening to Rush Limbaugh; I’m talking about members of the political elite — live, at least part of the time, in an alternative universe in which America has spent the past few decades marching rapidly down the road to serfdom. Never mind the new Gilded Age that tax cuts and financial deregulation have created; they’re reading books with titles like “A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic,” asserting that the big problem we have is runaway redistribution.

“So what’s a plutocrat to do?” Krugman asks. Since they can’t come straight out and say only the wealthy should have the franchise, they resort to propaganda about voter fraud, etc.

As I wrote at my home blog, they find the whole notion of government of, by, and for the people very, very inefficient.

At the end of the Revolutionary War, there were an estimated half million Tories in this country. Royalists by temperament, loyal to the King and England, predisposed to government by hereditary royalty and landed nobility, men dedicated to the proposition that all men are not created equal.

After the Treaty of Paris, you know where they went? Nowhere. A few moved back to England, or to Florida or to Canada. But most stayed right here.

Take a look around. Their progeny are still with us among the one percent and their vassals. Spouting adolescent tripe from Ayn Rand, kissing up, kicking down, chasing their masters’ carriages or haughtily looking down their noses at people they consider inferiors.

(cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : Corruption
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Oct
24

Friday Open Thread

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Kinda busy. This shoulda posted at 7 a.m. That means pent up demand for your observations.


Categories : Open Thread
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Last night a colleague forwarded an email she received from an NC friend:

I was watching the Good Wife on Hulu Plus last night, and this ad with a couple of attractive young people talking about how cool it is that Sean Haugh wants to legalize marijuana. When it came up a few minutes later, I realized it couldn’t be for real, and I searched it on the internet, and yes, it’s the Kochs trying to pull votes away from Kay Hagan.

It is one of a series of 10 commercials that “came as a complete surprise” to Haugh. Whatever you are hearing from pollsters about the senate race in North Carolina, yes, Thom Tillis’ backers are just that desperate. Matt Phillippi at PoliticsNC:

Like many Americans I got rid of cable several years ago and now get a lot of my TV from streaming internet services. I was watching Hulu last night, and saw not one, but two different ad spots supporting Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh. This is odd in itself, because political campaigns rarely advertise there (with the exception of the President in 2012). The ads looked very homespun, and only really got my attention because the message of the first one was “Get Haugh, Get High” with young people holding up pictures of marijuana while wearing tie-dyes and Bob Marley T-Shirts, which seemed a little outlandish even for a Libertarian candidate. The second ad positioned Haugh as the anti-war candidate, and labeled Hagan as a “War Monger” literally labeled, right over her picture. That was when I read the ‘paid for’ tags on the bottom of the ad.

The ads were paid for by the American Futures Fund, a 501(c)4 organization started in 2008 by several members of Mitt Romney’s first presidential primary campaign staff. The organization claims to promote “Conservative, free-market ideals.” In reality the organization spends the majority of its money attacking Democratic candidates. According to Opensecrets.org, during the 2013-2014 cycle, AFF has spent 84% of its money attacking Democratic candidates and 16% supporting Republicans (scroll down on that link for a nice graph illustrating this).

Hagan laughed when I told her on Saturday that Thom Tillis was her best campaigner. Tillis’ backers apparently think so too if they are down to this Hail Mary play in an attempt to draw votes away from Hagan.

Early voting gets under way in North Carolina this morning.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : NC Senate race
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Note: There are 8 Democrats in the Appeals Court race where John Arrowood is listed. He is the candidate endorsed by the NCDP Executive Council.

Blue Ballot image


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