Saturday, September 30, 2006

Kissinger behind "Stay the course"?

From the Washington Post excerpt of Bob Woodward's State of Denial:
A powerful, largely invisible influence on Bush's Iraq policy was former secretary of state [Henry] Kissinger.

... The president met privately with Kissinger every couple of months, making him the most regular and frequent outside adviser to Bush on foreign affairs.

Kissinger sensed wobbliness everywhere on Iraq, and he increasingly saw the situation through the prism of the Vietnam War. For Kissinger, the overriding lesson of Vietnam is to stick it out.

In his writing, speeches and private comments, Kissinger claimed that the United States had essentially won the war in 1972, only to lose it because of the weakened resolve of the public and Congress.
Funny how Kissinger seems to have learned the opposite lesson everyone else learned from Vietnam.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Free Lupe

Yep, Lupe Fiasco is the truth. Just got Food and Liquor and it is the realest. Plus I got two free downloads and a DVD, just for living in Chicago I think. I share:
DOWNLOAD non-album track "Pimp Hand" by Lupe Fiasco...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Obama/Winfrey '08

"I'm just Oprah saying what I think," sez Oprah in "aw shucks" mode. Still, when you are as powerful as Oprah, a pledge to "do everything in my power to campaign for [Barack Obama]" is not a small thing...

Me in court, with notebook

I watched several hearings in the 7th U.S. District Court of Appeals yesterday and was geekily fascinated with the whole process. It's an appeals court, so no one is questioning witnesses or introducing any new evidence. Lawyers from each side get a surprisingly short amount of time--10 or 15 minutes was typical today--to present their arguments before a panel of three judges. (Of course, all the legal reasoning goes on in print, in the reams of documents and motions filed. The oral argument is at least in part decorational.)

Like in the Supreme Court, the lawyers barely get a sentence out without being interrupted by one of the judges, peppered with questions, badgered with logical or legal/procedural inconsistencies in their case. The lawyer's job is to bob and weave, to be prepared for weird, off-point questions (today one judge demanded that counsel calculate 40 percent of 315...long story...), and somehow to still form a coherent argument.

The most talkative judge by far was Judge Richard Posner, who seemed to run the room. A toughminded, attitude-forward conservative, Posner is probably as rhetorically dazzling as Scalia but maybe less intent on shoehorning cases into predetermined culturally conservative outcomes. (Or wrong maybe not...) Posner tore more than one lawyer to shreds, and still I got the distinct sense that it was sort of a blah day for him. He interrupted, he waved off meticulously prepared arguments ("that's irrelevant"), and once he just flat-out told one lawyer, "Your argument doesn't make sense."

One poor fella was so bruised after finishing a portion of his oral argument that when Posner offered him extra time to make his case, he politely declined, I guess figuring that extra time would only move his case backwards.


One case I saw was USA v. Hook, in which the defendant was a 65-year-old convicted white-collar criminal who, while on probation, was being required by new legislation to provide the government with a DNA sample for its database. He argued that being required to give a DNA sample constituted an unreasonable search/seizure, and that since it wasn't a part of his original sentence, the government wasn't entitled to add it on to his sentence ex post facto.

The case turns on the question of whether having felons give DNA samples constitutes an additional punishment, or if it's just a regulatory measure that Congress is allowed to pass. If it's punitive, then it's unconstitutional for the government to impose it after the fact. If it's regulatory, then it's no big thing.

My professional judgment about this case is that Hook is screwed. Judge Ann Williams pointed out that the DC circuit court has already specifically held that "DNA collection is not penal in nature. How can you get around that language?" she asked, and I don't think you can. The other justices were not much more receptive.

"The paradox is that DNA databases might help someone like Hook," Judge Posner mused, maybe a little flip. "DNA has exonerated a lot of people."

The argument devolved into a digression about a prisoner's expectation of privacy vs. someone on probation vs. someone not under court supervision. Not really the point.

Argument ended strangely. The government attorneys had used up their time, and Hook's attorney approached the podium only to be told that he had already used up all of his, too.

Counsel: Can I have just 30 seconds?
Posner: Sure.
Counsel: People in jail don't have civil rights.
Posner: That's not true.

Fairly mundane case I guess when you get right down to it, but to me everything is still new, just seeing how it works is interesting in itself...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ford running ahead of Corker in Tennesee? Will be a big deal if it holds...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Some ferocious tracks from Big Boi protégé Killer Mike at We Eat So Many Shrimp, worth a listen...

Bill O'Reilly's head just exploded

It's the Platonic ideal of a Fox News story. As angry-white-male hot-button issues go, it's not even a trifecta, it's some sort of previously unimagined quadrifecta: An illegal immigrant in Houston who killed a cop after having previously been deported for molesting a child.

Are we sure Rupert Murdoch didn't put him up to it...?

Monday, September 25, 2006

On the Dirksen Federal Building Beat

Did I mention that I am back in school now? Here is photographic evidence that I have actually left my apartment:

"The Flamingo" by Alexander Calder. This is where I get off the train, and just across the street from the federal courthouse I will be covering.

The nondescript exterior of the federal building.

The entrance to the building where Medill's downtown newsroom is located.

Clinton beats up Fox News

My man CandyCane Sammy pointed me to this Bill Clinton interview on Fox News, which is tearing up the internets. It is quite a thing. Clinton takes apart Chris Wallace.

UPDATE -- Fox has now pulled the video from YouTube, so I've switched to Google Video, which should work.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

What if Topinka is just as crooked?

I am just getting around to reading this John Kass column and caught a tidbit I didn't know:
And as chairman of the state Republican Party, [Illinois gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar] Topinka pointedly refused to endorse the incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.).

He defied the combine by bringing politically independent U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald (no relation) from New York to Chicago. And in repayment for this sin, as Illinois GOP chairman she made it clear that her wing of the party didn't want Pete Fitzgerald around.
Does not suggest someone who is interested in reform, does it?

Friday, September 22, 2006

It's worse...
[T]he Senators have capitualted entirely...the U.S. will hereafter violate the Geneva Conventions by engaging in Cold Cell, Long Time Standing, etc., and...there will be very little pretense about it.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

After much urging and cajoling on my part, my brilliant and fascinating former college roommate Jeremy has started a blog, which is called Tetration for reasons explained here. I consider this a major victory for my policy of relentless long-term badgering...

McCain sells out on detainee bill (of course)

A couple of days ago I wrote about the White House's political dilemma around the torture bill--namely, how to pacify the Republicans who were blocking the bill without producing a bill that Democrats would vote for. At the time, I wondered what compromise could possibly thread this needle.

Now we know.

The compromise bill will uphold the Geneva Conventions and outlaw torture. Good. (UPDATE -- Apparently not true...) But preliminary reports say the compromise does not include provisions to allow detainees to hear the evidence against them--a minimum requirement of any civilized justice system. That's the poison pill.

I am glad I am not a senator who has to make the political calculation about whether or not to vote for the compromise. (Not to mention the substantive calculation--after all, the bill would apparently outlaw torture.) Do not doubt for a second that McCain, Graham and Warner knew exactly what they were agreeing to.
My new Stop Smiling piece is a review of a sort of weird coffeetable book about the interior decorating habits of the world's most brutal dictators. Seriously.

Not such an easy victory?

A new Survey USA poll on the Illinois governor's race complicates the Sun-Times/NBC5's claim earlier this week that Gov. Rod Blagojevich is "poised for easy victory."

Survey USA shows no movement whatsoever for Blagojevich since this poll was released in July--he's steady at 45 percent. Topinka has increased her share by only 4 points to 39 percent, while Whitney has 7 percent. 1 percent is apparently voting for Randy Stufflebeam or Marvin Koch.

I was not polled, but if I had been I would have belonged to the 8 percent who are still undecided. It's worth noting that these 8 percent would be enough to give Topinka the race, if all broke her way. Of course, that's unlikely to happen: probably the undecideds will split, too, and I would be surprised if Whitney's 7 percent holds. Still, this poll shows a more competitive race than the Sun-Times/NBC5 poll's massive 30 point gap...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Did I say something bad about Pitchfork before? I like them again now...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Nepotism vs. Intolerance: As always in Chicago, nepotism is the heavy favorite

For Cook County Board President, Todd Stroger leads Tony Peraica 52 percent to 19 percent. In my own personal cost-benefit analysis of this race, intolerance comes out slightly ahead, though I'm not thrilled about the choice. I don't know why I'm surprised that the margin is so big in this race, but I am...

Monday, September 18, 2006

This is right up my alley

Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota) on Diddy:
Let me say a word for Puff Daddy, P. Diddy or Diddy... He actually took a personal interest when he discovered those contracting to produce his clothing were putting people in [sweatshop] conditions. He actually changed things in Honduras where those shirts were made, so I say good for him.
Thanks g33kgrrl for the link...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Torture endgame

On the use of torture, John McCain "still believe[s] that we'll be able to work this out to the satisfaction of everybody concerned." Arlen Specter thinks there's a way to "accommodate both interests."

Maybe, but I don't see how.

For the White House's political strategy to work in November, the pro-torture Military Commissions Act of 2006 needs to unite Republicans while dividing Democrats. Then the RNC can go bananas with campaign commercials that bash Democrats who opposed the bill for being soft on national security. But in the Senate at least, so far the bill has united Democrats (against it) and divided Republicans, viz. McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner, all of whom want the bill to comport with the Geneva Conventions.

So this may be true:
[National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley] said the White House is working on a compromise that "achieves Senator McCain's requirement that we don't amend or change" the Geneva Conventions.
But if this compromise were actually struck, wouldn't most Democrats vote in favor of the bill? Wouldn't that ruin the White House political strategy for this election?

The political balance the White House needs to find, it seems to me, is a bill that outlaws just enough torture to satisfy Graham/McCain/Warner but not enough to satisfy Senate Democrats. How that bill would look, I'm not sure.

Maybe that's why "details of any compromise remained unclear"...

UPDATE -- Chance of a compromise now "50/50," says nameless staffer.

Friday, September 15, 2006

New shit

The Roots, Game Theory
Too rock for rap radio, too rap for rock radio, I guess The Roots are never going to be all that popular. Def Jam bungled the release of this record by scheduling it against Method Man, but I'm not sure that a more focused media blitz would have made that much difference. The Roots' groove has always been easy to sink into, but it rarely deviates from the Meters-style funk the group has been making for more than a decade. Here it's intricate and compelling as ever, with headphones-music details like a great Radiohead sample on "Atonement." ... I like Black Thought, but what does it mean if most of the memorable verses come from guests like Peedi Peedi, Dice Raw and Malik B?


Beyonce, B'Day
Has its moments, mainly this one, for which the trade-off is some high-sugar, tameish time-wasters like "Deja Vu" and "Freakum Dress." But damn "Ring the Alarm" is really good...


Justin Timberlake, FutureSex/LoveSounds
I've been accused of simply loving everything Timbaland does, but it's not true. I don't like "Promiscuous" at all. So that I have an insane friend who thinks that Timberlake's vocals lack soul, but I say it's because of their soul that they work over Timbaland's hyper-synthetic beats (Tim produced all but three of this album's tracks). Best pop album of the year so far, I think. And don't talk to me about the lyrics, the lyrics do not matter. Also, the track with Three 6 Mafia is the best left-field collabo since Lil Wayne and Robin Thicke.


Kelis, Kelis was Here
Like Prince back in the day, Kelis was Here is a jumble of styles, sounds and attitudes--18 tracks, 71 minutes' worth. Given my penchant for chilly futurism, I am extra-special fond of the Missy Elliott-inspired club tracks like "Bossy," "Weekend" (which rocks a vocoder) and especially "Awww Shit," which has one of the weirdest sounds on loop I've heard in a year. Another highlight is the 70s AM radio soul of "Lil Star." The track is produced by Cee-Lo Green, who also sings the chorus, impressive as always.

DOWNLOAD "Lil' Star" from me here.
New polls out of Michigan look good for Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, both Dems... And it may be an outlier, but this Survey USA poll in Tennessee has Harold Ford ahead of Bob Corker... UPDATE -- See Ford's new ad here...

Thursday, September 14, 2006


A couple of post-big-box-veto thoughts:
  • Daley is disingenuous to suggest a statewide minimum wage hike to $6.50. Obviously $6.50 is not as much in Chicago as it is in Lincoln, Illinois. I'd expect a $6.50 minimum wage to be felt not at all by Chicago residents.

  • If Ald. Joe Moore does come back in October with a new bill that isn't narrowly targeted at big-box retailers, would anyone support it? Would Daley? Would you?

  • You have to kind of marvel at the mayor's crazy dance of misdirection (in the Sun-Times article linked above) when he was asked if labor would withhold political support from him in next year's mayor's race:
    I don't even know if I'm running. ... Why would they threaten people? No one likes to be threatened. I don't care who you are -- alderman, mayors, labor officials. All the sudden, you start threatening people -- over one vote.
    As evasive as Ari Fleischer and as articulate as Larry the Cable Guy! Shucks, it was only one vote, why all the hullabaloo? So it is that Daley throws political grenades one day, and the next day wonders what everyone's so upset about.


On the occasion of Obama's trip to Iowa for Tom Harkin's steak fry, Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza reviews the pros and cons of an Obama '08 candidacy:
The argument for Obama is relatively simple. He is the hottest commodity in the Democratic Party and one of only a few candidates who can simultaneously raise the $50 million (or more) to compete with New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the early primary and caucus states and run to Clinton's ideological left on the war in Iraq. (Obama was not in the Senate in 2002 and therefore did not vote on the use of force resolution against the country.)

The argument against Obama is similarly simple. He's been in the Senate for less than two years and is still very young -- allowing him to bide his time until he is the presumptive frontrunner in 2012 or 2016.
Meanwhile, on the Illinoize blog there is some pretty solid analysis of Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes' endorsement of Obama '08 from the "Grand Old Partisan." Hynes, a wonky and likable Democrat, has self-interested reasons to support an Obama candidacy, which GOP lays out with no apparent ideological agenda:
[Hynes] wants a second chance at [Obama's] Senate seat, because he knows that it's his best, if not only, shot at finally moving up and out of the Comptroller's office - seeing as how he is far too cautious, and too smart, to challenge Lisa Madigan for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2010. ...

But why push Obama for a Presidential bid less than 1/2 way through his first term in the Senate? Well, Hynes knows that Obama is also smart enough not to make a play for the Executive Mansion in Springfield. I mean, even if he could defeat the House of Madigan, why in God’s name would he want to get all that mud on the white horse he plans to ride to the White House?
Pretty true. Illinois governorship is toxic. Or maybe it's just that we've had some toxic governors...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Daley on offense

Richard M. Daley has a point:
It was all right for the North and Southwest sides [of Chicago] to get big boxes before this. No one said anything. All the sudden, when we talk about economic development in the black community, there's something wrong.
It may be pure political leverage for the mayor to accuse big-box ordinance supporters of racism, but the double-standard at work here is not something Daley invented out of whole cloth. Comfortable North Side neighborhoods have had big box stores for ages--Targets, Home Depots, Bed Bath & Beyonds. Think the employees of these North Side stores can afford to live in the high-rent areas surrounding them? Me neither. And yet something tells me political opposition to the ordinance would have been considerably higher if Target were threatening to pull out of its Elston Street location than when the site was down on 119th Street. It's worth noting again that the neighborhoods who most strenuously opposed the ordinance were the ones it would have affected directly.

To be sure, the big-box ordinance was not the direct result of racism. Besides being about the wages themselves, it was an attempt by the city council to test the mayor's political strength (still pretty strong) and by labor unions to specifically target Wal-Mart's urban strategy (which is also still pretty strong, it would seem). That the bill would have blocked job-production in blighted black neighborhoods was just not a high enough cost to dissuade them.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The critics cannot shut up about The Wire

But that is only because it is the greatest achievement in the history of mankind. In the first episode of season four, the HBO series in some ways seems to be starting over. Avon Barksdale is in prison, Stringer Bell is dead. McNulty has apparently settled down with Beadie Russell.

But new stories are starting up. In Barksdale's wake, Marlo Stanfield is the new kingpin. Pryzbylewski is becoming a public school teacher, a storyline that was only touched on this episode. And there are a whole bunch of new kid characters who are just being established--Namond the leader, Randy the thoughtful kid, Dookie the outcast.

In potentially my favorite subplot this season, early in the episode Lester hands a bunch of subpoenas of political figures over to Rhonda Pearlman, the Assistant State's Attorney. She notes that it is one month before the Baltimore city primary election. "There's an election?" Lester asks. "Who's running?"

So who saw it? Impressions? What stories are you excited about...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Ald. Joe Moore gets results Pt. II

Daley vetoes big box ordinance. His first ever veto in 17 years as mayor...
Harold Ford and Barack Obama should be glad to hear this: Republican Bob Corker is being forced to testify and provide documents in court on Oct. 20, a.k.a. about three weeks before election day. The case involves some shady real estate dealings:
Corker ... had a hand in two sides of a three-way deal to develop a Wal-Mart "supercenter" in the town of Chattanooga. His company sold land to the developers of the site -- and as mayor, his city administration allowed environmental concerns to be pushed aside in favor of the development.

The one good song on the terrible new DJ Shadow CD

Good call Nicole: the new DJ Shadow record is not good. Like really not good. Shadow has a tin ear for club hip-hop, and the U.N.K.L.E.-style cryptorock tracks on the album's second half are never fun and sometimes unlistenable. Said another way, "Enuff" is a bad imitation of the Neptunes four years ago and "Broken Levee Blues" is cornier than Anderson Cooper.

But there is one great track on The Outsider, and it is "Seein' Thangs" featuring David Banner. The X-Files-sounding beat somehow doesn't seem glib next to Banner's fierce, pained verses: "In a chevy, I'm wonderin' if the feds broke the levee/ Are they in with the devil to control the weather?" The song was put on a mixtape in a different form, but the album version with Banner's second verse is even better. The way this track puts to work Shadow's skill for atmospherics and operates as an actual rap song just underlines how bad the rest of The Outsider really is.

DOWNLOAD "Seein' Thangs" from me here.

Managing expectations

Professional pessimist Mickey Kaus points to this data and this graphic to argue that:
[T]he whole question of House majority may come down to whether Dems can win 2 or 3 of the following 5 races that are currently (in the Majority Watch poll) a dead-heat statistical tie: ... CO-07, KY-04, NM-01, IL-06, WA-08.
IL-06 is of course the Duckworth vs. Roskam race, where Duckworth is fighting hard and winning, if narrowly. The seats in Colorado and Washington are potential pickups, and maybe New Mexico though Republican Heather Wilson has a big money advantage.

UPDATE -- Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post reminds that:
[I]n the past four "wave" elections (1994, 1980, 1966, 1958), the party that was on the losing end of massive seat losses still managed to pick up a district here or there. In 1994, Democrats lost 56 of their own seats but did manage to takeover four GOP-held seats in the process.

That's small comfort for the party on the losing end, but it's important to remember as we come ever closer to what many analysts are predicting will be a nationalized wave election for Democrats. House Democrats need a 15 seat pickup to retake control but if history is a guide, they may actually need to win 17 or 18 Republican-controlled districts to ensure a Speaker Pelosi.
Cillizza also thumbnails a number of the toss-up districts.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Things can always get worse

TNR's Michael Crowley greets the news that Harold Ford trails Bob Corker by only 1 point in Tennessee with a bit of healthy pessimism:
But this could be as good as it gets. Corker has just emerged from an ugly primary battle. Meanwhile, the national climate for Republicans probably won't get any worse--and may well improve if gas prices drop and the White House's latest 9/11 demagoguery distracts people from Iraq. ... It's a testament to Harold Ford's talent that he's this close. But closing the deal won't be easy.
(Original emphasis.) True enough, it will be hard for a black Democrat--even one who is pro-life and supports the federal marriage amendment--to win in Tennessee. But who says we're at the White House's low-water mark?

Also paying close attention to the Ford/Corker race: Barack Obama. Ford is more conservative than Obama by some measure, and a native southerner. If he loses this race, it argues against Obama as a 2008 presidential candidate.


Slate Explainer Daniel Engber breaks down the history of machine politics in Chicago for his column's featured question: "Why is Chicago so corrupt?," which reminds us that corruption in this city is "a political culture that's been in place for more than 100 years." Arriving at the present day, Engber offers the following speculation:
The star power of Chicago politicians may also contribute to the city's continuing problems with corruption. Incumbents tend to be big personalities who get celebrity coverage in the local papers—which sometimes translates into ethical leeway from voters.
Not naming any names, of course...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Ohio looking really good...

Repurposed lyric of the day

"I don't write [blogs] for free / If I did I won't make it, like Shaq from three"
-- Guilty Simpson/R. Mentzer
So do you think the Coburn-Obama anti-pork bill that just passed will be enough to get Republicans to drop the "what-has-Obama-done-in-the-Senate?" meme? Me neither...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

More on Nepotism vs. Intolerance: Intolerance pulls ahead!

It's a week old now, but this Sun-Times article goes some of the way toward assuaging questions/fears raised by Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader about Tony Peraica. Peraica is the Republican nominee for Cook County Board President, an anti-machine nominee and a social conservative.

In the Sun-Times, though, former Alderman Dick Simpson writes of a political meeting at which Peraica made the following promises:
Despite his pro-life beliefs, [Peraica] would not stop abortions at Cook County Hospitals. He would uphold Roe vs. Wade although he would have more counseling, including adoption choices. On gay rights, he argues that Illinois state law defines marriage as the union of a husband and wife, but he supports the county providing people in same-sex relationships full benefits.
"So what's not to like?" asked the Beachwood Reporter. Well, there's the man himself, who told Joravsky that gay marriage would cause our society to crumble, saying that "as you look at the long-term picture, decay comes from within. It’s problems from within that cause the decline of all the great empires." Ugh, where to start...

So we're back to the same problem we talked about before. The ridiculous politburo maneuvering that put Ald. Todd Stroger at the top of the Democratic ticket was an embarrassment to Chicago, and Stroger in the board president's chair would extend the embarrassment. No positive change would come from a Stroger presidency, that much we know. So the question I have to balance now is: how much good would Peraica do toward killing the machine vs. how much bad he would do as a social reactionary. Lately it seems to me that the former might outweigh the latter.
We have a White House antiterrorism policy that increases terrorism and an antipoverty policy that increases poverty, so why not an anti-drug policy that increases drug use?
Kelefa Sanneh on summer jams:
As for the real winner, the season just ended, the numbers are still being crunched, and the not-quite-logical arguments are still being formulated. Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie”? It topped Billboard’s Hot 100 chart back in June, then stayed near the top all summer. Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous”? It spent six weeks — more important, six weekends — at No. 1. Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”? It’s the kind of likable left-field hit that’s hard to root against, though its audience wasn’t quite as big. A case can be made for all three. (There might be some people who would add a fourth song to the list: Fergie’s late-breaking chart topper, “London Bridge.” But — since we’re on the subject of not-quite-logical arguments — those people are insane.)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Guilty Pleasures

Promos running on WBEZ for "Sound Opinions" say that this week's show is on "guilty pleasures," a term (like "overproduced") that AMillionMonkeys does not formally recognize and has enacted sanctions to combat. What's worse is that the promo plays out to Jay-Z's "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" (produced by Kanye West), an odd song to feel guilty about to say the least. I don't know quite what to make of this, or maybe I do...

P.S. -- I think the closest thing I have to a guilty pleasure is Sufjan Stevens, because I hate to admit to liking any album that Pitchfork scores above a 9.0...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Probably Mayor Daley didn't want to veto the big-box ordinance the day after Labor Day, which we can understand. Still, it can't be long now, can it? A veto has to come by Sept. 13, unless of course Daley decides to "let the courts take care of it"...
So Harold Ford is still behind in Tennessee, but look at his climb during the month of August. One to watch... Ohio is looking good: I didn't realize how far ahead Ted Strickland is in front of Ken Blackwell. 14 points, that's how far! Good, because Ken Blackwell is an asshat. Sherrod Brown's lead on Mike DeWine is narrower, 6 points, though we still have high hopes that the spineless quasi-"moderate" Bush stooge will fail to rebound... Rhode Island still a squeaker... Possibly we should be worried about Michigan, where neither Sen. Debbie Stabenow nor Gov. Jennifer Granholm are polling great. The economy is probably the problem?...

What you need is polling data, son

People! Labor Day is over, it is election season for real. This of course means that you'll want to familiarize yourself with every contested race in the United States and begin obsessing about your favorites. Do not waste your time and energy on fantasy football! What you want is polling data--lots and lots of polling data. You want thumbnail sketches of the races, you want speculation about who has momentum, in which direction each seems to be trending, and absolutely you want this data to be constantly updated so that you can freak out about every single statistically insignificant blip in the polls.

What you need, friend, is resources.
  • Killer interactive graphic from the New York Times -- Clickable Senate races, House races, Governors' races and short race profiles. Lots to see.

  • -- Yes. Very sexy new site by Mark Blumenthal, whose blog Mystery Pollster is now hosted under its auspices. A wealth of polls and graphs across states plus analysis of polls and polling itself. Nothing on the House, sadly, but loads of info on Senate and Governors' races. En fuego.

  • Slate's Election Scorecard -- Easy-to-digest graphical representations of the big picture and some individual races by Pollster's Mark Blumenthal and Charles Franklin. Posted 9/1, I assume they'll be updating it.

  • Election Central at TPM Cafe -- Frequently updated blog from Josh Marshall's liberal blog empire, lots of good info and perspective.

  • Politics1 -- Ugly to look at but does aggregate a lot of polling data, and you want aggregated polling data.
Know of any others? Because I am interested...

Monday, September 04, 2006

Third-Party Illinois: You're on the ballot. Now the hard part.

Part 4: Rich Whitney, Green Party

I spoke to Green Party gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney on the day the Illinois State Board of Elections certified his place on the ballot. Illinois Democrats had challenged the petitions submitted by the Green Party, and the battle that ensued ate up the Greens' resources. Perhaps even more damaging was the time they spent in electoral limbo as a result of the challenges--the lengthy appeals process was one reason Whitney and the Green slate have been excluded from consideration by debate planners, media, major-party candidates and no doubt some potential voters.

Having crossed the high hurdle of getting on the ballot, Whitney now sets about convincing people to vote for him. He hopes to participate in gubernatorial debates as a way of getting his message out, and he plays up his differences from the Democratic and Republican candidates. He promises universal health care, full employment, environmental reform and a veto of mobilization of Illinois National Guard for service in Iraq.

Whitney, a civil rights attorney in Carbondale, Ill., was an interesting, animated guy to talk to. He was the most polished of the third-party candidates I interviewed, which makes sense since he is also the most successful, but he was willing to go beyond surface politician-talk. (At one point we found ourselves debating the merits of Tom Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas?, a discussion which isn't quite germane here but was interesting at the time.)

Since I am a left-leaning voter myself, I asked a lot of questions about the Green Party's place in the larger political landscape--namely, do Green candidates have the objective effect of helping Republicans? I could not tell if Whitney was merely reciting a talking point when he said he expected to draw voters who were traditionally conservative, but ultimately I found that part of his argument unconvincing. He opposes legalized gambling and supports fiscal responsibility, but I doubt that these will lead very many conservative voters to punch the ticket for Greens.

But what about voters like me, who agree with many of Whitney's positions and are dissatisfied with the Democratic candidate for governor, Rod Blagojevich? Should we vote for Whitney even if we know that the effect is to aid the Republican nominee, Judy Baar Topinka? Well that is the question, isn't it...

Do you think your ballot certification will make it easier for you to be included in debates with Blagojevich and Topinka?

Very much so. That’s the next biggest challenge. So far we have not been invited, so we’re now mounting a campaign to be included. It’s up to each [debate] sponsor, really, although the other campaigns can also play a role. If Blagojevich and Topinka agree, sponsors will give way. We’re trying to put pressure on those campaigns to include at least all ballot-qualified candidates.

...It’s become a political football. The equal time provision--before that got kicked out by the Reagan administration--held that TV networks would sponsor these things, and they had to have equal time for everybody.’s anarchy out there and it’s up to the campaigns. Topinka has told one reporter that she would want me included in the debates. Her campaign has not said that to us directly.

Topinka wants you to be included in the debates because she thinks having you in the race hurts Blagojevich. Do you think it's true that your candidacy will take votes away from Democrats?

First of all, I’m not taking votes away from anyone. Votes have to be earned. Someone might traditionally vote Democratic, but that doesn’t mean Blagojevich has an entitlement to their votes. As far as whether I will take more votes from Democrats’ traditional base, I honestly do not know the answer to that question. They think that, and that’s why the Blagojevich people fought so hard to keep us off the ballot. I don’t think it’s necessarily true.

We’re not really on that liberal-conservative spectrum. On some issues we appeal to traditional Democratic or liberal voters—we support a living wage, full employment, we’re concerned about the needs of working people, we support universal health care, we’re pro-environment.

On other hand, we do have a number of issues that appeal to traditional conservative voters. Look at fiscal responsibility. I’m the only candidate that has a budget bill that is responsible for our obligations. Blagojevich’s plan is to make future taxpayers pay for all this. Topinka’s plan was “let’s have another casino in Chicago.” That’s another issue: I am the only candidate in the race that opposes state-sanctioned gambling. I think gambling is a hidden tax on the poor and I oppose it. On property rights, I oppose the abuse of eminent domain laws to put in a WalMart or a Peotone airport that we do not need and that takes land away from farmers in the process. On a lot of things I am going to be hurting Topinka more than Blagojevich.

More than that, we’re going to be appealing to people who traditionally have had no interest in voting, who have never been involved in the political process because they’re disgusted by the two corporate-sponsored parties.

Are there any issues on which you think Topinka is appreciably worse than Blagojevich? On health care, for example, the governor has expanded coverage while Topinka opposes expansions.

I’m sure there are differences if you look at the content very specifically. I’m not [ideologically] close to either one of them and there’s a big gulf that separates them. Both are parties of big business run by corporate sponsors. There are differences between them, and when you talk about the presidential level there’s a more persuasive argument that there are differences between the parties. Health care would be one of them: Blagojevich has made some slow and incremental progress toward covering more people, while from her statements Topinka wants to reduce Medicaid and take us backwards. I’m saying we need single payer universal health coverage for everyone. “All Kids” is really some kids. If the governor continues taking this patchwork approach, what’s next, healthcare for people born on a Tuesday?

Can universal healthcare be implemented at a state level? Isn’t it a problem that needs to be addressed nationally?

It can be done on a state level. I have a position paper on a study in Vermont of doing it in one state. To go to single payer, they’d need a payroll tax of 5.8 percent and an income tax of 2.9 percent. The cost to businesses came to $1,450 per worker, which is much less than what they pay now for insurance premiums. That’s in Vermont--with our much greater economy the savings would be much greater and we might be able to do with lower payroll tax.

According to the Web site TPM Muckraker, all contributions to Pennsylvania Green Party Senate candidate Carl Romanelli came from conservatives and conservative-affiliated groups. Especially in potentially close elections, doesn’t that suggest that Green Party candidates serve a Republican interest?

I’m not responsible for what other people think. The Green Party of the United States has issued a refutation of that report. I don’t know how the numbers break out. I do know that there are cases where there are Republican operatives who think, "let's help get Greens on ballot because that will take votes away from the opponent." We can’t control that. We don’t take any corporate money--it could only be individual doners who think they’re going to get an advantage out of it. What they’re really doing is helping us be successful. In the long run, that’s going to work against both the Democratic and Republican circles.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Weekend Schadenfreude

Lee Siegel--in my estimation the most boringest arts critic ever--has been busted for faking comments on his TNR blog. His blog on the site has been shut down and he's been suspended from writing for the magazine. Good riddance!

Every time Siegel posted, he held his nose. He is the guy who a couple of months ago called the blogosphere "hard fascism with a Microsoft face" and chastized blog discourse for "radiat[ing] democracy's dream of full participation but practic[ing] democracy's nightmare of populist crudity." If his contempt for his readers weren't already evident, the point is proven by his disguising himself as someone else in order to comment on his own posts. To beat back all the "populist crudity," no doubt.

It must be such a relief to Siegel to have been fired--he's liberated from the nightmare-world of media where the audience is actually allowed to talk to you. We will miss him not at all.

UPDATE -- Look at this thread here, looks like Siegel's commenter jhschwartz was first to figure out that Siegel was the phony commenter "sprezzatura":
I would say with 99% confidence that "sprezzatura" is a Siegel alias.
Make that 100 percent!