Saturday, August 27, 2011

A minor point #2

Last week, I wrote about Jim Wooten writing in the AJC that changing the date of the referendum on the transportation sales tax from the primary election day to the general election day would "skew" the vote in favor of the Democrats -- thus revealing a blatant design to manipulate the vote.

No less, of course, than the multi-state movement from Republicans to pass laws requiring that voters show a valid photo ID in order to vote -- in order to vote in person, that is. Anyone can vote by absentee ballot without such ID. All honest, thinking people recognize this for what it is: requiring a government issued photo ID, such as driver's license, passport, or special ID that requires too much effort for some people to get, is a hardship for poor people and the elderly. And we know how those groups tends to vote.

Now comes some info to back up these claims from a New York Times op-ed by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), "A Poll Tax by Another Name:"
". . . Despite decades of progress, this year’s Republican-backed wave of voting restrictions has demonstrated that the fundamental right to vote is still subject to partisan manipulation. The most common new requirement, that citizens obtain and display unexpired government-issued photo identification before entering the voting booth, was advanced in 35 states and passed by Republican legislatures in Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri and nine other states — despite the fact that as many as 25 percent of African-Americans lack acceptable identification.

"Having fought for voting rights as a student, I am especially troubled that these laws disproportionately affect young voters. Students at state universities in Wisconsin cannot vote using their current IDs (because the new law requires the cards to have signatures, which those do not). South Carolina prohibits the use of student IDs altogether. Texas also rejects student IDs, but allows voting by those who have a license to carry a concealed handgun. These schemes are clearly crafted to affect not just how we vote, but who votes.

"Conservative proponents have argued for photo ID mandates by claiming that widespread voter impersonation exists in America, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. While defending its photo ID law before the Supreme Court, Indiana was unable to cite a single instance of actual voter impersonation at any point in its history. Likewise, in Kansas, there were far more reports of U.F.O. sightings than allegations of voter fraud in the past decade. . . .

"In Georgia, Florida, Ohio and other states, legislatures have significantly reduced opportunities to cast ballots before Election Day — an option that was disproportionately used by African-American voters in 2008. [because it gives more options for those who have trouble getting time off from work to vote. Other states have put restrictions on voter registration drives that tend to attract those who vote Democratic.] . . .

"These restrictions purportedly apply to all citizens equally. In reality, we know that they will disproportionately burden African Americans and other racial minorities, yet again. They are poll taxes by another name."

Here's what I know is also disproportional: the use of such schemes for manipulating the vote by Republicans. Democrats are not without some guilt of their own, but nothing like the wide-spread, coordinated policy that then tries to explain the need for it in pious terms that we know are false.

The tactical differences are telling: Democrats support efforts to register more voters and concentrate on get-out-the-vote drives that tend to yield Democratic voters. That's perfectly legal and admirable: just getting more voters to the polls. On the other hand, Republicans pass laws that tend to selectively limit who votes (organized efforts to purge voting lists, restrictive voter ID laws, limits on early voting, and other selectively intimidating tactics).

As I wrote last week: this is downright un-American, trying to selectively suppress the vote. And these people are the first to wrap themselves in the flag and proclaim their patriotism.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Deft undercutting

Karl Rove doesn't like Sarah Palin. He doesn't want her to run for president, and he's been trashing her -- along with Rick Perry -- for some time now.

But he played "the innocent" today when Palin pushed back at those critics who are speculating about whether she will run.

Here's what he said on Fox News:
"I'm mystified. Look, she is all upset about this, saying I'm somehow trying to sabotage her -- sabotage her in some way and that how dare I speculate on her future. Look, if she doesn't want to be speculated about as a potential presidential candidate, there's an easy way to end the speculation. Simply say, 'I'm not running.' . . .

"I suspect if we didn't speculate about her, she'd be upset and try and find a way to get us to speculate about her."
Now that's a pretty deft put-down, while defending himself.

But so what? . . . I don't really care. I don't like either of them. It is kind of fun to watch the opposition infighting, though.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Explaining the earthquake

I fully expected the Pat Robertson types to try to blame the earthquake that hit Washington, and even shook New York buildings, on the recent adoption of gay marriage in the state of New York. The city of Washington already allows it.

It was, remember, Robertson who predicted that raging wildfires in central Florida would burn Orlando for displaying banners about Gay Day at Disney World. Only they didn't. Fifty miles out, the fires turned and went a different way. A few months later, a fierce hurricane hit Virginia Beach, where Robertson's office are located (although they were not damaged).

I proclaimed that it was a warning from God to Robertson not to be speaking for Him.

Maybe he learned his lesson. So far, the blame game hasn't come from the Christianist preachers but from a Rabbi.

Orthodox Rabbi Yehuda Levin said this in a video posted on YouTube:
“One of the reasons that God brings earthquakes to the world is because of the transgression of homosexuality. The Talmud states, 'You have shaken your male member in a place where it doesn't belong. I too, will shake the Earth.'”
The Talmud, and the Bible too, say a lot of other things that only the ultra-orthodox of either faith take literally these days.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Libyan rebels take Tripoli

After six months of what often seemed like a stalemated war, the Libyan uprising has suddenly become a blitzkrieg. Apparently fueled by massive defections of the Libyan Guards, the last defense of the capital and of the Gadhafi family, the rebels have swept into the central square of Tripoli -- They have won the revolution.

Massive celebrations are going on. Two of Gadhafi's sons have been arrested, according to ABC News. Gadhafi's whereabouts are not known. Or at least not publicized. I'm sure our intelligence people know.

Let's see how long it will take for Senator McCain, and the GOP candidates, to apologize to President Obama for ridiculing his stand to keep our ground forces out of Libya. The support he did commit us to was vital, but we did it through NATO -- which was exactly the right thing to do. Leading two wars is enough.

Not fit to be Commander in Chief? It's true: John McCain is not fit.



Finally, the question appears in writing in today's New York Times Magazine (Aug 21): "What Would Hillary Have Done?"

Author Rebecca Traister identifies herself as a Hillary supporter in 2008, who nevertheless was tempted to vote for Obama, but didn't. Amid the increasing wistfulness of many Hillarites, as well as former Obama supporters, the question plays in the background, if not spoken. Would a Clinton presidency have been preferable after all?

Traister says no, and I tend to agree with her -- despite my ambivalence about Obama's performance. Agreed, he leaves much to be desired -- especially what seems to be a deep-seated aversion to bare-knuckled political fighting, that goes deeper than just an idealization of the opposite.

Given that, this makes Obama not what we need as a tough negotiator with opponents who are determined to see him fail, no matter what it does to the country. He's playing by one set of rules and expectations, while Republicans have a different rule: do what it takes to win.

This boiled over last Sunday, when the New York Times gave unprecedented coverage to a long opinion piece written by my Emory colleague Drew Westen (author of The Political Brain), in which he attacks Obama for his failings, even referring to negotiating timidity as his "character defect."

Drew has been deluged by TV interviews since then, including Charlie Rose, in which he was joined by Fareed Zakaria (editor of Time) and Jonathan Chait (editor of The New Republic). Zakaria mostly defended Obama and attacked Drew for not considering Obama's real achievements and pointing out Drew's position as "a professor who has never held elected office, even as dog catcher." Meaning that he was politically naive about what can be accomplished in the tough world of politics.

So -- all of this has raised my own ambivalence about Obama. Could he have done better? Could Hillary have done better?

Rebecca Traister cautions against this second guessing. Yes, Hillary might have been a tougher negotiator about the debt ceiling; but she also would not have gotten health care reform passed, or she might have taken us to war with Iran. This "what if?" game has infinite possibilities.

In the end, she concludes, as I do, that regardless of who won, our expectations and hopes were going to be disappointed; given the circumstances, the possibilities of enacting the progressive agenda were limited. Either Hillary or Barack would disappoint us in some way -- maybe a different way, but in some important way. Here is Traister's final paragraph:
There simply was never going to be a liberal messiah whose powers could transcend the limits set by a democracy this packed with regressive obstructionists. That doesn’t mean we can’t hope for, seek and demand better from politicians and presidents. But we can’t spend our time focused on alternate realities in which our country, its systems and its climate are not what they are. With advance apologies for returning to one of 2008’s most infelicitous phrases, it’s time to let go of the fairy tales.
Am I just settling for this argument to avoid finally saying Obama was a poor choice? No, I readily admit that I am disappointed in what he has been able to accomplish; and I do wish he could be tougher with the Republicans. If, in addition to the skills he does have, he also had LBJ's tough negotiating skill, or Harry Truman's blunt, pugilistic rhetoric -- he might have gotten a better deal from the Republicans. I admit all that. But we are comparing him with our ideals. No one is going to live up to that.