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Archive for the ‘_ELECTIONS’ Category

The other night, as Christine O’Donnell was arguing for the scientific/educational merits of creationism, she suggested that “the separation of church and state” is not anywhere in the United States Constitution.

Below are two very different media reactions to the incident. (more…)

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On the same day she celebrated the long overdue exit of Mark Souder of Indiana, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow went after Rand Paul for fifteen minutes, browbeating him for his wrong answer to a hypothetical answer about a nearly fifty year old bill.

Rand Paul is a different shade of Right Wing than Mark Souder. I’m rather bored with the hypocrites of the Souder variety; hearing them talk just makes me tired.

I wish more Republican politicians were like Rand Paul–intellectually poised and (more…)

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obama_apTomorrow’s Chicago Tribune will publish “An Open Letter to Barack Obama” by Robert L. Schulz, chairman of the Foundation for Constitutional Education.

For several years, rumors swirled regarding Barack Obama’s birthplace, with partisans and concerned citizens alike contending that he was not really born in the United States, but in Kenya. The Obama campaign tried to squelch these rumors by posting an official copy of official copy of the candidate’s birth certificate online, at FightTheSmears.com. But that only gave conspiracy theorists a concrete document to inspect and discredit, upping the ante for those committed to bringing down Obama’s campaign.

“Where is the embossed seal,” they asked, “and the registrar’s signature?”

Obama’s detractors knew this could be more politically damaging than attending a church with an unpatriotic pastor. With the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate in question, what choice would voters have but to conclude that the black guy was an un-American liar after all? So the silly questions persisted.

“Why is there no crease from being folded and mailed? And what’s up with the ‘07 date stamp bleeding through the ‘08 document?”

tin-foil-hat

Increasingly, the conspiracy theorists weren’t just playing in Tinfoil Hat City. Some of their questions were genuinely intriguing. And we Americans tend to embrace illogical and scandalous explanations when logical and mundane ones aren’t immediately readily available. The observation that Obama’s birth certificate is a bluer shade of green than most Hawaiian birth certificates, for instance, leads many an uncritical thinker to conclude that Obama’s must be a forgery. Never mind that dyed paper fades over time, or that our laptops’ color and brightness settings may cause digital images to look slightly different from how they appeared in the real life light.

As this game went on, it almost looked like another Swift Boat had arrived to taxi all of us out to sea again. But when nonpartisan watchdog organizations launched their own independent investigations, they concluded that the birth certificate was authentic.

Obama's birth certificate

Barack Obama's birth certificate.

Though the elections are long over, this rumor and its adherents evidently will take one last swipe at the President-Elect in tomorrow’s Chicago Tribune.

Dear Mr. Obama:

Representing thousands of responsible American citizens who have also taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America, I am duty bound to call on you to remedy an apparent violation of the Constitution.
Compelling evidence supports the claim that you are barred from holding the Office of President by the “natural born citizen” clause of the U.S. Constitution. For instance:

  • Legal affidavits state you were born in Kenya.
  • Your grandmother is recorded on tape saying she attended your birth in Kenya.
  • You have posted on the Internet an unsigned, forged and thoroughly discredited, computer-generated birth form created in 2007, a form that lacks vital information found on any original, hand signed Certificate of Live Birth, such as hospital address, signature of attending physician and age of mother.
  • U.S. Law in effect in 1961 denied U.S. citizenship to any child born in Kenya if the father was Kenyan and the mother was not yet 19 years of age.
  • In 1965, your mother legally relinquished whatever Kenyan or U.S. citizenship she and you had by marrying an Indonesian and becoming a naturalized Indonesian citizen.

First of all, the last two bullet points are completely superfluous, though I do appreciate the heads up about four-decade-old citizenship clauses in Kenya and Indonesia. How old his mom was at his birth, and what rights she relinquished when he was a toddler is irrelevant. They only remotely apply if you buy into the first three, in which case we’re drawing straws about whether to deport the guy or just impeach him.

One wonders at this point, what is the goal? Even if Obama’s birthplace can neither be confirmed nor invalidated, the most they can hope to prove is that Hawaii is as bush league as Alaska. As of Obama’s birth in August of 1961, Hawai’i had been a state for less than two years.  Perhaps the Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women & Children had taken its time adopting the standard bureaucratic formats of American bureaucratic forms.  Do the birth certificates of other babies who were born at Kapi’olani in ’61 include their moms’ ages and the hospital’s address; and if not, shall we revoke their citizenships, too? Or perhaps our rule of thumb will be to take everyone at their word as long as they’re less than 49% black.

Regarding the Kenyan affidavits, I’m assuming they contain the “vital information” that Obama’s birth certificate lacks, such as the “hospital address, signature of attending physician and age of mother.” It would be logically inconsistent to offer the former as evidence after calling the latter inadmissible for similar omissions. As Christopher Hitchens once wrote, “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

All of that aside, the tape-recording of old lady hearsay does sound “compelling.”

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new_sheepLast night I was trying to find the latest news on Barack Obama’s cabinet appointments, when I ventured to the front page of the CNNPolitics.com, and was thoroughly annoyed by the headline they’d placed atop all the others: “Is Romney the Man to Save GOP in 2012?”

This is not news now, and might not even be news later. Something that may or may not happen four years from now is not a current event. Yet, there it is, the top story at CNN.

Presidential elections in this country now last for over half the length of a sitting president’s term. The 2008 elections are barely a week behind us, and already we’re blitzed with speculation and hearsay about what’s in store for 2012. Perhaps Americans wouldn’t be so economically screwed today if, back in 2004, when the mortgage crisis was still avoidable, our citizens been less concerned about when Hillary would officially announce her future plans to run for President?

As unprofessional as our friends in the mainstream media have been, the “dumbing down” of the news is as much our fault as it is theirs. They are, after all, in the business of making money. The higher their ratings soar, the easier it is to find sponsors willing to pay to advertise during their programs. That means what we see on the so-called “news” is a function of what we most desire to see—and not a reflection of what is important. If, collectively, we were more informed, we’d be outraged over the fact that this bullshit passes as newsworthy. We’d cry out for details about Blackwater shadiness, or about the growing U.S.-Pakistan conflict. Were we an engaged citizenry, our sneaky Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson wouldn’t have gotten away with his $140 billion gift to banks, courtesy of taxpayers.

In fact, fuck it; I’m deleting CNN.com from my Mozilla bookmark icons. For too long I’ve let that network remain my “most trusted source” of Internet news every morning, the site I check when time only permits me to check one. As MSNBC leans Leftward and Fox News bends unapologetically back toward the Right, many viewers remain convinced (as I was until recently) of CNN’s fairness and neutrality. Is that because they dump on all U.S. presidential candidates equally? Of course, nearly all my early assumptions about media bias were misguided or wrong, starting with the premise that “news” should be considered “objective” and “fair” so long as it doesn’t clearly favor one major political party over the other. That might have made sense; but only if all possible worldviews and political stances were covered by one major political party or the other.

But another imbalance exists, taking the form of an apparent consensus, by all mainstream news channels, to over-report on the presidential race and under-report on everything else. That’s where the real bias lives. They do it because they’re lazy and self-absorbed; they get away with it because, so are we.  Far from being fed up with these overblown non-stories, we rather prefer to read trumped up rumors about John McCain’s mental health fluctuations or Barack Obama’s scandalous adolescent acquaintanceships—while American wars persist on multiple fronts and our economy continues to crumble.

I don’t mean to imply that election outcomes are not important. But the day-to-day gossip mill that churned out pages of useless trivia about different spats among presidential hopefuls is not (as CNN would have you assume) the most pressing news event on any given day.

ashley-dupre-spitzers-prostitute2So engrossed were we in our own insular political sideshows that it barely registered when noteworthy events occurred outside of U.S. borders. So, if you’re from one of those countries that are having a crappy decade, please pardon our outward indifference to your plight. We have no idea what’s happened in the world these last two years. We missed it all, or tried to. Eliot Spitzer’s prostitute’s sucky MySpace songs got more play than genocide in Sudan, the Cyclone Nargis, and the Sichuan Earthquake combined.

The hyping and overmarketing of presidential campaigns lets the media to ignore the crucial or controversial news stories. This is good for the media because it can refrain from reporting real-life news that might aggravate their sponsors. And while this is problematic on their part, we viewers give them an excuse by reinforcing the notion that we care more about the presidential race than we do about other important happenings in the world today. That we care more and more about the presidential rumor mill means we care less—or not at all—about Congress passing some obscure, quickly buried bill that will allow domestic spying or torture. We care more about which presidential candidate’s religious affiliates offended which rich white person today.

Rather than solely condemn CNN and Fox News for the stories they choose or refuse to supply, one might blame the American citizens for our own spoiled ignorance and the information we do or do not demand.

As a result of the media’s failure to cover stories outside the soap opera, any sly scumbag with aspirations to cheat, swindle or manipulate large majorities of people knows to wait until election season to do it. Alas, perhaps that’s why the next campaign season is starting before our wet-behind-the-ear President Elect even knows who his Secretary of State is.

Still, there are some who saw and see nothing wrong with the saturation of Election ’08 coverage. They believe they need to mull over the vibes they get from the candidates, and that requires constant surveillance. As long as we crave that overconsumption, CNN will happily pour provide it; see which comes up with the goofiest Freudian slip; inspect their medical records; condemn the drugs they did in high school; make sure the male candidates don’t act too flamboyant; make sure the women are both feminine and sufficiently masculine; evaluate their acquaintances; insist they ditch the ones we deem too rude.

It’s a tough job—being an American citizen, juggling so many pertinent subplots at once. But we’re happy to do it, because we are “the American people”, whose honorable character is exceptional in every respect. All we ask is that there are no distractions as we’re diligently scrutinizing our candidates; our mainstream media must never burden us with trivial headlines, like:

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Below are two maps.  The first shows the parts of the U.S. population most likely to have fewer than nine years of education.  The second map, oddly comparable to the first, highlights which of our nation’s counties were more likely to vote Republican in 2008 than in 2004.

edu9

mccainmap_2

This brief entry is intended only for those who would agree with me that, in general, education is a good thing–i.e., that schooling beyond a middle-school level prepares us for the real world and enables us to make informed decisions as adult citizens and voters. If you don’t count yourself among such believers in education, then your way of thinking may prevent you from seeing my point. Or it could be that you’re just not particularly apt at reading maps, or converting raw numbers into meaningful conclusions.

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A total of 35 Senate seats are up for grabs this Tuesday; 23 of those seats are currently Republican and 12 are Democrat.

All twelve Democrats appear likely to be reelected (the closest race is in Louisiana, where the Democrat, Mary Landrieu, leads her opponent by 11%). By contrast, almost half of the states in which Republican Senate seats are up for grabs have a margin smaller than that. Even in the wingnut Mecca of Texas, incumbent Republican Senator John Cornyn lead over Democratic challenger Rick Noriega is less than 9%.

Here are ten Senate seats that could switch from Red to Blue, listed in order of the likelihood of a Democrat taking over.

  1. VIRGINIA: Mark Warner (D) leads Jim Gilmore (R) by 28%.
  2. COLORADO: Mark Udall (D) leads Bob Schaffer (R) by 12%.
  3. NEW HAMPSHIRE: Jeanne Shaheen (D) leads John Sununu (R) by 8%.
  4. OREGON: Jeff Merkley (D) leads Gordon Smith (R) by 6%.
  5. NORTH CAROLINA: Kay Hagan (D) leads Elizabeth Dole (R) by 4%.
  6. ALASKA: Mark Begich (D) leads Ted Stevens (R) by 4%.
  7. MINNESOTA: Al Franken (D) leads Norm Coleman (R) by 2%.
  8. KENTUCKY: Mitch McConnell (R) leads Bruce Lunsford (D) by 3%.
  9. GEORGIA: Saxby Chambliss (R) leads Jim Martin (D) by 3%.
  10. MISSISSIPPI: Roger Wicker (R) leads Ronnie Musgrove (D) by 5%.

Should all of these races go to the candidate that’s currently in the lead, the Democrats would pick up seven seats end up with a total of 56 Senators to the Republicans’ 42.

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