Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Archive for October, 2012

Voter Suppression’s “Launderette” Tale Crumpling Under Scrutiny

Posted by Phoenix Woman on October 31, 2012

Once again, Sally Jo Sorensen spots something nobody else in journalism does — namely, that there are serious problems with the Launderette Story, the favorite anecdote used by voter suppression advocates to “prove” the need for the Voter Suppression Amendment.

For starters, the date of the Launderette Story keeps changing, from 2006 to 2008 to 2010:

Representative Cornish and Mr Fults ask readers to to amend our constitution based on an incident that occurred in 2010. Or 2008. Or 2006, when Mary Kiffmeyer was Secretary of State. The incident turned up in legislative testimony and in a so-far unsuccessful lawsuit.

Unfortunately, Smission didn’t fill out the challenge form that would have triggered an official investigation back in 2006.

And the lawsuit in which the original story features was dismissed, if not outright laughed out of court.

Check it out.
It’s simply unbelieveable that sketchy tales like this can influence our public discourse.

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A word in favor of the electoral college

Posted by Charles II on October 31, 2012

The storm on the East Coast gives one more reason why the Electoral College is a good idea. Very likely many people in that region will be unable to vote due to the storm. That will be especially true in the poorest towns and rural areas. If there were no Electoral College, the Eastern Seaboard would have a lessened influence on the choice of the next president–and that would be wrong. The same would be true if a hurricane slammed Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas just before an election.

But because presidents are elected by the Electoral College and not by popular vote, the influence of the Eastern Seaboard will not be diminished by the storm.

There is at least one other benefit of an Electoral College system. If the popular vote is close, there would be a temptation to stuff the ballot box across the nation–especially where the cheater is strong. But with an Electoral College, that wouldn’t work. Very specific ballot boxes would have to be stuffed… and that would increase the chances of catching the cheater.

There’s no question that the power of the smaller states has to be diminished. The system is so rigged, with gerrymandered House districts and excessive Senatorial power to small states, that the division of power established by the current Electoral College is another slap in the face to the majority of Americans.

The Electoral College: the worst possible system, except for the alternative.

Nate Silver thinks I’m wrong, that the effect on the popular vote margin is likely to be 0.2-0.3%. But that could be the difference between a victory and not, especially since many votes may have to be counted by hand, as one town is reportedly (Maddow) planning to do–meaning those votes could come in late.

Rachel Maddow tore Romney a new one over his pledging not to hold campaign events, then holding a “Storm-Related Event” in which everything was the same as the Romney Victory Rally which was canceled, except where Romney did a photo op collecting canned goods. As Maddow noted, the Red Cross says it does not want people to donate things, they want money:

Some donations, though well-intentioned, have hidden costs and pose many complications.
These include such items as clothing, furniture, toys and canned goods or small, individual donations of items of any sort. The Red Cross can’t accept these unsolicited, spontaneous donations
because: [etc.]

So, if we’re lucky, Romney’s donations will end up at the soup kitchen Paul Ryan invaded for his photo-op. They’re not going to help anyone along the storm-ravaged East Coast, at least not if they’re given to the Red Cross.

The statement does not appear on the main ARC web pages, so it’s not clear to me whether it’s general policy. But it certainly does not make sense to collect bags of soup and blankets when what’s needed is food and shelter for thousands.

Posted in voting rights | 5 Comments »

The Republican War On Objectivity: Nate Silver Edition

Posted by Phoenix Woman on October 29, 2012

Paul Krugman reads Brad DeLong, and via Brad he found out about the National Review’s bizarre attack on Nate Silver for what they, without meaningful evidence, insinuate are wrong and biased poll numbers. Like all decent people, he is horrified:

Yet the right — and we’re not talking about the fringe here, we’re talking about mainstream commentators and publications — has been screaming “bias”! They know, just know, that Nate must be cooking the books. How do they know this? Well, his results look good for Obama, so it must be a cheat. Never mind the fact that Nate tells us all exactly how he does it, and that he hasn’t changed the formula at all.

This is, of course, reminiscent of the attack on the Bureau of Labor Statistics — not to mention the attacks on climate science and much more. On the right, apparently, there is no such thing as an objective calculation. Everything must have a political motive.

This is really scary. It means that if these people triumph, science — or any kind of scholarship — will become impossible. Everything must pass a political test; if it isn’t what the right wants to hear, the messenger is subjected to a smear campaign.

All so a bunch of really rich businesses can continue to run roughshod over us without contributing to the larger community.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Thumbs On The Scale, Minnesota Division: Big Media Want Close Race So They Can Sell Political Ads

Posted by Phoenix Woman on October 28, 2012

Two polls on the presidential race in Minnesota came out this weekend. One, the Saint Cloud State poll, has methodologies that are as good as it gets, and it has Obama up by 8 in the North Star State:

But unlike many of the voter surveys sparking headlines recently, this one used gold-standard methodologies and appears to be quirk-free. Indeed, its principal investigators, political science professors Steve Wagner and Stephen Frank, have released a 25-page document [PDF] describing — in excruciating detail — how the numbers were obtained.

The important bits: The survey used a sample that was balanced on multiple levels. Forty percent of the numbers were for cell phones, the same percentage as Minnesota households without landlines. Live interviewers — trained students working under close supervision — alternately asked to speak with men and women and the oldest and youngest adult in the households that were called.

The other one, done for the StarTribune by the Mason-Dixon firm (which Nate Silver has noted skewed to the right in both 2008 and 2012), has Obama up by 3.

Guess which one local Minnesota GOP operative and Brodkorb buddy Ben “Artful Dodger” Golnik is touting? (Oh, and if anyone has bought into the local GOP’s constant yammerings that the Strib is historically liberal, check this out.)

But besides the political-leanings angle, the profit angle is also to be considered. With Google coming very close to (if not actually) destroying the Fourth Estate through sucking up ad and other revenues that traditionally went to traditional media outlets, political ads are more important than ever for Big Media’s survival. And you don’t get ads if the race isn’t close.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Facebook Shows How To Hose Groups Organizing On No Budget

Posted by Phoenix Woman on October 28, 2012

From FDL’s Jane Hamsher, we hear of this:

Facebook quietly introduced a new “Promoted Posts” feature that forces you to pay money to reach upwards of 80% of your friends and fans, effectively censoring you by limiting the prominence of your posts if you pay nothing. Users are asked to pay around $7.00 to have posts appear to friends and fans as they once did, and larger pages like ours, with roughly 2 million fans, are required to pay a jaw-dropping $4,000 per post to reach our full audience.

If Facebook keeps this up, your timeline may soon be dominated by only major corporations willing to spend the cash. Sign our petition calling on Facebook to keep the social network truly free and change their Pay-to-Promote policy that unfairly limits users speech.

Sign the petition to keep Facebook free: end posting fees that unfairly limit the speech of individuals and small groups!

Click here to sign:

As Jane notes, the very social movements touted as “Facebook rebellions” — the Tunisia revolt for one — would not have been possible had this policy been in effect at the time the activists involved were using Facebook to mobilize support.

This is sadly reminiscent of how the Post Office — allegedly under pressure from large magazine empires seeking to kill off less-well-funded competition — jacked up the rates paid by magazine publishers, a move that seriously threatens the viability of periodicals like The Nation.

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The Ad That Could Sink Romney In Ohio: “Stage”

Posted by Phoenix Woman on October 27, 2012

Just watch:

The thing speaks for itself.

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on October 26, 2012

Princess Mia graciously permitted the paparazzi to photograph her. Thanks, as always, to her catstaff for sharing this portrait with us.

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Friday Cat Blogging, guest cats, Mia | 4 Comments »

Yet Another Set Of “If The Perps Were Democrats This Would Be All Over The Evening News” Stories

Posted by Phoenix Woman on October 26, 2012

Here, for your reading pleasure, are well-sourced yet oddly obscure stories about Republicans — stories that, had they been about Democrats, would be getting a lot more coverage than they are now:

— Mitt Romney has an in-law problem, and his name’s Ryan Davies.

Richard Mourdock.

— Looks like Paul Ryan may have illegally spent about $75,000 of his Congressional campaign money on presidential election campaign activities during the 2012 Republican National Convention in August.

— Looks like, as Brad DeLong says, that Mitt Romney got caught lying under oath on the witness stand about a material fact:

Mitt Romney testified under oath in 1991 that the ex-wife of Staples founder Tom Stemberg got a fair deal in the couple’s 1988 divorce, even though the company shares Maureen Sullivan Stemberg received were valued at a tenth of Staples’ stock price on the day of its initial public offering only a year later.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

A comment on drones

Posted by Charles II on October 25, 2012

Not that anyone pays any attention to my opinion, but I think that the complaints about using drones for targeting killing are probably largely misplaced. Drones are bombs. Bombs are instruments of war. If one believes that we are at war with a stateless army, then killing members of that army with drones is preferable to the alternatives (e.g., cluster bombs, saturation bombing, and so on).

The real problem is that we have not really declared war. We have this strange Authorization of Military Force (see here for legal analysis), which probably applies to the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and almost certainly does not apply to Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and other groups that formed subsequent to 9/11. If the Executive wants to continue to use drone strikes–or make war by any means outside of the AfPak region– he should ask for an updated AUMF. This is not a nicety. It’s one major means by which we prevent presidents from becoming tyrants.

As for assassinating American citizens, or any non-combatant, military or not, that’s plainly illegal. The claim for killing Anwar al-Awlaki was that he was serving as a chaplain for AQAP. Would we accept the targeting of an American chaplain as a legitimate action by an enemy? On many levels [fn], this was a war crime. Add one more level of wrongness for the killing of his son. The fact that drones were used is irrelevant to the basic legal issues and when the left focuses on the technology, it undermines its arguments against targeted killing.

They do have a better case against Israeli action, since Operation Cast Lead and subsequent events made it abundantly evident that Israel is involved in collective punishment against an occupied nation, not warfare.

As I say, not that anyone will listen.
fn. Lack of authorization for action against AQAP. lack of due process, since in principle al-Awlaki might have been a hostage rather than an active collaborator. Lack of evidence that he was an active combatant. For son, add targeting of a minor. More broadly, there’s the question of whether there’s even adequate oversight over who gets put on the kill list and whether there’s oversight over issues of “collateral damage,” i.e., dead innocent people.

Posted in terrorism | 1 Comment »

Malevolence or incompetence? You decide. (mass purge in LaPorte Co., Indiana)

Posted by Charles II on October 25, 2012

Via Don Briggs at DK.

Matt Fritz, The News Dispatch:

Back in 2011, some 800 voters were supposed to be purged from the La Porte County [of Indiana] voter registration system.

Instead, more than 13,000 got the boot and now the voter registration office is scrambling to get them online before Nov. 6.

Was it deliberate? Ask yourself what the GOP would say if the situation were reversed. Matt Fritz:

The Democrat party chair is asking the federal government to get involved in the wrongful purge of 13,000 voters in La Porte County last year.

Chairman John Jones said in a press release that he will be asking the U.S. Department of Justice Election Integrity Task Force to investigate exactly how the purge happened, which he said was an “effort led by Republican voters’ appointee Donna Harris, the wife of county Republican chairman Keith Harris.”

Malevolence or incompetence. You decide.

Posted in Republicans acting badly, voting rights | 5 Comments »

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