Regarding enthusiasm for Obama and the Pew poll

A new Pew Research Center poll came out today showing Mitt Romney holding a 4-point national lead among likely voters over President Obama. The key term here is “likely voters.” Among registered voters, Obama and Romney are tied at 46 percent. The difference, according to Pew, is that Romney voters are 15 percent more enthusiastic about the campaign.

This idea that Romney supporters are more enthused than Obama supporters definitely makes sense.

Sure, Obama has probably accomplished more in his 45 months as president than most first-term presidents ever have. And, in a decade, historians will look back and write about how his actions when taking over the White House saved the country from falling into a second Great Depression.

But I do find it hard to be enthusiastic about three and a half years of Obama having to fight and scrap his way for any progress on anything, regardless of how big or small the action.

Not even a basic jobs bill meant to repair the country’s roads and provide extended unemployment benefits without adding to the deficit — the type of bill that used to pass regardless of who was in the White House and regardless of which party dominated on Capitol Hill — could be brought up for a vote in the House and the Democrats couldn’t break a filibuster in the Senate (50 votes were not enough).

(Speaking of filibusters, the Republicans have filibustered more bills and Obama appointees in the last 21 months than a Senate has in the history of the country.)

It is a jobs bill that could “raise GDP by 1.5 percent before any multiplier effect.”

It’s the same bill as his campaign’s jobs plan, which, if passed, would generate 1.1 million more jobs than Romney’s plan, according to independent analysis.

Plus I believe Obama wouldn’t hurtle the country into another Middle East war like Romney seems intent on doing (who would he attack first, Iran or Syria?).

Most importantly, Obama would probably have a little more leverage to tackle climate change without worrying about re-election.

Obama’s greatest domestic accomplishment, aside from the stimulus bill that took the United States off the fiscal cliff, is the passage of Obamacare, a bill neither left-wing Democrats or any Republican liked. The piece of legislation, which is based off Romney’s Massachusetts legislation, which is based off President Nixon‘s ideas for healthcare reform, is solid change, but not what most of us on the left wanted. We wanted single-payer. We believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Hell, we would have been happy with a public option, or Medicare for all. But we didn’t even get that.

Then we see President Obama using drones to kill suspected terrorists in frightening numbers.

It’s hard to be enthused when we disagree with so much that Obama’s done or see how much he has been unable to accomplish?

Meanwhile, Romeny is running against a chair, the greatest actual application of the Rorschach Test in the history of American politics. Republicans have been able to use that chair and project their greatest fears on the president:

“He wants to make America like Europe.” “He’s instituted a government takeover of healthcare.” “He wants to take away your guns.” “He wants to take away your hard-earned money and give it to black and Mexican people who refuse to work.” “He’s an Islamic-black nationalist who honors Hitler and Stalin and wants to start jihad in the United States.”

If this is the common Republican view regarding the president no wonder they’re pumped about defeating him, even though none of it is true.

The reason I will still vote for Obama? I think of what the Republican Party stands for and am frightened. The Republican Party doesn’t believe in science. To them, climate change is “fake” and melting ice caps are nothing to worry about. There is such a thing as “legitimate rape” and the female body naturally fights off sperm women don’t want. “Energy” means drill, baby, drill and tear those solar panels down from the White House.

Business regulations mean “let us fuck the consumer in the name of money.”

What would drones look like in the hands of Romney or his advisers, who would most likely be neocons from the Bush era? What would our energy policy look like when we’re reaching a tipping point in climate change? What would the economy look like when it returns to unpaid tax cuts that benefit mostly wealthy people? What would it look like when Romney gives the banks the leeway to make the same bets that put the economy in the situation they put it in in October 2008?

Simply put, this, defeating the GOP, is what motivates me to vote for the president. I’m sure the Pew poll didn’t take this feeling into account.

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What to read this week: Sept. 2

Here is a collection of articles that I read and liked this week:

Paul Ryan – The liar, exaggerator extraordinaire

If one fact about the Romney-Ryan ticket was made clear this week during the Republican National Convention, it’s that the two candidates aren’t afraid to lie. Now I know that politicians from both sides stretch the truth, but to the extent that Rep. Paul Ryan did during his vice presidential acceptance speech might be unprecedented. Both of these articles document his lies:

“Facts Take a Beating in Acceptance Speeches” by Michael Cooper – The New York Times

“Ryan’s VP Spin” – FactCheck.org

Even more disturbing seems to be Ryan’s willingness to tell small, meaningless lies, like he told during an interview with Runner’s World Magazine. He told the magazine that he ran a marathon in two hours and 50 minutes–a very impressive feat. Unfortunately, it took him more than four hours to finish the only marathon he ever ran. I’m OK with this lie since under “Ryan time,” I can tell conservatives that I ran my three hour and 45 minute marathon in two hours and 30 minutes.

But what does this mean for the campaign? Well, it isn’t Kim Jong Il-world’s-greatest-golfer disturbing, but it’s not too far off. Joan Walsh nails Ryan’s free reign under the media.

“Paul Ryan’s Marathon Lie” by Joan Walsh – Salon

Last week, Ryan also mentioned that he’s a huge Rage Against the Machine fan (who isn’t?!). Unfortunately, their music doesn’t exactly fit his politics. Group leader and guitarist Tom Morello let him know:

“Paul Ryan Is the Embodiment of the Machine Our Music Rages Against” by Tom Morello – Rolling Stone

Republicans and Race

Talk to a Republican and bring up race and he or she will flip. “Why do you have to bring race into this?” “You guys always bring up race.” “I have black friends.” “Marco Rubio is my favorite senator.” But it’s obvious that Romney is running a campaign meant to tap into the base of the Republican Party–lower-middle to middle class white men.

Generally, I don’t believe Republicans are purposely racist or even know that they are racist or harbor racist tendencies. (Even though some from the GOP base did throw peanuts at a black CNN camerawoman saying, “This is how we feed the animals” or chant “USA! USA!” when a Puerto Rican Republican woman started speaking.) But I do believe that white, middle class men do feel a certain, albeit it understandable, anxiety about their place in the United States today. They are becoming a minority.

Tapping into this anxiety is what Romney hopes to accomplish with his disproved claim that President Obama is gutting welfare reform. This superb analysis by Ron Fournier, a former Associated Press Washington bureau chief, explains why this Romney tactic is “playing the race card”:

“Why (and How) Romney is Playing the Race Card” by Ron Fournier – The National Journal

Exciting Links

PressThink by Jay Rosen

Rosen is a professor of journalism at New York University and media critic. I found Fournier’s story about race through Rosen’s post “#pushback.”

Rosen doesn’t waste his time or the reader’s time with talk about the “liberal media” or the “conservative media.” He just writes and explains what he sees out there.

Start with the “About” section in which he explains what “PressThink” means.

Read “#pushback,” which is about the GOP’s dismissal of the fact-checking news media.

Then read “‘You’re not entitled to your own facts’ vs. That’s your opinion. Kiss my ad.” It’s an amazing take on what “facts” mean in today’s political landscape.

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R: Race and the Tea Party

Whenever I bring up race and the Tea Party, or race and President Obama, or race and the angry opposition to the president, I’m often told, “Why bring race into this?”

I want to get into a long, rational discussion about race and how it has been the main antagonist (protagonist) in American politics basically since the country’s inception.

I want to discuss the murder–genocide, really–of the tribes of the Americas.

I want to discuss slavery.

I want to discuss the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation and Reconstruction.

I want to discuss the rise of prisons and how blacks were incarcerated to continue picking cotton and harvesting crops.

I want to discuss the use of blacks as strikebreakers, which angered white workers and helped empower groups like the KKK to terrorize black communities.

I want to discuss laws in California that prohibited the Chinese from owning property in the early 20th Century.

I want to discuss the imprisonment of Japanese citizens during World War II, while German and Italian citizens roamed free and fought for the United States.

I want to discuss the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.

I want to discuss the anti-Semitism that was a major reason the U.S. did not get involved in World War II until it did–reports about the atrocities dealing with Jews were out there, just on Page 33 of The New York Times.

I want to discuss the split of the United States into North and South–AGAIN–in the late 1940s and early 1950s when President Truman made Civil Rights part of the Democratic agenda.

I want to discuss South Carolina’s Democratic Senator Strom Thurmond’s attempt to run as a Dixiecrat with a strong, anti-Civil Rights agenda.

Then I want to tell these people that in 1964, Thrumond switched parties. The lifelong Democrat became a Republican. A switch that helped create our current political structure.

A structure that can now be explained as follows:

Democrats: The Party of change and progress.

Republicans: The Party of the good ol’ days.

Democrats: The Party of the minority.

Republicans: The Party of the old guard.

Democrats: The Party of “this is our country.”

Republicans: The Party of “this is my country.”

Thurmond wasn’t alone, but he became the face of the anti-equality movement.

Since the passage of the Civil Rights Acts, there have been several battles over race. They just take different names: busing, immigration, welfare, prison.

Since Obama’s been inaugurated, hell, since he’s been elected, the battle over race has taken on a different mantra:

“Let’s take back our country.”

We hear it over and over. Tea Party members say it. Republican candidates say it. Republican talking heads say it. Republican morons say it (couldn’t help it, sorry).

But what does it mean? Has Obama created a radical takeover of people’s lives? No way. Have taxes risen dramatically for all Americans? No.

But the opposition has made it clear: they don’t like government messing with their Medicare.

There are subtle messages that race continues to drive the politics: blame the immigrant as is happening in Arizona.

Vivid messages are shouted at protests.

And double-dipping, covering-all-bases messages are given by candidates like Rand Paul who was asked by Rachel Maddow whether he would have supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964:

“What I think would happen – what I’m saying is, is that I don’t believe in any discrimination. I don’t believe in any private property should discriminate, either. And I wouldn’t attend, wouldn’t support, wouldn’t go to. But what you have to answer when you answer this point of view, which is an abstract, obscure conversation from 1964 that you want to bring up. But if you want to answer, you have to say then that you decide the rules for all restaurants and then you decide that you want to allow them to carry weapons into restaurants.”

Huh?

Oh he explains more today saying that he doesn’t favor a repeal of the Act, but:

“This much is clear: The federal government has far overreached in its power grabs. Just look at the recent national healthcare schemes, which my opponent supports. The federal government, for the first time ever, is mandating that individuals purchase a product. The federal government is out of control, and those who love liberty and value individual and state’s rights must stand up to it.”

Wait, what?

“Government bad.”

“Government overreaches.”

“Civil Rights Act good. Sort of. No. Good. Really.”

Civil Rights Act of 1964 forcing businesses to desegregate?

“Government– hey, look, fire, over there!”

Now, the entire Tea Party movement isn’t built on racism. I don’t want people to believe that I think that. But, where the movement is taking place, racism is still prevalent.

That said, the Tea Party movement IS built on race. Like I said before, our entire political system is. The fact that there is a black president angers and SCARES many Tea Party members, especially those from the Midwest and the South.

It’s important to acknowledge this fact. If not, the entire dialogue, the entire tone of politics in this country doesn’t make sense.

It’s like reading The Great Gatsby without knowing the difference between old money and new money.

I’m going to say it one more time: politics in the United States is built on race.

Now let’s deal with it.

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Why Did the LA Times Censor My Blog Comment – Twice?

At one point in my life, the Los Angeles Times was the “It” paper. While The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal (the journalism section, not its editorial pages) set the standard for American journalism, I convinced myself that the LA Times wasn’t too far behind.

I am convinced now.

The three major newspapers have learned how to use Web 2.0 — blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr — to push journalism to another level.

Even Reuters, the venerable wire service, has set standards on how to use Web 2.0. That company’s rule regarding instantaneous news? Journalism is still journalism. There is no room for opinion, misinformation, or poor reporting.

The uptake? These publications treat blogs like they treat articles published in newspapers.

Which brings me to the Los Angeles Times, especially its Top of the Ticket blog penned primarily by Andrew Malcolm (although the Times lists Johanna Neuman as a contributor).

If you don’t know Malcolm, he’s the former press secretary for First Lady Laura Bush. He’s also a long-time reporter (hell, could be a very good reporter) and served on the Times’ editorial board. My guess is he started writing the Ticket blog sometime early in 2008 (his bio is dated November 1, 2008).

But since the campaign season that year, Malcolm has proved himself to be nothing short of a partisan hack on the levels of a Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. He often resorts to nicknames for President Obama, his latest being “The Smoker.” Which would be fine, I guess, if the blog was labeled clearly as “Opinion” as The New York Times and The Washington Post do.

Instead “Top of the Ticket” is labeledPolitics, coast to coast, with the L.A. Times” and is listed clearly under the “Politics” section, not the “Opinion” section.

To make things even worse for the Times, the newspaper often reposts Malcolm’s blogs as actual stories. For example, “A little secret about Obama’s transparency” posted yesterday looks exactly like an article penned by a real reporter.

In this news article, which is what the URL suggests (even if “Top of the Ticket” is written at the top), includes zero original sources — a big no-no in journalism. Yes, it’s from a blog post, but if it’s reprinted as an actual article, it should contain sources. Heck, most columns contain at least one original source.

But my real problems with Malcolm hit a tipping point Saturday night, a day before the historic vote on healthcare reform, in a blog post titled, “Cast your own vote on Obama’s healthcare plan.” The primary problem comes from the poll questions posted below the blog, especially Nos. 2 and 4:

  • Obama’s healthcare plan is so good it should also apply to Obama, his family, all members of Congress and their families. (It does)
  • I wish those folks had spent all these months focusing on jobs and the economy instead. (They did)

The wording and loaded questions upset me so much, I wrote a long response and posted it. I kept waiting for it to appear after being moderated, but it didn’t. So I reposted it thinking I had made a mistake. Again, nothing.

I wondered what I had written that kept them from publishing my comment.

Here’s the full text of what I wrote (much of which is repeated above):

Recently, Reuters released standard practices for journalists using social media, which is what blogs are. The standards break down into one simple rule:
“Accuracy, freedom from bias and integrity are fundamental to the reputation of Reuters and your ability to do your job effectively. The advent of social media changes none of this and you should do nothing that would damage our reputation for impartiality and independence.”
If Andrew Malcolm worked for Reuters, he’d be fired for this piece of misinformation and obvious bias.
Malcolm is an embarrassment to the Los Angeles Times. His reporting is full of vindictiveness, poor reporting, and straight-out falsehoods.
Take for example poll questions 2 and 4:
“2) Obama’s healthcare plan is so good it should also apply to Obama, his family, all members of Congress and their families.”
– Unfortunately, it’s not a “healthcare plan.” It’s a reform of the current system. The only “plan” being created is the ability to buy into a pool of other independent people. “Reform” does not equal “plan.” Malcolm knows this is true, but he perpetuates the falsehood because it probably boosts his ego when he receives responses like this. No one’s insurance will change if they don’t want it to.
“4) I wish those folks had spent all these months focusing on jobs and the economy instead.”
– Was it my imagination or did President Obama just sign an $18 billion jobs bill? In addition, aren’t there physical signs throughout Los Angeles that say “This project is paid for by the Reinvestment Act of 2009”? Nevermind that unemployment has slowed, and it appears job growth should begin by the end of this year. Again, Malcolm knows this, but he perpetuates the lie that Obama hasn’t done anything about jobs because, hey, let me be funny.
The Los Angeles Times used to try to compete with the big newspapers — The New York Times and The Washington Post. But with one of the paper’s top political reporters, which is what a blogger is, demonstrating such terribly poor professionalism, it’s no wonder why no one mentions this newspaper when it talks about the best in the nation.
Shame on you, LA Times. And Andrew Malcolm, get over yourself.

I had a serious point, so I made it, albeit in an angry way. In fact, my post was tame compared to some of the others that were published.

Here are some of the comments from those who opposed the bill:

Guy Arnold wrote:

“Obama is a devout Muslim and with no doubt he is screwing up our country to it’s worst condition.”

Peggy wrote:

“Obama, progressives and looney tunes dems are done. AS IS THE LAME STREAM MEDIA. You guys should be ashamed of yourselves for helping to elect a Muslim Socialist radical like Obama. How can you look at yourselves in the mirror every day to shave, or what ever?”

Yolanda wrote:

“If the President thinks his healthcare if so good, He should ask millions of unborn children what they think of federally funded abortions”

And about 70 others like these (including one guy who wrote, “Is Obama a foreign agent? I don’t know.”)

But he also posted the comments of those who supported the bill (responding to many):

JWinters:

“lame poll. the LA times is turning into just another blog. Why don’t you use your resources and put together a poll of substance.”

(AM responds: This IS a blog. And it is not a poll. Thanks for voting.)

Rusty (a Republican, actually makes some of the same points as me):

Are you going to actually address any of the criticisms of people who posted in these comments, or are you just going to tell everyone “oh thanks for coming”?

Several people have questioned your ability to report on a political story without draping it in the sarcasm of your own political worldview. I was a Republican, and it is people like you that made me leave the party – that you didn’t seem to be able to think up better ideas, just hurl insults at whomever the party disagreed with.

If you are unable to objectively analyze or comment on a political story, then perhaps the LA Times could *try* to get someone in here who has that ability to – say someone who can determine whether or not the CBO analysis was correct, rather than post “Communisty” photos of Obama, and call Pelosi names (even if she deserves it).

You can join Fox and put your blog there. Or god forbid the racist tea-party. They’d probably like the photo you posted. Repeatedly.

(AM responds: This is a political blog. It is not a newspaper, hence to paper. No one is stopping you from not reading it. But glad you did.)

There are a few dozen of other posts by supporters of healthcare, many criticizing the poll, which is what the questions are despite what Malcolm may believe (unscientific, yes, but still a poll), and I didn’t see where my post crossed the line. Maybe it was quoting Reuters, or perhaps it was the “shame on you” line, which I admit now is a bit pompous. Hell, maybe it was too long (even though there were posts longer than mine).

Or maybe Malcolm couldn’t think of a snarky response to my post.

With comments like “This is a political blog. It is not a newspaper, hence to paper” it”s clear that Malcolm has little respect for new journalism and the power blogs and Web 2.0 has on current events.

And it’s also why he fails as a blogger and as a reporter. And this is also why the LA Times fails as a newspaper.

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Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud – This Dude Needs to Shut Up

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today said that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were a “big lie” that served as a pretext for going to war in Afghanistan.

“September 11 was a big lie and a pretext for the war on terror and a prelude to invading Afghanistan”

AP

Don’t get me wrong. The Bush-Cheney administration used  9/11 as a pretext for many things, including an illegal war in Iraq, a way to increase domestic surveillance of Americans, and as an opportunity to test the limits of the Geneva Convention. They also failed by taking their eyes off of Bin Laden and al Qaeda and instead focusing them on Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

But was it a big conspiracy to get the United States into war in Afghanistan?

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