October 21st, 2008

Pixel Stained


This youtube is getting lots of play:

I am reasonably certain it's being seen by lots of people who support it, as well as those who are aghast when they see it. While the woman being interviewed disturbs me; her opinions (the only thing which matters in casting a vote is, "who has greater faith in the Lord" [which "should be make or break for everybody] and that I have a real problem with a president being named "Obama", and I'm not the only one. [scare quotes to try and show the way she says the name)] and that the Obamas aren't Real True Christians&tm; practicing, "the Christianty that's in the Bible) are troubling, but not for themselves alone. Not even primarily for her opinions.

What realy bothers, is the her position gets from this clip. I don't know how long the segment with her husband was, but right at the beginning her basis (a cultic "gut-check" based on the religious beliefs of Obama's parents: his mother's atheism is only worsted by his father being a Muslim) isn't cast as removing thought from the decision, but as one of measured consideration, "For Tracy Kerlie, this election is not so much about policy, as it is about values."

Which is, again, that pernicious meme that "Values™" are somehow the exclusive property of the whack-jobs, the ignorant, and the intolerant; the Dobsons, the Hagees, the people who don't want to trouble their little heads with the difficulties of policy.

Well guess what, it's bullshit. I have values. I like 'em. I use them to make up my mind when voting. Eric Rudolph has values, he shares some of them (the ones for which he is known) with Ted Kaczinski. Values are cheap.

The press keeps say people have "values", and as the philosopher Montoya said, "You keep using that word... I don't think it means what you think it means."

Values does not mean, "Traditional Western Modes of Life and Thought as Idealised by the Religious and Cultural Conservatives of the American Right."

It means, if I narrow it to the sort of definition the press is using (tossing out the references to money, color, music, etc.):
     n : beliefs of a person or social group in which they have an
         emotional investment (either for or against something);
         "he has very conservatives values"

We've all got values. There is no touchstone set of them which ought to come to mind when someone is said to be, "Voting their values".

When I step into the little semi-cubicle and make my mark in the NO column on Prop 8, I'll be voting my values. When I look down the list and see, "For President, and Vice President of the United States: Choose one" I will take the pen, find Obama/Biden, and vote my values.

When I vote for the slates of judges (voting, by and large, against anyone who has been a prosecutor, and esp. against one who has been a "gang" prosecutor) I will be voting my values.

But... and this is where I hope, and pray, there aren't so many like this woman, I will be, using my values in concert, to quote Nero Wolfe, with my judgement, and experience. The press telling us that using the tools of reason is to abandon "values" is a lie, it's a nasty little lie at that.

Because it makes it easier for those who are voiting for the narrow-minded values of race/tribe/cult to look at the rest of the nation as valueless heathens. Those who don't "vote our values" not only not members of the group, but are against the group.

This casting of values not as things one cares about but as some touchstone set which one believes in enough to vote for, or one is against, feeds the idea of persecution. When one is voting for one's "values" and losing, then one's "values" are being slapped around.

It stops being about the best course for the nation, the better policies, the better politicians (or "leaders" if you prefer. I don't, but it's quite the fashion. I want leadership from them, yes, but they are not my "leaders", they are my employees; and that, really, needs to be pounded into their skulls;often) and becomes some odd referendum on beliefs.

Which is no small part of the polarisation of the nation. The Right has used this trick to keep the atrocious affects of their policies from rebounding against them (Reagan said he hated unions, and went on to prove it... Union country went on to vote for Bush, and then Bush again; with some strong pockets of Dole voting in the interim. They filled their House delegations with Republicans too. I can't believe it was because of how well the economy flourished under Reagan/Bush and how much it tanked under Clinton /sarcasm).

For those who think "faith in the Lord" is the be all and end all of such choices, "Render unto Caesar those things wich are Caesars's," because The Lord will know his own. If you believe Him, the values he cares about are, "Doing justly, loving mercy and walking Humbly with Thy God." For those who want a more detailed list of the criteria for making it to Heaven (in the afterlife... you want Heaven on earth, you gotta work for it here), might think to look at Matt. 7.

A bit of humor

Every so often I take an online "quiz".

Your result for The Ultimate TRUE IRISH Test...

Finn MacCool

You scored 91 Common Sense, 92 Irish Facts, and 94 Irish Soul!

I am honored to be in your presence. You know your stuff. You are Irish in your heart. You probably talk like an Irish person after a few pints. You sing the rebel songs. You drink, and probably bleed Guinness. You may have even been interned in British Prisions. You impress (or annoy) all your friends with your vast Irish knowledge. If you are a female, I am in love. If you are a male, we are brothers. We should have a pint.

Take The Ultimate TRUE IRISH Test

That's amusing enough (and no real surprise). What amused me was the secondary stats.

Compared to other takers

    * 48/100 You scored 91% on Common Sense, higher than 48% of your peers.
    * 97/100 You scored 92% on Irish Facts, higher than 97% of your peers.
    * 96/100 You scored 94% on Irish Soul, higher than 96% of your peers.

Facts... no biggy. I may have misremembered the name of a battle, or some such. Soul... Ok so saying Maggie Thatcher was lucky the IRA didn't blow her up probaly fell below calling her names.

No, what amuses me is the 91st percentile in Common Sense puts me smack-dab in the middle of average. Empirical data leads me doubt this result.
Pixel Stained

Endorsements with teeth

I am not happy to see Obama talking about giving Powell a place in his administration. It won't improve his standing in the world, and doesn't, actually, bring him much value at home.

If Powell's (late) endorsement brings anyone to vote for Obama, he has about three years to convince them, based on his performance. Powell being some sort of grand-old man of gravitas and the Old Guard won't make up for poor performance, and steals from good.

And Powell is tainted. He went along with pushing the war. He went to the UN and told lies, in an attempt to convince other people to sign on to what was a doomed effort and immoral (and the revelations of people like Ken Adelman revealing they were told by Cheney the war was all a set up.

His reported anger at the bald-faced lies he was being asked to tell says he knew it was all based on trash. Even if we accord him the face-saving possibility he didn't know it was all to serve some illicit agenda... he knew the excuses he was offering were bullshit, and he went on and sold the war.

That's what he did. He took his good-name and reputation and spent them to convince the American people the war was needed. After his spiel the pundit class was all aflutter; minds agog at how much we knew, and how detailed the evidence was against Hussein.

He had the Weapons, you see. We knew what they were, where they were, and what he wanted to do with them; all of this based on the gravitas of Powell.

That can't be washed away with an endorsement. It sure as hell can't be washed away with one now. Powell could have stepped down four years ago, and endorsed Kerry. He didn't, and that helped Bush stay in office.

The Salt Lake City Tribune, however, made an endorsement, and one that has some merit. I don't know how much it will affect Utah's vote but the explanations are both well thought out, and demanding of some introspection.

Still, we have compelling reasons for endorsing Obama on his merits alone. Under the most intense scrutiny and attacks from both parties, Obama has shown the temperament, judgment, intellect and political acumen that are essential in a president that would lead the United States out of the crises created by President Bush, a complicit Congress and our own apathy.

That is someone owning up to what role they had in the present mess. It's an endorsment to be proud of.

The race is not always to the swift

Picture the scene. You've just run the best race of your life. Not just a good race. Not just every ounce of energy, and wrung out like an old mop at the end.

Not just the best race of your life, but a personal best you've never run this fast before an incredible 12 minutes better than any other time you've done the distance.

They start to call the winners. Third place didn't run as well as you did, Neither did second.

First place came in eleven minutes behind you.

Why? Because Nike thinks there were two races.

There were over 20,000 competitors in Sunday's Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco. And 24-year-old Arien O'Connell, a fifth-grade teacher from New York City, ran the fastest time of any of the women.

But she didn't win

Jim Estes, associate director of the long-distance running program for USA Track and Field, did his best to explain the ruling. He's had some practice with the issue. The Sunday before last, at the Chicago Marathon, a Kenyan named Wesley Korir pulled off a similar surprise, finishing fourth even though he wasn't in the elite group and started five minutes after the top runners.

In that situation, and in this one, Estes made the same ruling: It didn't count. O'Connell wasn't declared the winner and Korir didn't collect fourth-place prize money.

"The theory is that, because they had separate starts, they weren't in the same race," Estes said. "The woman who is winning the elite field doesn't have the opportunity to know she was racing someone else."

Right. The Olympics don't have this problem. My high school didn't have this problem. When I was running a compeptitive 2-miles we didn't have it either, nor yet when I was doing the Mud-Run at Cp. Pendleton.

See, it was the same race. Same day, same course, same distance, same weather, same everything. Each heat started at different times, but all the rest was the same (Pendleton was different, because there were three classes, "Open", BDUs and running shoes, and "Military" which was BDUs and boots. 10K in BDUs and boots over mixed terrain and obstacles was "fun", but I digress).

But same day, same name of race, same chance to win. If the best time came in from the last heat... the person who ran it won.

If Nike want's to have charity races, where selected people are given preference for winning, let them have invitationals. If it wants to separate the people who are after prizes from thos who are just running for the sake of running, let them inform people of it.

Because what happened is Nike ran a private race, and then piggybacked the good-feeling and reputation boost of a non-prized race run at the same time; and not differentiated. One of the things which make marthons like LA, Boston, etc. so popular is the idea that everyone is competing on fair shot. Anyone can win.

Only Nike doesn't believe people should, "Just do it," or rather, they think the vast majority ought to be willing to just do it, and the selected few can win the prizes.
Pixel Stained

How "voter fraud" becomes voter supression

The Republicans have a long history of voter supression. Operation Eagle Eye (where Rhenquist made his bones in the party) had most of the things we see today, and that was forty years ago. Rick Perlstein saved me a lot of hassle trying to recover things seen here and there on the net four years ago. This is from a 1964 report about the Johnson/Goldwater election:

"'In one state, Minnesota, 'Operation Ballot Security' issued a seven-page single-space private memorandum detailing a variety of methods for challenging voters at the polls, with instructions to discourage helpful judges in Democratic precincts, to cut off waiting lines in Democratic precincts but not in Republican precincts, and to encourage stalling in Democratic precincts while preventing stalling in Republican precincts.

"'The Minnesota document goes so far as to state its purpose, not as encouraging each American to exercise his right to vote freely but 'to safeguard the investment of time, money, and effort that the Republican Party, its volunteers, its candidates, and their volunteers have made in this election.'

"As for specific instructions, the Republican memorandum says:

"'If any questions or dispute arises, refer to the pertinent authority cited below and (when it is to your party's interest) insist that the law be followed.'

"'Stalling in booths is a common trick when lines are long in order to discourage those waiting. In GOP precincts, keep lines moving.'

Away from Minnesota we discover:

"How else will 'Operation Eagle Eye' work? A Wall Street Journal article of October 22 by Stanley Penn told how.

"Penn quoted one 'ballot security' official as saying he planned to equip his poll watchers with cameras to frighten people into believing that voting irregularities can be photographed. He wrote: 'The official notes that even if poll watchers don't now how to use the cameras, potential Democratic wrong-doers may be frightened off.'

"'Another example used by Penn was a booklet written by Louisiana Republican 'ballot security' chief James A. Reeder, who urged his party to make all efforts to enlist the help of sheriffs and local police on eleciton day. The booklet explained why: 'We are advised that all sheriffs in the State of Louisiana, except one, are sympathetic with Senator Goldwater's election. We should take full advantage of this situation.'

There are recent reports of wanting to have deputies show up at,"intimidating" polling stations. For that read in black and hispanic neighborhoods.

Then there are the jokes about sending out flyers telling people that, because of so many newly registered voters the election would take place over two days. Republicans were to vote on Tuesday, Democrats on Wednsday.

The McCain campaign just paid money to Nathan Sproul, who was engaged in voter prevention at a more basic level four years ago... he just had non-repub/non-nader registrations shredded. It's a great trick. Someone who registers is most likely to vote in the election closest to when the register. A person is almost certain to cast their first ballot for the party they affiliate with when they fill the form.

So they show up at the polls and... they aren't registered. They thought they were, but they aren't. And one can be pretty sure they aren't going to go and fill out the form again. It's as good as it gets in keeping people from voting.

Why does this matter? One... there is evidence (and I can't judge it, but as presented it looks pretty good) the vote was rigged last time out.

Two... The Pennsyvania GOP is saying the vote there can't be trusted.

HARRISBURG -- The state Republican Party filed an injunction Friday against Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortes and ACORN, alleging a fair vote on Nov. 4 is impossible because of rampant voter fraud..

Which might explain part of McCain's rolling out the ACORN nonsense. Unlike Sproul, ACORN seems to believe the same things the Dem spokeman was saying in 1964:

"I deeply resent 'Operation Eagle Eye' and these other programs that seek to deprive our citizens of their Constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.

"'Operation Eagle Eye' is not even founded on the principles of fredom of choice and freedom to vote. It speaks only of alleged frauds, alleged wrongdoings. Even the press release announcing its formation did not seek to encourage voters. It sought to frighten them with this headline: 'GOP Launches Nation Wide Campaign To Prevent "Any Repetition of 1960 Voting Fraud Scandals."'

"I believe the only way to have a fair election in this country is to encourage vvoters of both parties--not just of one party--to come forward, along with independent voters. This has been the basis on which the Democratic National Committee has conducted the entire 1964 campaign.

When ACORN accepts a registration form, it guarantees it will be delivered (in Calif there is a a reciept one has to give to someone whom you are accepting a form on behalf of, so they can come back to find you, if it doesn't get turned in. My high school gov't teacher had a stack of them. I sort of wish I'd kept the one I got from him, Don't worry Rex, I've been voting)

So they've been doing what they are supposed to. Less than half the population votes. That's pathetic. The Republicans are, by all apparent evidence, terrified of more people voting.

We can't let them keep pulling this shit.