Saturday, October 11, 2008

What's This About Acorns?

In the past week or so, you may have heard rumblings about something called ACORN. It's the newest meme on the right, and-- with the Ayers/terrorist stuff blowing up in their face, pardon the pun-- it's the one they will be pushing big time between now and the election (seriously, go read the National Review's Corner blog; this and Ayers is all they are talking about. Economy whatnow?). It is being used as an all-purpose boogeyman by the right... blaming it for the economic crisis on one end (debunked here), and even accusing it of pre-stealing the election on the other (see this Daily Show clip at about 0:26 for one example).

But what is it? According to Wikipedia, "ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is a community-based organization that advocates for low- and moderate-income families by working on neighborhood safety, health care and other social issues." How did this organization become the topic du jour for partisan Republicans? TPM's Josh Marshall explains-
The Republican party is grasping on to the ACORN story as a way to delegitimize what now looks like the probable outcome of the November election. It is also a way to stoke the paranoia of their base, lay the groundwork for legal challenges of close outcomes in various states and promote new legal restrictions on legitimate voting by lower income voters and minorities. The big picture is that these claims of 'voter fraud' are themselves a fraud, a tool to aid in suppressing Democratic voter turnout. But I want give readers a bit more detail to understand what is going because the right-wing freak out about ACORN happens pretty much on schedule every two years. The whole scam is premised on having enough people who don't remember when they tried it before who they can then confuse and lie to.

Indeed I do remember reading these exact same stories and freakouts by the same GOP folks before the 2006 elections. And probably before in 2004 as well. Marshall elaborates, getting into the specifics of all this-
ACORN registers lots of lower income and/or minority voters. They operate all across the country and do a lot of things beside voter registration. What's key to understand is their method. By and large they do not rely on volunteers to register voters. They hire people -- often people with low incomes or even the unemployed. This has the dual effect of not only registering people but also providing some work and income for people who are out of work. But because a lot of these people are doing it for the money, inevitably, a few of them cut corners or even cheat. So someone will end up filling out cards for nonexistent names and some of those slip through ACORN's own efforts to catch errors. (It's important to note that in many of the recent ACORN cases that have gotten the most attention it's ACORN itself that has turned the people in who did the fake registrations.) These reports start buzzing through the right-wing media every two years and every time the anecdotal reports of 'thousands' of fraudulent registrations turns out, on closer inspection, to be either totally bogus themselves or wildly exaggerated. So thousands of phony registrations ends up being, like, twelve...

...If I successfully register Mickey Mouse to vote, on election day, Mickey Mouse will still be a cartoon character who cannot go to the local voting station and vote. Logically speaking there's very little way a few phony names on the voting rolls could be used to commit actual vote fraud. And much more importantly, numerous studies and investigations have shown no evidence of anything more than a handful of isolated cases of actual instances of vote fraud.

Ding ding! And that is the key point here. Marshall concludes-
Vote registration fraud is a limited and relatively minor problem in the US today. But it is principally an administrative and efficiency issue. It is has little or nothing to do with people casting illegitimate votes to affect an actual election. That's the key. What you're hearing right now from Fox News, the New York Post, John Fund and the rest of the right-wing bamboozlement chorus is a just another effort to exploit, confuse and lie in an effort to put more severe restrictions on legitimate voting and lay the groundwork to steal elections.

I've written about that aspect of this issue myself just last January (and another post last year). The GOP's faux-concerns are never about real and serious vote fraud or theft-- for which there has been ample evidence in recent elections-- but rather always, and only, on these before-the-fact registration issues, which have never been proven to have an impact on modern elections. As Marshall noted, it's a sleight of hand trick.

For what it's worth, ACORN responds here.

[UPDATE: Here's the stupidity of this GOP attack summed up... Sen. McCain's had more personal connection to/with ACORN than Obama ever has. Erratic much, GOP?]

Random Odds and Ends

Here's another collection of important stories that I wish I could write about more...

President Bush (yes, he's still President) reassures the world his awesome bailout/rescue plan is totally going to work, just give him some time to work his magic. And Sec. Paulson ponders his Plan B.

Meanwhile, Chrysler and GM talk about a merger.

Here's a no-shit story: "Despite pledges by President Bush and American intelligence officials to the contrary, hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia." Among the dangerous jihad communications intercepted? Phone sex.

What happened with Troopergate? For those interested, the report is now out.

A county in upstate NY made a 'mistake'... their ballot lists "Barack Osama". Oops?

Enemies of gay marriage in California are probably feeling pretty good now, as their ballot measure to stop it seems likely to pass. Live in Cali? Vote "NO" on Prop 8 next month. Citizens in Connecticut, however, got more positive news this week.

Pakistan to U.S.: Please stop bombing us, thankyouverymuch.

Finally, climate change is still happening, as many tropical species cannot forget.

McCain Attempts To Put Out Fire He Started

The McCain/Palin team has spent the better part of the last week-- aided by their even crazier counterparts on talk radio, Fox News, right-wing sites such as the National Review, etc-- trying to paint a picture of Barack Obama as a scary radical, all but calling him a terrorist himself, and (inadvertently) turning their rallies into pseudo-lynch mobs. Yesterday, Sen. McCain got to speak to the monster his party created in person and, well, he clearly was horrified at what he saw. Here you see him trying to dial back the rhetoric a few notches, much to the anger of a red meat-hungry crowd. Hopefully this wasn't a one-time thing, and the campaign as a whole decided to abandon the dangerous road it was on.

But don't tell Fox News... they're too far gone and beyond help.

More posts/commentary on things in general later today.

[AP: Obama notes McCain's effort to temper GOP comments]

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Which Debate? That One.

I missed most of the debate, but from this detailed recap, it sounds equally interesting and uneventful. The next's one at Hofstra on the 15th. I should totally tailgate.

[UPDATE: The debate again gets the fact check treatment from the AP.]

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Random Odds and Ends

Here is a collection of important stuff I wish I had more time to write about...

First up, Andrew Sullivan posts this March 2007 letter that Sen. Obama wrote to Chairman Bernanke and Sec. Paulson on the impending financial meltdown, warning-- 18 months ago-- that immediate action was required. This, like his early opposition to the Iraq war, shows prescience and good judgment, qualities that one would seem to want in a President in troubled times.

Speaking of the economy, this was a headline yesterday: 'Dow finishes below 10,000 for first time since '04'. But we gave Wall Street their ransom money!! Instead of a fixed economy, we're still getting body parts mailed to us? Whoever could've predicted such an obvious outcome?!

And Sec. Paulson has found the perfect, independent person to be in charge of overseeing the bailout project... Neel Kashkari, the Treasury's assistant secretary for international affairs, and a former Goldman Sachs executive.

For those confused about all this, 60 Minutes did a great story (see two-part video) on "how some arcane Wall Street financial instruments magnified economic crisis". Enjoy?

Jon Schwarz posts this fun flashback to the 2004 GOP convention. That's CA governor Schwarzenegger-- now in need of a massive federal loan/bailout for his state-- telling the crowd that, " There is another way you can tell you’re a Republican. You have faith in free enterprise, faith in the resourcefulness of the American people, and faith in the U.S. economy. To those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say: Don’t be economic girlie men!" HAHAHAHAH! Good times!!

Moving on, the NY Times fact checks the speech McCain gave yesterday. The Obama camp's attacks on the Keating Five issue also get the fact check treatment from

Obvious headline... 'Afghan war cannot be won militarily: U.N.'

Another fun headline... ' Most Alaskan Glaciers Retreat and Thin'. I'm sure that state's governor will get right on this serious issue ASAP!

Speaking of, here's a flashback to a 2007 interview with said governor.

Finally, a reminder that the next presidential debate is tonight. Prepare drinking games.

The GOP In A Nutshell (Pt. II)

Having decided to openly cede all serious discussion/debate of the issues to the Obama campaign* (except in tonight's debate, where McCain will attempt to appear sane), the GOP has made it clear there is nothing they won't say or do to win this election.

*(It was over a month ago that Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager, said "This election is not about issues. This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates." So don't say they didn't give the country a heads up.)

They have even managed to out-insane the Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign, something up until recently even cynical ol' me was not expecting. You see, Dick Cheney warned Americans that if they elected Sen. Kerry, that the U.S. would certainly be attacked by terrorists (true story). John McCain and the increasingly unhinged Sarah Palin are doing him one better... directly accusing Barack Obama of "palling around" with terrorists, and then indirectly implying he might be one too (also a true story). No doubt Sen. McCain will be re-suspending his campaign any minute now to chase this menace to the gates of Hell.

This new line of attack is giving America a real eye into the conservative base. Examples-

After John McCain delivered the central question of his speech today -- "Who is the real Barack Obama?" -- the first, and loudest, supporter seems to yell:


...McCain seemed to pause, and didn't denounce the epithet.

...Palin continued. "So I was reading the New York Times and I was really interested to read about Barack's friends from Chicago."

It was time to revive the allegation, made over the weekend, that Obama "pals around" with terrorists, in this case Bill Ayers, late of the Weather Underground. Many independent observers say Palin's allegations are a stretch; Obama served on a Chicago charitable board with Ayers, now an education professor, and has condemned his past activities.

"Now it turns out, one of his earliest supporters is a man named Bill Ayers," Palin said.

"Boooo!" said the crowd.

"And, according to the New York Times, he was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, 'launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol,'" she continued.

"Boooo!" the crowd repeated.

"Kill him!" proposed one man in the audience.

Worse, Palin's routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric's questions for her "less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media." At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, "Sit down, boy."

In the latest instance of inflammatory outbursts at McCain-Palin rallies, a crowd member screamed "treason!" during an event on Tuesday after Sarah Palin accused Barack Obama of criticizing U.S. troops.

"[Obama] said, too, that our troops in Afghanistan are 'air raiding villages and killing civilians,'" Palin said, mischaracterizing a 2007 remark by Obama. "I hope Americans know that is not what our brave men and women in uniform are doing in Afghanistan. The U.S. military is fighting terrorism and protecting us and protecting our freedom."

Shortly afterward, a male member of the crowd in Jacksonville, Florida, yelled "treason!" loudly enough to be picked up by television microphones.

Remember that this is a political movement that idolizes pundits and 'journalists' who decry liberals as possessing a mental disorder, as treacherous traitors, and-- yes-- as equivalent to terrorists with a smile on its collective face. Tapping into that-- and hoping that the great middle is still more afraid of these buzzwords and innuendo than they are of their economic future-- is the only hope McCain, Palin, and the GOP as a whole have left.

As cliche as this sounds, this election comes down to hope vs. fear. Which side are you on?

[PS- For a more humorous look at the Palin/GOP base... see this Daily Show clip.

UPDATE: And for a scarier, more in-depth look at that base... watch this video.]

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Video Smörgåsbord

As expected, Tina Fey returned to SNL again for their take on the VP debate-

More videos!! Some internet user made a great parody of the classic Disney 'Steamboat Willie' cartoon about the McCain campaign. Rolling Stones takes on five myths about John McCain. And here's a great idea for a Saturday morning show... Lil' O'Reilly. Finally, Bill Maher had a great panel this week... the whole episode can be watched here: Intro, Bob Woodward interview, Panel pt. 1, Panel pt. 2, Panel pt. 3, Panel pt. 4, and New Rules.

The McCain/Palin October Strategy...

...don't talk issues, launch all-out assault on Obama's character. "There's no question that we have to change the subject here," GOP operative says. Buckle up. Gonna be a long month.

[UPDATE: The Obama campaign has a new ad out in anticipation of this strategy.]