Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cause Caller: Phone Banking Made Easy?

From Boing-Boing:
I've just completed building the 2.0 version of for my master's thesis. It's called Cause Caller and it is a virtual phone bank web app powered by a Semantic Media Wiki.

I came up with the idea of automating call queues for phone banks while trying to organize one for myself, it was a total hassle to find everyone’s phone number on a particular committee, so I built CommitteeCaller last semester. Over the last couple of months I’ve worked with several local causes to develop the idea into a generalized activist tool that is my thesis — Cause Caller. The result is a fully extendable, platform that drives a “live” VoIP application that hopefully takes a lot of the hassle out of phone banking.

Right now Cause Caller is a bit of a blank slate — while I have almost all of America’s federal politicians (Congressional representatives, Senators, etc.) in the database, I am really interested in building state level politicians into it. Causes also need to be added as right now there are only two: the demo cause and SolarOne’s I Heart PV Cause. This is where you can help — if you are or you know any activists looking to organize phone banks, please forward this to them! I’m going to be presenting this project for my thesis at ITP on Friday, May 9th at 12:20pm, so I’ll be incorporating feedback I receive over the next week into the “results” section of my presentation.

Have fun getting in touch with democracy!

It looks like a good tool for good works.

Sun Times Q&A on Sen Obama and Rev. Wright

Carol Marin asks, "What took Barack Obama so long?"

Neil Steinberg answers:
Obama courageously stood by his pastor, at first, and when the issue was sound bites of Wright's past rhetorical excesses, he was correct to do so.

Now that Wright has changed the equation, restated his views in present tense and performed his giddy self-immolation, Obama is doing his best to spit his poison out.
Marin asked the right question and Steinberg hit the nail on the head.

BioFuel Breakthrough: Clinton and McCain Agree on Horseshit-Based Gas Policy

The Atlantic's James Fallows on Clinton-McCain economics:
The pandering and ignorance-across-party-lines represented by the John McCain-Hillary Clinton united front for a temporary reduction in the gasoline tax should make Americans hold their heads in their hands and moan.

No one who has thought about this issue thinks that it will actually reduce prices or -- more important -- help the the people disproportionately hurt by $100+/barrel oil and $4 gasoline. And to the extent it has any effect on America's long-term approach to energy policy, transportation, oil dependence, and climate change, the effect will be perverse.

I can imagine that John McCain, who boasts about his sketchy command of economics, might consider this a good idea. But the master of policy, Hillary Clinton??

Please. This is embarrassing. It makes me long for the good old days of debating about flag pins on the lapel.
But rest assured Americans -- once McCain or Clinton gets in the White House, then he or she will start proposing and implementing sound and responsible policies.

Just you wait and see.

HuffPo: Expert Support For Gas Tax Holiday Appears Nonexistent

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How Low Can You GOP?

John Nichols of The Nation:
The Constitution Party -- which supports the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment (the one that allows Congress to tax income) and the Seventeenth Amendment (the one that requires the direct election of U.S. Senators) and believes that states should be allowed to secede at will -- took a look at Alan Keyes and found him wanting as a candidate.

But the Republican Party was willing placed Keyes' name on the ballot in its race to retain a Senate seat from Illinois.

And which party are we supposed to take seriously?
And the same clueless, Grand Old Party bosses want their proven political wisdom to override the will of Illinois primary voters.

h/t HW

Monday, April 28, 2008

Öber Alles

Cap. Fax, aka Rich Miller, has posted some more calls for Jim Oberweis to bow-out of the race for Bill Foster's seat in the 14th and (Aurora's finest Republican) OneMan has given his two cents, so I figured I'd offer my deep thoughts on the prospect of making the Republican nominee walk the plank for the party:

First, it is my understanding that there was some form of election to determine who would represent the GOP against the Democratic candidate for the 14th. Therefore, I believe, the people's candidates should stand for election. Although there is a claim to be made that the Milk Dud was finally able to buy a Republican nomination, it's not as if the Öbermensch was an unknown quantity -- he may have bought the nomination, but GOP voters in the 14th knew exactly who they sold it to.

Maybe I'm naively populist, but when the voters have spoken, I think it is corrupting for party "leadership" to undermine the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box. Forcing the Ice Cream Headache out would be too much like the Clinton endgame, i.e. forget the voters, we know who should represent our party.

That kind of anti-(small 'd')emocratic, back-room nonsense is wrong for the Democrats in their presidential primary and would be wrong for the GOP in the 14th. I'm anti-party boss, regardless of the party.

Second, it is too late to start a campaign for a new GOP candidate from scratch.

The first problem is the calendar, i.e. there just aren't enough days before November to heal the intra-party wounds that would be inflicted by forcing JimOb out. If he was unable to continue, the various factions of the GOP might rally around the new candidate for stepping into the breach. As it stands, a new candidate would have to conduct three hyper-intense campaigns simultaneously:
  1. A campaign for backing from Oberweis voters and supporters, and
  2. A campaign for funding from the cash-strapped Republican national party, and
  3. A campaign for district swing votes in November.
That is waaaaay too much work this late in the game.

And a late reboot would have the GOP milling its seed corn. Any candidate who is meritorious enough to be even remotely viable in this race with so much going against him is simply too good to be thrown away by tossing him into the race with so much going against him. Losing in November with Jim Oberweis is certainly a better option for the Republicans than losing in November with a candidate who could someday amount to something.

In addition: 1) The term is only two years, the GOP's next shot at Foster is right around the corner, and 2) the 2010 off-year election is likely to take place with a Democrat in the White House, increasing the vulnerability of Cong. Foster, see e.g. 1994 Congressional Election.

So as a progressive Democrat, my advice to the Republicans is as follows:
  1. Expend what ever time, political capital and good will it takes to force Jim Oberweis out of the race,
  2. Identify a "future star" to slate as the candidate (one who doesn't live in the district would be ideal),
  3. Put all of your eggs in the 14th District basket by identifying it the most important contest in November and by pouring cash and resources into the race, and
  4. Rent a big ball room for the victory celebration.
That formula is a guaranteed winner for the 14th District, if not for the Republican party.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Primary is Getting Really Ugly

A candidate this homely would not have made it out of Iowa:


Friday, April 25, 2008

Anonymous Benefactor: Threat or Menace?

Long time readers of this blog already know that some of America's finest choose to keep their identities secret.

But even the greatest four-color adventurers must doff their hoods to the unknown hero who donated the original Steve Ditko art for Amazing Fantasy #15 -- the first appearance of Spider-man! -- to the Library of Congress' Prints and Photographs division.

Yes, donated.

As in "gave it away for free to the people of the United States of America!"

We will never know just how much cash our hero gave up by not selling the 24 pages of original interior artwork at auction.

But I can tell you that the current record holder for the highest comic book art ever sold in the world -- a single original 1932 Hergé painting for the cover of “Tintin en Amérique” -- sold on March 30 for over US$1,014,000.

So we are probably talking about a gift worth millions of dollars.

And the irony of the most valuable work of Steve Ditko -- a notorious proponent of Ayn Rand's laissez-faire capitalism cult -- being socialized via a donation to a branch of the U.S. government is simply too delicious for words.

Update -
Well-argued speculation about the identity of The Man who donated Ditko's artwork.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Clinton Drama

"I don't think I should take any shit on that from anybody, do you?" -- Bill Clinton on the "Race Card," April 22, 2008

Friday, April 18, 2008

You Can't Spell "Pablo Picasso" without "Pee Pee"

Long time readers of this blog may remember The Picasso Pecker Prosecution.

Four years and $100,000 in legal bills later, the case has been dismissed.

Comics author and novelist, Neil Gaiman described it as "very, very long and hard."

And he was talking about the case you perverts.

James Fallows: ABC Debate was "Bear Baiting"

James Fallows of The Atlantic Monthly on ABC's debate:
I want to use this moment at the computer to address the unspeakable ABC bear-baiting debate last night. I haven't read what anyone has said about this -- except for Tom Shales of the Washington Post. He said that what Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos did last night was "shoddy and despicable." I completely agree and add only these grace notes ***

Whatever else happens the next time we choose a president, there has got to be a better way to see candidates operate under pressure than the grotesque system that has metastasized during this electoral cycle. It makes candidates into mere props for bullying anchormen-narcissists. It does no one except the anchormen any good. ***

Maybe the RNC and the DNC can join hands in freeing political debate from the destructive grip of the networks. And if they can't do that, maybe we should just go all the way and have the candidates compete eating pails full of maggots on Fear Factor.

That's the logical extension of where we're headed.
Fallows' post also reminds us why George Stephanopoulos oughtta know better; and includes a very relevant passage from Fallows' 1996 Atlantic article "Why Americans Hate the Media," which Fallows says, 'bears on exactly this kind of mindless "what about the flag pin?" haranguing.'

ABC Debate Review Who's Who

Stephanopolis or Snuffleupagus ?

Hint: One is a shaggy puppet -- and the other lives on Sesame Street.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

For She's A Jolly Good Fellow, Which Nobody Can Deny

"Obviously, one's choice of church and pastor is rooted in what one believes is what you're seeking in church and what kind of, you know, fellowship you find in church." -- Hillary R. Clinton, April 16, 2008

Wait a minute...


Did she say Fellowship?!?

ack in September of last year, Kathryn Joyce and Jeff Sharlet of Mother Jones magazine reported on Sen. Clinton's "Fellowship":
Through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as the Fellowship. Her collaborations with right-wingers such as Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) grow in part from that connection. "A lot of evangelicals would see that as just cynical exploitation," says the Reverend Rob Schenck, a former leader of the militant anti-abortion group Operation Rescue who now ministers to decision makers in Washington. "I don't....there is a real good that is infected in people when they are around Jesus talk, and open Bibles, and prayer." ***

When Clinton first came to Washington in 1993, one of her first steps was to join a Bible study group. For the next eight years, she regularly met with a Christian "cell" [their own word!] whose members included Susan Baker, wife of Bush consigliere James Baker; Joanne Kemp, wife of conservative icon Jack Kemp; Eileen Bakke, wife of Dennis Bakke, a leader in the anti-union Christian management movement; and Grace Nelson, the wife of Senator Bill Nelson, a conservative Florida Democrat.

Clinton's prayer group was part of the Fellowship (or "the Family"), a network of sex-segregated cells of political, business, and military leaders dedicated to "spiritual war" on behalf of Christ, many of them recruited at the Fellowship's only public event, the annual National Prayer Breakfast. (Aside from the breakfast, the group has "made a fetish of being invisible," former Republican Senator William Armstrong has said.) The Fellowship believes that the elite win power by the will of God, who uses them for his purposes. Its mission is to help the powerful understand their role in God's plan.

Clinton declined our requests for an interview about her faith, but in Living History, she describes her first encounter with Fellowship leader Doug Coe at a 1993 lunch with her prayer cell at the Cedars, the Fellowship's majestic estate on the Potomac. Coe, she writes, "is a unique presence in Washington: a genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship with God." ***

When Time put together a list of the nation's 25 most powerful evangelicals in 2005, the heading for Coe's entry was "The Stealth Persuader." "You know what I think of when I think of Doug Coe?" the Reverend Schenck (a Coe admirer) asked us. "I think literally of the guy in the smoky back room that you can't even see his face. He sits in the corner, and you see the cigar, and you see the flame, and you hear his voice—but you never see his face. He's that shadowy figure."

Coe has been an intimate of every president since Ford, but he rarely imposes on chief executives, who see him as a slightly mystical but apolitical figure. Rather, Coe uses his access to the Oval Office as currency with lesser leaders. "If Doug Coe can get you some face time with the President of the United States," one official told the author of a Princeton study of the National Prayer Breakfast last year, "then you will take his call and seek his friendship. That's power." ***

Coe's friends include former Attorney General John Ashcroft, Reaganite Edwin Meese III, and ultraconservative Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.). Under Coe's guidance, Meese has hosted weekly prayer breakfasts for politicians, businesspeople, and diplomats, and Pitts rose from obscurity to head the House Values Action Team, an off-the-record network of religious right groups and members of Congress created by Tom DeLay. The corresponding Senate Values Action Team is guided by another Coe protégé, Brownback, who also claims to have recruited King Abdullah of Jordan into a regular study of Jesus' teachings.

The Fellowship's long-term goal is "a leadership led by God -- leaders of all levels of society who direct projects as they are led by the spirit." According to the Fellowship's archives, the spirit has in the past led its members in Congress to increase U.S. support for the Duvalier regime in Haiti and the Park dictatorship in South Korea. The Fellowship's God-led men have also included General Suharto of Indonesia; Honduran general and death squad organizer Gustavo Alvarez Martinez; a Deutsche Bank official disgraced by financial ties to Hitler; and dictator Siad Barre of Somalia, plus a list of other generals and dictators. Clinton, says Schenck, has become a regular visitor to Coe's Arlington, Virginia, headquarters, a former convent where Coe provides members of Congress with sex-segregated housing and spiritual guidance. ***

Throughout her time at the White House, Clinton writes in Living History, she took solace from "daily scriptures" sent to her by her Fellowship prayer cell, along with Coe's assurances that she was right where God wanted her. (Clinton's sense of divine guidance has been noted by others: Bishop Richard Wilke, who presided over the United Methodist Church of Arkansas during her years in Little Rock, told us, "If I asked Hillary, 'What does the Lord want you to do?' she would say, 'I think I'm called by the Lord to be in public service at whatever level he wants me.'") ***

The Fellowship isn't out to turn liberals into conservatives; rather, it convinces politicians they can transcend left and right with an ecumenical faith that rises above politics. Only the faith is always evangelical, and the politics always move rightward.

This is in line with the Christian right's long-term strategy. Francis Schaeffer, late guru of the movement, coined the term "cobelligerency" to describe the alliances evangelicals must forge with conservative Catholics. Colson, his most influential disciple, has refined the concept of cobelligerency to deal with less-than-pure politicians. In this application, conservatives sit pretty and wait for liberals looking for common ground to come to them. Clinton, Colson told us, "has a lot of history" to overcome, but he sees her making the right moves.

These days, Clinton has graduated from the political wives' group into what may be Coe's most elite cell, the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast. Though weighted Republican, the breakfast — regularly attended by about 40 members — is a bipartisan opportunity for politicians to burnish their reputations, giving Clinton the chance to profess her faith with men such as Brownback as well as the twin terrors of Oklahoma, James Inhofe and Tom Coburn, and, until recently, former Senator George Allen (R-Va.). Democrats in the group include Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, who told us that the separation of church and state has gone too far; Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is also a regular. ***

Senator Brownback understood the temptation [of hating Hillary Clinton]. He used to hate Clinton so much, he told us, that the hate hurt. Then came the Clintons' 1994 National Prayer Breakfast appearance with Mother Teresa, who upbraided the couple for their pro-choice views. Bill made no attempt to conceal his anger, but Hillary took it and smiled. Brownback remembers thinking, "Now, there's gotta be a great lesson here." He didn't know what it was until Clinton got to the Senate and joined him in supporting DeLay's Day of Reconciliation resolution following the 2000 election, a proposal described by its backers as a call to "pray for our leaders." Now, Brownback considers Clinton "a beautiful child of the living God."

Then, as now, Clinton confounded secularists who recognize public faith only when it comes wrapped in a cornpone accent. Clinton speaks instead the language of nondenominationalism — a sober, eloquent appreciation of "values," the importance of prayer, and "heart" convictions — which liberals, unfamiliar with the history of evangelical coalition building, mistake for a tidy, apolitical accommodation, a personal separation of church and state. Nor do skeptical voters looking for political opportunism recognize that, when Clinton seeks guidance among prayer partners such as Coe and Brownback, she is not so much triangulating—much as that may have become second nature—as honoring her convictions. In her own way, she is a true believer.
Aw hell, go read the whole thing.

And read Barbara Ehrenreich's Nation magazine follow up on "
Hillary's Nasty Pastorate."

And while you're at it, pre-order Sharlet's forthcoming book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

You Can't Spell "Disregarding Our Constitution" Without C. O. N. D. I.

In accord with Sturgeon's second law, the vast majority of internet videos are crap.

But the videos of Robert Greenwald videos never are -- and this video -- about Condoleezza Rice's central role in U.S. torture -- is even less so than most:

Related: Obama would ask his AG to "immediately review" potential of crimes in Bush White House

Regular Programming Will May Resume Shortly

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

BO, HilLarry and Surly

The Alias Kid aka Kid Alias thought I would enjoy this picture:

He was soitenly right.

Friday, April 04, 2008

USA to SCAM: You Were Right

From your Chicago Sun-Times:
81 percent of Americans: Country is on wrong track

NEW YORK (AP) -- A new poll shows that more than 80 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.

The CBS News-New York Times poll released Thursday says 81 percent of respondents said they believed ''things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.'' That's up from 69 percent a year ago, and 35 percent in early 2002.
Apology accepted.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Audacity of Hoops

The Tribune's Blogfather, Eric Zorn, questions the Obama campaigns' choice of a bowling alley as the venue to spotlight the Senator's athletic ability:
[If] you swap the Brunswick ball for a Spalding, Obama becomes “graceful…very fit and agile,” said Newsweek’s senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe. Wolffe, 39, has several times been invited to join the spirited pick-up basketball games Obama organizes with his entourage while on the campaign trail.

“He’s got a killer move to the left off a right-hand dribble, and if you go for it he’ll drive right past you to the boards,” said Wolffe. “It’s hard to stop him." ***

Sports Illustrated writer S.L. Price challenged Obama to play 1-on-1 shortly before the Iowa caucuses. They played a pair of games at a YMCA in Spencer, Iowa, and, Price reported, Obama won both. ***

Why haven’t we seen this yet? Why did the public’s first look at the athletic side of candidate Obama show him as a tentative, inadequate bowler?

Well Mr. Zorn, the answer is obvious:
Fast Break Veterans for Truth

Ominous voice: "Barack Obama says he has game. But during a 1999 a pick-up game, eyewitnesses -- Obama's own teammates -- saw him miss a routine layup."

Man's voice: "The ball just rolled around the hoop... and popped out! So how can Obama possibly lead the nation?"

Second man's voice: "Barack had the lane to himself -- nobody was on him -- and he missed. And this guy is supposed to protect my children at 3 a.m.?"

Former Arkansas governor: "This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen"

Ominous voice: "Barack Obama's claims he's ready to play ball and to lead the country. But those who know him best say:


This message was paid for by Fast Break Veterans for Truth

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Anger Management

If Democratic super-delgates are "concerned" about the anger of Sen. Obama's former pastor, shouldn't they be similarly concerned about the anger of Sen. Clinton's current husband?

From the San Francisco Chronicle:
"It was one of the worst political meetings I have ever attended," one superdelegate said.

According to those at the meeting, Clinton - who flew in from Chicago with bags under his eyes - was classic old Bill at first, charming and making small talk with the 15 or so delegates who gathered in a room behind the convention stage.

But as the group moved together for the perfunctory photo, Rachel Binah, a former Richardson delegate who now supports Hillary Clinton, told Bill how "sorry" she was to have heard former Clinton campaign manager James Carville call Richardson a "Judas" for backing Obama.

It was as if someone pulled the pin from a grenade.

"Five times to my face (Richardson) said that he would never do that," a red-faced, finger-pointing Clinton erupted.

The former president then went on a tirade that ran from the media's unfair treatment of Hillary to questions about the fairness of the votes in state caucuses that voted for Obama. It ended with him asking delegates to imagine what the reaction would be if Obama was trailing by just 1 percent and people were telling him to drop out.

"It was very, very intense," said one attendee. "Not at all like the Bill of earlier campaigns."

When he finally wound down, Bill was asked what message he wanted the delegates to take away from the meeting.

At that point, a much calmer Clinton outlined his message of party unity.

"It was kind of strange later when he took the stage and told everyone to 'chill out,' " one delegate told us.

"We couldn't help but think he was also talking to himself."
Note to Clintonistas: Democrats don't owe you anything for the 90's.

Balancing the peace and prosperity against the scandals and triangulation of the Clinton years, Dems have been willing to call it even. Even though "Clinton fatigue" was definitely a big factor in George W. Bush's move into the White House, we didn't hold it against the Clintons. But any lingering good will has been exhausted by this primary.

So get this through your heads: We owe you nothing.

Nada. Zip. Zilch.


To the Death

The 2008 Democratic primary as interpreted by Rentaro Mikuni and the late, great Toshirô Mifune.


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