Monday, October 27, 2008

ACORN: 1.3 Million New Voters?

Y'know, when people are watching everything that you say, you really need to get your facts straight.

I've seen Bertha Lewis on several news programs bragging that ACORN has registered 1.3 million new voters. Those are the words she used: "1.3 million new voters."

Here's the problem, though. When you're registering people to vote, of course you're looking for that person who has never been registered before. Those folks are like gold. But a lot of the time, you're also going to find people who have moved and forgot to change over their registration. You'll find people who might want to become permanent absentee voters (like in Washington State). So what do you do? You hand them the registration form. You turn it in. And it gets counted as a voter registration, even if it's not a brand-new voter.

Bertha Lewis is making a simple, but critical, mistake. She has been telling people over and over that they registered over a million new voters. Wrong. ACORN turned in 1.3 million voter registration forms.

30% of them - about 400.000 - were rejected by officials, which leaves 900,000. So they registered 900,000 new voters?

Well, no. About half were actually changes in address. That leaves only 400,000 new voters. Sadly, they collected as many bad registrations as they did legitimate registrations.

Never a good idea to get your facts wrong when you're in the national spotlight, especially when you're getting your facts wrong on the very issue - voter registration - for which you're being vilified . 400,000 new voters is an impressive number, but it sounds a lot less impressive than 1.3 million.

And before this post gets picked up by the ACORN haters, so let me state this for the umpty-millionth time: I don't agree with the people attacking ACORN right now. I don't believe in any way that ACORN is organizing some sort of systematic voter fraud.

But I do think that they're a target right now, and when you're being targeted, it is imperative that you don't say a word in public that you're not able to back up. The more mistakes they make in their public statements, the more that haters will be able to say that everything ACORN does is fraudulent. When they're shooting at you, do not give them ammunition!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sixty Seconds

Yesterday, Oliver and I went down to the toy store in Old Town Burien.  Great toy store, lots of selection.  We were buying a birthday present for a friend's little boy who was celebrating his first birthday.

As we were coming out of the store, he did what he often does - he went trotting down the sidewalk at a merry pace.  I stopped for a second to put my bags in the car and he just kept running.

"Stop, Oliver," I called.  He just kept running.

A second time:  "Stop, Oliver."  I heard laughter this time.  

It was then that I noticed the parking lot for the store next to the toy store.  All of the cars were parked head-first; all of them would be backing out, and it's almost impossible to see a little boy when you're backing up.

"OLIVER, STOP!"  I shouted as hard as I could. He didn't stop.  I went charging down the sidewalk, snatched him up by the front of his jacket just as he crossed over the threshold of the parking lot.   I probably picked him up too hard.  I pulled him back a few feet so we were standing on the sidewalk, and I began what must have been an old speech for him:  listen to us when we tell you to stop, we're trying to protect you, don't ignore us.  

And then I saw the first car in line in the parking lot begin to slowly back out of its spot.   And my heart stopped.  

If I had been a minute slower, Oliver would have been standing in that very spot as the car backed out.   Just sixty seconds between a stern lecture and a trip to the hospital.  

"Did you see that car come out?" I shouted at him, pointing furiously at the car.  "THAT'S why you need to listen.  That's exactly why I was telling you to stop."  I continued barking at him in the back seat as I buckled him into his seat, and I think he started to realize that daddy wasn't just mad, he was also frightened.
If only he weren't so small, and I wasn't so paranoid, and the world wasn't so dangerous.  

P.S.  I shared this with some of my online friends, and Invisible Posse member AK mentioned this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye.  It seems like the perfect sentiment for all the dads out there (and moms, too) who know what it's like to protect someone who seems so perfect, so precious, and yet so hopelessly fragile. 


A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world's most sensitive cargo
but he's not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy's dream
deep inside him.

We're not going to be able 
to live in this world
if we're not willing to do what he's doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

Monday, October 20, 2008

ACORN - Demons and Smokescreens

Look, I don't like ACORN. But nobody deserves what's happening to them right now.

McCain and Palin have as much as accused them of running a criminal organization. The National Review called the organization "Obama’s wholly owned vote-fraud division." And guess what happens when you stigmatize an entire organization as criminals?

Death threats. That's what happens.

"You liberal idiots. Dumb shits. Welfare bums. You guys just fucking come to our country, consume every natural resource there is, and make a lot of babies. That's all you guys do. And then suck up the welfare and expect everyone else to pay for your hospital bills for your kids. I just say let your kids die. That's the best move. Just let your children die. Forget about paying for hospital bills for them. I'm not gonna do it. You guys are lowlifes. And I hope you all die."

Canvassers get assaulted. That's what happens.

“The next thing I know he’s telling us we’re not his people, we’re probably with ACORN, and he started screaming and raving. He grabbed me by the back of the neck. I thought he was going to rip my hair out of my head. He was pounding on my head and screaming. The man terrified me.”

ACORN offices get broken into. That's what happens.

When employees arrived at work Thursday morning they discovered that the office had been ransacked, desktop computers stolen and internet and phone lines ripped out of the wall. The group believes it has become a political target.

Now, here's the truth, children.

Point 1: ACORN is not going to steal this election. Know why? Because canvassers who turn in fake registrations are not registering people falsely. They're writing up fake names for people who do not exist. Mickey Mouse and John Smith and Strawberry Shortcake are not going to show up at the polls.

If John McCain loses - when John McCain loses - it will because Obama won fair and square. So STFU about ACORN stealing the election.

Point 2: ACORN is not committing fraud. Any people who submit fake registrations are defrauding ACORN. (Didn't we already talk about this?)

Point 3: The Republicans have an ulterior motive to attacking ACORN. ACORN has been fighting predatory lenders and crooked banks for over a decade now - the very same people who cozied up to losing horse McCain. They've been fighting for those dirty, rotten, terrible, poor people for over thirty years now, and they've had victory after victory. Republicans are using all the "voter fraud" hysteria to demonize ACORN, so they can't continue their work fighting for the rights of low-income people.

Allison Kilkenny connects the dots:

Getting rid of ACORN will be another feather in the Bush administration's cap. This grassroots community organizing machines runs in direct conflict with the Bush dream of a privatized planet. ACORN demands housing regulation at a time when the Bush administration is still trying to clean up the mess from years of market deregulation. ACORN demands representation for poor minorities (who overwhelmingly vote Democrat) during a time when McCain is desperately clawing for votes in states that are normally Republican strongholds. ACORN demands good public schooling at a time when McCain is hollowing out schools with his vouchers that will effectively rob poor children of a chance at public, secular education and stick them in private classrooms with religious agendas.

The "voter fraud scandal" isn't about voter fraud, people. Look deeper.

Monday, October 13, 2008

ACORN Haters Gotta Hate

ACORN is doing another massive voter registration drive this year. They have registered 1.3 million new voters for the 2008 election. And once again, there are a few people who are cheating the system by submitting false registrations. This has happened before, and not just with ACORN. But they're one of the largest organizations doing voter reg work, so of course, they're also going to be one of the biggest targets. That's the way it works. If you're successful, you become a target.

Republican haters are saying that ACORN is basically a voter fraud operation. One even called them a "quasi-criminal" organization and a "threat to public safety." This, to use a technical term, is horseshit.

I've got my beefs with ACORN, as has been well documented. But don't hate on them for registering new voters. They register low-income voters, disenfranchised voters, young voters, people of color. In other words, the people who are most likely to support Obama and progressive candidates. And look who's complaining about ACORN's work. This isn't brain surgery. Republicans hate anyone who empowers the powerless. That means community organizers. That means nonprofit organizations who do any social justice work. And that means groups who register people to vote.

ACORN is doing important work, work that supports and strengthens our democracy. And yeah, a few low-wage workers will find ways to cheat the system. How can ACORN stop it? Maybe they should pay their people more, so cheating isn't such a temptation. Maybe they should do more stringent background checks. There's ways to do it, and ACORN needs to start taking some serious steps to fight fraudulent registrations.

But think about this. Most of these workers have a certain amount of registrations they're supposed to collect. Either they have a quota or they're getting paid per registration. Every time one of these cheaters submits a false registration, ACORN is paying them as if they collected a valid registration. So when ACORN workers submit fraudulent registrations, they are cheating ACORN. ACORN isn't committing fraud - the cheaters are committing fraud against ACORN. (Thanks to Salon writer Alex Koppelmann for spelling this out in his excellent War Room post.) They are also damaging ACORN's public reputation - you think ACORN likes being called names in the media? No. They don't.

So now John McCain and his Republican thugs are trying to draw up a connection between Obama and ACORN. Ooh, scary - Obama spoke to them at a training! Oooh, scary - ACORN might have given Obama money at some point for doing sneaky lawyer stuff! Now they've got a commercial out, trying to make ACORN look like the mafia. "They even endorsed him for president," says the creepy voice. Ooh, scary!

Look, if you work in the progressive world, you're going to run across ACORN at some point. I've met ACORN organizers a bunch of times, as recently as this summer. I saw Wade Rathke speak once in Seattle, a few years ago. They're a player in the social justice world, and unless you're completely isolated, you'll run into them.

Obama is connected with ACORN only because he has connections with the social justice world. ACORN isn't a criminal enterprise - they're an organization dedicated to fighting injustice and poverty. They've got their problems, but that's not Obama's fault. Obama had nothing to do with the embezzlement. He has nothing to do with the mismanagement of the organization.

I want to be absolutely clear, since I've attacked ACORN before for their internal problems. An attack of ACORN's voter registration work is the same as the attack on community organizers. It's an attempt to take good, honest, patriotic work and turn it into something suspicious. Barack Obama has worked throughout his career with the people who make change happens, and that means that at some point, he crossed paths with ACORN. There is no shame in that.

Update: There is truly no shame in working with ACORN, and John McCain knows that. That must explain why he attended an immigration event that ACORN co-hosted back in 2006.

Ha, ha, ha.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What Color is Heaven?

I need to tell you something, and some of you longtime readers know this already.

My brother died in 1995. He was murdered, by somebody who will be in jail for the rest of his life.

My mother died in 1980, when I was ten years old. She was manic depressive - today we call it bipolar disorder. She took her own life. I don't know if I want to say anything more about it. Someday I might.

I miss them every day. Some days more than others, but I miss them every day. I often talk about them, especially now that Oliver has come into our life.

My father-in-law - Mrs. B's father - passed away two years ago. Cancer. It was shockingly swift, like a car crash. I can tell you that Mrs. B misses him every day.

Oliver has seen pictures of these people - his uncle, his grandmother, his grandfather - and knows that they existed once. He met his grandfather, just once, before he died.

One day, we knew that we would have to explain that they were no longer here, no longer on this plane. So we decided that we would have to explain death. And one morning, the three of us were laying in bed and Oliver asked something about his uncle. And we started talking about death.

We chose to tell him that death is what happens when someone's body gets broken and stops working. We told him that usually, this happens when someone gets really, really old. (This way, he doesn't have to worry that his parents are going to keel over next week. Or that he will. I know that someday, he will learn math, and he will realize that his uncle was just 29 when he died, and that his grandmother was just 35. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.)

So we talked about death, and then we talked about heaven. I told him that heaven was the place where you go where you die, and everybody goes there. (There is no hell. The God in which I believe does not believe in eternal damnation. YMMV.) Frankly, he was much more interested in heaven. And wouldn't you be? Think about it - it's an invisible place up in the sky where everybody you ever loved goes to live, where you can get everything good that you ever wanted, where nothing bad ever happens. Heaven is way cool.

So the other day, I was putting him to bed, and he started asking about uncle Mike up in heaven. Apparently, he had some details he was trying to get straight.

What color is heaven?

Where is heaven?

Is it there all the time? (Logical question. The moon goes away during the day, the sun goes down at night. Yet heaven is always there.)

What is in heaven? (He wanted details: birds? Trees? Streets? Houses?)

What is Uncle Mike's house in heaven?
(Translation: describe it to me.)

What street does Uncle Mike live on in heaven?

What does he do in heaven?

Does he look down on me every day?

At night, too?
(It's dark at night, so this is understandably a pretty weird concept.)

Do they eat in heaven?

What food do they have in heaven?

Do they have beds in heaven?

And then he asked if he was going to go to heaven, and I answered him: you are absolutely, definitely going to go to heaven.

He asked why, and I told him that he just was, that this was just the way things worked. I didn't say what I was thinking: if there is no place for you in heaven, son, then it doesn't exist.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Two A-Holes Go to Vote

Note: if you're not familiar with the SNL sketch featuring Kristin Wiig and Jason Sudeikis, you can see videos here and here to see what we're working with. Thanks to Kdub, Mrs. Monsky, and JoshD for inspiration and brilliant lines.

Scene: A school gymnasium, festooned with red, white, and blue streamers. Four voting booths, curtains open, are arranged in a row. A lone man in his fifties is working behind a long folding table. In front of him: a stack of legal-size printed paper (voter rolls), pencils, markers, and a roll of "I Voted" stickers.

Two a-holes walk into gymnasium. He has hands stuffed in pockets and looks vaguely impatient. She is looking at a Blackberry and idly playing with a strand of her hair. Both are snapping gum loudly. A line of people stands behind them, irritated.

Poll worker: Hi, are you here to vote?

They both look around the room for a minute, getting their bearings.

Poll worker: Um, hello? Are you here to vote?
She: I want a hot dog.
He: You got hot dogs here? We want two.
PW: We don't sell hot dogs here.
He: Lotsa mustard.
She: And chips.
He: Yeah, you got them baked chips?
PW: We don't sell ... are you here to vote, or not?
He:Wanna vote, babe?
She: What?
He: Wanna vote?
She: Wanna what?
He: Vote.
She: The what?
He: Vote.
She (after a pause): Yeah.
He: Yep. We're gonna vote. Let's do this.
PW: Okay, great. Just let me check your registration. You are registered to vote, correct?
He: Nah. First Amendment. It's a free country.
PW: Well, you're correct, of course. But you do have to register to vote. The First Amendment doesn't have anything to do with voter registration.
He: Second amendment.
PW: That's the right to bear arms.
He: Fourth amendment.
PW: That protects against illegal search and seizure - again, not relevant.
He (grinning): I'll plead the fifth. (to her) I pleaded the fifth, babe.
PW (exasperated): Sir, none of the amendments to the Constitution have to do with your registering to vote. Do you know if you're registered?

He grabs the stack of voter rolls off the table.

PW: Hey!!
He: That's me right there. And, uh ...

(rifles through pages)

She: That's her.

She smiles for a fraction of a second, then the blank look on her face returns.

PW (flustered, struggles to regain composure): Okay. Well, all right, go ahead and sign there ... and there for you, ma'am...

They both sign.

And now you're ready to vote. So you can just, um, pick a booth...

He: Hah?
Poll worker: You'll have to step into the booth to vote.
He: (brandishes cell phone) Can't you just text your vote?
She: I want to vote for Sanjaya.
He: Yeah, we pick Sanjaya.
PW: (sputtering) This is not American Idol. You'll be voting for elected officials ... your members of Congress ... city council ... the President.
She: I want to vote for Obama.
He: Yeah, she loves that Obama cat. Babe, do Obama.

(She stares at him blankly.)

He: Babe, do your Obama.

She: (blank stare for a long time. When she speaks, her voice is no different than her normal speaking voice.)

Yes, we can.

He: See? Obama. Two votes.
PW: Well, I'm glad that you know your preferred candidate. But you don't have to tell me your vote. It's a secret vote.
She: (stage whispers) I'm voting for Obama.
He: (bad stage whisper) Yeah, mum's the word.
PW: Whoever it is that you would like to vote for, you need to place your own vote. Which you can do by stepping into a voting booth.
He: Babe, you gotta go into the thing.
PW: The booth.
He: Booth. Babe, go in the booth.

She doesn't move.

He: Booth? Babe? Booth, babe? Booth? Booth, babe- babe, booth?

She casts a long look at the electronic voting machine.

She: I want to pull the lever.
He: Yeah, where's the levers?
PW: We've replaced all of our booths with electronic voting machines.
She:Where do I put the quarters in?
He: Yeah, where's the coin slot?
PW: No ... wait ... no, there's no money needed.
She: What do I win?
He: Yeah, what's the jackpot?
PW: There's no prizes for voting. It's just ... it's your duty as an American citizen.
He: They gave away all the prizes, babe. Maybe they'll getcha a teddy bear or something.
She: I want a duck.
He: She wants a duck. You gotta duck?
PW: We don't have prizes.
He: You gotta penguin?
PW: There are no prizes.
He: How 'bout a kitty cat? You gotta a kitty cat?
PW: No.
He: Kitty cat? Kitty kitty kitty?
PW: For the last time, we have no prizes for voting. You can have a sticker that says you voted.

Both stare at the poll worker drolly.

She: I want rainbows.
He: Yeah, you gotta rainbow sticker?

PW overturns table, pushes past line, storms out of gymnasium.

They look confused for a moment. Then, they step into separate voting booth and draw the curtains.

She (inside booth): Where's the internet? I need to check my email.

He (inside booth): Babe, I think I got a winner.

Coins began spilling onto floor inside his booth.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Sarah Palin Flowchart

Once you understand Sarah Palin's debate strategy, all of her answers make complete sense.

Thanks to Kossack adennak for the flow chart.