Of Twitter

I don't tweet. I'm probably not going to. But it's clearly become a part of the political communication stream.

Twitter's part of a newer segment of communication, along with MySpace, Facebook, and email, where the audience initiates the relationship. It will never reach the same critical mass as TV and radio (and Internet?) ads, but the different quality of the audience is tantalizing for political communication.

Although it's easy to make fun of Chuck Grassley's and John McCain's exploits, the audience-initiated media should be more than just a dumping ground for press releases and talking points. This article from WaPo on NFL players, offers an alternative.
While athletes have used blogs the past couple of years, they say Twitter is quicker, more accessible and less likely to be filtered through agents, publicists or team officials before publication. From the perspective of both fan and athlete, that's a good thing. But the National Football League is an image-obsessed league, routinely beset by athletes' off-the-field antics. Twitter has already grown into a social media tool over which the league has little to no control.

It's dangerous, sure, but Twitter should be used to give the engaged political audience a window into the mundane side of politics. Maybe that mundacity has to be invented, but no one wants to read more of the same headlines on Twitter that they've seen on Facebook, TV, the newspaper, etc.

Those American Apparel ads are starting to irritate me

I'm sorry to be so delinquent in my blogging lately. Last Saturday I had a big ol' post on political violence collapse in a heap. I haven't had the courage to look at it again and try to resuscitate it, or just put it out of its misery.

Today, I'd like to write about gay marriage, a political Gordian knot that has been especially vexing for me. Jim Daly of Focus on the Family wrote a short, compelling piece yesterday for the On Faith section of washingtonpost.com, and I'll get to that momentarily.

First some personal caveats. There are only a tiny handful of political issues I truly care about, as a person. Most of the time, I try to divorce myself individually from the debate, to prevent unhelpful, unmitigated bias in my thinking. And I can't think of another issue I have less of a stake in than gay marriage. I am not married. I don't have any kids. I am not a Christian. I am not gay.

Yet, I find myself aroused by the gay marriage debate - 'frustrated' is probably the better word. Every time I see a Prop. 8 sign with the statistically inaccurate family or one of those 'Legalize Gay' shirts, I just wanna slap somebody. I think this is the most asinine debate of my generation.

Nonetheless, we're having it. And I don't think Democrats and liberals are winning it.

Let's take a look at Daly's post. The first thing I noticed was his use of the term 'genderless marriage.' I haven't seen this one before and it's indicative of conservatives' superior use of language in their arguments. 'Marriage protection' is another one that was used frequently for the several State Constitutional amendments ratified in the the last ten years, but the term is inherently negative; it suggests a bunker mentality that implies ultimate defeat. 'Gender' or 'genderlessness' is a broader subject that will catch the attention of people who care about traditional gender roles rather than only marriage.

Of course the bigger point, the point marriage protection advocates have been making everywhere, and the point I don't think marriage equality advocates have fully engaged, is that marriage is fundamentally an institution of procreation and the continuance of civilization. Daly writes:
You see, a black woman and white man can contribute quite nicely to "our very existence and survival" by bringing forth the next generation of humanity which is what our civil Court said marriage is about.

And that is why marriage is universally and fundamentally about male and female. Examine how leading anthropologists over the last 80 years [have constantly made] references to male and female, procreation and off-spring legitimization as the universal and primary qualities of this sacred institution.

There is an instinctive ad hominem response to this about the hypocrisy of using miscegenation as a defense for marriage discrimination, but to use it would prevent us from seeing the 'no duh' aspect of Daly's argument.

To wit, the following is a plainly obvious statement: we are all the product of some sort of heterosexual procreation. All of us came about because male and female human DNA combined to create a person both wholly unique from and remarkably similar to everyone else on the planet. The procreation was assumed to be done thru lovemaking or at least sex-having, and ultimately this is what Daly is pointing towards. We are all here because our predecessors got freaky; our descendants depend on us continuing that tradition.

Over the last generation, some of us have been procreated in vitro, meaning that there was no hanky-panky but clearly there was love and desire. (Sadly, some of us have also been the children of rape, a crime defined by the absence of love.) Let's not forget that Christ's procreation is held to have occurred similarly and other divine and semi-devine figures were also conceived in supernatural ways, so it's not like test tube babies were the first immaculate conceptions.

Though that still is not the problem with Daly's argument. We can accept extraordinary exceptions to all-but-universal assumptions. Daly's not really interested in the means of childbearing, but the end of childbearing. In other words, for him the purpose of marriage and it's concomitant activity is to create children.

Thus, a marriage that does not result in children is a 'false' marriage, regardless if it is because of medical or social reasons. Also, a marriage whose children are not of their own procreation is 'false,' so adoption is unnatural. I'm sure most Americans realize the perverse inappropriateness of such feelings. After all, being a loving family to an orphan is one of the most good things any couple could do, right? That seems self-evident. And we shouldn't condemn people for being infertile (or primogeniturally infertile) , otherwise we're just Henry VIII.

What I mean is, there is a consesus among Americans that children are a possible, likely, appropriate outcome of marriage, but not its sole purpose. We're not barbarians. "Barefoot and pregnant" is a terrible way to see ourselves. Anyway, society does not have the right to compell individuals to do anything for its own benefit. If you wanna be a lifelong virgin, that's your prerogative.

Marriage equality advocates need to understand: this is not about love; this is not even really about civil rights. This debate is about sex. It is about whether dudes-kissing-dudes is icky or okay. It is about whether fucking is exceptional or pedestrian, sacred or vulgar. It is about how private our bedrooms really are, and whether social conservatives have the right to legislate our behavior in them. Marriage is a public concession to the one part of your life you share with the fewest people, if any.

Or is it? If marriage (and sex) is something else, equality advocates have to re-define it accordingly. They must not assume that everyone 30-years-old and under share their views, or ten years hence 40-year-olds are going to vote against gay marriage again.

A Weird Place to Be

By now I'm sure you've heard the news about the big public corruption dragnet that went down in New Jersey. Any case of public corruption - when unelected appointees from one branch of government forcefully remove elected officials from another - is a political minefield. I'm sure DGA and RGA will weigh in. Some Dems are already trying to play it down:
"I'm angry," said [State Sen. Jim] Whelan. "There's a lot of us - most of us in public service - who do it the right way. And then there's this behavior: greedy and stupid and arrogant.

"There is nothing that leads me to believe that Jon Corzine or his office will be touched directly by this stuff," Whelan added. "I'm not sure him stepping down would make sense at this point."

BTW, why does the RGA still have Sarah Palin on their front page banner?

Sorry, I got off track. My purpose here is not to get into the inevitable roller derby of New Jersey politics. It is instead to wonder aloud about what must be a very weird situation to find oneself in.

One of the politicians picked up in the sting, Peter Cammarano, was elected Mayor of Hoboken just last fall. He'd only been in office for a few months. In fact, his campaign website is still up. Feel free to gawk.

The Times reports that the investigation took two years, although the public corruption component was incorporated later. Even assuming a huge once-in-a-lifetime break, a case of this magnitude would, I assume, require a lot of time to put together. More than a fews months I'd guess.

In other words, last November, somewhere in New Jersey a team of investigators must've been aware of Cammarano's corruptibility. Heck, it's even possible one of the investigators was one of his constituents. They had to watch the election, maybe receive campaign literature or solicitations for donations, knowing full well that the people of Hoboken were going to elect a guy who they had every intention to arrest for public crimes.

How surreal must that be? I'm not a lawyer or an investigator (though I did do asset protection at Sears way back when) so maybe such scenarios are common and I just don't realize it.

Think about that the next time you see some Dark Suits wandering around the FBI building (which is still super ugly).

'Landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth'

My little brother is an astronaut.

I like to give him a hard time because, well, that's what big brothers are supposed to do, no? It's my duty to be his highest hurdle, so that he will not be condemned to mediocrity. And no brother of mine is mediocre!

The best I can do though is toss political bombs at him: "Spaceflight is too expensive, Little Brother. If you're designing a rocket that will send Gitmo terrorists to Mars, let me know. Otherwise, don't bother." And on the anniversary of mankind's first successful journey to the Moon, it would seem the world agrees with me.

Ted Anthony with AP writes:
The final Apollo mission came home before Nixon resigned. Skylab fell to Earth. Challenger disintegrated going up, Columbia coming down. Kennedy's New Frontier ethos - space as a kinder, gentler Manifest Destiny - slouched into the "Alien" catchphrase: "In space, no one can hear you scream."

Today, the reasons for Americans to pay attention to the ground, rather than the heavens, can be rattled off like a parody of a Billy Joel song. Terrorists. Global warming. Swine flu. Economic collapse. Nukes in North Korea and mass shootings in the heartland.

All of that is true. We lost sight of the Apollo Program in the angst over Vietnam. (And as a twist, the newsman most affiliated with both, Walter Cronkite, filed his last report this weekend.)

Tom Wolfe, who celebrated the heroes of the Mercury missions in The Right Stuff, paints an even more pessimistic picture. He correctly identifies the source of NASA's malaise as the militaristic raison d'être of its mission:
From the moment the Soviets launched Sputnik I into orbit around the Earth in 1957, everybody from Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson on down looked upon the so-called space race as just one thing: a military contest. At first there was alarm over the Soviets’ seizure of the “strategic high ground” of space. They were already up there — right above us! They could now hurl thunderbolts down whenever and wherever they wanted. And what could we do about it? Nothing. Ka-boom!

The Moon landing was always an act of geopolitical posturing. It was a callously Machiavellian act meant to keep the public enthralled with the regime and the enemy uncertain of the odds. It may not have been staged, but it was carefully and deliberately produced.

The scientists and engineers argue for their work by pulling on America's national memory. "We are a country of explorers and immigrants," they say. "We cannot stop pushing at the boundaries or our civilization, our raison d'état, will perish!"

NASA and the space program is either needed by politics or demanded by human nature, but not both. Did we instigate a war with Mexico to explore the West, or the other way round? Was Teddy Roosevelt just a conservationist, or was he guarding America's precious soul, which he found in the wilderness?

As a big brother, the answer is easy: we do what we must to achieve what we can. Politics is a vulgar, scatological account of a civilization. It has to be done perhaps, but it should never be done for its own purpose. If there is a higher cause for politics, it is to discover – conjure up if necessary! – that motivation which will make NASA indispensable again

We may have sent John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard and all the rest up into space for our own craven reasons, but they came back to give us new reasons, better ones. That's what astronauts do. That's why they're heroes.

My little brother's not going to be an astronaut someday, he already is one.

The Obama Eight: CA-3

Crossposted @ Calitics & DailyKos

GOP incumbent: Dan Lungren

Dem : 38%
GOP : 40%
DTS : 18%

Obama's performance (margin / vote):
+0.5% / 49.3%

2008 results
Bill Durston : 44.0%
Lungren : 49.5%
Arthur Tuma : 2.3%
Dina Padilla : 4.2%

Do you hella like gerrymandering? Well then have I got the Congressional District for you: CA-3, in the heartland of NorCal! Below is a map for you to play with. The markers are major communities in the district, with their party registration noted.

First, let me state for the record that I grew up in what is now the 3rd District in Elk Grove. My hometown today is one of the largest cities in California, a bedroom community in the larger Sacramento metropolitan region. It’s grown a lot since I was a kid and it may be the linchpin in the effort to oust one of the more onerous Obama Eight.

The Incumbent:
Dan Lungren’s a former AG of California, and before that he was a Congressman for Long Beach in the ‘80s. In 2004, he jumped on the 3rd District after getting creamed in his bid to be Governor – by Gray Davis. He remains unashamed of his anti-government positions, despite working for the government his whole life. He is sometimes uncertain which he dislikes more: taxes or Commies. He tried to unseat John Boehner from his leadership position for not being conservative enough. Oh, and if you're a Poizner fan, he endorsed Meg Whitman.

The 3rd District, stretching from the Milk Farm to Kirkwood, is a cross-section of Northern California and its demographics have changed since it was created. Once upon a time, the district encompassed all the solidly red parts of Sacramento’s suburbs, leaving the juicy blue bits to the Matsui Family. Between I-5 and Highway 99, however, Laguna Creek has sprung from nothing and become populated by families, many African American, who left the blight of South Sac for a big suburban home of their own. They brought their Democratic voter registration with them.

Although the 3rd may have a lot more Dems than it once did, like in CA-25 Obama’s performance was still not stellar. Citrus Heights, Folsom, and the foothills remain Republican strongholds. One of Dick Cheney's last campaign stops of 2004 was Wilton. The 3rd District is a conservative place. Laguna may tip the scales overall, but it hasn't changed the character of the rest of the district, which remains white and old.

The Dems:
For the last two cycles, Dr. Bill Durston was Lungren’s gadfly. His supporters tried to put him in the same category with Charlie Brown and Jerry McNerney, but he never performed as well as his co-partisans to the north and south. He did got a lot of support from activists around the region who wanted a true progressive to dethrone Lungren. It just wasn’t meant to be. Despite promising a third run immediately after his last defeat, Durston demurred, inviting a host of aspirants to try their luck in his stead.

Dr. Ami Bera is probably the heir apparent to Dr. Durston’s legacy as a candidate. Bera’s also a surgeon and committed to universal health care. He’ll probably also get the attention and adoration of the left. Oh yeah, he also raised $288,000 in the first quarter. If he keeps that up, he'll have plenty of money to shout his progressive credentials from the mountaintops.

The other Dem to have made a splash is Elk Grove Councilman Gary Davis. He’s committed to the hard work, although he has made occasional appearances on local comment-sections which is a no-no. His homoglyph was the last person to wallop Dan, so maybe that’s a good sign. Unfortunately, his first quarter receipts were dismal, coming in at less than $34,000. There is hope, of course, but that's a big hole to have to dig oneself out of.

And Davis' challenge is only made harder by the presence of Bill Slaton, a SMUD Board Member. He's well connected with the local Dem leadership and a source tells me not only that he'll post $227,000 for the first quarter but that he raised that amount in just three weeks with nothing but a phone and a rolodex.

This is shaping up to be the premier race of 2010. DCCC is watching hungrily, and they've already dropped ads and robo calls on Lungren. The Dem, however, who comes out ahead will need to plug into the establishment better than Durston did. Go to those fundraisers, shake every hand in the room, don't leave until you've burned your name into Steny Hoyer's subconscious!

And if you're wondering, Lungren lost Amador County...

The Outlook:

(If you really wanna know all the gory details of my strategy for the 3rd, email me.)

Dan Lungren will be tough to beat. Although I think Dr. Durston made many errors in his approach, his successors will be every bit as hindered by the nature of the district as was he. Unlike other Obama Eight districts, though, I don’t think the 3rd necessarily requires a moderate Democrat. It will require a crafty Democrat.

Agenda Item #1: Laguna Creek and the foothills. The voters of Laguna Creek plain didn't exist when the district was drawn and they're mostly blue so every vote here is a freebie. Because the African American population may need to be coaxed back to the ballot box, a thorough catalog of everything Lungren's done to stymie President Obama's agenda would be a good thing to have on hand.

Although no Dem is going to win Amador and Calaveras Counties, there really are pockets of supporters and, more important, Dem-sympathizers in the region. Since Lungren will need a landslide here to guarantee success, every win, no matter how small, will be a dent in his message and a blow to his confidence.

Agenda Item #2: A top-shelf media strategy. In my experience, the local outlets are tepid about covering politics, at least until after the election anyway. The district is big, but every part of it is in the Sacramento media market. Even radio covers almost every voter, and Sacramentans have long commutes. It's is a large, expensive market, so dedicated, disciplined communications personnel will be essential.

Agenda Item #3: Don't wait for the cavalry to come. DCCC is keeping a close eye on this race, but so is the NRCC. DCCC will be on defense as much as offense in 2010, so their support is not inevitable. Besides, they just provide the tender. The candidate has to bring the locomotive. The best defense against the national right-wing apparatus is good fundraising. Two of the three candidates seem, at this time, to be on the right track. Can they keep it up?

There are many reasons to be pessimistic about 2010, but there are just as many reasons to be bullish about CA-3. Stay tuned…

Important Links Candidates:
Ami Bera
Gary Davis
Bill Slaton


There will probably be many, many more local outlets soon enough for district-specific details, but national and statewide outlets like Calitics will also likely have lots of coverage going forward.

Elk Grove Online
Elk Grove News.net
California Notes
(This was the premier website for the GOP's effort in CA-4. I'm sure they'll rally to Lungren's defense, too.)

Amador County Dems
Calaveras County Dems
Rio Vista Dem Club

Sacramento County Dems

(Their website looks recently re-launched, but there are numerous clubs covering the area.
The "neighborhood leaders" position sounds promising.)


And of course, email me any hot tips or vicious ad hominem attacks you'd like to share. This one is just too damn important so don't be shy about it!

Update: CA-24

Cross posted @ Calitics & DailyKos
Original post here

Lots happening down in Ventura County. Brian Dennert has several scoops. First, Elton Gallegly's anemic fundraising:
What's on his agenda? He doesn't appear on television much, he doesn't hold town hall forums, and he isn't going to be passing much legislation being in the minority party. In the last quarter he raised: $42,057.75

Should Democrats and Republicans interested in running get encouragement from those numbers that he might be retiring? He does have more than $800,000 in his warchest which should prove effective at protecting him if he does run again. But is a slow fundraising period a sign that he is retiring?

Eight-hundred large is a good warchest - when you're not being targeted. If Gallegly is going to retire, he should do it sooner rather than later. His successor will need time to warm up their own fundraising machine and it's not like the Dem field is going to get thinner.
I am able to confirm that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has talked to Simi Valley political consultant Jim Dantona about running to represent the 24th congressional district.

Add his name to a growing list of potential challengers that include Shawn Stern, Tim Allison , Marie Panec, Mary Pallant, Jill Martinez, and Marta Jorgenson.

Dantona had a good fight for County Supervisor and DCCC will want the strongest campaigner in CA-24. You don't beat a registration advantage with good intentions, you do it with shoe leather.

Allison and Panec still don't have any web presence or an FEC ID. If they're making the rounds, nobody's talking about it. Time's running short for dark horses to get into this.

Jill Martinez has a long list of endorsements, including Lt. Gov. Garamendi, Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum, and Das Williams who is running for the 35th Assembly district. Although she has experience managing and teaching business efficiency, her platform makes no mention of spending policy, earmarks, or other fiscal matters. Maybe Democratic primary voters don't want to hear about those things, but the successful Dem who wins CA-24 must have a strong stance in this area.

Mary Pallant has run for the Democratic nomination previously and recently got an endorsement for 2008. This post from 2006 by Brett Wagner, one of Pallant's opponents at the time, implies that the local Democratic establishment was out to get them at the time:
Mary was apparently also an innocent victim of the same types of vicious attacks from the same "darker corners" of our local party. [...]

Mary has decided to withdraw from the congressional race because of the traumatizing effects those attacks were having on her family, including her two young daughters.

So... I'm not really sure where this leaves us. The field is full. The DCCC is involved. And friendly fire could be an issue. Given Gallegly's poor fundraising, I think my original outlook remains valid. If two of the candidates show reasonable fundraising success, then maybe this could be one of those good primaries that gets the base enthusiastic and hungry for a win in November 2009.

Taking Care of the Paperwork

When the Rules for the 111th Congress came out, it was clear that Pelosi and her leadership team were serious about speeding up the legislative process and successfully getting President Obama's agenda through the House. The big change was the elimination of the "promptly" loop-hole on Motions to Recommit.

The loophole let the Minority gobble up time on bills that were likely to pass. Since that strategy would be unavailable to them in the 111th, what new tactic would they unveil?

After the Bank Bailout, the Recovery Act, and the recently passed Climate Change Bill, I think we can say with confidence that the Minority will use the size of bills, and the time available to read them, as their tactical cudgel of choice.

Is this tactic effective and how does it affects the legislative process?

'Doing Enough to Cooperate'

When the Minority uses its options to try to kill a bill outright, they are really trying to influence the public discourse about the Majority's agenda. They can't actually stop the bills from passing, but they can make the Majority look reckless.

The tactic does depress the Majority's opinion polling, as CNN found, but it also has significant blowback:
The poll also indicates that 62 percent of those questioned think President Obama is doing enough to cooperate with Republicans. That's down eight points from February, but it's 25 points higher than the 37 percent who feel the Republicans in Congress are doing enough to reach out to Democrats and the president.

The real question is whether this tactic affects public opinion of the President and his agenda. His approval remains historically high, but low by his own performance. So the Minority's intransigence does seem to weigh on the President and the Majority, but as long as the President remains popular overall, the negative effects will outweigh the positive.

Legislating with the Cane

In a perfect world perhaps the Congress would always work cordially and reach conclusions supported by a large consensus. But such a Congress would not do very many things in a large, heterogeneous country. At best, it can only be a space where fights over irreconcilable matters can happen with minimal risk to the social order. Like the barrier around a demolition derby, the goal is not to limit the carnage, but limit the risk of it hurting spectators.

It's frustrating to watch good ideas get run into the ground by dilatory tactics, but that is what Congress is for. Better in the chamber than in the streets. Remember also: the Congress is much nicer and calmer than ever before. No one gets caned anymore.

So for the Dems, they seem to be on a good course - until Americans sour on Obama. If in the next twelve months everyone can go to the doctor without any financial considerations, that may make up for the albatrosses of the bailout and the stimulus.