Monday, October 30, 2006

Early Ballots

An interesting story was buried in last Saturday’s Tucson Citizen. According to reporter Blake Morlock 166,563 people in Pima Co have applied for early ballots for the 11/7 election. This is a large number of early ballots out of an active voter list of 420 thousand.

In 2002, the last mid-term election, 114,487 early ballots were requested. The current figure is a forty-five percent increase. (Of course there is a Senate race this year and a hotly contested Congressional race in CD 8.)

So far only about 50,000 ballots have been returned.

With nine days to go that leaves a huge number of ballots not yet voted. If you request a ballot and don’t vote it you MUST bring it with you to your polling place or you will not be allowed to vote. If the dog ate it, or you have otherwise lost it, the best you’ll be able to do is submit a provisional ballot.

A political junky friend wrote the following comment:

“The number of requests this year seems large (170K out of 420K on the active voter list). I have previously worried that an election could be tampered with by making early ballot requests for people (without their knowledge) so that such people would be denied the vote on election day. I would be on the lookout for significant numbers of people complaining at the polls that they did not request a mail ballot even though their name is marked as such. I would also be concerned if less than 90% of the requested mail ballots are voted and returned.

"My worries are probably not warranted but it would still be prudent to keep this in the back of your mind on election day."

Voter fraud? In America? Oh surely not!

Toward a Progressive Agenda

Nine days to go. When the hurly-burly’s done, and when the (political) battle’s lost or won, what will the lefty Blogosphere look like? The Left’s political attention has been focussed on the current campaigns, on defense of our candidates and the exposure of our opponents’ sins and failings.

This focus has, for the most part, papered over some apparently serious differences within the Democratic Party. I’m inclined to say “apparently serious” because I’m not really sure that the differences are as significant as some take them to be.

The most obvious and extreme political difference is the one between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. That difference is so important that it makes any differences within the Democratic Party insignificant.

Rest easy, I’m not suggesting we launch into lengthy discussion of political theory now, but after the election when our post-election-party hangovers have mellowed away, I think we should be discussing how to form the plans, programs and attitudes of the Left for the greatest political impact.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Arizona Range News and San Pedro Valley News-Sun Endorse Giffords

Here is a portion of their endorsement editorial:

One good thing about the election being just around the corner is that we are only two weeks away from not having to listen to political ads. It seems they become more obnoxious every year and less dependent on actual facts.

That has certainly been the case this year.

Advertising against one candidate and for one proposition has been so misleading and so devoid of facts that we are taking this opportunity to clear the air a bit and endorse in those two races…. One of the more egregious examples is Randy Graf's ad calling Gabrielle Giffords an extreme liberal. (Data Port emphasis) Giffords is moderate by any reasonable definition. Graf's ad makes it sound as if Giffords is helping to smuggle undocumented workers across the border. Part of the problem for Graf is that he is essentially a one-issue candidate. He has focused most of his campaign on border issues. They are important issues, but we need congressional representation with a little more depth and breadth.

Giffords has run a campaign that addresses the border, but also addresses health care, education, public safety and a host of other critical issues that don't seem to get much traction in the Graf campaign. Jim Kolbe was a good congressman for more than 20 years. We need someone to replace him who will represent all of the District 8 constituents. We need someone who is fair-minded and measured in response to challenges.

It isn't about Democrat or Republican. It's about the individual. For that reason, we endorse Gabrielle Giffords for the District 8 congressional seat.

Link to San Pedro Valley News-Sun

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Olbermann Tears Bush a New One

Just in case you missed these two savagings of the Republicans--- something we have all waited for Democrats in Congress to do--- the videos are available at AlterNet.Org.

Interesting to note that the second piece ends with the Ed Murrow tag, “Goodnight and Good Luck.”

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tucson Theater and The Tucson Press

Just taking a breather from reading other folks’ political blogging to pass on a commentary about the state of the press. Art Almquist, MFA, is a local actor and the Director of Theatre at Tucson High Magnet School. He’s submitted the following commentary for a Guest Opinion spot in the Arizona Daily Star.

Not sure of getting published he’s passed it on to folks in the Tucson theater scene and I’m posting it here:

Since mankind learned to communicate, live theatre has been one of the most invigorating art forms around. The movies can give you special effects, but in what other story-based performance art form can you feel the thrill of knowing that the play’s world is being created and controlled right before your very eyes? Kathy Allen, the Star’s theatre critic, knows this. What frustrates me is that those behind the new, “improved” incarnation of Caliente don’t.

Clearly aiming for the ever-important younger demographic, they have decided to “hip up” Caliente. (Music is now referred to as “Soundz.” How hip is that?) Caliente now features no fewer than 11 pages devoted to music and 13 devoted to movies and TV.

Local live theatre, which is made up of Tucsonans working insanely long hours for little or no pay (and almost always in addition to a full-time job), all for the sole purpose of entertaining other Tucsonans? Beyond a tiny calendar listing as far back as possible without being the crossword, it receives no mention. “My Ride” devotes a page to someone’s hip mode of transportation, but local theatre gets not a word. Not a picture. Not a thing. This is not just a snub to the thousands of us who either work in or support local theatre; frankly, it’s a slap in the face. We’re confused by this decision, and yes, we’re angry.

Any member of any theatrical community will tell you: we depend on newspapers for our audience. We wish this weren’t the case, and that people would fill our seats every night on their own. Among the many things we have to compete with are DVDs, satellite TV, movie theatres, and, ironically, touring theatrical productions. A trendy touring production brings with it name recognition (“I heard it was such a wonderful show!”), more expensive production values (“Now that was a show!”), and cocktail party conversation (“Did you see that show?”). Local theatre has precious little money to spend on anything, and so depends on coverage given in the newspapers for its publicity. In my years as a local actor and Director of Theatre at Tucson High, every bit of coverage given in the Star has helped enormously in bringing audiences out.

And please, don’t tell me that it’s all good because the reviews and previews will still appear on other days. It’s not okay. People go to Caliente for their entertainment plans. I speak from immediate experience: On the Verge, the play in which I currently am acting, received a positive Tuesday review from Kathy Allen. Audience response to the show has been tremendously positive. The size of our largest house: 27. Caliente coverage: zero. It’s no coincidence.

I am not exaggerating or being “dramatic”: if this does not change, local theatre will die in Tucson. And it will be missed. I ask everyone, from actors to patrons to directors to ushers to fans: please contact the Star and tell them you don’t care about being “hip.” You want local theatre!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

How To Steal an Election

I’ve commented more than once that I prefer to vote on Election Day, and that if I had my 'druthers’ I’d be marking a paper ballot. As old as I am…just slightly older than dirt…I still don’t think I count as a Luddite, but where voting is concerned I have more faith in my neighbors of all parties counting paper ballots.

Yeah, yeah, I know….elections have been stolen in the past. But the theft can be so slickly done on some electronic voting machines as to be undetectable.

Here’s an interesting explanation of how it can be done in about sixty seconds o
n the Diebold machines. (Can you say “Ohio?”)

I missed this You Tube offering in September.

The full paper, published by the Center for Information Technology Policy, Princeton University, is available here.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Serving Officer Protests His War

Finished with the War
A Soldier’s Declaration

I am making this statement as an act of willful defiance of military authority, because I believe the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.

I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this war, upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.

I have seen and endured the suffering of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe evil and unjust.

I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.

On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practised on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacence with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realize.

S. Sassoon
July 1917

After his protest was published Sassoon was sent to a mental hospital to be treated for “shell shock.” He was an officer, wounded twice and twice decorated for bravery. He survived the war and died in 1967.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Esquire Endorses Napolitano, Giffords, and 502 Others

Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. What can’t be exaggerated is my declining interest in continued jousting in an arena where political junkies on both sides of the aisle seem to have run out of new stuff to say.

I find political TV advertising particularly discouraging. Much of it is so outrageously mendacious that it seems almost designed to discourage political participation altogether. Perhaps that’s what it’s intended to do.

On the other hand I am encouraged by what I sense to be an awakening of political interest in great numbers of Americans whose past political passivity has been noteworthy. It is almost as if the political genius of the nation is stirring and the process of self-correction and re-adjustment is underway. We’ll see.

As evidence of this political interest in unexpected areas I offer the latest edition of Esquire. In addition to a spread on the sexiest woman alive (Scarlett Johanson,) there’s the usual pretty good fiction and features, along with fashion advice for men who are as rail thin as the models in Vogue.

And this month: Something entirely different, a “Get Out & Vote” feature. Esquire chips in with endorsements, and their rationale, on 504 races.

Here are the endorsements in Arizona: Napolitano, Pederson, Simon, Thrasher, Shadegg, Pastor, Flake, Mitchell, Giffords and Grijalva. There is a short justification of each choice here.

To read all 504 endorsements, their justifications, a statement of Esquire’s method, and short sections on the best and worst in Congress click here.

Monday, October 09, 2006

McCain and Graf

Everyone seems to be all tingly and pleased, or shocked and surprised, by McCain’s endorsement of Graf. I really can’t understand why. McCain is a Republican, Graf is the Republican candidate.

Despite what all the single issue zealots on both sides of the aisle thought, and all the attacks on primary opponents’ ideological purity, the pros understood that the only vote the winners of the primary would cast that really mattered…was the vote to organize the House of Representatives.

Once the primary is over you damn well better support your candidate. You know that you are in complete agreement with him or her on that first vote. The pros don’t sulk in their tents like Achilles when their candidates lose their primaries. They soldier on with the candidate they have


Everyone has probably noted this already, but just in case you missed it:

By Jill Lawrence, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Four weeks before congressional elections, a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows Democrats hold a 23-point lead over GOP candidates. That's double the lead Republicans had a month before they seized control of Congress in 1994.



For motorcycle fans there’s a new post up at Dataport Motorcycles, the first in a series on sidecars. Yeah, I know, not for everyone

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Anger is Good

There’s a wonderful short essay by Garrison Keillor over at Salon.Com Here are some excerpts, on the subject of anger as a miracle drug.

Pick up a newspaper and read about Congress and you will find yourself yelling at walls and terrifying the cat. Last week, Congress moved to suspend habeas corpus, one thing that distinguishes a civil society from a police state. Reaction was muted.

Then the Party of Family Values was revealed to have protected a sexual predator in its midst until finally a reporter asked some pointed questions and the honorable gentleman resigned and ran off to recovery camp: This level of hypocrisy takes a person's breath away. You thought that Abramoff, Norquist, Reed & DeLay had established new lows, but the elevator is still descending.

The power of righteous vexation is what keeps so many old Democrats hanging on in nursing homes long past the time they should have kicked off. Ancient crones from FDR's time are still walking the halls, kept alive by anger at what has been done to our country.

And I agree when he goes on:

As Frost might have written, "The woods are lovely, dark and thick. But I have many butts to kick and some to poke and just one stick."

We each have a stick. Voting starts tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Latas Heads Sonora PDA

I’m glad Latas continues to be active in Arizona’s political life. I hope that his first project for the new organization is a clear definition of Progressive goals and programs.

American political life has not been driven by platforms. Parties have had them, of course, but our political genius has been largely to forget them and solve particular problems based on the very general political inclinations of each of the parties.

We used to know, in some very broad way, what Republican political inclinations were, and what Democratic political inclinations were. Those distinctions have become blurred with the DLC adopting some of the fiscal conservatism of the Republicans, and the Republicans leaning heavily on huge deficits and extensive government interference in our personal lives.

I think the Progressives need a platform, and some detailed programs for realizing that platform. Right now I don’t have the faintest idea how Progressive Democrats are different from good old fashioned New Dealers. If they aren’t any different then I don’t see the need for another organization. If they are different I’d like to know how.


In the meantime---

I think a Progressive project here in Arizona should be a repeal of right to work legislation and the re-empowerment of the labor movement.

Nationally, the only way to insure ‘affordable health care’ is to go to the Canadian single payer system and get the insurance companies off our backs.

If we really are at war with terrorism, let’s nationalize the petroleum industry until we win the war.

Let’s reinstate some level of corporate taxation to pay for healthcare and other social welfare programs.


And isn’t it too cheery for words to watch the Republicans, the self-declared party of moral rectitude, twisting in their own ‘October Surprise.’

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sex! Politics! Religion!

There you have it; the three topics you are not supposed to discuss in polite society. Well, poop! Why not? If not the three most interesting topics of discussion they are certainly right up there in the top ten.

‘Discuss’ is an interesting word, derived from a Latin root meaning ‘to shake to pieces,’ which is, I suppose, why we are urged to avoid rending the polite fabric of social chit-chat by raising the banned topics.

As denizens of the blogosphere, political junkies of the left and the right, we cheerfully rend what’s left of the social fabric of polite discourse by our partisan rants. We care. We are passionate. We know that civilization and who we are as Americans somehow hangs in the political balance.

I’m not sure this sense of things is shared, or shared with the same intensity and urgency, by the vast majority of our fellow citizens. In particular I wonder how many of our politically sensitive, but non-blogging, friends even know we have web logs.

So let me suggest that one day a week we let our blogs go dormant, leave the virtual world, and make the effort to engage acquaintances, friends, and co-workers in the real world; quietly suggesting some political issue that particularly concerns us, explaining why we think it’s important, and asking them to give it some thought, too.