Thursday, August 21, 2008

Is gun control really about race?

I doubt you'll hear the Illinois State Rifle Association raising these arguments in public, but this column by author Kristian Williams and activist Peter Little takes a look at the historical racial undertones of the gun control debate in America.

Talking About Guns, Fighting About Race is an eye-opener:
Truth is, there has always been gun control in America. Starting in the colonial period and continuing after the American Revolution, laws excluded specific people from gun ownership — slaves, free blacks, Indians, poor whites, non-Protestants and even some heterodox Protestant sects.

During the same period, militias — which never performed particularly well in military engagements — were chiefly responsible for putting down insurrections. And in the South, they were responsible for organizing slave patrols to police the black population.

After the Civil War, Southern states sought to preserve this tradition by instituting “black codes” that barred blacks from owning guns, land or businesses. At the same time, terrorist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan continued the work of the slave patrols, using violence to restrict blacks’ travel, suppress their political activity and disarm them.

And more recently...

In Watson v. Stone (1941), the Florida Supreme Court overturned the gun conviction of a white man. Justice Rivers Buford wrote in his concurring opinion: “The Act was passed for the purpose of disarming negro laborers. … [It] was never intended to be applied to the white population and in practice has never been so applied.”

A quarter century later, in 1967, California passed its Panther Law, with the specific aim of ending the Black Panthers’ armed patrols against police brutality.

White supremacy has refined its presentation since the civil rights period, relying increasingly on nominally colorblind laws. Yet many gun regulations — bans on guns in housing projects and laws that take the cheapest pistols off the market, for example — have continued to disproportionately affect people of color.


Many liberals trust the state to respect the rights of individuals and to protect them against crime and disorder. They see no role for private gun ownership under the rule of law.

Many conservatives retain some suspicion of government regulation and don’t believe the state capable of protecting decent law-abiding people. They see gun ownership both as an emblem of citizenship and as a protection against those they view as criminals — historically, blacks and, at present, immigrants.

The disagreement is over who should have guns.

The point of agreement is over who shouldn’t.

As presently construed, both the gun-control and the gun-rights arguments — that is, both the liberal and the conservative positions — represent the defense of white supremacy.

Like I said, you won't hear the Illinois State Rifle Association making this argument. But logically I have to concede that if a white man has a constitutional right to protect his family and his home, so does a black man, even if he was convicted of some unrelated crime. Especially if that crime neither involved a gun nor was violent.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Is Google the new Wal-Mart?

I’m naturally suspicious of any corporation that claims to be looking out for our best interests. Maybe that’s part of my Democratic DNA, maybe it just comes with being old enough to remember the 80’s.

So Google’s corporate motto, “Do No Evil,” raised particular suspicion with me. But you don’t see a lot of bloggers writing about Google, in part because many are gullible enough to buy into the notion that Google is an internet-age deity.

For some reason, the mainstream media hasn’t written much about them either, which is a little surprising, since Google is pretty much single-handedly putting newspapers out-of-business by sucking up all of the advertising dollars.

The San Francisco Chronicle has finally broken the silence, highlighting Congressional hearings over Google’s efforts to corner the market for online advertising, just as Wal-Mart began cornering the retail market in the 80’s:

The devil's best trick is to persuade us that he doesn't exist, but Google only has to convince us that it's not evil. Nearing an agreement with Yahoo to grab the ailing company's search business, Google scripted a series of dramatic public events apparently designed to distract from the pending deal. These events emphasize network neutrality, an ever-changing regulatory ideal that Google thrust into the political spotlight two years ago. As entertaining as this spectacle is, regulators should not be fooled. They should apply traditional anti-monopoly standards, blocking the Google-Yahoo deal.

Despite its carefully crafted public image as a naive and squeaky-clean innovator, Google is a public corporation managed by professionals, some of them longtime friends of Washington power brokers and fully capable of understanding the problems the Google-Yahoo deal poses.

Google’s corporate do-gooder cloak and talk about net neutrality reminded me an awful lot of Wal-Mart’s short-lived “Buy American” campaign and talk about how they were fighting for small town America buy creating jobs. All while they were gearing up to become the largest importer from China and using their insider connections to win huge tax subsidies and put Main Street America out of business.

Was there a pattern here? Yep.

Always Politics-as-Usual. Always.

Created in late 2006, Google’s GoogleNETPAC has funneled more than $200,000 into federal campaigns, and still has more than $100,000 cash-on-hand.

Okay, everyone’s entitled to have their voice heard and support candidates of their choice.

But Google’s also engaging in old-school corporate politics, funneling money into both sides of the fight:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: $5,000

House Republican Leader John Boehner: $5,000

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: $5,000

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell: $3,000

And if that’s not enough to convince you, Check out GoogleNETPAC’s contributions to members of the Senate Commerce Committee, who met on July 9th to hold subject-matter hearings on Google’s pending monopoly:

Democrats: $12,500
Republicans: $11,500

D Boxer $ 2,500

D Dorgan $ 2,000

D Inouye $ 2,500

D Lautenberg $ 1,000

D Nelson $ 2,500

D Pryor $ 2,000

R Smith $ 5,000

R Snowe $ 1,500

R Sununu $ 5,000

And over on the House side, Google has done a fine job of fueling the fire on both sides of the aisle, supporting both sides of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce and its Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet:

D - Chair Dingell $ 5,000

R – Ranking GOP Barton $ 2,500

D – SubChair Markey $ 2,500

R - Sub Ranking GOP Stearns $ 1,500

D - SubC Boucher $ 3,500

R - SubC Upton $ 1,000

D - SubC Eshoo $ 5,000

R - SubC Walden $ 1,000

Just a coincidence that ALL of Google's contributions to the committee either went to members of the Subcommittee that directly oversee them, or the chair and minority leader of the committee? Definitely not.

Footnote for a Brave New World:

I was talking to a friend last night to get her thoughts about Google, and she told me this story:

I was e-mailing my mom about the earthquake we had awhile back. I told her that when I woke up and found my walls shaking, at first I thought it was my neighbors having really loud sex. Suddenly a Google Ad popped up: “Noisy neighbors? We can meet your home insulation needs…”

Google may be something far worse than the next Wal-Mart. I think I'll disable my cookies today.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

House Democrats Shouldn't Take Bait

Rumors abound that Governor Blagojevich and Senate President Emil Jones are cooking up a plan to hook the Illinois House into supporting funding for the Governor's health care plan by baiting the hook with last year's vetoed member initiative projects.

Jones and Blagojevich must think the members of the "lower chamber" are total idiots.

There's absolutely nothing that would prevent Governor Blagojevich from using his veto pen to slash the member initiative projects after the bill passes.

There's absolutely nothing that would prevent the Blagojevich administration from refusing to release the money even after he signed the budget.

The only guarantee Democrats would have is Blagojevich's word. Which is worthless.

Rod Blagojevich is a bully, and you don't negotiate with bullies. You get everyone they've messed with together and teach them a lesson in the schoolyard after school.

So, here's my unsolicited advice to Illinois House Democrats. Since we know we can't trust Rod Blagojevich to keep his word, and he's going to veto House Democratic projects anyway, let's take a stand against pork projects this year. No pork, zero. None for Republicans, none for Senate Democrats, and especially none for the Governor. Let's pass a budget that strips all of those hidden pots of money out of the Governor's office, the travel budget, the advertising budgets, the DCEO grants, etc., etc., etc. Put the money into the school funding formula, and let Emil and Rod slash that if they want.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Your Turn, John McCain

"All hurricanes are acts of God, because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that.

The newspaper carried the story in our local area, that was not carried nationally, that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it would was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other gay pride parades.

So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing."

- Rev. John Hagee, blaming Hurricane Katrina on God's damnation of New Orleans, for holding a gay pride parade

"I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you, This is not a message of hate -- this is a message of redemption. But a condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It'll bring about terrorist bombs; it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor."

–Pat Robertson, on "gay days" at Disneyworld

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected him from your city. And don't wonder why he hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for his help because he might not be there."

--Pat Robertson, after the city of Dover, Pennsylvania voted to boot the current school board, which instituted an intelligent design policy that led to a federal trial

And perhaps most pointedly, in the wake of September 11th, Pat Robertson said this:

"Well, I totally concur."

–Pat Robertson to Jerry Falwell following the Sept. 11 attacks...

...after Falwell said this:

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say: 'You helped this happen.'"

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Finally, A National Poll That DOES Matter

It amazes me how often t.v. pundits and newspapers report national head-to-head polls, especially this far out. Give t.v. pundits credit for usually reporting that these national polls are irrelevant, largely because they ignore the electoral math.

Finally, a state-by-state poll by a reputable firm that DOES matter, atleast as far as polls eight months out matter.

The lede:

SurveyUSA's 30,000 sample poll (600 voters per state) gives a slight edge to Obama at first glance, and a big electability edge upon further analysis.

It shows Obama beating McCain, 280 - 258, while Clinton beats McCain, 276-262.

Both match-ups show Democrats winning California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia, for a total of 202 electoral votes.

How they add to those totals is very interesting. Clinton adds Arkansas, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, for a total of 74 more. Winning the big states, as she says.

Obama adds Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska (split), Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington, for a total of 78 more. Doing better in smaller Midwestern states and Western states.

What's MOST interesting about these results for Obama is that Florida (-2 points), New Jersey (virtually tied) and Pennsylvania (-5) are states that Obama hasn't campaigned in. Yet. Head-to-heads also show Obama down only 2 points in North Carolina, another state where he hasn't campaigned.

To be fair, Clinton is competitive in Michigan (virtually tied) and Washington (-2), but much less so in Colorado (-6), Iowa (-5) and Oregon (-5), and don't expect her to compete at all in Nebraska (-27), Nevada (-8), New Hampshire (-8), North Dakota (-19) or Virginia (-10).

Aside from Florida (and Arkansas for Clinton), neither candidate really competes in the South. Which makes the whole "Will the South elect a black President?" question the Clinton's hint at moot.

What is interesting is that Obama does significantly better in Western states and the Midwest, where the other big question, "Do voters want the Clinton's back in the White House?" looms apparent.

(Note: I've been staying away from Clinton-Obama stories, but I thought this might be a good story on poll analysis. Feel free to disagree with me, but before anyone who doesn't like what they read lashes out at thepollster or their methodology, SurveyUSA was only 1 point off on the Foster-Oberweis race, and out of 26 presidential primaries they've polled so far, they've had a median error of +/- 2.0 points). Compared to 5.0 for Zogby (17 polls) and 7.0 for Rasmussen and Mason-Dixon. These guys are to national polling what Dave Fako is to Illinois. No offense, Dave, I know you do business elsewhere)

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Irony is a bitter pill

John McCain has based his entire campaign for the White House on his honor, character and personal integrity.

He's accused Barack Obama of running a campaign based on empty rhetoric and platitudes.

Am I the only one who sees the irony here?

If John McCain was being accused of having a romantic relationship with a waitress, this would blow over.

But his own former staff alleges he was having a romantic relationship with a lobbyist whose clients were regulated by the Senate Committee he chaired.

The FCC has documented that he intervened with federal regulators on her client's behalf. If this was a constituent in his home state of Arizona, that would be one thing. But this was in Pittsburgh.

And it just so happens that client donated tens of thousands of dollars to his campaign.

Pundits offer various opinions, but I don't think this one is going away in the minds of voters. For one thing, Republican voters demonstrated in 2006 that they're just not going to tolerate this anymore. I also think that the mood of the entire country has shifted, and voters on whole take notice of this kind of thing. That's why Obama's campaign to "turn the page" has such strong appeal.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Hillary Clinton: She's in the Glass Business

After Clinton accused Obama of plagiarism, I couldn't resist:

From 1999 by Environmental Technology Ltd:

"We're in the Solutions Business."


"We're in the solutions business."

- Mike Overly, Hewlett-Packard, The CRM Handbook

"We're in the Solutions business."

- Giant Step Communications

Googling "We're in the solutions business" sans Clinton returns 398 citations.


Grand Old Partisan: Setting the Obama Record Straight

Earlier this week, Grand Old Partisan issued what I'm sure is to be a continued party of the Clinton-McCain attacks on Barack Obama: "Where's the beef?"

GOP charged that Obama was all talk, no action on education, health care, transportation and government reform.

Before I respond, let me offer a counter challenge to GOP: What have Hillary Clinton and John McCain ACCOMPLISHED to improve education, health care, transportation and government ethics?


- SB 19 (LAW) enacted school reforms backed by Mayor Daley

- SB 533 (law) expanded teacher training;

- SB 903 (LAW) expanded early childhood education;

- SB 1369 (LAW) created Illinois' first statewide capital needs assessment for schools;


- HB 2268 (LAW) Created the Health Care Justice Act, creating a bipartisan committee of experts to develop a universal health care plan for Illinois;

- SB 59 (LAW) created safety report cards for hospitals;

- SB 130 (LAW) Extended the children's health insurance program;

- SB 263 (LAW) HIV counselling and testing for pregnant women;

- SB 989 (LAW) expand health coverage for the developmentally disabled;

- SB 1417 (LAW) require insurance companies to cover colorectal cancer;

- SB 1418 (LAW) banned the sale of diet pill ephedra, linked to deaths in IL;

- HB 6 (LAW) expanded disaster preparedness programs to include hospitals and first responders;


- SB 1408 (LAW) Bipartisan measure to expand tranportation programs in Illinois;

- SB 46 (LAW) Extended tax credits for bio-fuels;


- SB 15 (LAW) Required videotaping of homocide interrogations;

- SB 30 (LAW) Cracked down on racial profiling by police;

- SB 1586 (LAW) Strengthened IL Open Meetings Act;

- SB 702 (LAW) Banned solicitation of state employees for campaign contributions, created the IL Inspector General's Office, and made other sweeping changes;

- SB 706 (LAW) Creates an Inspector General's office for the IL SOS to investigate corruption;

GOP uses the same-old attacks that have always been used against advocates of campaign finance reform. George Ryan used them very effectively against Glenn Poshard.

The argument goes something like this: Barack Obama says that Hillary Clinton has raised more money from lobbyists and PACs than any candidate, Democrat or Republican. But Barack Obama used to take money from lobbyists and PACs, so if Hillary Clinton is doing something wrong now, Barack Obama must have been doing something wrong then.

Well, as a State Senator, Obama did raise $93,000 in contributions of more than $1,000. The largest was $10,000 from Gold Coast philanthropist Abby O'Neil.

But he raised $379,000 from donors giving $150 to $1,000 (77%).

Given Illinois "Wild West" campaign finance laws, that's not too shabby.

Compare that to Illinois House GOP Leader Tom Cross:

Contributions of more than $1,000: $5.5 million (66%)

Contributions of $150 to $1,000: $2.2 million (33%)

Or Tom Cross' #2 man, Brent Hassert:

More than $1000: $806,000 (45%)

$150 to $1,000: $1 million (55%)

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Hillary: WELCOME to "The Solutions" Business

After having lost her voice in New Hampshire and then found it, and changing her campaign's central message about a dozen times, Hillary Clinton now claims she's in "the solutions business."

I find that a little ironic, because when it comes to public policy, Hillary Clinton is best known for two "solutions" failures: her failed health care plan from 1994 and more recently, her support for invading Iraq.

The Clintons' Presidency

In fact, the Clinton's track record on health care is pretty abysmal. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, when the Clinton's presidency began in 1993, 19.4 million Americans lacked health care coverage. By the time the Clinton presidency ended in 2000, the number of uninsured Americans had exploded to 38.7 million, nearly doubling.

On education, 1 in 4 adult Americans were functionally illiterate when the Clinton's took power, and 1 in 4 were still illiterate when they left.

On jobs, the Clinton's rammed NAFTA through Congress with the help of Republicans, costing America more than 800,000 jobs, including 25,000 jobs in Wisconsin, 45,000 jobs in Pennsylvania, 50,000 jobs in Ohio, and 72,000 jobs in Texas.

Clinton's Senate record

Clinton's record in the U.S. Senate is just as damning. On the war, she made the wrong choice, at a time when not only Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy were opposing the war, but roughly 20 million Americans. Perhaps worse, she still refuses to admit that she was wrong, continuing to blame George W. Bush and accepting no responsibility herself.

On education, Hillary Clinton supported No Child Left Behind in 2001, calling it "landmark legislation."

Overall, my chief problem is that for the past seven years, Hillary Clinton has been one of the most powerful Democrats in Washington, but she's just now getting into "the solutions business." She's had ample time to introduce and pass solutions to many of the pressing issues in this campaign. Instead, here's the most recent compilation of Hillary Clinton's legislative accomplishments I can find:

  1. Establish the Kate Mullany National Historic Site
  2. Support the goals and ideals of Better Hearing and Speech Month
  3. Recognize the Ellis Island Medal of Honor
  4. Name courthouse after Thurgood Marshall
  5. Name courthouse after James L. Watson
  6. Name post office after John A. O'Shea
  7. Designate August 7, 2003, as National Purple Heart Recognition Day
  8. Support the goals and ideals of National Purple Heart Recognition Day
  9. Honor the life and legacy of Alexander Hamilton on the bicentennial of his death
  10. Congratulate the Syracuse University Orange Men's Lacrosse Team on winning the championship.
  11. Congratulate the Le Moyne College Dolphins Men's Lacrosse Team on winning the championship
  12. Establish the 225th Anniversary of the American Revolution Commemorative Program
  13. Name post office after Sergeant Riayan A. Tejeda
  14. Honor Shirley Chisholm for her service to the nation and express condolences on her death
  15. Honor John J. Downing, Brian Fahey, and Harry Ford, firefighters who lost their lives on duty.
  16. Extend period of unemployment assistance to victims of 9/11
  17. Pay for city projects in response to 9/11
  18. Assist landmine victims in other countries
  19. Assist family caregivers in accessing affordable respite care
  20. Designate part of the National Forest System in Puerto Rico as protected in the Wilderness Preservation System
Hillary Clinton "solutions" 1-15 speak for themselves. 9/11 related measures #16 & #17 probably could have passed by themselves. That leaves Hillary Clinton having pressed for and achieved three solutions in seven years.

Again, Senator Clinton, welcome to the "solutions" business.

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