Friday, April 18, 2008

Journalism

I wonder if the Pulitzer Prizes will ever adapt to accommodate reporting like this:

Two or three people are killed each day by others in Los Angeles County. Most of them died anonymously until Jill Leovy and her blog, The Homicide Report, came along.

For more than a year, Leovy made it her job to document every homicide in Los Angeles County. It had never been done before.

Like most big-city newspapers, the one Leovy works for -- The Los Angeles Times -- reports only the most "newsworthy" cases. But those killings, elementary school drive-bys and celebrity murders only account for 10 percent of the county's homicides, Leovy found.

She wanted to go deeper, to put a human face on the toll homicide was taking, particularly in L.A.'s black and Latino communities.

"The Web offered what the paper did not: unlimited space," Leovy wrote in a front-page story summarizing her year as creator and the first blogger for The Homicide Report.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Obama's Electability

Personally, I cannot for the life of me figure out how the electoral math works for Obama. Clinton has won New York, California, and Ohio. She will win Pennsylvania. She would win Florida and Michigan, obviously (or why else would Obama be opposed to a revote). But what do I know, apparently. Everyone else says the electoral math is on Obama's side.

I also think he's going to get totally attacked post-primary.

This editorial, which I've seen little reference to in the blogosphere, has also caused me great concern. I am excerpting it in total because I am concerned the link won't work.

Peter Navarro: My own ‘Obama experience’

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

IRVINE, Calif.

I WAS BARACK OBAMA before Barack Obama — sort of. My strong advice is that he should graciously embrace a “unity ticket” with Hillary Clinton at the top and himself as the vice-presidential candidate. The likely alternative is a McCain victory — and the ritualistic Republican gutting of a once promising politician.

My own “Obama experience” occurred in 1992, when, as a whiz kid, I ran for mayor of what was, then anyway, the sixth largest city in America — San Diego. Like Obama, I was a gifted orator who could stir a crowd. Like Obama, I had a Harvard pedigree and was full of new ideas. Like Obama, I also had a horde of grassroots supporters who could swarm precincts all over the city.

However, like Obama, I had never run much of anything, especially a major city. Like Obama, I was more prone to mistakes than most seasoned politicians. Like Obama, some of my positions were simply too liberal for the mainstream. Nor had I been fully “vetted” politically, which is to say there were yet some skeletons in my closet.

My own election result was what the writer John Barth might have described as a “para-digm of assumed inevitably.” As the white knight running against a gaggle of shopworn politicians, I decisively won the primary election and emerged as toast of the town. However, by general election day in November, I was toast.

What did me in is precisely what will do Obama in: Youth and inexperience flying headlong into the Republican meat grinder and spin machine. As a result of the mountain of mud thrown at me, almost half the city hated me by November while even some of my own staunchest supporters were disillusioned. I not only lost the race (albeit by a few percentage points). My once promising political career was effectively over — all because I reached too high too soon.

These same perils await young Barack and are precisely why a “unity ticket” offers the best long-term path for his political career. As the VP candidate, much of what the Republicans can throw at him, particularly on the experience issue, simply goes away, while his running mate Clinton has taken every possible hit they’ve ever thrown at her and remains standing tall.

Equally important for the strategic calculus, a Clinton-Obama unity ticket provides a much greater chance of victory in November. Clinton brings in women and Latinos while Barack appeals to blacks and Democratic and independent men. Clinton woos suburban and rural voters while Obama has a lock on the urban vote. While Clinton provides comfort to America’s seasoned citizens, Obama can pull millions of young voters out of a traditionally empty electoral hat.

Clinton also offers far better alternatives to moderates, independents and swing voters on two key issues than either McCain or Obama. McCain thinks we should stay in Iraq for another 100 years while Obama wants to get out yesterday. Neither position reflects the mainstream.

Mainstream voters generally believe that we shouldn’t have gone into Iraq. However, now that we are there, we need to maintain a large enough presence for a long enough time to avoid an Iraqi meltdown. That’s the Clinton position.

On the economy, Clinton likewise trumps both McCain and Obama — and by a wide margin. McCain is a self-professed economic ignoramus while Obama’s major adviser is even younger than he is and has little training in macro-economics. In sharp contrast, the Clinton macro-economic team oversaw the single most prosperous decade in United States history. By November, when we are likely to be in the nastiest of recessions, the Clinton economic touch is likely to be the Democrats’ trump card — but only with Hillary at the top to play it.

Absent a unity ticket, John McCain’s best campaigners leading up to the August Democratic convention will be Clinton and Obama themselves — with each now trying to rise to the top by punching down the other. If Obama is truly the great unifier that he claims to be, he will see the beautiful strategic logic of the unity ticket and do what no other member of his party can do — make the unity ticket happen.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Rhetoric vs. Policy

I've come to believe that the difference between Obama and Clinton is the difference between rhetoric and policy.

The other night I realized something. So I asked my husband, "If Clinton is elected, what would be her first major policy move?" He said health care. Then I asked, "If Obama is elected, what would be his first major policy move?" He couldn't answer. Neither could I.

Obama's power for people is in his ability to motivate people, apparently, in his ability to listen. I cannot tell you how many conservative people I have heard/read say that they feel that although Obama disagrees, they think he will listen to them. And I still can't figure out what that means. Are anti-abortion activists really saying it's okay if Obama supports abortion rights so long as they can go to him and he'll listen to them? Is that really all it takes? "I'm Frasier Crane and I'm listening."

What really freaked me out this past week is the news that former Buffy actress Emma Caulfield plans to vote for Obama. Emma has always been right-wing, and indeed, her December 25, 2007 post to her Myspace indicates that she plans to vote for Ron Paul, racist libertarian candidate. But last week she announced that she had decided to vote for Obama.

Now, who the fuck cares what a H-list actress thinks about the presidential race? Really, it's just that it is symbolic of people who support Obama. They don't really know or care what his policies will be. They *trust* him. And that comes from his rhetorical skills, no? He hasn't done anything in particular to win that trust. In fact, look how close he came to betraying the trust of feminists.

Meanwhile, feminists all around the blogosphere keep holding the feet of Obama and his supporters to the fire. Here's Shakesville, Talk Left, Corrente, and Anglachel. I count myself among those who really cannot read the "top" bloggers any more--Kos, The Person Who Kidnapped Josh Marshall (tm Bob Somerby), or Aravosis.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Obama Fandom

Ah, the Obama fandom. Much to my dismay, Michael Berube has shown himself to be a member. I haven't been so crushed since I found out one of my sisters was a secret Buffy-Angel shipper, even in the 7th season.

Anyway.

First of all, Michael is funny, and it's always a bit tough to find that line between sincerity and irony with him. It's something I've always loved about his writing. Now, I'm supposed to wait and find out how his conclusion that hick racists are Clinton's base was a joke, but that means I'd have to haunt TPM, and I'm having some blood pressure issues already. I shouldn't add to the stress.

Second, I'm not really paying much attention to the campaigns. I haven't watched a single campaign event, including the famous Obama speech (I read it), so my knowledge is pretty much filtered by others and thus I consider it a bit unreliable.

So let's for the sake of argument say that Hillary Clinton is running a campaign where she is deliberately using appeals to voters' racism in order to garner votes.

Is that really substantially different from Obama's speech? Well, yes. And no.

This may depend, of course, on how you read Obama's approach. I have a few conservative/libertarian friends. Good people, but misguided. And most of them LOVE Obama. Why? Because they think he "will listen" to them. He won't judge them or accuse them of hating the poor or blacks or of being awful people. They feel that Clinton, however, is the kind of prosy, lecturing bore they knew in high school, always telling them what to do and how to feel.

This concerns me. I think what a lot of people do not realize is that there is a whole lot of latent racism there that people want to leave be. It's one of the reasons Libertarianism appeals to the white supremacist/end-of-the-world types. They just want to be left to themselves to be as racist and/or kooky as they want, and Libertarianism is the political philosophy that will let that happen.

Now, do I really think Obama wants to make nice with racists as a matter of national policy? No, of course not. I'm perfectly comfortable with the idea that this is a political strategy is using to court support of more conservative voters. I hate the strategy. I don't think we should be making nice with people who want to be left alone to be racist, who want their racist ideas to be heard and listened to. Is that what the national conversation about race will involve? Everyone baring their soul and exposing their innermost racist thoughts, crying on each other's shoulders? I've seen that song before in Avenue Q, and it was a lot funnier and entertaining there.

Obama's campaign relies on appealing to racists just as much as Clinton's does. They take different approaches, and Obama at least is making a hand-wave to the potential transformation of racists. Yes, all the bad stuff is going to melt away before the awesomeness that is Obama. Whatever. I'll still vote for him if he's the candidate in November, and I pretty much believe he is a good guy who'll do his best for our country.

But I don't delude myself into believing that he is any less politically canny when appealing to racist voters than Clinton is.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

You know how you feel when the boy you have a crush on kicks a puppy?

Yet another male blogger/public intellectual disappoints me. This time it's Michael Berube.

After relating the ravings of a few ignorant people in his home town, he writes, "But there you have it– this is now Clinton’s base."

No.

Clinton's base is a significant number of women over 30 or 40. Please don't offend us yet again by ignoring our existence.