June 28, 2008
So, earlier today I was eating terrible Chinese food and reading the papers online when I came across this New York Times article.
I find this an entirely interesting rhetorical response to the bigotry (both purposeful and unconscious) that leads to certain voters rejecting even mere consideration of the Obama option. But what I'm particularly interested in is what my professional rhetoric scholar friends have to say. Well?
June 26, 2008
For those of you who have been following the case, the Supreme Court ruled today to strike down the D.C. Gun Ban on 2nd Amendment grounds. I am waiting on the arguments to come up on Oyez before I make too much of a commentary on the decision... I'm eager to see what their reasoning is. Cheers!
June 24, 2008
Would like to hear everyone's thoughts on this choice... pros, cons, and would it work?
Pros - Good experience, 9 terms in the House
Good geography - conservative southern democrat
Good looking - white male, classic politician look
Good military - chairman on VA subcommittee
Good fiscal sense - sits on budget and appropriation committees
Cons - not a national figure
Little foreign experience
June 19, 2008
From Capital Words:
"Capitol Words gives you an at-a-glance view into the daily proceedings of the United States Congress through the simplest lens available-a single word. For every day that Congress is in session, Capitol Words displays the most frequently used word in the Congressional Record.
Whether the word matches up to an issue, an action, or the name of a member of Congress, Capitol Words provides a snapshot of the main topic addressed by Congress for any given day, dating back to the second session of the 106th Congress (January 20, 2000)."
June 17, 2008
June 14, 2008
Thanks to the fine folks at HuffPo you can totally stalk your friends, neighbors, and enemies' campaign contributions (over 200 bucks only). I used it to search by the job category "professor" and found the follow shocking results:
$9,495,436 was given by people who identified their occupation as "professor."
$812,462 from 982 people to Republicans.
$8,682,974 from 11,036 people to Democrats.
There you have it! A liberal bias in the professoriate, hurray!
Go and play with it and tell us what you find! Prizes will be given!
June 12, 2008
"Petitioners have the constitutional privilege of habeas corpus.
They are not barred from seeking the writ or invoking the Suspension
Clause’s protections because they have been designated as enemy
combatants or because of their presence at Guantanamo."
This could be read as the Court drawing a line in the sand against the Bush Administration. If Bush fails to comply, then that is an impeachable offense. (and, one that the House might actually follow up on, nice try Kucinich)
June 10, 2008
So, what do you all think about the recent Jim Johnson/cheap loans flare up?
Personally, I think it is important for Obama to deal with this fairly, transparently, and promptly, and in a manner that is consistent with the politics of change he has been preaching the last year or two.
In other words, I think he should can Johnson, acknowledge poor vetting and be the first to say he believes in his message and understands that Johnson's role in his campaign is at odds with his message.
I really hope Barack does this, but it seems that for the moment he is disinclined to. I wonder why that is? Any ideas, folks?
As PCC readers know I was fortunate enough to be elected as an Obama Delegate to the Texas Democratic Convention, which took place June 5-7. I'd never been to something like this before and so I was psyched. The political true fan in me was excited to be a part of the process on such an important election year and the academic in me was excited to see what happens when 15,000 politically active citizens convene at their state convention. The Texass Democratic Convention satisfied both my true fan and my academic hopes.
True Fan Observations:
1. People will dress up in all of their political true fan glory, which shows that 1) you are among your people and 2) the TDC is a safe space for you to let loose your real political true fan self. Costumes, flags, co-ordinated true fan outfits, donkey furries, etc. are all accepted here. If it is befeathered, bejeweled, besparkled, beflagged, or betexased, then it is appropriate for the TDC.
For example, HuffPo ran this story on the fashions of the TDC (pics are better than sounds)
2. As a political true fan your main job at the TDC is to cheer for your candidate (even if she is no longer a candidate), but also make sure to acquire as many t-shirts, buttons, and bumper stickers as you can carry/ wear on your person (these only enhance your pre-planned true fan outfit!). Before you leave you must commit your heart and soul to "Turning Texas Blue" this November. You will not be asked to make any important decisions over the course of the DTC, so don't worry your pretty true fan self about that. Yay!
3. Texas political true fans in particular will have the opportunity to pledge, sing, pray, hand-hold, dance, and party it up with their fellow Texas true fans, which number around 15,000. All of this closeness can only help you to reach the nirvana of your true political true fan self, so do not under any circumstances attempt to separate yourself from your fellow true fans, even if you are a little bit frightened. Remember, we are all one now. U-N-I-T-Y.
1. The official tasks of the TDC are: 1) County Delegates sign in for their candidates, which in effect, is their vote for who should be the presidential nominee; 2) Elections are held for the Texas State Democratic Party offices and committees; 3) Elections are held for DNC Delegates and Electors (yes, this is where the Electoral College is formed!); 4) the Texas Party Platform is debated and ratified. The first tasks happens easily as Delegates sign in and get their credentials, but the other tasks will require Delegates to vote within their Texas Senate District Delegation (by county). Everyone who wants to stand for an office gets the opportunity to make a speech. There will be run-offs for each election.
It took nearly an hour just for our Senate District to figure out how to sit together in our County Delegations. After gathering together and finding our seats we discovered that Williamson County Delegates out-numbered the other 13 county delegations put together and if we didn't pool all of the little counties together, then we would always be out-voted by Williamson County. Williamson County, to their credit, was very organized. They didn't put up so many candidates for each post that it divided their Delegation (like we did), they voted as a block, and they had t-shirts! Our Senate District deliberations lasted until almost 2 a.m. Friday night, but in the end we got folks elected where we needed to. I could say a lot more about the details of this, but it isn't that interesting after the fact. There was much politicking--some of it was not quite honorable, I fear. But, in the end I'm very happy with they whom we elected as Obama Delegates to the DNC and that is all that really mattered to me.
The other functions of the Convention (electing State Officers and debating the Platform) will occur in the Committee of the Whole by voice vote and by District-level votes. This part of the process seemed even less organized for it was difficult to know by how loud 15,000 Ayed whether a particular item passed or not. Calls to Divide the Question (count the vote) led to agonizing delays. The first order of business tabled the question of whether or not to debate eliminating the controversial "Texas Two-Step" and many other proposed Platform items suffered the same fate. The Platform debates lasted well into the night, which meant that many things passed by the sheer determination of those who could stay up past midnight after the long two days of deliberations.
2. Because of precisely when the TDC fell in the primary calendar--just after Obama claimed to be the presumptive nominee and before Hillary dropped out--the main theme of the Convention was unity. We heard all about unity, uniting the party, Clinton and Obama supporters joining together to "Turn Texas Blue" and other such things ad nauseum. On the one hand, the timing of the Convention meant that we were already less divisive--I even talked quite a bit with the Clinton Delegates who had tried to steal my Obama Delegates away from me at the County Convention--but it also meant that every speaker hit the same notes and stressed the same ideas in their speeches. From a rhetorical standpoint, the Convention was crap. The only real rhetorical highlight was when David Van Os took the stage in his quest to replace Boss Hogg doppelganger Boyd Ritchie (who Van Os said represented Old School Texas Politics). Van Os was not only (a little nuts) inspiring, but he offered some real problems and specific solutions and vowed to really try to win Texas for Obama, not merely "rebuild" the Party. While Van Os electrified the crowd and changed a few votes in my Delegation, he won less than 20% of the vote. Boss Hogg will continue to reign over the TDP.
Prior to attending the TDC Delegates received email after email supplicating them for their votes for the various positions. Once we got to the TDC we were bombarded with stickers, flyers, posters, and speeches all advocating for candidates. I rejected the flyers and pocketed most of the stickers, but I noticed that when someone peeled a sticker off of its backing and then handed it to me that I was more likely to do something with it. It's a simple observation, perhaps, but when you give someone a sticker they are more likely to stick it somewhere if they have to. I've got a sticky sticker in my hand, it needs to go somewhere, shrug, I guess I'll put it on my tag/bag/shirt. Obviously stickers show support, but they also help folks to remember who they said that they would vote for (an important point when the night gets long)
3. Upon reflection, I believe that the Texas Democratic Convention can best be understood as political carnival. Merriam-Webster says that a carnival is "an instance of merrymaking, feasting, or masquerading; an instance of riotous excess; an organized program of entertainment or exhibition," all of which I believe fit what I saw at the TDC: Delegates were certainly merrymaking, feasting, masquerading, and indulging in riotous excess and the TDC seemed to be much more about entertainment and exhibition than it was about real politics. I hardly heard anyone talk about the real problems that Americans face today and I didn't hear a single solution to any problem. I heard many calls to colors, party unity, and winning offices, but I didn't hear anything about what any leader hoped to do with power once it was theirs. Once again, I fear that party politics is more concerned with organizing people to win elections than it is concerned with problem solving or the common good. Alas.
There is another sense of the word "carnival," which Mikhail Bakhtin has made central to his work that might help us here. For Bakhtin carnival was a space where “all were considered equal" and "a special form of free and familiar contact reigned among people who were usually divided by the barriers of caste, property, profession, and age.” I think that there is a way in which the TDC was carnival in this radically egalitarian sense, but only among the Delegates.
It didn't matter if you were African American, White, Brown, Young, Old, Rich, Poor or whatever, because you were a Delegate and so the status of Delegate trumped any other identifiers within the space of the TDC. We elected two Delegates in their 90s and one who had just turned 18. All 3 of our Obama DNC Delegates from Senate District 5 are African-American. We 15,000 of us all hung out, shared stories, offered one another a smile of support when things went long, and generally formed a community over the course of the TDC and in that sense it was carnival in the best sense of the word. The Delegates formed a community (yes, we united) and we worked together.
However, there was definitely hierarchy at the TDC and so Bakhtin's radically egalitarian sense of carnival does not quite fit here. While the Delegates formed a semi-united and egalitarian community, the Democratic Party leadership was not in anyway a part of that community. The leadership stood apart from the community, it instructed, it lectured, it urged, but it did not join with us. Elected officials dutifully came by and talked to us, but they didn't talk with us. They didn't sit with us. They didn't enjoy our long hours of decision making. They didn't listen to what we had to say about them or the nation.
The whole TDC was top-down, one-way communication between political leaders and political true fans, not at all the egalitarian space that one would hope for in a party that claims to be democratic.
On June 5-7 there were 15,000 Texas Democrats in Austin
for the Texas Democratic Convention.
Hillary and Obama supporters were urged repeatedly to UNITE! And "Turn Texas Blue!!"
Hillary supporters in particular went nuts when Chelsea showed up to give us a speech.
Mostly, I found the convention to be a sort of political carnival, full of fancy outfits, but very little political action.
The Brazos County Delegation were very nice folks to spend a few days with,
but were completely out-numbered in Senate District 5 by Williamson County who voted in a block and wore matching t-shirts.
This blurry picture is a synecdoche for the whole Texas Democratic (C)arnival.
June 5, 2008
I'm on my way to Austin this afternoon for the Texass State Democratic Convention. I'm super psyched to be able to cast my fourth vote for Senator Obama during the primary season. Gobama!
I have no love for representative republicanism organized through a strong two-party system. I mean, I'm obviously thrilled that Obama is the Nominee and I'm hopeful that I'll learn something about politics from attending the Convention, but I have to admit that so far my experiences this year have not given me any added confidence in the two-party system. As I suspected, and as the Founders knew, political parties organize people in order to keep their party on top, not for the common good. Right now we need politicians to care about the common good, not their party. I think that Obama might be that candidate, but I have seen little concern for the common good so far among the Texass Democratic Party. It's all Bush-bashing (which is fine with me) and rah-rah Democratic Party will win kinds of talk and very little talk of specific problems and solutions.
I'm most excited to go to the Progressive Populist Caucus tomorrow. I'm hoping that Texass Progressive Populism is at least a little progressive or populist. Will report more later.
June 4, 2008
So Barack and Michelle kicked off the celebration with a little dap action last night, huh? That's cool.
I guess I didn't think it was that weird until I saw this slate.com round-up about the difficulty the media is having with describing fist-bumping. I suppose I've done it with my friends since 6th grade basketball, but for media old-heads that apparently weren't paying attention during Vietnam, it must be something new.
Some of the better quotes:
“At 09:09:27 Central Time, Michelle Obama gave Barack Obama a pound in St. Paul, Minnesota.”—Lola New York
“I never realized how romantic and respectful and mutually appreciative and loving a frat-tastic fist bump could be. Could it be the new peck-on-the-cheek?”—The Frisky
“... Obama, who was joined on stage by his wife Michelle, with whom he shared a celebratory fist-bump.”—Reuters
I love it.
June 2, 2008
Reminds you of People's Park a little bit, doesn't it? This is apparently an international effort, supported by various blogs and this book.
Power to the People, y'all.