Political MoJo

Liberal Americans more willing to give post-Katrina aid to white victims

| Tue Jun. 13, 2006 12:00 PM EDT

The Washington Post conducted a study to determine how racial cues presented in Katrina news coverage influenced citizens' response to the hurricane's aftermath. These racial cues were found in both thematic stories that covered the hurricane in general, and in episodic stories that focused on particular individuals.

Participants in the study were given a thematic story that covered the extent of the flooding and the destruction of parts of New Orleans, and one that focused on lawlessness and looting. Participants were also given episodic stories about victims of various races. About 2,300 people completed the study. Of this group, "the sample was skewed heavily" in the direction of Democrats and liberals: Only 12% identified as Republicans. 86% were critical of Bush's handling of Katrina, and 84% had earned at least a bachelor's degree.

The details of the study may be viewed here. Here are the major findings:

People were willing to give assistance to a white victim, on average, for about 12 months, and they were willing to give the same amount of aid to an African American person for about 11 months. A darker-skinned black victim was selected to receive $100 a month less, over a shorter period of time, than a light-skinned white person. Participants who read an article on looting were the least generous toward African Americans.

"We suspect that this group would score at or very near the top of most measures of support for civil rights and racial equality," Post authors said of the study's participants. "The fact that this group awarded lower levels of hurricane assistance after reading about looting or after encountering an African-American family displaced by the hurricane is testimony to the persistent and primordial power of racial imagery in American life."

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Head in the Sand

| Mon Jun. 12, 2006 7:36 PM EDT

Best way to ignore global warming? Cut funding for satellite programs "designed to give scientists critical information on the earth's changing climate and environment." It sure is good to be president…

MORE: "The quality and credibility of government research are being jeopardized by inconsistent policies for communicating scientific findings to the public, says an independent group of scientists that advises Congress and the White House."

Americans want change, but can progressives make the sale?

| Mon Jun. 12, 2006 6:04 PM EDT

At the opening of today's Take Back America conference, hosted by the Campaign for America's Future, progressive leaders, pollsters, Robert Redford and even a bland Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid, all argued that the conservative era was over and Americans are ready for change. Campaign for America Future's co-director Robert Borsage and pollster Stan Greenberg released a new poll and strategy manual, a roadmap for progressives (okay, liberals) showing that on issues ranging from using international alliances to build our security to regulating business abuses, Americans favor the progressive solutions over the conservative ones."We were asked with this poll, to find out if the country has reached a tipping point. The answer is yes. The conservative world view is in the deepest trouble at its very core philosophical underpinnings."

But the press releases and web pages don't highlight Greenberg's skepticism about the failure so far of the Democrats to convince the public that they offer a better way. Even though the Republican agenda was now "rubble," progressives haven't won over the public or yet reached them effectively. That's the obstacle this conference can help overcome. Check this space for more details and updates.

Extreme Home Makeover--Corruption Editon

| Mon Jun. 12, 2006 4:49 PM EDT

Businesses have donated $700,000 to Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick to pay for the renovation of his Austin apartment. Craddick and his wife say they do not think it is right for the public to pay for the renovation, but how can it be "right" for Craddick to accept so much money from businesses?

$250,000 came from the AT&T Foundation alone, and another $250,000 came from billionaire investor Harold Simmons and his companies. The nearly 2,000-square foot apartment is the only apartment inside a state capitol in the United States. Craddick and his wife declined an interview with the Associated Press and declined to provide an apartment tour.

Can Wal-Mart Do Fair Trade?

| Mon Jun. 12, 2006 4:47 PM EDT

The newspapers tell us that Wal-Mart is going to start purchasing and selling "fair trade" coffee. That certainly seems like a good thing, though it's only natural to be suspicious here. Wal-Mart's whole business strategy is to reduce its prices by pushing some of the true costs of its products onto other people—paying workers below-living wages, pressuring its suppliers into lowering their labor standards, forcing customers to drive longer distances to get to its stores, violating environmental laws, etc. etc. But "fair trade" is predicated on the idea that corporations—and customers—should pay the full cost of their products.

Presumably something has to give, no? Perhaps in the future Wal-Mart can reduce its prices on "fair trade" products by lobbying to weaken regulations governing what can count as "Fair Trade Certified." Maybe not, but that seems like a reasonable thing to worry about.

Darfur: Harder Than It Seems

| Mon Jun. 12, 2006 3:38 PM EDT

There's not exactly a groundswell for sending more troops overseas these days, but The New Republic's editors are still trying to make the case for intervention in Darfur. The argument's worth reading, although the idea that intervention would "only" take 20,000 NATO troops seems absurdly optimistic, reminiscent of prewar Pentagon estimates about how many troops would be needed to occupy Iraq—low-ball figures that TNR and other liberal hawks have criticized in hindsight. And then there's this:

This is not Iraq: A few weeks ago, thousands of Darfuris demonstrated in a camp, chanting, "Welcome, welcome, USA. Welcome, welcome, international force."
This, it seems, is TNR's way of saying that Darfur would be a "cakewalk" and we'd be welcomed with "rose water and flowers." As the links in that last sentence suggest, that's exactly the same thing that was predicted about Iraq, before the war. And more to the point, a lot of Iraqis really did welcome American troops in the early days of the war, as Anthony Shadid's Night Draws Near shows. But obviously all that "rose water" and goodwill quickly evaporated once things went to shit and people started dying. The same would almost certainly be true in Darfur.

That said, I think Eric Reeves has made a decent case that intervention in Darfur could well succeed and save a lot of lives. But any confidence that it would be simple seems preposterous. To take another "non-controversial" humanitarian intervention, the UN has been in the Balkans for a decade, the region is still extremely unstable, and there are no signs that they can leave anytime soon. So are we talking about a decade-long occupation in Sudan? Maybe. If there's anything to be learned from history, it's that intervening in Darfur would likely be far, far more difficult than anything currently being contemplated.

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Guantanamo has driven Rear Admiral Harry Harris insane

| Sun Jun. 11, 2006 4:19 PM EDT

The Bush administration's war on terror has claimed another victim--namely, the tenuous grip on reality possessed by Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., the commander of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. Commenting on the suicides of three detainees, Harris offered this analysis:

"They are smart, they are creative, they are committed," Admiral Harris said. "They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."

I don't think this requires any further comment.

Yearly Kos: "This isn't about the Democratic Party; it's about the United States of America."

| Sun Jun. 11, 2006 2:13 AM EDT

Another action-packed day at YKC 06. Here, for starters, are some highlights from Howard Dean's fine 8 a.m. address to bleary-eyed netroots-types. (Bleary-eyed, having spent Friday night at a party thrown by former Virginia governor Mark Warner, 108 storeys above the Strip at the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino; a party featuring Elvis and Blues Brothers impersonators, an open bar, thrill rides, "Kos martinis," and, yes, the dentally formidable presidential hopeful.)

Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee:

This is the handoff between the baby boomers and the millennial generation. ... This is a movement that's not so different than the one in the sixties, to take back America. ... In the sixties what we fought for was individual rights, equal rights under the law for every single American. We're still fighting for those things today, but we have lost our way, starting in 1980, when the "Me Party" took over from the "We Party."

Interestingly, none of the things the Republican Party predicted came true. They are the party of big government interfering in people's personal decisions; they are the party of secrecy and dishonesty. And they are the party of the largest national debt in the history of the country and in fact the history of the free world.

So now this is the generation that takes the country back to the ideals laid before us by Franklin Roosevelt and Jack Kennedy. But it's a different generation, and you know more about the world than we did. ... You understand that we are all citizens of the world...because of the [Inter]net. What we are now engaged in is a new American generation, a community, that wants to restore American values, the best American values...the American values of ordinary people.

What I think Americans really want is not just to beat up on the right wing. The president is at 30 percent in the polls; I think people get it. Now, a sentence every once in a while reminding people what they're doing is a very good thing. But I think people want a unified country. They really do want to reach out to everybody, understanding that we're all in this together. It's why the scapegoating politics of the right isn't working. And you're a big piece of that.

When the right wing took over the country, they did it by fighting every day for four years. And then their next cycle would start the day after the election. That's what we have to do in the Democratic Party. I do care about the Democratic Party; I think the Democratic Party is heads above the Republican Party. But the truth is, this isn't about the Democratic Party; it's about the United States of America. And the Democratic Party is the vehicle to reform America.

But this is a tough fight, and you don't win just because you're right. You win because you outwork the other guys, you're tougher than the other guys and...because you appeal to the higher instincts of people instead of to people's worst instincts. Those guys win elections by scapegoating people. From Ronald Reagan's "welfare queen" to George Bush's gay and lesbian Americans. ... We will not do that, because it's bad for America, and the one big difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party is that they will put the interests of the Republican Party ahead of the interests of the United States of America, and we will not do that.

Click here for video clips from the Yearly Kos convention.

Why are the comics tougher on Bush than the Democrats?

| Sat Jun. 10, 2006 3:20 PM EDT

Tonight, on HBO, comic Lewis Black eviscerates George Bush, Dick Cheney and right-wing fundamentalists in a funny, biting way that the leaders of the Democratic party -- or even many progressives -- don't have the nerve or wit to do. (I saw the show live in May, and his take-down on Bush's cluelessnss while visiting amputated Iraq vets is a masterpiece of dark comedy and expert timing, joined by a hilarious defense of evolution and the fossil record against the ignorance of "intelligent design" advocates.)

Earlier in the week, Jon Stewart took on Bill Bennett over gay marriage with a devastating rebuttal of the right's notion that gay marriage threatens heterosexual marriage. He staked a clear moral ground on civil rights and gays as part of the human family, as opposed to the legalisms over state's rights that most Democrats used in opposing the gay rights constitutional amendment.

Perhaps the comics are showing us the way towards the "authenticity" that so many political experts say the public wants to see in their candidates, and that the consultant-driven presidential candidates of the Democratic Party in recent years have lacked.

Yearly Kos: Do blogs matter, anyway?

| Fri Jun. 9, 2006 9:14 PM EDT

Over at Townhall.com, Jeff Emanuel, a young conservative and himself a blogger, wonders if bloggers and blogs, particularly liberal ones, are all they're cracked up to be (as we in the Riviera Hotel and Casino strongly believe). He asks, specifically:

1) Is the Daily Kos model (and are blogs in general) the way of the future or just a flash in the pan?
2) Just how much influence, if any, do Moulitsas and his "Kos Kids" have within the Democrat Party?

Here's his gleeful take:

The Daily Kos model, and blogs in general, are not just a flash in the pan. The Kos has been among the most-viewed websites for several years now, and his exposure appears to be growing rather than receding. He's penned an article in the American Prospect and been the subject of a piece in Campaigns & Elections as well as other publications. As long as Air America is up and running (perhaps not long), Moulitsas will have a voice over the airwaves as well.

The bad news is that Kos has just about the most-viewed blog on the planet. The good news—-and it is very good [sic!]—-is that conservatives have not been afraid to follow suit and have jumped on the opportunities offered by this medium. With the exception of Daily Kos, nearly all of the top blogs in the nation—Michelle Malkin, Instapundit, Townhall, Little Green Footballs, Club for Growth, and others—are conservative. More and more Republicans in Congress are even being convinced of the merits of the blogosphere, the result of a Capitol Hill blogging revolution currently being engineered by new-media enthusiasts like David All, communications director for Representative Jack Kingston, R-GA. Blogs offer an extremely quick and efficient way to get information out to large numbers of people and will become more and more utilized in the future—-not less.

Fair points. It's certainly true that, as John Palfrey, Harvard's top Internet-watcher, puts it, Republicans "have been much more effective than Democrats, generally, at integrating blogging and other Internet tools within campaigns. Even the Democrats will say Republicans were much better at using these things functionally."

Emanuel goes on:

As to the second question, Kos and his Kids (perhaps unfortunately) have little or no influence over the day-to-day activities of the Democratic Party. They stand firmly against any principles which lie to the right of pure socialism; thus, they cannot support any candidate who could ever have a chance of winning an important election. ...

Well, this is nonsense. If "Kos and his Kids" lack influence, it's not because they're wild-eyed lefties. I'm not quite sure what Emanuel means by "pure socialism," but reading Kos's book on the plane ride over here I was mostly struck by his--and co-author Jerome Armstrong's--flexible, pragmatic approach to electoral politics. They argue that if Democrats want to win more votes they're going to have to tame their special interest groups, and those groups--be they pro-choicers, environmentalists, or what have you--are going to have to learn, on occasion, to subordinate their narrow concerns to the common good. That vision of the common good is broadly "liberal," no doubt, but not "left" in any predictable, dogmatic sense. (It can occasionally demand, for example, that Democrats throw their support behind anti-choice candidates.)

But the question remains: how important are bloggers to the Democratic Party? Or, as this piece puts it, "Can bloggers significantly affect turnout or shape issues, or are they mostly echo chambers with little measurable sway? Will those trends change as more Americans turn to the Internet to get news, nurture their personal relationships and make commercial transactions?"

The answer is...nobody seems to know. Liberal bloggers have notched up some notable successes, powering the meteoric (if short-lived) rises of Howard Dean and Paul Hackett. And though Hillary Clinton is conspicuously giving YKC 06 a miss, Mark Warner, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Howard Dean are scheduled to drop by, and Wesley Clark looked in earlier today. Even so, though Kos himself sees the convention as evidence that "We have arrived," it's Warner's equivocal, hedging approach that seems to capture the uncertainty around the blogosphere's influence.

"When I go anyplace now, I'll usually call some of the key bloggers," said Warner, who also is hosting a party for bloggers at this week's convention. "I'm trying to shift the debate from 'left vs. right' to 'future vs. past.'...

Blogging, Warner said, "may just be the tip of the iceberg" in terms of the impact the Internet has on campaigns in 2008 and beyond.

"How significant is podcasting going to be? Text messaging and video messaging to cell phones?" he said. "As people look at new ways to slice and dice demographics, the personalized way somebody can talk to you as an individual voter about the issues you care about?"

Translation: I have no idea where this thing is going, but I've nothing to lose by rolling the dice on these guys--for now.