August 27, 2004

NPR: Now Pushing Republicans 

posted by Paul Smith @ 8:54 AM
Gee, if you listened to NPR, you'd think the President completely reformed our education system, sensibly reduced taxes, fixed prescription drug benefits, and was only thwarted from overhauling Social Security by weak-willed Congress. What an amazing president! Where have I been?

August 23, 2004

Obama is Picking Up a Following in...... 

posted by Scott @ 1:16 AM
........Kenya. Keyes plans head to that part of Illinois after he campaigns in South Illinois.

August 21, 2004

Making Sense of Najaf 

posted by Scott @ 11:57 AM
As always Juan Cole has the full story. This post is particularly informative of Muqtada al-Sadr's motives, something that is generally glossed over in the mainstream press. John Burns is also doing great reporting for the NYtimes.

August 20, 2004

Friday Media Misc 

posted by Scott @ 2:21 PM
Three Kings is coming back in theaters soon. Most people dismissed the film as a corny George Clooney action vehicle when it was orifginally released (with 'Marky' Mark Wahlberg and Ice-Cube to boot), but I think that was more a problem of how it was marketed. In reality, the film is a delightfully nuanced snapshot of early nineties Iraqi society and the first Gulf war hung on a standard heist plot. I always appreciate films that use generic plots to import weirdness and/or complexity (most recently the amazing In the Cut)--things that normally turn off mainstream audience if presented directly. Beyond being incredible prescient, Three Kings is also beautifully shot with off putting camera angles and a perpetual grainy filter that both serve to underscore the moral ambiguity of the war and the actions of Clooney's unit. This definitely makes a theatrical re-release a plus.

John Sayles is coming out with a new film next month that examines the American political system through the rise of a fictional Colorado Governor with major family connection. It's an obvious dig at Bush, but I'm glad that it isn't limited to that overcrowded subject. At least that's what this NYTimes piece claims. In any case, I've loved almost everything Sayles has made so I'm eagerly anticipating this one. Best Sayles starter film, Men with Guns. Or Matewan, which stars a young Will Oldham.

Slate has a quick review and some good mp3 clips of two intriguing San Francisco musicians that really defy easy categorization: Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom. If forced to I'd label Banhart a gympsified Dylan and Newsom an Appalachian Bjork (her lyrics are absolutely captivating). I caught them earlier this summer in Chicago and Newsom especially is utterly compelling live. People I know either love or hate their stuff but it's worth a listen.

Speaking of music, Zorn posted a test to see when you've gotten 'old' based on when you've become out of touch with the yearly summer hits. It's a cute test, but I don't give it much credence because I think it's odd to measure being young by what crappy yearly summer hits you recognize. I'd argue that being old is when you DO recognize those hits. There's nothing lazier and old-manish than just letting whatever the radio spoons out to you be your summer soundtrack. No real music lover gives a hoot what the radio is playing, especially in the last 10-15 years.

This article on Arrested Development from a few weeks ago is a must read. Basically, those Emmy nomination saved this brilliant series from cancellation. Fox is notorious for pulling the plug on great shows that sputter initially in the ratings--see Andy Richter Controls the Universe (doesn't it kill you to watch him in that neutered comedy now on fox) and Undeclared--and apparently Arrested numbers were incredibly low. I usually piss and moan that these awards never get anything right but this time they've saved a gem of a show. Best moments of the show: Job riding around on a segway, Buster blending into the wallpaper, David Cross's never-nude bit, and the stair truck.

August 19, 2004

Again With The Frickin' Missile Defense 

posted by Paul Smith @ 1:38 AM
I'm not surprised that it has resurfaced, given the place and time (Boeing plant in Pennsylvania, middle of campaign), but I am pleased that this time, there's an opponent that can take notice and issue a response:
"Despite this administration's near obsession with missile defense, the greatest threat facing our homeland comes from terrorists who would do us harm. In the months preceding 9/11 George W. Bush and his closest advisors were preoccupied with missile defense and their misunderstanding about the threats we face continues to this day. John Kerry believes an effective missile defense is crucial to our national security strategy. But John Kerry also understands the importance of facing our most pressing national security threats while continuing to develop and deploy a national missile defense which we know will work," said Kerry National Security Adviser Rand Beers.

August 18, 2004

Obama Should Reconsider Peotone Support 

posted by Paul Smith @ 11:11 AM
Barack Obama has come out in favor of building a third major regional airport in the south-suburban area around Peotone. It's a position he ought to reconsider. With delays at O'Hare leading to self-imposed caps on the number of flights by United and American as a reminder, the need to address the region's long-term transportation capacity is clear. Obama supports the expansion and modernization of O'Hare, which makes sense -- it's already a built and heavily utilized airport, the relative displacement of homes and wildlife would be small -- but a Peotone airport would create suburban sprawl (the airport would be 40 miles from downtown Chicago, requiring a estimated 100 miles of new toll roads, and there's no indication that local officials will push for high-density development), endanger the surrounding wetlands and the biodiversity they support, and pollute the watershed from storm run-off, all for a massive airport -- three times the current size of O'Hare -- that the major carriers aren't interested in (they're firmly planted at O'Hare), and so would be depending on low-cost carriers, who are already successful at Midway, an in-town and easily accessible location.

Better to use his political capital for efforts to build out high-speed rail links -- think Chicago-Minneapolis, Chicago-St. Louis, Chicago-Cleveland in the 2- to 3-hour range. Those 100- to 400-mile trips are expensive to operate by air and constitute a large number of the total flights each day. Building that infrastructure and the linkages to existing airports would create jobs and be less environmentally impactful.

BugMeNot.com Gone? 

posted by Paul Smith @ 10:22 AM
Whither the indispensable bullshit-news-site-forced-registration-avoidance tool BugMeNot.com? It's unreachable for me at the moment. Is anyone able to access it? Have the powers that be finally gotten to it, determined to make online news as inaccessible, unfriendly, and hidden from Google as possible?

UPDATE: Well, I may have gone a bit Chicken Little there. Looks like they're just having some technical difficulties. Um … carry on!

UPDATE PART DEUX: Still down, and others seem to think it is probably down for the count. Shazbot.

I agree, suh 

posted by Paul Smith @ 12:37 AM
I agree with the Mayor: let's stick up for our very own blogger extraordinaire from Illinois, ArchPundit, and make him the "Best Outside the Beltway."

August 17, 2004

Discussed in this issue: Keyes, reparations, intent 

posted by Paul Smith @ 11:28 PM
Alan Keyes continues to make daily headlines, this time proposing reparations for slavery. At this point I don't think anyone needs to be convinced of the unseriousness of his candidacy. The fact that he would try to outflank Obama to Obama's left in a vain effort to curry favor with blacks, of whom he is tragically alienated from, on perhaps the most taboo political issue around should be enough for whatever beaten-up state GOPers are still hanging on to beg off this campaign. It's clearly not a position he believes in ("The price for the sin of slavery has already been paid, in blood," he wrote, referring to the Civil War), so diehard Republican voters need to ask themselves whether they support an effort to be the antipode to Barack Obama on every issue, no matter where it falls on the political continuum or how inconsistent with your political tribe. This all quite apart from the constant stream of beyond-the-pale remarks. This is a berserker campaign designed, if not consciously by Keyes then certainly by those who sent him into the ring and knew what they were getting, to sully a man, and sadly I fear it is starting to accomplish that, just by his presence in the race, dirty by association.

Stupid Monkey 

posted by Paul Smith @ 7:43 PM
Introducing one of NBC's Precious Moments (or Olympic Moments or whatever), Jim Whosits said, "The theory of evolution is controversial." (He was trying to be cute, saying something about how evolution in sports is natural.)

No, you schmuck, what's controversial is NBC's self-indulgent and obfuscated coverage. Actually, it's not so much controversial as it is predictable. It may be that the Olympics will never again have the luster they had in recent decades, but NBC has sure done its part of late to make it as hard as possible to get invested.

What year is this? We're still furrowing our brows over evolution? Taking our talking points from Alan Keyes, are we?

Welcome to the RNC, bitch! 

posted by Paul Smith @ 1:46 AM
This is a must-see.

Illinois Martyr Brigade 

posted by Scott @ 12:08 AM
God, these guys sound like Hamas suicide bombers before they set off on a mission:
Every individual must decide which side of history they choose to be on. IllinoisLeader.com and its staff, those that have taken leave to work for Keyes and those that are staying to protect the home front, stand proudly with Alan Keyes on the Declaration principles on which he defiantly stands and on which our great nation was founded and built.

And the results will be similarly dubious. When the culmination of history for you is represented by a loon like Keyes you know that your convictions are right on target. Hey Leader folks don't forget to send a postcard to the homefront before you step off the cliff with this guy.

via Archpundit

August 16, 2004

A Bit of Housekeeping 

posted by Paul Smith @ 8:59 PM
I'm switching Polis back to HaloScan comments. It's nice that Blogger tried to integrate a comment system, but you have to log in to leave a comment, even anonymously. That's annoying and I think discourages people from participating. The HaloScan way is easier.

Update: I was informed that you can post anonymously without logging in via the Blogger system. There's still a extra page to wade through. At any rate, I prefer the HaloScan system. Plus it enables trackbacks.

Update of the second: I went a little compulsive and tackled the style of the site. Nothing huge, just tightened up some of the sizing, removed some crufty HTML, and shuffled a few things around, like prominently displaying the byline (there was some confusion recently about who was posting). Reactions?

"May Sway" Predictions 

posted by Paul Smith @ 1:30 AM
Reacting to this new AP report, "Expatriate vote may sway U.S. election," I hereby present as a public service to you dear reader, a list of all the possible factors which "may sway" the upcoming contest, each of which having been separately posited as potentially the deciding element of the race, that have been put forth with all seriousness by various pundits, analysts, armchair quarterbacks, handicappers, kibitzers, cranks, kooks, ne'er-do-wells, hangers-on, attorneys general, and prom queens, that I can recall:

The 2004 U.S. presidential election may be swayed by:Me, I think it will come down to a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil. F&*%ing chaos butterfly!

August 15, 2004

Politicizing A Disaster 

posted by Paul Smith @ 11:07 PM
The devastation caused by Hurricane Charley on Florida comes at a opportune time for the President: he can bestow a large amount of relief funds to the swing state that's sure to boost his favorables, tour around consoling with families while getting ample press coverage on the tax payer's dollar -- a freebee campaign stop -- and contrast himself yet again against his father's one-term presidency, who was famously slow to respond to Hurricane Andrew. With recent polls showing a consistent lead by his opponent in this state, the President can hope to pull a few percentage points back into his column by showing leadership.

What a cynical, bitter analysis, right?

If John Kerry, or anyone else, were president right now, I'd expect him to be doing more or less the same things. Disperse the resources of the federal government to help rebuild: this is exactly the sort of thing our government should do and does best, that is, buffer people from catastrophe, be it natural disaster or health emergency or sudden unemployment. And he should generally provide comfort to the grief-stricken, which is one of the roles we call on our president to perform.

But of course we have this president, and this president would never try to exploit a tragedy for political gain, right?
The president promised rapid assistance for Florida, where officials estimated damages of up to $11 billion to insured homes alone.

When asked about why he made such a quick trip to Florida in this election year, Bush said: "If I didn't come, they would've said we should have been here more rapidly."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency was sending teams of medical, urban rescue and communication workers; at least 60 semitrailers containing cots, blankets, meals, portable toilets, wash kits and other necessities; and truckloads of water and ice.

FEMA said the state has requested catastrophic housing for 10,000 people, and more than 4,000 National Guard troops have been activated.

"It's going to be awesome -shock and awe -that's our goal," said Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's younger brother.[Emphasis mine.]

In other news, the word "chutzpah" exploded today, wounding us all deeply.

August 13, 2004

The Uncertain Future of Communication 

posted by Paul Smith @ 4:00 PM
We take telephone service for granted, but here in Illinois, that service is firmly under the thumb of the local incumbent and dashing monopolist, SBC. (Well, by and large -- there is a Verizon component to some small town service areas, and a bunch of rural mom-and-pop providers that have existed for eons.) In any case, this control extends beyond our ability to choose (or not choose) who we pay to give us this service---SBC is one of the most powerful political forces in the state, and throughout the Midwest. They can basically ram any favorable legislation through Springfield, usually co-written by their legal team. (How're you feeling these days, MCI and AT&T?) The net effect of this power is that, as consumers, we feel the pinch anytime the marketplace actually does what it should do, that is, innovate and provide competition.

Voice-over-IP (VoIP) is radically reordering the world of telephony. A technology that converts your voice to 1s and 0s, sends these bits out over the Internet, and reassembles them at the other end, VoIP is much less expensive per call, because it costs very little to make a connection between two servers on the Internet, compared to keeping a circuit open on the copper wires of Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS). VoIP makes the concept of long-distance calls obsolete: from Chicago to St. Louis is practically equivalent in terms of Internet traffic as from Chicago to Bangkok. VoIP exploits the best feature of the Internet, which is that it's an agnostic platform for innovative technologies. And the best feature of VoIP is that anyone can get in the game. The reason there are no competitors to SBC is that they literally own the physical wires that voice traffic travels own; prospective competitors are put in the shameful position of having to pay to lease access to these lines and then be subject to the onerous terms of agreement. As MCI and AT&T found out, SBC can just leverage its monopoly power to make the barrier to entry high enough to keep everyone else out.

But if you are a young braniac with a great new idea for a VoIP feature that transcribes your voice messages to email, you just do it: there's no regulatory agency or imposing monopolist to prevent you from accessing the Internet and offering your cool new service to the world. The Internet is called the world's greatest end-to-end network---"end-to-end" means the intelligence, the applications, exist on the end points, the PCs and web-enabled cell phones and PDAs, while the underlying network cares not what kind of applications are passing through its hubs and routers. It's this combination of end-to-endiness and regulatory freedom that allowed for the greatest period of sustained technological innovation in history to occur (i.e., the past decade).

As I'm sure comes as no shock, the major telecommunications companies have been carpetbombing Washington over the past year, seeking to bring VoIP under the same sort of regulatory environment that they have had to live under. Funny that that burdensome environment has created a situation of telecom concentration and monopoly that rivals MaBell. What they seek is to squelch the little guys, the start-up VoIP companies and the medium-sized old-style carriers who are offering low-cost telephone service to their customers. The technology is disruptive to the SBCs, so they want to poison the growth medium in the petri dish. Fundamentally, the scary thing is the precedent Congress might set, a precedent of tinkering with the internals of the world's most successful and useful communications network.

Ironically, all of the major telecoms are and have been furiously changing their core networks over to VoIP, so that the bulk of their communications traffic already flows over the Internet. So their lobbying efforts are not about the technology per se, but about who gets to control it.

Nothing guarantees that the Internet today will look like the Internet tomorrow, and nothing guarantees that the spirit and market of innovation we've seen in Internet technologies will be allowed to persist. As it so often happens, it comes down to who's interests are our representatives responding to, our's or the industry's? Congressman Rick Boucher, filling in over at Prof. Lessig's blog, alerts us to the upcoming rewriting of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. While it is unlikely that Illinois will able to set its own telecommunications agenda without SBC's veto authority any time soon, the nation's Telecommunications Act will set the guidelines by which everyone has to play. I encourage you to take a look at his comments.

Do The (Electoral) Math 

posted by Paul Smith @ 12:32 PM
I hope Polis readers are already familiar with the Electoral Vote Predictor; if not, it should be part of your daily reading. It's updated every morning with the latest available polling from each state. The recent numbers should be soothing to hand-wringing Democrats worried about tight but meaningless nation-wide popular vote polls. Be sure to read the "News from the Votemaster" that accompanies each update; from today's:
Consider the significance of the map today. Kerry is leading by 116 votes in the electoral college. Suppose Bush loses Ohio and Florida? What can he do to catch up? He might win West Virginia, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Minnesota, Oregon, and Maine are currently barely Kerry, but it is likely Kerry will carry them in the end. Michigan and Pennsylvania are increasingly solid for Kerry. Bush has little hope there unless the September and October jobs reports are unexpectedly stellar.

So if Bush wins West Virginia, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin, the electoral college score is Kerry 294, Bush 244. If Bush wins Florida as well, he wins 271 to 267 like last time unless the Colorado referendum passes, in which case Kerry will get 4 votes in the electoral college from Colorado and still win the election. All this goes to show that without Ohio, Bush has to win all the Midwestern states still within his grasp and pray the Colorado referendum either fails or is shot down by the Supreme Court, which is probably not keen on deciding another election. Conclusion: a few tens of thousands of undecided voters in Ohio may swing the election. And remember, historically undecideds break 2 to 1 for the challenger against the incumbent.
No surprise there on the conclusion, but the number of possible paths this election could take is being reduced every day. There are still so many uncertainties with 80 days to go, and it promises to become very unpredictable as Bush et al. realize it's slipping away from them and start pulling out Plan Bs. But unthinkables aside, numbers like these let Kerry reach out to moderate Republicans and keep Bush near his base, throwing red meat (i.e. Kerry-hatin').

August 11, 2004

Get Ready: It's On To Iran 

posted by Paul Smith @ 1:46 PM
Najaf is looking more and more like a disaster, and the question is begged: why does it seem as if we are deliberately angering and provoking Shiites throughout the Middle East by destroying their holy city? Hmm, what nearby country is ruled by Shiites?
With their every dream, ambition and prediction for Iraq in ruins, the Bush administration and its neocon court are now in a panic. What can they do next? How can they distract the American people from their catastrophic and incompetent record on Iraq before the November election?

The answer is simple. It was stated quite expressly by Rice this past weekend: Don't worry about our failure to find any evidence of WMD after our preemptive war on Iraq -- we may be forced to take such preemptive action very soon against its neighbor, Iran.

If that October surprise doesn't rally voters back around Bush and ensure four more years for him and the neocons, what will?

The pattern of preparation for this is all too familiar from the buildup to war with Iraq. First, the war drums are sounded by the same old "experts"; then they are amplified by alarmist columnists. Once you see Krauthammer or Ledeen opining, as they have over the past two months, that Iran's nuclear capability poses the gravest possible threat to Civilization as We Know It, and that The World Cannot Afford to Wait and Negotiate, then you can guarantee -- conveniently close to the election to panic voters into supporting the president -- that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld will pick up the chorus.

Ledeen has already written at least two columns on the subject. Krauthammer, prophet of the Iraq war, has made quite clear his determination to unleash a new one. In his July 23 Post column he wrote: "The long awaited revolution [in Iran] is not happening. Which makes the question of preemptive attack all the more urgent ... If nothing is done, a fanatical terrorist regime openly dedicated to the destruction of the 'Great Satan' will have both nuclear weapons and the terrorists and missiles to deliver them. All that stands between us and that is either revolution or preemptive strike."

From the perspective of the chimerical and deranged weltpolitik, or "global strategy," of the neocons, targeting Iran is not merely a tactic of desperation but the fulfillment of what their plans were from the beginning. For the subjugation of Iraq under the puppet Chalabi was always seen as only the first step toward toppling target No. 2 -- Iran -- in the president's famous "axis of evil."
Interesting side note: this piece is from Martin Sieff, who's the "chief news analyst" for Sun Myung Moon's UPI.

UPDATE: Moments ago:
[T]he supreme leader of neighboring Iran warned that U.S. combat operations in Najaf constitute "one of the darkest crimes of humanity."

August 10, 2004

Keyes The Right Pick After All? 

posted by Paul Smith @ 11:39 PM
Like most, I've been simply baffled at the state Republicans' choice of Alan Keyes, especially so after watching him come out of the gate and look so ridiculous (cf. the "slaveholder" comment, the carpetbagging hypocrisy). Even after the incompetence of the past few months since Ryan bowed out, this guy seems to mark a new low for Judy Baar and the gang.

But then I read this graf by Kos and I have to question my take on this:
The Illinois GOP screwed up horribly. Keyes isn't running for Senate, he's running for higher ratings and book sales.
Well, yeah, that's right: Keyes doesn't give a flip about Illinois and must be smart enough to know he's unelectable, so it has to be for his ego and profile, and maybe a little bit for the cause of far-right reactionary Declaration-of-Independence-as-religious-text-fetishists in general. And, at the risk of giving them too much credit, the state GOP must know he can't beat Obama. So perhaps this is their way of, in effect, conceding the race and "keeping their powder dry." Remember there was a lot of talk by Zorn, Archpundit, here at Polis, et al. a few weeks ago about conceding the race, conserving money and talent for the next cycle? Now they can do it without an unthinkable public declaration as such. No up-and-comer or party loyalist need sacrifice a safe county commissioner or state rep seat. And they don't have to support the logical choice - the guy who came in second in March - and incur the undying wrath of Bush and Rove. If and when the race is lost, it wasn't one of their own, no carcass left behind, he's back to Gaithersburg. They can say, hey, you know, these were unusual circumstances, we had to make a decision and pick the best possible counterpart to Obama, but you know, he didn't really represent our party in this state. Maybe that's one reason they're all scattering like cockroaches when asked about supporting the pick, or as Jon Stewart put it, "coming up with alibis." Financing is a minus, you would like to have had a self-funder, but Keyes' ideology and the high-profile race will likely lead to conservative dollars flowing in from outside the state.

The biggest flaw in my argument (no, besides that it's completely speculative) is that, under this scenario, they would be knowingly sticking it to the down-ticket races by giving them no coattails, and possibly suppressing turnout in some areas, even. Well, I give up - I can't explain it, either.

Provisional Ballots 

posted by Paul Smith @ 10:01 PM
Having witnessed the use of provisional ballots first-hand during the March primary election, I agree with the main thrust of this AP report, that problems could be caused if vote margins are close and a large number of provisional ballots are issued, now that their use is mandated across the country. In principle, they are a good thing, allowing people to vote despite bookkeeping foul-ups or other voter roll nonsense. In practice, they introduce a level of complexity and uncertainty into a process that is otherwise fairly unambiguous: you come in, you produce i.d. or a registration card, you either are or are not on the rolls, and you vote or you don't vote. Of course there are contigencies at each step, but what's nice about this process is that there's a fairly straightforward decision tree for election judges and poll watchers. Since the issuance of a provisional ballot is sort of a catch-all for election day, the potential for making mistakes or mischief is higher. As a coordinator of several precincts' worth of poll watching during the primary election, we were at times in different polling places when voters were issued provisional ballots and shouldn't have been (they didn't have an affidavit or person vouching for their identity) and times when they weren't issued provisional ballots and should have been (the election judge didn't understand the guidelines, or gave the voter a regular ballot). I don't believe any malfeasance was taking place here - really, it was more that the judges were out of their depth and not properly trained - but as the article says, the process didn't result in many actual votes.

In software development - and I'm sure in other fields like engineering - we talk a lot about the "80/20 rule," which means the first 80% of a given project can be finished in 20% of the total time allotted, and then the final 20% of the project takes the remaining 80% of the time. The reason is that it's easy to rough in the structure of a system; it's much harder to deal with all the edge-cases and finely-resolved detail. Provisional balloting as currently implemented feels a bit like the first 80%.

August 09, 2004

Keyes On Eight Forty-Eight: Yikes 

posted by Paul Smith @ 2:34 PM
I wonder how soon before the state GOP says to itself, "We have the buyer's remorse." WBEZ's Eight Forty-Eight gave Illinoisans their first real glimpse of Alan Keyes as the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate this morning, and it wasn't a pretty sight. Host Steve Edwards went relatively easy on him, I'm sure to ensure return visits, but with a figure like Keyes, you just get out of his way and let him do his thing. You really need to hear him for yourself, so I suggest checking out the archives tomorrow when BEZ posts the RealAudio of the show if you missed it.

The biggest problem with Keyes, beyond his high-tension voice that is just murder early in the morning, he's one of those guys that uses a blustery rhetorical style of the kind where it sort of sounds like something smart is being said, if you unfocus your ears, but really, nothing too substantial is being put forth, at least nothing to justify the verbal diarrhea. This style also lets the speaker disguise his inability to make a convincing argument. He's like the political bastard child of Don King and Damon Wayans' pontificating inmate from In Living Color.

And it didn't matter when a question called for a succinct reply - EVERY SINGLE ANSWER was long-winded and prone to irrelevant asides. Which can be ingratiating in the hands of a very talented few, but Keyes' stridency is a major turn-off - there's nothing about him to warm up to. At first I was sort of entertained by his mania, but I quickly fatigued at both his tone and the tediousness of his thoughts. Republicans: as wasteful with our words as with our natural resources.

August 04, 2004

GOP Gives Alan Keys To Their Senate Hopes 

posted by Paul Smith @ 11:02 PM
The state GOP has asked Keyes; he wants the rest of the week to make a decision.
Members of the Republican State Central Committee that chose the candidate said race wasn't the important factor; the committee wanted "somebody who appeals to a broad spectrum of voters," said co-chairman Stephen McGlynn.

Considering that they did run through a number of non-black potentials in the recent weeks, the first part of that graf may seem plausible to someone who hasn't been paying attention. But everything changed last Tuesday when their challenger turned into the hottest black politician in the country. Then Barthwell's and Keyes' names go to the top of the list.

"Somebody who appeals to a broad spectrum of voters": considering Keyes' far-right and fundamentalist views, I'm guessing the balance of that quote reads "in Wheaton."

Why Keyes? 

posted by Paul Smith @ 4:39 PM
I agree with Archpundit: the Austin Mayor makes a valiant effort trying to rationalize why, given the sheer unwinnability of the contest and the fact that Keyes has no connection to Illinois politics whatever, the state Republicans are courting this bizarre figure. Certainly, if I were a low-down, long-term-thinking GOP party loyalist, I would be thinking of ways to throw a little mud on Obama and hope it stains him enough to be remembered at some far off point in the future when the senator runs for president.

But I agree with the "on the other hand" point more: this kind of speculation - that the state Republicans are treating this race like part of a larger, complex game of chess - simply ascribes the lot of them far more intelligence and sophistication than has been demonstrated to date.

I was walking with a friend today who's had experience in state politics, and he said, you've got to remember, these people just aren't that smart. Sure, on occasion they're savvy or evince a bit of cunning. But it's no prerequisite for the job.

I think what happened here boils down to, "Hey, they've got a black guy; uh … here's our black person! Eh?"

August 02, 2004

GOP Looking To Carpetbagger Keyes 

posted by Paul Smith @ 9:56 PM
Illinois Republicans are courting their own Harvard-educated African-American to run for Senate, according to the Sun-Times:
Hoping to add real electricity to the U.S. Senate race, Illinois Republicans have been secretly talking to former GOP presidential candidate Alan Keyes about taking on Democratic nominee Barack Obama — a move that would pit two eloquent, nationally known African Americans against one another.

And Keyes is thinking it over, GOP officials said today.

“What a home run that would be,” said state Sen. Dave Syverson, a member of the panel looking for a candidate to go up against Obama.

“It would be a classic race of conservative versus liberal. And they would be enjoyable debates. It would make an exciting race. It would put this race on the map in this country — just for excitement.”
Keyes is a familiar figure to me beyond his presidential campaigns 1996 and 2000 — he unsuccessfully ran for Senate in Maryland twice, against Paul Sarbanes in 1988 and against Barbara Mikulski in 1992.

Keyes is a far-right conservative who's opposed to women's rights. He believes that free speech and a free press are OK as long as it leads to people behaving according to his religion. He's a fundamentalist fixated on a hyperreligious interpretation of the Declaration of Independence, of all things, and implicitly questions the patriotism of any American who doesn't subscribe to this reading.

So, yeah, big home run there, GOPers. A guy who's way out of the mainstream, will turn off moderate, undecided Illinoisans, and doesn't even live here, but you're going after him because he's black. How cynical can you get?

On the other hand, he does represent what Republicans has become — dragged into pending oblivion by religious fundamentalists and "starve the beast"ers — so, like I've said before, it makes sense to run your true ideologues when you know you're going to get your butt kicked, just to get your issues out there. And in the frenzy that would ensue should Keyes get the nod, they can be sure of an attentive media.

It's all academic right now; we'll find out one way or another tomorrow.

Obama Elevates the Debate 

posted by Paul Smith @ 9:26 AM
The reason I loved to watch The West Wing until it went off the air last year (you know what I mean) was that, beyond from being a great drama superbly executed, it scratched my itch for thoughtful, constructive political dialogue, even though it was taking place in an alternate universe. Then Barack Obama came along last winter, and suddenly here was a guy who could talk that talk, but in a real, meaningful, this-universe way. His DNC keynote not only brought that style to the masses, but transformed his already formidable message to Illinoisans into a transcendent, American one. The remarkable reaction his speech is still generating hints at what a yearning there was - lying dormant amidst all the Rovian, Rumsfeldian, and, yes, even Clintonian cynicism - for an honest sense of shared hope not puffed up with empty rhetoric.

WaPo columnist William Raspberry outlines nicely why Obama is causing such a stir:
The political marketers have become so adept at finding America's fault lines that they have almost convinced us that we are mindless elements of a jigsaw puzzle, incapable of complex beliefs. If we take religion seriously, then we must be undereducated bumpkins with no appreciation of the Constitution or science. If we believe the government has a duty to protect the weakest among us, then we must be silly tax-and-spend liberals.

Obama was saying: It's not that simple.

And my conservative Republican friend Ed Chinn was saying from Fort Worth: "My gosh! I so resonate to that. I hope his comments catch on like a prairie fire through the land.

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