Saturday, May 29, 2010

How to get Banned by the Daily Kos

The Daily Kos first billed itself as
a Democratic blog, a partisan blog. … recognizes that Democrats run from left to right on the ideological spectrum… But it's not a liberal blog. It's a Democratic blog with one goal in mind: electoral victory.

Sounds good to me. Then the description goes onto,
This site is about more and better Democrats, not necessarily in that order.

I don’t know how you are going to win elections without more Democrats, especially in this environment, but, they must have some kind of clue.

I used the Daily Kos a few months ago when I had some ideas that needed a poll associated with what I was saying. I blogged under the name Bignerd. I have been blogging at the Huffington Post since August of 2009 under the name Joe the Nerd Ferraro (I was using that moniker long before any plumber guy showed up and stole my idea). With over 1000 fans at Huffington Post, I have been starting to expand a little, Facebook page here, got a nice piece in the Philly Inquirer there… whatever. The Daily Kos was on the list.

I went in with a provocative piece, which is an opinion that I hold about Elena Kagan being SNL‘s Pat. Right up front I led with the idea that I don’t care about this woman’s sexuality. I care more about the emotional support structure she is using, if there is one. Too often sexuality and this structure overlap. I have the opinion that this is a discussable and debatable point. I also think that if the administration wanted to create a sexual smokescreen in the media around this candidate they could seat someone more conservative than another, more known quantity; also a debatable and discussable point.

Within minutes of releasing it on the Daily Kos, I got comments. Most of them were attacking me personally for having written something like this. Well, here’s the link if you want to see what mob rule does… link I hope they leave it up.

I can take it when someone disagrees with me. I can even pretty much take it when they are disagreeable. But what really got me was there was a segment of these folks that wanted me to apologize to their entire site for having an opinion and expressing it. Looking at their commentary, it would have been like thanking the mugger for beating me up. That is a nocando.

A number of people were citing that I had a bunch of negative ratings and no one recommended my diary. That’s ok – obviously a large number of people read it and had a reaction, the purpose of the piece, it worked. The end of the day, even when I apologized to individuals who felt personally offended – some of the piranhas were still attacking. Real tough crowd.

The next day, I figured the way to make it right was to write something more mainstream in their thought process. Show them I am not what they called me the day before. There were a fair number of people who read and commented on the second piece as if the previous day never occurred.

Even more read it and were amused enough by the poll I put up to answer in some of the goofy categories.

But alas, the stalking horses attacked within an hour, again demanding an apology for having written something that soooo offended them that they, the keepers of purity of thought, must hammer the thinker down. My response, straight from the mouth of my Cousin Wanda, coated in a thick Italian accent, TOUGH NOOGIES. Here’s the link and you can think for yourself - link.

By the end of the day, I was banned.

On one level, it is pretty funny.
  • Kagan as SNL’s Pat
  • Rahm Duct-Taping a naked Rove to Ken Starr
  • A bunch of really up-tight hyper-moralists trying to and succeeding in shutting me down.

On another level it is a problem.

This is a site setting itself up for “Better” Democrats. I don’t know how one defines that. I don’t understand how one enforces that. When I was joking on the Huffington Post about this banning, someone suggested that I contact “The KOS” and plead my case. I replied that “The Kos” is probably a good egg, but I don’t know if I want to be associated with a population that acts like this.

What I have experienced is an echo chamber that allows posters to call one another vile and unprintable names. Is that what being a “better Democrat” is about? (I’d rather be a better human anyway.)

I look at the political scale as a circle that when you get too far to the right, you have bent to the furthest reaches of the left. Both have hyper-moralists with no problem purging those with different opinions. These are not people who really believe in the American Idea of free speech. And that’s ok, as the site is owned by the Kos, he’s paying for it, he’s getting the ad revenue from it. It is his business. We all know about the Citizens United Ruling.

If the site is still really about getting D’s elected, here a newsflash:

Dems will lose if you try to make everybody think like you.

There are 300,000,000 people with even more opinions of what the world looks like. As a Democrat who has worked in towns with registration disadvantages of 7 to 1 at times, I can tell you that you need to treat people who do not think like you with respect. They may have ideas that may grow on you.

If you want someone to convert to what you think, what will you give on to compromise with them? Part of politics is give and take, not forming a unithought from groupthink.

I will wear my banning as a badge of honor. I still haven’t decided if I will start a Facebook page along the lines of – “I was Banned by The Daily Kos!

The Deal Not Taken - Sestak v. Obama v. GOP

Whenever we see a deal being made we think about the quid pro quo - this for that. We want "transparency" - whatever that is. There is always something underneath.

Congressman Joe Sestak had been previously asked to run for Senator Specter's seat by the Senate mucky-mucks of the Democratic hierarchy. This is normal politics - see someone with potential and promote them. Congressman Sestak, an Admiral by trade, is used to this type of thing when he sees potential, he promotes it. He accepted the Democratic challenge.

They gave him their word, he gave his word back. (I think giving your word means something to this guy.)

That was before Senator Arlen Specter had his moment of doubt in faith. The White House gave its word to Specter that it would clear the Democratic Primary field. Someone forgot to tell the Admiral.

So the political scramble game ensues. "What do we have to offer the Congressman to get out?" That is the politics as usual that we all love to hate. I don't think anyone can blame the President for trying to do what he could. He is the leader of the Democratic Party; he just picked up the 60th vote in the Senate and wanted to do what he could to keep it. Cut a deal, clear the field.

Only the Congressman didn't budge.

He said no to whatever job or benefit they were offering. At a certain level, isn't this what we want? The guy can't be bought.

Had Congressman Sestak taken the deal, what would we have thought of him? If you are going to sell your soul, at least get a good price for it. He would have sold out. We hate people who sell out. He would have been done politically. He would no longer be his own man. Sestak has gotten a taste of how much fun doing constituent service is. No job that they could have offered to him would match what he really wants to do.

Sestak made a gaffe on the campaign trail when asked about this "deal". He acknowledged there was an offer. He answered the question truthfully, however, he did not elaborate. He doesn't have to. This "gaffe" may be an issue on which the fall election turns.

On Meet The Press this week David Gregory pressed the Congressman on this point. What offer? What Job? How soiled is your dirty laundry? Congressman Sestak just acknowledged an offer was made and that was it.

As a Democrat, I hope the GOP pushes this point. If they try to look at the internal political horse trading that goes on, they open themselves up to the same scrutiny. This will backfire big time on them, and the whole system. What deals are made in GOP backrooms? Ed Schultz could be on the air forever.

This also puts Sestak on such a high road that his opponent in the fall will never have a chance to catch him. If you want someone with an independent streak, why not Sestak? He stood up to his party and the President. They could not buy him off. That is a positive political commercial that would bury any opponent. The louder the GOP hot-air machine bloviates about a political deal being improper, the bigger Congressman Sestak looks for not taking it.

If the 2010 Elections are going to be about the flaws of the incumbency, this episode may be at the epicenter.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Is Elena Kagan 'Pat' from SNL?

People like to know what they got.  It makes us comfortable.  The SNL Pat Skit was so good for so long because it played on people's discomfort about not knowing who someone really is.

There is a lot of press being generated about Elena Kagan's personal life.  It is essentially being reported that she doesn't have one. 

If Elena Kagan is asexual, fine.
If Elena Kagan is a lesbian, fine.
If Elena Kagan is heterosexual, fine.

But this can be a big distraction and shortchange the discussion as to what she will be on the court.  Already today the radio crackles with this narrative.  Will a political ballet of seeing her come out of the closet (if she is in fact in there) in the national media really mean anything?  Even if she were to come out, or there are sex tapes of her from 20 years ago, it will all seem manufactured and unnatural.

It is actually more important that she have a stable emotional support system.  Too often sexuality and this support system are directly linked.  But they are independent.

We don't look at married couples the same way.  No one is saying all married couples are stable.  But, we give them the benefit of the doubt to say they are in a stable relationship.  Look at the Alito nomination.  Look at Bill and Hillary Clinton (even through the worst of what they dealt with they are still together).

If someone is a single parent we look at the kid to see how normal they are, yes it is normal to do so.  We look at who helped at home with the kid.  A strong family was part of the Sotomayor narrative.  It was also part of the Obama narrative.

Family situations are things we can all directly relate to.

Elena Kagan is coming from a different angle.  She appears to be someone who is going it alone.

That is a red flag.  Most Americans commit themselves to a relationship with another person.  Sometimes it works - sometimes it doesn't.  It is part of being human.  When she has a bad day who does she talk to?  It is normal.

For what it is worth, I would look this the same way if Elena's name were Ed.

As the media gets caught up in a personal aspect of this woman's life has the administration has started a sexual war?  Will all the air in the room be used on that issue?  Can sympathy generated from possibly outing a candidate of questionable sexual orientation be used as fuel for a political machine?  Is this being used as a smokescreen to seat someone who will make the court even more conservative? 

On one level it is really no one's business what a private person does at home, but at a bigger level this vetting process opens up any candidate to a wide range of questions.  Not to be voyeurs, but the process is now set up to understand the angle at which a candidate approaches issues.  What lenses does this person see life through?  Is sexuality itself a determining factor, no, but is being closeted? 

Is not having personal relationships or a solid emotional network fair game? For someone who is a judge - I think it is.

When I was involved in the party endorsement process, I would look at the whole person as electable.  That means looking at their family life.  Do they know how to raise a family?  What are the kids like?  What is the spouse like?  If unmarried, are they in a stable relationship?  If they are young enough and without a family, what did they look like in school?  People want to elect people who are like them.  Some people may think that was unfair of me to take those things into account, but it no one wants to see politically uninvolved members of a family hurt in the rough and tumble of politics. 

The endorsement process is a job interview.  Political parties, at their core are executive search committees charged with finding good candidates for open positions.  Political parties vouch for the characters of these folks on election day through the endorsement process.

As this is a national job interview, we like to feel comfortable with the candidate.  Whether you like Sotomayor or Alito, both have strong family backgrounds and raised families.  That was part of the narrative.  Barney Frank, a gay man in a stable long term relationship, would have been a very legit choice for this seat also.  Everyone has already seen who Mr. Frank is.  There are no surprises about his partner, who has already handled media issues. 

If Ms. Kagan has a partner (male or female) are they up for what may happen here?

With Elena Kagan, we see a talented technician; we see a great resume; we see someone who had a checklist to success making all the checkmarks.  We have already seen the dangers of the overly technical in the Citizens United decision.  I am more concerned of the human qualities - we cannot see that aspect if it closeted (not from a sexual preference aspect).  

When you sit in judgment of the entire country, we, the people, should have a good idea of who is judging us.

It wasn't that Pat on SNL wasn't a nice Girl/Guy.  It wasn't that he/she wouldn't be competent at the task at hand.   We are just uncomfortable at not knowing.  In Pat's case it was a skit that was funny.  In this case it creates a doubt that is nagging.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pole-axed by Predictions.

Specterectomy - noun - procedure by which a foreign body is removed from the Democratic Party.

(Nothing to do with this article, but my last snark about this race - I promise.)

1 - Dewey Beats Truman.
2 - Sestak tied with Specter.

These were the conventional wisdoms leading up to respective elections.

We all know there was no such thing as a President Dewey. A long time ago studies were done as to how the media got it wrong with the 1948 race. Researchers realized that polling techniques needed to be improved if they were going to be reliable. For the last half of the 20th century the technique was to use the White pages. Pick people randomly, call them and ask what they thought. It worked great, because pollsters could get a decent sample of as a RANDOM cross-section of society.

Polling accuracy improved and the element of surprise is removed. Campaign gurus could sit in the back office with good data to figure out when to pull the trigger to go negative. In campaigns, like comedy, timing is everything. Pull the negative trigger too soon the opponent will get a chance to explain themselves and recover (Specter went negative on Sestak's military career and Sestak was able to muster a big enough group of vets to salute him). Pulling too late just looks pathetic. Good information gives you the sweet spot. If you want to complain about the negative nature of politics today - this is part of the root system.

The week before the Sestak-Specter race the polls looked like sine waves attacking each other (so did the campaigns). To listen to the polls everybody should have been sweating bullets. The dust cleared on Tuesday and Sestak had an impressive 8 point victory.

Why were these polls so far off?

Today, there is no method that gets to a random cross-section of society. There is no way for a pollster to get to everyone with the Do Not Call List and unlisted cell phone numbers. Voters do not need to give a phone number to register to vote.

Looking at trends in society, how many of us are killing our land lines? How many are "simply cell"? How many are active enough to vote without a land line? Those populations aren't being polled because they can't be reached randomly. If the only real "random" universe available to pollsters is a cut of the white pages, then the numbers will skew towards people with land lines.

That is why we had a false-positive hair-on-fire weekend before concluding the Sestak-Specter race. Bad data made the race appear tighter than it really was. Until polling techniques catch up to a tech savvy society, all polls are now suspect from the aspect of non-randomness.

Hopefully, there is a bonus here. We all claim to hate negative campaigns. Without good polling data to tell the campaign gurus when to go negative, maybe they will start to use prudence and not go negative? The campaigns then have to resort to actually telling the public why their guy is a good choice instead of yammering the other guy is evil.

I may do a poll on this - can I have your unrandomized phone number?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Calling Specter Out for Calling Sestak Out

John Baer of the Philadelphia Daily News was the moderator of the only Sestak/Specter debate held last Saturday night.  Here’s a quote from his recap (full link):

“Right after the debate, still at his lectern, Specter snapped at his Senate challenger: "Do you want to continue this?" I heard him say "fisticuffs" and thought there'd be some action. But he then rendered an unceremonious, wave-of-the-hand, tight-jawed dismissal and, boom, he's out the door.”

Some thoughts about this…

  1. Specter’s judgment should be called into play to challenge an Annapolis Grad to a fight – Sestak could probably kill him with a pencil.
  2. If Specter is getting that angry it means that Sestak is closer than the polls are revealing.  He is inside Specter’s head and ripping out the wires.  Specter is imploding.  You want 6 more years of this?
  3. This challenge was probably staged.  An 80 year-old challenging a 50-something to a fight is a lose-lose for the 50-something.  If Sestak takes the bait and beats the crap out of the 80 year-old the public would be outraged at the “elder abuse”.  Kudos goes to Sestak for being a warrior who knows when not to fight.
  4. If you want to take the temperature down in public discourse – Specter needs to be rung up for trying to raise the temperature by getting physical.  Is Specter still responsible for his actions?
  5. Did Specter like it when he was physically challenged last year during his summer Town Hall trot thru the state?  Why would he subject someone else to the same treatment that he didn’t like? 
  6. Keep in mind he challenged a sitting US Congressman to a fight.  Were there any laws broken by the attempt at physical intimidation?

Specter, back in the day, if nothing else, was disciplined.  This whole thing should backfire on Specter as a way to get sympathy.  It just makes him look pathetic.