Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dick Gregory and the Rally for Sanity

Published: The Huffington Post 10/31/2010

The Stewart/Colbert Concert was great! The people in the crowd were as awesome as the acts on stage. How much fun it was to do the wave for an actual purpose! A very clever way to figure out how many people were in the crowd?

As I heard The O'Jays, I was worried that when Love Train was playing the circling helicopters were going to start dropping cans of Coors Light -- WKRP-style. Did anyone else notice the cross in the sky formed by the vapor trails of 2 airplanes minutes after Father Guido Sarducci? (I'll let a Pastor buddy of mine know next week...)

My vantage point was at the Coffee Party's Sign the Constitution display (CNN iReport Link). I was the idiot with the long beard and retro-Phillies cap hawking the Constitution:

If you sign the Constitutional today - you can get
  • Freedom of Speech,
  • Religion, and the
  • Right to peaceably assemble cars in Georgia and Tennessee!

Wait -- wait there's more!!! We'll even throw in protection from unreasonable search and seizure!

Ladies - would you like some Suffrage? Come on over and sign up!

What that's not enough - we're even repealing Prohibition today - just for you.

Often imitated, never duplicated! Come sign today. No credit card needed,

This is your birthright!
We promise not to phone slam you.

A really cool thing about being in DC this weekend was meeting other Huffington Post posters and those really involved with the Coffee Party. All were bright, intelligent, and a lot of fun.

Glad that my mom and aunt drove down for the day. My 17-year-old son really grew up a lot yesterday as he got to the 12th row with his crew. He went down with his buddies, and I think we just passed a parenting milestone when they all got back OK. I saw one of my nieces with her Penn State posse.

The most important thing I experienced was something happenstance. Somehow some new friends and I ended up at Busboys and Poets. It seemed to have the psyche of a 50's beatnik outfit. On stage were Van Jones (link) and Amy Goodman from Democracy Now (link). They were doing a dog-and-pony before signing their new books. We were seated as their segment was winding down. Then this guy who looked like Grady from Sanford and Son was up on stage with them. I couldn't hear at first then I realized, it was Dick Gregory. I flipped.

Some 20-somethings at the next table gave me the eye, I went over and explained who that guy was up there. Dick Gregory is a giant in the world of comedy. His weapon of choice was a keen eye for the current state of affairs and questioning all social conventions. Gregory and Mort Sahl are comedic bookends. Both use the current political environment and the news to make us laugh and think. Gregory is contemporary of Bill Cosby.

Dick Gregory is a leader in the Civil Rights movement! I read his autobiography over 30 years ago (Up from Nigger -- and yes it should be required reading with that title for every school kid in the country). I can still recall how he broke the corporate will of companies that refused to serve African Americans.

He bought stock in the parent companies of the offending hotel or restaurant. When he would be challenged for service, he would say, "Would you refuse service to the owner of this establishment if he came in?"

Naturally, the staff person would say of course not. At that point Gregory would produce the stock document and essentially say, "Well, it would seem that I own the place, serve me."

I listened to what the man had to say. He also spoke about comparisons to the present with the Great Depression and was having nothing of it.

I will do my best to quote, but the essence of his message was not an echo from the day's rally, but the Doppler Effect that preceded 90% of the people in the room and the Stewart/Colbert Rally.

There will be an election Tuesday. Your people may not win this election. But the people do win are also Americans. They are us. They talk like we do -- act like we do. They are Americans. We are all Americans.

I did mention I am an idiot in this piece. When he stepped down from the stage I got up and shook this man's hand. He was very gracious as I told him what a hero he was to me. The 3 hour drive home in the middle of the night went by in a jazzed flash as I thought about the things this man has done. I don't agree with everything he says or does. But I stand in awe of his ability and humor as he defends all of us as members of the human race.

This man is the funny, human philosophical grandfather of Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert. Please look this guy up online and see what he is about.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Eric Cantor Implosion

Published by the Huffington Post 10/29/2010 09:11:18

I don't know much, but I know this.

When a political campaign gets nasty, it is close.

If you are running for an office, you head is in the game. You are getting donations from scores of people who see you vision of the future. You see the goal right there before your eyes. What are you going to do?

You think about Wednesday morning after crying in your beer the night before after the returns come in and you lost by 9 votes or 61 votes or whatever small number was the difference. You are going to replay the decisions in your mind that says, "Should I have gone for the jugular?" What are you going to do?

If you are an incumbent, you are scared. Somebody like Eric Cantor has been nationally celebrated for being the only Jewish Republican Congressman. You are being challenged. Very good ads (below) are being run by a sacrificial lamb whose hooves have turned to claws. But the guy is rag tag at best. You are polling at around 50%. You can certainly win because you know you will get some undecided's, but you've been around for a long time, and just squeaking by isn't going to have any national luster. Your identity is tied to being a Congressperson. Anything that challenges your office, challenges you. Has the office and attention warped you?

Your opponent, Rick Waugh (link), doesn't have the resources you do. He doesn't have your resume. You aren't even going to give him the time of day.

A funny thing has happened on the way to the victory lap. Your refusal to debate Rick Waugh, is turning into a liability. You Tube videos are starting to show up of you actually dissing voters (link). The real unforced error is having a group of pot-bellied, good-ole-boy sheriffs man-handling citizens who are active in the process:

These things are getting the media play just for their abject stupidity. There has not yet been the transference to the Waugh campaign. The question is now not how badly you are going to thump this guy, Rich Waugh, but do you have enough of a dwindling lead to hold on? Is this weekend long enough for the transfer to occur? All the money in the world can't stop the waves like this from lapping the beach. It is just too late.

Will there be more unforced errors being brought on by the panic attacks of the political end game? I am getting the sense the published mainstream polls are inaccurate because of random sample issues. I believe there are internal polls showing a different story. That is why we are seeing vile and violent episodes as this campaign season winds down.

If the Waugh campaign had enough people and resources, they could set up laptops at the polls running a continuous video loop of the Congressman Cantor dissing people mixed in with the beat-down. The poll workers would not have to say much to those undecided voters going to the polls.

My only surprise is that the mainstream media has not looked at Rick Waugh at any length. He doesn't appear to be a witch, or using medications that he appears to have stopped taking. He seems normal enough. It is a shame that the big media can't look at a regular guy as a contrast to Eric Cantor.

The issue of being a Congressman for just some of the people may actually stick around as a decent issue. I just don't know if there is enough time left in the Waugh Campaign to make a difference.

Note: I just got a message that is legit to put here:
I just got called out by Nathan Cox.
"I sure do wish you could've been a little less biased, and MENTIONED, the CONSTITUTIONAL CONSERVATIVE, named Floyd Bayne running against Rick Waugh and Eric Cantor as well. (link) (in case you weren't aware)"
Nathan you are right to say something!
I am happy to give you a piece of my floor.
My apologies.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What Does an Endorsement Really Mean?

Published on the Huffington Post 2010-10-27 16:37:01

Big bold letters glare from the front page bottom of the right-wing newspaper:

CeaseFirePA endorses state Rep. Bryan Lentz

Hmmm, someone on the left might think, hey this is great. The Times Herald (link) is actually good for something.

Bryan Lentz is running for Congress in my district. I can look out my back deck and see a local gun and rod club. I cansee both sides on the whole 2nd Amendment thing. I am pretty neutral on this.

But, my part of the district has a lot of 2nd Amendment folks. The Times Herald article and headline was not about cutting Bryan a break or even attempting to report the news. It is actually the alarm bell going off for the local NRApeople.

The GOP candidate had a horrible debate debacle and has allowed Lentz to tie him in the polls. Last week it was big news that the race is now a toss-up -- now this Times Herald article.

This cuts to the core as to what does an endorsement mean?

Candidates, party political committees and interest groups dance in a surreal public mating ritual. It is almost worthy ofa Mutual of Omaha / Monty Python segment. The party political committee gets some exposure and feels like it has done something. The candidate gets to trumpet -- hey somebody likes me." The interest group gets someone they hope will be on their side and then the can generate some press and marketing.

The Lentz situation is a little different. Since Lentz has essentially tied this race and the right-wing
Newspaper has sounded the alarm for the NRA. It may shift the balance of this election. Since this is a new variable in the equation, it is actually up to both sides, CeaseFirePa and the NRA, to make their case as to who gets to serve.

In fact, Joe Biden was stumping for Bryan Lentz. Biden is based out of northern Delaware, just across the border from the 7th District in southeast Pennsylvania. You can't tell the two districts apart. Just about the first thing out of Lentz' mouth at this rally was about the gun laws.

As someone who wants to see Bryan Lentz as a Congressman, I see the endorsement of CeaseFirePA (link) as damaging, at this point. It is now up to CeaseFirePA to step up. Their words and abilities are being tested. The NRA boogieman is now loose in the countryside.

CeaseFirePA needs to prove that it is worthy of even making an endorsement. (Yes, I know they have a 1st Amendment Right.) By this I mean that unless this organization can supply the Lentz Campaign with volunteers to make phone calls, work the street, and man the polls in equal numbers and strength to what the NRA people are doing, then all that

CeaseFirePa has done is allowed the GOP opponent to activate his base.

Endorsements should not mean that a group just sits in judgment of a candidate and gives their blessings.

Endorsements should mean that you or your organization are going to work to see what was said actually means something. Can your group defend its endorsement?

Work doesn't mean sitting at a keyboard kvetching endlessly. It means calling people, volunteering for GOTV (Get Out The Vote Operations), sending cash, working the polls.

Every person who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 voted for change. That was an endorsement of an idea. It is now time to have that endorsement mean something. Just like CeaseFirePa's reputation is on the line in this election, anyone who voted for change in 2008 is also facing the same test.

Did your 2008 endorsement mean anything?

Can you defend it?

Will you?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hell Hath No Fury as a Tea Party Member Scorned

Published 2010-10-20 10:32:03  Huffington Post 

Fact List:

  • Virginia (Ginni) Thomas is the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
  • During Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearings, Anita Hill raised the charge of sexual misconduct in the workplace. During the Clarence Thomas confirmation, Hill
    could not fully substantiate the misconduct claims as the episode devolved into a "he said-she said" conflict. Clarence Thomas was confirmed.
  • Polls in this election are tightening.
  • Liberty Central is a Conservative Activist Web Site
  • Quote from Liberty Central

Virginia (Ginni) Thomas, President and CEO

Ginni is a new social entrepreneur and the Founder of Liberty Central, Inc. Ginni is excited about launching and finds the new citizen activists

  • Ginni Thomas called Anita Hill on October 9, 2010 asking Hill for an apology.
  • Hill called the police and FBI.
  • The story about Ginni Thomas' phone call broke on October 20, 2010.


The Democrats are closing in on victory as more and more Tea Party Candidates are doing more and more loopy things.

Thomas, in her role as a conservative activist, has taken an opportunity to further muddy the waters with respect to the election. Bringing back this soap opera into the

media so close to the election is a method of taking oxygen out of the room with respect to the serious issues the country is facing.

Re-hashing this issue may help GOP turnout in this election.

Hill needed substantiation and real proof she wasn't being punked. She waited until the investigation was complete before going public this. Credit goes to her for not making the same mistake twice.

This ultimately favors the Democrats. The amount of off-the-wall stuff entering the media is directly proportional to the realization that your side will lose. The GOP is now throwing the kitchen sink at the Democrats.

I hope the Democrats know how to duck by calling Ginni Thomas' actions for what they are -- more political theater.

Note: I am getting some feedback as "How does this help the GOP?"
Answer: Ginni Thomas' world is ultra-conservative.
They see Hill as a liar and part of the wall of liberals. She is taking a shot at her in hopes of reviving those emotions.

See it from the Thomas' standpoint. Just like Christine O'Donnell, she thinks she is scoring a touchdown by rehashing this now.

It is taking news cycles away from the Democrats. I think it is smart and will work if the Democrats don't call Thomas out on it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fact Check vs. FACT CHECK

10/15/2010 Published By Huffington Post

Don't you hate it when people play fast and loose with the facts? Political season has a lot of that going on. What follows is my opinion.

While doing research for another piece I hit this page.

I don't know if it will be there very long after this article gets the attention I hope this gets, but here's the core of what I am going after:

(Glenmoore, PA) - Today, the campaign of Congressman Jim Gerlach released a FACT CHECK on Manan Trivedi's misleading new television ad.

"Manan Trivedi's entire campaign ad is false and misleading. No one has ever attacked his military service and the fact is he hasn't lived in this district since he was four years old. Trivedi is the most liberal, out of touch candidate that has ever run against Jim Gerlach," said Mark Campbell, spokesman for Gerlach's campaign.

"He supports higher taxes, more spending, and has very extreme positions like using tax dollars to pay for abortions, and supporting condom distributionin our public schools. You can read his documented answers here."

When most of us in the political world see something like this, we want to see the original. Since there was no URL, Iwent to the web site. You know the one. The one everyone looks for when there needs to be a level playing field with credibility.

So when I went to look for something about this race nothing was there. That was troubling. I called, emailed and eventually got this response:

Hi Joe,

I hope nobody is confused by the way Rep. Gerlach (and many others) are using the term "Fact Check" these days. It's a generic phrase, and anybody can use it. But it shouldn't be mistaken for the one and only, original ""

The critique to which you refer to is the product of Rep. Gerlach's campaign, and is a partisan political document. We haven't mentioned him or his opponent on our website at any time during this campaign, and we haven't examined that particular ad, or reached any conclusion about it one way or the other.

I hope that helps. Feel free to quote any of this as you please.

Brooks Jackson

Brooks was very nice when I got her on the phone and suggested that it may be time for to use a logo or something to denote that the reporting is accurate. I am sure it isn't the first time that suggestion was made, and it won't be the last.

In the common lexicon of today's world, FactCheck, as in, has become somewhat of a Kleenex Brand in political circles. To fact check something is different than to FACT CHECK something. To say FACT CHECK it is to imply a brand or a proper noun. It is being used in this way in the mainstream media.

As one can see, there appears to be a level of intentional confusion being placed into the Gerlach attack piece. I guess that goes with "Voter Beware."

The really sad thing is in order to score a small point with the political ad, it appears a sitting Congressman's campaign has no trouble eroding the reputation of a legitimate watchdog organization.

It is almost as though the Gerlach Campaign can't use its own moral authority to call out a Trivedi ad as false. (I hope you notice that I am making no judgments on the validity of the Trivedi ad.) They had to make up some other authoritarian figure (FACT CHECK - not to be confused with FACTCHECK.ORG) as a shield. Oh, a higher authority said it, so it must be right.

But since they needed to make up an imaginary authority figure, how much of the rest of what they are saying will hold water? Maybe the campaign doesn't believe it has credibility of its own and that is why it needs to create something that will give it to them. Are those running the campaign caught with their own cynicism showing?

So the ultimate irony of this situation is: The Gerlach Campaign has eroded the credibility as the very thing they are using to gain credibility.

Pulling a stunt like this may produce a desired effect among those who are "his" people, but it desensitizes the rest of us to want to trust ANYTHING we read or watch.

The country is hungry for a pure source of truth - now more than ever. When someone who is supposed to be a leader in this country appears to be fouling one of the few reservoirs of good information, is it any wonder everyone looks around as we are ticked off at one another?

Lunchtime with the DFA.

I was invited to lunch this week (this is a significant first for a pimple-on-the-rump blogger). Jim Dean, who runs DFA (Democracy For America), was in Philly checking on a number a races that are tightening. Among them were the big races in the area: Sestak, Lentz, Murphy. Today's lunchtime menu served Manan Trivedi.

Of the major races around Philly, Trivedi has the toughest assignment. He is taking on an incumbent GOP House Member. Joe Sestak (Senate) and Bryan Lentz (PA-6) are going for open seats and Patrick Murphy (PA-8) is the incumbent.

When you are an incumbent the race is about what you are doing -- currently -- for the community you are serving. In a lot of ways you are running against yourself. Are you taking care of your citizens (read:customers) properly? That means not only answering the phones and cutting red tape for people, but playing the game of politics in a straight manner. Even if you can cut all the red tape in the world and have the President's ear for a beer, you still need to do as you say in the media. As long as you keep your nose clean, you will get re-elected. (That is why I am against term limits; I don't want to remove a person who is doing a good job.) Murphy needs to make his case to the voters. He can run a fully positive campaign on a long list of achievements in the job.

Open races are different because it is more about what kind of person each candidate is. There is actually more vetting going on because there usually no track record of job performance for the office in question.

Candidate needs to get out and make the case for themselves. You have more of an option of going negative or positive. Both Sestak and Lentz are both running balanced attacks. Recent days see them as either getting even or starting to pull away.

Challenger races are the toughest. That is why having DFA in the room for Manan Trivedi is an important thing.

Elections are about marketing. Elections are about selling. Part of selling is creating a need. Some campaigns create this need cynically; others actually see the need to replace an incumbent. Trivedi is in a race that needed a challenger. Jim Gerlach, the GOP Congressman, is a pretty standard GOP Member. It appears he only votes against the GOP Leadership when the issue at hand is out of reach.

Trivedi can use the Healthcare issue as a bludgeon against Gerlach as the district has a large number of drug firms located there. Healthcare reform would play very well in this district for Trivedi since Gerlach voted against it. Trivedi can also sell himself as a Doctor and an Iraq War vet. Given the treatment of Veterans' issues by previous administrations, Trivedi has a unique perspective to improve this situation.

The healthcare issue is one in which DFA operates best. Just the fact that DFA has sent its head of operations to this campaign is significant in that resources don't go to campaigns that are losing. Big guns don't come out for non-fundraising events.

I don't know what the polls look like in this race. But I am certain that if DFA is looking at this race, it is a tight one.

Personally, I think that Manan's best bet is to attach to the large veteran population in the district and mobilize them. It is rare when they don't come out and support their own.

This double-barrelled approach (DFA Healthcare, and a Vets' Outreach) should pay dividends as this race winds down.

My next lunch with these guys, I'll actually wear a tie.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Final Notes About the Closing of a School

I get letters from people asking me to write different things with my space here. I try to do what I can. If I can't do something justice, I pass the word to someone else that can do better than me. Sometimes I get notes from my Congressman, Joe Sestak. 

There are things that are beyond politics. This is one of them.

It is sad when a church or a school closes. Faded memories are reignited as the to-do list for closure is written.

Around Philadelphia, Catholic populations have been shifting for decades. Northeast Philly saw Cardinal Dougherty High School close. After the buildings have been stripped of their possessions, there are memorials to attend to. I am honored to pass the word on something like this.

Bill Eves committee chairperson for the Cardinal Dougherty Vietnam Memorial is looking for any family members of the 27 Cardinal Dougherty students that were Killed in Action in Vietnam.

The committee would like the family members to be part of the re-dedication ceremony on Nov 11. If anyone knows any of the family members please contact
Bill Eves via or
Bill Crean via or or call 856-461-6637.

These are the men who are the Cardinal Dougherty Killed in Action. If these names bring a memory or you know a family, please feel free to reignite a faded memory. Listed are the men by class and date of Taps.

  • James P. Kelly 27-Sep-1965
  • James M. Lynch 29-Jul-1967
  • James J. Kline 14-May-1968
  • Lawrence J. Bolger 27-Jun-1967
  • John J. Gallagher 17-Dec-1969
  • Michael F. Bingham 28-Jun-1966
  • John J. Murphy 07-Jan-1967
  • William G. Behan 10-May-1968
  • Gerald J. Kelly 14-May-1969
  • Charles L. Isley 20-Nov-1966
  • William E. Lund 21-Mar-1967
  • Thomas A. Duckett 02-Nov-1966
  • Joseph H. Wilhelmi 10-Jun-1967
  • Victor A. Spadaro 30-Jul-1967
  • Thomas K. Lyons 01-May-1968
  • Louis R. Lordi 17-May-1968
  • Leo J. Mangold 03-Mar-1969
  • Leo B. Smith 23-Mar-1969
  • Herbert L. Farrington 01-May-1967
  • Edward B. Spear 05-Oct-1968
  • Michael J. Crescenz, M.O.H. 20-Nov-1968
  • Michael P. Warner 21-Jun-1969
  • Thomas J. Laughlin 13-Apr-1970
  • Donald C. Wood 20-May-1968
  • David C. Piotrowicz 15-Dec-1968
  • Charles E. Diamond 02-Feb-1970
  • James M. Reinhardt 13-Apr-1970

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Why I Don't Believe Any Polling Data

Math was my major at Temple University (1984).

We needed to take Probability and Statistics as a required course. Polling deals with trying to use statistics to measure or predict an outcome. The data you use to make your conclusions is the most critical part of the puzzle.


If you have garbage for data you get garbage results -- GIGO -- Garbage In Garbage Out.

I do not believe any poll can be valid at this point for following reason:
You cannot get a random sample of likely voters.

Years ago in the pre-cellphone era -- the pollster had the white pages as a universe for his sample. Know the exchanges and you could make the calls for an entire district. We all knew Havertown, PA had exchanges in the 610 area code (or 215 if you are older) or 446, 449, 789, or 853. If we were doing calls into there we knew right away who we were dealing with.

Exchanges and for that matter, area codes, are no longer geographically dependent with the ability to transport your number with you.

Do you own a cell phone? Is it listed? Does your college aged, registered to vote kid have a cell phone? Is it listed? How are the pollsters going to get to you if you aren't even on their lists?
Now, ask yourself, who still owns land lines? Older folks, right? Even some of those folks are losing them to become wireless. They are now unreachable.

Any polling to land lines are now skewed by definition. You are not going to get the younger voters. Unless you somehow get their phone numbers from working in another campaign, you can't get to them to ask them anything.

Even voter history files do not always contain correct phone numbers.

There is still a large and growing ocean of voters who are off-the-grid to the pollster. They may be registered to vote, but they are not active enough to give their numbers to anyone. No one can reach them to see if they are going to vote or not, much less where they are leaning.

Until bad sampling issues are rectified, the only poll that means anything will be the one conducted by the government in November. Until then, I think everyone is flying blind.

Honesty of Questions:

Many polls broadcast have loaded their questions. We all hear these type of polls:
"Do you think we should let the cannibal Democratic candidate anywhere near a morgue, or do you favor having armed Republicans guard our honored dead?"
This may sometimes be called a generic congressional poll.

Seriously, I know the questions really aren't that bad, but many times the subtlies of the questions key the respondent to the "correct" answer the pollster is looking for.

Are the questions neutral? How can you tell? You need to look at them yourself.

What to do?

One really needs to look at the polling sample and methodology combined with the actual questions prior to giving or reducing the credence of a poll. That is really the job of the media. (Yeah, I know the great job they do...) As a citizen, we need to question all the information coming from the boob tubes and internet.

For now, I am not putting too much faith in anything that has the word "poll" attached to it.