Thursday, August 23, 2012
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Most Sane Americans Wouldn't Buy a Used Car From Tea Party Crazies, Let Alone Trust Them To Run the Country
With a week to go before this year's midterms, sane Americans are shaking their heads at all the madness that's been brewing this election cycle. Sensing a banner year, the GOP has nominated a crop of Tea Party-flavored, far right-wing nuts, flakes, and crazies for House and Senate seats all over the country.
Where to start? The GOP'ers gunning for Senate seats are the ones who could do the most damage in six-year terms. Tea Party diva Christine "I'm not a witch" O'Donnell in Delaware, who doesn't believe in evolution, condoms' ability to prevent AIDS, or the separation of church and state. Crazy Sharron Angle in Nevada, who thinks Social Security and Medicare are symptoms of America's "wicked ways."
Wealthy businessman John Raese, running for Sen. Robert Byrd's former seat in West Virginia on a platform of eliminating the minimum wage. Former Club for Growth head Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, whose views are so far-right he's like a real life version of Bob Roberts, minus the guitar and fascist folk songs.
But you've got to give folks like Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) credit for stepping up to the plate and helping some of these wingnuts win their primaries, because it's going to cost Republicans control of the Senate.
Those two meddling fools flushed a guaranteed pickup of Joe Biden's old seat in Delaware down the toilet by endorsing O'Donnell. They were undoubtedly impressed by her willingness to stoop as low as necessary to win by gay-baiting moderate Republican Rep. Mike Castle out of the running. This Palin clone's rise to national ridicule may be helping save another seat for the Dems, because the Delaware media market overlaps with Philadelphia. Democratic nominee Joe Sestak has clawed his way back into the race, partly by reminding voters that his opponent Pat Toomey and O'Donnell share the same warped political beliefs.
Most of these extreme right-wing candidates normally wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell of being elected to Congress. But all bets are off for 2010. In any low-turnout midterm election, it's the party out of power that has momentum on its side. And with a Democrat newly elected to the White House who just happens to be the first black President, the GOP has successfully scared up a tidal wave of right-wing rage with a decidedly racist tinge. Despite Democratic efforts to re-energize Obama's winning '08 coalition by boosting turnout levels among black, Latino, liberal, and young voters, this year's electorate is going to be older, whiter, and more conservative than America overall.
And to seal the deal, anonymous, filthy rich right-wingers are funding an avalanche of propaganda designed to sway the election for the Republicans. Shadowy GOP front groups have sprouted up like rotten mushrooms after the Supreme Court opened the shady money floodgates with its Citizen United decision.
Besides the big players, like Karl Rove's American Crossroads, and the American Action Network, headed by former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman, there are lots of lesser known GOP gremlins doing the party's dirty work. Such as the patriotic-sounding, doublespeak-named Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Job Security, who are fighting to make the ultra-rich richer at everyone else's expense. And the 60 Plus Association, a particularly nasty front group that masquerades as an alternative to the AARP while agitating for privatization of Social Security. Then there's the Restore America's Voice PAC, based in Pittsburgh, which has set up dozens of fundraising websites to funnel cash from online donors to newly-minted right-wing celebrity candidates including Angle and O'Donnell.
We'll soon see what happens on Election Day, but the left has gotten caught napping this year, and things are not looking good for incumbent Democrats up and down the ballot. Democratic strategist Donna Brazile broke it down nicely when she recently said, "We should not have been in this position." The Tea Party crazies "crept in and took over the vacuum. Basically, we have danced to their negative drumbeat since. There's a lot of hands that need to be spanked when this is over with."
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Chapel Hill News, 3-31-10
Recently, the right wing Civitas Institute directed one of their interns to write up a misinformed attack on Chapel Hill's pioneering voter-owned elections (VOE) program ("Public Financing Folly," Chapel Hill News, Feb. 28). Why are far-right conservatives so threatened by campaign finance reform? Maybe because it means their well-financed propaganda will be less likely to buy elections for favored candidates, even in low-turnout local elections.
Like what's happened in Wake County, where a conservative school board majority was elected last fall when only 31,000 out of 572,000 registered voters showed up at the polls. The Civitas Insitute's board chair, far-right businessman Bob Luddy, was the single largest individual contributor to the campaigns of the four newly elected, Republican-backed school board members.
On Nov. 3, Chapel Hill voters showed their support for voter-owned elections. Both candidates who agreed to limit their campaign spending and participated in the VOE program finished first in their races for Mayor (Mark Kleinschmidt) and Town Council (Penny Rich). Three out of four candidates who vocally opposed the program, refused to limit spending, and accepted unlimited campaign donations were defeated by voters.
Rich and Kleinschmidt on election night
One VOE opponent was Town Council candidate Matt Pohlman, who said, "I'm not sure I can get behind voter-owned elections." Another was his fellow Council challenger Jon DeHart, who claimed it was "taxation without representation." Pohlman and DeHart lost the election. Besides voting for candidates who supported VOE, polls and surveys have shown most citizens of Chapel Hill favor campaign finance reform.
During the 2009 elections, Chapel Hill became the first-ever community east of the Mississippi to conduct a voter-owned election. The program leveled the electoral playing field and helped reduce the influence of big money. Since then, Raleigh, Wilmington, and Greenville have all passed resolutions asking the N.C. General Assembly for approval to implement VOE programs.
The mayoral candidate who most vocally opposed public financing was first term Council member Matt Czajkowski. And no wonder. Czajkowski raised more than $36,500 from wealthy backers like UNC Health Care CEO Bill Roper, and spent $35,000 of it.
Commenting shortly after the election, Town Council top vote-getter Penny Rich said, "This is what voter-owned elections are supposed to curb. $30,000 to become mayor? It's just an outrageous amount of money."
In the six days leading up to the Nov. 3 vote, Czajkowski spent nearly ten thousand dollars ($9,703), more than six times the $1,523 Kleinschmidt spent during that same period. Czajkowski desperately tried to buy the election, just as he first bought his Town Council seat in 2007 by spending the then-record sum of $20,000.
Kleinschmidt and Czajkowski
That year, ninety percent of his cash, or $17,750, was money he loaned his own campaign. Czajkowski's spending was more than the other three victorious Council candidates spent combined. Foreshadowing his '09 tactics, in a last-minute flurry he blew through $15,000 in the ten days before the 2007 election.
At the time, local activists had been fighting for nearly a decade to enact campaign finance reform in Chapel Hill. The cash flood by Czajkowski in 2007 was such a blatant display of the power of money to sway local elections that it helped convince the Town Council to commit to the voter-owned elections pilot. It was approved 8-1, with only Czajkowski opposed.
Now we know the VOE program works, and most Chapel Hill voters are behind it. And its success here is spreading. Propaganda machines like the Civitas Institute can make all the noise they want, but savvy voters will continue to support candidates who recognize the value of voter-owned elections.
Friday, December 11, 2009
The Huffington Post, 12-11-09
Last month, corporate parent Borders announced they will soon be closing 200 Waldenbooks book stores in communities nationwide. Current Waldenbooks employees have come forward to alert the public that the company plans to dispose of many unsold books in the cheapest, easiest, least responsible way possible – by trashing them.
"This is going to be happening in all the Waldenbooks stores at the end of their liquidation sales to anything left on the shelves," said Heather L., a Waldenbooks employee. "And it gives us all stomach aches to think about."
In response, these employees have helped organize a Facebook campaign asking Borders to work with publishers to find a way to donate any unsold books to libraries or other nonprofits instead of destroying them. More than 1,500 Borders customers & employees, public library supporters, and other book lovers have signed on so far to protest this colossal impending waste of unsold books.
The Waldenbooks locations are scheduled to close their doors in January, 2010. Meanwhile, libraries and nonprofits around the country have been hit hard by the Great Recession. Library branches are serving more and more people in the face of budget cuts. Nonprofits are struggling with decreased government and corporate funding and shrinking private donations.
There is enormous need right now for any kind of helping hand extended to charitable causes. And news of Borders' plans to destroy unsold books after its Waldenbooks liquidation sales has touched a nerve.
"Holy cow!! So many reasons that this is INSANE!," said Donna Higdon Hollenbeck of Montgomery, AL. "So many worthy places these books could go to. Come on and be reasonable." "This is a perfect example of the waste overwhelming our civilization," observed Myke Yeskewicz of Providence, RI. "I'm willing to cut my Borders Reward card in half if this is done," said Del Snow of Chapel Hill, NC.
Former Waldenbooks employees say they have previously witnessed and participated in the destruction of unsold books. "I used to work at a Waldenbooks and we would trash books, tons of books, like every two weeks," said Brooke Bennett, a former employee from Little Rock, AR. "It just killed me."
Known in the bookselling industry as "dumpstering," this method of book disposal is standard practice not only at Borders-owned stores, but at many other chain book stores and mass retailers.
"I work at a drugstore in New Hampshire where they do this all the time as well, 100's of books get tossed, it's crazy," said James C. "Ever wonder what they do with all those paperback novels that disappear from the shelves?" asked Cory Wilson of Huntington, WV. "Covers get ripped off and the text goes into the dumpster." "This is totally true," said Mary P. "I used to work at Walmart and they would tear off the front cover and throw the rest in the compactor."
Occasionally this practice makes headlines. Over the past few years, local TV stations have reported on dumpsters full of trashed books behind places like a Barnes & Noble in Dallas, and a B. Dalton Bookseller closing down in Ohio.
Dumpstered books behind Dallas Barnes & Noble, 2007
Yet there is surprisingly little consumer awareness of how the publishing industry's outdated business model results in unsold books literally being thrown away. Dumpstering happens every day in large chain book stores. But how many customers and citizens know the truth?
"One of the ways this effort is already making a difference is by spreading awareness," said Waldenbooks employee Heather L., who is one of the Facebook campaign's co-organizers. "If we are serious about living green, we need to pressure companies like Borders to change their ways."
So far, Borders' responses to consumers who have e-mailed in protest show they are unwilling to own up to their wasteful business practices.
"We do not expect to have any remaining product to donate once we complete clearance sales at the 200 Waldenbooks stores," reads one canned response from Borders Customer Care. "We sincerely expect to have virtually no product left - our goal is to sell everything. Therefore, we do not expect to have product to donate or to dispose of."
Not a mention of what current and former employees agree is standard operating procedure for Borders, Waldenbooks and other chain book stores. Dumpstering is a dirty little secret of the bookselling and publishing industries.
One concerned Borders customer e-mailed CFO Mark Bierley, only to learn he'd deleted her e-mail unread! Georgia resident Denise C. says she "used microsoft outlook to send the email and it gives you the option to have a delivery request sent and a read receipt." Here’s the reply she received:
To: Mary Davis (Corporate Affairs); Ron Marshall (BGI); Mark Bierley (Finance)
Subject: DON'T THROW AWAY THE BOOKS
Sent: Thu, 10 Dec 2009 13:46:32 -0500
was deleted without being read on Thu, 10 Dec 2009 18:53:12 –0500<<
Borders corporate headquarters in Ann Arbor, MI
If you'd like to let Borders executives know how you feel about this issue, you can e-mail CEO Ron Marshall - email@example.com. Or CFO Mark Bierley - firstname.lastname@example.org (try the subject line, "Why Are You Deleting Customers' E-mails Unread?"). Or call Borders corporate headquarters toll-free at 1-800-243-7510 (press 9 for customer care). Please visit the Facebook page and help spread the word about this campaign!
In time for the holiday season, while you're perusing best-of-lists to find that perfect book gift for a loved one, here's something the publishing industry doesn't want you to know. By shipping books to retailers on consignment terms, then requiring the return or destruction of unsold merchandise, the publishing industry operates unlike all other manufacturers. An estimated 30 TO 40 PERCENT of books are returned by bookstores annually. Between 65 and 95 percent of returned books are pulped - destroyed by publishers.
Clearly, the publishing indutry overprints on a massive scale because of returns. And the environmental impact of this pulping waste is staggering. The Canadian website Book Industry Bailout has calculated the shocking scale of trees cut and greenhouse gas emissions due to overprinting by the publishing industry in Canada. In the U.S., the environmental destruction is multiplied at least tenfold, since our publishing industry is 15 to 20 times larger.
Most big publishers would like to keep this a secret, refusing to release hard figures on their returns. Conscientious small publishers are thankfully not so quiet on the subject, especially those who have moved to publish-on-demand business models.
Reporting in the Wall Street Journal in 2005, Jeffrey Trachtenberg called returns "the dark side of the book world," and quoted Barnes & Noble CEO Steve Riggio as saying, "We'd like to see (returns) discontinued. Any rational business person looking at this practice would think the industry has gone mad." Last year, Borders executive VP Robert P. Gruen told the New York Times that "We generally support the idea of looking at potential solutions to a return system that is not working well for the industry as a whole."
According to Book Industry Bailout, the practice of publishers providing books to retailers on returnable terms only dates to the 1930s, and "began as a temporary sales gimmick by a desperate New York publisher." But the concept spread as booksellers demanded the same favorable terms from other publishers, and eventually became standard – "handicapping an entire industry for the next seven decades in an unfortunate practice that has wasted literally billions of dollars worldwide."
Nearly all non-book retailers purchase products from manufacturers or distributors at 50% or less of their retail value, mark them up, then discount the items until they sell. They can't return unsold items.
The business of selling books turns this normal practice on its head by allowing book returns of unsold books to publishers. Yet it costs money to ship returned books back. Thus was born the practice of stripping covers from books, only sending back the covers, and book stores themselves destroying the remainder of the unsold books.
Dumpstered books behind a B. Dalton Bookseller store in Ohio, 2003
Independent book stores have far fewer returns than chains, with sell-through rates estimated at 80 percent. This suggests that smarter buying practices by stores reduce returns, and further demonstrates why overprinting is so unnecessary.
Many chain book stores do the publishers' dirty work of pulping the books for them – booksellers call it dumpstering. And when financially struggling book chains shut stores, as is happening right now with Borders closing 200 Waldenbooks locations, there is enormous pressure for management to take the cheapest way out and order employees to simply dumpster unsold books.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Nearly twenty years after we both spent countless hours helping to organize Threshold in our first semester at UNC-Chapel Hill, C-line and I recently sat down to remember SEAC's early days. We thought about visiting the Forest Theatre, where Threshold concluded in an emotional ceremony on Sunday, October 29, 1989. But it was otherwise occupied by the Paperhand Puppet Intervention, performing one of their annual late summer shows. So we traveled a few hundred yards down the road, and ended up at the curved stone bench behind Gimghoul Castle that overlooks the far edge of Battle Park.
At the first SEAC organizing meeting of the fall semester '89 (in Hamilton 100), Jimmy Langman convinced us all that Threshold was going to spark a national movement, and Ericka Kurz gave a fiery, impassioned speech wearing a cool black leather jacket. Besides Jimmy and Ericka, SEAC founding members who were running the show included Alec Guettal, Blan Holman, and Don Whittier. They were all juniors, seniors, even recent grads, but nobody past their early twenties. Still, as C-line put it, "They seemed so old. And we said, tell us what you need us to do!"
The nuts and bolts effort required to actually organize a nationwide conference in the pre-internet era was a little less romantic. Working alongside dedicated souls like Lisa Abbott, Chris van Daalen, Celeste Joye, Yu-Yee Wu, Raj Krishnasami, Mark Chilton, Quaker Kappel, Ruby Sinreich, Susan Comfort, Sarah Davis, Dave Ball, Nicole Breedlove, and a bunch of other SEAC'ers, we prepared mass mailings, entered hundreds of pre-registered attendees' names into ancient Mac computers, lined up crash pad arrangements with hundreds of UNC students, and using a primitive device known as the landline telephone, called up folks who wanted more info to convince them to make the trek to Chapel Hill. And my favorite part, sitting around in endless meeting circles on the second floor of the Campus Y, arguing over one minor detail or another until the WHOLE GROUP reached a consensus.
Threshold ad from Oct. '89 issue of Music Monitor.
The conference succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Over 1,700 people showed up from around the country, representing 43 states and 225 schools. It was the largest gathering of student activists since the heyday of SDS in the late 60s. And it launched SEAC as a national student environmental movement. By the early 90s, SEAC chapters existed at over 2,000 U.S. colleges and high schools.
SEAC helped spark a renewal of progressive activism on campuses nationwide. From early on, organizers expanded the definition of environmental issues to include environmental racism and corporate accountability. Over the next few years, national SEAC trainers traveled the country to run local weekend organizer trainings that schooled a new crop of student activists.
SEAC coordinated additional national and regional conferences (most notably, the 1990 Catalyst conference, which drew 7,600 students to Champaign-Urbana, IL) and organized a series of national campaigns (including energy independence, corporate greed, defense of old growth forests, Free Burma, and anti-globalization). SEAC-sponsored voter education work helped elect green candidates at local and state levels.
Unfortunately, SEAC's growth made it overly reliant on grant money. And when some of its foundation donors eventually decided the group was too radical, and yanked their support, SEAC lost a significant chunk of its budget. The number of paid staffers plummeted from 13 down to 7 and then zero.
PIRGs also began jockeying with SEAC chapters for members, and after using SEAC's membership list to organize a 1994 conference, founded a competing student activist network called Free The Planet.
Internal SEAC struggles intensified, and the national office in Carrboro, NC closed its doors in the fall of 1996. However, SEAC rebuilt from the grassroots up, and reopened its national office in 1998, which moved first to Philadelphia and then Charleston, WV.
On a personal level, my involvement with SEAC convinced me I wanted to be an organizer, and laid the foundation for all my political work that's followed. I saw my first published articles appear in issues of SEAC's national newsletter (later renamed Threshold Magazine). I became good friends with C-line, and our adventures have continued ever since. I worked on my first winning political campaign thanks to SEAC, when we elected Mark Chilton to the Chapel Hill Town Council in 1991 (at age 21, he was the youngest candidate ever elected in North Carolina, and the first and only UNC undergraduate to hold public office in Chapel Hill to this day).
Two decades after Threshold, SEAC remains the nation's largest student- and youth-led environmental group. The most fitting thing that happened to commemorate Threshold's 20th anniversary was that from Oct 16-18, the SEAC-affiliated Energy Action Coalition sponsored a regional summit (Carolinas Power Shift) at UNC-Chapel Hill. 350 student environmental activists gathered from schools in North and South Carolina to network and organize for action on clean energy and climate change. And speakers included Mark Chilton (now the two-term mayor of Carrboro), wearing his original Threshold t-shirt!
Clearly, SEAC continues to mobilize young people to protect our planet and our future. For more information on SEAC and its work today, visit SEAC.org.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
The Huffington Post, 6-4-09
Now that President Obama has settled into the job enough to give Brian Williams a backstage pass to the West Wing, the heat of last year's campaign has faded. Especially with Secretary of State Clinton at his side as they tour Egypt to help repair U.S.-Arab relations, the significance of June 4th to Obama's rise may have diminished.
But it was one year ago today that Hillary Clinton announced plans to suspend her campaign for the Democratic nomination, and urged her supporters to unite behind Barack Obama. It was an overdue end to a seemingly endless primary campaign. And a surprising one, considering that until actual primary voters weighed in, the nomination had appeared to be Clinton's for the taking.
Bill and Hillary at New York rally, June 3, 2008
She had money, momentum, and crucial to the Democratic nominating process, Clinton had a big lead in superdelegate support. The rules said these Democratic elected officials and other party leaders could choose to back whomever they wanted, regardless of how their states or districts voted.
One of the unanswered questions from the primary campaign was why more superdelegates didn't endorse Clinton over Obama, even though they were party insiders, and she was the insider candidate. Plus, the conventional wisdom was that Hillary might be a stronger general election pick.
After Obama battled Clinton to a standstill on Super Tuesday, parts of the Democratic establishment were open-mouthed in disbelief. For the next three months, the Clinton campaign did its best to fan doubts about Obama's electability. They were helped as controversies involving the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Obama’s "bitter" comments swirled around his candidacy. Clinton won crucial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, largely by rebranding herself as a "fighter" and tailoring her message to older, white, working class Democrats.
(In hindsight of Obama's resounding victory over John McCain in the fall, the conventional wisdom was dead wrong. If Hillary had ended up as the nominee, many disillusioned Obama voters would have stayed home. McCain would never have picked Sarah Palin as his VP, instead going with his gut instinct to choose someone far less politically radioactive, like Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty or former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.)
Yet Obama kept getting a steady trickle of superdelegate endorsements. In mid-February, Clinton was backed by 100 more supers than Obama, but her advantage gradually shrank. On May 9, various news organizations reported Obama had overtaken Clinton in the superdelegate chase. The final tally as of June 4 was 389 superdelegates for Obama versus 282 for Clinton.
Interviewed for the New York Times' official post-mortem on Hillary’s campaign, Pennsylvania superdelegate Jason Altmire explained the "frustration" within Hillaryland, since "they kept winning state after state and they expected others [superdelegates] to start turning their way and it just didn’t happen."
So what happened? Harold Ickes would surely like to know. In addition to being a divisive presence in Hillary's inner circle, the legendarily hot-tempered Democratic operative was in charge of the Clinton superdelegate operation.
Certainly, some superdelegates saw the writing on the wall. They recognized Barack Obama was both the Democratic Party's future and the strongest candidate against McCain, and endorsed accordingly. Some were reluctant to fight past battles and ready for the party to embrace new leadership. All had personal reasons for their choices.
As a blogger and activist who campaigned for superdelegates to support Obama over Clinton, I had a window on the behind-the-scenes maneuvering going on largely out of view of the press and the campaigns themselves. There was a secret war being waged by both Obama and Clinton supporters to convince individual superdelegates to endorse their preferred candidates.
The Clinton campaign, in an all-out struggle to prevent the nomination from slipping away, was very public about its strategy. They openly encouraged their supporters, particularly big money donors, to pester and cajole superdelegates on Clinton’s behalf, unconcerned that heavy-handed lobbying might turn off the very superdelegates they were trying to influence.
But they were beaten to the punch by Obama supporters, who organized spontaneously, and used the power of the internet to shine light on who the superdelegates were and how ordinary citizens could contact them. None of this was encouraged by the Obama campaign, who had their own, internal strategy to woo the supers. Barack and Michelle began personally calling superdelegates as early as March 2007, something Hillary agreed to do only after the Texas and Ohio contests on March 4. Although Team Obama eventually decided a little citizen lobbying might not be such a bad thing. Yet throughout the primaries, lobbying was happening fast and furiously at the grassroots and netroots levels.
While careful to remain neutral, Democratic Convention Watch was essential for anyone tracking superdelegates. A no frills, Blogger-hosted site run by two Denver political junkies, DemConWatch became the most trusted source for news about superdelegate endorsements, more accurate and up-to-date than any brand name media outlet.
The Superdelegate Transparency Project was another independent, neutral resource. A joint project of LiteraryOutpost, OpenLeft, DemConWatch, and HuffPo’s Off the Bus, organizer Jennifer Nix described the effort as a "collaborative project among all interested parties to bring transparency and accountability to the Democratic National Convention." They posted state-by-state breakdowns of which superdelegates had endorsed which candidates, what popular vote totals each had received, and whether the supers’ endorsements lined up with the votes in their respective districts.
Obama supporters on MyBarackObama.com and sites like DailyKos and Democratic Underground were constantly circulating lists of uncommitted superdelegates. In mid-February, MoveOn.org jumped into the fray when it began an online petition drive that 400,000 signed, calling for superdelegates to "let the voters decide between Clinton and Obama, then support the people’s choice." The San Francisco-based group Color Of Change delivered 25,000 e-mails urging Congressional Black Caucus members to follow their districts' votes.
In North Carolina, our congressional superdelegates originally backed former Sen. John Edwards. When Edwards exited the race in late January, most had yet to endorse another candidate.
So a few Obama supporters in N.C. decided to lobby them and organized Voters for Obama. Our website, votersforobama.org, launched on President's Day (Feb. 19). Using info gathered by DemConWatch and STP, we posted state-by-state lists of supers, their endorsements, and going a crucial step further, included contact info (work mailing addresses, e-mails, and phone numbers) for selected superdelegates. We provided simple instructions on how to make polite, respectful phone calls or send e-mails asking superdelegates to support Obama.
Over the next few months, 15,000 people visited our site, and we helped voters from around the country generate an estimated several thousand e-mails and phone calls to superdelegates. Volunteers gathered thousands more signatures on petitions in seven states including North Carolina.
And together with similar efforts by other Obama supporters, it made a difference. Most superdelegates are politicians, and they pay attention to the voters who elect them. Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory announced his support for Obama on Feb. 25 as a superdelegate from Ohio. Following a news story about his previous indecision, Mallory said he heard from many community members. "[I] got lots of calls and e-mails, mostly telling me to support Obama," he said. "I got three or four calls in support of Clinton, but it was very lopsided."
In mid-Feburary, approximately 400 superdelegates remained uncommitted. We targeted half of them, mostly elected officials and state Democratic party leaders, who we thought would be the most responsive to their constituents and rank-and-file Democrats in each state. Of the 205 superdelegates we posted contact info for, 130 of them (63%) endorsed Obama during the three and a half months leading up to June 4, when Hillary announced her intention to suspend campaigning. 56 superdelegates that we lobbied (27%) remained neutral, while only 19 (or 9%) came out for Hillary. Our target superdelegates delivered an 111-delegate net gain for Obama.
Superdelegate endorsement graph courtesy of DemConWatch
Belatedly, the Clinton campaign set up their own online lobbying operation, including slick, interactive websites. But whoever was running the show was decidedly not slick enough to realize the dangers of providing contact info for all the supers, including those who had already endorsed Hillary. Ditto for posting personal cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
NObama Democrats backing Hillary were late to the game, but they made up for it with frenzied enthusiasm once they got going. Taylor Marsh harangued her listeners to lobby superdelegates for Hillary, and sites like JustSayNoDeal.com and PUMAPAC.org (Party Unity My Ass) were hot on the bandwagon.
A project called LobbyDelegates.com also launched, and although officially neutral, became the go-to site for disgruntled Clintonistas. Three of the top five URLs directing traffic to LobbyDelegates.com were official Clinton websites, and a fourth was a site affiliated with PUMA PAC.
By late May, Obama's high profile supporters were anxious to get the nomination fight settled. Perhaps fed up with the efforts of Hillary dead-enders to keep dividing the party, on May 22 Arianna Huffington called for superdelegates to endorse Obama, and encouraged her readers to contact and lobby them.
In the end, enough superdelegates swung behind Obama to allow pledged delegates from the final primaries to put him over the top. Obama reached a majority of 2,118 delegates on the night of June 3, after voters in Montana cast their ballots in the 54th nominating contest of the season. The next day, Democratic members of Congress who had remained Clinton supporters up until that point urged her to withdraw, and she announced she would. Hillary delivered her concession speech three days later on June 7th, at a final event packed with her supporters.
A year later, I would like to thank all our Voters for Obama coalition members, volunteers, and supporters. Special thanks go out to co-organizers M.L. Dexter, who did most of the superdelegate research necessary to first set up our site, and Dana Lumsden, for his enthusiasm and unwavering support; SuperVoters Susan Baylies and Scott Priz, for being willing to put on capes for Obama and help deliver 2,000 signed petitions to N.C. Gov. Mike Easley; and local organizer Cristobal Palmer, whose tireless efforts helped make our N.C. petition drive a success.
And a big thanks to everyone who visited votersforobama.org and used its tools to call, e-mail, or sign a petition to superdelegates for Obama. We let our party leaders know their constituents wanted Obama to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008, and they listened.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
You don't need to have read Stephen King's The Stand to be scared about the swine flu outbreak. Or, as the pork industry prefers, the H1N1 virus.
The wave of media hysteria that swept the nation this week put us all on edge. At a time when most people are already unnerved by the Great Recession, worried about losing their jobs, homes, and retirement savings, a scare like the Swine Flu Panic found fertile ground.
So how did this seemingly new mix of pig, bird, and human flu virus erupt? Since it first emerged in Mexico, xenophobic, anti-immigration racists were quick to label the strain "Mexican Flu" and use the crisis to attack President Obama's support for immigration reform.
But serious questions are being raised about whether a U.S.-owned factory farm is to blame for creating unsanitary conditions in which deadly viruses like the swine flu can incubate. Suspicion is swirling around a giant hog plant near the town of La Gloria, in Mexico’s Vera Cruz State.
La Gloria has been called the possible "ground zero" of the current epidemic. Starting in February, there was a widespread outbreak of a "powerful respiratory disease" in the town which sickened some 60% of its residents. Now, it's been revealed that one of the town’s children, 5-year old Edgar Hernandez, had contracted swine flu and was the earliest known case of this virus strain.
Health workers sealed off the town and sprayed chemicals to kill the flies from the plant's massive hog waste lagoons that reports claim were "swarming through people’s homes."
The hog plant is owned by Granjas Carroll, a subsidiary of Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the United States. Smithfield Foods is also one of the nation's top polluters. The company's misdeeds have been well documented over the years, including by the Waterkeeper Alliance, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s environmental group. In 2006, Rolling Stone ran a stomach-churning report on the vast amounts of toxic fecal waste generated by the company's pigs each year, and the environmental destruction its factory farming causes.
Whether the swine flu outbreak mushrooms into a full-blown pandemic or not, it should be a wakeup call for us all about the unsustainable, potentially hazardous, environmentally devastating nature of industrial agriculture. It's time we stood up and just said no to factory farming.