Making stuff as a founder of Avocado. Former music-maker. Tuna melt advocate. Started Google Reader. (But smarter people made it great.)

Florida and Campaigning, Little Stories

The New Volunteer

Just after General Powell's endorsement of Obama for President, a bulldog of a man walks into the office, hands us his business card, and asks what volunteer work he can do for Barack. Casually he tosses out, "I'm a registered Republican and after the endorsement I felt it was time to come in here."

The Three Totals

One afternoon while out talking with voters, a field organizer for our office gets in a auto accident. Neither car involved can be driven anymore, and our organizer is hurt from the impact. An ambulance carries her to a local hospital, worry abounds, and her family is called. Shortly after being checked into the emergency room, our office gets a text message from her asking for status: "So, how many canvassers do I have out?"

Pitching and Catching

It's early evening in Tampa, and only an hour or so before the soon-to-be last game of the American League championship series. I'm suddenly conscripted from my office duties by a co-worker who shoves me in a car with a sign and some pamphlets and tells me I'm to stand in front of Tropicana Field and re-emphasize the start of early voting for Florida.

I'm ill-suited for this. We're at the entrance to the stadium and people are excited about the game, not politics. Despite being non-blocking in presentation (off to the side of the walkway) our voting signs show a picture of Obama, so our partisanship is evident and I'm uncomfortable with even a peripheral interruption.

I'm paired with Linda, in heels and short, she's about ten or fifteen years older than I am, throws a smile my way, pats me on my shoulder, then wades closer to the crowd of attendees.

"Vote early!" she says. "Voting for Obama? You can do so now."

She repeats this many times. Her voice doesn't carry too far, but passersby can see her sign. They glance at the image of Obama. And many of them (many!) turn their heads slightly and reply: "Fuck you."

She must've gotten over fifty "fuck you"s.

Later, we have to walk back to the office. It's many blocks, and there are no cabs or drivers available. She chucks off her heels and walks barefoot. And never stops. The whole way back she mentions to anyone passing, "Did you know you can vote early? And vote for Obama!"

Later, when she tells us she's another registered Republican volunteer, I whistle in appreciation.


I've only had one day of canvassing, for the last few weeks, I've mainly worked with documents and computers and gadgets. In this new assignment, I prepare myself to meet with the common responses to a knock at the door: indifference, antagonism, frustration, annoyance.

I head out with a more experienced canvasser. On my first knock I'm nervous. A tall man answers...

He's proudly wearing an Obama baseball cap. And further inside, I can see his wife, who is wearing an Obama t-shirt.

They are very pleased we're at the door.

We're invited inside for cocktails, which I decline as I'm on duty, and because I begin to wonder if they'll be so many offerings that we'll have to weigh our options on their relative quality before choosing one.

I knock on many doors. Goodwill is in force. I'm later told my experience was "atypical." This just tells me that my co-workers are hiding all the good bounty.


posted at October 22, 2008, 8:28 AM 3 comments

I'm the newest member of Obama's Florida for Change office. (C'mon down.)

I was interested in doing more with my time than research and commentary for the US Presidential Election so in the beginning of October I'll become an in-state volunteer for the Florida for Change office for Barack Obama. Huge thanks to the Border State Director of Florida For Change for allowing me to be involved.

I'll be working primarily in Pinellas county. How swing is Pinellas? In 2004, the difference between Bush and Kerry was less than 500 votes.


I'll be involved in anything the director and staff would like to assign to me as a responsibility. (Data, IT, and voter contact seems a likely group of tasks I'll be assigned, though.)

For those who'd also like to help in Florida, please sign up at the Florida for Change signup on Obama's website. If you know me, please send me an email, SMS, direct twitter, facebook wall message, or catch me on the street and I'd be happy to direct you to the director for volunteering.

I keep wondering if I should list the reasons why I'm willing to put together a more-than-casual effort for a politician. I'd be happy to do so, but I've got a lot more preparation ahead of me and may not get the time.

Past performance isn't always a good indicator of future activity but interesting stats about Florida's voting record in the 2004 U.S. Presidential election are available via Wikipedia, United States presidential election in Florida, 2004.  For example, the color-coded county by county breakdown back then...


posted at September 26, 2008, 6:06 PM 3 comments

The Hidden Power: David Addington

David Addington is Chief of Staff for Vice President Cheney. Here's an excerpt from a profile about him in the New Yorker from a couple of years ago.
Most Americans, even those who follow politics closely, have probably never heard of Addington. But current and former Administration officials say that he has played a central role in shaping the Administration’s legal strategy for the war on terror. Known as the New Paradigm, this strategy rests on a reading of the Constitution that few legal scholars share—namely, that the President, as Commander-in-Chief, has the authority to disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries, if national security demands it. Under this framework, statutes prohibiting torture, secret detention, and warrantless surveillance have been set aside.
Emphasis mine. According to many sources, he's been the author (or most senior legal support) of many of the most controversial legal policies of the Bush Administration. He was described by U.S. News and World Report as "the most powerful man you've never heard of".

He's the lawyer behind over 750 signing statements that President Bush has added to bills passed by Congress. He seems to have a different understanding of the Constitutional separation of powers, namely, that no one has the right to examine how executive decisions are made and that in times of war (which is always now since the War on Terror doesn't take a break) the President cannot be restrained by Congress nor any law, national or international.

Some results of this interpretation range from the benign and reasonable to the possibly criminal and include Bush and his team refusing requests for information (as in the case of Pat Tillman's death), documents (an F.B.I. and mob scandal), and clarification (the details of Cheney's energy task force), and has included their directly refusing to obey subpeonas in the investigation of the firing of federal prosecutors. In the last example, the executive branch has successfully avoided legal inquiry with the only consequence being two aides held in contempt by the House of Representatives but whose charges won't be pursued by the Justice Department because of executive privilege.

"Our political heritage is to be skeptical of executive power, because, in particular, there was skepticism of King George III." So says Jane Mayer, the author of the New Yorker article. But I can only guess we're no longer inheritors of that concern given the very real reduction of Presidential oversight over the last eight years.

Which leads me to admit - I feel like I can't be an informed voter without knowing what self-imposed limits an Obama or McCain or Biden or Palin presidency would place on their unrestrained and secret power. But even if they promised to restrain would we ever know if they had?


posted at September 18, 2008, 3:05 AM 1 comment

Defending against the spin. So frustrating. [Corrections about candidates]

1) Watch it get thrown.
2) *sigh* Correct it.
I'm trying to sort out the chaff from the messaging wheat about our candidates for the U.S. executive I'm making another list for myself (maybe useful to you?) so that I can be reminded of the current research about each claim. This is a non-comprehensive list and as a watchmen's watchman I should be fact-checked as well. Please correct me as necessary. (And yes, I know...that I'm publishing another political post annoys me as much as it may annoy you. Please accept my apology.)

Correcting stuff about Sarah Palin that isn't true.

  • Palin did NOT cut funding for special needs education in Alaska.
  • Actually, just the opposite - she tripled per-pupil funding.
  • Palin did NOT demand that books be banned from the Wasilla library.
    Though she did inquire about banning, she never, ever banned any books. Ever.
  • Palin was NEVER a member of the Alaskan Independence Party.
  • Palin NEVER endorsed or supported Pat Buchanan for president.
    This is just ridiculous. She wore a pin only when he visited and then took it off. More factually, she headed Steve Forbes' campaign efforts in Alaska.
  • Palin has NOT pushed for teaching creationism in Alaska's schools.
    She's said she's open to it being taught alongside evolution, however, she hasn't actually done anything substantive about it. Hopefully, she'll clarify her position. But it's (currently) incorrect to say she's actually made any changes in Alaskan education regarding creationism.

Correcting stuff about Barack Obama that isn't true.

  • Obama’s health care plan will NOT "force small businesses to cut jobs".
    In fact, the plan exempts small businesses.
  • Obama's health care plan will NOT put "a bureaucrat ... between you and your doctor."
    In fact, those who have insurance now could keep the coverage they have.
  • Obama has NEVER voted for "corporate welfare" for oil companies.
    In fact, the bill Obama voted for raised taxes on oil companies by $300 million over 11 years while providing $5.8 billion in subsidies for renewable energy, energy efficiency and alternative fuels.
  • Obama will NOT close markets to trade.
    Though he once said he wanted to "renegotiate" NAFTA, now he says he wants to try to strengthen environmental and labor provisions in it. He's not advocating closing any markets.
  • Obama DID NOT vote to teach sex to kindergarten children.
    Wow, this is disgustingly wrong. Rather, Obama voted for a bill in the Illinois state Senate that would update the sex education curriculum and make it "medically accurate." It was specifically designed to teach young kids how to recognize inappropriate behavior and avoid pedophiles and also demanded that any instruction be "age-appropriate". It was deemed urgently necessary enough to arm kids with knowledge about predators that it adjusted the year of beginning instruction. (Additionally, Obama was neither a co-sponsor nor a sponsor of the bill and it never got past the Senate.)
  • Obama IS OPEN TO DRILLING for oil.
    Specifically, he said he's open to "a careful, well thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage".
  • Obama will NOT INCREASE TAXES for working, middle-class families.
    Nope. NO. NO. This is wholly incorrect. Despite a McCain ad claiming otherwise, Obama's plan would cut taxes for the vast majority of American households, with middle-income earners benefiting a great deal.

Correcting stuff about John McCain that isn't true.

  • McCain will NOT fail to support loan guarantees for the auto industry.
    Despite what an Obama ad says, McCain is actually in favor of low-cost loans to that industry.
  • McCain did NOT say we could just "muddle through" in Afghanistan.
    In 2003, McCain actually said that we "may" muddle through, and he recently also called for more troops there.
  • McCain does NOT define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year.
    He was joking. Seriously. He even said, "but seriously" just after it. C'mon.

Correcting stuff about Joe Biden that isn't true.

  • Biden did NOT get fewer votes as a presidential nominee than Palin as mayor.

[What they said] - McCain has said stuff that's wrong, incorrect, or misleading.

  • McCain FALSELY claimed that his plan will increase use of "wind, tide [and] solar" energy.
    His actual energy plan contains no new money for renewable energy.

[What they said] - Obama has said stuff that's wrong, incorrect, or misleading.

  • Obama's plan currently CANNOT "pay for every dime" of his spending and tax cut proposals "by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens."
    This was quite the whopper. His proposed tax increases on upper-income individuals seems crucial. And his plan, like McCain’s, looks likely to leave the U.S. facing big budget deficits.
  • Obama FALSELY accused McCain of saying "no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investment in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels."
    In fact, in 2002 McCain not only wanted tougher standards than most of the Senate did, but he was lauded by a Democrat.

[What they said] - Biden has said stuff that's wrong, incorrect, or misleading.

  • Biden FALSELY claimed that "murder and violent crime rates went down eight years in a row" as a result of the Biden Crime Bill.
    A peer-reviewed study published in the February 2007 issue of the journal Criminology found that the bill's "spending had little to no effect on crime."

[What they said] - Palin has said stuff that's wrong, incorrect, or misleading.

  • Palin did NOT say "thanks, but no thanks" to the building of the Ketchikan bridge.
    She clearly supported it and didn't stand up to Congressional waste - she accepted the money on behalf of Alaska.
  • Palin FALSELY accused Obama of being more worried about terrorists being read their rights than apprehended.
    This is a whopper. Obama seems as committed to apprehending terrorists as the other candidates. But he's a constitutional scholar and law professor and is passionate about the rights of habeus corpus being respected.


posted at September 10, 2008, 7:51 PM 3 comments