What about Immigration?

28 08 2008

From Feet in Two Worlds:

While Obama’s voter registration drive will target Americans all of backgrounds, the Obama campaign has previously pledged 20 million dollars on Latino outreach efforts including voter registration and paid media. The campaign has 400 Latino organizers and is training hundreds of volunteers to increase turnout among Latinos in key battleground states. In New Mexico alone, where an estimated 40,000 registered Latino voters didn’t got to the polls in 2004, Figueroa said the campaign has 29 field offices staffed by Latinos.

As interesting as that is, we are still left with the question why very few at the convention have said anything about immigration and hope to win over Latino voters. According to a December 2007 Pew Hispanic Center poll, 53 percent of all Latinos worry about being deported mainly because of harsher immigration enforcement measures, 75 percent of all Latinos disapprove of workplace raids, and 64 percent of all Latinos said the debate over immigration policy and the failure of Congress to enact an immigration reform bill have made life more difficult for them to live in the U.S.

And ever since mid-2005 more than 60 percent of all Americans have consistently said immigration is a good thing for the country.

Yet even with this summer’s newspapers filled with news about raids across the nation causing people to flee into the shadows and disrupting families, factory workers being exploited at meat packing plants, detainees dying in ICE custody, so little has been said about immigration at the Democratic Convention in Denver.

Its as if Democrats feel as if they can stay mum on the topic and still win over Latino voters simply because so many Republicans and other conservatives are willing to race bait the immigration issue. I realize that Barack Obama has been polling well among Latino voters lately, and thereby creating less of an incentive to be as forceful in his support for comprehensive immigration reform, and path to citizenship in particular, but the Dems cannot afford to maintain this silence and still energize Latino voters. That’s just not going to do it in November against McCain.


On Michelle Obama’s Speech

27 08 2008

In sum, though at times Juan Williams irritates me to no end, I am in total agreement with his assessment of Michelle Obama’s speech here:

Like many other people, I found her personal story about her father’s perseverance despite suffering from a debilitating illness very well told in addition to realizing the historical significance of her moment when she said:

It is because of their will and determination that this week, we celebrate two anniversaries: the 88th anniversary of women winning the right to vote, and the 45th anniversary of that hot summer day when Dr. King lifted our sights and our hearts with his dream for our nation.

I stand here today at the crosscurrents of that history — knowing that my piece of the American Dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me. All of them driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day to painstakingly dress himself for work. The same conviction that drives the men and women I’ve met all across this country.

Did You Really Have to Fact Check That?

27 08 2008

While most of us were reveling in Senator Hillary Clinton’s thundering and memorable speech at the Democratic Convention last night, the good folks at the New York Times thought it was a good idea to fact check her paraphrase of the great abolitionist Harriet Tubman. In a post provocatively titled “Did Harriet Tubman Really Say That?,” Sewell Chan contacted a few Tubman scholars about whether or not that famed New Yorker actually said as Clinton noted in her great speech:

If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.

In short, the scholars said no, but its an understandable and very forgivable mistake, considering how so many people have attributed that same paraphrase so often to Tubman for so many years.

In fact, one scholar said in an email message to Chan that “I researched this years ago and determined it came from a juvenile account of Tubman’s life sometime in the 1950s.” But that “in all fairness to Senator Clinton and others who use that quote, few outside of the small circle of Tubman scholars know that the quote is not actually attributable to Tubman.”

Now, as much as I love a good diligent fact check, I do have to admit this Chan’s post is going to be forever associated with an otherwise marvelous and gracious speech by Senator Clinton.

Call me a sucker for poetic specifying, but I think politicians, especially when they invoke the celebrated efforts of truly heroic figures should be provided a little latitude. This is particularly true of Senator Clinton who did a great job of trying to persuade her supporters to get behind the party’s nominee.

At any rate, I have to ask did that really needed to be fact checked?

Its More than Just the Economy

26 08 2008

Andrea Batista Schlesinger at DMI blog has grown weary and skeptical of the attention paid on the foreign policy portion of Senator Joe Biden’s resume in assessing whether or not the Delaware lawmaker is a well matched running mate for Senator Barack Obama.

Enough with the talk about filling in the foreign affairs gap. This just accepts that we are going to live out yet ANOTHER campaign the way the right wants us to — on their turf. The most pressing issues to America’s middle class are economic, economic, and ECONOMIC, so let’s learn a little bit more about where Senator Joseph Biden stood when it came to voting for legislation that matter to the pocketbooks of middle-class Americans.


Aside from the fact, that as Samantha Power has noted, the Democrats should use this election year as in part an opportunity to define themselves the better party on national security, its also clear that ceding ground to the Republicans on security issues by not discussing them they also hamstring their efforts to get their message out on the economy and other issues.

Each time the Obama does not answer forcefully or not all to some absurd charge about some fabricated ties to Hamas or imagined sympathies for the Iranians or is naive about the gravity of certain authoritarian rouge regimes because he says he is open to negotiation under certain circumstances, those stories linger in the press for days or even weeks. One asset Senator Biden does bring to the campaign is his ability to aggressively push back on those issues to make sure those charges don’t go unchallenged and get them off the front pages as Obama pitches his plan to modernize our economy and make it greener, generate job growth, and create a more sensible and equitable tax system.

Stressing Joe Biden’s foreign policy resume is like letting the opposition know you have a good deterrent that you plan to use regularly once campaigning turns into much more of a contact sport.

Its rarely just the economy stupid.

Biden Wins Veepstakes

23 08 2008

With all the chatter during the past week of Senator Biden of Delaware rumored to top Obama’s VP shortlist its not that much of a surprise that The Chosen one chose Uncle Joe even if its a little anti-climatic. I sincerely doubt that all those people who signed up for text message alerts from the campaign were got excited about Obama-Biden ticket. That said though Biden cannot deliver a battleground state and does have a tendency to talk too much, he is not a bad pick.

Consider what Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo said earlier this week.

…I think he’d be a good choice. On substance, maybe a really good choice. Most senators grasp of foreign policy is fairly thin — and it tends to be heavily influenced by whatever lobbyists or power players are in their orbit. But Biden has a pretty deep knowledge of pretty much every big foreign policy question. And his ideas and judgment strike me as fundamentally sane.

Back in 2004, when I was writing a piece for The Atlantic about John Kerry, I did long interview with Biden in his office on Capitol Hill. And I remember coming away thinking, this is the guy you’d want to have making big decisions on the key foreign policy questions. To the extent that we think Obama needs someone with deep foreign policy knowledge in a constitutional office (i.e., non-fireable) to add ballast to his foreign policy vision I’m not sure I could think of a much better person.

I largely agree with that sentiment. Biden also brings another asset to the ticket. He can go negative in a knowledgeable way against the McCain campaign in the same way that he has against the Bush administration during the last few years while Obama remains above the fray and speaks that pretty words.

Of course, there are those who may find Obama’s pick less than inspiring and even disagreeable with what Obama’s been selling the last year and a half. Ron Fournier at the Associated Press offered his bit of “analysis” earlier today:

For all his self-confidence, the 47-year-old Illinois senator worried that he couldn’t beat Republican John McCain without help from a seasoned politician willing to attack. The Biden pick is the next logistical step in an Obama campaign that has become more negative — a strategic decision that may be necessary but threatens to run counter to his image.


But as several observers have noted time and time again, Obama is a shrewd sober thinking politician not just some idealist willing to throw caution to the winds. Perhaps it would have been bolder to go with say Governors Sebelius or Napolitano (my favorite), but being a change candidate does not necessarily preclude recognizing how to enhance his chances in November by inoculating himself against perceived weaknesses.

More importantly, as Ryan Lizza observed in his thorough and lengthy profile of Obama in the New Yorker several weeks ago the Illinois Senator has never been shy about courting more experienced hands to better manipulate the levers of power. In fact, its been critical to how he engineered his rise from the bowels of local Chicago politics to national prominence. And Biden is part of that insider crowd. But just because Obama picked Biden as his VP does not mean that Obama will become Biden after 8 years in office.

Besides at least he did not pick Madame Inevitable.

Dude Give it Up

11 08 2008

Howard Wolfson, Fox News contributor and Hillary Clinton’s former campaign spokesman on the alleged poor timing of the reporting of the Edwards affair:

“I believe we would have won Iowa, and Clinton today would therefore have been the nominee,” former Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson told ABCNews.com.


“Our voters and Edwards’ voters were the same people,” Wolfson said the Clinton polls showed. “They were older, pro-union. Not all, but maybe two-thirds of them would have been for us and we would have barely beaten Obama.”

Dude its not about you.

Digital Media as a Corrupting Force?

4 08 2008

For some time I’ve been meaning to blog about an article that ran in the July 27th issue of the New York Times entitled, “Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?” Much of the it focused on a presume problematic dichotomy between print media such as books on the one hand and digital media on the other, which includes “cornucopia of words, pictures, video and sounds.”

Apparently, there is a debate raging amoung certain corners of academia how or whether to integrate digital media into school curriculums, including whether or not there should be any testing of it. At any rate, the interesting part of all is the assumption that sustained deliberative thinking is not only more likely to take place in reading books for long periods of time rather than prolonged engagement with digital media, but that the latter had almost nothing thought provoking to offer.

To support this view, many cite some sobering statistics about the declining numbers of teens who say they read books for fun and implied that the internet usage is to blame. Of course, before educators blamed the internet, they blamed video games, and before they blamed video games they blamed television.

At any rate, even the august Pulitzer prizing biographer David McCullough in a recent commencement address chimed in when he said:

Learning is not be found on a printout. Its not on call at the touch of the finger. Learning is acquired mainly from books, and most readily from great books. And from teachers, the more learned and empathetic the better. And from concentrated work.

Of course, few would deny the value of reading great books and they uncommon wisdom they impart, but there seems to be no recognition of how a piece of art, the moving image, or music, or a compelling combination of them could also do the same. It seems as if widespread internet usage has inspired a backlash among many people to endorse a more conservative approach to intellectual development and somehow sees anti-intellectualism and irrationalism at the very heart of digital media.

Think thats too harsh? Consider Susan Jacoby. In a Feburary WaPo op-ed she said:

Dumbness, to paraphrase the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been steadily defined downward for several decades, by a combination of heretofore irresistible forces. These include the triumph of video culture over print culture (and by video, I mean every form of digital media, as well as older electronic ones); a disjunction between Americans’ rising level of formal education and their shaky grasp of basic geography, science and history; and the fusion of anti-rationalism with anti-intellectualism.

Who knew digital media was such an irresistible and corrupting force?

Fortunately, not even everyone agrees. Some more sober thinking people such as Howard Gardner have adopted the long view on all of this.

Literacy — or an ensemble of literacies — will continue to thrive, but in forms and formats we can’t yet envision.

That’s what has always happened as writing and reading have evolved over the ages. It was less than 100,000 years ago that our human predecessors first made meaningful marks on surfaces, notating the phases of the moon or drawing animals on cave walls. Within the past 5,000 years, societies across the Near East’s Fertile Crescent began to use systems of marks to record important trade exchanges as well as pivotal events in the present and the past. These marks gradually became less pictorial, and a decisive leap occurred when they began to capture certain sounds reliably: U kn red ths sntnz cuz Inglsh feechurs “graphic-phoneme correspondences.”

I wonder if that means the digital future will lead us back to a much richer version of our pictorial past.