Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Latest Republican Scare Tactic: Register to Vote and Put Yourself at Risk for Identity Theft!

Virgina is sure to be a battleground state this fall, with the Obama candidacy putting the state in play for the first time in recent memory. Not to mention the fact that it looks like former Gov. Mark Warner (D) is going to walk away with the state's open Senate seat, which is being vacated by statesman Sen. John Warner (R, no relation). Mark Warner would join Virginia's up and coming Sen. Jim Webb (D) in Congress, representing a state that already has a popular Democratic governor in Tim Kane -- an early Obama supporter and someone whose national stature has risen as his name has occasionally been bandied about in the Veep Sweeps.

Needless to say, all this blue, donkey-shaped confetti floating around the used-to-be-reliably-red state of Virginia has got the state Republican party in a tizzy -- even Virgina Rep. Eric Cantor's name being included on the Maverick's Veep short list hasn't cheered them up. Enter Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Jeff Frederick, also a member of the state's general assembly, with the latest Republican scare tactic, er -- plan -- to make things go a little more smoothly in the fall.

It all started when three people in Hampton, VA were recently charged with voter fraud. The folks in question -- two 18 year olds and a 22 year old -- worked for Community Voters Project (CVP). As part of the job, they had to meet a daily quota of new registrations. According to the Associated Press, the group is affiliated with the Fund for the Public Interest, which promotes progressive and environmentalist efforts but has no direct ties to the Democratic Party or the Obama campaign. Also important to note, it was the CVP that first discovered the problems and alerted the authorities. According to not only election officials but the police and prosecutors as well, greed was the motivation, not a desire to influence elections.

Note that, while of course innocent until proven guilty, apparently suspicious behavior was noted, investigated and charges were eventually filed -- the system worked. I suspect the real problem is not really about this particular case, but rather about the 140,000 new voters registered in Virginia this year -- most of them Democratic. If they were mostly new red voters, I sincerely doubt Mr. Frederick would be calling for a statewide -- yes, statewide -- investigation.

"If we can't tell the voters that their will is being executed on Election Day, then why do we even have a democracy?" Frederick whined. Yeah, where were you when the victims of the butterfly ballot needed help in Florida, pal? How about their will?

Local registrars are in Richmond, the state capital, for their annual training this week, and they were clear about safeguards that are already in place to make sure fraud is caught -- and the Hampton example seems to support that. It's also a great example of the self-regulating done by third party groups. "I can guarantee you one thing, whoever wins November 4 will win fair and square in Virginia," State Board of Elections Secretary Nancy Rodrigues said.

But wait -- here's the kicker. The coup de grace. The icing on the cake. Apparently Mr. Frederick is not just worried about voter fraud. Nope, this concerned citizen did not stop there. He used his press conference as a bully pulpit to also share his concerns about third party groups registering voters, and what he believes is the dangerous possibility of identity theft since the registration form asks for social security numbers. Not at all coincidentally, the Obama camp is currently engaged in a huge registration drive in Virginia. I sincerely doubt the timing of the Republican Party of Virginia's press conference was a coincidence.

"If you're not comfortable in giving your social security number, don't do that," said Rodrigues. "The general registrars will follow up with you." Maybe they are supposed to -- heck, maybe they mean to, but do you really think that's what will happen? With all the new registrations they have to process, new voting machines to deploy, and the huge election to prepare for? Or will registrars simply toss your registration form as incomplete, leaving you standing there on Election Day, being told by a poll worker that your name's not on the list -- sorry, come back next time.

I gotta tell you, this latest ploy is ingenious. Scare people away from voter registration drives by telling them it's a sure path to identity theft. Brilliant. Diabolical, but brilliant. Despicable, but brilliant. As far as I'm concerned, there is a special place in hell for people who intentionally try to disenfranchise others simply because they don't like how they'll cast their ballots. This nation is better than that. And this nation is certainly better than Jeff Frederick and his cheap, transparent scare tactics. I can think of no better way to repay him and his state party than for Democrats to run the table in Virginia on Nov. 4.

Copyright 2008. The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What Kinda Kool-Aid are They Drinking?

According to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 13 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction. Thirteen percent. Aside from the fact that it's appalling that 87 percent of Americans believe the country is going down the tubes -- I'll get to that in a moment -- does anyone else wonder what the hell kinda Kool-Aid that 13 percent must be drinking to actually believe that things are hunky-dory?

Appropriately enough, that unlucky 13 percent is the worst result on the infamous "right way/wrong way" question in the history of the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The last time Americans were even close to this pessimistic was July 1992 — the year a sax-playing southern governor with a zipper problem beat the proud father of our current presidential disaster. At that point, only 14 percent of the country thought we were on the right track -- giving Hillary the go-ahead to start shopping for that perfect inaugural ball dress and a big fat hint to incumbents George and Dan to go ahead and schedule the moving vans for Jan. 20, 1993.

Not surprisingly, the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, released today, also finds that the lagging economy continues to be uppermost in voters' minds, and -- news flash, campers -- it’s an issue that the electorate expects both Obama and McCain to tackle with their vice-presidential picks. Poll respondents especially think that McCain needs to find a new BFF who’s an expert on the economy, considering that the Maverick has admitted he's a novice himself. Hmmm... wonder if Mitt Romney funded this poll? It seems to be making his argument that a McCain/Romney ticket would be a good idea -- and hey, from a progressive perspective maybe it would, considering these two guys together have about as much chemistry and charisma as a couple of 2 x 4's.

Voters want Obama to select a sidekick who's a military or foreign affairs expert — but an economic expert runs a close second. Ironically enough -- or perhaps given the general pessimism among voters when it comes to the economy, it makes sense -- the poll also shows that voters actually don’t have much confidence in either candidate's ability to get the economy back on track. Voters have the right of it there, since there is typically very little that a president can unilaterally do to improve the economy.
Americans are clearly looking to Washington as well as their own state capitals for action on the bread and butter, kitchen table issues that are draining our wallets and keeping us up at night. It's often said that people vote their pocketbooks, and they often do. But clever political spin doctors have figured out how to distort divisive social issues, the so-called wedge issues, to induce people to vote against their own best economic interests -- that's another flavor of Kool-Aid. Reagan Democrats are a perfect example -- seduced into voting Republican and hoping for trickle down economics that never quite trickled down to them. I think of people obsessing about a flag pin in this election and I get nervous, as well. While it looks like voters are focused squarely on the economy, and that's clearly a plus for the Democrats, it's a long way until November and the swift boats have yet to come out in force.

Copyright 2008. The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Redheads Can Whine, Too

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain couldn't stiff arm former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) fast enough after the McCain economic adviser provided a little of his own brand of straight talk, dubbing the United States "a nation of whiners" in a "mental recession."

"You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession," Gramm said in a Washington Times editorial board meeting. He went on to say that "We have sort of become a nation of whiners... You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline..."
Gramm later said that he meant the nation's leaders were whiners, not its citizens. (That's ever so much better, isn't it?) But after that helpful clarification, the former presidential wannabe went on to illustrate why his own ill-fated campaign sputtered right out of the gate by repeating his assertion and stating, "I'm not going to retract any of it. Every word I said was true."

So, I thought I might take ol' Phil's suggestion -- or at the least make this a self-fulfilling prophecy -- because, when I really got to thinking, I realized I had some things to whine about. Here's just a few.

  • I'm going to whine about Democrats in the House and Senate who have yet to figure out that, yes, Virginia, they are in charge. They don't need to check with the Republicans before taking a bathroom break. Here's hoping that if we whine enough, they'll actually act like the Majority party.

  • I'm going to whine about cynical Senate Republicans, who've introduced impostor Ledbetter bills in an attempt to evade the grassroots pressure they've been feeling to fix the Supreme Court's dumbass decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear. As one Republican staffer's email went, the bill was introduced at least in part because "many of our members took some heat," and the bill was dropped just before the July 4th recess so Senators would have an opportunity to brag about their co-sponsorship to constituents over the holiday. (Read: CYA)

  • I'm going to whine about the Democrats who abrogated their stewardship of our civil rights and liberties in favor of CYA on FISA. (CYA activity does not favor one party or the other, it seems.) Yes, I'm going to whine about Barack Obama's FISA vote, and write a check to the ACLU for their lawsuit against Uncle Sam.

  • I'm going to whine about a President who thinks it's a good idea to consider new regulations, six months before he leaves office, that pervert federal funding designed to prevent unintended pregnancies by redirecting it instead to providers who refuse to offer comprehensive birth control and reproductive health care services. And oh yeah, the proposed rule just happens to redefine abortion to so that it includes some of the most common methods of birth control. I'm guessing this is not a coincidence.

  • I'm going to whine about the fact that the Higher Education Act reauthorization bill is stuck in a seemingly never ending conference loop. The House bill is much better, but Senate Democrats have pretty much refused to agree to anything that wasn't their idea first. Meanwhile, the conferenced bill won't be as good as the House version, and it still isn't done. Hmmm... wouldn't that be a nice achievement for the fall elections??

  • I'm going to whine about the fact that, after the nation's capital put up $611 million in public money to build their stadium, the Washington Nationals baseball team is now refusing to pay their measly $3.5 million rental bill. They say the stadium is not yet complete -- funny, though, they have been holding games and charging full price for tickets.

  • I'm going to whine about the fact that I've not had time to blog for a month. Life got in the way. That sucks. I've missed it, and hopefully you missed me too. I'm also going to whine about the fact that it's mid-July and I've still not been to the beach -- that's just wrong.

Wow. That was cathartic. I feel better already. Never underestimate the power of a little whining. Thanks, Phil.

Copyright 2008. The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.