Friday, October 31, 2008

How voting Obama will save babies

I've been doing a fair amount of phone banking into some areas with what seem to be a bunch of folks who won't vote for Obama because of the abortion issue. Here's what I tell them. It's the first argument that has actually helped me win a few over.

In 1996, as an undergrad in college, I took a bus trip to Washington DC for the annual protest on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I have always been pro-choice but wanted to have the experience. I paid about $35 for the trip. When I arrived at the stadium where they were parking the buses, the entire lot was filled with buses from all over the place. There had to be a thousand or more buses. Being math inclined I started doing the numbers in my head (1000 or more buses * 40 people a bus * 35 each) and I realized we just spent a large sum of money to fight to overturn a law but did nothing to help women make a more life preserving choice.

It's taken another 12 years for me to formulate my own position on abortion but it has been heavily informed by that trip.

My core belief is that we need to to things now to help woman facing a difficult decision to make the right choice. From that day on I donate a small amount of money every month to a shelter for pregnant women who want to keep their babies. If you believe in this cause, consider visiting them and making a donation. On the side of politics I believe we have to stop voting on this one issue and, instead, support a candidate who will do things to help save babies tomorrow.

We have been fighting the Roe v. wade battle for almost 40 years. No matter what argument you make for or against, between 40 and 60% of Americans will disagree with you. There are good people making reasonable points on both sides. With the nation this divided, fighting this by the law won't solve the problem. And besides, we know that abortions still happen even when the law is changed.

Instead, we need to enact policies that can start saving babies tomorrow. Most women having abortions are in poverty and lack health care. If we enact policies that provide everyone health care, a woman will not face the decision of bringing a child into the world without care. If we provide women options for better childcare perhaps they will have an easier time to bring a baby into the world while being a single mom.

Research also shows that abstinence only education leads to more pregnancies. We need better education to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. Now I know some will say there is no such thing as an unwanted pregnancy and that people shouldn't have sex till marriage. My favorite is hearing that argument from a married couple I know who had their first baby 7 months after their hastily arranged wedding. The fact is, no amount of moral training will stop people from having sex before marriage. Kids will be tempted, adults will do what they will and people will have sex. Better access to education and contraception will lower unwanted rates of pregnancy and reduce the number of abortions now.

The bottom line is this. We've been fighting this battle for 40 years and each year more babies are aborted. We can keep fighting that battle and make no progress. We can go another 40 years and look back and regret that we did nothing today when we had the chance. Or, we can start solving the problem today and begin saving babies tomorrow. To me, it's really that simple. My God calls me to start saving babies now and Barack Obama is the candidate best positioned to support that goal through access to health care, reasonable education, and policies that support single moms in the workplace. Where do you stand?

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

McCain's Decision Making - Ignores Advice Like Bush

When evaluating someone’s decision making ability, there are a few things you can look for. How do they handle stress? Who do they look to for advice? When they get advice, do they take it under consideration? When advice comes in that challenges an individual’s existing views, is the information considered or just dismissed as out of hand? This last one is a biggie for me. All humans face the challenge of confirmation bias – or the propensity to seek out and only listen to information that confirms existing beliefs while dismissing anything that contradicts existing beliefs.

We’ve all been in this situation. You have a theory or an opinion about a particular topic. When you see information that supports your idea, you embrace it. When you see information that is counter to your beliefs, you keep looking until you find something new. Wikipedia has a decent discussion of the phenomenon here.

How does this impact the presidential race? Follow me below for a discussion of McCain’s response to recent criticism.

Over the summer, at the Faith Forum hosted by Rick Warren, John McCain was asked “Who were the three wisest people that you know that you would rely on heavily in an administration.” John McCain answered with the name John Lewis as follows:

I think John Lewis. John Lewis was at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Had his skill fractured. Continues to serve. Continues to have the most optimistic outlook about America. He can teach us all a lot about the meanings of courage and commitment to causes greater than ourself.

McCain also refered to Lewis in one of his books.
Last week John Lewis, commenting on some of the inflammatory remarks coming out of recent rallies, said this about John McCain’s campaign.

"What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse," Lewis said in a statement.

"During another period, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate. George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama," wrote the Democrat.

How did McCain react? He issued this statement available on his website:

"Congressman John Lewis' comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale. The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama's record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign. I am saddened that John Lewis, a man I've always admired, would make such a brazen and baseless attack on my character and the character of the thousands of hardworking Americans who come to our events to cheer for the kind of reform that will put America on the right track.
"I call on Senator Obama to immediately and personally repudiate these outrageous and divisive comments that are so clearly designed to shut down debate 24 days before the election. Our country must return to the important debate about the path forward for America."

He then said this in the final presidential debate:

And the fact is, it's gotten pretty tough. And I regret some of the negative aspects of both campaigns. But the fact is that it has taken many turns which I think are unacceptable.
One of them happened just the other day, when a man I admire and respect -- I've written about him -- Congressman John Lewis, an American hero, made allegations that Sarah Palin and I were somehow associated with the worst chapter in American history, segregation, deaths of children in church bombings, George Wallace. That, to me, was so hurtful.

So, rather than consider the possibility that his conduct has been less than honorable, rather than considering the possibility that the message from John Lewis was spot on, John McCain rejected it as out of hand. Further, he stepped up his smear campaign by starting Robo Calls attacking Obama.

You can make your own judgment about the tone of McCain’s campaign. But, just today, another man who McCain claim’s to respect, call McCain out for his tactics while offering his support to Barack Obama:

This will give us another opportunity to see how McCain reacts to “advice” coming from people he claims to admire. My guess…he will continue to reject the advice when it flies in the face of his own views rather than give them the consideration they deserve. So far, I am afraid McCain continues to ignore the advice:

WALLACE: But senator, back, if I may, back in 2000 when you were the target of robo calls, you called these hate calls and you said —
McCAIN: They were.

WALLACE: And you said the following: "I promise you I have never and will never have anything to do with that kind of political tactic." Now you've hired the same guy who did the robocalls against you to, reportedly, to do the robocalls against Obama, and the Republican Sen. Susan Collins, the co-chair of your campaign in Maine, has asked you to stop the robocalls. Will you do that?

McCAIN: Of course not. These are legitimate and truthful and they are far different than the phone calls that were made about my family and about certain aspects that — things that this is — this is dramatically different and either you haven't — didn't see those things in 2000.

WALLACE: No, I saw them.

McCAIN: Or you don't know the difference between that and what is a legitimate issue, and that is Sen. Obama being truthful with the American people. But let me tell you what else I think you should be talking about and the American people should be talking about. In the debate the other night, I asked Sen. Obama to repudiate a statement made by John Lewis, a man I admire and respect and have written about that connected me and Sarah Palin —
WALLACE: This is the congressman, civil rights leader.

MCCAIN: Civil rights leader, American hero. That connected me and Sarah Palin to segregationists, to the campaign of George Wallace, and even alluded to the bombing of a church where four children, four children were killed, and I asked him to repudiate that statement. I have repudiated every statement made by any fringe person in the Republican Party. And it has come up from time to time, and it probably will. The fact that Sen. Obama would not repudiate that statement I think is something the American people will make a judgment about. That robocall is accurate. It’s totally accurate. And there is no comparison between it and the things that were done and said in South Carolina.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

On negative campaigns....

Just a quick post to point something out about. There's been some discussion about who has run the more negative campaign vs. who has stayed focused on this issues. I think there is one example that highlights the higher road for the Obama team.

Sarah Palin was found to have violated state ethics laws just one week ago. While the report was clear,

Palin continues to claim the report cleared her. Despite this obvious contradiction between the report and Palin's claims, the Obama campaign has just left it alone to stay focused on issues. To my knowledge there has not been a single commercial or campaign spokesperson pushing this hot button issue - that the person whom might be the next VP has been found to have violated state ethics standards.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

More Bill Ayers w/ update

The lead prosecuter in the case against the Weathermen has spoken about this issue in an editorial to the New York Times. Again, digest and decide for yourself.

As the lead federal prosecutor of the Weathermen in the 1970s (I was then chief of the criminal division in the Eastern District of Michigan and took over the Weathermen prosecution in 1972), I am amazed and outraged that Senator Barack Obama is being linked to William Ayers’s terrorist activities 40 years ago when Mr. Obama was, as he has noted, just a child.

Full editorial is here.

NPR addressed this issue today and has a quote from a Chicago area Republican suggesting Ayers has a bi-party following. Listen and make your own judgment.


This week the McCain campaign has resurrected an old attack on Barack Obama: his supposed relationship with Bill Ayers. I don’t want to debate the merits of the attack. This is politics and I guess we have to expect it. Instead I want to consider who Bill Ayers is today and also consider if it should reflect poorly on anyone who might interact with him.

First, some background. Bill Ayers was a member of the Weather Underground, a radical group of the 70’s. As part of a broader protest against the Vietnam War and other perceived injustices, his group set off some small bombs targeting facilities like The Pentagon. In the attacks that involved Ayers, no one was killed or injured. In fact, their attacks typically included a warning ahead of time. Ayers disappeared underground for a number of years and later he turned himself in to authorities. A member of the Weather underground group was killed by an accidental explosion.

This is an intentionally brief summary and more can be found through a quick Google search.

Clearly these acts were despicable. No one really debates that. The question, is, can a person redeem themselves from such acts? I believe they can.

Since his time as a radical, Ayers has become a noted scholar working at one of the preeminent learning institutions in the world. He is a noted expert on urban educational reform and social justice issues. Here is what the Washington Post says about Ayers:
Whatever his past, Ayers is now a respected member of the Chicago intelligentsia, and still a member of the Woods Fund Board. The president of the Woods Fund, Deborah Harrington, said he had been selected for the board because of his solid academic credentials and "passion for social justice.

It is this board where Obama first met Ayers. Ayers later made a small donation to one of Obama’s early political campaigns and hosted a small event for Obama as well.

In this country, is it possible for someone to commit a crime and, through later acts, redeem themselves? I have my opinion. You can form your own.

Next, regardless of your answer to this question, consider the context in which Obama met Ayers – on the board of a respected non-profit. In this context, can you really fault someone for also agreeing to serve on that board? Again, form your own opinion.

Finally, Ayers has been criticized for not expressing regret at his past actions. He has addressed this (here and here). His regret is that he wasn’t able to stop the Vietnam War. In retrospect, given the deaths to both American and Vietnamese, and the awful legacy of that war, I think most would agree stopping the war would have been good. While his methods were questionable, his motives, perhaps, were not.

Whatever your personal view, I hope you take away from this a far more complicated view of the situation than what the McCain campaign seems to be pushing.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Campaign Distortions and Lies

One of the reasons why I support Barack Obama comes down to his promise of a "new kind of politics" that tries to steer away from the attacks and lies we have come to expect from politicians. By and large I think Obama has managed to keep his commitment to this ideal, and certainly moreso than his opponent, John McCain. Regardless, we are fortunate to have some independent sources that attempt to sort out the fact from the fiction.

One critical source is They have recently released a summary of the distortions in the campaign. I've done my tallying and believe that on both the seriousness of the claims and on the quantity of claims, it is clear that McCain has run a far dirtier campaign than Obama. But, have a look and decide for yourself.

Below the fold I have some specific references.

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