Tag Archives: democrat

On Baseball, Bipartisanship, and Looney Tunes

On Thursday night, Democrats beat Republicans by a score of 11-2 in an annual charity baseball game. And if this were normal political reporting, that would be the only thing that mattered. Scoreboard, scoreboard, scoreboard.

Congressional Leaders at baseball game

Who are these jerks, anyway?

Because it’s simple for the media to report basic facts: polls, standings, vote counts. But think about your life– is there a series of metrics or key performance indicators that can truly reflect your life, your work, your relationships, or the things that really matter? And yet that is how most of us view Congress– through the endless fascination with the scoreboard.

Herein, in my inaugural article (I promise I’ll start talking about movies, comics, and TV soon), I want to talk about baseball, I want to talk about partisanship and the twin-headed dragon that brought us here, and also how, of all things, Looney Tunes offers us a way forward– past just scoreboard, scoreboard, scoreboard.

Because this annual charity baseball game is so much more. Members of Congress describe it as one of the highlights of their year, building important bipartisan relationships. Rep. Pat Meehan (R-PA) choked up in a segment on NPR describing his *gasp!* friendship with Ohio Democrat Tim Ryan: “I’ve struck him out on a curve ball a couple of years ago, and every time we see each other, we talk about that. And he just came up and gave me a hug. And it is – it tells you how much we share that’s just something away from this.” (emphasis added)

Decrying “partisanship” is not new– it was well documented in numerous academic articles and journalistic exposes, including Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin in her 2007 book Fight Club Politics: How Partisanship Is Poisoning the House of Representatives, where she noted Democrats and Republicans don’t even go to the same cocktail parties any more. People long for the days when Speaker Tip O’Neill and President Ronald Reagan would get together for drinks.

Bipartisanship seems the cause celebre of every would-be “centrist” “thought leader” inside the DC bubble who claims that both sides are equally as fault and if only everyone was just “nice” to each other, things would be ok. This is not that article.

Because it not only views relatively recent history through rose-colored glasses, but also paints an unrealistic expectation of what we want and what we desire. Responding to his father being namechecked by both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in the 2012 debates, Tip O’Neill’s son pointed out the many ways his father fought Reagan and his agenda tooth and nail.

So, what changed? Did we change? Have we gotten meaner? Who started this slide towards more partisanship?

Rather than cast blame immediately (duh, everyone knows it’s the Republicans’ fault!) I’d rather talk about systemic issues that poison the environment for everyone, making a charity baseball game the rarity rather than the norm. Those two systemic issues are money and gerrymandering.

The amount of money flowing into our elections has exploded. The cost of Congressional Elections has nearly doubled since the 1990s, and had its largest jump between the 2008 and 2010 election cycles. What happened then? Citizens United v FEC, of course. And it’s worth noting we don’t even know how much money has been spent by SuperPACs since then, as none of that spending has to be disclosed.

The average member of Congress spends far more time in their work week dialing for dollars and less time actually governing– with the parties demanding they spend 30 hours a week dialing for dollars and being told to raise ridiculous sums like $18,000 dollars per day.

And, of course, who gives money and what motivates donors? Stories of bipartisan cooperation? Or shows of bravado and signalling your opposition to the other side? If your issue is (abortion, taxes, health care), you will not be motivated to help someone who is “selling out” to, cooperating with the other side– you will fund a filibusterer if it prevents your most hated bill from becoming law. This creates and reinforces the in-group/out-group dynamic that turns political parties into merely the teams wearing the other jersey.

And the second issue is gerrymandering. With members of Congress increasingly likely to live in “safe” districts whose only real challenge could come in the primary, you have every incentive to be as far right or far left as possible. Rarely do primary challengers win based on the idea that “we just need to work with the other side more.”

And so these issues, since they are systemic, exist in both parties. But, rather than fall trap to the fallacy that since both sides have the problem they are both equally at fault, let’s be very clear that the overwhelming beneficiaries of more money and more gerrymandering have been Republicans. And very few of them, and none in their leadership, are working on campaign finance reform or redistricting reform. Indeed, many are flatly opposed.

But it doesn’t have to be like this.

By removing Big Money and Gerrymandering from the system, we can remove at least some of the systemic issues that keep Republicans and Democrats from working together. But I mentioned Looney Tunes, and that’s where I’m going to end.

Sam the Sheepdog and Ralph the Wolf are two slightly less-well-known characters from the Chuck Jones classic era, and folks will notice the similarities between Ralph and Wile Coyote. But the key conceit of these cartoons is that Sam and Ralph live together, are friends, and then punch the clock and are immediately working at cross-purposes– usually to inflict violence upon the other.

It is definitely naive to think our politics can be this way. But it’s a nice dream. I’m not saying it’s possible, I’m saying it is worth striving for and far superior to our present situation.

I don’t want our politics to be some mealy-mouthed wishy-washy bland amalgam of discourse, any moreso than I would want to go to a baseball game to see weak hitting, poor pitching, and incompetent fielding. Give me the best– a real challenge of wills with everyone bringing their best. I want grand debates about real issues, and the best ideas clashing against the best issues. I want Republicans and Democrats at each others’ rhetorical throats reminiscent of other great debates among great thinkers in our past.

But I don’t want them to hate each other. I don’t want us to hate each other. And this week– hell, these last six months  several years– we’ve seen what happens when we allow infantile debate and personal vitriol to replace grand ideas.

We should be Sam the Sheepdog and Ralph the Wolf– and when the workday is over, we punch the clock and go have a drink together. We should be the Yankees and the Red Sox during a tight pennant race. We should try to overcome those things that divide us so a single yearly baseball game isn’t the only highlight members of Congress look forward to where they forge real relationships among political rivals.

Play ball.

Live Long and Run for Congress? Star Trek Actor Running for Congress.

Actor J.G. Hertzler, who played Klingon General Martok on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, is running for Congress against Rep. Tom Reed in New York’s 23rd District which extends along New York’s border with Pennsylvania from the shores of Lake Erie in Chautauqua County to the suburbs of Binghamton in Tioga County. Hertzler filed last week with the Federal Elections Commission to run as a

In the announcement, he said he “disagree(s) with everything Reed supports, including his unrelenting support of Trumpster.”

Hertzler filed last week with the Federal Elections Commission to run as a Demcorat for the seat.

But, there’s a twist!

Hertzler will be making appearances some times as himself and some times as Mark Twain. Hertzler sees this as a “valentine” to Samuel Clemens who used the pen name of Twain. Hertzler sees Twain as a brilliant humorist for all ages.

Hertzler is currently an elected town board member in Ulysses, NY.

(via The Hill)

South Carolina Democrat Archie Parnell Channels House of Cards to Win Frank Underwood’s Seat

While we don’t normally cover the popular Netflix show House of Cards, we do cover politics so it feels right to cover Democrat Archie Parnell who is attempting to win in South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District, the same seat the fictional Frank Underwood held on the show.

The online comical ad features the show’s theme music, reproductions of Kevin Spacey‘s dramatic soliloquies and memorable lines.


Michael Kelly, the actor who plays Doug Stamper on the series, tweeted Parnell’s ad showing approval. In the show, Stamper is Underwood’s White House chief of staff and former director of strategy.

Parnell is a former congressional staffer and business official with Goldman Sachs and Exxon Mobil.


Vermont Public Radio Explains the Iowa Caucus with LEGO

If you’ve wondered how the Iowa Caucuses work, Taylor Dobbs & Angela Evancie and Vermont Public Radio have put together this handy video with LEGO figures to help explain it all.

There is a difference between the Democrats and Republicans when it comes to this and if you’d like to find that out, you can here.

Today’s the big day, so if you’re out in Iowa, go participate and sound off with your experience below!


Pop Political/Political Pop: The Beetle Vs. the Glass Ceiling (Spoilers)

Welcome to the first Pop Political/Political Pop which will be posted each Friday where I spotlight a “political” moment in comics for the week or a geek moment in politics. It could be an entire comic, a Tweet, release, event or a moment in a comic series, recent or in the past. This week’s first one comes courtesy of The Superior Foes of Spider-Man written by Nick Spencer with art from Rich Ellis.

Warning Spoilers Ahead!

The issue focuses on the new Beetle, who we have learned is the daughter of mob enforcer Tombstone. Janice wants to be a super villain but her dad has other ideas, such as her becoming a lawyer… they can steal way more money and do so legally. But, that doesn’t sit right where she protests that she wants to break the glass ceiling and become the head of a crew and run it the right way.

On being a woman and a career (in crime) she has this to say:

beetle_1Then there’s Janice’s dating life. In an awesome sequence of how she spends her time we get a snapshot of a date and what’s going on through her head.

beetle_2Between the Clinton reference and the X when Republicans are mentioned, I’m guessing Janice might be a Democrat.

Comic Fan Alan Grayson to Rejoin the House

Alan GraysonFormer Congressman is soon to be Congressman again as Alan Grayson won in his Congressional race today in Florida’s 9th District. Grayson lost in 2010 but defeated Todd Long to regain the seat. Grayson made news when he sent out an email talking about Green Lantern and race a subject he often brought up in political speeches. Grayson is an admitted comic book fan and we had a chance to chat with him about his comic reading and that infamous email.

“It feels great,” Grayson said Tuesday night, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “I’m going to do my best when it comes to jobs, when it comes to housing, when it comes to education [and] when it comes to human needs.”

Nerds for Obama Slapped With a Removal Request, from the Obama Campaign

The issue of copyright, intellectual property, fair use and the re-mix generation  have been a point of contention for this current Congress and the Obama administration. It should be no surprise then that Nerds for Obama have been asked to remove all items from their webstore by Obama for America‘s corporate counsel. The administration and Congress have proven themselves again as friends of the copyright protection lawyers.

The website, launched in early September, attempts to engage young and enthusiastic voters by linking President Obama to pop culture like Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones and more. They engage, quite effectively, with social media getting geeks excited and leveraging memes.

The site also provided the chance to purchase t-shirts, buttons and stickers of the Obama campaign logo mashed up with geek imagery as well as free items to use as icons on websites. The idea being that people can show off their support in a fun way and support Obama along with their cultural interest, taking a play from the popular tactic of political campaigns targeting their campaign swag. You’ll see “Jews for Obama”, “Teachers for Obama”, etc. Hell I had a “Beer drinkers for Kerry” back in 2004.

The website was engaging fandom and targeting groups of people that are normally overlooked by campaigns. I could go into a long diatribe about trying to target video game players while working on a Presidential campaign some years ago. The Obama campaign even seemed to dig it, reblogging on Tumblr a photo of the website’s “Ravenclaws for Obama” button.

But, fun an politics don’t seem to mix. The website was contacted by Obama for America’s corporate counsel and asked to remove all of the items from the Nerds for Obama website. The lawyers took issue with the usage of the Obama logo, which is a trademarked image. In all cases, the website had modified the logo and never used it in an unaltered form.

There’s a good chance this falls under “Fair Use.” “Fair Use” is permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. When determining it you need to look at how much of the work is used, what the purpose of the use is and any damages/losses that might be due to the “fair use.” And, even I’ll admit, this is a grey area, not clearly defined and I’d be unsure how a judge would decide the case.

No matter, this copyright trolling by the Obama campaign’s lawyers hurts the campaign. It disenfranchises potential supporters and puts a damper on those who have participated. The campaign and their lawyers are taking the fun out of it all. There’s clearly enthusiastic supporters here and instead of trying to end the site’s activities, it’d have been smarter to bring the site into the fold and encourage it, much like so many “Draft” movements have done in the past, including one for Obama.

But, in the almost four years in office, the administration’s actions has clearly turned it’s back on the re-mix culture and generation that helped propelled it into the White House. It’s no shock to see this, and unfortunate too. No matter the result and how this is resolved, this reflects poorly on the campaign and administration.

The campaign, and President need to return to the fun whimsy of the Doctor, instead of the cold calculated heart of the Dalek.

Kickstarter Spotlight – Parecomic – A Documentary Graphic Novel

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It’s been a bit since I posted up a worthy Kickstarter project, but it seems Parecomic is the perfect one to kick this off again with.  Written by Sean Michael Wilson, and drawn by Carl Thompson, Parecomic is about Michael Albert and his life’s struggle as a US left wing activist.  The comics begins in the 1960’s with student demonstrations and lifestyle rebellions.

From the development of the anti war movement, civil rights, the woman’s movement, and the black panthers to the establishment of alternative media like South End Press and Znet. PARECOMIC shows us Michael’s story, and at the same time the ideas and issues that influence both our society and the better alternative that we can build via the anarchist influenced system of participatory economics. Or PARECON for short – hence the title for our book, which rather started out as a joke – but has stuck: PARECOMIC.

The comic book will be published by Seven Stories Press,  a NY publisher who specialize in books on human rights, politics, social and economic justice.

Best Pledges:  The pledges are a bit high, but the $20, $40 or $60 ones get you a copy of the book.

Elizabeth Warren, Wonder Woman

Elizabeth Warren, Chairman of the Congressiona...

Image via Wikipedia

Elizabeth Warren is a wonder woman in so many ways.  A Harvard professor, lawyer, consumer advocate, former chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel and a vital advisor in the implementation for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she’s currently running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts.  Last night was her first primary debate where she squared off against Bob Massie, an entrepreneur and one-time candidate for lieutenant governor; Alan Khazei, co-founder of the City Year youth program; Tom Conroy, a state legislator; Marisa DeFranco, an immigration lawyer; and Herb Robinson, an engineer.

With so many important topics like the national debt and budget, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the numerous other ills affecting us, a hot topic had to be asked, “If you could be a superhero, who would you be?”  Warren’s answer?  Wonder Woman.

Such a cool outfit, and the bracelets — they were the whole thing for me.

The winner of the primary gets to take on current Senator Scott Brown in 2012.  You can read more about the debate here or catch some of her answer in the video below at the 1:29 mark.

(via The Mary Sue)

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