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For awhile now, I have been looking for a way to become more active politically outside blogging here. Dailykos is such an amazing and wonderful community, though, that I find it hard to get motivated around anything not centered on this community.

However, this diary about what DocDawg is doing in North Carolina got me really excited.

Last week, when I started issuing the call for North Carolina activist Kossacks to KosMail me their first names, ZIP codes, and email addresses, I figured the resulting list would take quite some time to grow to useful size, and that sooner or later the result would come in handy...although I really wasn't quite sure how.

Organizing Kossacks locally is an important and powerful tool...especially here in reddish-purple North Carolina, where we are struggling to take back our state.

I want someone to do this for my state: no, that's not quite right.

I want to do this for my state.

I think that with 2016 looming, organizing in this way can somehow be useful.

In 2016, there are quite a few challenges, but at the same time, these challenges represent opportunities.

If I had to put them into words, I would focus on the following:

Unseating Pat Toomey.
Retaking one or both houses of the General Assembly.

Any or all of these may safely be called long shots. However, I also think that if Democrats throughout the state mount a strong campaign, and some top-notch strategy, these could all be in play.

Pennsylvania represents one of the largest entrenchments of political obstacles. Namely, gerrymandering and incumbency.

Though the effects of gerrymandering can sometimes be hard to quantify, its role can still be hinted at in the results of the 2012 Presidential election. Even though Obama won the state's popular vote 52-47 in 2012, Republicans still ended the year with 55% of the PA House seats.

Meanwhile, the power of incumbency is alive and strong in the state's General Assembly. Out of the 203 House seats in 2012, only two switched parties, and of the 25 Senate seats up for election in 2012 (the same ones that will be up in 2016), only three switched parties. Incumbency, perhaps in tandem with the party politics, then, makes any sort of substantial shifts very tough to accomplish.

However, in these disadvantages, there are still openings.

For one thing, many of these Republican wins in the House came with very slim victories. Out of the seats where Republicans won in 2012, five were within 1000 votes of losing to the Democrat, 16 were less than 3000. Now, it may not be entirely useful, demographics-wise, to focus solely on raw numbers. Still, I think such numbers demonstrate the possibility of stealing some of these so-called longshots, often perceived as far more improbable than reason would suggest.

Furthermore, probably also due to the power of incumbency, of those House seats that were won by Republicans, 50 had no Democrat challenger in the general. For offices so high, even with so many red districts, this represents a glaring free pass for Republicans that Democrats should make more challenging this time around. While the thought of running as a Democrat in some of these deep red districts may prove too unappetizing to many of the usual suspects - who knows? Maybe someone in our midst would heed the call. At the very least, they represent thousands of wasted Dem votes.

Of course, Democrats would need to pick up 19 seats in the House to regain control; realistically, never more than a long shot, even under the best circumstances. However, what this hopefully shows, is that the path to victory is out there. Even if the pick up number is small this time, it could potentially build momentum through future cycles.

In the PA Senate, Democrats would need to pick up five seats to regain control. But considering they managed to pick up three in 2012, five is not too unrealistic, albeit ambitious.

Let us also not forget that the DNC will be held in Philadelphia. This provides an amazingly rare opportunity to further energize local Democrats, get more people involved, and mount a serious campaign to retake PA offices.

Continue Reading

Maybe this is just me, but if the media are looking for cheap stunts to put the candidates in some trapdoor moments, I am not so much of a fan of the whole, "...would you have invaded Iraq" schtick. All it comes down to is dwelling in the past.

What I would rather see them asking are questions that might reflect action that can actually change things, if they are actually elected. Well, you know, besides questions that might actually be relevant to how they govern. But for some reason, such questions never really seem to be on the table.

So, to the media who want to ask Jeb and the other Republican candidates these inane and purely pedantic questions, I have one for you:

"Are you in favor of prosecuting members of the Bush administration for any illegal misconduct still actionable under a court of law, or would you grant them pardons if such prosecution was occurring?"

I wonder how Jeb would put a fresh spin on that. Or any of the GOP candidates.

But, what am I saying. It would be fair game to ask HRC and Sanders as well.

Topic for the comments: If you had the opportunity to ask any of the Presidential candidates one question, which is essentially irrelevant (so, no TPP, for example) but could potentially embarrass the shit out of them, what would you ask?

Discuss

Was just being bored and looking at Dailykos's website traffic.

dailykos website traffic unique visitors for May 7th 2015
Anyone remember what the big story was on May 7th? This one maybe? I was knee-deep in final exam grading so my brain around that time is probably mush.
This is since 2008. May 7th is that line all the way to the right.
Just wanted to share that bit of interesting milestone-age. Congrats to the Dailykos team, why not.
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Mitt Romney To Fight Evander Holyfield. You Read That Right

It's for charity.

It's all for a good cause — the two are squaring off to benefit Charity Vision, a Utah-based nonprofit to help people in developing countries with vision problems. Romney's son Josh is the volunteer part-time president of the organization, and Romney was moved on a trip to India seeing the work the organization does.
Still, my first reaction: I hope Holyfield beats 47% of the snot out of him.

Feel free to share your own punchlines in the comments.

Discuss

Living in Philadelphia, I have been able to see first-hand how the Mayoral Democratic Primaries have been running. For those who are not from the area, the two most-likely to win next week are the heavily pro-union Jim Kenney, or the pro-charter schools Anthony Hardy Williams.

Watching this battle unfold, it really grates on me that so many so-called Democrats around the country can still be considered viable representatives of the Democratic Party while also shilling for Charter Schools.

It should have been thoroughly demonstrated by now that supporting Charter schools has done nothing but drag our education system down, and likely set our students back for decades.

Especially here in Philadelphia. The public school system here has been languishing for years, mostly due to a lack of support from the oftentimes Republican-led state legislature and ex-Gov Tom Corbett. Yet so-called school reformers have been steadily pushing charter schools down the city's throat, siphoning resources away from the already crippled school system.

Of course, charter school supporters love to lean on their idealistic rhetoric about how charter schools are only meant to improve the choices that students have, yadda yadda yadda. What this rhetoric never seems to reconcile with, though, is the reality.

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Now that Bernie Sanders has officially announced his campaign for President in 2016, I have noticed a reluctance to jump in all the way with him. Not so much here as on Facebook, where a lot of my friends are generally Liberal, but, you know, they don't see what the big deal is to stand behind him rather than Hillary.

Not to knock his run; if anything, I would rather he be the Democratic candidate. Hell, I've already donated more to him than I have to HRC ($5! Yay student loan debt!).

But, I think it is valuable to take a step back and reflect on why we choose to do and support certain things and people in the first place.

For example, have you thought about what the implication is if Sanders beats Clinton? That means we have replaced a much more well-known to the public, albeit less Progressive than our own specialized group's preference, candidate with one that is a much harder sell in the General election. Taken in this light, it might be fair to say that we are sacrificing an advantage in the General election on the chance that we want the best person, not just in 2016, but for the subsequent 4/8 years. Perhaps this seems like worthwhile gamble now, but what if it costs us the election, would that idealism still be worth it then?

Additionally, what of the talk that having Sanders in the Primary is mainly to make Clinton move to the Left, but she will still eventually be the candidate? If she is only moving to the Left to win the primaries, how realistic is it to expect her to maintain that lean all the way to November, and from then on? I think any effect this has on how much Clinton ends up moving to Left is likely to be transient at best. Though I'm sure there is also a sizable contingent who feel that any movement of Hillary to the Left is better than status quo, I don't personally find that a much more compelling argument.

In these regards, the reluctance to support a Sanders Presidential run seems rational. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it is a waste of anyone's time, but certainly, a large contingent of his supporters would feel a certain letdown if he loses. And that discouragement could potentially weigh down Democratic efforts for the rest of the campaign.

But then again, my point is not to discourage that run.

My point is, I think we should look at a Sanders Presidential run in a more nuanced way.

Why support Bernie Sanders for President?

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I know I should get away from doing these polls and get to actually writing something of value, but...they're just fun.

But, if you have seen my other polls so far, the same disclaimer applies: Proceed at your own risk.

Poll

If You Had to Participate in One of the Following, Which Would You Choose?

4%3 votes
1%1 votes
1%1 votes
1%1 votes
11%7 votes
12%8 votes
1%1 votes
6%4 votes
33%21 votes
14%9 votes
9%6 votes

| 62 votes | Vote | Results

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So earlier today I posted a bit of a tragicomic poll, meant to bring people to grips with some dark thoughts.

So to bring things full circle, I thought I would try one more thought experiment.

Well not full circle in the straightforward sense.

Proceed if you dare.

Poll

What Do You Imagine This Scenario Would Be Like?

16%12 votes
31%23 votes
19%14 votes
4%3 votes
6%5 votes
12%9 votes
8%6 votes
0%0 votes

| 72 votes | Vote | Results

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I don't want to traumatize anyone here by the grotesque imaginings this question is about to unleash.

But, if you feel you have the fortitude, proceed to the poll question.

Poll

Who Would You Rather Have as President of the United States?

1%4 votes
2%6 votes
1%5 votes
3%9 votes
0%2 votes
1%3 votes
0%0 votes
1%5 votes
0%1 votes
0%1 votes
1%4 votes
1%3 votes
63%172 votes
20%57 votes

| 272 votes | Vote | Results

Discuss

I think that, for many reasons that can be elaborated upon elsewhere, the country, meaning us The People, has a vested interest in making sure American companies create jobs here in the US, rather than moving them to other countries.

Of course, when it comes down to it, there is one very simple reason they choose to do this: it makes sense financially.

However, rather than making laws that force companies to do things that hurt them financially, I believe there are ways that we can shift the incentives, so that it pays for them to do what we want them to do. I think we can make changes to our policies that will create the incentives to bring jobs back from overseas. Plus, in a way that is politically feasible. Conservative or Liberal, I think most of us generally agree with ways to encourage companies to hire more American workers.

Here is one idea: Tie the proportion of tax deductions a company can claim to the ratio of American jobs to jobs in other countries.

This would only be effected once a company has determined how many deductions they can claim. So for example, a company that employs 100% American workers will be able to claim 100% of their deductions. A company that has moved half of their jobs to other countries would only get to claim 50% of their deductions. And that's it; no further loopholes from here.

Companies already enjoy a lot of tax deductions; we have heard of companies that manage to pay effective 0% tax rates. This may just provide another hurdle toward these endeavors, but at least it would also positively encourage making jobs American rather than in other countries.

Many of us Progressives don't often talk positively of companies sending their jobs overseas, or how they benefit from their extremely disproportionate tax subsidies. A policy like this would tie such hot topics to civic pride and social involvement. In this way, it would not simply be a battle against companies in ways that hurt their business, but effect their actions that serve to benefit as most of us as possible.

Of course, there are many technical issues that would need to be addressed for such a policy to be put into place (what counts as an overseas worker? Average over entire year so companies don't just fire all their overseas workers before end of the year). This is just meant to put the proposed idea out there.

Perhaps ideas like these will never be some groundbreaking paradigm shift, set to change the political landscape. But, what I hope this shows, is that we can find ways to build policies that we can promote, that will lead to more progressive change, and are also reasonably beneficial to all parties, enough to overtly avoid much of the partisanship that stymies change in these areas.

Poll

Tie Deductions to American Jobs:

62%10 votes
37%6 votes
0%0 votes
0%0 votes

| 16 votes | Vote | Results

Discuss
The Daily Show, Chaos on Bull**** Mountain
Bernie Sanders's announcement that he was running for President, and the ensuing fulfillment of the potential for a lively Democratic primary after all, got me thinking about primary season in general.

Specifically, I know that it is still months away from the thick of primary season, but I also can't help but remember how Reince Priebus and the GOP supposedly "fixed" the problems they had with their primaries the last time around, in 2012. Among their plans:

Hold the Republican National Convention much sooner.

As of now, there are two convention start dates under consideration. The first is June 27, Priebus' preference. The second is July 18, which the RNC would choose if, for example, the Cleveland Cavaliers were in the NBA championship ("100-1 odds," he said, barring the team signing Lebron James), or the stadium's food supplier or general counsel felt was the only workable date.
Guess it'll be in July.

Along with this plan is the general premise that the primary season will be much more condensed, including supposedly fewer debates.

Reflecting now, on these interesting decisions based on their 2012 defeat, along with the developments in the GOP side of things so far, I am left feeling, how do you say, sensing an impending schadenfreude the likes of which we may never have seen before.

Jed Lewison hit on some of the main points, even last year.

Romney's money problem wasn't that the calendar made it impossible for him to spend general election cash, it's that the only people he raised money from were big donors who maxed out, which meant half the money they donated couldn't be used until the general. If Romney had been able to raise money from small donors, like Obama did, he would have been able to use money earlier. Changing the convention date is solving for the wrong problem.

On the question of the length of the primary and the debates, it's hard to blame Reince for not being happy with how 2012 went down, but consider what might have happened had the primary calendar been condensed: Mitt Romney might not have been the last man standing. Sure, he might have embraced a different strategy, so we'll never really know, but what we do know is that Romney used the long 2012 schedule to his advantage. Not only that, he used the long debate schedule to his advantage, because each time one of his rivals had a strong performance, he came back in the next debate with an even better one.

Modern-day Nostradamus, this Lewison.

Let's square these observations from last year with some of what we have seen so far: multiple Tea-Party favorites giving establishment candidates a run for their money, but when I say their money, I mean their billionaire sugar daddies.

In today's Citizen's United landscape of no-holds-barred political fund-gineering, pitting such candidates against each other would already be bad enough for the optics of the Republican Party. But if they really wanted to go through with this plan of a shorter primary season, it would be all the more catastrophic.

Continue Reading

Cops these days have a wide assortment of weapons available to them, beyond the standard firearm. Many of those weapons are non-lethal.

There is pepper spray. There are tasers and stun guns. There are partners and backup. There is self-defense and hand-to-hand combat that they could conceivably be receiving as part of their routine training. Even with guns, there are rubber bullets and tranquilizers.

It seems like there are very few select instances where a police officer could reasonably use a gun over one of his non-lethal choices. On the other hand, it seems like there is ample evidence that the access that police officers have to guns leads to many sorts of undesired outcomes.

It is true that it would be hard to argue that if a police officer were facing a situation where he thought his life or someone else's life was imminently in danger, that he would choose a non-lethal weapon over a gun. However, it also seems inconceivable, to me at least, that if a police officer were faced with a situation where he thought his life or someone else's life was imminently in danger, and he did not have a firearm readily available, that he wouldn't find a way to use his non-lethal weapons to protect himself, either.

While it is reasonable to admit that there will always be situations that require an elevated response from police, they already have SWAT units dedicated for such purposes.

Perhaps I am being naive, but it really just seems to me that cops with guns doesn't seem all that better, all other things being equal, than cops without guns.

We already know that police officers in many other countries do not carry firearms routinely, yet still manage to maintain similar levels - or higher - of community protection. Of course, one could argue that most of these countries do not also have the same level of gun owners.

There can be an argument made that carrying a firearm is meant to be part of the crime-deterrent effect of police officers in general. Of course, it is not like we are living in a world completely devoid of violent crime. I feel like, for the extreme downsides that cops with guns represent, the upsides have not proven to be a fair tradeoff, in terms of crime deterrence. Furthermore, if it comes down to perceptions of the average citizen, I feel that I would have far more admiration for a police officer who believes he can perform his duties without such weapons, than for a police officer who believes such a weapon is necessary and should be relied upon regularly.

There is also the cultural effect and the perceptions, that are a bit harder to gauge, but probably indirectly play a role. I feel like living in a society where we take it as a given that we need our cops to carry guns to feel safe, it is going to be a lot different, not just with the cops but with people and media and society in general, than a society where we take it as a given that we don't want cops to carry guns and in fact want as few guns around as possible. I feel like the values would be different, the attitudes and reactions to given scenarios, as well as the overall acceptance of guns would be far different.

I get that it is not politically feasible to disarm our police force anytime soon. I get that making such extreme arguments is a quick way to obstruct meaningful discourse. I get that for a lot of people, the initial thought of a police force without guns may simply seem preposterous. The point of this diary is not to advocate for this outright.

This is more about questioning prevailing conventional wisdom.

When we are facing issues that are prominent these days, relating to police brutality and the role guns have played in recent situations, I feel like it is fair to ask if police even need guns in the first place. And I feel that taking the answers to such questions for granted closes off possibly constructive discussions we could be having, and possible ways to address a lot of the problems we want to actually take steps toward addressing.

Perhaps that is just me.

Poll

Police Officers With Guns:

44%12 votes
25%7 votes
22%6 votes
7%2 votes

| 27 votes | Vote | Results

Discuss
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