Saturday, 5 July 2008

Celebrate Your Freedom - Vote

On this July 4th weekend, as Americans back home commemorate our Declaration of Independence from British rule in July 1776, marking the first steps towards the formation of our democracy, I'd like us all to spend a few minutes thinking about a few other great moments in American democracy.

1787 - Adoption of the Constitution
1789 - Adoption of the Bill of Rights
1870 - Adoption of the 15th Amendment, preventing racial discrimination in voting
1920 - Adoption of the 19th Amendment, granting women the vote
1965 - Passage of the Voting Rights Act finally ended discriminatory voting rules that had been preventing African Americans from voting in the South

And finally, a less well known but equally important step forward in coting freedoms was the passage in 1975 of the Overseas Citizens Absentee Ballot Act. This law, and others similar, helped to clarify that US Citizens living overseas have full voting rights in all Federal elections.

Like women and African Americans, Americans living abroad have in the recent past been denied the right to participate in our Democracy - both by discriminatory laws and by unfair or unclear voting procedures.

But we are American Citizens, fully entitled to our votes.

Unfortunately, too many Americans Abroad aren't aware of their right to vote, or find it difficult to register and vote. Many assume that if they were registered once they will get their ballot in future years (not true, you must request your ballot in each election cycle), or that if they vote they will be liable for state taxes (not true, there is no connection between taxation and voting).

Fortunately, it doesn't have to be that way. The makes it easy for all Americans abroad to cast their ballots. Just fill out the form online, print out the resulting document, and post it to the address it gives you.

So please, in honor of our Democracy, on this 4th of July weekend, make sure you are registered to vote. And please send this information on to at least 5 other Americans overseas.

Happy Independence Day!

And as a special Holiday treat, check this out - the songs of all 50 States:

Friday, 4 July 2008

Obama Responds to Supporters Concerns on FISA

In response to concerns expressed by his supporters about Barack's position on the FISA bill, he took some time yesterday to respond in detail to those who were upset by his reluctant decision to support the new FISA legislation.

Here's a short summary of what he said about the bill itself:

This was not an easy call for me. I know that the FISA bill that passed the House is far from perfect. I wouldn't have drafted the legislation like this, and it does not resolve all of the concerns that we have about President Bush's abuse of executive power. It grants retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that may have violated the law by cooperating with the Bush Administration's program of warrantless wiretapping. This potentially weakens the deterrent effect of the law and removes an important tool for the American people to demand accountability for past abuses. That's why I support striking Title II from the bill, and will work with Chris Dodd, Jeff Bingaman and others in an effort to remove this provision in the Senate.

But I also believe that the compromise bill is far better than the Protect America Act that I voted against last year. The exclusivity provision makes it clear to any President or telecommunications company that no law supersedes the authority of the FISA court. In a dangerous world, government must have the authority to collect the intelligence we need to protect the American people. But in a free society, that
authority cannot be unlimited. As I've said many times, an independent monitor
must watch the watchers to prevent abuses and to protect the civil liberties of
the American people. This compromise law assures that the FISA court has that

Barack also made a point of commending those who strongly oppose the bill for their activism, even though on this occasion they did not come to the same position:
Now, I understand why some of you feel differently about the current bill, and I'm happy to take my lumps on this side and elsewhere. For the truth is that your organizing, your activism and your passion is an important reason why this bill is better than previous versions. No tool has been more important in focusing peoples' attention on the abuses of executive power in this Administration than the active and sustained engagement of American citizens. That holds true -- not just on wiretapping, but on a range of issues where Washington has let the American people down.

Democracy: More Entertaining than Sitcoms, More Interactive than Video Games

As I'm sure most of you are PAINFULLY aware, the last two presidential elections have been decided by an excruciatingly narrow sliver of the electorate in just a few essential states - specifically Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Now, fortunately, Barack Obama is currently performing well in all three of these states. But early polls are obviously unreliable and the situation can change quickly. Many Democratic advisors and political consultants (I have less polite words for them, but then I'm just jealous because no one pays me millions of dollars to lose elections expensively) are fond of intoning about the need to focus carefully and overwhelmingly on these three states to guarantee a victory there, in what they consider a safe strategy.
But personally, I think this "safe and careful" strategy is about as safe as juggling chainsaws. About as careful as blindfolded shooting practice.

Winning Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida would guarantee Barack a victory - but there's NOTHING we can do to guarantee that he will win these states. Don't get me wrong, the campaign is going to compete fiercely there, with an unprecedented grassroots, GOTV and advertising presence just for starters. But if the Republicans know that your whole strategy relies on these states, all they need to do is knock us out there. A well placed (metaphorical) stilletto in the final weeks of the campaign and they can spend the next four years counting up their tax cuts for millionaires.
No, what we need is planned redundancy. We're going to compete to win in the three states I named, but also to agressively pursue any one of several very plausible alternative Electoral Vote strategies that would work just as well - either as a failsafe in case something goes wrong or, in a best case scenario, to shore up a landslide.
Let's go to the maps!

This is the current status of the Electoral College, if you believe the existing polling on a state by state basis. Which, of course - we shouldn't. But, right now we can see that Barack is winning both Pennsylvania and Ohio, while losing the state of Florida. He also picks up some good states in the West, including Colorado and New Mexico (which have been shifting our way anyway).

But let's see what happens if things go badly for us in the critical but difficult state of Ohio and the likely Democratic but swinging state of Pennsylvania:

Oops - all of a sudden it's game over, insert coin.

Now, do I think this is going to happen? No. Barack is running a smart campaign and is performing well in both of these important states. But do I want to take that risk? Heck no.

Let's assume that events conspire and for one reason or another he doesn't win PA, FL or OH - is there a plausible route to victory anyway? Absolutely! There are several. Here's my favorite, which starts with winning the large and traditionally Republican state of Virginia - where Barack performs extremely well, and adding the state of Indiana, which looks within reach:

There are dozens of routes to victory that don't require the "big 3" states, and any of them could serve as an effective safety valve to keep McCain on the run and lock in our victory.

Why not play around yourself - the Real Clear Politics create your own map page is very addictive once you get into it...
Feel free to post your favorite victory paths in comments.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Backing Barack - Cross Posted From "The Daily (Maybe)"

Yesterday I posted as a guest on the Daily (Maybe) blog - thought you might be interested in reading what I had to say:

I'd like to thank Jim for his very kind offer to guest post about Barack Obama. Greetings to all of you, and thanks for your patience!

I run an activist group (Obama London) with an associated blog and have been organising grassroots support and volunteer activity for Barack since September 2007. So what is it, you may ask, that inspired me to get involved for a candidate who was then considered a real long shot for the Democratic nomination? Well, call me weirdly idealistic but I was overcome by the possibility that in this extraordinary year, at this crucial time in world history, we could as a country potentially get behind someone who:
  • Had the judgement to oppose this unneccesary war and to clearly foresee that it would harm our national security.
  • Had the courage to declare that our official policy of non-engagement with hostile regimes does not serve our national interest – or that of the world community - and who is willing to stand against decades of cowardly received wisdom to insist, like John Kennedy, that "we will never negotiate out of fear, but we will never fear to negotiate."
  • Has stood up his entire life for the underpriviledged and the disempowered, sacrificing lucrative corporate contracts to work as a community organiser in the poorest parts of the south side of Chicago.

Barack Obama's values and priorities match up with mine – and they match up generally with all of us across Europe who understand that health care is not a luxury but a basic right and necessity; that workers deserve protection, decent wages and reasonable benefits; that ending our addiction to fossil fuels is not a threat to our economy but our only hope of preserving prosperity in the long term.

Suffice it to say, I'm a fan. I not only believe he should be President because he is better than the alternative (although he is!); I believe he should be President because he is better than ANY major party alternative we have had to offer in my lifetime.

But enough with the gushing – what's this to do with you?

Well, the other element of Barack Obama's campaign is that he demands action from all of us. Remember, his slogan is not "Yes he can" or "He is the change you've been waiting for." It's "We can." "We are."

In other words, if you care about these issues, it's not going to be good enough to say so, approvingly over a pint or while watching the news. You're going to have to take action.

Fortunately, the campaign has made it incredibly easy to take action – even for those of us seemingly stranded overseas.

Here are just some of the ways you can help*:

1. Give money. This is a grassroots campaign with over 1.5 million donors so far. We value a $5 donation as much as a $500 donation because we are trying to maximise participation. But if you can afford it, I'd ask each of you to give $100 today – that's only about £50 – as an investment in the future. Use this page – it's been specifically designed for Americans in the UK.

2. Register on the Barack Obama website. The website is designed for social networking and is intended to help link up supporters with each other in a manner very similar to Facebook. Also, by registering you gain access to all the online activism opportunities – you can join and create groups, create a fundraising page of your own, write and read blogs by your fellow supporters etc.

3. Phone Bank from home. Once you've registered on the site you will have the opportunity of actually calling potential voters and volunteers from your own home. The Phone bank tool is designed so that the campaign can identify the voters it most needs to contact and our volunteers, wherever in the world you are, can make the calls from the comfort of your homes, reporting back instantly to the campaign about the outcome of those conversations. It is, in short very cool. As we get closer to the election phone campaigns in critical states will be key to our victory.

4. Register Voters Here in London. We have an extensive voter registration and outreach program operating here in London. If you'd like to be trained to register voters here in the UK, drop me a line and I'll set you up with one of our forthcoming voter registration training sessions.

5. Call Your Friends and Family. It may sound simplistic, but actually one of the most effective things you can do for our campaign is to reach out to your Republican Great Aunt Gertrude, or your American dog-walker who doesn't vote, or your neighbor's daughter who is about to vote for the first time. It's far more effective for potential voters to hear about a candidate from someone they know than it is for the campaign to try to reach them. Don't believe me?

Let me tell you about a conversation I had with my Dad on the day of the New Hampshire primary.

It went like this:

Ring Ring Ring – start of voicemail. I begin to leave a message.

"Hi Dad, it's me just..."

"Hi Honey!"

"Dad, I thought you weren't home!"

"Actually, we're screening our calls. It's election day here and we keep getting these people calling asking us to vote."

"But Dad, you're going to vote for Barack Obama, right? Like we talked about?"

"Of course."

"Well what time do the polls close?"

"Good point – pretty soon actually. Tell you what, can I call you back later?"

Now THAT'S how you get out the vote.Thanks for listening!

All best wishes,


* By the way, the below all assumes that you are a US expat. If you're an interested non US citizen but want to get involved as a volunteer, do drop me a line and I'll send you some further suggestions.

Barack Obama Accused of Trying to Win the Election

As a member of the Liberal Blogosphere, I'm disgusted and appalled.

The liberal blogosphere was aflame today with new accusations that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill) is trying to win the 2008 presidential election.

Suspicions about Sen. Obama's true motives have been building over the past few weeks, but not until today have the bloggers called him out for betraying the Democratic Party's losing tradition.

On Faith

Have a look at Diana's thoughtful comments on Barack Obama and his recent statements about faith based initiatives.

Preserving an office comprising neighborhood organizations including religious institutions does not mean renewing the lease on the ill-conceived faith-based initiative as it exists today. In fact, the impetus for the program Barack Obama has proposed comes from the Senator’s strongest attributes: his experience as a community organizer, and his career as a constitutional lawyer.

As a community organizer, he knows that religious institutions make substantial contributions to neighborhood development and offer relief for struggling families. He knows that churches, synagogues and mosques are there for crisis intervention and to assist members of their communities who are desperate for help. And he is among many Americans who recognized that the true first responders to the overwhelming needs of victims of Hurricane Katrina were those organized by houses of worship.
But he also knows that previous administrations have exploited the willingness of religious institutions to provide relief, using the services given by these organizations as an excuse for withdrawing government support for individuals and communities. Senator Obama has never advocated such a thing. And he’s not doing that now.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

People Are Smart Sometimes...

Seems over two thirds of them are concerned that John McCain might continue George Bush's policies if elected President.
See that's interesting to me, because the only thing that would cause them to believe that is that McCain keeps on saying he will continue George W Bush's policies if elected President.
Funny how folks tend to pick up on stuff like that...

Patriot Gains

Senator Obama worked his rhetorical wizardry once again yesterday, with a speech that both redefined a critical issue and further depleted his opponents' arsenal.
Anticipating an ongoing assault on his patriotism, Barack Obama went far beyond defending himself to renew the very concept in such a way that his love of country and his determination to advance our nation’s fundamental principles can never be challenged.
The speech was radical in concept, intended to shatter the hardened alliances that have existed in our country since the ‘sixties, when unquestioning advocates of the government co-opted the term for themselves, and when those who opposed our government’s policies and practices went further, maligning America itself.

Senator Obama’s fresh definition of patriotism differs from the late 20th century use of the term by declaring dissent a patriotic act. Further, with compelling implications for the nature of his leadership, Barack Obama’s definition asserts that service is an imperative of citizenship.

But for all its radical elements, the speech is ultimately conservative, promoting the core, classic values that we recognize in his candidacy and which we in turn advance as we do what we can to support this campaign.
I urge you to watch the speech, and double dare you to keep your eyes dry and your throat clear from start to finish.

Obama Opposes Efforts to Revoke Gay Marriage

As you may know, the Supreme Court of the State of California recently voted to award full marriage rights to its gay citizens. This was a measure that was passed twice by the California state legislation, but was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger on the grounds that he felt it was a matter for the courts to decide. Now that they've done so, marriages have begun to take place across the state.

So the anti-gay movement has now been trying to pass a state constitutional amendment to make these marriages illegal again. Barack Obama has just issued a statement opposing this effort.

He says:
I am proud to join with and support the LGBT community in an effort to set our nation on a course that recognizes LGBT Americans with full equality under the law... that is why I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states.

For too long, issues of LGBT rights have been exploited by those seeking to divide us. It's time to move beyond polarization and live up to our founding promise of equality by treating all our citizens with dignity and respect. This is no less than a core issue about who we are as Democrats and as Americans.

Right on! If civil liberties and respect for families are to mean anything at all, they surely need to be offered to ALL our citizens. The right to marry the person of your chosing is among the most precious and personal rights society affords its citizens, and I am proud that my candidate will not bow to nonsensical fearmongering. This is a pro-family position.

Those who want to overturn this ruling actually seek not only to prevent future gay unions but also to dissolve those that have already been formed. If two people chose to unite with each other, and stand up before the law to form a permanent union, the state should not take that away from them.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Prove Your Impact

When Barack made the decision to forego public financing, he was placing his faith in all of us. Don't let him down - prove that a grassroots powered campaign can deliver for this country:

The crucial midnight deadline is just hours away. The results of our fundraising from this month will be used to gauge our strength against John McCain and the RNC. But there's another reason why every dollar you give right now is so important -- we're building the first 50-state presidential campaign in a generation. You've been generous with your support in the past, but by making another contribution before the midnight deadline, you'll be investing in the growth of this unprecedented movement at a time when the resources are needed the most. Please show your support by making a donation of $100 right now:

It's been less than four weeks since Barack became the presumptive Democratic nominee, and here's what supporters like you have already made possible:

Staff and offices in 21 states
134 campaign offices open across the country
Nearly 1,000 field staff on the ground, supported by more than 3,500 Obama Organizing FellowsAnd we are literally growing every day. Your contribution today is an investment in the organization and staff we'll need to expand our operation in all 50 states. Every single staff member on the ground and every single new office we open will help us to register more new voters, bring more volunteers into our campaign, and build our grassroots movement all across this country to help Democrats win up and down the ballot in November.

That's why a dollar you give today to help us build our campaign will do more
and have more of an impact than a dollar you give in October or November. Make a
contribution of $100 to invest in our 50-state campaign:

Thanks for everything you're making possible,

David Plouffe

Campaign Manager Obama for America

Barack Obama to Visit Europe and Middle East

This is just to let you know - in case you're one of the 2 or three people who haven't already heard and called me excitedly to ask me about it! - that Barack Obama has announced he will be making a trip overseas to Europe and the Middle East, including France, Germany and (hurray!) the UK.

The dates have not been announced, nor have the specific locations, although rumors are certainly flying through the press. For the time being, all I know for sure is that he's coming at some point later this Summer. Different publications have announced different dates and itineraries for his visit - proof enough I think that no one really knows anything for sure at this point!

As soon as anything is confirmed I will post it here, but for now I'd urge you not to take too seriously any specific information you hear - when it's real it will be announced by the campaign.

In the meantime, if you want to show Barack how excited you are that he will be coming to our "green and pleasant land" there are a few ways you can do just that:

McCain Win Would Mean Shift the Supreme Court Sharply Conservative

Among a whole raft of issues vitally at stake in this election (the environment, the economy, the war - oh my) it is also worth considering the role that the next President will play in shaping the nature of the Supreme Court for a generation to come. Right now the Court is finely balanced, with a narrow Conservative majority that has succeeded in rolling back constitutional protections in dozens of key areas. Take, for just one egregious example, the dreadful example of the Lily Ledbetter case. Ms Ledbetter was a longtime employee of the Goodyear tire company who was routinely paid significantly less than any male colleague in the same role. Ledbetter won a discrimination case based on the clear presentation of facts and was awarded damages by a jury. The Supreme Court, however, led by Bush appointees Roberts and Alito, ruled that she had waited too long to file her discrimination suit and set a short deadline for such claims to be raised - despite the fact that employees often find it difficult or impossible to uncover evidence of pay discrimination until it is too late. (Question, do you know how much your colleagues earn compared to you?)

With a McCain victory, this new conservative bent of the Supreme Court would almost certainly be even stronger - especially considering that the judges likely to retire are all in the liberal minority.

The next appointment to the court will almost surely fill the seat now held by one of the court's liberals, whose average age at the beginning of next October's term will be 75. For Obama, any initial appointment would likely replace one liberal with another, albeit with a younger and perhaps more outgoing advocate for his views of the court's role.

But a McCain victory could give the conservative bloc a clear-cut majority for years to come. President Bush has provided the model with his nominations of Roberts, to continue the conservative legacy of former chief justice William H. Rehnquist, and Samuel A. Alito Jr., to replace the former justice found most frequently in the middle, Sandra Day O'Connor.

On the other hand, with an Obama victory we would be chosing a President with an exceptionally strong understanding of our Constitutional rights and values (remember, he was a civil rights lawyer and constitutional law professor for many years in Chicago) and has a consistent track record on civil liberties.

I don't know about you, but if I weren't already excited about his personal qualities and his sound policy proposals, that alone would be enough to make me excited about voting for him.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Leap of Faith

The backlash has begun. Or has it?

It was heralded by a piece in the Huffington Post several days ago, and word's now rippling throughout the popular press. The story goes that liberal commentators are distressed by Senator Obama's remarks regarding last week's critical Supreme Court Cases, as well by his appointment of a centrist Clinton administration official as his economic policy director. They are said to be concerned that having won their allegiance, Senator Obama is taking them for granted as he pivots to the right. And they are rumored to be wondering whether they can believe in change after all.

But is it true? Are influential liberal commentators feeling betrayed? Will they turn on him in righteous fury?

Hardly. We--liberals, that is-- seem to have attained political sophistication, a concept that would have been deemed oxymoronic in previous election cycles. We no longer want our candidates to be paralyzed by principle. We want them to be viable. And if it means making those compromises needed to forge a winning coalition, we're willing to turn a deaf ear for the time it takes to do it. You may have heard "Adlai Stevenson" used as invective against Senator Obama. Well, he's not having it, and we won't, either.

If you're concerned that some of what you're hearing from Barack Obama is at odds with what you'd thought of him before, his record provides all the assurance we need that he will promote the values that won him the nomination. The battles he's chosen and the allies he's had testify to the vision, ideals and character that made him our choice for this fight. Let's trust him to know what it takes to win.

Unity, New Hampshire

Last Friday night Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama conducted a joint event in Unity, New Hampshire. Can you guess what the theme of it might have been?

We are one nation, one party, one vision for this country. I'm s glad to see Senator Clinton putting her heart and soul into that vision.

David Plouffe Briefs You on the Campaign

Barack's campaign manager, David Plouffe (it's pronounced like "puff" in case you've been wondering) lays out the position of the campaign in the polling to let all the activists and grassroots donors know where we stand in the race at this point.

In a nutshell, the campaign is in a strong position - we're able to be aggressive and compete in some "unusual" states where Democrats don't normally win, and we're in a good position to hold onto all the states where John Kerry won in 2004.

BUT - the RNC has a significant cash advantage over us. The DNC, our party organisation that supports Barack in his campaign, has only a little over $4 Million in the bank compared to over $50 Million for the RNC. This negates Barack's current advantage in terms of cash on hand and means that it is more important than ever that we:

  • Donate whatever we can. Today is the day to give as tomorrow is our June fundraising deadline. Even $5 or 10$ means a lot to us, but with the strong exchange rate we're hoping you can do more.
  • Register to vote. Go to today if you haven't already - remember the registration deadlines for many states aren't that far away, and you need to leave PLENTY of time for the post.
  • Tell your friends. Call your friends, family, colleagues and ask them to vote for Barack. If they live in London tell them to write to me and I'll add them to my Obama London list -