Issue #379

(Daily Clips will be on hiatus until after the KCDCC reorganization, and its future will be in the hands of the new King County Democratic chair. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to vote.)

Facebook to data-mine for your political views

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook is mining its data of user’s posts to find out how users feel about certain candidates or issues and sharing that data with ABC News and BuzzFeed for use in their 2016 reporting, the social networking site will announce on Friday. The data will be gathered from the posts of Facebook users in the United States 18 and older, classifying sentiments about a politician or issue as positive, negative, or neutral. The data can also be broken down into sentiments by gender and location, making it possible to see how Facebook users in the key primary states of Iowa or New Hampshire feel about certain presidential candidates, or how women in Florida feel about same-sex marriage. ABC News will start using the data next week as part of their 2014 Election Day coverage, and will focus on possible 2016 presidential candidates. BuzzFeed will focus on using the data around issues in ongoing stories, and will feature the data in their news app. Politico, 10-30-14.

Issue #378

Meet the hedge fund wiz kid who’s shrinking America’s pensions

Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo

Raimondo

When longtime private equity analyst Gina Raimondo won her bid to become treasurer of her home state in 2010, Rhode Island’s public pension system was in such disarray that federal regulators were sniffing around to make sure the state was reporting the funding levels accurately. Within two years, Raimondo (D) would push through the most significant cuts to public worker retirement benefits in the country and begin a campaign for the Governor’s mansion. The changes she masterminded in 2011 shrank the state’s pension funding gap by billions of dollars almost overnight, an achievement that would have taken years under the more moderate reforms other states have tried. But the rapid, aggressive approach came at a steep cost for the 66,000 men and women who teach, fight fires, and administer public programs in the state. Such sweeping changes would be hard for someone with years of political experience and connections. For a person holding her first-ever political office, they should have been even harder. But Raimondo didn’t do it alone. Her campaign to rewire the smallest state’s pension system got a huge, quiet boost from one of the largest states, thousands of miles away. Think Progress, 10-28-14.

Issue #377

The only way for Democrats to win

To the rescue?

As Democrats mutter privately that their Senate majority is sinking beneath the waves, their leadership has sent out an SOS. It’s all hands on deck, unless those hands belong to the President of the United States. Because only Michigan Rep. Gary Peters among Democratic candidates for the Senate wants Obama in his state campaigning, the challenge of saving the Senate has fallen to another president. I heard from a Democratic senator this week that influential Democrats are pressuring Bill Clinton to frame a closing argument for the Democrats that focuses on the economy. In his 2012 speech at the Democratic National Convention, Clinton became Obama’s “Secretary for Explaining Stuff” (although the word wasn’t stuff). This is more explicit and humiliating for the incumbent. The president and former president, who once despised each other, are cordial but far from friendly. Now Obama needs his predecessor to help prevent a solid Republican Congress from hassling him all the way to January 20, 2017. As important as the messenger is here, the message—jobs—is even more so. The Democrats’ inability to stress what voters keep telling them is their biggest concern is perplexing. I understand why the White House has trouble getting credit for improving the economy when wages are stagnant and life is still so hard for so many in the shrinking middle class.  And I get why Democratic candidates don’t want to lash themselves to the economic policies of an unpopular president. What I can’t fathom is why Democrats don’t pick low-hanging fruit—the jobs issues that poll after poll shows are much more critical to voters than ISIS, Ebola, and the Keystone pipeline, not to mention vaginal probes and whether some candidate voted for Obama. Jonathan Alter, Daily Beast, 10-24-14.

Issue #376

The blundering rise and epic fall of the Christie-Cuomo Ebola quarantine

If anything is clear from the reporting of the nurse who was quarantined in a New Jersey hospital over Ebola fears, it’s that the actual quarantine itself was handled miserably. Nurse Kaci Hickox, who returned to the U.S. via Newark airport Friday after treating Ebola patients for Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone, described her treatment as “a frenzy of disorganization.” She was so flustered that a forehead reading showed her with a fever—which was then used as reason to quarantine her. Later, they took her temperature again and no fever registered. She was kept in quarantine anyway. Further reported details of Hickox’s predicament made clear that, although New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo were anxious to show resolve and order the quarantine, their local health officials weren’t ready to carry out the order in any way that resembled humane treatment. Talking Points Memo, 10-27-14.

Issue #375

Should the poor be allowed to vote?

Voter ID laws are part of a hoary American tradition holding that people who aren’t economically independent can’t make reasoned political choices

If Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters succeed in booting C.Y. Leung from power, the city’s unelected chief executive should consider coming to the United States. He might fit in well in the Republican Party. In an interview last Monday with the New York Times and other foreign newspapers, Leung explained that Beijing cannot permit the direct election of Hong Kong’s leaders because doing so would empower “the people in Hong Kong who earn less than $1,800 a month.” Leung instead defended the current plan to have a committee of roughly 1,200 eminent citizens vet potential contenders because doing so, in the Times’ words, “would insulate candidates from popular pressure to create a welfare state, and would allow the city government to follow more business-friendly policies.” If that sounds vaguely familiar, it should. Leung’s views about the proper relationship between democracy and economic policy represent a more extreme version of the views supported by many in today’s GOP. New Republic, 10-22-14.

Issue #374

Why House Republicans alienate Hispanics: They don’t need them

Political analysts keep urging the Republican Party to do more to appeal to Hispanic voters. Yet the party’s congressional leaders show little sign of doing so, blocking an immigration overhaul and harshly criticizing President Obama for his plan to defer deportation for undocumented migrants. There’s a simple reason that congressional Republicans are willing to risk alienating Hispanics: They don’t need their votes, at least not this year. Republicans would probably hold the House—and still have a real chance to retake the Senate—if they lost every single Hispanic voter in the country, according to an analysis by The Upshot. New York Times, 10-21-14.

Issue #373

Bush’s revenge—appeals court goes on a rampage

When George W. Bush departed the White House, he left behind a giant deficit and expanded government spending for Medicare drug benefits that caused conservatives to grumble. But he did make a mark that right-wingers can cheer—by shaping the federal courts for years, perhaps decades. As Bush has retreated to painting, federal judges he placed on the bench have been implementing a conservative vision in some of the most contentious areas of federal law. The best example of this is a string of recent decisions on hot-button issues from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which the ABA Journal has dubbed “the nation’s most divisive, controversial and conservative appeals court.” The 5th Circuit handles appeals from federal courts in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and it has become increasingly powerful as the Supreme Court has been hearing fewer and fewer cases. This month, the court—which has six George W. Bush appointees out of 15 judges—infuriated civil rights and pro-choice groups with two decisions overturning lower court rulings in Texas. Mother Jones, 10-22-14.

Issue #372

Warren says she’s not running. At this rate, she may have to

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) campaigns for U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) on October 19, 2014 in Des Moines, Iowa. Braley is in a tight race for a Senate seat against Republican challenger Joni Ernst.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) campaigns for U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) on October 19, 2014 in Des Moines, Iowa. Braley is in a tight race for a Senate seat against Republican challenger Joni Ernst.

The Massachusetts Democrat has become the brightest ideological and rhetorical light in a party whose prospects are dimmed by—to use a word Jimmy Carter never uttered—malaise. Her weekend swing through Colorado, Minnesota, and Iowa to rally the faithful displayed something no other potential contender for the 2016 presidential nomination, including Hillary Clinton, seems able to present: a message. If Democrats are to keep their majority in the Senate, the party’s base must break with form and turn out in large numbers for a midterm election. Voters won’t do this unless somebody gives them a reason. Warren may be that somebody. Her grand theme is economic inequality and her critique, both populist and progressive, includes a searing indictment of Wall Street. Liberals eat it up. Eugene Robinson, Washington Post, 10-20-14.

Issue #370

Office Politics

Inside the PAC teaching corporate America how to make its employees vote for the ‘right’ candidates and causes

A worker uses a pressure hose to clean part of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Marine Terminal in Valdez, Alaska, where oil flows from oil fields in Prudhoe Bay. The Alaskan gas and oil industry lobbied many of its workers to vote no on a state ballot measure in August by suggesting some of their jobs could be at stake.

A worker uses a pressure hose to clean part of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Marine Terminal in Valdez, Alaska, where oil flows from oil fields in Prudhoe Bay. The Alaskan gas and oil industry lobbied many of its workers to vote no on a state ballot measure in August by suggesting some of their jobs could be at stake.

On the morning of Jan. 29, construction workers were building a seawater pipe at Oliktok Point, part of a sprawling network of oil fields owned by ConocoPhillips on Alaska’s arctic North Slope, when they received an ominous notice. Workers at the icy camp would be required to attend a “safety stand-down” meeting, which is typically announced only after a job-site accident involving serious injury. One such meeting was called earlier this year, according to a contracted worker at the site, when a mechanic’s fingers were mangled by an industrial fan. Working in one of the world’s coldest and most isolated regions in the dead of winter—the nearest town of Deadhorse is roughly 40 miles away—comes with a host of potential hazards, and it was unclear to the crews what had happened and who might have been hurt. When nearly 200 construction workers assembled inside a large heated tent just outside the camp, they learned the meeting’s true purpose. An unfamiliar manager, identified as John Schuelke from ConocoPhillips’ Anchorage office, took to the stage and told them that there hadn’t been an accident. Instead, the company had gathered the group, mostly construction contractors, to tell them how they should vote in Alaska’s upcoming August primaries. The oil and gas industry, Schuelke said, was fighting Democrat-supported Ballot Measure 1, which sought to repeal a massive tax cut for oil companies that Alaska’s Republican-controlled state Legislature had recently passed. Schuelke told the crowd to vote against the repeal, according to the contracted worker, who was present. Schuelke claimed that many of the area’s jobs relied on the tax break. The implication was clear: Vote against repeal or your industry and your livelihood will suffer. Slate, 10-15-14.

 

Issue #369

GOP schooled on education politics

Democrats are accusing Republicans of cutting programs for students while giving tax breaks to the rich.

Democrats are accusing Republicans of cutting programs for students while giving tax breaks to the rich.

Republicans thought this would be the year to make education their winning issue. The plan was simple: Talk up the GOP’s support for school choice—including vouchers to help parents pay for private school—and win the hearts of moms everywhere. It hasn’t worked out like that. Instead, in Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, Republicans are on the defensive about education. It isn’t usually a top-tier concern for voters, but Democrats see issues such as college affordability and K-12 funding as their best chance to motivate the on-again, off-again voters who often sit out midterms. Democrats’ top targets are “drop-off voters” who are ambivalent about casting ballots next month. They include hundreds of thousands of young adults, single women, and minorities in key battleground states. In testing messages that might push them to the polls, Democratic strategists have found that education plays extremely well. Accusing Republicans of cutting programs for students while giving tax breaks to the rich motivates diffident voters more than similarly partisan messages on reproductive rights, the economy, or health care, veteran Democratic political strategist Celinda Lake found in a series of focus groups and polls. Politico, 10-19-14.

Issue #368

Softball player warms up for hardball council race

Michael Maddux is both a softball player and umpire but spent much of last summer indoors, campaigning for creation of a Seattle Parks District, with resources to do such jobs as fixing baseball diamonds in city parks. The Seattle paralegal is about to enter a game of political hardball.  Maddux is up and running with a website (www.michaelmaddux.org) and about to enter the contest for District 4 on the Seattle City Council. He will be taking on three-term Seattle City Council member Jean Godden.  The former Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Seattle Times columnist is running for a fourth term, stressing her efforts to end gender disparity in the pay of city workers.  Godden is a strong Seattle Parks District supporter. Maddux has gone out of his way to be gracious toward Godden—saying it is “fantastic” that she wants to continue in public service—even while pondering a run for her seat. The 4th District race is likely to see a larger field. Joel Connelly, Seattle P-I, 10-16-14.

Issue #367

Suzan DelBene vs. Pedro Celis: Minimum wage, maximum disagreement

U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., seeking her second term in Congress against a fellow Microsoft alum, Republican Pedro Celis.

Del Bene

The minimum wage was one area of maximum disagreement as U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-1) faced off Wednesday against Republican challenger Pedro Celis in the contest for Washington’s sprawling, diverse 1st Congressional District. “I support raising the (federal) minimum wage to $10.10 an hour,” said DelBene, saying that the hike up from $7.25 an hour “will lift nearly one million people out of poverty.” “I do not support raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 or $15,” said Celis, a fellow Microsoft alumnus, arguing that a higher wage would lead to layoffs and “really hurt rather than help” minority employees and women. And, added Celis:  “I see the minimum wage as a starting job rather than a living job.” Joel Connelly, Seattle P-I, 10-15-14.

Issue #366

Supreme Court case shows how Amazon legally cheats workers

Amazon's distribution center in Phoenix

Amazon’s distribution center in Phoenix

No other company embodies the mantra “Time is money” quite like Amazon, with its seamless mastery of “just in time” logistics and round-the-clock online retail hours. But inside the cavernous warehouses that ship its goods, there are real people, and their time is not so preciously valued. So the Supreme Court is weighing their right to fair pay against the profits of an e-commerce Goliath. In Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, two Amazon warehouse workers, Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro, argue that they should be paid for time spent undergoing daily security checks, designed to ensure employees don’t leave work with stolen goods. Though the roughly 25 minutes they spend on this check each day is not officially clocked, it is mandatory. So Integrity Staffing, Amazon’s warehousing subcontractor, is effectively stealing their wages by not compensating them for this time spent on the tedious routine of removing their wallet and keys and shuffling through a metal detector. Shouldn’t the subcontractor, as part of its “inventory control” operations, be paying workers overtime for the trouble they must go through to prove they’re not thieves? Michelle Chan, The Nation, 10-10-14.

Issue #365

Grooming students for a lifetime of surveillance

Since 2011, billions of dollars of venture capital investment have poured into public education through private, for-profit technologies that promise to revolutionize education. Designed for the “21st century” classroom, these tools promise to remedy the many, many societal ills facing public education with artificial intelligence, machine learning, data mining, and other technological advancements. They are also being used to track and record every move students make in the classroom, grooming students for a lifetime of surveillance and turning education into one of the most data-intensive industries on the face of the earth. The NSA has nothing on the monitoring tools that education technologists have developed in to “personalize” and “adapt” learning for students in public school districts across the United States. “Adaptive”, “personalized” learning platforms are one of the most heavily-funded verticals in education technology. By breaking down learning into a series of tasks, and further distilling those tasks down to a series of clicks that can be measured and analyzed, companies like Knewton (which has raised $105 million in venture capital), or the recently shuttered inBloom (which raised over $100 million from the Gates Foundation) gather immense amounts of information about students into a lengthy profile containing personal information, socioeconomic status, and other data that is mined for patterns and insights to improve performance. For students, these clickstreams and data trails begin when they are 5 years old, barely able to read much less type in usernames and passwords required to access their online learning portals. Jessy Irwin, Model View Culture, 10-7-14.