Democrats have a file on you

One of the reasons President Obama was re-elected, according to observers, is the way his campaign made use of data-mining and other on-line resources.  This article by Craig Timberg and Amy Gardner in the Washington Post details what the campaign did and says how other Democrats are trying to get their hands on the database that was compiled.

But when you read the article, do red flags about privacy keep coming up?  I wonder if people who are worried about the information Google collects on each one of us has a similar concern about the information the Democratic party collects on each one of us.  And if the commercial use of this kind of information is problematic, isn’t the political use even worse?

If you voted this election season, President Obama almost certainly has a file on you. His vast campaign database includes information on voters’ magazine subscriptions, car registrations, housing values and hunting licenses, along with scores estimating how likely they were to cast ballots for his reelection.

And although the election is over, Obama’s database is just getting started. . . .

The database consists of voting records and political donation histories bolstered by vast amounts of personal but publicly available consumer data, say campaign officials and others familiar with the operation. It could record hundreds of pieces of information for each voter.

Campaign workers added far more detail through a broad range of voter contacts — in person, on the phone, via e-mail or through visits to the campaign’s Web site. Those who used its Facebook app, for example, had their files updated with lists of their Facebook friends, along with scores measuring the intensity of those relationships and whether they lived in swing states. If their last names sounded Hispanic, a key target group for the campaign, the database recorded that, too. . . .

All Democratic candidates have access to the party’s lists, which include voting and donation histories along with some consumer data. What Obama’s database adds are the more fine-grained analyses of what issues matter most to voters and how best to motivate them to donate, volunteer and vote. . . .

The database powered nearly everything about Obama’s campaign, including fundraising, identifying likely supporters and urging them to vote. This resulted in an operational edge that helped a candidate with a slim margin in the overall national vote to trounce Romney in the state-by-state electoral college contests.

Obama was able to collect and use personal data largely free of the restrictions that govern similar efforts by private companies. Neither the Federal Trade Commission, which has investigated the handling of personal data by Google, Facebook and other companies, nor the Federal Election Commission has jurisdiction over how campaigns use such information, officials at those agencies say.

Privacy advocates say the opportunity for abuse — by Obama, Romney or any other politician’s campaign — is serious, as is the danger of hackers stealing the data. Voters who willingly gave campaigns such information may not have understood that it would be passed on to the party or other candidates, even though disclosures on Web sites and Facebook apps warn of that possibility.

Chris Soghoian, an analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union and a former FTC technologist, said voters should worry that the interests of politicians and commercial data brokers have aligned, making legal restrictions of data collection less likely.

“They’re going to be loath to regulate those companies if they are relying on them to target voters,” he said.

via Democrats push to redeploy Obama’s voter database – The Washington Post.

Is Romney going soft on abortion?

Mitt Romney, as expected, seems to be tacking towards the center in an effort to woo Independents and to counter the “war against women” allegations.  This is what he told the Des Moines Register:

“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.”

via Romney: Abortion not on my agenda – CBS News.

Among his long history of different opinions on life issues, Romney’s stated position today is that he is pro-life with exceptions (for rape, incest, and the life of the mother).  Does this sound like he is saying, yes, I’m mostly pro-life, but if I’m elected, don’t worry, I’m not going to do anything about it?

How should pro-life voters take this?  A Romney administration, however unenthusiastic about the issue,  would surely be better for the  pro-life cause than Obama’s.  He says he’ll end the Obamacare abortifacient mandate, cut funding for Planned Parenthood, and stop tax money from going to international abortion providers.  He also says he will appoint conservative judges.  After all, given Roe vs. Wade, abortion law is in the hands of the courts rather than  legislators.

In addition to those pro-abortion measures implemented by the Obama administration, the Democrats in their convention came across as not just pro-choice but as positively pro-abortion.  Bill Clinton’s Democratic party wanted abortion to be “safe, legal, and rare.”  But at this convention, speaker after speaker displayed,  to thunderous applause, an untroubled, fanatical, and outright evil embrace of abortion.

But still. . . .Though Romney is now trying to placate pro-lifers, they should be excused for being cynical, for thinking Republicans once again are trying to use them for their votes and activism, while giving them as little as possible.

Is this too harsh an assessment?  If you are pro-life, do Romney’s words make you reconsider supporting him?  Do pro-lifers have any other options?

 

Report from a battleground state

We live in Virginia, which has been named a battleground state, a crucial source of lots of electoral votes that could go either way.  So we denizens of that state–sorry, Commonwealth–are being subject to lots of campaigning.

Every time we turn on the television, say, to watch a ballgame, virtually every commercial break includes an ad for Barack Obama.  These are just hammering Mitt Romney and are effectively made.  To be sure, some of them are ludicrous, repeating long-refuted charges that even liberal fact-checkers have debunked, such as Mitt Romney being responsible for businesses outsourcing jobs to China.  One Obama commercial is all about how Romney will raise your taxes!  Not on the basis of anything Romney has proposed but simply because Democrats are saying that “he would have to” raise middle class taxes to pay for his economic plan.  Obama attacking Romney for raising taxes!  But we don’t see any Romney commercials answering those charges or refuting those claims or taking the Democrats to task for their bogus ads.  There are actually relatively few Romney ads at all, and they are mostly bland and unmemorable.  The one that sticks out the most is a super-Pac spot that consists mainly of elderly small business owners carping about President Obama in a crotchety but not particularly inspirational way.

What the Romney campaign is doing in Virginia is robo-calls.  Last weekend, I got four in one hour.  Recorded calls featuring Mike Huckabee or someone else exhorting me to vote for Romney.  I hate robo-calls.  Even when they are on behalf of someone I might support.  They are an intrusion, an interruption of whatever I am doing, an annoyance.  Let me ask you:  Do you or anyone you know appreciate getting robo-calls?  Do any of you bother to so much as listen to them completely?  Don’t you hang-up as soon as you realize the call is a recording?  Do they make you more likely to vote for the candidate who is subjecting you to these things?  I have the sense that every time the robo-calls for Romney go out, thousands and thousands of Virginia voters are turning against him.   Which triggers more and more robo-calls for Romney.

An Obama volunteer knocked on our door.  He was an elderly gentleman, actually, but quite enthusiastic.  He said that he had a grandson who was going to college and that President Obama was making it possible.  He said that Obama started the Pell grants.  Uh, no, my wife explained.  Pell grants started in 1965.  We, nearly as old as he was, got Pell grants.  But that didn’t phase him.  He said Romney would ruin America, and we’ve really got to re-elect Obama.

No Romney volunteer has knocked on our door.  Does he even have volunteers?  Or just paid workers and party loyalists?  I haven’t come across any.

I live in a battleground state, but it seems like only one side is battling.

Your lying eyes

Leftover from the Democratic convention, Peggy Noonan’s review:

Barack Obama is deeply overexposed and often boring. He never seems to be saying what he’s thinking. His speech Thursday was weirdly anticlimactic. There’s too much buildup, the crowd was tired, it all felt flat. He was somber, and his message was essentially banal: We’ve done better than you think. Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?. . .

Beneath the funny hats, the sweet-faced delegates, the handsome speakers and the babies waving flags there was something disquieting. All three days were marked by a kind of soft, distracted extremism. It was unshowy and unobnoxious but also unsettling.

There was the relentless emphasis on Government as Community, as the thing that gives us spirit and makes us whole. But government isn’t what you love if you’re American, America is what you love. Government is what you have, need and hire. Its most essential duties—especially when it is bankrupt—involve defending rights and safety, not imposing views and values. We already have values. Democrats and Republicans don’t see all this the same way, and that’s fine—that’s what national politics is, the working out of this dispute in one direction or another every few years. But the Democrats convened in Charlotte seemed more extreme on the point, more accepting of the idea of government as the center of national life, than ever, at least to me.

The fight over including a single mention of God in the platform—that was extreme. The original removal of the single mention by the platform committee—extreme. The huge “No!” vote on restoring the mention of God, and including the administration’s own stand on Jerusalem—that wasn’t liberal, it was extreme. Comparing the Republicans to Nazis—extreme. The almost complete absence of a call to help education by facing down the powers that throw our least defended children under the school bus—this was extreme, not mainstream.

The sheer strangeness of all the talk about abortion, abortion, contraception, contraception. I am old enough to know a wedge issue when I see one, but I’ve never seen a great party build its entire public persona around one. Big speeches from the heads of Planned Parenthood and NARAL, HHS Secretary and abortion enthusiast Kathleen Sebelius and, of course, Sandra Fluke.

“Republicans shut me out of a hearing on contraception,” Ms. Fluke said. But why would anyone have included a Georgetown law student who never worked her way onto the national stage until she was plucked, by the left, as a personable victim?

What a fabulously confident and ingenuous-seeming political narcissist Ms. Fluke is. She really does think—and her party apparently thinks—that in a spending crisis with trillions in debt and many in need, in a nation in existential doubt as to its standing and purpose, in a time when parents struggle to buy the good sneakers for the kids so they’re not embarrassed at school . . . that in that nation the great issue of the day, and the appropriate focus of our concern, is making other people pay for her birth-control pills. That’s not a stand, it’s a non sequitur. She is not, as Rush Limbaugh oafishly, bullyingly said, a slut. She is a ninny, a narcissist and a fool.

And she was one of the great faces of the party in Charlotte. That is extreme. Childish, too.

via The Democrats’ Soft Extremism – WSJ.com.

Look who’s waging the culture war

Christian conservatives and Republicans in general have been criticized for waging the so-called “culture wars,” making political issues out of  abortion, gay marriage, and other divisive moral issues.  But now it’s the Democrats who are raising those divisive issues.

At the Republican National Convention, hardly anything was said about abortion or gay marriage.  But at the Democratic National Convention, speakers wouldn’t shut up about the goodness of abortion and gay marriage.

It sounds like both sides believe being pro-life and pro-traditional marriage are losing propositions.  The Democrats apparently think they can win voters by emphasizing the Republicans’ official stance on these issues.

Are they right? Have conservatives lost the “culture wars”?  Or are Democrats over-reaching?  Should Republicans be more assertive about their usual pro-life, pro-traditional-family stand?  Or would that doom their chances and put the Democrats in power?

The Democrat’s abortionfest

Washington Post columnist Melinda Henneberger marvels at how the Democratic National Convention turned into such a celebration of abortion.

Never have I heard as much talk about abortion as at this convention, where speech after speech highlights how wrong I’ve been to wince every time Barack Obama is referred to as “the abortion president.”

Supporters hoist signs as the President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund Cecile Richards speaks to the audience at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 5, 2012 on the second day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). With America so divided on this issue and most people somewhere in the middle, MSNBC’s First Read observed on Wednesday that “perhaps the most surprising part of last night was that it had more talk about abortion rights than in any Democratic convention since 1992, the first of many self-described “Year of the Woman” campaign years….Four years ago, it seemed the Democratic Party was going out of its way to feature pro-life officeholders, like Tim Kaine or Bob Casey Jr., as a way to set a different tone on culture. Fast forward four years later and it’s clear Democrats and the Obama campaign were sending the not-so-subtle message that they believe the secret formula [is] capitalizing on the gender gap: talk about women’s rights and women’s choices.’’ . . .

And it isn’t only abortion-rights lobbyists like Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, who’ve preached on it from the podium; Julian Castro, Deval Patrick and Michelle Obama all did, too.

For those still not sure where the party stands, a young mom named Libby Bruce told delegates how Planned Parenthood treated her endometriosis 12 years ago. One-time Republican Maria Ciano assured them that if voters give the president a second term, “our right to make our own most personal decisions will be safe for another generation.” Sandra Fluke claimed that if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are elected instead, we’ll wake up in “an America in which you have a new vice president who co-sponsored a bill that would allow pregnant women to die preventable deaths in our emergency rooms.”

After hours, delegates could attend their choice of parties hosted by pro-choice groups. And in the street in front of the convention center, women in pink Planned Parenthood t-shirts argued with protesters holding fetal photos I could have lived a long, happy life without ever glimpsing. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear this was the issue dividing the parties. . . .

Even the tribute to Teddy Kennedy, who for many years considered himself pro-life, was used to drive home the ubiquitous abortion rights theme, via footage of the ’94 senatorial debate in which Kennedy called Romney “multiple choice” on the issue. A tireless advocate for the dispossessed, Kennedy was so much more than that — and his party used to be, too.

via ‘Abortion-palooza’ in Charlotte: Did we mention we support a woman’s right to choose? – She The People – The Washington Post.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X