Developers Claim Free App Can Identify Who Paid For Political Advertising

It if actually works, it will be a great boon to those of us who would like to vote intelligently. 

It’s called Ad Hawk. Its promoters claim that it can tell you who paid for the political ads that will be coming at you this fall. And it’s free.

According to Yahoo News, Ad Hawk is “available for download on iPhone and Android” and takes about 30 seconds to identify an ad. The authors advise using a DVR to rewind the ad for identification. Once the software has figured out the ad, 

 … it’ll tell you what group paid for it, then you’re able to view details on them including how much money they have, how much they’ve spent so far this election, what percentage of their ads have been positive or negative, and which political party their ads support.

Ad Hawk is free and was created by the Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit organization, and is expected to be updated on a daily basis as new ads hit the airwaves.

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Speaking Swahili in Oklahoma

I was elected to public office for the first time in 1980; the same year John Lennon was murdered and the Moral Majority became a major player in American politics. The country was reeling from the capture of our citizens at the American Embassy in Iran. There were long lines to buy gasoline and interest for a new car could easily cost 15% for someone with good credit. The Cold War and its mind-numbing threat of universal nuclear annihilation hung like the sword of Damocles over all of us.

These were not halcyon days. There was trouble in the world then, as now. But America was still the manufacturing power of the world. There were jobs, good jobs, that could support a family, and a college education was still affordable without living in penal servitude to student loans for the rest of your life.

The biggest difference for me personally between then and now is the difference in the people I encounter on my job as a legislator. Back then, if I wanted to convince a fellow legislator to vote either for or against a piece of legislation, I would talk to them about how the legislation would affect the people of Oklahoma. If I could convince the legislator that the bill in question would hurt people, he or she would vote against it. If they believed it would help people, they would vote for it.

If I try to talk to my colleagues today about how a piece of legislation will affect the people of the state, they look at me as if I was speaking Swahili. Once in a while one of them will turn his head away and not look me in the face, but that’s as close as you can come with today’s politicians to get them to consider how the votes they cast affect the people they represent.

In today’s politics, the only way to persuade a legislator to change their vote is to talk to them about how it will affect their chances of re-election, or how some special interest group feels about the bill. I won’t say that is the only thing they care about, but it is the only thing that will motivate them to change their actions. Even that falls to the way side when party loyalty is in play. Nothing in today’s political world is allowed to trump doing what your party tells you to do.

As with all blanket statements concerning people, there are exceptions. I know a small number of legislators in both parties who will step out and cast their votes based on the way a piece of legislation will affect the people they represent. Some of these people are women, some are men. The Republicans and Democrats in this group are about evenly divided.

It hurts me to say this but it is true; you are just as likely to find a pro-choice politician who will bravely stand up for what they believe as you will one who is pro-life.

This doesn’t happen because all elected officials are evil. A small number of the people I work with are craven opportunists who genuinely do not care about anyone or anything except their own ambitions. But the vast majority of them are good people who were put in office by political machines who recruited them to run, gave them their campaign funds, told them what their positions were based on polls and their political party‘s sell-lines, put out their campaign ads and organized their victory parties.

These elected officials are not representatives of the people in their districts. They are operatives for political parties who have themselves become consortiums of special interests.

They are so utterly out of their depth once they get into office that they fall for every bit of manipulation and flattery (and there is an endless supply of both for the winner in any campaign for public office) that comes their way. They are confused, overwhelmed and, like most people who are in over their heads and trying to hide it, easily angered and given to pomposity.

Most of them signed up to run for office because they had some notion that they could “make a difference” or because of vague beliefs about culture war issues. But by the time they’ve been processed and groomed into a winning candidate, they’ve drunk so much political kool-aid that they think people who talk to them about things like the common good and what’s best for ordinary people are naive lightweights.

A “tough” vote in this legislative environment is not a vote where the legislator is trying to figure out what is the right thing to do. A “tough” vote is one that catches him or her between two competing special interests. The toughest “tough” votes are the ones where they get caught between the power brokers who own them and the lies they told their constituents.

Legislators who are faced with one of these toughest of the “tough” votes tend to become fearful, petulant, bitter and easily enraged.

After that, anyone who tries to convince them that they need to cast their votes on what will be best for the people they represent would be just as effective if they really were speaking Swahili.

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Money Where Our Mouth Is: Five Things Pro Life People Can Do For Rape Victims

Platitudes are for the lazy ones.

Those of us who actually want to do something to help other people are often left floundering at the gate by platitude profferers. Our desire to help and heal dissipates in the wallow of insincerity and we go back to our internet-browsing. That’s what will probably happen with the media storm over Congressman Akins’ remarks about rape. People will wear out their outrage by being outraged and nobody will help anybody at all.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

If you are not one of the lazy ones, if you do want to help heal our culture, here are five suggestions.

Money Where Our Mouth Is:  Five Things Pro Life People Can Do For Rape Victims

1. Preach from the pulpit that rape is a sin. I was the spark plug behind the Day of Prayer for an End to Violence Against Women here in Oklahoma. As far as I know, that’s the first action of this kind, anywhere. My reason? I’d been sitting in pews for years, and I had never heard even one sermon, one homily, one aside, saying that rape is a sin.

When I brought this up in speeches to women’s groups, the result was invariably a firestorm of “right-ons,” “you-said-its” and “amens.” When I tried to talk to clergy about it, they either got angry with me for daring to question them, or they started talking about the evils of abortion.

That situation inspired the Day of Prayer for an End to Violence Against Women. The plan was to get the heads of denominations, as opposed to rank and file clergy, to come to a luncheon and sign a pledge against violence against women.

I don’t think it would have gotten off the ground except for my own wonderful religious leader, Archbishop Eusebius Beltran. Archbishop Beltran said yes immediately. His name had enough mojo with the other heads of Oklahoma denominations that they started signing on.

Archbishop Beltran also wrote a pastoral letter speaking out against violence against women from a theological standpoint. Father (now Bishop) Anthony Taylor came up with the idea of having the laity in all our parishes sign a petition proclaiming their support for an end to violence against women. The Priest Council, with Archbishop Beltran’s full support, got behind this and we ended up with over 20,000 signatures.

But the key thing from my perspective was that I finally got to hear a sermon saying that rape was a sin.

I remember Archbishop Beltran’s face as well as that of my own pastor. They neither one said it out loud, but you could see it in their expressions: That’s all you want? For us to say that rape is a sin?

The answer is yes. That’s what I want. I don’t know when clergy got so diffident about things like sin and hell, but they need to get over it. Rape is a sin. It is a mortal sin and those who do it can go to hell for it.

The Church needs to use its moral and prophetic voice to tell people that violence against women in general and rape in particular are sins. It may sound obvious, but we live in a culture that gives such mixed messages on this that it is absolutely essential. If you are a priest or pastor, nuff said. If you are a pew-sitter like me, maybe you should raise the issue with your pastor.

2. Agitate for laws that lock monsters up and keep them there.I know that this one is going to get me in bad with a lot of people. But so far as I’m concerned rapists are one of the best reasons for prisons that I know.

3. Agitate for laws that support and help pregnant women. Over on Slactivist, Fred Clark wrote a post on August 10 criticizing pro-life groups because they aren’t supporting the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (HR 5647.) The legislation intrigued me. I think I may author a similar bill on the state level. I had the staff at the Oklahoma House of Representatives analyze the bill looking for abortion funding or some such hiding under its skirts. There is none.

What that means is that while Mr Clark and I obviously disagree on the issue of abortion, we both support this piece of legislation and would like to see it become law. I don’t think that his criticism of “pro-life groups” is well-taken, btw. Most of these groups operate within a laser-like focus on legislation that directly affects the sanctity of human life. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, while it certainly will help create a climate that will allow women to chose life for their babies and is thus pro-life, does not deal directly with abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and euthanasia. Political action groups have to focus if they are going to be effective.

I know from personal experience that the leaders and members of these same groups do support legislation of this type as individuals. They’ve helped me when I tried to pass it in the past.

In my opinion, the reason this legislation is being ignored by pro life people in Congress is that they can get away with it. No organized group that put them in office is pushing them on it. More to the point, they are against it (although most of them wouldn’t admit this in public) because the corporations who paid for their campaigns and who own them almost like indentured servants don’t want it.

It so happens that the party which is the most completely owned by corporations (notice, I said the most owned; both parties are to some extent.) is the Republican Party. Those who get elected by saying they are pro-life also tend to be Republican. That means that so-called “pro-life” members of Congress are the ones most likely to oppose this bill.

This also means that pro-life people are especially well-placed to advocate for this and similar pieces of legislation. After all, whose votes put these birds in office in the first place? Write them a letter. Then, check and see if they tell you the truth when they answer.

4. Donate to your local rape crisis center. 

5. When a political candidate comes to your door, sends you a survey, or asks you for a donation, tell them that you want them to do something to help rape victims. It’s ok — in fact, it’s good — to tell them that you are pro-life and pro-woman. Then follow through by asking him or her later what they did in this regard.

I could go on with this. I could tell you that when you talk to political candidates about this, they may lie to you. But you already know that, don’t you?

We’ll deal with that issue later. For now, it’s enough that you look at the Money Where Our Mouth Is list and pick out one thing that you’d like to do to help rape victims.

We are pro-life. That means we want to heal our culture. These are baby steps, but real steps, down that path.

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Public frustration prompts new campaign for political civility :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

Public frustration prompts new campaign for political civility :: Catholic News Agency (CNA).

I think this speaks for itself. I am proud of the Knights of Columbus for doing this and will sign the petition.

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Nobody Even Cares About What’s’is Name

Read the blogs. Look at the polls. Ask your neighbors.

People are planning to vote against President Obama.

Other people are planning to vote for President Obama.

Nobody (except maybe his family) appears to be voting either for or against What’s’is Name. You know who I’m talking about; that other guy — the billionaire I-was-one-of-the-most-aggressively-pro-abortion-governors-in-America-until-I-decided-I-wanted-to-run-for-president thingy person that folks who are voting against President Obama have to … ummm … sorta vote for.

It appears that the President is in this race pretty much alone. And he’s got himself in a tie. Somehow or other, this supposedly genius politician has maneuvered himself into a dead heat … with himself. What’s’is name focuses on teeny-tiny issues of gaffe attacks and unseemly arguments such as the I woulda killed him deader than you did debate. He dances and prances around the ring alone, shadow boxing with himself. Meanwhile, Obama pounds himself with a right, a left, a right … until … he’s got himself on the ropes.

I’ve seen a lot of stupid things in politics. But this bizarre dumb-off of a presidential election takes the cake.

Both our contenders seem focused on attacking one another. They’re spending a lot of money, attacking each other’s positions and opinions. The problem is, we the people know all this stuff already. We already know that Obama never met an abortion he didn’t like and Romney feels pretty much the same but has, pragmatic politician that he is, decided to pretend he doesn’t. We already know that Obama wants to bring religion under the government heel. We already know that Romney is the bought and sold creature of the big corporations.

We. Already. Know.

So. What’s an American to do? Go to the write-in ballot?

I am a duly elected legislator. There are a lot of people who think it’s part of my job description to line up with my party and support our turnip, no matter what. But I guess somebody forgot to put the poison in my kool-aid, because I won’t do it.

Frankly, I am disgusted with the choices that our two political parties keep giving us. Year after year, election after election, we have to choose between the guy who’s owned by the special interests who are going to stab the American people in the back, and the guy who’s owned by the special interests who are going to stab the American people in the back with a different knife.

From time to time, a reporter will ask me how I voted in this or that election. It’s usually about some hot button issue here in Oklahoma. I always tell them that I voted by secret ballot. I do this because when I go into a voting booth, my vote is the same as any other American’s, and like all Americans, I have the right to privacy with my votes. My other votes, the ones I cast as a representative, are very public, and they should be. But not when I vote in elections. When I do that, I’m a private citizen.

So, come November, I’m going to vote by secret ballot. There are a lot of questions further down the ballot, issues and races that aren’t presidential, where I want to vote. I have an opinion and I want to express that opinion at the polls.

But when it comes to the dead-heat of Obama vs Obama with a side order of What’s’is Name … um … well … I wish I didn’t have to vote for either one.

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Walking Between the Labels

My husband and I watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes Saturday night. The hero ape, after a lifetime of gentle living at the hands of benevolent humans, was cast into a cage of swinging, screeching, fist-banging members of his own species. As we watched his shock and dismay, I remarked to my husband, “That kind of reminds me of going to work.”

The reason my husband thought that was funny is because I had mis-matched the labels. If it has hair all over its body and walks with its knuckles dragging on the ground, it is not human. The knuckle-draggers among us are labeled “apes” and we know that no matter what the ape might be, it ain’t us.

This primal ability to distinguish “us” from “them” keeps us alive. It helps to know the difference between a rattlesnake and a cabbage, between giant spiders and your grandma. Labels not only keep us safe, they allow us to live together and cooperate with one another in how we order our society.

Unfortunately, people are smarter than they are wise. Whatever ability we have, we always seem to find a way to apply it for evil. Labels can be used to ostracize, punish, degrade and manipulate other people. Used this way, labels become shorthand slander. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the political world.

Political discourse has devolved down to scandal-mining one another’s histories, gaffe attacks and label slinging. Never mind the problems besetting our nation and the world; if you can catch someone using an off-color word when they thought the mike was off, or if you can get enough people to label them a “communist” or a “fascist” or whatever, why then you beat them at the polls. You can win the election. Take home the prize. Get your hands on the state treasury and the power of government.

The standard way for politicians to survive this is to pick a side and stick with that side. “Your” side will then stick with you. They will label, gaffe report and scandal-mine your opponents for you. They will be your tit for the other guy’s tat.

The one thing no politician in their right mind would ever do is venture out from under the cover of “their” side. With no one to protect them from the hail stones of public excoriation, they will be beaten to a pulp and carted off the field in nothing flat. The only way to survive in politics is to, as Okies say, “dance with them that brung ya.”

There comes a point in every political career where sticking with your side means doing things you know are wrong. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican, a conservative or a liberal, the day will come when your “side” expects and demands that you chose them over everything else you believe.

If you are a Public Catholic, this day will come soon and be repeated often. If you think you can hold elective office and never be forced to choose between God and your party, God and your friends, God and your “side,” you need to think again. You will have to choose, and you will have to do it over and over and over again.

If you chose Jesus, if you decide that the “side” you’re on is the Jesus, Joseph and Mary side, there will be payback. Your payback is that both sides will come at you. “Your” side will do everything they can to punish and purge the “traitor” in their midst. The “other” side will join in where they can and wish them success. You will be alone.

Public Catholics have to walk between the labels. They’ll call you a “communist” one day, and a “fascist” the next. What they really mean is that you are not “one of us.” It won’t be long before everybody on both sides is slander-mining your history, gaffe-reporting your speeches and labeling you everything but a nice person.

You will be maliciously misunderstood, misinterpreted, misquoted, and just plain lied about.

The only comfort you can take is that this is exactly what Jesus said would happen. It’s how they treated Him, and if you truly try to follow Him, it’s how they’ll treat you. Their labels don’t fit you. You’re not a “conservative” or a “liberal.” You are a follower of Christ in a world that hated Him then and hates Him now.

You follow a risen savior Who was beaten, mocked, tortured, despised and murdered. You follow Jesus. And His label is the cross.

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