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Two rather unusual political campaign ads

Sometimes a campaign ad is just so out of the ordinary that it bears repeating far beyond the candidate’s would-be constituency.

These might not be of “demon sheep” or even Mike Gravel magnitude, but they’re making some waves in the social media seas – and many political operatives would contend that any ad that people talk about is a good ad.

This one is for Carl Sciortino, a Massachusetts state representative who’s running for Congress:

(Yes, the younger Sciortino is gay.)

And this one is for Minneapolis mayoral candidate Jeff Wagner:

Do you have a favorite quirky political ad from a current campaign? Drop a link in the comments and perhaps I’ll bump it up into an update.

4

Berkeley-born policy simulator rebrands, expands

Politify, a Berkeley startup that created a public-policy simulator to tell people which presidential candidate’s tax and budget plan would be better for their households’ and neighborhoods’ financial bottom line, is back with a new name, a new round of funding and a contract with the state of Massachusetts.

What used to be Politify is now Outline. “Think of it as SimCity but for real life,” cofounder and CEO Nikita Bier said in a news release.

Outline’s budget simulator lets anyone to perform what-if analyses, such as manipulating tax rates or health care spending, and then see the projected impact to themselves and their communities. To construct the model, a team of data scientists and economists from MIT, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois spent the last year merging millions of anonymized federal tax returns and public Census records.

When an Outline user “endorses” a policy, that endorsement can be viewed by public officials who can then shape policy proposals according to citizen interest. Bier describes this as part of a broader vision called aided representation, where the software determines users’ interests and helps them advocate for those interests. “We wanted representation to be simple enough so that it’s part of your daily internet experience.”

They’ve just landed an $850,000 round of financing with participation from the Knight Foundation Enterprise Fund, Esther Dyson, and the Dorm Room Fund. And it appears to have been the successful bidder for a contract with Massachusetts to license the budget simulator.

More than 4 million people used Politify in 90 days last year to help them gauge President Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s fiscal platforms.

“Politify was a litmus test that showed us Americans wanted to look at government empirically,” Bier said. “The difference is that Politify was about showing what government does — Outline is about showing what government can do.”

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3 things to remember about Romney’s binders

All joking aside, there are three points about Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” comment at Wednesday’s debate that shouldn’t get lost in all the fuss over the Internet meme.

1.) He didn’t actually answer the question.
Audience member Katherine Fenton asked, “In what new ways to you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?” In response, Romney talked about going the extra mile to find women to serve in his Massachusetts gubernatorial cabinet; about providing flexible work schedules so women can meet their family obligations (as if men don’t have those too?); and about strengthening the economy to create more jobs. He said nothing about pay inequity.

2.) The binders thing isn’t entirely true.
The Boston Globe reports that the Massachusetts Government Appointments Project was compiling this information and reached out to the gubernatorial candidates before Romney was even elected – they went to him, not vice versa. The Globe also reports:

Midway through his four-year term, 42 percent of his 33 new appointments were women, according to a study done by the UMass Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy using some of the data collected by MassGAP.

But over the next two years, women made up only 25 percent of the 64 new appointments Romney made. By the end of his term, the number of women in high-ranking positions was slightly lower than it was before Romney took office.

3.) Regardless of who went to whom, he made an amazing admission.
Romney said:

“An important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.”

“And I — and I went to my staff, and I said, ‘How come all the people for these jobs are — are all men.’ They said, ‘Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.’ And I said, ‘Well, gosh, can’t we — can’t we find some — some women that are also qualified?’”

It sounds as if Romney set a policy in which he took gender into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group in employment, as a means of countering the effects of a history of discrimination.

There’s a name for that: affirmative action. But he was panned for his affirmative action record as Massachusetts’s governor, and it’s not a concept that’s popular with a lot of conservatives.

6

Barbara Lee becomes Sudan Caucus co-chair

Rep. Barbara Lee is the newest of four co-chairs of the Congressional Sudan Caucus, which is still trying to draw more attention to the ongoing humanitarian disaster in that African nation.

Lee, D-Oakland, succeeds the late Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., as a co-chair; the other three co-chairs are Michael Capuano, D-Mass., Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Michael McCaul, R-Tex. The caucus was founded in 2005.

In her news release Tuesday, Lee noted ongoing strife in the Sudanese border areas of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Abyei, and Darfur, and in Yida and other refugee camps in South Sudan. Civilians are subject to the Sudanese government’s indiscriminate bombing and denial of humanitarian aid, leaving nearly half a million at risk of starvation.

Lee said she’ll work with the other co-chairs “to bring Khartoum, Juba, and all stakeholders together to ensure that peace prevails in the region. At this critical time with Sudan and South Sudan on the brink of war, it is critical that Congress and the United States use all tools at its disposal to bring the two sides to the negotiating table for peace talks.”

Lee will take part in a subcommittee hearing on Sudan this Thursday and will host U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice for a special briefing with members of Congress on international efforts to reach a peaceful resolution.

Lee has been active on the issue for some time, sponsoring legislation recognizing acts of genocide in the region and urging China as well as the Arab League to step up efforts to stop the genocide in Darfur. Her bill to allow divestment from companies doing business in the region was enacted into law in 2007.

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A plea to the cult of willful ignorance: Get a grip

I don’t usually indulge this kind of thing, but once in a while the willful ignorance gets so thick that I feel duty-bound to puncture it.

Here’s the screed that landed in a steaming pile in my inbox this morning from a reader in Moraga:

IN THE MUSLIM RELIGION, DOGS ARE UNCLEAN AND NOT ALLOWED TO TRAVEL IN THE SAME VEHICLE AS THE MUSLIM. Bo has never traveled in the same means of transportation with the First Family.
WAKE UP AMERICA !!!! REMEMBER ALL THE OTHER PRESIDENTS WITH THEIR DOGS COMING OFF THE PLANE WITH THEM??? NOT THE OBAMA’S…
Bo’s vacation
HOW CAN AMERICA BE SO BLIND????????
I guess since they had to swallow their pride and use the Gulfstream there just wasn’t enough room for the dog and one other person.
Did you know the Pres. flew BO, the dog, in on a separate smaller jet to Maine for their vacation????
Wonder if that sets well with all the unemployed, hurting, US citizens who can’t afford food, but we can pay for this. The above is true.
I Google “Bo the dog flying to Maine ” and got 76,700 references verifying this. One of them follows:
Michelle Malkin: Just Plane Crazy: Obama’s Dog Flies to Vacation on Separate Jet
Doug Powers: The Obama’s arrived at their vacation spot in Maine , and the local paper, the Morning Sentinel, described the scene:
The president was the first to walk onto the tarmac, dressed casually in a pale blue Oxford shirt and khakis.
A few minutes later, the first lady, dressed in black caprice, a tank-top and sandals, walked onto the runway. Shortly afterward, Malia and Sasha joined their parents. Baldacci and his wife, Karen, presented the family with gift bags full of Maine-made goodies,including baskets made by the Passamaquoddy Tribe, popcorn from Little Bakery in East Corinth, iconic L.L. Bean bags, University of Maine ice hockey hats, and an assortment of other Maine foods and books. Karen Baldacci said the bags for Malia and Sasha contained one loon toy and one chickadee toy that sound their natural calls. Arriving in a small jet before the Obama’s was the first dog, Bo , a Portuguese water dog given as a present by the late U.S Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.; and the president’s personal aide Reggie Love, who chatted with Baldacci.
The president who said the rest of us are going to have to sacrifice to get out of these hard economic times let his dog fly on his own plane? Not enough room on Air Force One for a Portuguese water dog and Reggie Love?
OH, by the way,
Mr. Love, Bo’s handler, is paid $102,000.00 a year to take care of him. Divided by 365 is $279.45 per day.
What side of the ballot will you mark in November?

Well, I’ll definitely be looking for the “non-delusional” side of the ballot. It took all of 30 seconds to determine that this is a load of crap – 30 seconds the sender obviously didn’t care to spend.

As snopes.com explains, this is recycled crap: It’s from a 2010 vacation to Maine, and later was recirculated for a 2011 vacation to Massachusetts. Per snopes:

Bo flew to Maine in a different plane than the rest of the First Family not because he was part of a special canine-only flight, but because the local airport (Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton, Maine) was too small to accommodate the Boeing 747-200B in which the President usually travels. Therefore, the Obamas flew to Maine in a Gulfstream GIII/G3 jet (which seats six to nineteen passengers), while Bo was loaded onto an earlier flight which carried a contingent of presidential aides and staff members.

Also, Reggie Love isn’t “Bo’s handler.”

As for the Muslim jibe about Bo never riding with the President:

And again

Bo on Air Force One

As the e-mail asks, “HOW CAN AMERICA BE SO BLIND????????” What manner of mass brain malfunction lets so many people circulate and believe something that’s so easily disproved? How blinded by hate are they?

Criticize the president on health care, the economy, spending, foreign policy, whatever – it’s all fair game, and a debate the nation should have. But this pathetic Muslim-bashing and outright lying is in poor taste at best and reinforces a stereotype of the wild-eyed, paranoid Obama-hater that detracts from reasoned arguments against his policies. It’s a sad commentary on how shallow and insipid our political discourse has become.

8

Senators urge dropping barriers to refinance

Both of California’s U.S. Senators are among more than a dozen from both sides of the aisle who urged the Obama Administration today to make administrative reforms to help millions of responsible homeowners refinance and take advantage of today’s record-low interest rates.

The lawmakers – writing to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling and Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director Edward DeMarco – said that with interest rates at 3.94 percent, it’s time to lower barriers that keep borrowers trapped in higher-interest loans and to address other hurdles that limit existing refinancing programs.

Specifically, they called for removing loan-to-value limits, which they said would provide the most at-risk borrowers an alternative to simply walking away from their mortgage; eliminating loan level price adjustments, which they say make a refinance less affordable, reduce the benefit to the borrower, and can’t be justified on loans on which Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac already bear the risk; and ensuring that second lien holders don’t stand in the way of a refinance.

“Time is of the essence and we urge you to act quickly and aggressively to ensure that responsible homeowners receive the full benefit of these lower rates,” they wrote.

In addition to U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the letter was signed by Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.; Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; Mark Begich, D-Alaska; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Scott Brown, R-Mass.; Robert Casey Jr., D-Pa.; Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.; John Kerry, D-Mass.; Mark Warner, D-Va.; Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Read the full text of the letter, after the jump…
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