Making Sport of Our Future

 

by WALTER BRASCH

           

One of the fun things sports writers do is try to predict the winners and scores of upcoming games, from high school through the pros. For special “look-at-us-we’re important” bonus points, they create lists of “Top” teams and rank them, both pre-season and weekly.

Sports writers have some kind of genetic mutation that leads them to believe they know more about sports than the average schlump who spends almost $200 a year for a newspaper subscription and as much as $500 a year for all-access all-games everywhere cable coverage. However, the reality is that even the best prognosticators—sports writers love big words when they can pronounce them—have a record about as accurate as the horoscope on the comics page.

Nevertheless, the guesses and rankings by sportswriters are usually innocuous. Readers and viewers usually forget in a couple of days who says what, and go about their own lives trying to make a mediocre paycheck stretch until the end of the month.

Joining the “guess how bright I am” journalists are some reporters who cover national political races. Instead of researching and explaining candidate positions on numerous issues, and giving readers and viewers a greater understanding of how those positions could impact their own lives, these pompous scribblers have made politics another sports contest.

The national news media, secure in their perches in New York and Washington, D.C., several months ago began chirping about who will win the Iowa caucus. For the final few days, they parachuted into Iowa to let their readers and viewers think they were toughened field reporters with as difficult a job as combat correspondents in Iraq or Afghanistan. Like hungry puppies, they stayed close to the candidates, hoping for a morsel or two, digested it, passed it out of their system as wisdom, and haughtily predicted the winner would be Mitt Romney—no, wait—it’s Michele Bachman—no, we’re calling for a surprising victory by Herman Cain—stop-the-presses, Cain petered out—Newt Gingrich is definitely going to take Iowa—Rick Perry is our prediction— we predict Ron Paul might be ahead—the race is going to be tough, but based upon our superior knowledge because we’re the national news media and we’re infallible, and from projections we picked out of our butts we believe—.

The one candidate they discounted for almost all but the last week of the Iowa primary race was Rick Santorum. Not a chance, they declared. Weak campaign. Lack of funds. No charismatic razzle-dazzle. No vital signs. Dead as a 2-by-4 about to be sawed and covered by wallboard.

Santorum, of course, came within eight votes of taking the Iowa caucus. The news media then spent the next day telling us all about that campaign, much in the same way that a bubbly TV weather girl, who a week earlier predicted bright sunny skies for a week, tells us we had snow the past three days.

The national news media jetted out of Iowa faster than a gigolo leaving a plain rich girl for a plain richer one, and descended upon New Hampshire. In the granite state, they have been repeating their performance from Iowa. They have predicted who the “real” winners and losers are. They have tried to convince us they can actually talk to us common folk, so they are grabbing whoever they find to answer in less than ten seconds, “Who do you think will win?” After the New Hampshire primary concludes, Tuesday, the media will happily discard their snow coats for windbreakers and descend into South Carolina, where they will continue to treat a presidential race as little more than a sporting contest.

There’s a difference, however. Generally, whoever wins or loses a game doesn’t have much impact upon the rest of us, so we smile at the sportswriters’ attempts to predict outcomes and pretend they can analyze the impact of a reserve left tackle’s hangnail. Those who are elected to our city councils, state legislatures, Congress, and the Presidency do have an impact upon us. And we deserve a lot better than the arrogance of the news clan reporting the contests as if they were sporting events.

[Walter Brasch was a sportswriter and sports editor before becoming an award-winning public affairs/investigative reporter and columnist, who has covered several presidential campaigns. He was once a reporter for an Iowa newspaper. His current book is the critically-acclaimed social issues mystery-thriller, Before the First Snow.]

 

 

Shifting the Focus to Improving Voter Registration Access, Not Inhibiting It

In a democracy that can only boast that 71 percent of its citizens are registered and able to exercise their civic duty in any given election, access to the franchise is crucial.  For decades, millions of citizens have relied on either voter registration drives or government agencies to help them get on the voter rolls. Today, however, private voter registration drives are under attack, while some states are ignoring their responsibilities to reach unregistered citizens. If community-based drives are prevented from helping Americans get registered, and government agencies won’t help them, then who will?

In several states, elected officials and partisan groups are intent on stifling the proven effectiveness of voter registration drives run by private individuals and organizations. Despite the partisan-spun “scandals” that come with third-party voter registration drives, they are undeniably effective in reaching large portions of the population.

“According to the 2008 CPS, nearly 9 million citizens [or 8 percent] reported having registered ‘at a voter registration drive,’” wrote Doug Hess and Jody Herman in Project Vote report, Representational Bias in the 2008 Electorate. “This likely seriously undercounts the total impact of voter registration drives, however, as 9.4 million citizens (another 8 percent) reported that they registered ‘at a school, hospital, or on campus’—all locations where voter registration drives are often conducted by civic organizations and student groups.”

Another 9.7 million registered to vote through mail-in voter registration applications, many of whom presumably received these applications from voter drives or organizations that distributed the forms through the postal or electronic mail.

Voter registration drives are protected as a form of free speech under the First Amendment, as well as provisions under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (which directly protects and encourages community-run voter registration drives as the law’s primary purpose is to ensure more citizens are registered to vote). Yet lawmakers and election officials in states like Nevada are looking to regulate and criminalize voter registration drives so thoroughly, that they can create a “chilling effect on community-based voter registration, causing many organizations to curtail or cease their voter registration efforts.”

Other states are introducing regressive bills to halt otherwise effective means of registering voters. The opportunity to register to vote and cast a ballot at the same time, or Election Day Registration, is available in nine states, most of which exhibit above-average voter participation rates.  Republican-backed efforts to do away with EDR are reportedly underway in Montana, New Hampshire, andWisconsin.

Perhaps the most noncontroversial and effective way to reach large numbers of historically underrepresented, low-income citizens lies in Section 7 of the NVRA, but nationwide compliance with this law is inconsistent.  The NVRA requires public assistance agencies that provide services to low-income residents to offer voter registration services to their clients. However, in states like Louisiana, voter registration cards collected at these agencies have declined by as much as 88 percent since implementation in 1995.

On Wednesday, Project Vote, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., and New Orleans attorney Ronald Wilson put Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler on notice for voting rights violations in the state.

The groups called on Schedler, the Dept. of Children and Family Services, and Dept. of Health and Hospitals, to take corrective action necessary to bring the state into compliance with the NVRA, citing evidence of the state denying numerous low-income residents of the opportunity to register to vote.

“In the past several years, lawsuits filed by Project Vote and other groups have forced other states that had been disregarding the NVRA to comply, with dramatic results,” according to the press release. “For example, applications from Missouri public assistance agencies skyrocketed, from fewer than 8,000 a year to over 130,000 a year, following settlement of a suit in that state in 2008. More than 200,000 low-income Ohioans have applied to register since a similar case was settled there in the end of 2009.”

Voter registration is the first, key step to getting involved in the democratic process. Whether provided by community-based groups or existing state and federal laws, lawmakers should focus on improving and fostering these methods of voter registration, not obstructing or ignoring them. Every eligible citizen should have equal access to the franchise in this country, and when millions rely on voter registration drives, government agency officials, and poll clerks on Election Day to provide that opportunity, we may want to rethink our approach to “fixing” the election system.

Weekly Pulse: Anti-Masturbation Crusader Christine O’Donnell is Master of Her Domain

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Christine O’Donnell is master of her domain. The deeply conservative Tea Party darling won the Republican senate nomination in Delaware last night with a stunning upset of establishment favorite Rep. Mike Castle.

O’Donnell rose to prominence as an anti-masturbation crusader in the 1990s. Jillian Rayfield of Talking Points Memo has video of O’Donnell’s 1996 appearance on MTV’s series “Sex in the Nineties” in which she and her colleagues from the Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth Ministry. (SALT) O’Donnell warns teens that masturbation is adultery that will undermine their future marital sex lives: “You’re going to be pleasing each other, and if he already knows what pleases him and he can please himself, then why am I in the picture?” she asks.

Lest you think the anti-masturbation ministry was a youthful indiscretion, O’Donnell was still listed as the contact person for SALT on a web directory last updated in 2009. Christina Bellantoni of TPMDC reports that O’Donnell remained an outspoken social conservative on the campaign trail.

Blessing in disguise?

Suzi Khimm of Mother Jones sees O’Donnell’s victory as a potential blessing in disguise for Democrats:

Ultimately, though, the biggest benefactor of an O’Donnell victory could be the Democratic Party, as she has a significantly weaker shot against the likely Democratic contender, lawyer and county executive Chris Coons. [...] If the GOP loses Delaware, it could completely blow its chance at getting enough seats for a Senate majority.

Adele Stan of AlterNet reports that, as of 3 o’clock on Wednesday morning, former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte was still locked in a dead heat with Tea Party favorite Ovide Lamontagne for the Republican Senate nomination. Does Ayotte’s name sound familiar? That’s probably because she made a name for herself as the anti-abortion Attorney General behind Ayotte vs. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Beth Saunders reports for RH Reality Check.

If either of these Republican nominee proves too extreme for the voters of New Hampshire, the Democrats could pick up the senate seat being vacated by Republican Judd Gregg.

Urban coal pollution is deadly

In other health news, Michelle Chen reports in Colorlines that coal pollution will kill 13,000 Americans this year, mostly in urban areas:

According to the study, fine particle pollution linked to the coal industry is “expected to cause over 13,000 premature deaths in 2010, as well as almost 10,000 hospitalizations and more than 20,000 heart attacks per year.” The estimated death toll clusters in certain industrial cities, namely New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., affirming other research showing the racial and economic implications of these urban health impacts.

The bright side is that fewer people are projected to die of coal-related illnesses this year compared to last year. It’s not clear whether we have tougher regulation to thank, or the economic slowdown, or both.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by membersof The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The AuditThe Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Pulse: Anti-Masturbation Crusader Christine O’Donnell is Master of Her Domain

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Christine O’Donnell is master of her domain. The deeply conservative Tea Party darling won the Republican senate nomination in Delaware last night with a stunning upset of establishment favorite Rep. Mike Castle.

O’Donnell rose to prominence as an anti-masturbation crusader in the 1990s. Jillian Rayfield of Talking Points Memo has video of O’Donnell’s 1996 appearance on MTV’s series “Sex in the Nineties” in which she and her colleagues from the Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth Ministry. (SALT) O’Donnell warns teens that masturbation is adultery that will undermine their future marital sex lives: “You’re going to be pleasing each other, and if he already knows what pleases him and he can please himself, then why am I in the picture?” she asks.

Lest you think the anti-masturbation ministry was a youthful indiscretion, O’Donnell was still listed as the contact person for SALT on a web directory last updated in 2009. Christina Bellantoni of TPMDC reports that O’Donnell remained an outspoken social conservative on the campaign trail.

Blessing in disguise?

Suzi Khimm of Mother Jones sees O’Donnell’s victory as a potential blessing in disguise for Democrats:

Ultimately, though, the biggest benefactor of an O’Donnell victory could be the Democratic Party, as she has a significantly weaker shot against the likely Democratic contender, lawyer and county executive Chris Coons. [...] If the GOP loses Delaware, it could completely blow its chance at getting enough seats for a Senate majority.

Adele Stan of AlterNet reports that, as of 3 o’clock on Wednesday morning, former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte was still locked in a dead heat with Tea Party favorite Ovide Lamontagne for the Republican Senate nomination. Does Ayotte’s name sound familiar? That’s probably because she made a name for herself as the anti-abortion Attorney General behind Ayotte vs. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Beth Saunders reports for RH Reality Check.

If either of these Republican nominee proves too extreme for the voters of New Hampshire, the Democrats could pick up the senate seat being vacated by Republican Judd Gregg.

Urban coal pollution is deadly

In other health news, Michelle Chen reports in Colorlines that coal pollution will kill 13,000 Americans this year, mostly in urban areas:

According to the study, fine particle pollution linked to the coal industry is “expected to cause over 13,000 premature deaths in 2010, as well as almost 10,000 hospitalizations and more than 20,000 heart attacks per year.” The estimated death toll clusters in certain industrial cities, namely New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., affirming other research showing the racial and economic implications of these urban health impacts.

The bright side is that fewer people are projected to die of coal-related illnesses this year compared to last year. It’s not clear whether we have tougher regulation to thank, or the economic slowdown, or both.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by membersof The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The AuditThe Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Pulse: Anti-Masturbation Crusader Christine O’Donnell is Master of Her Domain

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Christine O’Donnell is master of her domain. The deeply conservative Tea Party darling won the Republican senate nomination in Delaware last night with a stunning upset of establishment favorite Rep. Mike Castle.

O’Donnell rose to prominence as an anti-masturbation crusader in the 1990s. Jillian Rayfield of Talking Points Memo has video of O’Donnell’s 1996 appearance on MTV’s series “Sex in the Nineties” in which she and her colleagues from the Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth Ministry. (SALT) O’Donnell warns teens that masturbation is adultery that will undermine their future marital sex lives: “You’re going to be pleasing each other, and if he already knows what pleases him and he can please himself, then why am I in the picture?” she asks.

Lest you think the anti-masturbation ministry was a youthful indiscretion, O’Donnell was still listed as the contact person for SALT on a web directory last updated in 2009. Christina Bellantoni of TPMDC reports that O’Donnell remained an outspoken social conservative on the campaign trail.

Blessing in disguise?

Suzi Khimm of Mother Jones sees O’Donnell’s victory as a potential blessing in disguise for Democrats:

Ultimately, though, the biggest benefactor of an O’Donnell victory could be the Democratic Party, as she has a significantly weaker shot against the likely Democratic contender, lawyer and county executive Chris Coons. [...] If the GOP loses Delaware, it could completely blow its chance at getting enough seats for a Senate majority.

Adele Stan of AlterNet reports that, as of 3 o’clock on Wednesday morning, former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte was still locked in a dead heat with Tea Party favorite Ovide Lamontagne for the Republican Senate nomination. Does Ayotte’s name sound familiar? That’s probably because she made a name for herself as the anti-abortion Attorney General behind Ayotte vs. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Beth Saunders reports for RH Reality Check.

If either of these Republican nominee proves too extreme for the voters of New Hampshire, the Democrats could pick up the senate seat being vacated by Republican Judd Gregg.

Urban coal pollution is deadly

In other health news, Michelle Chen reports in Colorlines that coal pollution will kill 13,000 Americans this year, mostly in urban areas:

According to the study, fine particle pollution linked to the coal industry is “expected to cause over 13,000 premature deaths in 2010, as well as almost 10,000 hospitalizations and more than 20,000 heart attacks per year.” The estimated death toll clusters in certain industrial cities, namely New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., affirming other research showing the racial and economic implications of these urban health impacts.

The bright side is that fewer people are projected to die of coal-related illnesses this year compared to last year. It’s not clear whether we have tougher regulation to thank, or the economic slowdown, or both.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by membersof The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The AuditThe Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

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