Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Mimsy Election Mailbag

Jerry Stratton, May 27, 2011

I gave more money and replied to more polls last year than I ever have before, so I’m getting a lot of mail this year. With emails, I give each person a different email address—this means that I get to see who is selling to whom. I should probably compile a table of that.

But I also get a lot of paper mail. That’s what I’m going to focus on. It’s not just Republicans; I used to give money to organizations like the ACLU, and so I get a lot of mail from Democrats who still think it’s the nineties.

July 17, 2012: United Farm Workers barf bag, La Paz
United Farm Workers barf bag

Political mail in a barf bag: the UFW appears to have a low, yet reasonable, expectation of what people will do when they read their mailings.

I get a lot of strange political mailings from unlikely organizations. Some of them don’t even have identification on the outside—they’re almost exactly spam, afraid that if I know what they’re really for I’ll ignore them. But United Farm Workers is the first organization to send theirs in a barf bag. I used to think my address gets on these mailing lists and just gets shuffled in with all the rest. Now I wonder if they know I’m a libertarian and included the barf bag expecting I’d need it.

They have reason to be concerned. The bag contains unsubstantiated stories with no indication of whether they’re common enough to base public policy on, and all to shore up a call for government health care by Barack Obama.

The first story is of “53-year-old Giumarra grape picker Asuncion Validivia”:

Asuncion Valdivia became weak, dizzy and nauseated. He couldn’t talk. He lay down in the field. The temperature was 102 degrees.

Asuncion’s 21-year-old son, Luis, and another worker rushed to his aid. Someone called 911. But a Giumarra foreman cancelled the paramedics. He told Luis to drive his father home.

They reached the emergency room in Bakersfield too late. Asuncion died on the car seat next to his son.

Well, that sounds pretty bad. The workers called 911 but the foreman took away the phone? Why was no one arrested? Interfering with a 911 call such that it causes a death? That’s probably a crime and even if not it’s going to be worthy of a lawsuit.

So I did a search on the name, and there was no lawsuit that I can find, but there is quite a bit more to that story; that’s according to the Los Angeles Times, not itself likely to skew the story against the United Farm Workers. The story is from eight years ago:

March 28, 2012: Elizabeth Warren: no outside meddlers

I’ve obviously been falling down on the job. I have a huge pile of political junk mail in manila envelopes (by month) behind me, and I haven’t blogged about any of them. I almost threw Elizabeth Warren’s “URGENT CAMPAIGN UPDATE” on the pile today.

Then I realized: I’ll bet she complains about outsiders, in a letter she sent from Somerville Massachusetts to San Diego California asking for money.

Elizabeth has… signed the “People’s Pledge,” which Scott Brown has signed as well. It says each campaign will donate half of the cost of any outside group ad to charity if the ad attacks their opponent by name. It calls on outside groups like Karl Rove’s to stay out of Massachusetts.

Thanks to the “People’s Pledge,” the power of grassroots donors like you is stronger than ever. Please give as generously as you can today…

Blah blah blah.

Outside groups, stay out of Massachusetts! But feel free to donate to my campaign if you’d like to be upgraded to the grassroots.

As an aside, I wonder who the most effective Snowball is. Sarah Palin or Karl Rove?

September 27, 2011: Barack Obama’s creepy campaign

I skipped over President Obama’s creepy email a week ago, because I really meant to focus on actual postal mailings. But his campaign is getting odd, especially combined with his “if you love me, you’ll pass this bill” outburst.

This is the message I received a week ago:

Subject: Sometime soon, can we meet for dinner?
From: Barack Obama <info@barackobama.com>
Date: September 14, 2011 9:55:01 AM PDT


Supporters like you are the reason I’m here, and the values we share have always made our organization more than just a political campaign.

So whenever I can, I want to take the opportunity to meet you. Last month, that meant I got to talk to folks in Iowa about small-business opportunities, and sit down with a group of volunteers from around the country who helped build this campaign in their communities this summer.

It turned out to be a fundraising letter—not even an invitation to a fundraiser, but an invitation to buy tickets in a raffle. Still, that’s a slightly more than deceptive subject line to be sending out. Not “a chance to meet for dinner” or “win a dinner”, but “Sometime soon, can we meet?” It isn’t quite creepy, but it’s on the verge of it.

Now, today, I got another one: “4,931 people in San Diego, CA”. What about those 4,931 people? Why is the President sending me mail about 4,931 people in San Diego?

Subject: 4,931 people in San Diego, CA
From: Jim Messina, BarackObama.com <info@barackobama.com>
Date: September 26, 2011 2:29:39 PM PDT


Here’s something you don’t have in common with 4,931 other supporters of this movement who tell us they live in San Diego, CA.

That many of your neighbors have decided to own a piece of this campaign by making a donation of whatever they could afford. For some, that meant just $5. For others, it meant $100 or more. But each had their own personal reason for giving.

Our records show that you aren’t one of the 4,931 people where you’re from who have stepped up for 2012. Now’s your chance to change that.

Make a donation of $3 or more today to support the campaign before the critical September 30th deadline.

Okay. Pretending to ask me out for dinner didn’t work. So their next step is to tell me that they’re watching me. He’s not even asking my why I didn’t feel the need to donate. He’s just saying, we know you haven’t ponied up, give us your money now! Seriously? This is the new politics? It sounds like something Mike Royko would have made fun of when I was growing up.

September 10, 2011: Michele Bachmann, Democrat

So I’ve been seriously neglecting the mailbag. I’ve probably received a thirty or forty more, including a large photo of Sarah Palin (nice) and a barf bag from the United Farm Workers (what?).

I have not, however, received actual cash, until today.

Dear Jerold,

I’ve taken the extraordinary step of enclosing a $1 bill with this letter because I needed to get your immediate attention.

You see, by the time this letter reaches your mailbox less than 23 days will remain until the end of the 3rd Quarter when I must file my Presidential campaign’s first full report to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

In order to post the strongest numbers possible, I’m launching an all-out fundraising blitz to raise $1.9 million before midnight on September 30th.

Right. She wants me to send her money, so she sent me a dollar to prime the pump. It’s a well-used dollar bill, too. I’ve often wondered, when I start receiving a ton of junk mail from some business after buying one item from them, how much they actually end up making off of me when I don’t buy anything else from them ever again. How much does each individual mailing cost? Is it really so much more than a dollar that putting a dollar in the mailing is a cost effective attention-getting tactic? It turns the twenty-five dollars I sent her last time into twenty-four dollars at most.

That question, however, is somewhat beside the point in this case: I’m not looking for a candidate in 2012 who is going to toss out money to their supporters in the hopes of getting more money back from them.

I realize it was just meant as a marketing tool; it’s been used at least as far back as Reader’s Digest, apparently, and I vaguely remember one of the record and tape clubs from the seventies using it. But that’s different than using it for fundraising. I’ve seen it before for charitable fundraisers, and haven’t liked it then either. It must work, because people keep doing it.

But it’s not exactly the right message to send for someone who wants to court the fiscally conservative tea party movement.

July 3, 2011: The crap I get

I went on a week-and-a-half vacation a few weeks ago, and when I returned I had twelve pieces of political junk mail; this doesn’t include the membership renewal request from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

  1. A huge package from Dick Armey about FreedomWorks. I thought it was Dick Cheney who had the huge package.
  2. The Drug Policy Alliance newsletter.
  3. Something from SarahPAC about the new Sarah Palin movie (which I’d like to see, but it isn’t yet playing in San Diego).
  4. A Red Crisis Update from Tom Brokaw.
  5. Something from a guy named “Romney” who wants to run for president. Dude better get in the race soon if he wants to win.
  6. Something from Compassion & Choices with a fake yellow delivery information box on the front made to look like a sticker.
  7. The National Motorists Association legislative drive.
  8. A Financial Freedom Survey from Americans for Limited Government.
  9. An orange notice from the National Rifle Association about AB 144, about the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting on the Monday just before I returned.
  10. An Urgent Warning from Howard Dean on K Street about shadowy proportional Republicans.
  11. Time Sensitive Documents from People For the American Way.
  12. A Sealed Survey to be opened by addressee only from the American Civil Liberties Union. “Do you believe government should tell you what to believe, how to live, and whom to love?” They’re making it sound like they’ve finally comprehended the dangers of government-run schools.

I was gone for thirteen days—only eleven of which were postal days—and received more than one political mailing per day. I’m not even sure why it was there on Tuesday when I returned, I told the Post Office to hold my mail, and there was a mail hold note in the mailbox. They were supposed to deliver it all on Wednesday.

I’ll go over them and see if there’s anything I feel strongly enough to write about even though they’re outdated and I’m already getting new junk in. I just thought I should catalog them to keep the Mimsy Election Mailbox complete.

July 2, 2011: Shed a tear for Democracy

I got a letter from Robert Weissman of Public Citizen on Thursday, telling me to “shed a tear for Democracy” and telling me that I must “show my outrage” over the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Public Citizen thinks that the laws the Supreme Court ruled against don’t go far enough: they want government funding of elections. Their version of Democracy is the government doling out money to candidates that meet with the FEC’s bureaucratic approval, and blocking a candidate’s supporters or an issue’s advocates from supporting a candidate in the 30 or 60 days prior to an election—when, as Roberts and Alito wrote in their concurrence, it matters most:

Congress violates the First Amendment when it decrees that some speakers may not engage in political speech at election time, when it matters most. — Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission)

Public Citizen, and others, are trying to push the idea that corporations are some sort of alien thing made up of robotic hive insects. But corporations are people. Corporations are one form of people associating together. People make decisions for corporations. People own stock in corporations, vote on corporate actions and benefit from corporate success. Further, the pre-Citizens United law is at odds with what people say they want when they say they disagree with the Citizens United. Before Citizens United, “all” a corporation had to do if they wanted to join a campaign was to hire a bunch of lawyers and accountants and media spokespeople, and form a PAC. The system seemed designed to favor larger, richer corporations over family corporations and non-profit advocacy groups like Citizens United. The law favored the very people that Public Citizen rails against.

Who is Citizens United? A non-profit advocacy group, very much like Public Citizen. Citizens United had made a documentary about Hillary Clinton and they wanted to air it during the 2008 primaries. The government, in the form of the Federal Election Commission, argued that it had the power under the constitution to prohibit the publication of books and movies if they were made or sold by corporations. As the court wrote,

The Government’s asserted interest… would allow the Government to ban political speech even of media corporations… The Government contends that Austin permits it to ban corporate expenditures for almost all forms of communication stemming from corporations.

June 8, 2011: Voter canvass on the proposed 2011 Republican Congressional majority agenda

Got a letter from Pete Sessions and the National Republican Congressional Committee today. They’re still proud to put WASHINGTON, DC at the top of their letterhead. He assures me that me and my “Republican neighbors in San Diego, Elmira, and Wofford Heights” are crucial to their success. Well, good luck with that. First, I’m not Republican. Second, Wofford Heights is well north of Los Angeles and Elmira is north of San Francisco. I’d never even heard of these places until reading his letter.

That said, most of the ten items on the “proposed 2011 Republican congressional majority agenda” are good ideas:

  1. We want to permanently stop job killing tax hikes.
  2. We want to encourage smaller businesses to create jobs by allowing them to take a tax deduction equal to 20% of their income.
  3. We want to require congressional approval of any new federal regulation that may add to the deficit and make job creation harder.
  4. We want to repeal the costly small business mandates contained in the health care law.
  5. With common sense exemptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops1, we want to roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels.
  6. We want to establish strict caps2 and save taxpayers hundreds of dollars.
  7. We want to review every current government program to eliminate wasteful and duplicative programs.3
  8. We want to end bailouts permanently and cancel the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
  9. We want to repeal and replace the government takeover of health care.
  10. We want to reform congress and restore trust by putting power back in the hands of the American people.4

But the wuss factor is high. Every one of those begins with “we want to”, not “we will” or even better “we have done”. I had momentary hopes for number five as I started typing it, but as you can see they just put a preamble in before getting to the “we want to”.

You want to cancel TARP? You want to roll back spending to 2008 levels? Great ideas. Now, attach those proposals to every single debt ceiling bill, canceling that spending out to reduce the amount we need to increase our debt by.

June 7, 2011: Russ Feingold: Progressives United Against Voter Influence

I don’t really plan on ranting about every piece of junk mail that comes through my mailbox, but this one from Senator Feingold reminds me of how campaign finance reform crashed and burned in the 2008 election. Feingold, of course, is one half of the team that helped bring us McCain-Feingold, an effort McCain is probably sorry he took part in. President Obama, who chose to forego public financing1 and go strictly with private financing—and that with serious issues of avoiding the law’s requirements, pulled in more than twice what McCain was able to get.2

Obama is now angry that the Supreme Court has ruled that voters banding together to help finance their favorite candidates is a free speech issue. Well, he probably knows that his opponent in 2012 isn’t going to be as naive as Senator McCain was. As McCain said in March 2010, “No Republican in his or her right mind is going to agree to public financing. I mean, that’s dead”3. So Obama knows his opponent isn’t going to be hamstrung like McCain was when McCain chose public financing.

Obama himself expects to raise over a billion dollars for his 2012 reelection campaign; given that he raised nearly three quarters of a billion dollars for the 2008 elections4 before he was president, it’s pretty likely he’s going to make it.

Even given the inflation under his watch, that is a lot of money. The only way the average voter can hope to have an influence in a billion-dollar campaign is by banding together with other voters. So it’s more than a bit hypocritical for Obama to complain that the Citizens United ruling “gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington—while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions” as Feingold quotes him saying across the top of this letter.

The “unregulated corporate campaign spending” that Feingold complains caused the 2010 conservative wave came from average Americans banding together into various tea party groups to pool their resources—both money and time.

May 28, 2011: Michele Bachmann, Member of Congress

Following on the heels of Mitt Romney’s letter, I received a survey from Michelle Bachmann today. Her letter starts out with “Dear Fellow Conservative”. I’ve never really considered myself a conservative even though, objectively, I obviously am one when it comes to economics. Still, she’s actually taken a risk here, even if it’s just a minor one: it’s not the generic “Dear Friend” of politicians afraid to offend any potential contributor.

What’s interesting about this letter/survey is that there’s nothing in here about any potential run for the presidency. She’s urging me to join “Team Bachmann” to ensure that:

…every member of Congress learn from the mistakes made from the “Republican Revolution” of 1994.

You see, if the historic 1994 elections taught us anything it is this: it is not good enough to be elected as a “Republican” if you are going to govern and vote as a Democrat.

She’s asking me to commit my “time and financial resources”. (In this case, $25.)

Her survey indicates exactly what policies she wants the new Republican congress to enact:

  1. Fulfilling Speaker Boehner’s promise to make the next budget fight about “trillions, not billions”
  2. Repealing Obamacare
  3. Permanently extending Bush-era Tax cuts
  4. Defeating “Card Check” and other forced Unionization schemes
  5. Eliminating earmarks that are used as enticements to pass budget busting spending bills
  6. Eliminate wasteful government programs
  7. Voting against bailouts for companies and industries that have failed in the free market
  8. Eliminating any and all taxpayer funding of abortion
  9. Voting against any proposed tax increases
  10. Protecting our 2nd Amendment right to keep-and-bear arms
  11. Passing a Balanced Budget Amendment
  12. Passing tort reform laws to end abusive lawsuits that are crippling American businesses
  13. Secure our borders and reject any “amnesty” for illegal Aliens legislation

The first promise is the most important, in my opinion—and I’m going to complete the survey to say so. I’d like to see the effort that would go to extending tax cuts into, instead, reforming the entire tax system.

To be honest, I did not have a very high opinion of Bachmann; but I do have a very high opinion of most of the above priorities. The only one I wouldn’t make a priority is ending taxpayer funding of abortion. I understand where its opponents are coming from, but the real issue is getting government out of health care. Just as with government school—where parents have a legitimate concern about what their children are being taught—government health care evokes strong emotions about what kind of health care you’re paying for.

When you’re paying for something, you want oversight on it. If the only oversight you can get is government intervention, because the way you’re paying for it is through tax to the government, then you’re going to ask for government intervention to match the changes you want. Take the government out from between the buyer and the seller, and that intervention is no longer necessary.

May 27, 2011: I believe in America

Nothing says “I take your vote seriously” like “Dear Friend”.

Monday Morning

Dear Friend,

I believe in America.

How could I not? I grew up in Detroit in the heyday of the American automobile industry. American ingenuity was all around me.

I was impressed by that same ingenuity in the business world. I was inspired by it when I served as CEO of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. And I worked to foster it when I was Governor of Massachusetts.

I recently took the first step in a run for the White House by establishing a presidential exploratory committee. Let me tell you why I have taken this step.

Yes, of course, it’s Mitt Romney, whose only savior in not being the establishment Republican in this race is that Jon Huntsman is also running. An exploratory committee? Really? Are you seriously not going to run, Mitt, if I don’t respond? What are you really exploring in this letter?

His choice of experience to tout is odd; I’d rather hear about his time as CEO of a business other than the Olympic Winter Games.

His entire letter pretty much says “establishment politician” as much as it says Republican. Much of it could easily switch “conservative” and “liberal” and still have a stirring message of exploratory American love.

As one of America’s most loyal and generous [liberals], I am asking for your early support to get our effort off to a strong start. Will you help by contributing today?

“Believe in America” is more than just a campaign slogan -- it’s one of my core beliefs. I am the son of a man who achieved the American Dream and I refuse to believe the American Dream is no longer possible.

My father graduated from college. He apprenticed as a lath and plaster carpenter. Dad always believed in America, a lath and plaster man could work his way up to running a little car company called American Motors and end up a three-term Governor.

Early on I learned that America was the land of opportunity. I grew up in an America that respected and encouraged entrepreneurs. The current administration is doing everything it can to crush our spirit of enterprise and innovation.

[Bush] is suffocating the American Dream. We must save it.

How do we do that?

By believing in America. Our future depends on it.

Yeah, I had to cheat by replacing the reference to “Washington” with a specific reference to, say, “Bush”. But very little is actually said in this letter other than, “I need your money”. Which, itself, is probably a lie. I received this letter yesterday; he’s going to announce in a few days. He doesn’t need my money to do that.

  1. <- Bureaucracy Event Horizon
  2. If I were running for president… ->