Young People Shouldn't Vote?

My hometown newspaper, the Plain Dealer, printed a story in yesterday's edition about generational differences that people experience during election season. The story goes on to give anecdotes for a handful of high school and college students in the Cleveland area who have been involved in politics this year. I've always believed that our democracy would function a lot better if more people cared and participated; and the fact that I have found other young people who have a passion about our country is encouraging. I normally try to avoid the comment section on the PD's blog, but after I caught a glimpse of the first few remarks, I noticed a disturbing trend. Among the worst are highlighted below.

The first comes from a person ironically identified as LogicalMan2:
It is very sand indeed!....Very sad that the idealistic and unrealistic 18-20 year olds get to vote. These young young people have never paid taxes, had responsiblity or experienced life yet. Speaking in general, of course, how can these young people ever cast a vote that reflects their life experiences.
Next comes from a character known only as Funkadelic:
I'm not suprised! Colleges and Universities are the liberal bastions of society. They continually poison and corrupt young minds. I should know, when I was young, dumb and inexperienced I fell into the same trap. I was led by my idealism. An idealism fed by my college professors. Professors who, for the most part, have no real-world experience. They hide behind the walls of academia, with their tenures and such, and pretend to understand the real world - they don't! When I entered the real world, the one where I had to work, pay bills and taxes and provide for myself, I quickly realized that all of that liberal idealism was worthless drivel. The real world simply doesn't work that way - not should it!
And finally, someone going by the pseudonym newskid:
I'm 28 years old and it frustrates me to no end to see these college kids (who are not THAT much younger than I) who know so little about what is really going on here. I guess that's what you get when you have liberal-agenda teachers unions and liberal-leaning college professors at John Carroll warping their minds with this stuff. Just remember all you college kiddies out there...we'll see if you feel the same way in10-20 years once you get out into the real world and actually experience a little bit of life.
I will be the first to admit that for a lot of people, college is nothing more than a bubble that is not necessarily reflective of the world around us. The idea, however, that we should discourage young people from becoming civically active because they tend to favor a liberal or progressive ideology is a major step in the wrong direction. In January I blogged about a story that made me cringe - a study that found that a majority of NYU students would sell their vote for tuition money and some would even give it up for an iPod. Even that isn't as sickening as calls to take away the right to vote for those students who actually take the responsibility seriously.

It's funny that, despite their trashing of the culture and perceived politics of higher education, you will be hard pressed to find a parent who thinks his or her kid would be better off not going to college. Yes, I am a full-time student. I also took a semester off to work full-time and work part-time when I am in school. I have seen the "real world" that critics argue college students are blind to until well after graduation, and I find the argument that my politics should shift to the right after it becomes obvious what the "real world" is all about entirely unconvincing.

Some people identify as liberal for all the wrong reasons - probably as many that identify as conservative for all the wrong reasons. It is not a problem that plagues one side or the other. There are plenty of young people with real, practical reasons for supporting particular candidates and issues in this election. To label college student as "ignorant" or "idealist" or to blame the institution of college and their professors is shallow and superficial. College is far from perfect, but until an alternative of equal or greater value exists, parents will continue to encourage and do everything to help their kids to attend college, and probably continue to complain about these issues along the way.
A controversy is brewing in the blogosphere over whether blogs are a thing of the past or the wave of the future. My last piece, The Value of Blogging, is certainly an expression of my enthusiasm for the future of the medium. Others, though, are not so confident. About a week ago, Paul Boutin posted a piece titled, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004, over at Wired, writing:
Thinking about launching your own blog? Here's some friendly advice: Don't. And if you've already got one, pull the plug. Writing a weblog today isn't the bright idea it was four years ago. The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge. Cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths. It's almost impossible to get noticed, except by hecklers. And why bother? The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.
Boutin's argument is not only disappointing because of how discouraging it is to bloggers and potential bloggers, but it makes a flawed assumption about the role that these different mediums play on the web.

Blogs are all about expressing yourself through a combination of words, pictures, audio and video. You can say as little or as much as you'd like. You can rely heavily on visuals or stick to beautifully written prose. You can use formatting, fonts, and colors to express your thoughts and organize your ideas. You can use hyperlinks to link to other blogs, news stories, or whatever is relevant. The other mediums mentioned just do not cut it.

Facebook is a great way to chat with friends, share embarrassing pictures, or write messages that you simply do not want available to the world. Most Facebook users take advantage of privacy options that allow them to decide exactly which people get to see different bits and pieces of their profile. Plenty of people say that they would not be comfortable if an academic or corporate recruiter dug them up on Facebook. Thus, Boutin's idea that Facebook is a great place to express yourself to the world just isn't realistic.

How about Twitter? I agree that microblogging is probably the hottest phenomenon of 2008. I joined Twitter in August and have been using it regularly since. I think Twitter is an indispensable form of expression, but it isn't mutually exclusive with blogging; not even close. Twitter has a 140 character limit per post; formatting and hyperlinking are not allowed; and most importantly, it only allows you to share a very simple message. Could I create this blog post using Twitter alone? If someone can figure out how, I will reconsider my point. If anything, Twitter isn't a substitute for blogging; the two are actually complements. Once this particular blog post goes live, I will more than likely Tweet about it.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Flickr could crush blogging in a second. The reality is that some people have natural writing talent, others have amazing photography talents. I am confident in my ability to write a solid blog post, but I have no confidence that I could snap photos worth any recognition. Plus, there is no reason why the two can't co-exist. Photos uploaded to Flickr can be shared through blogs, providing the ability to provide a little extra commentary and context to the shots.

Maybe there is another reason why Boutin believes we ought to quit blogging; something that has to do with blogging fame and fortune?
When blogging was young, enthusiasts rode high, with posts quickly skyrocketing to the top of Google's search results for any given topic, fueled by generous links from fellow bloggers. In 2002, a search for "Mark" ranked Web developer Mark Pilgrim above author Mark Twain. That phenomenon was part of what made blogging so exciting. No more. Today, a search for, say, Barack Obama's latest speech will deliver a Wikipedia page, a Fox News article, and a few entries from professionally run sites like The odds of your clever entry appearing high on the list? Basically zero.

That said, your blog will still draw the Net's lowest form of life: The insult commenter. Pour your heart out in a post, and some anonymous troll named r0rschach or foohack is sure to scribble beneath it, "Lame. Why don't you just suck McCain's ass."
What some critics do not seem to understand is that blogging is about more than just fame and glory; more than just having the biggest audience or a powerful ranking on Google. Blogging is about writing because you have a passion about something; it is about expressing yourself because you might be surprised who enjoys what you have to say; and perhaps most importantly, blogging is about all the little surprises along the way. Extraordinary Observations didn't always have the highest daily traffic or the most subscribers, but I was always pleasantly surprised when people mentioned something I had written. My blog has been brought up more than once in job interviews, for example. So I might not have had a ton of people reading my blog, but the respect I received from a person of particular importance was valuable in its own right.

The suggestion that trolls and professional insulters scour the web looking for hard-working bloggers to harass is unsubstantiated and, in my experience, simply not the case. Yes, there will be trolls, that is one of the nasty side-effects of anonymity of the web, but they can be controlled. Trolls flock to the unmoderated corners of the web - where they can say whatever they want and no one can do anything about it; or to places like newspaper blogs, where they can cry "censorship" or "polical motivation" if their comments disappear. For the casual blogger, the delete button works wonders for dealing with trolls - if you don't like the way someone is acting on your blog, simply delete them.

I remain unconvinced that the blogosphere is terrorized by these blog criminals. When Andrew Sullivan posted a link to Extraordinary Observations on his blog, The Daily Dish, I received dozens of positive comments, emails and messages; and virtually nothing that could be considered negative or unprofessional. Sullivan's appearance on NPR's On Point today, along with Nicholas Lemann and Tina Brown, is an excellent discussion of the role blogging plays in modern journalism and why there is still so much value to be found in blogging. Despite the people who want to put bloggers down, I know there is still love in the blogosphere, and I still believe that this is not the end, but only just the beginning.

The Value of Blogging

Andrew Sullivan's newest piece in The Atlantic, Why I Blog, is an essay that I believe will become an instant classic; a common reference point for the the habitually asked question, "why would anyone want to blog?" Writing and journalism has undergone a revolution in the past decade. Amazing as it is to imagine, only in recent years have we achieved the ability to disseminate information instantly to the world, from anywhere in the world. Anyone with something to say can say it - the gatekeepers of journalism, the publishers, editors and ombudsmen, have watched their authority dwindle in one of the greatest non-violent power struggles of modern history. Blogging has given a new life to free speech in America, allowing anyone to publish their thoughts without having to go through the long and lengthy process of actually getting it published.

Sullivan's piece in The Atlantic describes what blogging has brought to the world of professional journalism. Some of my favorite bloggers, Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein, and of course, Sullivan, are people who could be considered "professional bloggers". They spend nearly 14 hours per day, 7 days a week, with the assistance of staffers and interns, using blogs to speak to the world. They have made a career out of blogging; a career which, I imagine, is as exciting as it is addictive. Without a doubt, professional bloggers play a critical role in how the world interprets every-day events; they have the ability, maybe even the responsibility, to respond to the most important pieces of news as it hits the wires.

Not everyone, of course, can be a career blogger. So where does that leave the full-time students, the scientists, the artists, and the flight attendants, among others? Certainly there are people in the world with real passion and real knowledge about various topics; people with things to say that other people want to hear. Some share life experiences, like living with cancer, or backpacking across the globe. Others share skills and expertise, like how to manage personal wealth, or how to live a simple but fulfilling life. Artists share their work with each other, musicians posts new tracks, video-makers comment on their newest work.

Blogging, believe it or not, is hard work. Bloggers, therefore, have immense respect for each other, and they are often each other's harshest critics. They hold each other to the high standards of blogging that they create, but appreciate a well written and well put-together blog. In the past few months I have had friends who attempted to begin blogging. One asked "where do you find the motivation?"; another proclaimed "blogging is a lot of work!" before giving up on the hobby entirely. Those bloggers who have tried and failed only make the dedicated bloggers that much stronger.

Every blogger plays a unique role in the blogosphere, which turns out to be the ultimate free market. Popular and well-written blogs are rewarded with heavy traffic and voluminous reader feedback. Boring and poorly-written blogs fail to attract readers and traffic never materializes. A blogger who tries to cheat or game the system will see his or her credibility and respect disappear before their eyes. Blogging provides both a rush and a crash. Sometimes you feel on top of the world, and other times you just want to quit.

My blogging experience has been a constantly evolving over the years. The archive on Extraordinary Observations goes back to 2004, but my experience publishing to the web goes back to the 90s. In 1995 my family purchased its first computer, and a few months later, we were officially America Online subscribers. My first website was hosted by Geocities and the content was something any elementary school boy is passionate about: video games. Over the years I updated my web pages to share my passion about roller coasters, my favorite jokes, and eventually to show support to my favorite political candidates. I experimented with in the pre-Google days - primarily writing reviews of my favorite movies and posting rants about whatever gets a high school teenager fired up. Eventually, my decision to blog about "extraordinary observations" was made - and my modern blogging career was born.

Blogging will certainly continue to evolve into the future and my experience is only the beginning. Will I be sharing my blog posts with my future kids and grand kids? Will I look back 50 years from now on my observations in the context of history to understand exactly what I was thinking at some point in time? I sure hope so, because to me, that is exactly the value of blogging.

Do Cars Make Us Less Free?

In America, automobiles are portrayed as symbols of freedom. Cars are supposed to idolize “freedom of mobility” and “rugged individualism”. Auto supporters tell us that owning a car means going wherever you want, whenever you want, living wherever you want, and without anyone to stop you. It is no surprise that car commercials do everything in their power to reinforce this ideology. Unfortunately, I believe we are no longer at a period in time when a car is the ticket to freedom – quite the opposite, actually. The car represents a host of problems for society – sprawl, pollution, and traffic, among others; but the car now also represents a problem for individuals – loss of freedom and independence.

My analysis begins with the following thought experiment:

When Southwest Airlines took to the skies in the 1970s, they marketed the “freedom to fly”. The new company believed that it should be cheaper and easier to fly to various destinations than to drive, giving people who couldn’t afford the legacy air carriers the “freedom” to travel to new places. Now imagine that at some point during the 1980s, society had invented a personal airplane that could take off and land from just about anywhere, and which could get you from any point to any other point slightly faster than commercial air travel. At first, these private planes would be a luxury to the few who could afford them, and they would be extremely convenient as well. But what would happen as more and more people bought these private planes? You would probably imagine that the sky would get clogged with planes, that there would be a lot of accidents and deaths, that it would be extremely expensive to maintain and operate your plane, and that it would be horribly problematic if the plane broke down when there was someplace you needed to go. As more private planes took to the sky, commercial airlines would feel pinched. They would cutback service and raise fares. Most (if not all) would fail and go out of business. In the end, if there was commercial service at all, it would probably be operated by the government as a social service and at a loss.

The scenario above is easy to imagine because it already happened once in our history. The fictional story above is an interpretation of what happened to mass transit systems in America (think old city streetcar networks) with the rise of the automobile.

My primarily objection to car ownership is that it limits our individual freedom in several distinct ways; among them:

Reliance - because of how the social landscape of the last several decades has played out, cars are now unarguably a necessity of life for a majority of Americans. Politicians rant and rave about the cost of food and gas prices - as if the gasoline in your tank is as critical to life as the food you put in your body. According to a 2006 Pew Research publication, however, fewer Americans enjoy driving despite (or perhaps because of) doing more of it. Our reliance on cars is clearly demonstrated when our vehicles experience inevitable maintenance problems. When a person loses access to his or her car for a few days, or god forbid, a week or more, the person questions how they will live their daily life. How will they get to work? Take the kids to school? Bring groceries home from the store? Rather than becoming more independent, we have become slaves to our cars. The fear we have of not having a car available at all times has led to the number of registered vehicles greatly outnumbering registered drivers in America over the past several decades.

Cost Constraints – according to AAA, the average cost of car ownership is close to $8000 per year; and according to a recent report published by Reconnecting America, Americans in car-oriented cities like Atlanta and Detroit now spend, on average, more per year on vehicles than they do on housing. Stories about Americans losing their homes and living in cars are written to evoke sympathy, but they validate the disturbing point that some would rather call a parking lot home than sell the vehicle for rent money. What we spend on cars is a lot of money to a lot of people; and the amount we spend on our cars is the amount of disposable income we don't have to spend on things we enjoy. The money we spend maintaining and operating our cars is money we can't spend on going to the movies, a sporting event, or concert; giving to charity; or paying off student debt. In essence, it is money we can't spend being ourselves - and that doesn't seem like freedom to me.

Lack of Alternatives - how we move ourselves from one place to another has become one of the most important issues of our time. When it comes to local transportation, the options are auto, bicycling, walking or transit - although in most places across America, bicycling and transit are either not available or not realistic options. According to the American Public Transportation Association, only 54% of households have access to transit. For others, they choose to live too far from the places they need to go to walk or bike; and for some, bicycling and walking aren't realistic due to underdeveloped infrastructure. Excessive car ownership in many American cities and strategic planning centered around car ownership has effectively killed alternatives to driving and the freedom to choose a life that doesn't center around the car.

Let me make it clear that I am not suggesting that the automobile has been anything but an amazing technological advance or that it isn't responsible for much of the economic progress this century. Nor am I suggesting that car ownership is bad in every instance or that we should eliminate it. There will always be those who love cars, love driving, and would be willing to pay any price to do it. The infrastructure we invested in over the past few decades can continue to hold value into the future - but it is inadequate; and we will begin to face choices about whether to simply throw more money at its expansion or to consider a fundamental change.

What I am suggesting is that we should take a step back and rethink whether a society where vehicles are necessary for everyday life is ideal, or whether we ought to work towards an end that makes alternatives available and increases the choices we have for how to live our lives.

Car ownership is a challenging issue because of the intricate link between driving and its alternatives. Over the summer I blogged about how less driving is killing public transit, underscoring the idea that the two compete with each other and emphasizing that they are actually inextricably linked. The issue is also challenging because it questions what we believe will make us happy. A lot of people will say that life without a car is one they can barely imagine - of course, it is hard to imagine otherwise when life with a car is all they know. I am a skeptic when it comes to asking people about what makes them happy because I truly believe there are too many instances in which we simply aren't in a position to know how alternative realities will make us feel.

Ultimately, we need to address philosophical questions over what American society should look like, psychological questions over what makes us happy and what we thing makes us happy, and practical considerations over how to fund and implement the infrastructures of the future. With the energy debate heating up and with the future of cities at a critical turning point - now is the perfect time to address whether or not society wants the car to be as integral a part of the next 50 years as it has been of the past 50.

Eaton Corp's Big Move

Last month I voiced my criticism to the leaders of Cleveland for failing to keep Eaton Corporation in the city and instead allowing them to slip into the suburbs. Newly released documents, as reported by the Plain Dealer, indicate that it may have actually been Eaton who made demands that simply couldn’t be met. I still stand behind the contention that Eaton’s move to Cleveland’s suburbs is neither good for the city nor the region as a whole; but I also wonder whether the move is even in Eaton's own self-interest?

If my theory on demographic shift is correct, Eaton will have an increasingly difficult time attracting high quality young talent to its new corporate headquarters. First because talented young people are more apt to leave the NE Ohio region if exciting urban opportunities become sparse in Cleveland, and also because those who do stay in Cleveland will be more likely to opt for a similarly challenging and rewarding career in the city than they are in the suburbs.

Plus, what about Eaton’s out of town clients and visitors? Instead of being a quick RTA ride from the airport to downtown, visitors will either have to spend time at the Cleveland Airport’s wonderful rental car terminal or pony up for a cab ride to the new headquarters almost 20 miles away. Instead of dining at impressive restaurants like Lola, Johnny’s or Hyde Park, they will have the choice of Olive Garden, Maggiano’s or Bahama Breeze. Instead of staying at the Renaissance, Ritz-Carlton or Hyatt, visitors will get to choose between the Courtyard-Marriott, Hampton Inn or Embassy Suites. Instead of a view of the city and the lakefront, visitors will get a view of the intersection of two interstate highways. Instead of entertaining visitors at Playhouse Square, Hilarities Comedy Club, an Indians, Cavs or Browns game, or being a short ride on the new RTA line from Severance Hall and world famous museums, visitors will be entertained by whatever fun event might be happening out in the suburbs.

While I admit the examples above are somewhat exaggerated, they still demonstrate the distinction between working in the city and the suburbs. If the movie Office Space showed us anything, it is how soulless, depressing and mind-numbing it can be to work in a suburban office campus. The thought of having to get in a car and drive miles to get to corporate chain restaurants and fast-food places during a lunch hour makes me cringe; the inability to easily meet a friend from another company during the day makes me sad; and the idea of having to drive to an out-of-the way bar for an after-work happy hour makes me frustrated.

I don’t know every detail that went into Eaton’s decision to move to the suburbs. They obviously believe the move is in the best interest of the company; and at this point, I can really only express disappointment for myself and similarly minded people.
Having watched various newspapers and magazines make their presidential endorsements over the past few months, I anxiously awaited to hear what the editors of my local paper, the Plain Dealer, had to say. I give the Plain Dealer credit for endorsing Barack Obama for President today, but I have a few concerns to address. The Plain Dealer has had a not-so-impressive endorsement history in recent years. They endorsed George W. Bush in 2000, writing:
Bush possesses a quality his opponent, Al Gore, cannot claim: authenticity. After nearly eight years of the Clinton-Gore administration, we believe Americans long for leadership that will not hide behind the absence of a 'controlling legal authority' to justify its actions.
Then the PD made a controversial decision in 2004, endorsing no one:
After nearly four years spent watching George W. Bush as president, and after a year of watching Sen. John Kerry campaign to oust him, we have decided not to add one more potentially polarizing voice to a poisoned debate. We make no endorsement for president this year.
So it seems like a victory for Democrats that Barack Obama won this year's Plain Dealer endorsement. That is, of course, until you dig into the endorsement itself.

The Plain Dealer's editors begin with a discussion about what kind of leader America needs. The editors conclude by saying, "Barack Obama can be that leader". The PD then goes into an endorsement of essentially both candidates, writing:
We find much to admire about both Obama and McCain. Obama's background is an only-in-America amalgam of Kansas and Kenya, Hawaii and Indonesia, Harvard Yard and Hyde Park. McCain is every bit as much a biographer's dream: a son and grandson of admirals who embraced their tradition of service, then forged his own through war, the Hanoi Hilton and 26 years in Congress. Traveling very different paths, each man has come to know and to benefit from the best of this country. Having endorsed McCain and Obama in their respective party primaries, we have little doubt that either could serve capably as president. Certainly, either would be a huge improvement over the incumbent.
The endorsement ends with these sentences:
Electing any president involves a leap of faith -- a risk. Such is the power of the office. For a country in need of a new direction and a new tone, Barack Obama is a risk worth taking.
To me, despite the headline, the Plain Dealer's editors make anything but a ringing endorsement of Barack Obama; which makes me wonder, what is the PD afraid of? Are they hedging their bets in case Obama turns out to be a dud, like their endorsement of Bush in 2000? Are they trying to evade responsibility for their endorsement by calling Obama a "risk"? Are the editors at odds with the publisher again, as was the case in 2004? Is this a compromise piece intended to praise and criticize both candidates without making an endorsement that is contrary to the endorsements made by an increasing number of newspapers this year? Maybe the PD is intimidated by the people in the comment section of their website who threaten to cancel a subscription based on one endorsement or another?

One other matter that bothers me is what the Plain Dealer's endorsement doesn't mention: any issues! There is no mention of energy, taxes or foreign policy. No mention of which candidate has better policies to help cities like Cleveland; and no mention of which candidate is better at breaking from Bush's policies. Having read over a dozen endorsements of both Obama and McCain these past few weeks, I am confident in saying that the PD's is one of the weakest and least convincing endorsements to date.
In the battleground state of Ohio, Barack Obama can use all the help he can get. Obama has made great progress in other rest Rust-Belt states over the past few weeks. McCain has basically conceded Michigan; and thanks to Joe Biden and Hilary Clinton campaigning heavily in Pennsylvania, Obama has moved into a double digit lead in the Keystone State. Despite similar economic and cultural conditions in Ohio, Obama is struggling to generate momentum, and unfortunately, Cleveland's Democratic leaders are not doing him any favors.

Cleveland's Democrats have had issues for years - but the past six months have pushed skepticism to a new high. Beginning in June, the Plain Dealer ran a front page story detailing Cuyahoga County's political machine, headed by county auditor, Frank Russo. The Plain Dealer's report found that nearly a third of county employees had political connections to Russo.

A month later, the FBI and IRS raided county buildings in a corruption case targeted at Frank Russo and his political sidekick, Jimmy Dimora. The icing on the cake probably came when Democratic leaders, including Ohio's governor, expressed the opinion that this combo should leave public service for good.

Since the raid, other Democrats have been tied, either fairly or unfairly, to the corruption case. And the Democrats' problems aren't limited to corrupt county government officials. A few weeks ago I criticized Cleveland's city leaders for their inability to keep Eaton Corp. in the city. Eaton is one of many incidents that have caused me, and others, to lose faith in local leaders.

Tip O'Neill once famously declared, "all politics is local," suggesting that a nation is merely an aggregation of cities and towns, and what happens to people in those cities represents their opinion of the broader nation. At the end of the day, Barack Obama represents something radically different than Cleveland and Cuyahoga County's leaders. Obama stands for change, Cleveland's Democrats stand for more of the same. Obama stands for energy, hope, and new ideas; Cleveland's Democrats stand for failed policies and corruption. The only thing they really have in common is the affiliation under their names on the ballot: DEMOCRATIC.

Immediately after the federal raid, the Plain Dealer attempted to analyze the impact the events would have on the presidential election. The PD writes:
And there is a bigger prize to be contested -- the presidency. But observers are confident Democratic hopeful Barack Obama will avoid the surefire onslaught of local references to Democrats and corruption.

"Nobody's going to vote for McCain based on what happened at the county," Commissioner Tim Hagan said on Tuesday. An Obama spokesman agreed. "The choice Ohio voters face this November is between Barack Obama, who will bring about real change in Washington and stand up for middle-class families, or John McCain, who will continue the same failed economic policies of the Bush administration," the spokesman said.
While the talking points may be mostly true, there are several important things to consider. First, Ohio is a state where literally every vote matters. A few thousand votes has the ability to swing the state one way or the other. Second, Obama may not lose support of Democrats who are disgusted with Cleveland's leaders, but he may fail to pick up moderates or disgruntled Republicans who have not been impressed with Bush era Republicans. Third, Obama loses any endorsement value that he is able to get in other places. Finally, even if more voters in the Cleveland area vote for Obama this year than John Kerry in 2004, it isn't proof that Cleveland's Democrats escaped doing damage, because we can never know how many votes Obama would have received otherwise.

Voters in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and the surrounding area have legitimate reason to ask why they should trust the Democratic Party to run the country when the same party is basically incapable of running the local government. In a state where Obama needs as much support as he can get, the local skepticism certainly is not doing him any good.

Mixing Sports And Politics

Sports and politics each have their own sections in newspapers and for the most part are completely segregated aspects of people's lives; so it is always interesting to see what happens when the two are mixed together.

Sarah Palin received the honor of participating in the ceremonial puck drop at tonight's Rangers/Flyers game. The response was probably not exactly what America's "hockey mom" was hoping for.

Frankly, I find the crowd's reaction very similar to the one Washington Nationals fans gave to George W. Bush when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the new Nationals Park last spring.

Whether professional sports teams want to invite controversial politicians to be part of sports ceremonies is up to the team and the owners. I really wonder if inviting someone who gets booed off the ice or the mound ends up doing more harm to the team than good?
Throughout my life I've known a lot of conservatives. You know, the kind of folks who believe in smaller government, lower taxes, fewer expenditures, a hands off approach by government in the lives of everyday people... I don't always agree with these people, but I understand where they are coming from and I usually am willing to have a discussion about various issues. For the most part, they support and vote for Republicans.

I recently saw this video that was shot outside a John McCain rally in Pennsylvania and wondered, "would a sane conservative feel comfortable around this mob?" Someone might be completely opposed to Obama's proposed policies, but would he or she be embarrassed to stand next to people blasting Obama as a Muslim and a terrorist and a commie?

I attended some political events in 2004 when Ohio was ground zero for political campaigning. Granted, there are always going to be some crazies at any political rally, but I never saw the level of hatred and unsubstantiated ad hominem attacks that have been occurring at McCain rallies over the past few days, attacks that YouTube has put on display for the world to see. Regardless of what I think about a particular candidate or the opponent - I would be embarrassed to be associated with a mob behaving the way the one above is.

Update: During a McCain rally today, the Senator asks his supporters to show some respect for Obama and goes on to call Barack a "decent person". The crowd's response?

Update 2: Michael Schaffer compares his experience at an Obama rally in inner-city Philadelphia to footage of rallies like the ones above.
Obama is due just after 1 p.m. The mood in the long lines to get into the five blocks in front of the stage is the precise opposite of the surly scenes outside GOP rallies that have made the rounds on YouTube over the past week. It's hard to get anyone to say a nasty word about anything. References to John McCain are conspicuously absent from signs and buttons and sidewalk conversation. "Look how beautiful this is," says Elsa Waldman, 26, a midwife, whose poodle is clad in an Obama shirt. "There's babies, old people, people in wheelchairs. Historically, us young people don't get and vote. It's so exciting." This is what it feels like when your candidate is running downhill: You get to babble about excitement, and not about conspiracies involving opposing candidates' religious backgrounds or voter-registration tactics.