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August 26, 2008

Lea – Live Blogging From Maryland Watch Party in Denver – Day Two!

11:16pm - This was a Hillary I don’t think I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. She was passionate. She meant what she said and she said what she meant. She evoked the spirit of Harriet Tubman when she urged Democrats in the face of adversity to “Keep Going!” I think she closed the deal, or we are at least a lot closer. Now let the pundits bicker!

Click 'Read More' below!
August 26, 2008

Diana Veiga’s reaction to Michelle’s speech

I listened to Michelle Obama’s speech on the radio last night. Yes, I had to take it old school because I had to make an airport run. There’s nothing like listening to a speech on the radio, especially a speech of this magnitude. There I was driving down the highway and envisaging Michelle’s outfit, her hair & make-up, her gestures, the venue, the colors, the audience’s reactions. I depended solely on the cadence of her voice and my imagination to tell the story that was unfolding, the history that was being made.

Click "Read More" below!

August 19, 2008

Maureen Rowland – New Contributor on Rethinking Criminal Justice

Click here to read a post by Baltimore Assistant Public Defender Maureen Rowland!
August 6, 2008

‘The myth that undermines the criminal justice system’ by Page Croyder

Read Page Croyder's latest thoughts on Baltimore's criminal justice system by clicking here.

 

 

July 28, 2008

Doug Colbert on Criminal Justice Reform

CEM is thrilled that Doug Colbert, a Professor of Law at the University of Maryland, has weighed in with his response to the articles that former Assistant State's Attorney Page Croyder has been publishing on the CEM website. Check out his article, and Page's response, by clicking here.
May 29, 2008

Vietnam Update

Hello friends,

Jessica here with an update from Vietnam.

The past few days have been among the strangest, most challenging and most wonderful of my entire life. There is no way I could even begin to do them justice in this blog post. All I can do is bring you a basic outline of what has transpired over the past few days and promise you that soon after I return home we will begin work on a documentary to bring you this amazing story.

Click "Read More" below for the story and pictures.

May 28, 2008

This is what mountaintop removal looks like



These are photos I took looking out across an active mountain removal site on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia.  It's hard to get a feel for the size of the mining site without being there.  It's even harder to imagine what it looked like in its natural state, but look at the dark green, tree-covered hills all around it to get some idea.

We'll be bringing you more about what's happening on Kayford Mountain soon, but I wanted to get these images out there right away.  Larry Gibson showed us around here.  He grew up on Kayford Mt. and now the land his family and others lived on for generations is being irreparably destroyed.  He came with his cousin that day to mow the grass in two family cemeteries that are here.  We walked past them on the way to what is now a cliff over the mining site where I stood and took these pictures.  Another of their cemeteries has already been destroyed by the mining company as they've blasted the mountain apart and carted away ton after ton of coal from inside of it.

Larry told us not to waste his time.  He wasn't showing us around for no reason; he wanted to make sure we were going to do something about what we saw.  Larry is for abolishing the use of coal altogether, despite having family members who work in the industry and are upset by his stance.  Unlike many people we spoke to who expressed support for continuing mining in a responsible, less destructive manner, Larry told us he doesn't believe it's possible to mine and use coal in a way that is not harmful.

Over and over again last week, people mentioned supporting the Clean Water Protection Act as the most important thing anyone can do right now to help bring an end to mountaintop removal.  Contact your Congressmen and make sure they support it!

Please also check out our new forum on mountaintop removal, and these two blog posts from West Virginia last week - 1 & 2.

-Justin

May 22, 2008

Hello from Hanoi!

Hello from Hanoi!


Well I see that my coworker Justin is trying to outdo me with multiple blogs from his trip to West Virginia. Since it is only 5:30 am at home and he is sure to be asleep, I will take this opportunity to do a little reporting of my own! Click "Read More" below for stories and pictures.

May 7, 2008

Dispatch from Indiana – Part 5 – Wednesday May 7, 2008

This is the fifth and final installment in CEM's series of dispatches from Indiana, courtesy of our intern Christina Arrison, who has been there working with the Obama campaign.

Last Thoughts 


It's all over, and everyone I've talked to has been pleased with the outcome of yesterday's primaries. While an outright win in Indiana would have been nice, the margin was so narrow in Indiana and he won North Carolina by so much that the night as a whole was certainly a victory. To me, though, one of the best outcomes of the primary was that it led a lot of people in Indiana to participate in politics for the first time. There were so many new volunteers coming into the campaign office who found out that it really is easy to help out. So many people were able to talk to volunteers, or to cast a vote for the first time. When I wrote my first post I was torn between appreciating the chance to give every state a voice and my worry that it would divide the party. But listening to the speeches of both Obama and Clinton last night it seems like the antagonism has been toned down, and now I'm convinced that the positives have outweighed the negatives. The work that the campaign and volunteers did during the primary didn't stop mattering when people cast their vote yesterday – come this November, and in many elections to come, the people who were energized by this primary will still be there, and hopefully will still remember that their voice matters.
May 7, 2008

Dispatch from Indiana, Part 4 Tuesday, May 6, 2008

CEM is pleased to be bringing you dispatches from Indiana, courtesy of our intern Christina Arrison, who is working with the Obama campaign. This is the fourth in the series.

Election Day!

Canvassing on election day is usually pretty fun because at that point the universe of voters you're communicating with has been narrowed to consist almost entirely of strong supporters and undecided people who lean heavily towards your candidate. It's an exhilarating feeling to go to a neighborhood and find that everyone you're talking to supports your candidate. It can make it a little more heartbreaking if your campaign loses, though, because after spending a lot of time with staffers and volunteers and talking to supportive voters, a win begins to feel inevitable. Today definitely felt like that – I walked this afternoon in a mostly African American neighborhood where at least two thirds of the adults I saw at their doors and out on the street were wearing "I Voted" stickers. Most of the rest said they were heading out later in the afternoon. It was a really great way to end my time talking to Indiana voters.

Voter Access

In terms of other election day observations, I thought that there were too many gaffes on the part of election officials. This year many polling locations were changed in Indianapolis for the first time in years, and the Obama campaign found this morning that in most of the old places there was nothing to indicate where the new location was. The campaign dispatched people to stay by the old polls and direct voters to their correct location, but while the authorities don't have a legal responsibility to post the new address, it seems to me like that's a simple step that could improve voter access immensely. Many of our canvassers also talked to people today who registered before the deadline but were told that they were not on the voter rolls. Instead of the poll workers telling them that they could cast provisional ballots, many of them were simply turned away. While the last time I was able to check the news there thankfully hadn't been reports of major problems, like running out of ballots or broken down voting machines, I'm frustrated because it seems like these minor mistakes are repeated each election. And now that I know firsthand how difficult it can be to win over each vote, and how excited many new registrants are to cast their first ballot, it angers me even more to see even one person turned away. We all need to do a lot of work before November to ensure that the voting process goes smoothly everywhere across the country.

After the Polls Close

But now that the polls have closed all there is to do is wait. And clean up. And sleep. And hopefully celebrate! I have to head back to Baltimore so I won't be able to see the returns in Indianapolis, but maybe by the time I land we'll have a winner, or at least be close to knowing. No matter what happens, I've had a great time working on this campaign, and thanks to CEM for the chance to post my observations!

May 6, 2008

Dispatch from Indiana, Part 3 Monday, May 5, 2008

CEM is excited to be bringing you dispatches from Indiana from our intern Christina Arrison, who is working with the Obama campaign. This is the third in the series.

The Night Before 

This is going to be a short one because I'm about to hop into bed to snatch a few hours rest before going back in tomorrow to canvass. The crazy Obama staffers are still at the office getting packets together for tomorrow, but they turned down offers of help so I got to come home to bed. They are going out at 3am to hang flyers on supporters' houses so they'll be there first thing in the morning when everyone leaves for work. I'll be going in around 6 to do some visibility, which can be pretty fun – standing at busy intersections with campaign signs and waving them around. I'm not sure how many votes it actually gets, but I guess any publicity is good, and maybe it will remind people to get to the polls.

Disenfranchised Voters

Today was surprisingly uneventful for a day just before an election. I knocked on doors in a neighborhood where about a quarter of the houses on my list were empty. I wonder where all of those people went to. I'm sure that many of them moved for benign reasons, but I couldn't help but think about the foreclosure crisis all day. That got me thinking about the many subtle, indirect ways that people can be disenfranchised. Home foreclosure of course wouldn't prohibit someone from voting, but it does mean that the voter probably won't receive any information from the campaigns, and switching your address for voter registration is probably the last thing on your mind if you're dealing with the trauma of losing a home. In Indiana if you moved more than 29 days before the election and didn't officially change the registration record you can't vote at your old precinct. There's also the fact that this state requires photo identification and proof of residence to vote, which low income, young, and elderly voters are much less likely to have. The recent Supreme Court decision that upholds the legality of such requirements means that even more states will probably establish similar laws. On a smaller scale, the fact that many lower income voters live in apartment complexes means that it's harder for canvassers to go talk to them, and personal contact at a door is one of the most effective ways of getting people out to vote. Last but not least, of course, there's the fact that the polls are only open until 6pm at night. And unlike many states, Indiana doesn't have a law mandating that employees must receive enough time off to vote, if their work schedule would otherwise prohibit them from going to the polls.

Huge Rally

Rather than close on that note, though, I should mention that tonight I was lucky enough to go to a huge rally downtown. We were all packed onto the American Legion mall in downtown Indianapolis. A local radio station put the attendance at more than 20,000, and the energy of the crowd was palpable. Stevie Wonder made a guest appearance, opening the rally with three songs which he played to the end despite a sudden downpour during the third number. The crowd held despite the several bursts of rain, and Senator Obama delivered a fiery version of his stump speech. It was a positive way to end the day and hopefully a good omen for tomorrow. The bulk of the work has been done now – tomorrow it's only what is called "knock and drag," where you knock on doors until you find someone who says they're planning on voting and you bring them yourself to the polling location. And so now to get some practice in, I'm going to knock off writing and drag myself to bed.

 

-Christina Arrison

May 5, 2008

Dispatch from Indiana, Part 2 Sunday, May 04, 2008

CEM is thrilled to bring you these blog posts from our intern Christina Arrison, who is currently in Indiana working with the Obama campaign. Enjoy!

7 Votes

Obama won the contest in Guam yesterday by seven votes, which was really the only thing keeping me going at 1:30 am last night after two hours of putting tiny stickers that reminded voters to bring their photo IDs to the polls onto a seemingly endless stack of doorhangers. The campaign staff and I kept reminding each other about those seven voters, thinking about how the balance of the election could hang on just one sticker, one person remembering her ID who wouldn't have otherwise, and how maybe that one vote will push us over the edge. Working in the field operation of a campaign requires that mentality, the firm belief that every vote matters. Some people think a campaign comes down to a good debate performance or a savvy piece of election mail; I think it comes down to a 1" by 2" white sticker.

Canvassing

Today I got a chance to put some of those stickers into action by going out and knocking doors. A lot of my work on the primaries so far has been the behind-the-scenes organization of the canvasses, so I really relish any opportunity to get out and talk to voters. Canvassing is one of the most exhausting things that I've ever done. It's physically tiring to be out in the hot sun walking all day, but more than that it can be emotionally draining to talk to people about a candidate I'm so passionate about and be greeted with apathy or anger. It's obviously not a personal attack on me, but after the all-night sticker marathon I'm not thinking logically today. Thankfully those people are few and far between, but I do still have the urge to go out right now and wake up the 24 year old I talked to today who said that he never votes because "change will still happen whether I vote or not." I tried to convince him otherwise but to no avail. I'm comforted, though, by the thought of two other young men I talked to today, both of whom said that they've never thought that voting mattered but that this time they feel inspired to cast a ballot.

It is a very intimate experience to go to the homes of so many strangers. Canvassing has taken me into neighborhoods of all kinds that I usually wouldn't have a reason to visit. It's given me lots of food for thought. Why is there, for example, an inverse relationship between the number of items on a house that say "Welcome" and how welcoming the owner is? Why are the front doors in the so-called "bad" neighborhoods always unlocked and wide open, while in the "safe" areas there is always at least one deadbolt fastened?

The issue of race

Knocking on doors also shines a bright spotlight onto the issue of race in this country. Race has obviously played a large role in the campaign in terms of the possibility that we could soon elect our first black president, but it also concretely affects canvassers who cross over racial boundaries to go door-to-door in neighborhoods that are in many cases still very segregated. Last week two of our canvassers, both young black men, were followed around by police in the mostly white neighborhood where they were working. When the pair was done knocking, the police car tailed them the whole way across the city back to our headquarters. Two middle-aged women from one of our unions were in a similar area today when they knocked on the apartment door of an off-duty police officer who told them they were illegally trespassing in the complex (which was not true) and that if he got one complaint from a neighbor he would arrest them right then and there. As a white woman I experience a different side of things – my blood still boils when I think of the woman in Ohio who told me she wasn't going to support Obama because she didn't think that America was ready for a black president. She leaned in confidingly and added, "But I suppose he's not all black. His mother was white."

Still, all of the negative and difficult experiences are far outweighed by positive stories that make me really believe that change is possible. Our team has had thousands and thousands of conversations with voters here in Indianapolis, and stories like the ones above are the exception, not the rule. All of the canvassers I've talked to see the chance to go into unfamiliar neighborhoods and talk to people they would otherwise probably not interact with much as an amazing opportunity to build unity, not as an uncomfortable or futile task. Our volunteers have boundless energy – the two women who were threatened by the police officer today came back to headquarters, got another packet, and went back out to knock more doors. And every time the press does another story about the "insurmountable" racial divide in the electorate, I just remember standing in Ohio with an African American coworker of mine as the union volunteers were getting ready to canvass. Most of the canvassers were middle-aged, white and male, many of them current or former meatpackers - definitely not your typical Obama demographic. She turned to me, laughed, and said, "Just look at all these white guys working their butts off to elect a black guy president. Who would have thought?"

Tomorrow's the biggest day of the campaign, so I'd better go get some sleep. In Indiana the polls are open for an extremely restrictive amount of time – 6am to 6pm. That means that most of the voter turnout canvassing has to be done tomorrow because on Tuesday there won't be enough time to catch people after work before the polls close. More on that to follow tomorrow.

 - Christina Arrison