On the Second Anniversary of Cast Lead, I Reach Out to a Young Gazan Writer

Two years ago, On December 27th, 2008, the Israeli military began their campaign, Operation Cast Lead,  against the people and infrastructure of Gaza. About 1,500 Palestinian people, the vast majority of them civilians, were killed.  Many children were killed.  Far more were wounded, traumatized, orphaned, or lost a parent, sibling or siblings.

Americans have to look hard to see the horrific details of what actually occurred during the operation that inspired many Zionist Israelis to lament afterward, “This time we went too far.”   Not that this momentary pang of guilt will keep the next Gaza event from happening.  It is already in the planning stages, according to the Jerusalem Post.

One of my strongest beliefs and hopes is that young people – Palestinian, Israeli, Jordanian, Lebanese, Turkish, Egyptian and American – can help us find a way out of this awful endgame of war in which Gazans are trapped.  The young American, Rachel Corrie, in one of her last emails before she was killed by the Israeli army in Gaza in 2003, wrote:

I spent a lot of time writing about the disappointment of discovering, somewhat first-hand, the degree of evil of which we are still capable. I should at least mention that I am also discovering a degree of strength and of basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances – which I also haven’t seen before. I think the word is dignity.

I wish you could meet these people. Maybe, hopefully, someday you will.

Since then, I’ve met many Palestinians in the USA and in the UK.  Today I introduced myself to a young Palestinian woman at her blog, I Am.  She wrote back.  I can now write about that, in hopes that now, not someday, you will meet these people too:


I posted your story at my blog, Progressive Alaska. I’d also like to post it at the American blog, firedoglake, but they probably won’t let me print your entire story, unless you say that it is OK.

I’ll pray for your successful future as a writer, and as whatever you want to be.

It was night time in Gaza when I wrote.  In the morning she replied:

Mr Philip Munger, I can’t but thank you for your great effort publishing Palestine and letting others know the truth. of course I don’t mind posting it at the American blog it will be an honor for me to have told just a little about what Palestinians have been through in here. Thank you for being here. I, we all appreciate it deeply.

I initially read Rawan’s story this morning at the blog Mondoweiss, where her article had been entered in an ongoing contest, called Gaza Two Years Later.

Here is Rawan Yaghi’s story of what happened in her mother’s arms two years ago, when she was 15 years old:

A Little Girl

Sleep in here sleep little girl
I would keep you so warm
Sleep… darling I’ll hold you so firm
You’re here in my lap no need for fright
Keep on your happy sight
Sun will shine
Birds will wake the sleepy night
You’re my….

My Mom suddenly stopped singing and stopped calmly feeling my hair. Her hand also stopped shaking. She was keeping me on her lap, trying to keep me warm in that cold night. It was too dark that I could barely see her face. She was very warm, but she gradually lost that comforting heat. I tried to keep it, so I covered her with the small blanket she was covering me with and I stayed in her lap.

Some minutes passed; however, she didn’t continue singing, and her body kept going colder. There was so much going on outside. I could hear a man weakly weeping. I thought she was listening to the sounds outside trying to know what was happening.

sat beside her, for, then, she was so cold that I couldn’t stay in her lap.

“Mama, why is the man outside crying?”.

She didn’t answer. She kept listening.

I said no word afterwards. I may have slept for a short while after the noise was a little bit lower. When I woke up I saw my mother with her eyes closed covered with my blanket. I thought she must have been awake the whole time I was sleeping, that’s why I didn’t try to wake her up; she would get in a really bad mood if I do. I poured her some water and put it in front of her. She was still cold. I was cold too but I thought she was so much colder.

I sat right in the opposite of her and kept waiting her to wake up and drink my glass of water and then thank me for it. Thinking of my dad and two brothers who got out of the house carrying a white shirt and how much noise happened after they got out, while my mother followed them so fast and came back so slow, with that noise frequently coming back, I kept staring at her cold body.

Now, two years later I understand it all, the cold, the whimper, my dad’s white shirt, my brothers, everything, even the mess outside. I understand why the men who came that morning took only me and why they wouldn’t listen to me yelling at them saying that my mother is still there feeling very cold.

A Way to Deal with (Non)Sensenbrenner?

David Dayden reports that after Ralphie “Grease in the” Hall stops being all hot and bothered by Macondo’s powerful gusher, he might get around to telling James Sensenbrenner to get after those evil climate harpies.

Here’s my ill-thought out proposal to the scientists required to testify: plead the fifth.  I.e. call their bluff, that the scientists are making false statements and/or are part of a global warming conspiracy.  Then the panel’s members (yes, members) would have to explain even to our crappy press if they are truly serious about what they are saying – that scientists are lying.  Plus, no irrelevant gotcha sound bites about climate change for the press as in the stolen email kerfuffle.

Of course, just to let everyone know the circus has come to town it would be fun for some emeritus professor to blow his top and let loose with a string of expletives aimed at the know nothings on the “investigative” panel (or maybe say “I am not and have never been a member of the communist party!”).

So anyway – would this be feasible (can they really plead the fifth)?

Resisting Gender Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex – An Interview with Victoria Law

Resisting Gender Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex

–An interview with Victoria Law

By Angola 3 News

Victoria Law is a longtime prison activist and the author of the 2009 book, Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women (PM Press). Law’s essay “Sick of the Abuse: Feminist Responses to Sexual Assault, Battering, and Self Defense,” is featured in the new book, entitled The Hidden 1970s: Histories of Radicalism, edited by Dan Berger.

In this interview, Law discusses her new article, which provides a history of radical feminist resistance to the criminalization of women who have defended themselves from gender violence. Furthermore, Law presents a prison abolitionist critique of how the mainstream women’s movement has embraced the US criminal justice system as a solution for combating violence against women.

Previously interviewed by Angola 3 News about the torture of women in US prisons, Law is now on the road with the Community and Resistance Tour.

Angola 3 News: In your essay “Sick of the Abuse,” you write that “a woman’s right to defend herself (and her children) from assault became a feminist rallying point throughout the 1970s.” You focus on the four separate stories of Yvonne Wanrow, Inez Garcia, Joan Little, and Dessie Woods. All four women were arrested for self-defense and their cases received national attention with the support of the radical women’s movement. Can you briefly explain their cases and why they were so important for the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s?

Victoria Law: Yvonne Wanrow was an American Indian mother of two living in Washington State in the 1970s. In 1972, her 11-year-old son was grabbed from his bike by William Wesler, a known child molester. He escaped and fled to the house of a family friend named Shirley Hooper, whose 7-year-old daughter had been raped by Wesler earlier that year. When Hooper called the police, they refused to arrest Wesler.

Understandably shaken, Hooper called Yvonne Wanrow and asked her to spend the night. Wanrow, who was 5 foot, 4 inches, and had recently broken her leg, brought her gun. At five in the morning, Wesler came to their house. When he refused to leave, Wanrow went to the front door to yell for help. She turned around to find Wesler, who, at 6 foot 2, was towering over her. She shot and killed him.

At her first trial, the judge instructed the jury only to consider what had happened at or immediately before the killing. This omitted (1) Wesler’s record as a sex offender; (2) Wesler’s assault on Hooper’s 7 year old; (3) His attempted assault on Yvonne’s son

Wanrow was convicted of murder and sentenced to 25 years.

However, various groups and people involved in the women’s movement and the American Indian movement had taken up her cause. They recognized that a woman had the right to defend herself and her family from assault. They held events that raised awareness, educated people, and tied her case into issues of violence against women and the systemic violence against Native people in the US. They also raised funds for her legal defense, which enabled her to have a better defense than she might have been afforded otherwise.

As a result, in 1977, the Washington State Supreme Court granted her a new trial, partially on the basis that the jury should have considered ALL relevant facts when considering self-defense. At her new trial in 1979, Wanrow pled guilty to reduced charges & received a suspended sentence, 5 years’ probation and 1 year of community service. The court decision also established that that women’s lack of access to self-defense training and to the “skills necessary to effectively repel a male assailant without resorting to the use of deadly weapons” made their circumstances different from those of men.

Two years later, in 1974, Inez Garcia shot and killed the man who had blocked her escape from rape. She was arrested and charged with 1st degree (or premeditated) murder. Like Wanrow, her cause was taken up by the women’s movement, which organized teach-ins and fundraisers and galvanized popular support with the recognition that women had the right to defend themselves against rape.

During her first trial, the judge did not allow testimony about the rape as part of the evidence. After her conviction, the women’s movement continued to rally on her behalf and hired feminist attorney Susan Jordan to take over her defense.

Two years later, an appeals court reversed her conviction because the trial judge had instructed the jury not to consider the rape

During the re-trial, Susan Jordan challenged potential jurors about their preconceptions of rape, making the assault an integral part of the case from the beginning. Garcia was acquitted. The entire jury agreed that the rape and threat of further harm were adequate provocation for Garcia’s action.

That same year, Joan Little, a black woman and the only female prisoner in North Carolina’s Beaufort County Jail, killed Clarence Alligood, a sixty-two-year-old white male guard, after he had entered her cell, threatened her with an ice pick and forced her to perform oral sex. Little was charged with first-degree murder which, in North Carolina, carried a mandatory death sentence.

Again, there was a HUGE outpouring of support from various movements, including people and groups in the women’s liberation and Black Liberation movements as well as more mainstream groups. During her trial, Little’s defense exposed the chronic sexual abuse and harassment endured by women in the jail and prison system. Countering the prosecution’s argument that Little had enticed Alligood into her cell with promises of sex, the defense team called on women who had previously been held at the jail. They testified that Alligood had a history of sexually abusing women in his custody.

Little herself testified about Alligood’s assault.

After seventy-eight minutes of deliberation, a jury acquitted Little, establishing a precedent for killing as a justified self-defense against rape.

Dessie Woods was a Black woman in Georgia who shot and killed a man who tried to rape her and her friend while they were hitchhiking. She was sentenced to 22 years. Black nationalist women took up the case of Dessie Woods, framing it as a case of colonial violence. Radical (White) feminists also took up her cause and used it as a way to challenge white feminists to examine not only sexism and patriarchy but also racism and colonialism.

However, unlike the cases of Little, Wanrow and Garcia, the larger White feminist movement(s) did not rally to her cause.

Even though she did not have the massive outpouring of support as the other three women, the prolonged support that she did have eventually won Woods her freedom in July 1981. A lawyer from the People’s Law Center challenged the use of circumstantial evidence and the use of a special prosecutor (hired by the dead man’s family). The U.S. Court of Appeals determined that there had been insufficient evidence to convict and imprison her.

The first three cases were groundbreaking in that they established legal precedents stating that women had a right to defend themselves (and their children) from sexual assault. In the case of Inez Garcia, her lawyer Susan Jordan extended the legal interpretation of “imminent danger” beyond the immediate time period, thus laying the groundwork for battered women’s defense—that a woman who kills her abuser is acting in self-defense even if she is not under attack at that time.

A3N: What impact did activism have in these four cases?

VL: The activism and organizing around those four cases enabled the women to have better legal defenses than they would have otherwise been afforded. For example, $250,000 was raised for Joan Little’s defense. Almost $39,000 was spent on social scientists who devised an “attitude profile survey:” designed to detect patterns of (racial) prejudice. The defense used their findings to win a change of venue from conservative/racist Beaufort County to Raleigh, which was key in her acquittal. Without the money garnered by supporters, Joan Little, a poor Black woman, would never have been able to have that kind of legal support. Instead, she would have been convicted and executed.

A3N: How are things different today, in 2010?

VL: We don’t see the same outpouring of support for women arrested for self-defense today. We can look at the case of the New Jersey Four, who are four Black lesbians arrested and incarcerated for defending themselves against a homophobic attack on the street. Their case has garnered support from groups working around incarcerated women’s issues and queer issues, but it hasn’t been taken up as widely as, say, the case of Joan Little or even Dessie Woods. Women who are incarcerated for defending themselves against partner violence receive even less public attention and support.

A3N: Shifting our focus to the issue of domestic violence, you write that the early women’s shelters formed by the radical women’s movement in the 1970s “utilized the self-help methods, egalitarian philosophies, and collective structures that had developed within the women’s liberation movement, striving to be democratic alternatives in which women had the space to safely communicate, share experiences, examine the root causes of the violence against them, and begin to articulate a response. However, these efforts received nowhere near the amount of attention, publicity, and support that the women’s movement paid to Wanrow, Garcia, Little, and Woods.”

Why do you think these projects, as well as court cases where women defended themselves from intimates, did not receive the attention they deserved?

VL: Then (and now), people saw battering as a “personal” issue and were reluctant to get involved. Some felt that marriage (or partnership) somehow condoned abuse. Others felt that this was not an issue that a movement could be built on. Perhaps it was also recognized that the issue could divide a movement. After all, when reading histories of revolutionary groups during the 1960s and 1970s, we see that abuse and misogyny often went unaddressed.

A3N: What did these radical activists identify as the “root causes” of violence against women were? What is your personal opinion regarding these root causes?

VL: Radical activists identified society’s misogyny and patriarchy as root causes of violence against women. They pointed out that women are most often the ones who are attacked and abused because they are often the ones with less power (both physically and in terms of resources).

I strongly agree with this analysis and feel that only when we radically transform societal attitudes around gender and power will we be able to have a world without gendered violence.

A3N: The number of battered women’s shelters grew (by 1982, there were an estimated 300-700 shelters nationally), but you write that “the increased interest in the issue by those who did not identify with the women’s liberation movement resulted in a watering down of the radical feminist analyses that led to the first refuges for battered women. These emerging institutions emphasized providing services without analyzing the political context in which abuse occurred. There was a shift from calling for broad social transformation to focusing on individual problems and demanding greater state intervention.”

How do you think this watering down and shift towards greater state intervention has since played out in later decades, leading up to today?

VL: Today, abuse is treated as an individual pathology rather than a broader social issue rooted in centuries of patriarchy and misogyny. Viewing abuse as an individual problem has meant that the solution becomes intervening in and punishing individual abusers without looking at the overall conditions that allow abuse to go unchallenged and also allows the state to begin to co-opt concerns about gendered violence.

For example, 29 states have some form of mandatory arrest policy in a DV call. There is also the possibility of dual arrests (in which both parties are arrested). In addition, many states now have “no-drop prosecution” in which the District Attorney subpoenas the battered spouse to testify with threats of prosecution if she recants or refuses.

The shift towards greater state intervention has also resulted in resources such as battered women’s shelters mirroring some of these same abusive practices (such as isolating the survivor). It also ignores ways in which the state inflicts violence upon women. I would greatly recommend the INCITE! anthology, entitled The Color of Violence, which explores various aspects of violence against women.

A3N: If you were dialoguing with those sectors of today’s anti-violence movement that embrace the criminalization approach, what are the key points you would make in arguing that prisons are not the answer? What do you think is the best way to reduce and prevent violence against women both inside and outside prisons?

VL: The threat of imprisonment does not deter abuse; it simply drives it further underground. Remember that there are many forms of abuse and violence and not all are illegal. It also sets up a false dichotomy in which the survivor has to choose between personal safety and criminalizing/imprisoning a loved one.

Arrest/imprisonment does not reduce, let alone prevent, violence. Building structures and networks to address the lack of options and resources available to women is more effective. Challenging patriarchy and male supremacy is a much more effective solution (although not one that funders and the state want to see).

A3N: Can you please tell us about recent cases of women who are facing charges or have been wrongly convicted for defending themselves?

VL: There’s the case of the New Jersey Four, whom I mentioned above.

There’s also Sara Kruzan, a 31-year-old woman incarcerated at the California Institution for Women. When Sara was 11, she met a 31-year-old man named G.G. who molested her and began grooming her to become a prostitute. By the age 13, she began working as a child prostitute for G.G. and was repeatedly molested by him. At age 16, Sara was convicted of killing him. She was sentenced to prison for the rest of her life despite her background and a finding by the California Youth Authority that she was amendable to treatment offered in the juvenile system.

There’s been a letter-writing campaign to the governor urging clemency. Sara is also up for resentencing and needs letters of support. The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth and the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) are working on publicizing and garnering support for her case. However, we’re not seeing a fraction of the support from women’s or other non-prison groups that the cases of Wanrow, Garcia and Little received in the 1970s even though you would think that her story would provoke widespread outrage and calls for release.

I recently received an e-mail from CCWP about Mary Shields, a domestic violence survivor incarcerated for nineteen years on a seven-to-life sentence for attempted murder. This past September, Mary was found suitable for release by the Board of Parole Hearings. In 2006, the Parole Board had also found Mary “suitable for release” but rescinded its decision after Governor Schwarzenegger recommended against release. This time around, the governor has until January (when his term will be up) to either let the Board’s decision stand or recommend that it be reversed and so CCWP is calling for people to send letters supporting Mary’s release.

A3N: Anything else to add?

VL: I want to remind readers that if we’re not coming up with solutions to gender violence, then the fall-back becomes relying on prisons and policing to keep women (and other vulnerable people) safe. It is also imperative to support women incarcerated for killing their abusers as well as to support battered women on the outside and to remember that abuse isolates people.

We should be working to end violence against women without strengthening government control over women’s lives or promoting incarceration as a solution to social problems.

–Angola 3 News is a new project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. Our website is www.angola3news.com where we provide the latest news about the Angola 3. We are also creating our own media projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement as torture, and more.

FDL Manning-WikiLeaks Key Articles Table

Ever since the Libby trial, FDL has been developing ways to manage “big data” — both documents and evolving narrative — as we cover stories over time. But this latest iteration has been a particular challenge. We started out working on a basic timeline of the Bradley Manning-WikiLeaks events, but found that there were so many conflicting versions of what happened it was difficult to wrestle them all into a single chronology.

The task was made all the more challenging by the fact that most of those conflicting stories were being told by one person, the principle source for almost all media stories regarding Bradley Manning: the recently institutionalized hacker Adrian Lamo, who turned his alleged chat logs with Manning over to authorities.

Before we thought we could do justice to the story in the form of a timeline, we had to deal with the primary source documents — the chat logs — which Lamo claims are the source of all his first-hand knowledge regarding Manning’s activities. We merged all the published portions of the chat logs into one version, and then documented everything that Lamo and others had said about the contents of the logs that were not contained in previously released versions. You can find that here: Merged Chat Logs

The next task was to compile all of the media that contained source material to date. Since Lamo is by no stretch of the imagination publicity shy, and has given interviews to anyone willing to sit still, that proved to be a somewhat ambitious undertaking. We have now published a sortable table of articles relevant to the Manning-WikiLeaks story, which we will continue to add material to. You can find that table here:

Key WikiLeaks-Manning Articles

The table is sortable by all fields, including date, author, outlet and title. The “content” field in the table is devoted to excerpts that contain original relevant material. After reading through, many will understand why the whole thing may be more appropriately titled “the many mood swings of Adrian Lamo.”

If anyone is interested in contributing to the data base, there are a number of interviews that are in need of transcription. The goal will be to post complete video/audio and transcript for each on a single page like this:

Adrian Lamo on CNN With Drew Griffin, 7-30-2010 (VIDEO & TRANSCRIPT)

Credit for the work done by transcribers will be gratefully acknowledged in the posts. These are the interviews that need transcribing:

Adrian Lamo at Next Hope panel:

John Draper interviews Lamo at The Next Hope:

If we’ve missed anything (and given the loquacious Lamo, I’m confident we have) drop us a note in the comments and we’ll add it.

The transcribed data will be used by Marcy Wheeler, Glenn Greenwald and others to try and piece together what actually happened — and hold journalists to a higher standard of more responsible coverage. We’ll also use it to work up a more detailed and extensive timeline of events.

Because it doesn’t appear that the New York Times and other marquee media outlets are going to stop printing Adrian Lamo’s ever-evolving gibberish like it was gospel until they are all able to see, in painful obvious detail, how his story keeps morphing over time.

Update: Many thanks to Cedar Park who already transcribed the Risky Business interview. We’re including it on the Key Articles page.

Update II: Bmull knocked out Pt. 1 of Greenwald’s intereview with Lamo.  Notes “Lamo hinted that the government took over and continued the chats with Manning.”  (second time he’s said this)

Late Night: Hope for the Holidays

Taking direct action to feed the homeless. (photo: Ryan Cook)

I moved down to the Washington, DC metro area in early September. Jobless, with my fingers crossed, I was fortunate to get an offer to join the FireDogLake team. Joyous with my new employment and the mitigation of my financial anxiety, I started to look for places that I could give back to the community. A friend recommended doing some work at Martha’s Table. Their mission is to provide nutritional, educational, and community support for the homeless. Their main focus is “at risk” children and their families. When I contacted Martha’s Table three weeks before Christmas and asked what I could do to help, they put me on a waiting list. Although discouraging, it was heartwarming to hear that we live in a country where even in times of hardship for the average household there are lots of charitable souls trying to help out during the holiday season.

I waited a week to hear back from them and decided it was time to take action. My roommate and fellow alum of Roger Williams University, Sebastian Herrick and I decided to help out in the most direct way we knew how. We went to Dupont Circle, entered Krispy Kreme in Santa hats and exited with 36 glazed donuts and enough coffee for the New York Giants. We then proceeded to walk around town handing out a donut and coffee to the homeless in DC. At Union Station we were greeted by a large group of individuals who were all incredibly thankful for our warm treats, although some people were not interested.

A couple approached us outside the train station shaking cold, strapped with backpacks, and chapped lips. They had traveled from California by foot and bus in the pursuit of happiness and new beginnings. Stranded in DC with nothing but the clothes on their back and the pins that held their bags shut, they asked if we could give them some coffee. At this point I realized that two months ago I was doing the same thing, wandering around DC hoping to find my way. I am fortunate to have the support of family and friends to assist me, and although some coffee and a donut is hardly going to change their lives, it’s a small gesture that I hope these people can continue to find wherever their travels take them.

Watercooler – Public Support Slipping For Health Insurance Mandate

photo: cobalt123 via Flickr

Less and less people think that requiring people to buy private health insurance is a good idea:

A CNN/Opinion Research poll showed that only 38 percent now favor language “requiring all Americans who do not have health insurance to get it.” Support fell six points from August, when it was at 44 percent. Opposition to the provision has risen to 60 percent from 56 in August. Support for the individual mandate was at a high in November, when 49 percent said they backed it.

Perhaps this could be a little common ground between progressives and conservatives?

What’s on your mind tonight?

NC: County Commissioner Bill James in email to colleagues – gays are 'sexual predators'

There he goes again. Billanal probeJames, a notorious anti-gay Republican Mecklenburg County Commissioner who likes to send out anti-gay screeds from his official email address, is trying to wrap up 2010 with a big finish.

Matt Comer of QNotes reports that James’s latest missive was sent to his colleagues after LGBT-ally County Commissioner Chair Jennifer Roberts requested that the commission send a letter of thanks to U.S. Reps. Larry Kissell (D) and Mel Watt (D) and U.S. Sens. Richard Burr (R) and Kay Hagan (D) for their votes to repeal DADT.

Homosexuals are sexual predators,” James wrote in one email from string of three between county board members, Roberts and County Manager Harry Jones, and provided by James to qnotes. “Allowing homosexuals to serve in the US military with the endorsement of the Mecklenburg County Commission ignores a host of serious problems related to maintaining US military readiness and effectiveness not the least of which is the current Democrat plan to allow homosexuals (male and female) to share showers with those they are attracted to.”

James added, “The US Government would not allow Hetero men and women to share showers and other personal facilities yet the leading homosexual in Congress (Barney Frank) thinks it is OK for homosexuals to do so allowing enlisted men and women to fall prey to higher ranking or more powerful homosexuals who ogle them (or worse).”

It should be noted that James has some harsh criticism for Burr, the conservative Republican who surprised almost everyone by voting for repeal. James in the email:

“I suspect Richard Burr will pay a high electoral price for his actions but whether it boots him from office next time is unknown. I know I won’t be supporting him even if he does have an R after his name.”

As far as NC is concerned, since the midterms has resulted in the first GOP-dominated state legislature since Reconstruction, James is hot to let the incoming Republicans he wants a social agenda pushed that includes a ban on adoptions by gay couples, prohibition on domestic partner benefits and raising from the dead again a marriage amendment.

We go way back with homobigot James, who is in a conservative district where he often ran unopposed. His long outrageous e-diatribes of homophobia are hard to top.

Below the fold, some classic Bill James for your entertainment. (more…)

Comparing the White Vote and the General Vote

On November 4, 2008 Senator Barack Obama was elected president, winning a substantial margin over Republican candidate John McCain. In the popular vote, Mr. Obama won 52.9% of the electorate to Mr. McCain’s 45.7%; he thus took a 7.2% margin.

Mr. Obama, however, did not do so well with white, non-Hispanic voters. According to exit polls, the newly elected president lost whites by double-digits; taking 43% of the white vote to Mr. McCain’s 55% support.

This is not anything new; for decades now, the Democratic Party has been losing the white vote. Indeed, the last time a Democratic presidential candidate actually won whites was in 1964, when Texan Lyndon Johnson delivered a landslide pummeling to Senator Barry Goldwater.

Ever since then Democrats have been in a bad way with whites:

Comparing the White Vote and the General Vote

This graph compares the Democratic share of the white vote (as found by exit polls) to their share of the total vote. The top line indicates the former; the bottom indicates the latter. The three Democrats who did relatively well with whites were Democratic candidates Hubert Humphrey, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton.

As the graph shows, the white vote generally follows the popular vote (not a surprise, given that it composes the majority of the popular vote). Nevertheless the gap between the two has been steadily widening; in the past three elections, Democrats lost whites by double-digits yet still remained competitive in the general election.

This trend can be more accurately pictured by graphing the relative “swing” of the white vote compared to the overall election:

Comparing the White Vote and the General Vote

This measurement indicates how the white electorate would have voted if an election had been tied; it is more useful than looking at the absolute vote. A candidate who lost the white vote by 40%, for instance, would generally be said to have done poorly with whites. If, however, we found out that the candidate had done even worse with the general electorate – say, losing by 45% – one could very well say that he or she did relatively well with whites.

In the last presidential election, for instance, Mr. Obama lost whites by twelve points, according to exit polls. However, Mr. Obama also won the overall electorate by seven points. Whites were therefore nineteen points more Republican than the average voter – as the graph indicates. In a hypothetically tied election, they would have voted Republican by nineteen percentage points (or a Democratic margin of negative nineteen points, according to the graph.)

This graph paints a slightly different picture of Democratic performances amongst whites. The adjustment makes Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama look less impressive (Mr. Obama, especially), while making Mr. Humphrey look really good. To be fair, the 2008 election probably constitutes more of an outlier than the start of a trend for Democrats, given Mr. Obama’s unique strength amongst minorities. Expect the white “swing” to return to a more Kerryesque point in 2016.

Finally, one must note the degree to which the white vote is influenced by patterns in the South. Mr. Obama took less than 30% of the white vote in seven states: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. This low degree of white support is not unusual for Democrats. One-sided, racialized voting patterns in this region undoubtedly skew the overall white vote to be more Republican than would otherwise be the case.

P.S. For those interested, here is a table of the white vote over time, according to exit polls.

–Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

New Medicare Regulations Empower Patients

(photo: Nathan & Jenny on Flickr)

New Medicare regulations to take effect January 1 will include a provision physicians, social workers and families pushed for. The New York Times reports:

Under the new policy, outlined in a Medicare regulation, the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment.

In truth, the consultation is not about forgoing treatment, as advance directives are equally suited to requesting life-sustaining treatment. Thus, this Medicare enhancement simply encourages communication, promotes choice, compensates doctors for important care and empowers patients.

The AP explains:

The provision allows Medicare to pay for voluntary counseling to help beneficiaries deal with the complex and painful decisions families face when a loved one is approaching death.

Experts on advance directives have stressed the importance of discussing end-of-life options before patients and families become vulnerable in a crisis. The Washington Post last year hosted an online discussion with executives from Gundersen Lutheran Hospital of LaCross, Wis., to discuss end-of-life care. A pioneer in the field, Gundersen has urged this Medicare compensation for physicians who consult with patients on end-of-life planning.