Category Archives: Political Blather

Personal Reflections on Dr. Martin Luther King’s Legacy

My dad, Ray Granade, is a history professor. Back in 2011, he spoke at the start of school about his experiences growing up in rural Alabama during the Civil Rights era. I’m sharing it as I did with Johnny Wink’s similar talk because it captures a time and place that is at once far removed from today and yet not far enough removed.

At year end, the world’s last processor of Kodachrome film, Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, processed its last rolls. If, like me, you considered Kodachrome 25 the world’s color film standard, you probably noticed.

I was born in the Cradle of the Confederacy in the Heart of Dixie and reared in a small south-Alabama county-seat town of three thousand with a racial divide about 55-45 white. I married a native. My father grew up an hour above Mobile. My mother’s parents lived in Montgomery until their deaths in 1989; that city of just over 100,000 with its roughly 60-40 white racial divide was my second home.

Until the mid-1950s, my father occasionally preached at Evergreen’s black Baptist church; black pastors never preached in ours. Sundays were strictly segregated, like all other formal social settings. Our movie theater had an outside entrance to the balcony, where blacks sat after buying tickets in the alleyway. Whites had two schools along town’s main highway; blacks had two newer ones in “the black section.” Black businesses occupied three storefronts—Gant’s grocery, a barbershop/beauty salon, and a windowless pool hall—where Cary Street left town’s block-long business district. The black undertaker embalmed at the white funeral home but conducted wakes at the deceased’s.

Only in retrospect did I recognize this as a halftone world, where everything appeared only in black or white. Soil was black, cotton white, milk white, Coke and coffee black. Few things, like automobiles and people, came in both black and white. Everything also carried moral weight, a message I absorbed at every Sunday service, Wednesday night prayer meeting, and Saturday matinee. Cowboys’ white or black hats denoted whether they were good or bad. That halftone depiction simplified relationships in a complex reality becoming ever moreso. Things simply were what they were and, despite flaws, were fine as they were. That was not true in my grandparents’ hometown.

Dexter Avenue ascended six blocks of Goat Hill from fountain square east to state capitol. Six blocks south from the fountain, along Perry Street, sat the Governor’s Mansion; my grandparents lived around the corner toward town. My younger cousin, Jimmy, and I roamed Montgomery at will, playing at Perry Street Park or following Perry past First Baptist Church to the Carnegie Library or Dexter’s stores. Three and a half blocks uphill from that intersection, a block and a half below the capitol, sat Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

When I was nine, twenty-five-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. became that church’s new pastor. At the end of 1955, he began a year-long boycott of segregated Montgomery buses, occasioned by the arrest of Montgomery seamstress and NAACP secretary Rosa Parks. My grandmother employed no domestic, so the boycott lacked direct personal impact. But Montgomery’s atmosphere changed. Jimmy and I discovered that King’s church did not want young white boys inside its doors; we also found our freedom of movement severely curtailed. Suddenly I learned what it meant to have my comings and goings closely watched and to render an accounting of my time whenever required.

Simultaneously with the boycott, blacks won a legal battle to prohibit the University of Alabama from rejecting an applicant on the basis of race. Autherine Lucy became the first black to enroll. She and the boycott prompted my first thoughts about race relations.

Two years later, in 1958, liberal, NAACP-endorsed Alabama Circuit Judge George Wallace opposed Ku Klux Klan-endorsed John Patterson for Governor and lost decisively. That year’s blockbuster, “South Pacific,” had us singing “Some Enchanted Evening” but not “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”—unless we focused on “You’ve got to be taught to be afraid/Of people whose eyes are oddly made,” and ignored “And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade.” Alabamians didn’t protest the movie; its message didn’t even register, despite King’s efforts to sensitize us.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott made King’s name a household one, but not in an Evergreen caught up in the Civil War Centennial after 1960. I discovered independently what I would later read from a Southerner’s pen: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Evergreen’s elaborate pageant depicted brave youth leaving for that war after chalking their names on a chimney in the former county seat’s pre-eminent home. My character inscribed his name first.

A year later, Alabama elected demagogue George Wallace as Governor. When asked why he started using race, Wallace replied, “You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened.” He took the oath of office in January, 1963, standing on the bronze star marking where Jefferson Davis became Confederate President. Everyone remembered Wallace’s last inaugural line: “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” As a senior, I played a bass drum in his inaugural parade.

I attended college in the north Alabama city reputed to be one of the nation’s most segregated. Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth vainly addressed Birmingham inequities, but it lived up to its nickname “Bombingham.” During my lifetime, it had averaged three racially connected dynamite blasts annually. Recent ones had targeted Shuttlesworth’s home, twice, and church.

King joined Shuttlesworth’s Birmingham efforts the spring before I began college, scant months after Wallace’s inauguration. He planned marches to elicit over-reaction from Public Safety Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor. Connor obliged, turning firehoses and police dogs on marchers and bystanders alike. Marchers dwindled as jails filled. King recruited students into what would be dubbed “The Children’s Crusade.” National media, attracted by King’s presence, celebrated children’s courage as they faced firehoses, dogs, and jail with other marchers and King. May and the crisis ended together, but King’s non-violent message had broken down in Birmingham.

In June, Wallace briefly “stood in the schoolhouse door” at the University of Alabama to deny admittance to Vivian Malone and James Hood. That August, King led the “March in Washington for Jobs and Freedom” and delivered what would become his most famous speech, one line from which struck me: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

I began school that fall with more than the usual trepidation. In Birmingham, I saw my first mixed-race couple. Birmingham public schools began integrating. Violence continued. Civil rights lawyer Arthur Shores’ home was bombed a week before King spoke his dreams in Washington, then again a week after King’s speech. The third September Sunday, two weeks after King’s speech, another bomb obliterated much of the 16th Street Baptist Church, headquarters of and main staging/rendezvous point for the recently-completed campaign. Four young girls died. For the only time in my life, I felt the need to go, and went, armed.

Two months after the church bombing, I learned from students huddled around a transistor radio at the library’s front desk that Oswald had shot Kennedy in Dallas. When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 the summer after my freshman year, the Justice Department made my favorite Birmingham barbecue place, Ollie’s, its test case. Ollie’s closed.

I joined the Male Chorus, the only musical ensemble which required no audition. My sophomore spring, three of us—Ted Stephens, Larry Draper, and Owen Lay—were among the 2,000 Alabama National Guardsmen federalized to help guard the fifty miles from Selma to Montgomery. King talked again of equity and equality. Ted, Larry, and Owen told stories from the march route. More importantly, I read about and watched local police and state troopers use billy clubs and tear gas to repel marchers at Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge on the cold March day known as “Bloody Sunday.”

My junior year, a sociology teacher warned our class that King’s tactics had brought down a government, implying that ours was endangered. A John Birch Society billboard, sporting the legend “Martin Luther King, Jr. in a Communist training camp in Cuba,” obscured the view as one drove from my school past Vulcan’s statue and descended Red Mountain to the city proper.

When I left for graduate school in 1967, most of my authority figures had labeled King a Communist and “outside agitator.” I had heard stories about the private lives of public figures. I had more questions than answers. But I had lived through the emotional and political high water mark of the civil rights movement on the ground where much of it took place during one of America’s most confrontational, polarized, and paranoid eras. My experience changed my worldview from halftone to grayscale. No longer were things cut-and-dried, no longer “just the way they were.” And that line from King’s speech kept nagging at me.

By my first graduate school spring, the 1968 Presidential race was fully underway. George Wallace ran for the American Independent Party; Bobby Kennedy sought the Democratic nomination. Martin Luther King, Jr. promoted the cause of Memphis sanitation workers. On my birthday, a man who shared my uncle’s name shot King. In the widespread riots following King’s assassination, someone firebombed the corner grocery by FSU’s married student housing. The embers were barely cold before the owner nailed a big “Wallace for President” poster to a charred doorpost. Two months later, Bobby Kennedy was shot. Two months after that, antiwar protesters disrupted the Democratic Convention in Chicago. In November, Richard Nixon became a minority President as Wallace carried Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Florida State English History teacher Michael B. Pulman introduced me to racial colorblindness.

In the next few years in Arkadelphia, I would hear Bill Terry’s stories of marching with King in Alabama and Johnny Ware’s about a black teen’s Vietnam experience. I would first hear Paul Simon’s song “Kodachrome.” I would see Wallace shot in Maryland as he ran again for President. And I would later hear him announce that he was a born-again Christian, apologize to black civil rights leaders for his earlier segregationist views (saying that he had once sought power and glory but now realized that he needed to seek love and forgiveness) and admit, fifteen years after his stand in the schoolhouse door, “I was wrong. Those days are over and they ought to be over.”

Racism is a differentiating mechanism, one of many that we all use daily to make sense of our world. “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” warns that teachings “before you are six, or seven, or eight,” remain with you forever. Just as recovering alcoholics count the time since their last drink, so recovering racists count the time since their last reaction. Martin Luther King Jr.’s was one of many voices that helped me discover an antidote to racism, something that doesn’t cure but counteracts its poison. King’s legacy, for me, lies in that one line that so struck my ear, though it meant something only in retrospect, and only in chorus with others of similar import. A grayscale worldview has its advantages. But God wishes for us, I believe, a Kodachrome worldview. He wants us to see “those nice bright colors,” to borrow Paul Simon’s phrase, to recognize and celebrate “red and yellow, black and white.” It is not a matter of training, but of choice. We can eschew the racist default, the prejudice of that particular differentiating mechanism. We can choose, to use King’s line, to judge by the content of one’s character rather than by the color of one’s skin.

White House Fashion

Yesterday, Marketplace ran a fascinating report talking to author Kate Betts about how the White House is influencing fashion.

Ryssdal: [Y]ou call it “approachable” at one point in this book. And I’m going to quote a friend of yours, you got an exchange from her at one point. Mr. Obama had been seen in a sort of informal jacket or something, and this friend of yours wrote to you and said, “You know what, I don’t want my Presidents to be approachable.”

Betts: Well, that’s interesting because the President has such an historic place, obviously, in this country….

Ryssdal: Do you see that being reflected in fashion trends and in style trends?

Betts: Oh absolutely. His use of color, the way he wears such beautiful colors so easily. Designers for spring have completely embraced that idea and you see color all over the runways….

Ryssdal: There are those that will listen to this interview and hear that it’s about style and fashion and clothes and kind of dismiss it as not substantive.

Betts: For some reason in this country there is this notion that style and substance should occupy two separate planets, really. And I think that actually Barack Obama is proof — living proof — that you can be stylish and substantive and you don’t have to make excuses for one or the other.

Oh, silly me, I got that wrong — the entire interview was about Michelle Obama. I should have realized, given how much discussion of First Ladies revolves around their sartorial choices. Next time I’ll remember that articles about Presidents are about what they’re doing and articles about First Ladies are about what they’re wearing.

Lazarus May Be Starving, But Dives Feels Poor

The AP today reported that, based on the 2009 census data, the gap between rich and poor in the US has continued to widen. It’s been driven by two factors: rapidly-rising incomes of the top earners, even during the depression, and a mirrored increase in the US poverty rate. The end result is that we have more people in poverty than ever before, increasing social stratification, and an income gap that puts us near the bottom of industrialized countries.

Hm, I wonder if there’s some recent news that could throw this into stark relief.

Democrats and Republicans are locked in a game of political chicken over George W. Bush-era tax cuts due to expire at the end of the year. Democrats want to extend the tax cuts only for individuals earning less than $200,000 or couples making less than $250,000. Republicans want to extend the breaks for taxpayers in all income brackets.

Goodness. Couples making over $250,000 a year represent about 1.5% of all Americans. It’s four times the US median income, or some 17 times the amount of money a couple can make and be considered poor. Surely these couples recognize their truly privileged situation?

I, like the president before me, am a law professor at the University of Chicago Law School, and my wife, like the first lady before her, works at the University of Chicago Hospitals, where she is a doctor who treats children with cancer. Our combined income exceeds the $250,000 threshold for the super rich (but not by that much), and the president plans on raising my taxes. After all, we can afford it, and the world we are now living in has that familiar Marxian tone of those who need take and those who can afford it pay. The problem is, we can’t afford it….

We pay about $15,000 in property taxes, about half of which goes to fund public education in Chicago. Since we care the education of our three children, this means we also have to pay to send them to private school. My wife has school loans of nearly $250,000 and I do too, although becoming a lawyer is significantly cheaper….

Like most working Americans, insurance, doctors’ bills, utilities, two cars, daycare, groceries, gasoline, cell phones, and cable TV (no movie channels) round out our monthly expenses. We also have someone who cuts our grass, cleans our house, and watches our new baby so we can both work outside the home. At the end of all this, we have less than a few hundred dollars per month of discretionary income.

Well, goodness. I can understand how hard it must be to make ends meet, what with private school, a lawn service, a cleaning service, and a nanny. It’s hard not to be poor when you have to pay for all of these.

Okay, this was just a Chicago law professor. I’m sure it’s an isolated–

Picture, if you will, my lawyer friend, Caitlin. She’s a mid-level finance associate at one of New York’s biggest lawyer factories. She’s been at the Big Law game long enough to be depressed on the good days and on the hunt for sturdy noose material on the bad days—which is to say most days. But, as luck would have it, after months of furtive interviews, she finally got an offer a couple of weeks ago to go in house at a media company that most people I know, including me, would kill to work for….

“It’s just…I’m just afraid…” She darted her eyes around and leaned in closer, lowering her eyes.

“I’m just afraid of what it’ll be like to feel…” she whispered, “…poor.”

The offered salary of the new in-house gig? $120,000 a year.

And now, a couple of weeks later, I’m still not sure what’s more disturbing: the fact that this friend—a worldly, educated, smart, able person—truly thinks that a single lawyer living in New York City on $120,000 could feel “poor” — or that fact that she’s absolutely right.

No. Just no. It’s no fun feeling poor, but feeling poor isn’t being poor any more than feeling like I can fly makes me an airplane. Feeling poor isn’t having to choose between a doctor’s visit or food for your family. Feeling poor isn’t wondering when they’ll get around to cutting your electricity. And that’s just in comparison to the US’s genteel version of poverty.

I’m sorry that the Chicago law professor doesn’t feel rich because he’s surrounded by people making far more than he, and he only has a few hundred dollars to spend as he sees fit after investing, paying his domestic help, and putting his three kids in private school. It’s terrible that Caitlin is having an attack of the vapors over feeling poor. But you know what? If you beg for sympathy in these situations, I’m going to point and mock. They, like me, live in a society where the rich are getting far, far richer and the poor are getting far, far poorer. They can feel all they want, but it won’t change that fact.

If you would like to change that fact, find a local food bank, or consider donating to Feeding America. Do you have a woman and children’s shelter in your town? Poverty and recessions hit women and children hardest. You don’t have to donate money; donations of time are always welcome.

And who knows? Maybe focusing on others in need will change how all of us feel.

Thoughts on the State of the Union Address

There’s a lot I don’t understand about the economy depicted in Fallout 3. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland near Washington, DC some 200 years after a nuclear war between the US and China. There’s no central government, so you have a bunch of individual settlements and scavengers who wander between them. It’s a perfect example of Adam Smith’s Invisible Mutated Hand.

Except the law of supply and demand doesn’t appear to work. I’ve accumulated tremendous amounts of junk over ten hours of play (approximately 0.001% of the game). I’ve flooded the market with scrap metal and lunchboxes and toy cars, yet the price hasn’t collapsed. At this point I should be paying people to take them off of my hands.

Worse, every vendor and shopkeeper offers me the same prices for my scavenged loot. There’s no arbitrage possible, and no recognition that some communities might find water scarce while others need food. I can only assume that the world of Fallout 3 isn’t really a libertarian’s wet dream. Either there’s a secret monopolistic group setting world prices or in reality there’s a cabal that’s organized everyone into a command economy.

Speaking of food, no one seems to be growing any. There’s never any rain, either. I assume everyone’s living off of 200-year-old boxes of irradiated Dandy Boy Apples and Salisbury Steak.

Oh, right, Obama’s State of the Union address. Most everything of interest had already been leaked, and the speech covered the expected themes: economy, energy, and bipartisanship. I wasn’t expecting his comments on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; I thought he’d all but abandoned his drive to repeal it. Other than that, though, it all comes down to follow-through. It was a fine speech delivered well, but I’m more interested in what the government does than what it says.

Jeff Sessions, My Pro-Rape Senator

Dear Senator Sessions,

I am stunned and appalled at your vote against SA 2588 to H.R. 3326, the 2010 Defense Appropriation Act. The amendment would prevent government contractors or subcontractors from receiving federal funds if they require their employees to submit to arbitration if they are sexually assaulted while on the job by other employees. In short: your vote against this measure is a vote for companies escaping culpability in rape cases. Shame on you.

This amendment was driven in part by Jamie Leigh Jones’s experiences. As a 21-year-old working for KBR/Halliburton in Iran, she claims to have been gang raped after sipping a drugged drink. Guards following KBR orders confined her to a shipping container; she was freed only after she managed to call her father, who involved Texas Representative Ted Poe. Hers was one of several rapes involving KBR personnel. KBR claims none of the raped women can sue KBR due to arbitration clauses in their contract. Even worse, KBR has continually delayed arbitration in these cases, preventing due process.

In your speech on the Senate floor, you claimed that arbitration is a fair substitute for a court case, and that it can be better and less expensive for employees. Consumer Reports, a non-partisan advocate for individuals, vehemently disagrees. As Consumer Reports points out, arbitration involves a third party selected by the corporation. No public record is kept. There is no accountability; there is no transparency. It substitutes private corporate decisions for public decisions by a jury of peers, and subverts the justice system that you, as a former U.S. Attorney, once swore to uphold.

Furthermore, you said that the Congress should not be involved in writing or re-writing contracts. This is not a re-write of contracts; this is a statement of who the U.S. Government will do business with. The Congress has the power of the checkbook, and can decide where that money goes and why. The amendment did not specify how contracts should be written; it specified that contracts should not be let to companies hiding from their employees behind the shield of arbitration to prevent rape victims from suing them. If this is untenable, then so is the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which has prevented the government from doing business with companies that discriminate on the basis of race or gender.

On your website, you state that, like me, you are a Christian. Christ’s concern was for the downtrodden. He broke bread with the tax collectors and the prostitutes, not the religious leaders and the politically powerful. On this issue you have sided with the corporation over the individual, with Halliburton over Jamie Leigh Jones.

In your remarks during Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings, you stated that empathy was a bad thing for a judge to have. Based on your vote on this matter, I can only assume that you think empathy is a terrible thing for a Senator to have as well.

I have a two-year-old daughter. Because of your vote, I cannot imagine her working for the federal government as a contractor. Your vote signals that you accept corporations covering up rapes as a matter of course. You have two daughters; I am appalled that you are comfortable with this behavior, and can only hope that you would feel differently if it were your daughters in this situation.

As a father and as a Christian, I can only say again: you should be ashamed of your vote. It betrays the very values you claim to hold.


Stephen Granade

This turned into a long letter, and was far more reasoned than I would naturally have been. My first reaction was to write a letter that read, in its entirety, “Senator Sessions: Fuck you.” That a man who has two daughters could sleep comfortably at night having said, “Hey, you got raped and your employer tried to cover it up, but that’s okay” enrages me beyond belief. With this vote, Sessions (and his compatriot Senator Shelby) have shown that they are hollow men incapable of empathizing with women.

Email to my Senators

I am appalled and disgusted that you voted against Senator Al Frankin’s bill to allow people to sue government contractors in the event of their rape.

This email is the first of its kind that I’ve ever sent to a government official and this email marks the promise I make that during the next election season I plan to support your challenger both vocally and monetarily.

I know Stephen has a longer political post coming over the weekend but I couldn’t not post this email that I just sent to Alabama Senators Shelby and Sessions as I am literally shaking with rage. I guess this day marks the start of my political activism. Scary thought, I know.

Tom Deutch is Pretty Sure Everything’s Okay

The White House has unveiled their proposed revamp of financial regulations. One of the changes would require banks and other companies that offer loans to keep 5% of that loan on their books. See, one of the causes of the current financial mess was banks offering loans to anyone, knowing they could turn those mortgages into asset-backed securities and sell them off. This securitization (which I’ve previously covered) let banks and mortgage lenders take the commission and pass the risk onto others. The theory is that people will be more cautious if they can’t dump an entire loan. If it’s their money, they’ll be more careful.

Tom Deutsch, who’s one of the directors at the American Securitization Forum, is having none of it.

Deutsch says retaining more risk would require lenders to have more cash on hand to cover losses on loans. That could make it harder for banks to lend money, he says. And Deutsch doesn’t think the reform is necessary. He says mortgage lenders’ inherent interest in their own reputations already gives them enough skin in the game.

“Hundreds of mortgage originators have gone out of business because they sold bad products to investors who wouldn’t buy their product again,” Deutsch says.

This is an interesting view of the world, one in which the securitization industry’s role in the recession is the equivalent of your aged incontinent dog accidentally widdling on your new carpet. He can’t help it, and he does feel bad about it! Besides, we all know people act in their best interests all the time!

Waiting for mortgage lenders to go bankrupt if they make bad loans is like waiting for drunk drivers to crash and die — it may eventually happen, but in the meantime they’re liable to do a lot of damage. Securitization let mortgage lenders shovel bad loans out the back door as fast as they were coming in the front, delaying their day of reckoning until it took the whole economy down. It rewarded mortgage lenders not for making smart loans, but for making lots of loans that they could turn around and sell quickly.

It’s nice that Tom Deutch doesn’t see a problem with how things went. But if he’s not willing to cut back on the booze, he shouldn’t be surprised when others are far more skeptical of his and his colleagues’ driving.

Politicians on Twitter

Pres Obama while u sightseeing in Paris u said ‘time to delivr on healthcare’ When you are a ‘hammer’ u think evrything is NAIL I’m no NAIL
Senator Chuck Grassley’s Twitter feed

You know, a lot of political speech would have been much better on Twitter.

Heres truth: NO FEAR! Now everybody back to work. (@fdr)

Hey peeps, lurkers support me and Vietnam in email. 😛 (@trickydick)

@meinfuehrer We’ll fight on beaches, fight on landing grounds, fight on fields & streets, fight on hills. Never surrender! (@frmr1stlrdadmiralty)

Ask what cntry can do 4 you? FAIL. Ask what you can do 4 cntry. (@hatlessjfk)

@baldandblotchy U liek peace? U like librlzation? Open this gate! Tear down wall! (@gipper)

4 score + 7 yrs ago = America. Now we fight so gov’t of ppl & by ppl & for ppl won’t perish. (@honestabe)

I actually like that Grassley’s tweeting, even if he does sound like he belongs on Xbox Live. I’m interested in there being more information from our elected officials, especially less-filtered information. Grassley’s messages are directly from him, typed on his Blackberry when the mood strikes him. Good for him.

I only hope he won’t profess an undying love for Edward Cullen.

Some of My Best Friends Use Facebook

From the Washington Post’s coverage of yesterday’s Republican National Committee chairman debate:

“We have to do it in the Facebook, with the Twittering, the different technology that young people are using today,” Duncan ventured.

“Let me just say that I have 4,000 friends on Facebook,” contributed Blackwell, putting his hand on Dawson’s and Anuzis’s knees. “That’s probably more than these two guys put together, but who’s counting, you know?” Acknowledged Saltsman: “I’m not sure all of us combined Twitter as much as Saul.”

Anuzis claimed he had “somewhere between 2- and 3,000” Facebook friends, which prompted Blackwell to remind the audience that he has 4,000 friends on the social networking site by waving four fingers behind Anuzis’s head.

While doing it in the Facebook and with the Twittering may become this year’s series of tubes, current RNC chair Mike Duncan sounding like someone’s out-of-touch grandmother isn’t the underlying issue. What is key is the candidates’ view of technology as magic pixie dust that, when scattered over their political aspirations, will give rise to unicorns that reliably vote Republican.

It’s not the technology that counts. This isn’t buzzword bingo, where every mention of a social networking site gets you closer to winning. It’s what you do with the tech. These guys expecting a couple of 140-word messages to make a huge difference is like the CEO requesting that someone in the company make one of those web logs which he’s heard so much about.

Obama’s campaign make remarkable use of social applications and networking. Campaign staffers created an iPhone app that would sort a user’s contacts by location, with those in swing states at the top, and then encourage the user to call those people. Obama announced his VP choice via text message, allowing him to amass a huge database of cell phone numbers. The Obama campaign used technology to collect information, identify people to campaign to, and enlist people to help them with that campaigning.

If I were quizzing the RNC chairman candidates on technology, I’d be asking them what they wanted to do with that technology, not if they’ve ever Plurked.

Fortunately, there were questions the candidates were much more comfortable answering.

When moderator Grover Norquist asked how many firearms the candidates own, the current RNC chairman, Mike Duncan, who despite presiding over his party’s 2008 electoral trouncing is reapplying for his job, noted proudly that he claims four handguns and two rifles.

Rival Katon Dawson, chairman of the South Carolina GOP, said that he has “too many to count.”

Former OH Secretary of State Ken Blackwell was willing to count. Seven, he said, adding: “And I’m good.”

MI GOP chairman Saul Anuzis said he has two guns, but in case the RNC’s 168 committee members, who will vote this month for the next party chairman, wanted to verify his stash, Anuzis said, perhaps only half jokingly, that he is not allowed to carry them in Washington.

“Besides, I even have the word ‘uzi’ in my name,” Anuzis added, pointing at his nametag. “See? Right there.”