Friday, June 29, 2012

Things that probably are Obamacare's fault

Since people are just going to blame Obamacare for random things and not back it up with sources.  Here's a few more.

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorcing.

Anthony Davis's unibrow.

The reason the NBA Draft put ladders in therir promotions.

The reason George W. Bush didn't get re-elected again in 2008.

Global warming.

Gas prices.

The QWERTY keyboard

Hypothetical Situation With a Question

Hypothetical situation: I'll clarify before I begin that I don't know if this is possible or what rules are in place to make sure that this doesn't happen.

In Arizona, Juan Guerrero, who is a 4th generation immigrant from Mexico is speeding.  He gets pulled over for speeding.  He does not have immigration papers because he is not a direct immigrant.  The police office realizes that he is Hispanic (obviously) and asks for said immigration papers.  Juan states that he does not have his immigration papers.  He hands him the driver's license, insurance, registration, etc.  The police officer looks at it and makes the judgment that this information may or not be Juan Guerrero's.  He takes him to jail because that might not be his driver's license but more specifically because he doesn't have his papers. 

Questions:
1. Is this possible?
2. Are people of Hispanic descent required to carry papers with them?
3.  Even if he managed to produce birth certificate, social security card, etc., couldn't the police argue that it is not his?
4. I understand that the Supreme Court when ruling stated that they could not engage in racial profiling when making the initial inquiry (meaning for example. the police officer cannot pull a Hispanic driver over merely for being Hispanic). But what is in place to assure us that this doesn't happen?
5. The Supreme Court said it would leave open the possibiility of challenges due to civil rights cases.  Would this be one of those instances?

In all likelihood, I have this completely wrong.  If you know the answers to these questions or if I'm completely wrong, let me know, please.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Obamacare Stands: A Bundle of Links

NPR asks now, what?

Nate Silver breaks it down with an eye at conventional wisdom.

Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed that it's the largest tax increase, ever

From about a month ago, Mitt Romney attacking Obamacare.

Mitt Romney says, if elected he would appoint judges similar to Chief Justice Roberts.  The one who cast the deciding vote in the Supreme Court decision.

Mitt Romney said that it would add more money to the deficit.

Finally, how can you do in the quiz differentiating between Obamacare and Romneycare?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fallacies in arguments

Just to prep you in time for any debates you might watch.  These are some of the different fallacies in arguments. The definitions are taken from Arguments and Arguing: The Products and Process of Human Decision Making by Thomas A. Hollihan and Kevin T Basske.

Ad hominem: a false attack on someone rather than on their argument. This is a fallacy of reasoning in which an individual offers criticism of someone as the grounds for rejecting the arguments proposed. It is considered a fallacy because the attacks on the person may have nothing to do with the wisdom of the argument.

Ad populum: a false appeal to the people. This is a fallacy of reasoning in which someone offers the agreement of most people as the grounds for a claim.  It is considered a fallacy because the majority may be wrong.

Appeal to fear: a false appeal to the need for safety.  This is a fallacy of reasoning in which someone offers a threat as the grounds for compliance with a demand.  It is considered a fallacy because the threat of force denies the audience any real choice.

Appeal to pity: a false appeal for sympathy.  This is a fallacy of reasoning in which someone offers a request for sympathy as the grounds for a claim.  It is considered a fallacy because the request for pity may have nothing to do with the wisdom of a claim.

Appeal to tradition: A false appeal to the way things have historically been done.  This is a fallacy of reasoningin which someone offers a history of behavior as the grounds for continuing to act in a particular manner.  It is considered a fallacy because previous ways of doing things maynot justify doing things the same way in the future. 

Begging the question: a fallacy of reasoning in which someone offers a restatement of the claim as the grounds for the claim.  It is considered a fallacy because the person has not offered new information that constitutes support for the claim.

Fallacy of composition: a fallacy of reasoning in which one argues that what is true of a part is true of the whole.  It is a fallacy because a whole may or may posess the qualities of the individual parts.

Fallacy of division: a fallacy of reasoning in which one argues that what is true of the whole is true of the component parts.  It is a fallacy because a component may or may not have the qualities of the whole.

Fallacy of false dichotomoy: a fallacy of reasoning when one falsely divides the situation into only two alternatives.  It is considered a fallacy because there may be other alternatives other than the two proposed.

False reasoning by analogy: a fallacy of reasoing where one implies that one thing is like another.  It is considered a fallacy because the things that are compared may not be alike ina meaningful way or their attributes are not similar enough.

False reasoning by causal generalization: a fallacy of reasoning where one fasely applies general principles to a specific case.  It is considered a fallacy becuase the general principles might not apply to the specific case.

False reasoning by sign: a fallacy of reasoning in which one too quickly draws a conclusion from a limited number of signs.  It is considered a fallacy because the signs may be too few from which to draw a conclusion.

hasty generalization: a fallacy of reasoning in which someone moves too quickly from examples to a generalization without sufficient rationale.  It is considered a fallacy because the number of examples cited may not be sufficient to support the claim or be typical of the claim to which the person is generalizing.

shifting the burden of proof: a fallacy of rasoning in which someone challenges another to refure his or her argument rather than offer grounds in support of the claim.  It is considered a fallacy because each advocate has the burden of proving his or her own claim.

slippery slope: a false appeal to the inevitability of an undesirable outcome if a first step is taken.  This is a fallacy of reasonining in which someone argues that an action should not be taken because it will eventually lead to some unwanted end.  It is considered a fallacy because one action does not necessarily lead to subsequent actions.

straw man fallacy: a fallacy of reasoning in which an advocate presents a weak argument of an opponent and, in refuting it, chaacterizes all of the opposing argumens as equally spurious.  It is considered a fallacy because the other might select a particularly inadequate argument to refute.

tu quoque: literally "you're another."  The fallacy of reasoning in which someone defends his or her actions by pointing out that others acted in a similar fashion.  It is considered a fallacy because the actions of others are frequently irrelevant to whether or not one's actions are responsible.


Tim Pawlenty: An update to Vice-Presidential Power Rankings

As I've noted before in the vice-presidential power rankings, my favorite to get the vice-presidential nomination from Mitt Romney is Marco Rubio.  There were conflicting reports, the other day, where the reports stated that Mitt Romney was both vetting and not vetting Rubio to get the vice-president nomination.  So here we are, with an update to the power rankings.

1. Marco Rubio- Rubio is still the favorite in my eyes. With President Obama's executive order to stop certain deportations, he has been accused of politicizing the issue.  Which he may have, since President Obama might need to court the Hispanic vote in order to win certain swing states, especially if he's pursuing the Western Strategy.  That's neither here nor there.  Romney has been talking about immigration and wouldn't you know who a big Republican speaker is about immigration issues? Marco Rubio. Rubio has denied interest in the vice-presidential nomination but that might just be part of the process.  Rubio may have slipped in some people's eyes but without a clear cut favorite to pass him, he holds on to the top spot.

2. Rob Portman- Portman was descirbed in the Los Angeles Times as one of the safe picks for Romney.  The Los Angeles Times described that Romney might be inclined to make a safe pick for his vice-president instead of making a risky pick such as Sarah Palin.  Portman would indicate that Romney is willing to work hard on the issues with another hard worker such as Portman.  The problem, according to the Los Angeles Times, is that the earliest favorite for the nomination is almost never selected.

3. Tim Pawlenty-Pawlenty has emerged as a favorite for the vice-presidential nomination accordint to Politico and other news sources including The New Yorker.  Pawlenty was one of the first to drop out of the Republican presidential nomination and has been a supporter of Mitt Romney ever since.  Pawlenty is the former governor of Minnesota, and historically, a presidential ticket is not usually made up of two governors.  A political blogger for the Washington Post does not see Pawlenty as the vice-presidential nomination, either.  I'm noting him, here, because he has been in the news the last few days.

4. Susana Martinez- As I've noted previously, the aide in charge of the vice-presidential search did note that they are going to bring some diversity to the presidential race on the Republican side.  Martinez is the governor of New Mexico. She was the first female governor of New Mexico and the first Hispanic governor of the United States. She would certainly qualify as bringing diversity to the ticket.  She responded early that she was not interested in the job. I guess that's part of the process.  So, I'm not sure where to put her. The problem with her is that she's not used to the national spotlight which is something Romney stated he wanted.  She is also a governor which makes her unlikely to be a part of the ticket, due to historical precedent.  She is controversy free, as far as I can tell, so that could be interesting.  She could also potentially help get the women vote and get the Hispanic vote, both demographics would help Romney win the election.

5. Paul Ryan- outspoken Republican who could certainly be on the attack as a vice-presidential candidate.  He is used to the national spotlight and has relatively high name recognition.  The major problems that I see if Romney chooses him is Ryan can be criticized about Medicare and Medicaid being slashed out of the budget which he already was by Democrats.  Unfairly, as I always add.  Additionally, Ryan might not stand with Romney on all the issues and might be outspoken about issues that does not need to be brought up or that Romney does not want to brought up. He is a bit of a wild card and is not seen as a safe pick.

Vladimir Guerrero: What Does He Have to Do About Politics?


Last week, one of my favorite baseball players of all-time retired. Vladimir Guerrero played right field for the Montreal Expos at the beginning of his career. He had a cannon for an arm but was more importantly, downright entertaining to watch. You never knew what was going to happen when Vlad was playing. He never met a pitch he didn't like and would swing at anything. There are all sorts of stories of Guerrero swinging at pitches that bounced in front of the plate, only to be hit out of the park by him. There was a story I rad from a catcher who set up on the outside corner of the plate and had to reach another six inches off of the plate to go after the pitch and Vlad pulled the ball to left field for a home run. Just to give a little perspective, you are taught as a hitter to try not to pull balls on the outside part of the plate because you'll end up having a bad swing. It's pretty hard to pull a pitch from the outside part of the plate. He played the rest of the game much like he was batting. He would steal bases but would also frequently get caught. In the outfield he would showcase his strong arm by throwing out runners all over the bases. Occasionally, his strong arm would cost him as he had no idea where the ball was going or if he was throwing too hard. He frequently was at the top of the league's leaderboard in both assists and errors. Jonah Keri, Grantland writer among other sports and financial writing, tells a story about how the bases were loaded in the bottom of the 9th of a one run game. Jason Kendall hit an opposite field single (like he did so often) and the runner on third scored easily and the runner on second was going to test Vlad's arm going home. The crowd was excited because they assumed Vlad would nail the runner at the plate. Vlad fielded the ball cleanly and launched the ball home. Only to have it thrown way over the catcher's head allowing the winning run to score. Vladimir Guerrero might not have been the best player in baseball but to me he was the most entertaining. Thinking about him at his peak, he still would have been the most exciting players to watch, of all-time, to my biased eye. He was the only player where anything could happen to him in a game. He could swing at pitches that bounced in the dirt or when the pitcher was trying to intentionally walk him and strike out or hit it out of the park. He would make a baserunning gaffe that would have made a five year old in tee ball look bad or he coud steal second base standing up. He would launch a baseball from his right field haven and nail a runner at third base or uncork a ball into the stands on the fly. As Kevin Garnett would later scream at reporters after the Boston Celtics won the championship, "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!"





Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs launched an all-encompassing baseball statistic known as WAR (Wins Above Replacement Player), where if a player earns 0 WAR for a season he is a replacement player or a player who can easily be found on the scrap heap or in AAA or whatever. According to WAR, a player who has 2 WAR or higher is an average player, a player between 3-5 WAR is usually a good player, a player with about 5-7 WAR are considered to have all-star seasons, and players with 8 WAR or higher are considered to have an MVP type season. Despite all of Vladimir Guerrero's greatness as I looked at him, he only 6 seasons that were all-star quality according to WAR and he didn't have a single season of an MVP caliber, according to WAR. It should be noted by Fangraphs author and stats guru, Dave Cameron, that there is a margin of error of WAR due to conflicting defensive stats that they use to calculate it. Vladimir was a great player, even according to WAR, but he was not as good as my memories of him might suggest.





Unfortunately, in politics we do not have all encompassing numbers that are widely supported to show how good a particular politician is. We have to rely on statistics supplied by third party organizations that we hope we can trust but are increasingly produced by various companies and organizations who are using distorted figures to advocate whatever position they want to push at the given time. Or we ca wait for political watchdog organizations or nonpartisan organizations to do research and publish their reports. Sadly, an increasing number of these “nonpartisan” organizations are really financed by various rich people or interest groups. These reports are quoted by politicians and pundits to show who is correct but need to be corroborated by “objective” evidence or by a third-party. I try to use evidence that is corroborated by a third party or an objective party as much as I can because my views and memories are slanted to those who I enjoy. I try to advocate for using third party or as close to objective evidence as I possibly can when discussing politics. The fear is that if we're not using objective, third party, nonpartisan, or whatever you want to call it sources, then we're going to have the same argument but instead of getting anywhere, we are just going to accuse the other one of bias. The lesson of Vladimir Guerrero is that our memories and our eyes can deceive us into attributing a person with better qualities than they really have. Conversely, we attribute people with negative qualities due to our negative memories or perceptions.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ballot Measures: Colorado

Proposed Initiative 30: Use and Regulation of Marijuana

This would provide an amendment to the state constitution that would allow individuals 21 years and older to consume or possess marijuana.  There would also be licensing of cultivation facilities, product managing facilities, testing facilities, and retail stores.  It permits local government to regulate or prohibit facilities.  It requires the general assembly to levy an excise tax on the wholesale of marijuana; the first $40 million annually by such a tax must be given to the public school capital construction assistance fund.  Finally, it requires the general assembly to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp.

A quick clarification

On the ballot measures posts, I'm using a database that shows the ballot measures that are going to be on the ballot.  Some databases out there list ballot measures that will potentially be on the ballot.  As we get closer to the election and the non-partisan databases I use update their voter guides, I'll update the ballot measures to accurately reflect what will be on the ballot in November.

Ballot Measures: Alaska


Alaska



Ballot Measure 1: Constitutional Convention Question



Should there be a constitutional convention?



Ballot Measure 2: An act establishing the Alaskan Coastal Management Program



Creates Alaskan Coastal Management Program. Would develop new state and local standards to review projects in coastal areas of the state. Creates a Coastal Policy Board made up of 13 members appointed by the governor. The goals are management goals for coastal uses and resources, the coordination of coastal planning among government and citizens, public and government participation in the program, and requires state agencies to comply with the program. “



The bill would allow regional education attendance areas (“REAAs”) in the unorganized borough to be used as Coastal Resource Service Areas (“CRSAs”). CRSAs would act through a board and function like coastal districts. The Department could combine or divide REAAs into CRSAs under set conditions. A coastal city could also be included in a CRSA under set conditions. CRSAs could also be created by voters or by a voter-approved city or village council decision. Service areas would elect boards with seven members. The State would run and fund CRSA board elections. Under some circumstances, board members could be appointed. Board members could be recalled. They could receive per diem and travel expenses. If voters fail to create a needed service area, the Department could create a district plan for the area to submit to the legislature. Under set conditions, the Department could complete a district plan for a CRSA. The bill creates a development, approval and implementation process for district plans in service areas.”




Ballot Measure: An act increasing the maximum residential property exemption and providing for annual adjustments



A municipality may exclude or partially exempt residential property from taxation, if it is ratified by the voters at an election. The exclusion or exemption may be applied with respect to taxes levied in a service area to fund the special services. It may not exceed the assessed value of $50,000 for any one residence but they may annually adjust the exemption to reflect the increase of cost of living.



Bonding Proposition A



Should the state of Alaska issue its general obligation bond in the principle, of not more than $453,499,200 for the purpose of paying the cost of state transportation projects?

Ballot Measures: Washington


Washington



Referendum 74: An act relating to providing equal protection for all families in Washington by creating equality in civil marriage and changing the domestic partnership laws, while protecting religious freedom.



I'll allow the database I'm using to explain the referendum. “The bill would redefine marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry, apply marriage eligibility requirements without regard to gender, and specify that laws using gender-specific terms like “husband” and “wife” include same-sex spouses. Clergy could refuse to solemnize or recognize any marriages. Religious organizations and religiously affiliated educational institutions could refuse to accommodate weddings. The measure would not affect licensing of religious organizations providing adoption, foster-care, or child-placement. Domestic partnerships for seniors would be preserved.”

Ballot Measures: West Virginia


Ballot Measures: West Virginia



Senate Joint Resolution 10: Proposing amendment to constitution designated repeal the two consecutive term limitation for sheriffs amendment.



It is designed to repeal the amendment of the state constitution that “provides that a person who has been elected or who has served as a sheriff during all or any part of two consecutive terms shall be ineligible for the office of sheriff during any part of the term immediately following the second of the two consecutive terms, and that the person holding the office of sheriff when this section is ratified shall not be prevented from holding the office of sheriff during the term immediately following the term he is serving.””

Ballot Measures: Wyoming


Ballot Measures: Wyoming



Constitutional Amendment B: Right to hunt, fish, and trap.

Nebraska is not the only state wanting to adopt a constitutional amendment to make hunting, fishing, and trapping a right.



Constitutional Amendment A: Health Care Freedom

Another state is trying to make “Obamacare” worthless.



Constitutional Amendment C: District Court Commissioners-Authority

This act would allow district court commissioners, who presently can act as a judge, if the judge is out of the county or if the judge is prohibited from hearing the case, to allow the commissioners to act as a judge even if the district court judge is present and could properly hear the case.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ballot Measures: Nebraska

Constitutional Amendment 40: Constitutional amendment to establish the right to hunt, to fish, and to harvest wildlife and that public hunting, fishing, and harvesting of wildlife is a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.

It will be subject only to laws and rules that have the purpose of wildlife conservation and management and preserving the future of hunting and fishing.  It prohibits regulations that would ban the use of traditional methods of hunting such as bow hunting. 

Constitutional Amendment 373: Constitutional amendment to change annual legislative salaries to twenty-two thousand five hundred dollars.

The current salary of state legislators is $12,000.  It was set in 1988. I've read two other websites that are referring to the increase in pay to $32,000.  I'm not sure which is correct, if someone could find me the corrected pay, that would be much appreciated.

Constitutional Amendment 358: Constitutional amendment to change legislative term limits to three terms.

Currently, the limit is two four-year terms.  This would allow legislators to have three four-year terms.

Constitutional Amendment 19: Constitutional amendment to provide that a civil officer is liable to impeachment for misdemeanors in pursuit of office.


Ballot Measures: Alabama

We're going to go through the ballot measures of each state that voters can vote on in the November 6, 2012 election.  Hopefully, we'll provide some information for you that is useful.

So, here we go.

Alabama: In Alabama, if one state legislator votes against a constitutional amendment then it forces a statewide vote.

Senate Bill 369: To propose a constitutional amendment to reauthorize the Forever Wild Land Trust for a 20 year period from fical year 2012-2013 to fiscal year 2031-2032.

House Bill 64: Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to amend Amendment 579 to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, now appearing as Section 177 of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama 1901, as amended, to provide that the right of individuals to vote for public office, public votes on referenda, or votes of employee representation by secret ballot is fundamental.

This is also known as the "Right-to-work" amendment. If passed, this would ensure that Alabama remains a right-to-work state by guaranteeing the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot on attempts to unionize. (Kerry Rich)

Senate Bill 112: Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to repeal portions of Amendment 111, now appearing as Section 256 of the official recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, relating to separation of schools by race and to repeal Section 259, Amendment 90, and Amendment 109, relating to the poll tax.

In the state constitution of Alabama, there is racist language about how black and white children could not attend school together and language about a poll tax. Although, these things are illegal, they are still listed in the state's constitution. (League of Women Voters of Birmingham)

Senate Bill 466: Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to provide for the transfer of the assets and liabilities of the Water Works and Sewer Board of the City of Prichard to the Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners of the City of Mobile, presently known as the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System.

House Bill 60: Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to prohibit any person, employer, or health care provider from being compelled to participate in any health care system.

Basically, no individual mandate for those in Alabama.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Not to be mean but it's easy to criticize your neighbor for a speck in his eye when you have a log in yours

Darrell Issa one of the wealthiest members of Congress, with a net worth of anywhere from $220 to 450 million, is the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  He served in the Army as an Explosive Ordinance Technician.  He stated that his unit provided security for Richard Nixon and swept for bombs prior to the games of the 1971 World Series.  In 1998, the San Francisco Examiner showed that this was not true and that Richard Nixon did not go to the World Series that year.  Issa also stated that he had received the highest approval ratings during his service, the investigation showed that Issa was transferred to a supply depot after receiving an unsatisfactory evaluation. Issa stated that the reporter misunderstood the anectode Issa told. Jay Bergey claimed Issa stole his Dodge Charger.  After Issa was confronted by Bergey, the car was found abandoned on a nearby expressway.  Issa has denied that he stole it claiming that other soldiers took the car or that Bergey who Issa alleges had a drinking problem, abandoned it when he was intoxicated. In 1972, Issa was arrested twice.  The first time was for the theft of a Maserati.  He claims it was a case of mistaken identity and the charge was dismissed.  The second one was for driving the wrong way down a one way street and had a fire arm in the glove compartment.  He was charged for having a concealed weapon but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of having an unregistered firearm.  He stated that he thought the charge was expunged.  The Watchdog Institute, an independent nonprofit reporting center based at San Diego State University, alleged that Issa built a team that included staff members with close connections to industries that could benefit from his investigations.  After the 2010 elections, Issa sent a letter to more than 150 trade associations, companies, and think tanks asking them which proposed regulations would harm job growth.  Elijah Cummings, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reforms, criticized his actions.  In 2011, the group American Family Voices filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics, stating that Issa has repeatedly used his public office for financial gain. 

I should list, at least, one good thing about Issa.  In 2010, Project in Government Oversight presented Issa with its Good Government Award for his contributions to government oversight and transparency.

Confusion

Pro-life people have teamed up with fiscal conservatives so that those who are pro-life can get elected.  Those who are pro-life argue that we should have more programs in place to help those who are struggling with unintended pregnancies or who otherwise feel like they cannot have children.  Fiscal conservatives do not think the government should be running these programs.  When these programs are run by outside agencies that also offer abortion services, they are called evil, abortion factories, etc. 


Possible Strawman Alert: People have been posting on their Facebook about how we need more regulation for those receiving food stamps, unemployment, welfare, etc., in order to make sure that the money is spent in an efficient manner and that those who are on those social welfare programs are not abusing the system.  The problem with this is that fiscal conservatives who are concerned with the idea that people should not be abusing the system do not want more government bureaucratic officials interfering with government money.  They have proposed to make drastic cuts in these social welfare programs instead of investigating ways to stop people from abusing the system.  The claim that they make is that since people abuse the program we should cut it instead of spending a little bit of money to provide additional oversight into the program to prevent this abuse and eventually save money in the long run.

Money, Campaign Finance, and Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich wants to help candidates by getting rid of the campaign finance law that only allows one person only to give $2,500 directly to a candidate.  With the Citizens United ruling, the invention of super-PACs and the general rise of PACs since the 1970s era Campaign Finance Reform that initially sparked the creation of PACs, we'll continue to see interest groups get more involved in elections both financially and ideologically.  The truth is that people are always going to find loopholes in campaign financing.  Right now, a wealthy donor could give $2,500 directly to a candidate and then state the next $2,500 is from his/her significant other, etc. Or a wealthy donor if he/she so desires could file with the IRS and the FEC to produce their own PAC, Super PAC, 527, or 501c(4) and could potentially give more money to a candidate.  Additionally, there are less restrictions on soft money given to political parties (this is nearly becoming obsolete, stay tuned) and the political party could just give the money to the chosen candidate.  With the Citizens United ruling, companies can move money directly from the financial reserves of a company to a candidate without consulting with individuals.  This ruling is based on the idea that giving money to political candidates is a form of free speech.  This very ruling could have another try on the Supreme Court (possible, I'm not sure how likely). 

Back to Newt Gingrich.  Newt Gingrich thinks that the $2,500 limit is hurting candidates who are not as wealthy as their opponents.  He cites Mayor Michael Bloomberg as an example.  Stating that Mayor Bloomberg was able to spend millions of his own money financing his campaign and that a poorer candidate could not hope to compete.  I tend not to agree with Newt Gingrich but I do a little bit in this case.  I agree that candidates that are rich have an advantage over a poorer candidate.  But eliminating the $2,500 limit of direct contributions is not going to help that.  The super rich could still buy a candidate by contributing directly to a candidate instead of using a Super PAC to be the middleman.  For example, Bill Gates could give $1 billion to whatever candidate he prefers in a given election cycle, in Newt Gingrich's proposal, as long as he reports that he's giving it.  Is that fair to the other 300 million plus Americans?  Probably not.  What we need is accountability for the contributors and politicians; the best way to do that is stricter limits on campaign contributions and regulation in general.  We need to be able place limits and enforce those limits on how much an individual, a PAC, a Super PAC, an interest group in general can give and how much a candidate can take.  If we want to make it a level playing field for all candidates, we can either place stricter limits on contributions for interest groups and individuals or we can have government sponsored campaigns.  We've passed bipartisan campaign reform acts in the past.  We need to do it again.  Accountability, limits, and regulations can make an impact and help more candidates than removing the limit from an individual directly contributing to a candidate.

Quick Hits

North Dakota voted to reject efforts to abolish the property tax.  Business leaders and other groups stated that this would increase other taxes and cause general chaos in the state capital.  If abolished, North Dakota would have been the first state to abolish the property tax.

Representative Gifford's replacement was voted into Congress.  You may remember Gifford who was injured during the tragic shooting in Arizona.  She named who she wanted to be her successor and he was voted in.  Some analysts are saying that this is a more accurate representation of what is going to happen in the 2012 election.  The seat is open in a new district in Arizona which the party lines are more evenly drawn.

The NRA (National Rifle Association) is on the attack against Barack Obama.  Even though, gun control advocates are thoroughly upset with President Obama for not doing enough.  The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gave President Obama a failing grade.  The NRA has a website titled "Gun Ban Obama" which mentions that Obama would be the most anti-gun president in history.  The NRA stated that Obama supports banning all deer-hunting ammunition. As PolitiFact found, this is false.  This is from an amendment to a bill that Ted Kennedy proposed, the intent of the amendment was to ban ammunition that was more likely to be armor piercing and had nothing to do with deer hunting. The NRA has listed 10 reasons as to why Obama would be the most anti-gun president in history.

If you haven't checked it out, Nate Silver has released his election forecast.  It has been modified quite a bit.  But he has Obama projected to win 60.9% of the time with receieving approximately 287 electoral votes (286.8 in his forecasts).  It should be noted that Obama has slipped by nearly 7 electoral votes in the last week.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Scott Walker: Rising Star in Politics? Or Just Confirmation Bias for Me

Scott Walker, the Governor of Wisconsin, who survived his recall vote in Wisconsin on Tuesday, has had rumors swirl around him about reaching a higher office.  He has said that he just plans on being the governor of Wisconsin for the time being.  My question is why are these rumors swirling around him?

People much smarter than me are looking at the recall election as proof that Americans want austerity measures and hailing it as a major victory for Republicans.I am not convinced that the recall election proves either of those things.  break it down in list form, as to why I think this.

1.      Scott Walker was able to outspend his opponent nearly 7 to 1.  The same opponent, I might add, that he defeated in the 2010 gubernatorial race.  This recall election amounted to a re-match of the 2010 election in which Walker won, as well.  This time he was able to outspend his opponent thoroughly.
2.      Looking at the exit poll numbers, those who voted for Scott Walker the first time (47%) voted for him again 94% of the time.  Those who voted for Tom Barrett (34%), voted for him again 94% of the time.  Those who did not vote in the 2010 gubernatorial election (13%) voted for Tom Barrett at 54%.
3.      One of the issues of this election was whether or not people would find that a recall election is justified.  Those who thought that a recall election was appropriate (27%), voted for Tom Barrett (90%).  Those who thought a recall election was only justified for official misconduct (60%) voted for Walker 68% of the time.  Those who do not think a recall election is ever appropriate (10%), 94% voted for Walker.  Basically, the majority of people did not feel that a recall election was justified.  It really didn’t matter if Barrett got 100% of the votes of those who thought the recall was appropriate, Walker was still going to win.  What’s interesting in this number is that there are a number of people who voted for Barrett, who thought recall elections were only justified by official misconduct.  These people, likely, saw that ending collective bargaining rights as official misconduct.
4.      At the exit polls, 54% of voters stated that they approved of Walker’s handling of the creation of jobs. Of those 54%, (93%) voted for him.  46% of voters disapproved of the creation of jobs.  Of those 46% (96%) voted for Barrett.
5.      52% of people approved of the government limiting collective bargaining rights.  Of that 52% (90%) voted for Walker.  47% of people did not approve of the government limiting collective bargaining rights.  Of that 47% (89%) voted for Barrett.

I’m open to the explanation that 52% of people in Wisconsin are in favor limiting collective bargaining rights as a victory for the GOP in trying to limit unions across the country.  I just do not see how the recall election shows that Walker has a bright political future outside of being the governor in Wisconsin.  People much smarter than me are interpreting these numbers differently than I am.  People can easily say that the recall election is not justified because of their support for Walker instead of the other way around. Notable Republican politicians are looking at the possibility of a tougher stance on collective bargaining with public unions because it is apparent that people support it to a certain degree.  While, this may be true in Wisconsin, it is not necessarily the case nationally.  

It seems very probable that I have a level of confirmation bias on my part when I look at these numbers, so I would like to hear other explanations as to how Walker is a rising star in politics.

A Problem

Did anyone else think it was a problem for Newt Gingrich to still have Secret Service Agents protect him when he was way out of the running for the Republican nomination for President?

Single Issue Voter

We'll start a new section called definitions where we'll provide definitions for various terms that might be thrown around.  If you think that doing so, treats you like an idiot, I'm sorry.

A single issue voter is a voter who upon looking at the ballot is only going to vote for candidates based on their response to a single isue and if it matches up with how the voter feels/thinks about the issue. 

For example, many people are single issue voters when it comes to abortion.  Most of these single issue voters are pro-life.  They will go through the ballot and only vote for the individuals who are pro-life.  They will go even further and vote for the candidates who are decidedly the most pro-life.

Let's apply this to something that happened recently.  Barack Obama came out and said that he is in favor of gay marriage.  Well, technically, he said that personally he is in favor of gay marriage but he believes that states should allow votes on whether or not that they accept gay marriage, much like they do now.  If you are a single-issue voter on gay marriage you might be inclined to vote for a president who personally supports gay marriage but would you really vote for one who is in favor of how we are handling the issue currently?  Unless, you're a forward-thinking single issue voter and you know that there is a possibility of retirements on the Supreme Court in the next couple of years and you're aware that the issue of gay marriage is likely to end up in the Supreme Court in the next few years.  Unless the judges elect not to rule on it.  A federal appeals court in California ruled that the ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional and a court in Massachusetts ruled that DOMA was unconstitutional.  Knowing all this, maybe, as a single-issue voter on gay marriage you would choose to vote for President Obama. 

Single issue voting is one way of making sure that others around you are voting.  I've been telling people for the last few years that if there is an issue that makes you feel strongly enough to talk about it without it being brought up constantly, you should probably bemaking sure your voice is heard and you should vote for the candidate who best represents your belief on that singular issue.  Even though, I might not agree with your stance on a particular issue, I would like you to be represented properly.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Recall Election

Today, the recall election of Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin happens.  Potential Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan posted on his Facebook that courage is on the ballot today and this election will hinge on turnout.  He urges people to take a stand and reclaim Wisconsin.  Not too long ago, Omaha tried to recall its mayor Jim Suttle because of tax increases.  When I was approached by someone who wanted me to sign the petition to recall the mayor, they stated that we would have the highest sales tax in the state.  I asked how much of this was Mayor Suttle's fault and how much of it was Fahey's fault for building a stadium or the overall economy's fault for loss of revenue.  They did not have an answer.  Additionally, I asked how we were going to pay for a recall election because the costs for the vote just to see if he got recalled was going to be anywhere from $50,000-100,000.  They stated that they did not know.  I told them that I also do not believe in recalling an electied official just because I do not happen to agree with their views politically but rather I would try to seek out the common ground and have an actual discussion about politics.  Again, they told me that my taxes would increase.  I walked away at this point.

Governor Walker is being recalled mainly due to the fact that he ended collective bargaining for state employees.  The campaign between Governor Walker and Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee has been full of half-truths and out-right lies.  PolitiFact has rated 54 claims from the campaign, 34 of them have been rated Pants of Fire, False, or Mostly False. Only seven have been rated true or mostly true.  Here at, A More Perfect Union, we want to hold candidates accountable for their actions but is a recall election really the right way to do it?  I don't believe so unless the elected official has done something totally egregious that merits such a response.  Obviously, there is enough people in Wisconsin who think that the actions of the governor merit some accountability.  But the recall election, has mainly focused on lies or at the very best half-truths from both sides which limits accountability for both politicians.  This is essentially a re-match of the 2010 gubernatorial election which Tom Barrett lost.  I hope that if Tom Barrett wins, that he is not in constant fear of being recalled in much the same way he won the election.  I hope if Walker wins that he is not re-energized as receiving a new mandate.  He was close to being ousted as governor a mere two years in office, perhaps it is time to change.  While elected officials always are gunning for the next election, perhaps this recall election will serve Walker as a realization that there might not be another election if he is elected.  I guess what I'm saying is, I see both sides to the argument of the recall election. I just don't necessarily support the recall election.

Can we learn anything for the national level from this election?  The New York Times political blog "The Caucus" warns that we might not be able to for five reasons:
1. Candidates Matter- this is essentially a rematch of the 2010 election. Voters are given a choice between two men and on November 6, they are given a choice between two very different men.
2. Recalls Feel Wrong-  there has only been two successful governor recalls in the history of America.  One of them involved the governator. But Governor Walker might also benefit from the something that will not happen in November which is that he receives special consideration for being the incumbent. Polls show some voters backing Walker are planning on voting for Obama.
3. Local Issues- Union rights, President Obama has not entered this campaign because he did not want the local issues serving as a backdrop for a national referendum.
4. Money Talks- Barrett is being outspent by Walker 7 to 1.
5. Five More Months- a lot can happen in the next five months.

There are three lessons we can learn though:
1. Organization matters- Obama himself has not been in Wisconsin but Obama for America in Wisonsn has been heavily involved, as well as the Democratic National Committee.  If Barrett wins, it will look very good for Obama.  Reince Preibus, the chair of the Republican National Committee is from Wisconsin and they have been heavily involved.  If Walker wins, it might show that they can match the organization prowess of Obama.
2. Union turnout- One of Obama's big advantages is the labor movement's ability to motivate voters.  They might be able to apply what they learned in this election to go nationwide with it.
3. Economic mood- both sides will look at exit polls to see how the economy is playing out in voters' minds.

Rick Santorum's Big News

According to Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, Rick Santorum tweeted to his followers that he has big news to announce on Friday.  This immediately concerned me that Santorum was going to be announced as the vice-president candidate for Mitt Romney and that I would be wrong.  I'm still on record saying that I do not think Santorum will be chosen as vice-president.

Burn Baby Burn, Spending Inferno

Mitt Romney has claimed that President Obama's spending has amounted to a spending inferno.  Factcheck.org is on the case.  While spending under President Obama has remained high by historical standards, it reached its peack in fiscal 2009 and has declined slightly since.  Spending will increase in 2014, Obama's health care plan is still in effect as it subsidizes health care for millions who do not have it. 
While spending reached its peak in 2009, fiscal 2009 started in October 2008, nearly four months before President Obama took office.  President Bush signed the massive spending bill on September 30, 2008 which included a record budget for the Pentagon, aid for automakers and natural disaster victims, and an increase in health care coverage for veterans.  On October 3, 2008, President Bush signed a $700 billion bank bailout bill to avert financial disaster. Not all of that ended in fiscal 2009 and President Obama reduced the total bailout to $475 billion.  2 weeks before President Obama took office, the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) projected that the deficit would be $1.2 trillion.  CBO stated the reason for this was the federal takeover Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and rising costs for unemployment insurance.  Another factor was the automatic cost of living increase given to Social Security beneficiaries of 5.8% in January 2009.  It was the largest increase since 1982.  Social Security spending rose $66 billion in January 2009.  Medicare costs rose $39 billion.
That's not to say that President Obama is not to blame for any of the spending. According to FactCheck's calculations, President Obama can be assigned about $203 billion of the spending.  Libertarian economist of the CATO Institute, Daniel J. Mitchell has put the figure at $140 billion.  Here's how FactCheck got there $203 billion.  I'm quoting directly from FactCheck here.

  • $2 billion for children’s health insurance. On Feb. 4, Obama signed a bill expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program, covering millions of additional children (a Democratic bill Bush had vetoed in the previous Congress). “CBO estimates that the act will increase mandatory outlays by $2 billion in 2009,” CBO later stated (page 5).
  • $114 billion in stimulus spending. Obama signed the stimulus bill Feb. 17. While headlines proclaimed a $787 billion price tag, about 27 percent of the total was actually for tax cuts, not spending. And most of the spending didn’t take place until after fiscal 2009. CBO initially put the total spent in fiscal 2009 at $107.8 billion, but the following year it revised the figure upward to $114 billion, in a report issued in August 2010 (page 13).
  • $32 billion of the “omnibus” spending bill Obama signed on March 11, 2009, to keep the agencies that Bush had not fully funded running through the remainder of the fiscal year. The $410 billion measure included $32 billion more than had been spent the previous year, according to a floor statement by Rep. Jerry Lewis of California, the top-ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee. (See page H2790 in the Congressional Record.) “An 8 percent—or a $32 billion—increase in 1 year on top of the stimulus package is simply unnecessary and unsustainable,” he declared.
    A case can be made that Obama shouldn’t be held responsible for the entire $32 billion increase. The $410 billion was only $20 billion more than Bush had requested, according to Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, the appropriations chairman. (See page H2800.) And CBO later figured the increase amounted to only $9 billion over what it was projecting on the assumption that the levels Bush approved for the first part of the year would be extended for the entire year (page 5).
    But it was Obama who signed the bill, so we assign responsibility for the full annual increase to him, not Bush.
  • $2 billion for deposit insurance. The “Helping Families Save Their Homes Act” that Obama signed May 20 had among its many provisions some changes to the federal program that insures bank deposits. CBO later estimated that would increase fiscal 2009 outlays by $2 billion (page 54).
  • $31 billion in “supplemental” spending for the military and other purposes. Obama pushed for and signed on June 24 another spending measure. The press dubbed it a “war funding” bill, but it actually contained $26 billion for non-defense measures (including funding for flu vaccine against the H1N1 virus, and for the International Monetary Fund) in addition to $80 billion for the military.
    Only a portion of the total $106 billion it authorized would actually be spent during the remaining three months of fiscal 2009, however. Sen. Kent Conrad, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, stated on June 18: “ The conference report includes $105.9 billion in discretionary budget authority for fiscal year 2009, which will result in outlays in 2009 of $30.5 billion.” (See page S6776.)
    Here again, a case can be made that Obama isn’t responsible for the entire $31 billion. Economist Mitchell argues that $25 billion in military spending should be assigned to Bush, because “Bush surely would have asked for at least that much extra spending.” But he didn’t. So rather than speculate, we’ll assign it all to Obama, who asked for it.
  • $2 billion in additional “Cash for Clunkers” funding. Obama signed this measure Aug. 7, providing “emergency supplemental” funding for a stimulus program that offered $3,500 to $4,500 to car owners who traded in an old car for a new one with higher fuel economy. Nearly all was spent in fiscal 2009. (See page 959.)
  • $20 billion for GM and Chrysler bailouts. At one point the government had paid out nearly $80 billion to support the automakers. But some of this was Bush’s doing, and much has been repaid and will be in the future.
    Here’s how we arrived at our $20 billion figure for Obama:
    By the time Obama took office, Bush already had loaned nearly $21 billion to the two automakers from funds appropriated originally for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and had committed the government to lend $4 billion more. But Bush left decisions on further aid to Obama, who poured in additional billions.
    By the end of the fiscal year, the Treasury had made approximately $76 billion in loans and equity investments to GM, Chrysler and their respective financing entities (some had already been repaid). But for budget accounting purposes, not all of this was counted as federal spending under the TARP law. That’s because the government stood to receive loan repayments with interest, and held nearly 61 percent of the stock of the reorganized General Motors. What was counted as spending was — in rough terms — the difference between the estimated future value of those assets to taxpayers and their initial cost.
    Treasury put the net cost of the GM and Chrysler support during fiscal 2009 at $45 billion (see page 110, the “Total subsidy cost” line under the heading “AIFP,” for Automotive Industry Financing Program). That’s the amount officially booked as a federal outlay for fiscal 2009.
    We assume — we think reasonably — that the $25 billion committed under Bush would have been lost had Obama done nothing. So we subtract the full amount of Bush’s commitment from the net total of $45 billion that Treasury initially estimated for fiscal 2009.
    For the record, the ultimate total cost of the auto bailout is now estimated to be lower than initially expected. It is put at $21 billion by the Treasury Department (see page 5) and and only $19 billion by CBO (see Table 3). But those lowered estimates don’t affect what was booked as spending in fiscal 2009.

  • The entire article can be found here