Thursday, January 31, 2013

Scott Brown and the Special Election

Governor Deval Patrick named the interim Senator for Massachusetts to replace John Kerry on Wednesday. He tapped his former Chief of Staff, William ‘Mo’ Cowan, for the role. Cowan has already announced that he does not intend to run for the seat in the special election in June of this year. Scott Brown has not stated whether he intends to run, yet again, for a Senate seat. Brown was defeated in one of the most expensive Senate races in the country by Elizabeth Warren. Two Democratic congressmen have announced, at least, preliminary interest in running for the Senate seat. Those congressmen are Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch. Brown has the full backing of the Republican party, if he decides to run, and will likely not face a primary battle for the spot. 

Texas Taters

Some more Texas taters…
Public Policy Polling concluded its polling data on Texas today. They found President Barack Obama’s approval rating (47/51). They also discovered that Barack Obama would face impeachment , if it was up to Texas Republicans. 67% of Texas Republicans would like to see him impeached. The follow-up question as to why they would want to impeach him is not asked. The first thought is that people might support impeaching Obama because of his recent stance on gun control.
Surprisingly, that might not be the case. While Texas likes the NRA (46/40) and trusts the NRA on guns more than President Obama (47-43), Texans support banning assault weapons (49/41). This is strange on some level of thought. You would think that a state like Texas would be all about protecting assault weapons from the gun-snatching Obama. It looks to be like a popular measure. Perhaps the polls are skewed, it just takes longer to realize. But of course, the NRA’s plan to stop bad guys with guns with good guys with guns is also popular. Texans would support putting armed police officers in every school in the country (47-39). Arming teachers is still an unpopular notion, even in Texas. 56% of Texans oppose arming teachers, compared to only 31% who are in favor of it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Texas Two Step

Two of the more prominent politicians from Texas, at least on the national scale, since George W. Bush finished his second term are Rick Perry and Julian Castro. I’ve written, at length, about how Castro needs some more experience before he can fulfill what some Democrats want him to do. Public Policy Polling has some new polls from Texas that show how Castro might fare if he decides to gain some executive experience, maybe at the expense of Rick Perry.

Everything is bigger in Texas...including the chances that a Democrat will be a Governor there

Everything is bigger in Texas…
Public Policy Polling unveiled its latest poll, which happened to be in Texas. What they found might surprise you, well maybe. The poll was about Rick Perry and his political future. Public Policy Polling found him to be one of the least popular governors in the country with a 41/54 approval rating. They asked if he should run for re-election next year and only 31% said yes, while 62% said no. As we all know, Texas isn’t a liberal state, so what’s going on? Is Perry the victim of what many Republican candidates have been facing over the last few years?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Shooting crime down...

Marco Rubio said something that every guns right advocate says when confronted with the very idea of gun control or gun laws.  That statement is to bring up Washington, D.C.  Marco Rubio said," Washington, D.C. had some of the strictest gun laws in the country. And when they passed them, violence skyrocketed."  If you would have listened to National Public Radio on the day Barack Obama announced his gun control objectives, then you would have heard a spirited debate between two people on opposite sides of the gun issue.  The gun rights speaker was quick to bring up Washington, D.C. among others.  Usually gun rights people like to talk about Chicago, too.  But we'll focus on D.C. for this because so did PolitiFact

Monday, January 28, 2013

A quick thought

Wayne LaPierre has played to the fears of gun-owners by talking about how President Obama wants to keep track of everyone who owns a gun in a computer so he has a list of everyone who owns guns.  LaPierre was the one who suggested that we have a mental health registry where we have a list of all of those people. 

Democratic Presidential Power Rankings

I'll confess that I have been making a glaring mistake in conducting these Presidential power rankings.  I hate making these types of mistakes and it has been gnawing at me, a bit.  This mistake has been that I have been ignoring Elizabeth Warren's age while moving her to the top of the list.  Warren is just two years younger than Hillary Clinton.  Biden is much older than both.  But, oh well.  I have to weigh these various considerations when making these power rankings.  So, we'll lead off with a surprise at the top spot. 

1. Chris Christie- Yes.  I know that Christie is a Republican.  But Christie is becoming closer to buddy-buddy Barack Obama at this point.  Christie came out and yelled at the NRA about their advertisement trying to politicize Obama's children.  Christie's favorability, measured by Public Policy Polling, has gone up 3 points from the last poll.  Christie's favorability is growing, almost completely, because of Democrats.  His favorability among Democrats has gone up 10 points while his favorability among Republican has gone down 9 points.  His favorability among Independents has gone up by 6 points.  Christie's message and his political beliefs are closer to the Republican party than the Democratic party.  But Christie, if he has Presidential aspirations, which by most accounts, he does, it might work out best for him to run as a Democrat.  I remain slightly unconvinced that Christie would run as a Democrat.  I think it is much more likely that Christie runs as a 3rd party candidate.

2. Elizabeth Warren- The Democratic party doesn't have a whole bunch of capable and experienced young candidates out there.  They have young superstar candidates who are not quite experienced enough to make a run as President.  I'm not saying Elizabeth Warren is young enough or experienced enough to be a real challenger here but I think she shows up for the debates.  Her favorability, overall, has gone up by 5 points.  Her favorability among Democrats has gone up by 8 points.  Warren's popularity is likely to grow.  She seems like she'll be tougher on Wall Street, which is what a number of liberals want to see.  I say seems because we'll see how she actually acts as opposed to just writing about it.  In 2016, Warren will be 66 which makes her older than most first-term candidates are.

3. Hillary Clinton- I still see it as very unlikely that Clinton will run but she still seems to be the popular choice among many pundits out there.  I've waved her off in the past, mainly due to age, health concerns, and her own statements.  Clinton's popularity has been falling.  She fell 3 points overall since we last checked in on her.  Her unfavorability among Democrats went up by 4 points.  This makes her less favorable.  It's likely that since she finally testified on Benghazi her favorability won't slide anymore.  But who knows for sure?  Her health concerns might also be driving down her favorability, as well.

4. Joe Biden- He seemed to relish his role of negotiator in all of the gun control talks.  He was also a mediator in a lot of the discussions. This might impact his favorability going forward.  We do not have the numbers on his favorability since then.  But before then, his favorability only moderately increased by 2 points.  Biden is likely too old to be a serious contender for the Democratic presidential candidate.  But, we'll see how it goes.  Biden is getting better with age and less gaffe-filled.

5. Corey Booker- Booker is probably too inexperienced to be a serious candidate.  Booker has not been in an elected position among mayor, at this point.  But Booker is likely to run for the New Jersey Senate seat in 2014.  If Booker gets elected in 2014, he might have just enough experience to throw his hat in the ring, too. 

6. Mark Warner- Warner is slightly getting more popular.  Well, at least more favorable.  His favorability has increased by 3 points.  Among Democrats, Warner has increased his favorability among Democrats by 7 points.  His name recognition needs to greatly increase if he wants a true shot of running for President.

7. Andrew Cuomo- Cuomo's favorability has increased by 3 points.  But his favorability and unfavorability has also increased among Democrats.  That is likely to change after his conversations about making New York's gun laws even more strict.  Cuomo is likely to become more popular among Democrats but since those numbers are not out, we're relying on these ones.

8. Julian and Joaquin Castro- I'm just lumping them together.  I think it would be cool to have twins try to run for the Presidency at the same time.  Joaquin is a Congressman right now and Julian is the mayor of San Antonio.  Julian is the one who received all of the attention after the DNC but because Joaquin will have a little more experience, he might be more likely to run in 2016.  But a lot can change in 3 years.

9. Deval Patrick- current governor of Massachusetts, the best thing that you can say about him is that nobody knows who he is.  His favorability has increased by 1 point but nearly 3/4 of people don't have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him.  So, if more people get to know him, perhaps he'll be able to mount a serious run in 2016.

10. Martin O'Malley- Oh. Another governor.  His favorability increased by 3 points while his unfavorability has decreased by 4 points.  O'Malley has the same problem that Patrick does in that most people don't know who he is.  O'Malley's only shot is to increase the number of people who know who he is.  I wouldn't be surprised if O'Malley runs but he will need a lot of help to get there.

The False Narrative: Frank Thomas

In life, often times, people will tell stories that sound better than if they were really true.  In sports and politics, the athlete or politician will make statements that seem to indicate that they are a self-made man or that it was their hard-work that made them who they are, today.  People like telling these stories and it feeds to our desire to know that we, too, could be so successful if all we did was work harder at whatever our job is.  After all, if so-and-so was able to accomplish their dreams only because of their hard work, all I have to do is work harder and I'll be super successful.  But, often times these stories are false.  The narrative of the person just working harder than everyone else might be true sometimes, but not all the time.  It's important to know when it is true.

ANYWAYS.  As I was on my Twitter account, I noticed that one of the writers I followed (@Bill_TPA) had a link to a story on Frank Thomas.  He also pointed out a contradiction in what Frank Thomas was saying and reality.  Frank Thomas said,"...Thank God I'm blessed and I did it the right way and I had a good family base that made me outwork everybody else because that was the only way I made it to the big leagues. I was never that blue-chip prospect. I had to do a lot of extra work to get to the big leagues."  Exactly, Big Hurt.  It's not like you were drafted in the 1st round of the draft, 7th overall, in fact.  Baseball America, a leading baseball magazine that ranks prospects each year had Frank Thomas as the 29th best prospect going into the 1990 season.  Thomas exhausted his rookie eligibility in 1990.  Not a blue chip prospect? Not by any stretch of the imagination. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Main(e) Poll

Public Policy Polling's poll of Maine is up.

Main: In November of 2012, Mane legalized same-sex marriage 53-47%.  So, same-sex marriage is legal there, now.  Often times, opponents of same-sex will talk about the negative impact of it on their own marriage.  Well, Public Policy Polling decided to ask about that.  78% of those polled said that it either has no impact or a positive impact on their life.  Most of it is coming from the "no impact" category (61%).  Typically, those who support gay marriage ask the question, how does it affect your life?  The answer, at least, in Maine is, mainly, it doesn't.  22% of those polled said it has a negative impact.  Despite these numbers of no impact, positive impact, and negative impact, 53% said same-sex marriage should be allowed with 43% saying it shouldn't be allowed.  Is it time for a new argument against same-sex marriage? 

Quick hits (overall): The NRA's approval rating in Maine (42/47).  49% of respondents support Barack Obama's executive actions on guns.  49% trust Barack Obama on guns more than the NRA.  I think that's a bit surprising, but whatever.  Angus King's first approval ratings are in (44/25).  55% support banning assault weapons.  26% of respondents support impeaching President Barack Obama. 

Quick hits (party cross-tabs): 76% of Democrats say same-sex marriage should be allowed.  Whle 75% of Republicans say it shouldn't be.  54% of those who are independent say it should be.  How does it impact you?  Well, 28% of Democrats say it's a positive impact and 63% say it has no impact.  40% of Republicans say it has a negative impact but 57% say it has no impact.  61% of Independents say it has no impact.  79% of Democrats support banning assault weapons and 64% of Republicans oppose it.  The NRA's favorability is strictly along party lines 72% of Republicans have a favorable opinion while 72% of Democrats have an unfavorable view.  50% of Maine Republicans support impeaching Obama.  Surprisingly, 7% of Maine Democrats do. 

Implications: Same-sex marriage arguments that center around if they impact you are going to be won by those who support same-sex marriage, assuming you're using facts.  Public Policy Polling thinks that Susan Collins, who is fairly moderate, might be in trouble before the 2014 election facing a primary challenge by someone who is more to the right.  The data suggests that Republicans in Maine are turning more to the Right.  This might be a challenge for Collins.  Especially, if she passes any bills about guns while she stays in the Senate.

Georgia Senate: It's going to be so much fun

Georgia Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss has announced that he will retire at the end of 2014 or another way of puttng it, he will not seek re-election in 2014.  Chambliss was in the national spotlight starting in 2011 for being a part of the "Gang of Six" who hoped to work with Democrats and Republicans on a deficit reduction deal.  Ultimately, they came up short of bipartisan appeal.  Chambliss and the other Republican members of this gang had strong bonds with Democrats and ended up putting in place a framework that would include increases in revenues and cuts in entitlement spending.  Because of the increases in revenues, there was a strong backlash among the Right.  Organizations backed by the Tea Party already announced that they might challenge Chambliss in the primary.  Public Policy Polling found that Chambliss's approval, or lack thereof, would be a hindrance to him keeping his Senate seat. 

Georgia Representatives Tom Price and Paul Broun expressed interest in challenging Chambliss in the primary.  Without him there, it seems likely that one or both of them will run in the primary.  Georgia's former Secretary of State Karen Handel might throw her name in the mix, as well.  Handel ran for governor in 2010 with the backing of Sarah Palin.  Handel's probably best known now, as the person who withheld funding for Planned Parenthood from the Susan G. Komen foundation.  Among those on the Right, defundng Planned Parenthood is a very popular move.  So, she might get some interest from the Right.  Public Policy Polling found that that among Georgia Republicans, the most popular candidate to replace Chambliss in 2014 was Herman Cain.  Cain ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 but lost.  He became famous for his constant sayings of 9-9-9, his sexual harassment charges, and his fantastic taste in hats.  If Cain runs in the primary, you can expect an expensive and long Republican primary which might end up helping the Democrats more than you would think.  A dark-horse candidate for the Senate primary race, if not the Senate seat, is Allen West.  West lost his Congressional district in the 2012 election, but Georgia Republicans reportedly said they would welcome West with open arms.  West returning to run for Senate could make the primary seat turn to the right even more.  A move Democrats are hoping for.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Saturday Night Re-election

Public Policy Polling released its polls from Minnesota today.  That's exciting.  Saturday Night Live alum and darkhorse 2016 presidential candidate has some good news if he wants to continue being a Senator.  Franken's approval ratng for the state is 52/41.  But, there's more bad news for Minnesota Republicans.  They don't have an extremely strong candidate to run against Franken in 2014.  The top choice for Republicans in Minnesota is Michele Bachmann.  The GOP's choices are Bachmann (45%), House Representative John Kline (19%), Representative Chip Cravaack (13%), and Representative Erik Paulsen (11%).   The biggest problem for Bachmann is that she has extremely low favorability ratings.  Her approval scores are 35/59.  That's not very encouraging for Republicans wanting to defeat Franken.  But good news for other Republicans, over half of respondents, 51% and 55% respectively, have no opinion of Kline or Paulsen.  In preferring Bachmann over other candidates, Republicans in Minnesota don't seem to be learning much from this past election.  Bachmann barely survived a re-election bid in her district but it seems unlikely that she would be able to win a statewide election.  While it's still early to predict 2014 elections, it's likely that Franken will get re-elected.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Team No Excuses: Allen West

Awww....despite losing his district, Allen West isn't going away.  He shared on his Facebook.  "I for one shall be the eagle's eye watching, commenting, and guarding the future for our next generation, ensuring they inherit a greater America, not a diminished liberal progressive nanny-state."  Thanks!  Since West's post also said,"The ironic thing is that when the celebration is over, and the hangovers subside, President Obama and his acolytes will have to look in the mirror and realize they have inherited their own self-created economic mess."  He is our newest member to Team No Excuses!  Yay!

In the November 2012 election, West lost a close election in District 18 in Florida.  West outspent his opponent nearly 4 to 1.  It was one of the most expensive House races in history.  Although it was a close election, the margin of victory of Patrick Murphy over Allen West exceeded the threshold for an automatic recount.  But West demanded that a closer look be taken at Precint 93.  West's campaign manager Tim Edson voiced his concerns.  His concerns "among them: Preliminary totals showed 900 voters cast ballots in Precinct 93, where only seven voters are registered."  This went viral, quickly.  West's supporters were quick to repeat the false claim. Despite the claim being false, it is still repeated often by his supporters to show that there is voter fraud.  West did get a little closer to Murphy with some of the recounts but a full recount never took place.  West and his team were not happy about this and Murphy was upset because a recount should have never taken place.  To be a member of Team No Excuses, you have to be able to tell others that their problems are their own fault and that they should take responsibility for their own actions but when something happens to you, you have to be willing to make excuses for yourself because it's not your fault.  So, welcome Allen West.

Common Facebook Postings: Right wing checklist

Photo: If the "shoe fits" I wear it proudly!..Mark


This was actually put out by a right-wing Facebook page.  In case, you couldn't tell.

1. It implies that if you believe in God then you're a right-winger.  I feel like I have to say this all the time. God is not a Republican.  God is not a Democrat, either.  Beyond that, in the New Testament, there are statements that even the demons believe in God.  They should probably change the first one to say something else like believes that Jesus Christ is their savior and is necessary for their salvation.  Even then, it's possible to be a Christian and a Democrat, too.

2. I think we all believe in the Constitution.  The problem with this statement is that the difference is that actual right-wing extremists believe that the Constitution is inerrant.  There are arguments in legal circles if the Constitution is a living, breathing document that changes.  The original Constitution was just a framework for how the government was to work.  It didn't include any of the Amendments.  The Constitution neither condones nor condemns slavery.  It doesn't guarantee the rights of women to vote.  It doesn't give term limits to presidents.  Oh you mean, you agree with other amendments that weren't there originally?  So, it's not inerrant?  Who is to decide?  Also, please don't quote the Declaration of Independence when you want to talk about the Constitution.  It's just a pet peeve.

3. I believe in the Bill of Rights, too.  I personally believe in the 5th Amendment, too.  Which is a part of the Bill of Rights.  People's 5th Amendment Rights have been violated over the last 12 years because of the PATRIOT Act and the NDAA.  Both sides have violated these rights.  Do you only believe in the Bill of Rights or are there other Amendments you believe in?  Are you an absolutist with regards to the Bill of Rights or do you believe in limits?  It's kind of an empty statement.

4.   Government should run on a budget.  Totally. Just tell that to George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.  Oh, Bill Clinton is the right-wing extremist on this? Damn.

5.   Pro-life.  I just want to say that right-wing people really won this whole battle.  They chose pro-life as their descriptor.  That's just a fantastic name.  If you're not pro-life, you're pro-abortion or pro-choice, if you're lucky.  Not that anyone is pro-abortion, I don't think.  Most people will agree that we need to reduce the number of abortions. 

6.  Capitalism, not socialism.  Sure.  Just one thing.  Define socialism. 

7. More jobs, not more taxes.  Sounds like a good phrase.  But look at jobs created under Democratic presidents compared to Republican presidents.  The truth is, Bill Clinton had higher taxes but a lot more jobs than George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and others.  Or you could compare Dwight D. Eisenhower's tax rates to the "highest of all-time taxes" under Barack Obama.  Which one has higher taxes? 

8. Secured border. Sure. I guess. You guys have been talking about this for so long.  Just do it. Have everyone who wants it so bad to contribute money to it.  Or are you waiting for money from the federal government?

9.  Undocumented workers are illegal immigrants.  So how about those under the deferred action policy under Barack Obama?  The ones who get worker cards.  Are they no longer illegal?  I mean, according to Barack Obama, they're not.

10. Redistribution of wealth is wrong.  Totally, right?  I mean, it's not like PolitiFact rated Mitt Romney's claim that redistribution of wealth was never a part of American history was "Pants on Fire" or anything like that.  This is just gettng annoying.  Are we done, yet?

11. You don't fix problems by ignoring them.  Unless it's about guns.  Since people will always get murdered then there's no point to try and stop people from getting guns. 

12. Terrorism exists.  I don't think anyone denies this.  Or do we have to pull a transcript, agan?

13. Government should be limited.  Except it should decide if you can get married or not.  It should also be involved in the access of sexual contraceptives.  It should also decide about religion in schools.  We should make it more of a Christian nation.  Among other things.

14. Obama lies and his policies suck.  Which policies?  All of them? Does he always lie?  There are a lot of questions.  But that last point is the crux of their argument.  Whatever Obama does, the opposite is correct.  That's the only thing that makes sense.

Common Facebook Postings: Are we going to ban hands and feet?

Maybe, I'm the only one.  But I have a lot of Facebook friends who like to post political stuff from various groups or sites that they follow/like on Facebook. Sometimes I comment on them and then unfollow because 9.9 times out of 10, they will comment without any facts backing them up.  Or if it is about taxes, I guarantee they will only focus on talking about income taxes.  Sorry, another story for another time. 



I'm sure you've seen this picture.  PolitiFact looked at the claim made on this picture. They found that the claim was true.  Or to put it more accurately, minus a small typo on the number of people murdered with hands or feet and only saying clubs or hammers, it was factually correct.  Here's the FBI stats. 

Now.  I will tell you what I disagree with in this post. 

1. Clubs or Hammers?  The FBI lists the category as blunt objects which includes clubs or hammers.  It could include any blunt object.  Another variaton of this picture lists hammers and bats or just hammers as the blunt object category.  It's catchy to say that, but it is incorrect.  Not a really important point but could a blunt object also be a firearm? I mean if somebody beats you with a gun, as opposed to shooting, what category does that fall in?  Oh well. You're comparing a bigger category than just hammers or just bats to just rifles.

2.  You're comparing apples and bananas.  I hate the phrase apples and oranges.  Sorry. But this relates to the first point.  We're comparing a broad category to a smaller category.  How many people are killed by switchblades compared to rifles?  Or how about just hammers?  Or how about baseball bats?  We don't know.  But we do know that the number of people killed by knives (of all kinds) compared to each category of gun, rifle, shotgun, handgun, other guns, and firearm not stated.  It would be a better comparison to compare knives to guns.  Knives: 1694.  Firearms: 8583.  Hmmm....scoreboard?

3. Handguns dwarf all of the other categories.  Handguns had 6220.  Of a total of 12664.  Shotguns had 356, rifles had 323, other guns were 97.  Finally, firearms, not stated, are almost as deadly as knives with a murder toll of 1587.  Which brings me to an important question.

4. What the hell are firearms not stated?  I guess, they could be any firearms.   

5. The death toll of a weapon doesn't necessarily relate to how dangerous the weapon is.  For instance, 0 people were killed by nuclear weapons last year.  Does that mean that they are any less dangerous than any of the weapons listed by the FBI?  I would assume, you're saying no.  Or how about biological weapons?  0 people, according to the FBI.  But again, we don't think that they're less dangerous because they're not killing people.  But, all of a sudden, when guns are involved we ignore how we treat more dangerous weapons and rely on a flawed argument. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Are you serious?

Public Policy Polling tweeted that, according to their polls, Minnesota Republicans want Michele Bachmann as their next Senator. Remember that time, people thought Republicans would move to the middle?  Yeah.  I'll have to look at the poll results.  But it doesn't look like it's going to happen.

Within minutes...

Ted Cruz, who has been referred to as the Republican Barack Obama, was on Meet the Press on Sunday.  What did he say?  Well, here's a highlight.

"What I don't think is constructive is what the president is doing right now.  Within minutes of that horrible tragedy in Newtown, the president began trying exploit that tragedy to push a gun control agenda that is designed to appeal to partisans, that is designed to his political partisans.  Number one, it would have done zero to prevent the crime in Newtown. Number two, many of the provisions are contrary to the constitutional protections of the Second Amendment. But number three, they don't work... This is not designed to actually solve the problem of violent crime, this is designed to assuage liberal partisans who want to push gun control."

Here is Obama's gun control proposal.  His calls for Congressional action, primarily limiting magazine capacities and strengthening the assault weapons ban are what I see as the provisions that might run contrary to the 2nd Amendment.  But I don't see how his executive actions listed are running contrary to the 2nd Amendment.  Unless you are really going hard on the everyone should have guns angle. 

  • Issuing a presidential memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
  • Addressing unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
  • Improving incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
  • Directing the attorney general to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
  • Proposing a rule making to give law enforcement authorities the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
  • Publishing a letter from the A.T.F. to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
  • Starting a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
  • Reviewing safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
  • Issuing a presidential memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
  • Releasing a report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and making it widely available to law enforcement authorities.
  • Nominating an A.T.F. director.
  • Providing law enforcement authorities, first responders and school officials with proper training for armed attacks situations.
  • Maximizing enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
  • Issuing a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence.
  • Directing the attorney general to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenging the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
  • Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
  • Releasing a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
  • Providing incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
  • Developing model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
  • Releasing a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
  • Finalizing regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within insurance exchanges.
  • Committing to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
  • Starting a national dialogue on mental health led by Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, and Arne Duncan, the secretary of education.
  • Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    Let's talk about guns, baby: Part 4

    Why would an organization that touts the philosophy that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, so afraid of academic research on the subject?  If, you’re so certain about something, shouldn’t you be willing to fund research?  I mean, if you’re so certain you’re right, the research would have to back it up.  Well, part of the reason that they probably don’t want to fund the research is that despite how many times you claim the other side has bias, if they have studies they can resort back to those studies and quote them.  Mitt Romney continuously complained that the Tax Policy Center is a left-leaning organization (after praising it during the Republican primaries) and some people, wrongly, believed him.  But others were looking at that research and asking questions.  You can downplay your opponent’s position by claiming bias but if they don’t have research to back it up, they can’t do a lot.  As President Barack Obama sits down with Vice-President Joe Biden to figure out the right steps to take with gun control, they don’t have a lot of research to back up their points.  That’s exactly what the NRA and other guns rights organizations/activists are counting on.  They’ll tell you all about John Lott or whoever but when Barack Obama says that this gun control act will work, they’ll be able to say, says who? 

    Let's talk about guns, baby: Part 3

    In a 1993 journal article that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine researchers found contradictory evidence to the claim that owning a gun makes you safer.  “Although firearms are often kept in homes for personal protection, this study shows that the practice is counter-productive. Our data indicate that keeping a gun in the home is independently associated with an increase in the risk of homicide in the home.”  The study was partially funded by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  In 1994, when Republicans won control of Congress in 1994, they began to attack the organizations that helped produce such controversial research.  In 1996, Rep. Jay Dickey cut $2.6 million from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, which coincidentally, was how much they spent on gun violence research in the previous year.  The money was later given back by the Senate but marked for traumatic brain injury research, instead.  A statement was added to the law funding the CDC.  The statement read, “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”  Researchers on both sides of the gun control debate have lamented this loss.  They have both publicly and privately, I’m sure, stated that the research that needs to be done on this issue needs to be done by the CDC.  Mayors Against Illegal Guns, spearheaded by Mayor Michael Bloomberg published a new article entitled “Access Denied.”  In this article, they found that the CDC’s budget is $5.6 billion.  Of that $5.6 billion, $100,000 is devoted to the subject.  When you’re broke like I am, $100,000 seems like a hell of a lot.  But as they point, the funding has dropped 96 percent, to reach this level.  Major public research funding for gun violence research is funded at $2 million.  In 2011, the National Institutes of Health dedicated $21 million to study headaches, as they point out.  Academic publishing has fallen 60% from 1996 to 2010. 

    In 2003, Todd Tiahart inserted an amendment to the law funding the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives restricting its ability to release firearms trace data.  Also, the Tiahary Amendment bars the ATF from keeping track of this information electronically.  This forces them to use a paper-based filing system for records that stretch into the millions. 
    The National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the Justice Department, funded 32 gun-related studies from 1993 and 1999.  They have not funded a single public study during the Obama administration.  The question you probably should be asking at this point is why?

    Tuesday, January 15, 2013

    Let's talk about guns, baby: Part 2

    Frequently, both sides of the gun control debate shout at each other about the relationship of gun ownership and violent crime.  For the gun control advocate, they like to say if we just lower the amount of gun ownership, we’ll lower the amount of crime.  The gun rights advocate will either argue about conceal-carry, argue the opposite, or they’ll likely state that it doesn’t matter about guns because people are violent and will use anything to kill people.  In a 2004, research study written by David Hamenway and Lisa M. Hepburn found that “where there are higher levels of gun prevalence, homicide rates are substantially higher, primarily due to higher firearm homicide rates."  They also found that “in high-income countries with more firearms, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide."  But they noted that these findings do not indicate causation.  This means, they did not prove that the higher gun rate causes more crimes to happen.  The National Research Council found, in 2004, that in studies comparing similar geographical areas that violence is “positively associated with firearms ownership.”  But, in comparing larger geographical areas, such as countries, they found contradictory evidence.  Hemenway, who is the director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, stated that he would bet a lot of money that all things being equal, the prevalence of guns increase homicide.  The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence ranks all 50 states on 29 policy approaches to regulating firearm and ammunition.  The top 10 states with the strongest gun laws, according to them, were California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, Maryland, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Michigan.  The top 10 states with the lowest grade were South Dakota, Arizona, Mississippi, Vermont, Louisiana, Montana, Wyoming, Kentucky, Kansas, and Oklahoma.  Seven of the top ten states with the strongest gun laws (Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut, and California) were in the top 10 for lowest gun death rates.  The other three states to round out the top 10 were Minnesota, Iowa, and Maine.  The ten states with the highest gun death rate were Alaska, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee.  Or to put it more simply, 5 out of the 10 states that had the highest gun death rates also had the “weakest” gun laws.  Out of the 25 states that had a higher than average gun rate death, 24 of them received a grade of “D” or lower for their gun laws. 
    Crime rates are going down but gun ownership is going up.  Doesn’t this indicate that more guns = less crime?  It is certainly true that we own more guns than before and that we’re producing more guns than before, too.  The truth is the gun manufacturers should personally thank Barack Obama for winning the presidency.  Guns produced (minus exports) were at 3.5 million in 1998 and at 3.7 million in 2007.  In 2011, that number is at 6.1 million.  Background checks have similarly exploded going from 11 million in 2007 to 16 million in 2012, with December not counted.  Background checks are not a good indication of sales, because they’re not always required.  While there may be more guns an estimate from 230 million in 2001 to 270 million in 2007 (with the explosion that we know happened after that) the number of households reporting that they have guns is actually declining.  Either more people are stockpiling weapons or they’re not reporting that they have them in surveys.  Since, we don’t register gun owners, we have to rely on survey data for who actually owns guns.  But credit the NRA for helping to drive up sales for guns during the Obama administration.  Anyways, if the number of guns is increasing while the number of gun owning households are decreasing, what does that mean?  Does that mean anything?  Well, it’s important to note that gun homicides have declined each year.  The homicide rate in 2010 was 3.6 per 100,000 people.  This was the lowest mark since 1981.  This is taken from the CDC.  The CDC uses figures from the National Vital Statistics Systems which collects death certificates that have to be filed from each state.  The FBI uses voluntary reporting from law enforcement agencies.  Anyways.  Overall gun violence has declined, too.  The FBI tracks the use of firearms in three types of violent crimes, aggravated assault, murder, and robbery.  Robberies with guns declined 21 percent and aggravated assault with guns declined 12.5%.  But the number of gun injuries is on the rise.  There were over 55,000 non-fatal injuries resulting from guns in 2011, according to the CDC.  There were just over fifty-four thousand in 2010 and just over forty-four thousand in 2009. 
    Comparing the United States to more advanced countries, we have the highest amount of guns and the highest amount of gun homicides.  But, countries in Latin America have lower amounts of guns and more homicides.  This is what was meant when describing contradictory evidence.

    Let's talk about guns, baby: Part 1

    In the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school, there has been an outcry to either talk about gun control or to bash people who are trying to “politicize” the tragedy.  I have been critical in the past of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun rights lobbies.  I will try not to be unfairly critical of the organization, Wayne LaPierre, other gun rights lobbies, or guns rights members of Congress.  At the same time, I will try not to be overly critical of gun control activists, the Brady campaign, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Joe Biden, and others.  But we need to have a discussion about guns, gun control, gun rights, among other subjects.  After the shooting, I have become more obsessed with finding out as much information as humanly possible on guns.  I like to distinguish myself from others discussing the issue by allowing the facts to inform my overall conclusion.  If you disagree with me, please be as courteous as I am going to be and cite your reasons for doing so.  I will break this discussion down into several sections.  So, let’s talk about guns, baby.
    I. Studies
    When gun control activists or writers bring up the idea about gun control, gun rights proponents are quick to point out various studies or statistics as proof that gun control does not actually reduce gun violence.  These studies are presented as evidence that gun control does not work.  Gun rights proponents tend to point out these studies or other bits of evidence followed by the statement that criminals will always be able to get their hands on guns.  We’ll spend most of our time looking at studies and other bits of evidence to see what they actually show.  The second claim about criminals will be dealt with at a later time.
    Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert went on Fox News on December 16 and stated “The facts are that every time guns have been allowed — conceal-carry (gun laws) have been allowed — the crime rate has gone down.”

    FactCheck checked in with experts to see if that was, in fact, true.  They found that experts were, essentially, split.  One academic expert, Carlisle Moody, stated that Gohmert was factually correct.  Crimes were, in fact, down.  But, if the question is does conceal-carry gun laws cause the crime rates to be lower, Moody warned that the answer is not so simple.  The fact of the matter, is that crime rates with conceal-carry laws are down.  But so are states that did not enact these conceal-carry laws.
    Gohmert’s claim is based on the work of John Lott.  Lott’s work is heavily cited by guns rights activists, in large part, due to his conclusions.  His book More Guns Less Crime, the latest edition of which came out in 2010, supported these claims.  He concluded that “[w]hen state concealed-handgun laws went into effect in a county, murders fell by about 8 percent, rapes fell by 5 percent, and aggravated assaults fell by 7 percent (page 59).”  These are not trivial numbers.  Lott co-wrote a study in 1999 that found “Deaths and injuries from mass public shootings fall dramatically after right-to-carry concealed handgun laws are enacted. Between 1977 and 1995, the average death rate from mass shootings plummeted by up to 91 percent after such laws went into effect, and injuries dropped by over 80 percent.”  Certainly, Lott’s findings are relevant.  But, Lott has his detractors, as well.
    The National Research Council of the National Academies took issue with his findings and conclusions.  Most notably, they stated that “it is impossible to draw strong conclusions from the existing literature on the causal impact of these laws.”  They also found that when the model was expanded to new data, it does not show evidence that it reduces crime.  In their scathing review, they found “no link between right-to-carry laws and changes in crime is apparent in the raw data, even in the initial sample; it is only once numerous covariates are included that the negative results in the early data emerge.”  Another notable detractor is Stanford Law Professor John J. Donohue III.  He co-wrote a study “Shooting Down the More Guns, Less Crime.”    The article finds “…that the statistical evidence that these laws have reduced crime is limited, sporadic, and extraordinarily fragile.”  You can also find the following conclusion in their article.  “T]heir results have not withstood the test of time. When we added five years of county data and seven years of state data, allowing us to test an additional fourteen jurisdictions that adopted shall-issue laws, the previous Lott and Mustard findings proved not to be robust. Importantly, we showed that the Lott and Mustard results collapse when the more complete county data is subjected to less-constrained jurisdiction-specific specifications or when the more-complete state data is tweaked in plausible ways. No longer can any plausible case be made on statistical grounds that shall-issue laws are likely to reduce crime for all or even most states.”

    Donohue has also co-authored a report that came out in 2012 that found that aggravated assault cases have risen when conceal-carry laws are enacted but for every other crime category there is no indication of an impact from conceal-carry laws.  In 2008, the Harvard Injury Control Research Center did a study on conceal-carry law changes.  They found “the changes have neither been highly beneficial nor highly detrimental.”  University of Pennsylvania professor Susan B. Sorenson argues that the Lott research is weak because, for example, if you take the outlier Florida out of the study, the conclusions change “remarkably.”

    Part 2 later

    Monday, January 14, 2013

    Republican Presidential Power Rankings

    The Fiscal Cliff talks have cooled and so that means I can turn my eyes to 2016, again. 

    1. Chris Christie- That didn't take long, did it?  2016 is a long way away.  But, unless something catastrophic happens over the next 3 years, Christie should be the prohibitive favorite for not only the Republican nomination but the presidency, itself.  Christie blasted Congress, recently, over the fact that he hadn't passed aid for Hurricane Sandy.  Christie has been praised by both Republican and Democratic commentators for his actions.  Christie is already one of the most popular politicians in the country, behind only Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice.  Among Democratic party identifiers, Christie is behind only Biden and Clinton.  Christie's favorability among Republicans is very high as well 57/25.  The Republican party would be wise to have Christie as their nominee.  He appeals not only to Republicans but to Independents and Democrats, as well.  He stands a strong chance of, not only, being the Republican presidential nominee in 2016 but being the next president of the United States.

    2. Marco Rubio- Rubio has been in the news lately, being a spokesperson for the Republican party during the Fiscal Cliff negotiations.  Rubio remains a popular choice among the Republican base.  His favorability among those who identify as very Conservative is 75/11.  Among Republicans, his numbers are fairly high, as well 62/8.  Rubio voted no on the Fiscal Cliff Senate deal.  Some have speculated that Rubio voted no as part of a strategy for later.  As big votes like this will certainly be a subject in the Presidential primary debates.

    3. Jeb Bush- Bush has remained elusive about whether he will run in 2016.  Stating to Charlie Rose that he has not made a decision about whether to run in 2016.  He also maintained that the demographics of the country are changing and the Republican party needs to catch up with these changes.  Bush cautioned that how the Republicans message their view needs to change, as well. Bush's name will come up again and again over the next three years.

    4. Mike Huckabee- Huckabee raised a bit of a controversy when he stated that the Sandy Hook shooting was, at least, partially because God is not allowed in schools. This claim was mocked by most center to center-left of the commentators.  Huckabee's favorability is 38/39 overall.  With only a 27/47 among moderates.  But those who are Conservatives really love him.  I imagine it will grow.  Among those who are somewhat Conservatives (60/21) and very Conservatives (77/12), he is very strong.  His recent comments will likely make him more popular among those groups.  If the Republican party decides to run a more Conservative candidate, Huckabee might be the guy.

    5. Bobby Jindal- Jindal has been out of the news recently except for his somewhat recent notion of advocating for women to be able to buy birth control pills over the counter.  A majority of Americans support birth control and Jindal wants to stop the politicization of it.  This issue would definitely be brought up in a presidential primary debate.  Jindal could easily be a vice-president to shore up social moderates, at least in that regard.

    6. Rand Paul- Paul was another Senator who voted against the Senate proposal to the Fiscal Cliff negotiations.  Paul slammed the Senate deal.  Paul was named to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has been courting many pro-Israel advisors and politicians.  Paul is also visiting Israel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which have had some commentators questioning Paul's national intentions.

    7. Paul Ryan- Ryan's vote in the Fiscal Cliff talks might haunt him three years from now.  Ryan voted with Obama and against a majority of his GOP colleagues and voted to end the fiscal cliff.  Ryan also voted against the bill to help relieve victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Both of these things will be thrown in his face if he ran in 2016.  He can be attacked on both sides for these votes.

    8. Kelly Ayotte- I'm kind of spitballing here.  Ayotte hasn't been mentioned recently, as far as I can tell.  More of the hardcore Republicans are excited about her for her to place a hold on the Secretary of State nomination.  She might appeal to more of the hardcore Conservatives out there; she has been called the most anti-environmentalist Senator out there.  In 2011, she also tried to pass an amendment that would allow us to torture suspects, again.  So, there's that.

    9. Bob McDonnell- McDonnell has been sliding down this power ranking since I started them.  McDonnell's biggest stand-out recently has been his tacit endorsement of Wayne LaPierre's statement that we should have armed officials at schools.  Maybe not a endorsement.  But he wants a discussion of it. 

    10. Brian Sandoval- Sandoval was the first Republican governor to back Obamacare Medicaid expansion.  Yep. I don't think he'll be in the running.  Let's try it again.

    10. Scott Walker- Apparently, Walker's top ally in the Wisconsin state legislature made some ridiculous comments about Kwanzaa.  So, he should probably be higher on this list, right?  Walker's biggest campaign promise was to get to 250000 new private sector jobs and is not exactly doing a great job with that.  So, there's that.

    Friday, January 11, 2013

    Democrats you may want to learn more about for 2013 and beyond

    With 2013 starting, I wanted to give you some names to watch out for this coming year and the years ahead.  This way if somebody mentions them, you, at least, have an idea about them.  For the most part, they're going to be those who are freshmen in Congress and other interesting people.

    House of Representatives:

    1. Mark Takano- Takano received an endorsement from Bill Clinton.  He is an openly gay Asian-American from California.  Takano is the first, openly, gay minority in Congress. 

    2. Eric Swalwell- is one of the younger members of Congress.  He was not endorsed by the Democratic party as he ran against a long-time Democratic incumbent.  He is considered by most to be more fiscally conservative than many Democrats and if he wants to be re-elected, he will have to separate himself from the pack.

    3. Kyrsten Sinema- she is the first openly bisexual member of Congress. She was raised in a Mormon household.  She ran as a Green Party canidated in the past and was honored by the Sierra Club.  My guess is that she'll be a consistent target by Fox News and others in Conservative punditry.  The campaign against her was ugly and accused her of practicing pagan rituals.  So, that's fun.

    4. Mark Pocan- Pocan is from the 2nd Congressional District in Wisconsin, replacing Tammy Baldwin, who ran for Senate.  Pocan is an openly gay member of Congress and his election marks the first time that a district went from one openly gay representative to another.  Even more interesting, Wisconsin banned gay marriage in 2006.  Very interesting.

    5. Joseph Kennedy III- I'm just so glad that Kennedys are still involved in politics.  The grandson of Bobby Kennedy is the Congressional representative in Massachusetts replacing the retired Barney Frank.  Kennedy looks like Bobby. He is also one of the youngest members of Congress.

    6. Tulsi Gabbard- Gabbard is the first Hindu member of Congress.  She beat a homeless handyman in her election.  I can't make this up. 
     
    7. Patrick Murphy- Murphy, as far as I can tell, is the youngest member in Congress.  Murphy is also interesting because he defeated Tea Party favorite Allen West in the election despite being outspent nearly 4 to 1.  Impressive.

    8. Joaquin Castro- the twin brother to Democratic rising star Julian.  Which makes us wonder, can twin brothers run for the presidency and vice-presidency?  What happens if one is better at debating than the other?  Imagine the controversy.  But, anyways, Castro is a good fundraiser and potentially could make some news in Washington.

    Senate:

    1. Elizabeth Warren- Warren is my current favorite for winning the Democratic nomination in 2016.  This is her first term as Senator but she is a former Harvard professor.  She defeated Scott Brown in this election.  Warren's big calling card has been her efforts to help reform the financial market.  We'll see what she does in the next few years.  I imagine it will be enough that we forget all about talking about her Native American heritage.

    2. Tim Kaine- Kaine is the former Governor of Virginia.  In Virginia, they have a one-term term limit for governors.  Kaine is the junior Senator in Virginia.  But Kaine has a lot of name recognition in Virginia and could be mentioned frequently over the next year or so.

    3. Tammy Baldwin- is the first openly gay woman in the Senate.  She was a former member of Congress.  Baldwin is a hard-working progressive and will  definitely be mentioned in the more Democratic upper house of the legislature.

    4. Angus King- King is another name to watch out for, especially on the financial reform front.  People have already suggested that Warren and King work together to help institute reform.

    Miscellaneous:

    1. Julian Castro- Castro kind of burst onto the scene by being the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention, a title Barack Obama had done previously.  Castro is the mayor of San Antonio.  Some people have thrown out his name as a potential candidate for the 2016 presidency.  My response has been to wait for him to gain more experience.  We saw how Rudy's presidential run worked, so let's relax before we assume a person who is a mayor will be running for President without any other political experience.

    2. Cory Booker- Booker gets in the news a lot for being a mayor.  He had a, slight, feud with Conan O'Brien.  He was in the running for a cabinet position.  He also rescues people from fires and shovels people's driveways, among other things.  Booker, apparently, was contemplating running for governor against Chris Christie but, reportedly, the Obama administration told him to run for Senate because it would prove to be more effective for them if he ran for Senate.  According to Public Policy Polling, Booker would be likely to win the seat as a Senator if he chose to run.  He is currently exploring a run.  Booker will, likely, be mentioned over the next year.

    There are a lot of other names that will be mentioned, obviously.  There are certainly more important people I could have put on here but these are just some fresh names to look at and know for the years ahead.

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    New favorability numbers part 1

    Public Policy Polling unveiled their latest national poll which included some favorability numbers for potential 2016 candidates.  They also looked at potential 2016 presidential election match-ups. 

    Who are the favorites by the simple poll question towards Republicans?

    1. Marco Rubio 21%
    2. Paul Ryan 16%
    3. Mike Huckabee 15%
    4. Jeb Bush 14%
    4(t.) Chris Christie 14%

    How about Democrats?

    1. Hillary Clinton 57%
    2. Joe Biden 16%
    3. Other 10%
    4. Andrew Cuomo 4%
    4(t.) Elizabeth Warren 4%

    If Clinton or Biden don't run for President, who would you like?

    1. Other 40%
    2. Andrew Cuomo 19%
    3. Elizabeth Warren 16%
    4. Martin O'Malley 7%
    5. Deval Patrick 6%

    No surprise, really, but Hillary Clinton wins in hypothetical matchups against Republicans.
    Vs. Bush (51-37), Christie (44-42), Rubio (51-37), Ryan (53-39)

    A few new candidates were added to the poll:
    New York Junior Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, 11/20 with 69 not sure
    Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, 26/31 with 44 not sure
    New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez 17/17 with 65 not sure
    Texas Governor Rick Perry 19/52 with 28 not sure

    People you might want to know for 2013 and on: Republicans

    Just some names that you might want to hold onto for the next year and a few years from now. 

    House of Representatives:
    1. Ted Yoho- a Congressman from Florida.  He got some notoriety by having unconventional ads and has turned some heads by stating that he would not sign Grover Norquist's tax pledge.  I say, thank goodness.

    2. Kerry Bentivolio- a Congressman from Michigan who was funded in part by Ron Paul supporters.  His mental state has been questioned with a host of Santa Claus impersonations and related quotes that seem to circle the internet.  He reportedly has libertarian ties.  I'm not sure if it's accurate or coming from the support from the Ron Paul supporters.

    3. Chris Stewart- my pick to be the most popular freshman among extreme Conservatives.  Stewart advocates for far-right ideas on both fiscal and social policies.  Also, Glenn Beck is a fan. So, there's that.

    4. George Holding- has strong name recognition for prosecuting John Edwards.  Well, sort of.  By the time it went to trial, Holding had stepped down.  Apparently, his name is being floated around to run for Senate.

    5. Thomas Massie- Looks like an interesting guy.  Sounds even more interesting.  He holds two degrees from MIT and his wife has one, too. He was backed by Ron Paul supporters and Tea Party members that allowed him to win his primary.


    Senate:
    1. Tim Scott- appointed by Nikki Haley, despite my pleas to have Stephen Colbert appointed, to replace Jim DeMint when he stepped down to run the Heritage Foundation.  Scott is the first black Senator from the South, since Reconstruction.  NAACP Ben Jealous has accused Scott of being a token black guy and the NAACP has given Scott an "F" grade for his voting record. 

    2. Deb Fischer- Fischer's campaign in Nebraska was largely funded by out of state donors and helped make it one of the most expensive campaigns in the country.  Why was it so important to win Nebraska?  Well, Republican analysts thought that they could take the Senate.  Fischer was one of the few backed by Karl Rove and cronies that actually won.  So, there's that.

    3. Ted Cruz- Cruz is Cuban-American and the junior Senator from Texas.  He is a rising star within the Republican party and has been labeled by some outside the party as the Republican Barack Obama.  Cruz is a favorite among vocal Tea Party members and among Republicans, in general.  But his right-wing statements have found enormous support from the Tea Party.  Look for Cruz to be mentioned a lot, not only this year, but in the coming years.

    The Republican party doesn't have as many interesting new members as they did in 2010.  If this was 2011, I'd have a huge list of random people, who I thought was interesting.

    Wednesday, January 9, 2013

    Democratic Presidential Rankings

    Ok. I've been on vacation for awhile and been busy.  But I do like doing the Presidential Power Rankings.  So, I'm re-launching them, again.  Redundancy alert.

    1. Elizabeth Warren- Kind of an upset pick here.  But, we'll see why she's here, shortly.  Warren, a slightly unlikely, member of the freshman class in the Senate, has won over the hearts of my liberal blogging friends at Crooks and Liars.  I'm 99.7% sure that they have never heard of me.  But, whatever.  But Warren is probably most famous for her Senate race in Massachusetts where the only thing people remember is the controversy surrounding her Native American heritage, or lack thereof.  But what makes liberals like her, has been her efforts to reform the financial industry.  She has bemoaned the repeal of Glass-Steagall and will likely be a key person if there's any financial reform over the next four years.  48% of people do not have an opinion on Warren, at this time.  Even 40% of Barack Obama supporters are not sure of their opinion, yet.  Which, I'll add, the average Democrat in the poll conducted had a 48% not sure favorability with Barack Obama supporters.  Look for Warren to build on her name recognition over the next four years.  If she does that, it's likely she'll be running for the presidency in 2016.

    2. Joe Biden- Biden is sticking around here and actually has a very strong argument to be number one.  The fiscal cliff talks where Biden willed President Obama's will into the Senate to get something passed had The Atlantic asking if he was the most influential vice-president in history.  The election of 2012 also highlighted his importance, some have attributed the tone of the election to Biden.  The tone was largely, according to Biden, Osama bin Laden is dead, General Motors is not.  Biden's favorability is 46/44 and it's split almost entirely along party lines, among Barack Obama supporters his favorability is 81/12 and among Mitt Romney supporters it was 8/81.  Or to put it another way, among those who identified as Democrats his favorability was 77/14 and among Republicans it is 15/76.  Among those who are independents, it was 31/56.  The biggest knock against Biden is his age.  He would be among the oldest first-time nominees for President.  The second biggest knock is that he is largely gaffe-ridden when he ran for the 2008 nomination.  Also, The Onion loves him.  It would be amazing for them if he ran.  But his age is going to be a determining factor in him running for the nomination.  There's a good chance Biden retires.

    Big gap between 2 and 3.

    3. Cory Booker- Booker does not have the experience, at this time, that would be required for him to make an actual run for the presidency.  Beyond that and Google auto-fill of "Cory Booker gay" when you type in his name, he has a strong chance to run for the presidency in 2016.  Seinfeld sums up how I feel about homosexuality.  ANYWAYS, according to some reports President Obama contacted Booker to urge him to explore running for Senate as opposed to running for governor.  The idea is that Booker would do more good by running for Senate, because he has a very high chance of winning, according to Public Policy Polling, as opposed to running against a very popular governor, in Chris Christie.  Booker is expected to run for Senate.  That experience will be very valuable, in the event, that he decides to run in 2016.  Wacky prediction time: Booker is Christie's vice-presidential nomination when he runs in 2016.

    4. Andrew Cuomo- Cuomo isn't as exciting as the candidates before him.  His favorability ratings are slightly lower than Warren's, both overall, and with party id involved, too. But he stands with a very good chance of, at least, getting to the primaries.  I think Cuomo will get that far, at least.  Oh well.  Let's move on.

    5. Chris Christie- Christie has a better chance running for the Democratic nomination then the others listed below him, at this point.  Christie has kind of been the voice of reason for the Republican party, as of late.  He was influential enough, to still be listed, as a major contributor to Mitt Romney's defeat.  Christie has the 3rd highest favorability numbers among Barack Obama supporters, Democratic party id, and somewhat liberal, among other identifiers.  Christie is very likely to run for president in 2016, but as a Republican.  Still, it would be entertaining if he ran for the Democratic nomination.

    6. Hillary Clinton- Although Clinton and her husband are two of the most popular politicians and most favorable politicians in the country, if not the world, it is now even more unlikely that Clinton will run.  Clinton announced her retirement from the Secretary of State position.  The reports of the Benghazi "scandal", even if they're laughable by many, are taken very seriously by those on the right and those viewers of Fox News.  But the biggest thing that has come up, is her concussion, which showed that she had a blood clot in her head.  These health related factors will likely keep her from running for the presidency in 2016.  And shows why older people are not likely to be chosen to be a first time candidate.

    7. Julian Castro- inexperienced, too young, etc. He is the exciting candidate.  But this doesn't mean he'll actually run.  Still, have to mention him.

    8. Deval Patrick- Governor of Massachusetts.  His favorability, overall, is 10/17.  Pretty much no one has heard of him.  If he wants to run in 2016, he'll have to get his name out there more.  At this point, I'm more likely to be right by drawing a random name out of a hat.

    9. Michael Bloomberg- a Mayor who's tough on climate change and gun control?  Sounds like a liberal to me.  He's actually a rich, independent, who likes to flex his muscles on the issues he thinks is most important.  But he probably has no intention to run for president, I'd imagine.

    10. Marin O'Malley- I had O'Malley higher on most of my lists before.  But, here's the deal.  His favorability is 5/17.  And is basically the same among Barack Obama supporters (8/18) or among Democratic party members (7/18).  His name recognition needs to improve substantially, in order for him to be taken seriously as a potential candidate.  The bad news is that his favorability numbers don't look like they're going to improve much even when the not sure people come around.

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013

    Openly, Aggressively Ha-gel

    Chuck Hagel was nominated for the Secretary of Defense position by President Barack Obama.  In 2008, Hagel did not endorse a presidential candidate between Barack Obama and, at least for a while friend, John McCain.  But his wife, did support Barack Obama.  Hagel would be the first enlisted combat veteran to become defense secretary, if he gets it.  A lot of Republican Senators have said that they will not support Hagel for Defense Secretary or at least, make it difficult.  Why are they fighting his nomination so much?

    Mitch McConnell when Chuck Hagel left the Senate, "[Hagel is] a clear voice on foreign policy and national security."

    Mitch McConnell on Meet the Press, "I think there will be a lot of tough questions for Sen. Hagel, but he will be treated fairly by Republicans in the Senate.  The question we will be answering if he's the nominee is 'do his views make sense for that particular job?'"

    Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called Hagel an "in your face nomination."

    Newly elected Republican Senator Ted Cruz criticized Barack Obama's nomination and is "concerned" about Hagel's past statements.

    The Log Cabin Republicans took out a full page ad criticizing Hagel for making homophobic slurs by calling a former Bill Clinton ambassador, "openly, agrressively gay." 

    You would think about these statements that Hagel is some type of extremist liberal nominee.  But here's the thing, he's not, really.  Hagel voted in 2002 in support of the Iraq war.  He voted for tying up the funds for the war with bringing the troops back home.  He everntually turned on the war, even more.  He said,“We cannot stay as an occupying force in the Middle East, which is essentially what we are.” Hagel became more of an outspoken critic of the war and even more so, the surge of troops.  Hagel voted for the withdrawl of the troops which drew the ire of the more interventionist Republicans and neo-Conservatives. 

    Hagel's statements about the war and criticisms of the policy for the surge and overall neo-Conservative interventionist foreign policy has led those like Lindsey Graham to state that Hagel's thoughts on foreign policy are not in the mainstream.  This despite the fact, that letters from the Bipartisan Group have been written in direct support of Hagel.  Perhaps, it is the others who have thoughts outside the mainstream.

    On December 13, The Weekly Standard reported that a top Republican Senate aide said, "send us Hagel and we will make sure every American knows he is an anti-Semite."  The aide continued, writing, "Hagel has made clear he believes in the existence of a nefarious Jewish lobby that secretly controls U.S. foreign policy. This is the worst kind of anti-Semitism there is."  Hagel's full statements can be found here.  But what's important, isn't just statements but rather his actions, too.  Hagel voted regularly for "generous aid packages" to Israel. 

    Republicans and neo-Conservatives have also maintained that Hagel is too soft on Iran.  That depends on the modifier "too".  He is softer on Iran than most Republicans.  He's softer on Iran than President Barack Obama is.  My guess is they'll meet somewhere in the middle.  It's likely that we don't know Hagel's true position on Iran just yet.  More likely that we won't know it until the Senate hearings.  But it's like The Daily Beast said, “had a Martian descended to earth in January 2003, spent a few days listening to Washington Republicans talk foreign policy, and then returned in January 2013, she would likely conclude that the Iraq War had been a fabulous success.”  The question is, is it?  If it's not, what lesson can we learn from it? 

    What about Chuck Hagel's gay rights record?  Hagel did call an ambassador, "openly, aggressively gay".  A phrase which almost begs a story behind it.  But he apologized for it.  The gay-activist group, the Human Rights Campaign accepted his apology.  The Log Cabin Republicans, meanwhile stated that his apology was too little too late.  The Log Cabin Republicans endorsed Mitt Romney in November's election, a move that garnered some controversy among other gay rights groups.  The advertisement that criticized Hagel's record on gay rights, included stating that Hagel supported the Defense of Marriage Act.  Perhaps, the Log Cabin Republicans forgot that Mitt Romney supported the "Federal Marriage Amendment, a constitutional amendment that would reinforce the Defense of Marriage Act and define marriage across the United States as a union between a man and a woman."  Or when other gay activist groups stated that Romney was worse than George W. Bush because Romney didn't even support civil unions.  The president of the group told the Huffington Post that Romney's support for the amendment was an "empty promise."  Overall the group decided to endorse Mitt Romney because of the "gravity of the economic and national security issues currently at stake."  So, what the fuck, Log Cabin Republicans?  Seriously, what the fuck? You endorsed Mitt Romney because, well, I have no idea.  At least, we'll know for sure in 5 years that the Log Cabin Republicans support Hagel because, after all, as recently as 2007, they ran negative ads about Mitt Romney, too. 

    A sensible law

    On January 1 of this year, a new law went into effect for the state of California. This new law is known as the 911 Good Samaritan law. California is just one of eleven states that have such a law in place. New Mexico was the first state to introduce this type of law in 2007. The law essentially states that if there is someone who overdoes on a drug and another person assists by giving them reasonable medical attention, i.e. calling 911, taking them to the hospital, etc. then neither the victim nor the one who assisted them can be charged with possession of a small amount of drugs, drug paraphernalia, drugs for personal use, or for being under the influence of the drugs. State assemblyman, Tom Ammiano, who introduced the bill, stated that the law is not there to protect the drug dealers or those with a large amount of drugs. In theory, those with large amounts of drugs are dealers. Ammiano also pointed out that the law does not protect you from other infractions, such as driving under the influence.
    Nationwide, drug overdoses recently overtook motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause in accidental deaths. California reflects what’s happening in the country, as a whole. The leading drug in drug overdoses is opiates. For the most part, what happens is someone will mix a painkiller with alcohol or other drugs and suffer an adverse reaction. Most drug overdoses occur relatively quickly to ingesting the drug, typically around 1-3 hours. The idea behind the law is to help prevent drug overdose deaths by making it less scary for witnesses to contact the proper authorities. Consider this: studies have shown that more than half of drug overdoses occur in the presence of at least one other person, 10-56% of witnesses call 911. According to the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, 88% of opiate users surveyed reported more likely to call 911 as a result of the new legal protection.
    While the law seems to appeal to common sense principles that we hold, it does have some detractors, as well. A notable detractor is 2016 presidential hopeful and current New Jersey governor Chris Christie. The New Jersey state legislature passed a similar bill in October of 2012 but Christie vetoed the bill. He stated, “What I’m not willing to do is to give people who commit harm to other people a free pass because they picked up a telephone.” Christie’s comments also centered around the question of what if the good Samaritan was the one who gave the victims the drugs in the first place. Christie’s criticism is similar to the criticism that most people bring up. Detractors of the bill tend to focus on the idea that a good deed should not forgive the bad deeds someone has committed. In focusing on that issue, a good deed is bad enough to condemn someone for their bad actions. Meaning that if someone was to act as a “good Samaritan” in a drug overdose case without the legal protection in place, they might invite trouble into their lives and by simply ignoring the victim or dropping the victim somewhere else, then they would have avoided this trouble, altogether. As someone who has survived extreme alcohol poisoning, I know lucky I am to be alive because of the actions of my friends despite the trouble they may have gotten into. I also know the debate that went on to get me to the proper authorities. But I’m also aware of how much easier it would’ve been for my friends to act in the right way with a good Samaritan law in place.
    I am not saying that the California law is perfect. It does allow for some moral and legal loopholes. For instance, if a drug dealer has a drug overdose at his/her house, what is he/she supposed to do? I understand the need, politically and other reasons, as to why the law limits itself to a small amount of drugs. Another problem is that small amounts of drugs are not defined. They are not defined in the law itself or by any of the lawmakers. Personal use of marijuana is defined in California as not exceeding 28.5 grams or 1 ounce. No other drug has a set definition for how much can be used for personal use. The problem is that the police or law enforcement might use their own discretion to decide what constitutes a “small amount of drugs” or “personal use”. Most defense attorneys in California agree that having drug paraphernalia, such as scales, baggies, or even large amounts of cash on hand might change what you’re charged with from personal use to intent to sell. They also say that it might depend on your history with drug charges on what they charge you with. These are problems when you allow discretion to be used by the police officers on what they can charge you with. Obviously, someone could fight these charges but as almost anyone can attest, lawyer fees are no joke.
    In my opinion, the Good Samaritan law helps save lives but we can do a better job of it by allowing more protections for the good Samaritans. Non-violent drug offenders often crowd the US prison system, as is. What police officers and law enforcement officials claim to do by arresting non-violent drug offenders is that they are saving lives. I, personally, applaud the 911 Good Samaritan Law and think it’s a great starting point and hope that more states adopt similar practices in the future.