Monday, September 30, 2013

Dr. Device

As the debate to shut down the government and yet another effort to repeal or delay Obamacare raged on, a new debate about Obamacare has arose.  The Republican party has decided to focus on an issue most of America hasn't heard much about, the medical excise tax.

The medical excise tax is a 2.3% tax on sales by medical device makers.  According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this tax will raise $29 billion in revenue over the next ten years.  This money will then be plugged into expanding health insurance coverage.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle have been critical of the medical excise tax.  After the Affordable Care Act became law, seventy-nine Senators supported a resolution opposing the tax.  Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, a bill repealing the tax has 260 co-sponsors.  Senators from Minnesota opposed the medical excise tax from when it started because Minnesota hosts Medtronic, a large medical device manufacturer.  Medical device manufacturers have been pushing for repeal of this tax ever since the Affordable Care Act.

Republican Congressional members were sent a fact sheet about the medical device tax. The medical supply and manufacturing companies have spent $150 million, since 2008, trying to repeal the medical excise tax. That $150 million has certainly changed public opinion as people routinely state that the medical excise tax will cost thousands of jobs.

One industry report found that 43,000 jobs would be shipped overseas due to the tax.  But as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities points out, the tax applies to companies that import medical devices to America, as well as companies that produce the devices domestically.  So if they move jobs overseas, it's not because of the tax.  More likely, they'll move jobs overseas for other reasons.

In Ohio, home to a number of small device manufacturers, industry officials told the Columbus Dispatch that they could not cite a single example of a company cutting jobs in anticipation of the tax.  Health care reform could also benefit the medical device industry.  As 27 million more Americans are covered by health insurance, the increase for medical devices could, in fact, increase.  Health care reform will increase the number of elective procedures that will be performed on those previously uninsured.  Bloomberg government found that the effect of the tax could be offset by the demand of millions of new customers.

It's not hard to feel bad for these companies.  After all, the medical device industry estimates that they receive $106 to $116 billion per year.  The largest companies, not surprisingly, make up the vast majority of medical device sales.  The ten largest companies for medical devices will account for 86% of medical device sales and pay 86% of the excise tax receipts 

I'm sure they're not upset about this.  It's not as if Republican Congressmen are signing letters written by an industry lobbyist.  But industry lobbyists always tell the truth and the whole story.  So, that's fine.  After all, they are the experts.    

Better know a politician: Cory Booker

Name: Cory Booker


Political party: Democratic (D)


State: New Jersey


Current position: Mayor of Newark


Tenure: 2006-present


Previous position(s): Member, Newark City Council


Future position: Booker is running for the seat that was vacated by the death of Senator Frank Lautenberg in a special election in 2013.


Polling results:
Quinnipiac, September 22, 2013
Cory Booker: 53%
Steve Lonegan: 41%
Undecided: 6%




Issues/Positions/Accomplishments

  • Member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition
  • Doubled amount of affordable housing in Newark
  • Established Let's Move as part of Michelle Obama's initiative
  • Supports same-sex marriage
  • Believes the NSA's wiretapping is unconstitutional
  • Wants to reinstate Section IV of the Voting Rights Act
  • Supports universal pre-school
  • Supports charter schools and education reform
  • Reworked teachers union contract offers performance bonuses to effective teachers and firing ineffective teachers
  • Opposes gas and oil subsidies
  • Opposes offshore drilling
  • Supports enforcement of Clean Air and Clean Water Act
  • Pro-choice
  • Supporter of Affordable Care Act
  • Supports contraceptive prescriptions
  • Supports Barack Obama's actions with Iran
  • Supports increased trade with Africa and other impoverished countries
  • Supports re-entry systems for ex-offenders
  • Supports youth courts and veterans courts to connect specialized courts to low-level offenders
  • Supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
  • Supports the Violence Against Women Act
  • Supports the Family and Medical Leave Act expansion
  • Supports increased penalties for businesses that practice wage discrimination based on gender

Better know a politician: Terry McAuliffe

Name: Terry McAuliffe


Political party: Democratic (D)


State: Virginia


Current position: unclear


Previous position(s):
Co-chairman of Bill Clinton's Re-election Campaign, 1996
Chairman of the Democratic National Committee 2001-2005
Chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign


Future position: McAuliffe has announced that he is running in the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election. He will be facing Ken Cuccinelli in the general election.


Polling results:
Public Policy Polling, July 17, 2013


Favorable: 34%
Unfavorable: 36%
Not sure: 30%


Terry McAuliffe (D): 41%
Ken Cuccinelli: 37%
Robert Sarvis (L): 7%
Undecided: 15%


Issues/Positions/Accomplishments
  • Received an F from the National Rifle Association
  • Stated he would not sign a budget unless it included the Medicaid expansion of the Affordable Care Act
  • Supports civil unions for same sex couples
  • Supports creation of wind farms and creation of more clean energy jobs
  • Supports an increased limit on investment tax credits from $5 million to $6-7.5 million
  • Create the Virginia Biotech Startup Program
  • Provide interview services and resume assistance for veterans
  • Increase funding in Virginia's public education
  • Increase funding for community colleges and public universities
  • Provide more autonomy for colleges to help lower tuition costs
  • Pro-choice
  • Would reform the Standards of Learning Tests
  • Supports operations of Virginia's ports
  • Work with tourism groups to create more revenue for Virginia and more jobs
  • Supports rail infrastructure in Virginia
  • Move away from standardized tests for students, if possible
  • Promoting K-12 STEM education
  • Increase resources for Crisis Intervention Training
  • Establish community base care systems for people with severe mental disabilities





Monday Musings

Because you too can be fired at 3 A.M. from a job you probably didn't deserve in the first place...

Just the latest example of "both sides do it."  This phrase is one of the most damaging things to political discourse.  Using this phrase implies that there are not meaningful differences between the two political parties and you're just electing the "lesser of two evils."  It's an incorrect way of looking at politics.

Slate decided to cover something I already wrote about, how cute. But in all seriousness, this is a major problem that needs to be rectified.

We're going to have a government shutdown.  Why? Because Republicans have successfully convinced people that shutting down government shuts down Obamacare.  Republicans and others have been ultra-successful in convincing people that Obamacare is going to be terrible.  A nice quote from Political Line sums up my feelings on Republicans hating Obamacare: "if Republicans really thought Obamacare was going to be terrible for Americans, they'd let it be implemented and reap the benefits in 2014."

The Department of Justice is investigating North Carolina for their new voter identification laws.  At a certain point, you have to believe that "voter fraud" is a code word for brown people voting.

Maryland recently passed a strict gun control law and has now faced their second challenge to the law.  This challenge is about having to submit a fingerprint, in order to buy a gun.    

Better know a politician: Ken Cuccinelli

Name: Ken Cuccinelli


Political party: Republican


Current Position: Attorney General


Tenure: 2010-present


Previous position: Virginia Senate, 2002-2010


Future position: Cuccinelli is running for Governor of Virginia and is the Republican nominee. He is running against Terry McAuliffe.


Previous election: 2009, Virginia Attorney General
Ken Cuccinelli: 58%
Steve Shannon (D): 42%


Future election: He will face Terry McAuliffe in the 2013 Virginia's gubernatorial election


Polling results:
Public Policy Polling, July 16, 2013


Favorable: 32%
Unfavorable: 47%
Not sure: 22%


Terry McAuliffe (D): 41%
Ken Cuccinelli: 37%
Robert Sarvis (L): 7%
Undecided: 15%


Issues/Positions/Accomplishments

  • Sued the federal government over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act
  • Supports Arizona's immigration law, SB 1070
  • Does not believe LGBT people should be specifically protected from anti-discrimination laws
  • Challenged the EPA on fuel standards
  • Does not believe the EPA should regulate greenhouse gas
  • Believes the EPA should reopen proceedings regarding greenhouse gases and public health
  • Filed a lawsuit against the University of Virginia regarding a climate researcher on staff there
  • Litigated against auto-title lenders who were charging too much interest on loans
  • Added veterans advocacy department to the Attorney General's office to help veterans
  • Issued a legal opinion that schools could search through students' cell phones to combat cyberbullying and sexting
  • Issued an opinion that schools could not charge students $75 fee for Advanced Placement tests
  • Advocate for Virginia cracking down on human trafficking
  • Pro-life
  • As State Senator, advocated for legislation requiring abortion clinics to the same health and safety standards as outpatient surgical hospitals
  • Require doctors to anesthetize fetuses undergoing late-term abortions
  • Would revoke citizenship rights to children born to undocumented immigrants
  • Allow businesses to sue other businesses that hire undocumented immigrants
  • Would support legislation making inability to speak English a disqualification to receive unemployment benefits
  • Endorsed by the NRA
  • Sponsored legislation that would repeal the prohibition on carrying a concealed handgun in a restaurant or a club
  • Supports allowing Virginia to recognize concealed handgun permits from other states
  • Advocate of abstinence-only sex education
  • Would re-instate Crimes Against Nature law, effectively prohibiting oral and anal sex
  • Appealed Lawrence v. Texas trying to make any sex that is not vaginal sex between 16 and 17 year olds, a crime
  • Supports personhood law that would ban some forms of contraception
  • Cut the individual income tax rate from 5.75% to 5%
  • Reduce business income tax from 6% to 4%
  • Eliminate or reduce the Business Professional Operational License Tax, the Machine and Tool tax, and the Merchants Capital tax
  • Supports "traditional marriage"
  • Wants to try to broaden K-12 STEM education
  • Wants to double the occupational credentials and/or licensure in K-12 by 2020 
  • Supporter of school choice
  • Establish a more comprehensive report card system
  • Wants to expand digital learning
  • Wants to create a statewide system for funds for virtual schools
  • Wants to create a version of school vouchers
  • Would make it easier for charter schools to form in Virginia
  • Would provide scholarships for parents for preschools
  • Establish an Office of Small Business Advocate
  • Would reduce regulation for energy regulation

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Better know a politician: Sherrod Brown

Name: Sherrod Brown


Position: Senator


Tenure: 2007-present


State: Ohio


Political Party: Democratic (D)


Previous position: Member, U.S. House of Representatives Ohio's 12th District, 1993-2007
Secretary of State, Ohio, 1983-1991


Future position: Brown has been mentioned as a potential candidate for the 2016 presidential election. If Brown does not run in that election, he will be up for re-election in 2018.


Previous election: 2012, U.S. Senate, Ohio


Sherrod Brown (D): 51%
Josh Mandel: 45%


Polling results: Public Policy Polling, August 23, 2013


Favorable: 46%
Unfavorable: 36%
Not sure: 18%


Issues/Positions


Abortions
  • Rated 100% by NARAL, indicating a pro-choice voting record
  • Voted to expand embryonic stem cell research
  • Voted against banning banning partial-birth abortion
  • Supported all hospitals providing emergency contraception for rape victims


Animal rights/welfare
  • Voted to strengthen penalties against animal fighting


Budget/Economy
  • Voted for the stimulus spending measures intended to stimulate the economy
  • Supports re-authorizing Glass-Steagall Act
  • Received a 100% for the Citizens for Tax Justice, indicating a progressive taxation stance
  • Supports providing tax credits for businesses, in order to create jobs
  • Voted for raising taxes on those who make $1 million or more
  • Voted against raising the estate tax exemption
  • Voted against eliminating the estate tax
  • Voted against retaining reduced tax rates on capital gains and dividends


Civil rights
  • Voted against the USA PATRIOT Act
  • Voted against making the USA PATRIOT Act permanent
  • Voted against a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage
  • Opposed Issue 1, Ohio's efforts to ban gay marriage
  • Given a 100% rating by the Human Rights Campaign, indicating a pro-gay rights record
  • Voted against banning same-sex couples from adopting children in Washington, DC
  • Supports the Employee Non-discrimination Act
  • Voted yes to add constitutional amendment to prohibit flag burning
  • Supports constitutional amendment for equal rights by gender
  • Wants to re-introduce the Equal Rights Amendment
  • More funding for fighting and strengthening hate crimes
  • Voted for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell


Corporations
  • Given a 25% rating by the United States Chamber of Commerce, indicating an anti-business record


Crime
  • Does not support the death penalty
  • Voted to replace death penalty with life imprisonment
  • Require DNA testing for all federal executions


Drugs
  • Voted against prohibiting needle exchanges and medical marijuana in DC
  • Rated 0 by NORML, indicating a mixed record on drug reform


Education
  • Voted against vouchers for private and parochial schools
  • Voted against vouchers in DC
  • Opposes schools requiring school prayers
  • Rated 92% by the National Educators Association, pro-public education


Environment/Energy
  • Voted on keeping oil and drilling moratorium
  • Voted against authorization of new oil refineries
  • Voted against the Bush-Cheney energy policy
  • Voted on prohibiting drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
  • Set goal of of 25% renewable energy by 2025
  • Supports the EPA regulating greenhouse gas emissions


Foreign Policy
  • Voted against the Iraq war
  • Does not support the operation in Afghanistan
  • Believes Bush lied to get us into Iraq
  • Wants to sanction Iran, in order to end their nuclear program


Free trade
  • Supports fair trade
  • Critical of free trade agreements because other countries exploit labor
  • Voted against free trade agreements


Gun control
  • Supports the Assault Weapons Ban
  • Rated an F by the NRA
  • Supports background checks for purchases of all guns


Health care
  • Supports the Affordable Care Act
  • Voted to expand SCHIP to cover more children
  • Wants to improve services for families of children with autism


Immigration
  • Supports immigration reform
  • Voted for the Gang of Eight's immigration bill
  • Claims to not support amnesty for undocumented workers


Labor
  • Supporter of labor unions
  • Criticized Republicans for anti-union sentiments, compared them to Hitler and Stalin
  • Received 100% from AFL-CIO indicating a pro-union record
  • Supports forming unions as card-checks rather than secret ballots


Technology
  • co-sponsor of Protect IP Act (PIPA)
  • Voted to ban internet gambling with a credit card


Welfare
  • Voted to extend unemployment benefits
  • Wants to increase the earned income tax credit


Friday, September 27, 2013

Democratic Presidential Power Rankings

Because she's winning all of the polls
1. Hillary Clinton: Clinton's age is no longer the only issue preventing her from a chance to run in 2016.  People are raising questions about who Hillary has surrounded herself with.  The people running her campaign in 2008 were not spectacular and if she is serious about running in 2016 she needs to pick a better team.  Her friendships outside of politics are not that great, either.  The other question is when will Hillary decide.  The questions about her competence of picking her friends and her age, I think, will prevent her from running in 2016.

The other favorites
2. Elizabeth Warren: Warren might not be that great of a politician but she is doing a nice job of firing up the Democratic base.  She warns of danger in a case that will be up in the Supreme Court about campaign finance.  Warren is trying to fundraise for fellow Democrats.  She is doing a nice job.  This will be nice practice for 2016, if she decides to run.  It's also good to have people owe you favors.  

3. Joe Biden: Biden is doing his normal Vice-Presidential duties of touring places that the President doesn't want to visit.  He is visiting Colorado and assuring people that the government shutdown won't stop FEMA from helping out those who are being affected.  Biden has been stumping for gun control reforms; he praised Mayor Michael Bloomberg for gun control push.  Biden will get the support from Bloomberg, I presume.  Bloomberg wants to shake up politics.  It could be interesting.

The governors itching for more 
4. Martin O'Malley: O'Malley has some new things to crow about for his next debate with Rick Perry or whoever he faces.  The Center for American Progress ranks Maryland as the best state for women.  O'Malley wrote an op-ed about how Maryland is working for criminal justice.  This should be interesting, especially as the left grows disenchanted with some criminal justice reforms such as stop and frisk.  O'Malley hinted at running in 2016.    

5. Andrew Cuomo: Cuomo is starting to get more interesting.  Cuomo is trying to stop corruption in the state house for New York.  New York has long been one of the most corrupt state goverments in the country and Cuomo has an effort to try to halt that.  New York might legalize gambling which will not look good for Cuomo should he run in the general election in 2016.  Cuomo has an interesting idea to help stop distracted drivers.  He wants to put text stops on highways so that drivers can pull over and text.  

Senators looking to be promoted
6. Kirsten Gillibrand: Gillibrand's biggest issue in the Senate has been sexual assault in the military.  She has started to get more support for her sexual assault bill.  If she can get this passed, the way she wants, especially with bipartisan support, it will be a feather in her cap in her run.  She has also been an advocate for those who are having their flood damage claims rejected by FEMA.  These are not issues being picked up by the majority of legislators.  

7. Mark Warner:: Warner was critical of Cruz's debacle on the Senate floor.  Warner wants a legitimate debate on the good and bad of the Affordable Care Act.  Warner has been even more critical of the lack of a compromise between Republicans and Democrats.

The young guy:  
8. Cory Booker: Booker flirted with a stripper via Twitter.  That might stop some of the gay rumors that have circulated around Booker.  Booker is only leading by about 12 points in his Senate race.  Booker needs a decisive victory in the special election and needs to have a clear legislative agenda if he wants to run in 2016.  But he might want to stop flirting with strippers if he wants to run for President.

The out of left field choices   
9. Sherrod Brown: Brown is an odd choice.  Some on the left like Erik Loomis want Brown to run in 2016 because Warren might not have the political chops, it is unclear if Brown does either.  Brown is trying to ban e-cigarettes from being sold to minors.  Apparently, it is controversial.  He wanted to extend the power of the Food and Drug Administration.  Brown does not support defunding Obamacare, obviously.

10. Al Franken: Franken is a favorite of the left and of civil libertarians.  His biggest issue now is the use of fingerprint scanners on the new iPhone.  This will earn him even more respect from the civil libertarian area of the left.  But, of course, most people assume that the civil libertarians are only on the right.  Franken is a good speaker and can debate with the best of them.  Franken can get a lot of support, it's just really whether he wants to run.  

Republican Presidential Power Rankings

The Favorites
1. Rand Paul: Ted Cruz's filibuster or fauxbuster garnered a lot of the attention lately.  But people are still using the comparison to Rand Paul's #standwithRand.  Cruz's fauxbuster is not being compared favorably to Paul's.  Paul has been annointed the de facto Republican spokesperson for foreign policy.  Let's say you have two candidates.  They have virtually the same views on everything, but one is the expert on foreign policy, the other is not.  Who is more presidential?  Paul is one of the few potential 2016 candidates who has strong foreign policy ties.  Paul and Cruz have been the new faces of the Republican party.  Cruz has been trying to cultivate that image but Paul found it naturally.  What hurts Paul in the primary is one of his biggest strengths.  But confirmation bias will set in, I'm sure
 
2. Ted Cruz: I have made my thoughts on Cruz's fauxbuster known.  Cruz's speech was rightly called out by other writers.  But he made himself look like a more formidable foe come 2016.  While other candidates have not showcased themselves to a national audience, Cruz took the floor and the call.  Not surprisingly, Tea Party groups increased their fundraising for Cruz in 2016.  Glenn Beck and his team wrote on Facebook that Cruz's speech was the truth.  PolitiFact disagrees.  But I'm sure Cruz can make up whatever he wants if he runs in 2016.
     
3. Chris Christie: Christie has been fairly vocal about the government shutdown being a failure.  Christie has never been a fan of either Cruz or Paul and this is just another nail in the coffin of their relationship.  But in the news that Christie wanted from his re-election, he has got a surge in African-American voters.  That should be promising news to everyone on the internet who keeps telling me that the Republicans nominate the most electable candidate.

The non-filibustering favorite:  
4. Marco Rubio: The joke around social media has been that Rubio will search for something to filibuster.  Judging by the other filibusters, Rubio will filibuster something he agrees with, like immigration reform.  Rubio joined Cruz on the Senate floor for Cruz's filibuster.  Cruz had some kind words for Rubio.  Ever since Rubio pushed through the Gang of Eight immigration bill, he has been courting the Republican base.  It looks like it is continuing.  Is it about racism or homophobia?  I'm not sure. But it doesn't sound promising for Rubio.

No news is good news   

5.. Jeb Bush: Bush has only been in the news about education reform.  He has been advocating for Common Core and similar standards for awhile.  But education reform is not going to be a major factor in an election.  This is not the West Wing.  Bush has some supporters with the Ohio GOP while advocating for his standards.  Ohio is all that matters.

6. Scott Walker: Walker has not been in the news much lately, which is probably a good thing.  He had some talks about healthcare in Wisconsin and education standards.  Maybe healthcare and education will be the deciding factors in the Republican primary.  Doubtful.  Walker will have to survive 2014, first, if he wants a chance at the White House.  Unions have put him as one of their top targets in 2014.  I am sure that race will be expensive as all get out.  Walker's legislative session will be to focus on job training.  Maybe, he'll reach that jobs mark, he was supposed to.    

7. Kelly Ayotte: Ayotte was in the news because she decided to block the nominee for Air Force Secretary until she learns about the fate of the A-10 aircraft.  Ayotte has also proposed an infrastructure bank to help with projects.  I know, these things seem boring, but they are policy issues.   By being the one who brings them up, she can be the leader on these issues come debate time.

8. Rick Perry: Perry broke from the star of Texas, Ted Cruz, by calling the shutdown of government nonsensical.  That is somewhat surprising since Perry and Texas have been one of the biggest detractors of Obamacare.  Politico highlighted Perry's strategy to remain relevant for 2016.  Basically, his strategy is to be more Christie than Perry.
  
A new book for his interns

9. Paul Ryan: House Republicans are using a strategy under Paul Ryan that attaches various riders to the passage of the debt ceiling.  I thought about moving Ryan higher as he has recently inked a book deal.  Ryan's book, I imagine, will just be him saying, we don't have time for facts.

A wildcard

10. Susana Martinez: Martinez decided to expand Medicaid for those in her state who are poor so that more people are covered by health insurance.  She has decided not to focus on politics but rather what is best for New Mexico.  But unfortunately, she is coming under fire for charging for public trips.  That won't look too good.  Or it wouldn't, except other governors have been doing it, too.  

 

Friday filibusters

Where we talk until we're no longer able to stand....

If you're looking for a car to buy in 2014 and you care about unions, check out the United Autoworkers Union's list of union made cars.

Democrats and Barack Obama have gone out of their way to finally try to explain Obamacare to the general public.  People don't understand the law so they enjoy criticizing it.  But maybe this will end some of the criticism of Obamacare.

Maryland passed an assault weapons ban but gun rights advocates are trying to sue Maryland for wanting to ban 45 types of assault weapons.  Gun rights advocates believe that this infringes on their Second Amendment rights.  Oh goody.

State Senator Wendy Davis is likely announcing that she will be running for Governor of Texas in 2014.  A website emerged at www.electwendydavis.com that was started by someone affiliated with the Center for American Freedom that stated that Davis's only issue was abortions and that she was the candidate for late-term abortions.

According to Public Policy Polling, Ted Cruz is now the de facto leader of the Republican party.  It's amazing that the party that gets so upset about handing out participation ribbons has essentially giving Cruz a giant participation ribbon.  Cruz feels fantastic.            

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Better know a politician: Charlie Baker

Name: Charlie Baker

Political party: Republican (R)

State: Massachusetts

Current position: Executive in residence, General Catalyst Partners
Member, Board of Directors Tremont Credit Union

Previous position: Candidate, Massachusetts Governor 2010 election
Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finance 1994-1998

Future position: Baker has announced that he will run in 2014 for Massachusetts governor.  He is the only Republican who has announced that he will run for governor.

Previous election: 2010, Massachusetts Governor
Deval Patrick (D): 48%
Charlie Baker (R): 42%

Future election: Baker being the only Republican candidate who has declared is likely to face Martha Coakley in the 2014 gubernatorial election.

Polling results:
Public Policy Polling, September 24, 2013

Favorable: 33%
Unfavorable: 26%
Not sure: 40%

Martha Coakley (D): 51%
Charlie Baker (R): 38%
Not sure: 11%

Issues/Positions/Accomplishments

  • Supports pro-choice policies
  • Supports same-sex marriage
  • Received a 94 from Gun Owners Action League
  • Opposed a bill that would add transgenders to anti-discrimination bill
  • Would require state residency card to receive state benefits
  • Supported a voter backed proposition that would raise property taxes
  • Supporter of charter schools
  • Wants to eliminate contractors being required to enter into a labor agreement with the state
  • Would allow cities and towns to join the state's Group Insurance Commission without union approval
  • Supports ending a law limiting the state's ability to privatize services
  • Supports curtailing public employee retiree benefits
  • Would consolidate health and human service agencies
  • Require state welfare to be in line with federal standards
  • Toughen eligibility standards for state benefits
  • Require prisoners to pay room and board
  • Dedicate 1% of annual revenues to the rainy day fund
  • Reduce state sales tax to 5%
  • Supports reducing the state's workforce by 5,000
  • Opposes Cape Wind project that builds an offshore wind farm 

Better know a politician: Martha Coakley

Name: Martha Coakley

Political Party: Democratic (D)

Current position: Attorney General

State: Massachusetts

Tenure: 2007-present

Previous position: District Attorney of Middlesex County, 1999-2007
Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, 2010

Future position: Coakley has announced that she plans to seek the nomination for the Democratic party in the 2014 Massachusetts gubernatorial election

Previous election: 2010, Massachusetts General Election, Attorney General
Martha Coakley (D): 63%
Jim McKenna (R): 37%

2010, Massachusetts Special Election, U.S. Senate
Scott Brown (R): 52%
Martha Coakley: 47%

Future election: Coakley is seen as the presumptive favorite to be the Democratic nominee in the 2014 election.  Other Democratic candidates have either decided not to run or do not have the name recognition to  compete.

Polling results:
Public Policy Polling, September 24, 2013

Favorable: 49%
Unfavorable: 38%
Not sure: 13%

Martha Coakley (D): 51%
Charlie Baker (R): 38%
Not sure: 11%

Issues/Positions/Accomplishments

  • Support of buffer zone laws, requiring a 35 foot buffer zone at the entrance for reproductive health care service providers who provide abortions
  • Worked with Apple, Inc. to make sure iTunes software complied with ADA rules and guidelines
  • Argued in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts that it was not a violation of the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution to submit a chemical drug test report without the testimony of the one who administered the test
  • Challenged the constitutionality of DOMA
  • Brought lawsuits against Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs after the financial crisis
  • Helped start a cyber forensics lab
  • Worked with other states and leading social media sites Facebook and MySpace to establish age verification 
  • Lobbied for enhanced penalties for sexual predators
  • Supports a law that establishes human trafficking as a crime in Massachusetts
  • Worked with other states to establish the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases
  • Helped draft a law that tries to regulate obscenity on the internet that was later overturned based on First Amendment grounds

Better know a politician: Shelley Moore Capito

Name: Shelley Moore Capito

Current Position: Member of Congress

District: West Virginia's 2nd Congressional District (WV-2)

Political Party: Republican

Tenure: 2001-present

Previous position: Member, West Virginia House of Representatives 1997-2001

Future position: Capito has declared that she will be running for the Senate in 2014 to replace Jay Rockefeller.

Previous election: 2012, U.S. House of Representatives WV-2
Shelley Moore Capito (R): 70%
Howard Swint (D): 30%

Future election: There are not any real challengers to Capito in the Republican primary for the Senate seat.  She is the presumptive favorite to run against Democratic favorite Natalie Tennant.

Leadership: Member, House Committee on Financial Services
Member, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

Fundraising (2014 cycle), per OpenSecrets:
Raised: $1,709,877
Spent: $439,770
Cash on hand: $2,873,618

Top contributors, per OpenSecrets:

1. Powell Construction: $65,000
2. Sullivan & Cromwell: $43,500
3. Jackson Kelly Pllc: $26,600
4. Alpha Natural Resources: $23,475
5. Mepco LLC: $18,200

Polling results:

Public Policy Polling, September 25, 2013:

Favorable: 45%
Unfavorable: 36%
Not sure: 19%

Shelley Moore Capito (R): 50%
Natalie Tennant (D): 36%
Not sure: 14%

Issues/Positions

Abortion:

  • 30% from NARAL indicating a pro-life record
  • Voted to ban partial-birth abortions
  • Voted against funding stem cell and embryonic cell research
  • Voted to ban federal health coverage that includes abortions
Animal rights/welfare:
  • Given a 25% rating by the Humane Society, indicating anti-animal rights voting record
  • Voted to strengthen penalties for animal fighting
  • Supports regulating kennels to a maximum of 50 dogs
Budget/Economy:
  • Voted for the stimulus proposed by Barack Obama ($192 billion)
  • Voted against stimulus spending ($825 billion)
  • Voted for the auto bailouts
  • Proposed balanced budget amendment to the Constitution
  • Would like to audit the Federal Reserve
  • Signed Grover Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge in 2012
  • Does not believe we should cut defense spending to balance the budget
  • Supports the repeal of the Estate Tax
  • Rated 17% by Citizens for Tax Justice, indicating opposition to progressive taxation
  • Voted to make the Bush tax cuts permanent
  • Introduced the Family Fairness in Taxing Act, would increase the Child Tax Credit
  • Would like to retain reduced rates for capital gains and dividends
  • Would like to provide tax credits for businesses
  • Supported the Ryan budget
  • Voted to stop federally funding National Public Radio
Civil Rights:
  • Voted against the Employee Non-Discrimination Act which would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on sexual identity
  • Voted against the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell
  • Voted yes on Constitutional Amendment that defines marriage as one man-woman and for a Constitutional Amendment that bans same-sex marriage
  • Rated 0% by the Human Rights Campaign, indicating an anti-gay rights stance
  • Voted to make the PATRIOT ACT permanent
  • Voted on Constitutional Amendment to ban flag burning
  • Supports the Equal Rights Amendment
  • Voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act
  • Voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
  • Voted against strengthening enforcement of anti-gay hate crimes
Corporations:
  • Voted against letting shareholders vote on executive compensation
  • Rated 87% by U.S. Chamber of Commerce indicating a pro-business stance
  • Rated 14% by UFCW indicating a pro-management voting record
Drugs:
  • Rated -20 by NORML indicating that she is hard on drugs and not and advocate for drug reform
Education:
  • Supports federal funding of universal preschool programs
  • Supports federal funding for charter schools
  • Supports federal education standards and testing standards for students in K-12 schools
  • Rated 25% by National Educators Association, indicating anti-public education stance
  • Voted against grants for Black and Hispanic colleges
Energy/Environment:
  • Opposes legislation that would allow the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases
  • Supports offshore drilling
  • Opposes Cap-and-Trade
  • Voted for tax credits on renewable electricity
  • Voted against tax credits for renewable energy
  • Supported the Bush-Cheney energy policy
  • Opposes investment in biofuels
  • Supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Foreign policy:
  • Rated -2 by the Arab American Institute indicating an anti-Arab, anti-Palestine voting record
  • Expressed support for an unbreakable bond between US and Israel
  • Voted to include Iraq in War on Terror with no exit date
  • Voted to authorize force in Iraq
  • Voted against removal of troops in Afghanistan
Free trade:
  • Voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement
  • Supported the Free Trade Agreement with Australia, Chile, Peru, Singapore
  • Voted to assist workers who lose their jobs due to globalization
Gun control:
  • Given an A rating by the NRA
  • Supported the National Right to Carry reciprocity Act
  • Gun Owners of America gave her a 91 rating
  • Does not support an assault rifle ban
  • Voted to prohibit people from suing gun manufacturers
Health care:
  • Voted against the Affordable Care Act
  • Voted yes on the Paul Ryan Budget
  • Voted to expand the Children's Health Insurance Program 
  • Supports repealing the Affordable Care Act
Immigration
  • Supports declaring English the official language
  • Supported the fence along the Mexico border
  • Opposes amnesty
  • Supported the mandatory E-Verify bill proposed in the 112th Congress
  • Does not support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants
Labor
  • Sponsored Mine Safety Accountability Act establishing an independent board, requires mine inspections to take place with miners present, and requirements to deal with mines who have had safety problems in the past
  • Voted to raise the minimum wage to $7.25
  • Voted against restricting employer interference in union organizing
Technology
  • Voted supports banning online poker
Welfare
  • Voted to extend unemployment benefits during the recession
  • Supports maintaining work for welfare requirements

Better know a politician: Natalie Tennant

Name: Natalie Tennant


Political Party: Democratic (D)


Current Position: Secretary of State, West Virginia


State: West Virginia


Tenure: 2009-present


Previous position: She was a broadcaster and television reporter prior to being elected as Secretary of State.


Previous election: 2012 West Virginia Secretary of State


Natalie Tennant: 62%
Brian Savilla: 38%


Future position: Tennant has announced that she will be running for the 2014 Senate seat that was vacated by the retirement of Jay Rockefeller. She is not expected to face any significant Democratic challenger for the 2014 Democratic primary.


Polling results: Public Policy Polling, September 24, 2013


Favorable: 39%
Unfavorable: 32%
Not sure: 30%


Shelley Moore Capito: 50%
Natalie Tennant: 36%
Not sure: 14%


Issues/Accomplishments



  • Tennant implemented an online voting initiative for military members and citizens overseas.
  • Eliminated transaction fees for businesses that file online
  • Expanded online services for obtaining Certificates of Existence and Authorization
  • Set up a mobile Secretary of State's office to help business owners file annual reports
  • Supports more regulations and environmental guidelines involving shale
  • Has already distanced herself from Barack Obama
  • Supports a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United
  • Endorsed by the NARAL indicating a pro-choice stance

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Miscellaneous West Virginia information

West Virginia could be getting even more red.  49% of West Virginians support impeaching Barack Obama while only 37% are opposed to impeaching him.  64% of Republicans support impeaching him.  These are among the highest numbers in the country that Public Policy Polling has found, since they started asking the questions.

Senator Joe Manchin has seen his popularity decline in West Virginia.  His favorability is now 46/44.  Most people will assume that it has to do with his support of a background check bill that ultimately failed in the Senate.  But according to this poll, 33% of respondents said that they are more likely to vote for Manchin because of his support for the background checks bill, while only 29% said that it made them less likely.  What's more is that 67% of West Virginians support background checks on all gun sales.  It doesn't seem like the support of background checks is actually hurting job performance.

Ted Cruz believed that the majority of Americans want Obamacare to be defunded even if it means shutting down the government.  Even in as red of a state as West Virginia, only 40% support shutting down the government to defund Obamacare.  With 37% saying they oppose it.  Not really a clear majority.

West Virginia is not likely to legalize same sex marriage anytime soon.  As only 23% believe that same sex marriage should be legal in West Virginia, while 70% say it should not be legal.  Unlike in most states, there is not a groundswell of support among younger voters compared to older voters.  In most states, the biggest supporters of same sex marriage are the voters who are 18-29.  But if you phrase the question to include same sex marriage or civil unions, 49% of West Virginians support this as opposed to 48% who say that same sex couples should have no legal recognition.  But in West Virginia, only 16% think that discrimination in employment and housing should be legal compared to 68% who say it should not.  These type of polls show that many people still have a problem with the definition of marriage being applied to same sex couples.  This indicates that people should be focusing on the arguments for same sex marriage that show how it is in fact discrimination as opposed to just advocating for same sex marriage.

 

West Virginia: 2014 Senate race

Senator Jay Rockefeller announced that he would retire upon the completion of his 5th Senate term as West Virginia Senator.  The Republican party has been excited for Rockefeller's retirement because West Virginia typically votes Republican.  This Senate race is going to be expensive for both parties; let's take a look at the polls.

Democratic candidates:

Sheirl Fletcher: Member, West Virginia House of Delegates 1998-2002, lost to Joe Manchin in Democratic primary in 2012.

Natalie Tennant: Secretary of State, 2009-present

Tennant is considered the favorite for the Democratic nomination.

Republican candidates:

Shelley Moore Capito: Member, U.S. House of Representatives, West Virginia's 2nd Congressional District

While there are other candidates, Capito is the heavy favorite to win the Republican nomination.

Here are the favorability numbers for Sheirl Fletcher:

Favorable
Unfavorable
Not sure
8
25
66

Natalie Tennant:

Favorable
Unfavorable
Not sure
39
32
30

Shelley Moore Capito:

Favorable
Unfavorable
Not sure
45
36
19

Capito is going to be a formidable foe.  She has high name recognition and respectable net favorability.  Let's take a look at how the head to head match-ups look.

Shelley Moore Capito
54
Sheirl Fletcher
26
Not sure
20
Shelley Moore Capito
50
Natalie Tennant
36
Not sure
14
No offense to Fletcher, but she does not really stand a chance against Capito in a match-up.  The only shot for the Democratic party to retain the seat would be to run Tennant.  Let's take a look to see if she can make up some of that ground.



Democrat
Republican
Independent/Other
Shelley Moore Capito
30
76
54
Natalie Tennant
57
11
28
Not sure
13
13
19
Tennant has a chance.  What needs to be done, is she needs to shore up support with the Democratic party in West Virginia.  Ideally, she wants to get to 75% of the Democratic party vote.  She would also want to get to closer to 40-50% of the Independent votes, if she could.  Those two taken together could give her very competitive numbers to Capito.  

This will be one of the more expensive races in 2014.  

Wednesday's Washingtons

Where we're wondering whether Marco Rubio will filibuster immigration reform...

Senator Cruz had a non-filibustering filibuster and vowed to speak until he couldn't stand.  Cruz's posturing is most likely about 2016 but I don't think it makes much sense.  I wrote as much, yesterday.

The Affordable Care Act officially rolls out next week.  So, that should be exciting.  This is an invaluable resource for debunking myths about the healthcare law.

Well, we're making progress against fighting AIDS.  That's always good. Who knows?  Maybe those abstinence programs George W. Bush implemented in Africa years ago, are actually working.  Doubtful.

One more reason to allow same sex marriage: married cancer patients fare better than those who are not.

If you haven't heard of the All Players United (APU) movement for NCAA athletes, read about it.  It's an important movement and hopefully catches on with more players.

Is Barack Obama trying to anoint his successor for 2016?  Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been teaming up a lot lately.

Good news for Jerry Brown: California gets four more weeks to reduce its prison population.  Who would have thought that building one prison a year for twenty years would not be enough to hold all the prisoners?  Or you know, we could focus on modest drug reforms and prison reforms.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Housekeeping

1. One of the series that I am working on is to do a better know a politician series to try and cover as many politicians who are currently serving, running for office, or are considered to be heavyweights in the political field.  This series will be a continued series that can be found in the "Better know a politician" tab located near the top of the page.  I will update each of the pages as I receive more information.  Some of the information that will be found there will be polls, accomplishments, issue positions, short biographical information, fundraising data, a legislative scorecard, and more.  The goal is to have as much information centered in one place as possible.

2. I have created a legislative scorecard to score all the members of the House of Representatives.  I selected bills that I thought accurately reflected points of view on various subjects.  I assigned points based on their action on the bill. If it was a bill that I thought was positive, the author and original co-sponsors would receive a score of +5, later co-sponsors would receive +3, if the bill was up for a vote a legislator would receive +1.  No votes are always recorded as 0.  If it is a negative bill, the scores are exactly opposite.

3. As you may have noted, there are new tabs to keep track of all of the writing that I have done.  They are centered around the general topic of the post.  The policy issues are some of the larger posts I've written. If you like it, good. If not, I don't care.

4. Some scheduling notes:
Monday: policy focused
Tuesday: Washington, DC news and more of what is happening that day or recent events
Wednesday: Polls and posts about various polls
Thursday: Better know a politician/better know a district
Friday: Presidential Power Rankings
Saturday: Policy focused
Sunday: Policy focused

The schedule of the posts will change as we get more into election season or what have you.  I also might change it if there is anything that is happening. But just thought I should keep everyone updated.


Texas Two-Step

Senator Ted Cruz is just the worst type of politician.  Cruz has decided to speak about the defunding of Obamacare until he can no longer stand.  Of course around that time, he'll need health insurance to help him out.  Luckily for him, he is not one of the millions of Americans who do not have health insurance.

This is shameless self-promotion for the Junior Senator from Texas.  Cruz is filibustering a bill that he and fellow Conservatives urged the House to pass.  After the House of Representatives passed it, Cruz decided he did not want the Senate to vote on it anymore.  Even if the government is shutdown, Obamacare will still be funded.  Ted Cruz has a sad.

But then again, it's not like other prominent 2016 presidential hopefuls are filibustering things they agree on or have no effect on even if their filibuster is successful.  Oh, you mean that a filibuster like Rand Paul's can catapult someone into the national spotlight and be worth a few points in presidential polls?  By all means, do it.

I wonder.  While Senator Cruz has railed against Obamacare and how it is unworkable, I wonder how Texas has been affected by Obamacare since it was implemented.  Texas is 46th in state's rankings for health care systems.  Six million Texans are uninsured.  Governor Rick Perry declined the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, 1.5 million Texans will remain uninsured because of this decision.  But why, oh why, if it is so terrible that Texas has received $100 million in grants since the Affordable Care Act was passed?  Not only that but out of the 34 grants, 25 of them have already been spent or will expire soon.  I'm sure if Obamacare is defunded, Texas will pay back its grants they received.

Senator Cruz and staff have popularized the hash-tag for Twitter, #MakeDCListen.  The idea behind the hash-tag is because Washington, DC is out of touch with Americans and funding Obamacare is just the latest example of this.  Ted Cruz is well aware of this.  That's why with a majority or plurality of Americans supporting more gun control, Ted Cruz supports more gun control.  Oh.  No. He claimed he would filibuster any gun control bill.  That would be a true filibuster.  65% of Americans want taxes to be raised on those making $250,000 or more.  Surely, Cruz should listen to that overwhelming majority.  But Cruz believes we should have a flat tax, flat taxes in general are regressive compared to our sort of progressive tax system.  62% of Republicans and 82% of Democrats oppose cutting spending for social services, I'm sure Cruz will listen to them. But, no. Cruz doesn't want to listen to them.  He would like to cut spending as much as possible.

It seems that we should #MakeTedCruzListen, because after all, nearly 60% of Americans don't think we should defund Obamacare if it means shutting down the government.  While only 43% of people support Obamacare, 16% of the 54% who oppose it, oppose Obamacare because it is not liberal enough.  So #MakeTedCruzListen and ask him to end his ridiculous hypocrisy and shameless self-promotion.

The rest of the filibuster should just be him reading names from the primary states asking them to vote for him.  This is all about 2016 and nothing about what happens in the country.    

         

Tuesday Teddy's

Barack Obama has called for a United Nations resolution to make sure that Syria destroys its chemical weapons stockpile.  The United Nations, of course, is the one world government Revelations warns us about, so be careful.  But Obama was the anti-Christ. So I don't know.

Housing prices have been up and rose strongly in July.  Some say that housing prices may have peaked.  

Ted Cruz is happy to be the only one in his corner.  He should get used to it.  But at the same time, he is winning the adulation of Conservative activists.

Sexual assault has been an issue in the military.  Many people are calling for accountability with the military trying to protect women from sexual assault.

Mitch McConnell tries to put the spotlight of Obamacare on Red State Democrats.  I wonder what he'll focus on.  Do you think he'll focus on no pre-existing condition discrimination, removing caps the insurance company would pay, no recision, reduced government spending on emergency rooms and others, and other positives of Obamacare?  Or do you think he'll make up stuff to make it seem less popular?

Undocumented immigrants have begun coming back to the United States.  That's a good sign for our economy.  Usually, when the economy is stronger more undocumented immigration.

Cory Booker is not blowing out Steve Lonegran.  Booker is only up 12 points.  He is also over 50% with likely voters.  That's just a terrible headline.    

Monday, September 23, 2013

Beating: The System

When people go to prison, people tend to forget about what happens to them or just don't care.  When we think of prisoners we think of the violent ones, the rapists, the murderers, etc.  We tend to believe that whatever happens to prisoners while they're in prison is justified because of the crimes committed in the past.  Or that mistreatment of prisoners will somehow prevent prisoners from going back to jail.

But 8 out of every 9 prisoners in the United States are not there for life.  The average inmate serves three years in prison.  The majority of prisoners are not there for violent crimes, 60% of the prison and jail population is now non-violent offenders.  According to the Bureau of Justice, 48% of federal prisoners are drug offenders and 17% of state prisoners are drug offenders.

What is happening is that the perception of prisoners is flatly wrong and we're allowing the misperception to encourage the mistreatment of prisoners.  One of the most shared Facebook memes that I have seen is the one praising Sheriff Joe Arpaio, in part for his blatant mistreatment of prisoners.  It is praised because the prisoners are just that, prisoners.  They deserve it.

But where do we draw the line?  I suppose most people would agree that prisoners shouldn't be beaten by deputies or guards.  But at the same time, it's not a priority for many people, because after all, they're just prisoners.  We put our trust in the police and jail facilities to correctly rehabilitate prisoners so that when they are released, they will no longer be criminals.

In Los Angeles County, Sheriff Lee Baca oversees the jails.  There has been evidence of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's (LASD) deputies using head strikes against the prisoners.  According to a report done by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), sixty-four inmates have signed a sworn statement describing deputies targeting inmates' heads for attacks.

The ACLU has been in a monitoring role of the jails since 1985.  The ACLU has greater access to the jails than the general public.  

From 2009 to 2012, the ACLU found that 11 inmates had facial bones broken.  One inmate had been blinded in one eye.  Three inmates were sent to the operating room because of their injuries.  14 inmates had been left with facial gashes so deep they required sutures.

But that's really just the beginning in Los Angeles county.  The ACLU issued a report that called the LASD's deputies a gang.  They document how the deputies treated the prisoners.  Deputies were described as slamming inmates' heads into walls and windows.  Unresisting prisoners were routinely shot with Tasers.  If the deputies were feeling lazy or cruel, I'd imagine, they'd ask other inmates to deal with the problem inmates.  An inmate sexually assaulted another inmate with a broomstick.  In another instance, inmates raped another inmate while holding his head in a flushing toilet.  These atrocities occurred with the consent of LASD employees.  You can read all of the various incidents in the report.

This report highlighted that there were civilian witnesses to the attacks and other deputies came forward to talk about them.  Deputies described other deputies as referring to violence against inmates as a badge of honor.  These deputies encouraged violence against inmates.  Chaplains visiting jails felt they could not be silent after witnessing the violent assaults.

The LASD routinely brushes off accusations of deputy on inmate violence.  Most of the time, when an inmate complains of violence by a deputy the complaints are declared to be unfounded.  Deputies routinely report that the assaults are inmates attacking deputies unprovoked.  Lee Baca dismissed this report, saying, "truth is hard to find if you're in a rush, and the ACLU obviously felt a rush to get the report out.  They don't have substantial proof of their accusations."

According to the Citizen's Commission on Jail Violence found, even using LASD's statistics, 57% of the time where deputies used force, the inmates had not assaulted the deputies.  Because of the environment, training, and lack of accountability deputies are empowered to use force whenever they want.

Head strikes are among the worst way of using force against an inmate, if an inmate was actually assaulting a deputy.  Steve Martin, a corrections expert, noted that the goal in every situation where force is necessary is to restrain an inmate.  He then describes the accepted way to restrain an inmate including "joint locks, pressure points, arm bars, wrist locks, and strikes to muscled areas of the body, such as thighs."  Martin warned that deputies are unnecessarily imperiling inmates' health.

The FBI has opened a criminal investigation into these allegations that deputies are beating inmates.

So what are the solutions?  Well, they seem to be pretty easy.  You have to overhaul the entire process of Los Angeles County's jails.  Well, sort of.  The LASD needs to rewrite its policies about using excessive force and enforce against those who break it.  They need to bring in an outsider or outsiders to investigate whether beatings are warranted or not.  Appoint an Inspector General to investigate those who are perpetuating the systemic violence in the jails.  Invest in training for LASD's custody division and hire someone from the outside to help.  Finally, do not re-elect Lee Baca or elect Paul Tanaka as sheriff of Los Angeles County.

But these are mainly systemic issues.  What we need to focus on is that just because someone goes to prison, he or she does not lose basic human rights.  We need to realize that people make mistakes and while focusing on rehabilitating those who are criminals, we must understand that they will be released.  Should we really be beating them in the head?  Is that an effective rehabilitating technique?  I doubt it.

             

Franco v. Holder

Jose Antonio Franco-Gonzalez, according to court documents, does not know how old he is, cannot tell time, and cannot remember telephone numbers.  Franco was detained for deportation in 2005 and shuffled along various deportation centers in California.  All the while, he did not have a hearing to determine if he was a safety risk or mentally competent to stand before an immigration judge.  Facing an immigration judge, Franco was required to represent himself.

Unlike criminal courts, those who face deportation or other charges in immigration courts do not have the right to an attorney provided by the government.  Children and people with mental disabilities, like Franco, are forced to represent themselves.  While those in immigration courts can hire private lawyers to represent them, many cannot afford to do so.

In 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU-SC), American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego, American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, Mental Health Advocacy Services, and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project filed suit to provide attorneys for those who are not competent to represent themselves in immigration hearings.

In April of 2013, a federal judge ruled that immigration courts have to provide legal representation to those who are mentally incompetent.  Federal immigration officials later announced that would expand the ruling nationwide.  According to the ruling, immigration courts could provide representation to immigrants by lawyers, students participating in law school clinics, or the immigration courts equivalent of a paralegal.  Immigration judges can order mental competency hearings for immigrants who might have serious disorders, according to medical records.  The judge can order the lawyers at government expense.

Allowing those who might be deported have a fair hearing is consistent with American values and ideals.  By providing lawyers, we are upholding the values that are held in the Constitution.  It's time to stop abusing immigrants and the ruling in this case, represents a step in the right direction.  The ruling in this case is an effective step in the comprehensive immigration reform that we need.


Monday Musings

We're just surprised Aaron Rodgers threw more than one interception against the Bengals...

Matthew Shepard who was murdered in Wyoming and became a symbol for those seeking to strengthen hate crime legislation based on sexual identity might not have been murdered because of his sexual identity.  I'm not really sure if this classifies as news.  According to the book's author and Fox News, that the robbers were strung out on a meth binge and that was the reason for the robbery and the beating that followed.  They met Shepard at a bar and he said that he was too drunk to drive home.  He also promised to give them drugs.  Shepard, according to the robbers, wanted to have sex with them in exchange for the drugs.  At this point, they decided to rob him instead.  The gruesome beating followed and Shepard died a few days later.  But, no worries.  It was definitely about drugs not sexual identity.

Is how much money you spend in an election a violation of free speech?  That's what is at stake in a case that will reach the Supreme Court.  But we're in a paradox.  Wealthy individuals can spend as much as they want in independent expenditures to super PACs and do not have to disclose who they are or how much they are giving through other methods.  Sadly, it might be a good idea to get rid of the contribution limits to a candidate to be more open.  I think that is more of a function of the court case of Citizens United than anything else.

The contraception mandate will be headed to the Supreme Court.  I hope it is upheld.  It'll be interesting when it gets overturned and abortions increase.  Take that pro-choicers trying to make it so my 8 year old girl is on birth control! You're killing babies!!!!!!1!111!

Apparently, there is a scandal in West Virginia involving a sheriff and those he is bringing in on drug charges.  Just more reasons to end the war on people doing drugs.

So, there's another mass shooting.  What does the NRA and Wayne LaPierre call for?  More armed security guards, more "good guys with guns", and let's focus on mental illness. But background checks for all gun sales or full funding for NICS to make sure people with mental illnesses are not getting guns is ridiculous.
 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Veteran presents

Los Angeles County has 6,000 homeless veterans on its streets.  Los Angeles County has the largest concentration of homeless veterans in the country.  Many veterans who have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), brain injuries, or other mental disabilities are in particular need of housing, as many veterans who suffer from PTSD have a hard time finding or maintaining employment.

There is 400 acres of land that was donated to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in 1888 and was used for eighty years to house veterans.  But over the last several decades the dormitories used for veterans has been empty and the Veterans Administration has leased parts of the campus to a hotel laundry, a television studio, the private Brentwood School and UCLA for its baseball stadium, and a dog park.

Robert Rosebrock, a veteran, protested the use of the land in this manner by hanging the American flag union side down, indicating distress.  The VA allowed Rosebrock and other veterans to hang American flags right side up.  The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU-SC) filed suit against the VA alleging that there was viewpoint discrimination.

But that was not the point of the lawsuit.  According to the ACLU-SC's chief counsel, Mark Rosenbaum, "the objective of this litigation is to end homelessness among veterans."  If one wants to end homelessness among veterans, one should not go to the Department of Veterans Affairs.  They argued during the lawsuit that it has no legal or any obligation to house mentally disabled veterans.

On August 29, Federal Judge James Otero ruled that the Department of Veterans Affairs has violated federal law by leasing its land to private businesses.  The VA is authorized by Congress to enter into agreements to share land or facilities with those who provide healthcare for veterans.  Under the ruling by Otero, nine of the leases are void.  Judge Otero has ordered that the VA has six months to terminate the leases or appeal the decision.  The reason stated by Otero is that these nine leases have nothing to do with healthcare.

The VA has said that they would house veterans in Brentwood.  They chose three buildings for renovations, five years ago.  Congress appropriated $20 million for the first of these buildings in 2010.  Ground was broken in 2013 and is scheduled for completion in 2014.  With that $20 million, the VA has announced it will renovate a total of 55 rooms.  45 will be single rooms and 10 will be double.  The new apartments will house 65 people for $20 million.

This is an embarrassment.  This is how we treat veterans? Just remember what the VA says, they are under no legal obligation or other obligation for the VA to house veterans.  If you ever walk down Skid Row in Los Angeles and see some of the 6000 homeless veterans, just remember what is happening.  

  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Limiting calls for help

In the United States, every nine seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten.  The leading cause of injury to women, is domestic violence.  Victims of domestic violence suffer through multiple assaults before they contact law enforcement to report assault.  Victims report other forms of victimization beside assaults, such as cutting off money or restricting freedom of movement.  This indicates that assault is often an escalating problem or that assault happens in a series of steps.

But despite this happening, women are afraid to report domestic violence to law enforcement.  According to a national survey, only one-fourth of victims report physical assaults to the police.  The number one reason women did not report assaults to police is a belief that police cannot or will not do anything for them.

So what laws can you put in place that would hurt women even more?  Maybe you would put laws in place that threaten housing if you call 911 too often.
 
Norristown, Pennsylvania orders landlords to evict tenants after three 911 calls within four months.  The law is supposed to promote peaceful neighborhoods and discourage nuisance calls.  Apparently, these laws are quite common, as over 100 cities or towns have enacted similar laws.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has challenged these laws on the belief that domestic violence victims are endangered by laws such as this.  The ACLU found a test case to challenge the law in a district court.  Nursing assistant Lakisha Briggs, a single mother living in Norristown under a federal subsidized rent program said that she was afraid to call police during an attack by her ex-boyfriend, after a series of police calls involving arguments with her daughter and others.

The town has argued that the law is not onerous, in part, because there are exceptions for true emergencies.  Disorderly conduct is what is supposed to be addressed by these laws.  The ACLU argues that the police has too much discretion in what constitutes an emergency.  Women who already are distrustful of law enforcement, are even more afraid if the police have more control over housing.

If the landlord does not evict the tenant, then they face a fine.  Landlords are allowed to appeal the fine.  But even the District Court Judge questioned whether or not landlords would simply evict the tenant rather than appeal because it is the easy way out.

These laws further endanger women who are being assaulted.  While the laws were set in place to try and discourage nuisance, the actual effects of the law seem to scare assault victims away from reporting to police because they are afraid of losing housing.    

Friday, September 20, 2013

Democratic Presidential Power Rankings

The Favorite

1. Hillary Clinton: Clinton is still the heavy favorite to be the Democratic nominee.  Clinton is the favorite among New Hampshire primary voters, by over 40 points.  Clinton beats almost everyone everywhere in head to head matchups.  Clinton, like she does everytime, was silent on whether she would run in 2016.  The looming specter over Hillary is, of course, BENGHAZI! and Darrell Issa has said that he can call Hillary back to testify, if he so chooses.

Still rising

2. Elizabeth Warren: Warren is rising polling only 1% below Biden in the newest New Hampshire poll.  Warren is getting more popular especially since JP Morgan was fined close to $1 billion because of the most recent trading scandal.  She is still getting a lot of praise about her speech at the AFL-CIO and her criticism of the Supreme Court.  The National Review's editor has attacked Warren for her speech and will likely continue.  What it comes off as is a recognition of a threat.

Crazy Uncle Joe
    
3. Joe Biden: Biden has a much higher name recognition than the rest of the Democratic presidential fields.  He has recently visited Colorado to view the flood damage and has been sent to Mexico for economic talks.  Biden visited Iowa.  I think we discussed this last week.  Whatever. If Biden ran for 2016, The Onion would love Biden.

The non-favorite favorites
4. Martin O'Malley: O'Malley recently visited New Hampshire.  He definitely needs the name recognition as he finished with 0% of the New Hampshire primary votes.  O'Malley recently debated Rick Perry on Crossfire and much like 2011, he kicked his ass. O'Malley is ready for the prime time debates.  The question is are we going to be ready for a relative unknown to win a major party's primary?  If he continues the work and ideals that he lays out in this op-ed, he will win, handily.  

5. Cory Booker: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel went up to New Jersey to stump for Democratic Senate candidate Cory Booker.  This is not surprising.  You'd be hard-pressed to be able to tell the difference between Booker and Emanuel if you just look at their policies.  Steve Lonegan, Republican Senate candidate, tried to show that Booker would failed Newark but supporters of Booker drowned him out with shouting.    

6. Andrew Cuomo: Cuomo is still a rather boring choice.  But he has been a governor, so he has that experience in his favor.  He is trying to strip corrupt politicians from receiving their pensions.  Nobody believes that politicians deserve their pensions, anyway, so this will be a popular discussion.  Cuomo didn't think much of the Republican attempt to defund Obamacare.  Cuomo believes that the state exchange that will open on October 1, will survive the fight.  

Senators looking for a promotion
7. Kirsten Gillibrand: Gillibrand played games on the lawn to help raise awareness for funding of early child education and to get back to education reforms Barack Obama talked about in the State of the Union.  There has been some reports that show that early childhood education can cost more than college in some places.  She also slammed the House for cutting nearly $40 billion from SNAP, saying that the current safety net was inadequate.
  
8. Mark Warner: Warner who has been used to keeping his mouth shut about a number of issues finally lashed out.  I had to move Warner up after seeing and reading this.  Warner was critical of the economic "experts" from the CATO institute and lawmakers who wouldn't raise taxes, no matter what.  He believes that it is "mind-boggling" that playing with the debt limit is good policy.  He also thinks we should budge on the 18% revenue of GDP being taxed because, well, look at history.

The faller
9. Julian Castro: Castro attended the steak fry in Iowa with Joe Biden.  Anytime that someone visits Iowa, there is speculation that he or she will run for President.  Julian Castro decided to stop those rumors.  He announced that he would not run for anything.  Castro also had a really good interview with the Washington Post recently.  The Washington Times reports that there are conservative and Christian grassroots organizations working to recall Julian Castro over employees not being allowed to discriminate based on sexual identity.  Christians are saying that the non-discrimination law discriminates against Christians.  I mean what's more Christian than not loving your neighbor?    

The No Chance in hell
10. Brian Schweitzer: I don't think Schweitzer has a real shot.  He would be attacked because of his comments about Obamacare.  If Obamacare is as successful as many people suggest, then Schweitzer will look like an idiot.  Schweitzer is popular in Montana but he declined an opportunity to run for the Senate in 2014.  It is likely that he will not seek any political office over the next few years.