Saturday, May 31, 2014

Solitary confinement

The state of California is an aggressive user of solitary confinement.  Solitary confinement is used to punish inmates who commit violent offenses while in prison and to separate alleged gang members from other prisoners.  Only one prison in California, Pelican Bay, in which prisoners with mental illness may not be held in solitary confinement.  According to state filings in Coleman v. Brown, about 9% of the over 100,000 prisoners in California's correctional system are held in some form of segregated housing or solitary confinement.  The numbers spike when you look at prisoners with mental illnesses.  Nearly 21% of mentally ill prisoners are held in solitary confinement.  Perhaps it is not surprising that more than one third of suicides in the California prison system in 2011 were committed by those in solitary confinement.  More than half of the suicides in the first half of 2012 were committed by those in solitary confinement.  A 2008 study of California prisons found a strong correlation between suicides and solitary confinement, showing that 46% of all suicides from 1998-2004 were committed by prisoners in single cells affiliated with solitary confinement.

Psychological studies have shown that solitary confinement causes a persistent and heightened state of of anxiety and nervousness, headaches, insomnia, chronic tiredness, nightmares, heart palpitations, and fear of impending nervous breakdowns.  Other effects include confused thought processes, oversensitivity, irrational anger, social withdrawal, hallucinations, violent fantasies, chronic depression, and suicidal thoughts.  With all these symptoms, it certainly seems that if you don't have a mental illness before you enter solitary confinement, you're likely to develop one.

California's prison system discussed a new policy of step-down which they promised would give a way out of solitary confinement for over 3,000 prisoners.  Attorney Charles Carbone was quoted in an interview after his testimony "under their new proposed step-down policy there's no way out of [solitary confinement] other than debriefing or participating in a behavior modification program.  There used to be an active review process, every 4 or 6 years, that's gone now."

After the hearing, Tom Ammiano introduced legislation which would cap solitary confinement for gang affiliated violations at 36 months.  The system of gang validation has drawn intense criticism.  Items, such as possession of a book, photograph, or drawing as evidence of gang affiliation.  Ammiano criticized the policy by stating that it would be hard for any member to avoid being painted as gang affiliated.  Yet, the law would only end the solitary confinement at 3 years.  True reform is needed to curb the use of solitary confinement in California and other states.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ambitious Attorney Generals

In each state, there is an Attorney General.  The office of Attorney General is usually held by ambitious people who are wanting to run for a higher office. There was an oft-repeated phrase that the National Association of Attorney Generals (NAAG) was actually for the National Association of Aspiring Governors.  In 1985, 10 of the 50 governors in the country were former Attorney Generals.  Between 1988 and 1996, 20 of 21 Attorney Generals seeking to become governors lost their election.  Josh Goodman, in his article, in State and Local Government, argues that the tobacco settlement opened up doors for attorney generals to show the power they could exercise if they chose to do so.  The multi-billion dollar settlement with cigarette companies was negotiated by state attorney generals throughout the country and was able to show many of these attorney generals as local heroes.

Has the role of the Attorney General changed since then?  Many attorney generals don't really report to anyone.  They are, however, sometimes required to defend state laws in court which may place them as defending a law that they may not personally agree with.  Luckily for them, they can still pick which politically appealing subjects they want to tackle. In recent years, we have seen attorney generals go after payday lenders, Wall Street traders, drug dealers, and, of course, the Obama administration.  All of this has been done to enhance political popularity and prestige.  Former Attorney General of Virginia and former Attorney General Bob McDonnell said, "you don't have to get involved in every single issue, but you can get involved in the ones where you think that you can make a difference.  It has been a luxury."  Virginia was an odd case in that the last 7 governors before Terry McAuliffe were attorney generals.  Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli ran for Virginia Governor in 2013 and lost.  Part of this reason was that he was criticized for the roles in lawsuits that he helped instigate.  Among them, was a case where he tried to revive Virginia's anti-sodomy law.  Cuccinelli also joined the lawsuit against the Obama administration attacking the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.  McAuliffe and Democratic operatives were able to attack Cuccinelli on holding these views, as they were considered out of the mainstream.

Depending on the state, though, the Attorney General can get away with more.  Greg Abbot, the current Attorney General for Texas and is running for Governor, has famously described a day in his office as going to work, suing the Obama administration, and going home.  Abbot has been a part of many of the lawsuits against the Obama administration and has only increased his popularity in Texas.  Abbot is the heavy, heavy favorite to win the 2014 gubernatorial election in Texas.  Abbot has been able to capitalize on party ID but on his name recognition from the Attorney General's office to be able to become the newest Governor of Texas.  While some of the newly found power of Attorney Generals is seeped in the ability to pick the right issues to fight or to find the right unpopular people to fight, it is also focused on how many people you have on staff.  In California, the Attorney General has more than 1,000 lawyers on staff, so they are able to focus on interstate class-action suits.  In Goodman's article, Steve Merrill, a former New Hampshire governor stated that he only had 40 lawyers on staff so he was forced to focus his attention on in-state issues.  Merrill went on to say,"I never would have run for governor if I hadn't been attorney general because I learned so much about how state government operates."

Goodman argues that Attorney Generals now run their office like a mini-governorship.  Many Attorney Generals have to begin each year by creating their own legislative agenda.  They submit a list of bills that they are going to back at the beginning of the legislative session.  Further, he argues that as the office grows, attorney generals may not need to run for a higher office to accomplish their political goals.  This might be the case already, currently 7 of the 50 Governors were former Attorney Generals.  There are 4 additional former Attorney Generals running for Governor.  At the end of the election cycle, there can only be 10 former Attorney Generals in the governor's mansion.  There are 7 former Attorney Generals serving in the U.S. Senate.

This isn't a way of saying that Attorney Generals are becoming less ambitious but rather they can accomplish their own political goals without having to run for a higher office. The office of the Attorney General has always attracted ambitious politicians and will continue to do so. Instead of having to leave the office to accomplish the goals, they can be accomplished after their first election.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Crist, him again?!?

In 2002, Charlie Crist was elected Attorney General of Florida. He was a Republican.  Like most Attorney Generals elected in other states, he had eyes on a larger goal.  In 2006, Crist was elected Governor of Florida.  He was a Republican.  He decided to not run for re-election in 2010, choosing instead to run for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.  He initially was leading in the polls but was eventually overtaken by young upstart Marco Rubio.  Rubio was part of the TEA Party wave in 2010.  His Machiavellian grasp on politics surely surprised everyone.  Rubio, later, stated that if you need to be the most conservative to be elected, you decide to be the most conservative.  This isn't about Rubio.  This is about Crist.  While losing, Crist decided to leave the Republican Party.  He, later, determined that the reason for leaving the Republican Party was because of the extreme racism of the political party.  This became an ex post facto reason for leaving the party.  Some have attributed his reason to leaving the Republican Party because he's a sore loser.  He decided to run as an independent without changing his political party.  In the general election, he played spoiler, winning 30% of the vote compared to 49% for Rubio and only 20% for the Democratic nominee.

The claim that Crist left the Republican Party because he was a sore loser instead of the extreme racism that he claimed was the reason he left struck me as odd.  At the Republican Governor's Association in 2008, Crist stated, "the party can no longer hope to reach Hispanics, African Americans and other minority groups - we need to just do it.  Embracing cultures and lifestyles will make us a better party and better leaders."  In 2010, Crist lost to one of the few Hispanic or "other minority groups" in the Republican Party.  It is possible that Crist decided that the dog whistles of the TEA Party and the Republican Party was too much for Crist.  I think it's at least slightly possible that Crist was not a fan of where the Republican Party was going in 2010.  Seeing what the party has shown in the last 4 years, it's not, as if, we can say that Crist wasn't right about the racism in the Republican Party.

In the documentary Outrage!, acclaimed filmmaker Kirby Dick and a prominent blogger accuse Crist of being gay and deciding to make laws discriminating against gay people.  I'm not really sure if it is ever ok to out someone for their sexuality, so I had numerous problems with the documentary.  The philosophical question was whether it is acceptable to out someone based off the sexuality of the politician even if they'rein a position of power.  The argument is that since they are the ones making the laws/rules, they should be subject to them and that the se politicians were merely covering themselves for their own indiscretions.  Crist stated that he supported the Federal Marriage Amendment but by 2010, he had decided to support the right for gay couples to adopt in Florida.  By the time Crist announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Governor in 2013, Crist had become an outspoken advocate for same-sex marriage. Is it because Crist actually supported same-sex marriage, or because he was gay (gasp), or because he read the political tea leaves?

Crist announced that he was running for the Democratic nomination for Governor in Florida in 2013.  He decided to run against the very vulnerable incumbent Rick Scott.  It is, of course more than likely, that had Crist decided to run in 2010, Scott would not have been elected governor in the first place.  Crist is trying to rectify this in 2014.  Many see Crist as a flip-flopper, perhaps rightfully so, but he stands a chance against the vulnerable incumbent.  I like Crist's tanlines and his ability to politically camouflage himself with what he NOW believes.  Crist is the politician of a new era where people are finally fed up with the coded racist, homophobic, xenophobic language of the past and are willing to embrace a politician who leaves that life. While Crist isn't perfect, he might be exactly what Florida needs.

A more perfect voting guide

Sometimes people ask me who they should vote for and look at me quixotically when I don't give them an answer. I'm not sure who YOU should vote for. I am not sure what your values are or how you would even go about expressing these values in the form of voting.

Earlier this year, I was working on better know a politician sections to help people decide for which people they should vote.  Without a complete database, I'm not really sure how helpful that is, in retrospect.  Nevertheless, there WILL be A More Perfect Union voting guide (for statewide and federal elections) with issues that I feel are relevant to voting, politicians I am watching closely, politicians worth watching out for in the future, and controversial ballot measures.  The issues will more or less be discussed in op-ed format.   If there are particular issues where you are curious where a politician stands or that you feel are important, please let me know and I'll try to address them. If you feel that I am unfairly characterizing a position on an issue or the position of a politician, please let me know.

Additionally, there will be a list of elections that I am watching particularly closely.

Note: Statewide elections refer to state executives, primarily, focusing on politicians/ballot measures that the whole state will be voting on rather than state legislature voting.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Primary election predictions: Day 3

Tomorrow, there is 6 states holding their primaries.  I'm here to give you some crack(pot) analysis and predictions.  That's enough small talk. Let's begin.

Arkansas:

House of Representatives:
2nd Congressional District: French Hill (R)
4th Congressional District: Bruce Westerman (R)

State Executive(s):
Governor: Asa Hutchinson (R); Mike Ross (D)
Lieutenant Governor: Tim Griffin (R)
Attorney General: Leslie Rutledge (R)

What to watch for: The two Congressional primaries with actual challengers should be interesting.  In the 2nd Congressional District, banker Hill is running against state representative Ann Clemmer and Conrad Reynolds.  Hill is outraising the other candidates in the field, thanks to his own wealth.  The 2nd Congressional district will be an interesting election to watch in November as North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays will be the Democratic nominee. Meanwhile, in the 4th Congressional district, State House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman is the heavy favorite.  For Lieutenant Governor, Congressman Tim Griffin is running for the Republican nomination.  Leslie Rutledge is my pick for the Republican nomination as Attorney General.

Georgia:

House of Representatives:
1st Congressional District: Buddy Carter (R); Amy Tavio (D)
2nd Congressional District: Vivian Childs (R)
3rd Congressional District: Lynn Westmoreland (R)
4th Congressional District: Hank Johnson (D)
9th Congressional District: Doug Collins (R)
10th Congressional District: Donna Sheldon (R)
11th Congressional District: Barry Loudermilk (R)
12th Congressional District: Rick Allen (R)
13th Congressional District: David Scott (D)
14th Congressional District: Tom Graves (R)

Senate:
David Perdue (R) Note: If Perdue does not win a majority of the votes in the primary, there will be a run-off election. I believe Jack Kingston will come in 2nd.

State executive:
Governor: Nathan Deal (R)
Secretary of State: Doreen Carter (D)

What to watch for: The 1st Congressional District, the 11th, and the 12th Congressional District all feature safe Republican seats where new Republican candidates are running to be the representative of their respective districts.  I think Buddy Carter should be the 1st Congressional District Republican winner but Bob Johnson could play spoiler.  Loudermilk was endorsed by FreedomWorks and the Madison Project.  Barr, a Libertarian, is running to return to Washington as true Libertarians do.  Allen was named by the National Republican Congressional Committee as a candidate to watch.  The Georgia Republican Senate Primary is the election everyone is watching and should be something to watch for.  What to really watch for is how close Perdue gets to the majority mark and who will come in second. I believe Kingston will come in 2nd place but it wouldn't surprise me if Karen Handel comes in 2nd.

Idaho:

House of Representatives:
1st: Raul Labrador (R)
2nd: Michael K. Simpson (R)

Senate:
Jim Risch (R)

Governor:
Butch Otter (R)

What to watch for: I'm being boring and picking the incumbents to hold off challenges.

Kentucky:

House of Representatives:
1st Congressional District: Charles Kendall Hatchett (D)
3rd Congressional District: John Yarmuth (D)
5th Congressional District: Kenneth Stepp (D)
6th Congressional District: Elisabeth Jensen (D)

Senate:
Mitch McConnell (R); Alison Lundgren Grimes (D)

What to watch for: Nothing really. Mitch McConnell will survive the primary challenge from Matt Bevin.

Oregon:

House of Representatives:
1st: Delinda Morgan (R)
2nd: Greg Walden (R); Charles Vulliet (D)
5th: Ben Pollock (R);Kurt Schrader (D)

Senate:
Monica Wehby (R); Jeff Merkely (D)

State Executive:
Governor: Dennis Richardson (R); John Kitzhaber (D)

What to watch for: Oregon's gubernatorial electoral primary.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Weekly round-up: Governor races

Here's our weekly round-up of three gubernatorial elections.

Wisconsin: Embattled governor Scott Walker is finally finishing up his first-term in office and is running for re-election.  Walker has been making news recently for endorsing certain Republican politicians in Republican primaries.  When he's not in the news for that, he is giving a commencement speech at Concordia.  Walker is being investigated for dark money and could hurt his chances if he wants to run in 2016.  EMILY's List, a(n) (in)famous women's activist group has targeted Walker in this election.   Walker survived a recall election and is the slight favorite to be re-elected this year.  According to a recent poll by Public Policy Polling, Walker leads challenger Mary Burke by 3 points.  Burke voted to re-open negotiations with the Madison teachers' union.  Republicans have criticized Burke for being too close with unions.  This could turn into a union vs. anti-union election.  This will be an interesting election to watch.

Colorado: Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper is being challenged in his re-election bid by a bevy of Republican candidates.  The three horse race is between Bob Beauprez, Scott Gessler, and Tom Tancredo.  Tancredo is the wildcard of the Republican primary.  He has been endorsed by political heavyweights Ted Nugent, Sheriff Joe, and Dog the Bounty Hunter.  Tancredo is running on the impeachment of Barack Obama, invoking the 10th Amendment, and defending Colorado's sovereignty.  Republicans should be scared if Tancredo wins the nomination.  Meanwhile, Bob Beauprez has snagged the endorsement of Mitt Romney.  Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has been running on the idea that he is the only Republican who can win a statewide election.  None of the candidates are raising much money because people don't believe the Republican candidates can beat John Hickenlooper come November.  Hickenlooper is a strong candidate for re-election because of the weak candidates running against him.  At a recent luncheon, he stated that Colorado went from 40th to 4th in job creation.  When the economy does well, the executive gets too much credit and when it tanks, the executive gets too much blame.

Maine: Maine has a three way race in the general election.  Independent candidate Eliot Cutler, who finished 2nd in 2010 behind Paul LePage, is running in 2014 to be the Governor.  Cutler has unveiled an economic plan to focus on helping women in Maine.  This plan includes expanding early childhood education and creating flexible family working plans.  He has supported raising the minimum wage but prefers it is done at the national level. Democratic candidate Mike Michaud also supports raising the minimum wage. Governor Paul LePage vetoed a bill that would raise the minimum wage.  Cutler trails Michaud and LePage in fundraising and the polls, as Cutler is polling at about 15%.  Democratic candidate is leading the three-way race by 4 points over LePage.  Michaud came out as gay in November of 2013 and will lead the LGBT Pride parade.  His campaign has focused on LePage's out of touch politics and obstructionism.  LePage was able to win the gubernatorial election, in part, because voters were divided in 2010.  His campaign has focused on calling his opponents "liberal" and referring to most social safety net policies to welfare.  The Bangor Daily News has stated that LePage has run on broad policies rather than specific policy positions.  They have also noted that LePage is reliant on the three-way race.  He is trying to stamp out food stamp fraud and has criticized his liberal opponents for ignoring nursing homes.   Michaud should be able to win the election, if Cutler doesn't play spoiler this year.      

Monday, May 12, 2014

Primary predictions: Day 2

Two states, tomorrow, hold their primary.  The states are Nebraska.  We'll try to take a look to see who will win these primaries.

West Virginia:

2nd Congressional District: Charlotte Lane (R); Nick Casey (D)
3rd Congressional District: Nick Rahall (D)

Senate:
Shelley Moore Capito (R); Natalie Tennant (D)

What to watch for: The 2nd Congressional District offers a very competitive Republican Primary.  TEA Party favorite and former Maryland GOP chairman Alex Mooney has the "momentum" and has a fundraising lead over former U.S. International Trade Commissioner and former state legislator Charlotte Lane.  Lane is considered the establishment favorite.  They are running to replace incumbent Shelley Moore Capito, who is running for Senate. Some observers are worried that Mooney's run to the Right will make it harder to beat Nick Casey in the general election.  The Senate primary is pretty boring, Shelley Moore Capito is a near-lock to win the nomination as is Natalie Tennant.

Nebraska:

1st Congressional District: Jeff Fortenberry (R)
2nd Congressional District: Lee Terry (R); Brad Ashford (D)
3rd Congressional District: Adrian Smith (R)

Senate:
Ben Sasse (R); Dave Domina (D)

Governor:
Jon Bruning (R)

Treasurer:
Don Stenberg (R)

Auditor:
Charlie Janssen (R)

Public Service Commission:
Jim Esch (D)

What to watch for: The glorious return of Jim Esch.  This is my one big upset pick as I believe Esch will be able to unseat the incumbent Anne C. Boyle.  The Republican Congressional delegation of NEbraska is being challenged.  Lee Terry is being challenged again this year, but he looks safe.  Unfortunately, Pete Festersen is not running to unseat Terry in the general election.  Most eyes are on Nebraska for the Republican primary for Governor and Senate.  First things first, Sasse has emerged as the favorite to win the Republican nomination.  Shane Osborn who was the initial leader for the seat has fallen to third according to some internal polls leaked by Sasse's campaign.  Sid Dinsdale has emerged as a real challenger to Sasse.  This is mostly due to the negative advertisements flooding the airwaves in Nebraska.  The good life of Nebraska does not appreciate negative advertisements.  I think Sasse will win this election.  The gubernatorial election is even more heated.  Omaha based investor Pete Ricketts is running for the nomination.  Ricketts has earned the endorsement of Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, among others.  I thought, initially, that Ricketts would win the nomination easily.  That was before the last minute campaign of Attorney General Jon Bruning.  Bruning lost the Republican nomination for Senate in 2012 due to an influx of outside spending.  Bruning got endorsements from prominent Republicans in Nebraska.  The latest poll I saw has Bruning leading Ricketts.  I think that's how it will stay.  Politics can change very quickly.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

America's Greatest Defender of Freedom: Rand Paul

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has many supporters on the right and on the supposed left due to the belief that he is substantially better on civil liberties issues than other politicians.  I have been a frequent critic of him in the past and have tried to show that this belief that he is better on civil liberties than other politicians is a clever manipulation of the media and an outright sham.

For the most part, this civil liberties belief surfaced after a filibuster the junior Senator led against the confirmation of John Brennan.  The filibuster, ostensibly, was about drone strikes.  In February of 2013, Paul had written to John Brennan requesting additional information on the Obama administration's belief of drone strikes on U.S. soil.  Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter back, dated March 4, 2013, to the Senator stating the administration has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and "has no intention of doing so."  Further, Holder dismissed Paul's questioning as entirely hypothetical and unlikely to occur.  Holder finally admits that there are extraordinary circumstances where the President would have no choice to authorize the military strike.  The examples Holder gave was Pearl Harbor and the September 11 attacks.  Soon after he received the letter, Paul issued a press release stating that Holder has not ruled out drone strikes on American soil, calling it an "affront [to] the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans."

On March 6th, hours before Paul's filibuster began,  the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on oversight for the Department of Justice.  Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) began a line of questioning on Holder to clarify the position of the administration on drones.  The line of questioning led to a question that was intended to ask, does the Constitution allow the United States to to use a drone to kill a United states Citizen, even one who is a suspected terrorist, while he is sitting at a cafe and not an imminent threat.  After a lengthy back and forth, Holder finally stated that no, the Constitution does not allow it.  Senator Cruz seemed pleased with this remark stating, in his usual grace, "after much gymnastics, I am very glad to hear that it is the opinion of the Department of Justice that it would be unconstitutional to kill a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil if that individual did not pose an imminent threat."

Soon after that, Paul's filibuster began.  He criticized the letter issuing a blanket statement that "there is the use of lethal force that can always be repelled.  If our country is attacked, the President has the right to defend and protect the country.  Nobody questions that.  Nobody questions if planes are flying towards the twin towers whether they can be repulsed by the military.  Nobody questions whether a terrorist with a rocket launcher or a grenade launcher is attacking us, whether they can be repelled."  Senator Cruz and Senator Mike Lee both asked Senator Paul if he was aware of the Senate Judiciary hearing earlier and the response Holder had given.  He said that he was and that he was not satisfied as Holder had not said that it was unconstitutional but just responding to Cruz's question.  Senator Paul received a letter from Holder later stating simply that the president does not have authority to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil.  Again, nothing about constitutionality.  Nevertheless, Senator declared victory stating that he finally received the answer to the question he asked.

Paul drew distinction between Holder's responses, despite saying almost the exact same thing as Holder did, in his letter to Paul.  During the filibuster, Paul stated, "I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone without first being charged with a crime, without first being found guilty by a court."  That statement is not quite correct.  As Senator Paul pointed out in his filibuster multiple times, that there should be an imminent threat standard.  Paul was critical of the Obama administration not wanting to debate the 5th Amendment, saying "if we're going to do something, so dramatic as to no longer have the 5th Amendment apply in the United States, to have no accusation, to have no rest, jury trials for folks that are to be killed in the United States, it's such a dramatic change that you would think we would want to have a full airing of a debate over this."  During the 4th hour of the filibuster, Paul stated bluntly, "I'm aware of no legal precedent for taking the life of an American without the 5th Amendment or due process."

On April 22, 2013, Senator Paul appeared on Neil Cavuto's Fox Business Network Program.  You can watch the video at this link, so you don't think I'm taking the Senator's words out of context. "I never argued against any technology, when you have an imminent threat, an active crime going on.  If someone comes out of the liquor store,with a weapon in $50 in cash.  I don't care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him."  Police officers are only authorized to use deadly force if a suspect is an imminent threat to the life of an officer or the people nearby.  This should be concerning to the 2nd Amendment supporters and gun rights activists who believe that the Obama administration will take away their guns.  Senator Paul seems to believe that someone with a gun is an imminent threat and can be killed by a drone, onsite.  Sensing the contradictory nature of his words on Cavuto's program and his filibuster, Paul issued a press release: "Armed drones should not be used in normal crime situations.  They may only be considered in extraordinary, lethal situations where there is an ongoing imminent threat.  I described that scenario previously during my Senate filibuster."  The scenario if you missed it was the 9/11 attacks or Pearl Harbor, essentially.  The same exact thing Holder said.  Senator Paul and his office said that it was unfair to single out one specific quote from his filibuster to show his hypocrisy.  Apparently, they were fine when they argued semantics about the Obama administration's position on drones.

Senator Paul is all about semantics and arguing the meaning of what someone says because his statements won't sound as bad if he can draw up the right analogy to confuse you.  If you remember correctly, in 2010, Senator Paul argued his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting private businesses from discriminating against customers based on skin color/race tramples private rights.  In his interview with Rachel Maddow, he kept bringing up that he is against "government, institutional" government but frequently does not mention private business and their policies.  The strategy for Senator Paul, after this information was brought up was to complain about the media.  Senator Paul simply opined that he would not repeal the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act.  He simply believes that it is a bad business decision. Near the end of the interview, Senator Paul has stated that he does not condone any form of discrimination.

His unwavering commitment to non-discrimination and complete lack of government intervention in private enterprises has led him to fight for the most discriminated of all people, big oil companies.  Paul argued, in a Senate speech that big oil should receive more favors from the government.  Arguing for constant tax breaks, Senator Paul wants to know what the problem is for big oil companies from making more money.  Saying simply, "we as a society need to glorify those that make a profit."  Paul argues that clean energy companies should not receive funding from the federal government because "it just doesn't seem right that your tax dollars are sent to companies just because they are big contributors."  He also falsely stated how many jobs are created by the oil industry.  This is, in no way, surprising.

Every fiber of his being believes in non-discrimination but he won't support the Civil Rights Act desegregating private businesses or supporting the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).  Senator Paul pawns off most of his views on LGBT issues on the belief that someone else should make the decision.  His spokesman stated that the military should make the decision of "don't ask, don't tell" but did not offer support for the repeal even after military support came.  For same-sex marriage, he believes in the historic and religious nature of marriages, supporting same-sex marriage bans stating that federal courts ruling to the contrary are illegitimate.  Getting the federal government out of the business of prohibiting same-sex marriage, counts as a socially liberal issue to most, I guess. His continued commitment to state's rights, include introduction of a federal fetal personhood bill.  His belief in private business extends all the way to include an attempt to add the national right-to-work law on ENDA.  The reason Senator Paul does not want to discuss social issues is that he doesn't want to lose your support.

Even his national security stances are incoherent and nativist, at best.  Initially, he favored the closure of Guantanamo Bay. Senator Paul, during his filibuster argues that we should arrest enemy combatants. In other placess,  he argued that "foreign terrorists do not deserve the protections of our Constitution...these thugs should stand before military tribunals and be kept off American soil."   Even though, it is not clear that there are dangerous enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay.  Of the nearly 800, arrested since its inception, only 10 went on to engage in terrorist activity later.  There are 44 who the government has said it lacks evidence to prosecute but considers them too dangerous to release.  There are 77 men cleared for release by the government that are still there.  For someone who touts not only his social views but his fiscal conservative views, holding the men in Guantanamo Bay is unfathomable.  It costs $161 million per year to hold the 77 men who have been cleared for release in Guantanamo.  92% of the prisoners held in Guantanamo are not categorized as Al-Qaeda fighters.

I could go on about Senator Paul's casual relationship with racists in his staff, the racism, sexism, and homophobia almost inherently intertwined in the Libertarian movement, Senator Paul's distant relationships with facts and the truth, his insane conspiracy theories, or Senator Paul's consistent plagiarism among any number of issues.  At the end of the day, when I see the hashtags to #standiwthRand or people casually assert that Paul will be the correct choice for 2016, I shake my head.  The idea that Senator Paul is some great defender of civil liberties is a creation of the political environment we live in.  People are inundated with articles supporting their worldview without questioning anything.  The environment rewards politicians for sound bites over political substance.  They enjoy the idea of someone who shares one idea of theirs and projects the rest onto them.  This environment allows people to project political ideas and terms onto whatever politician they would like.  These terms and ideas have real meaning and real impact but we would rather avoid them to listen to another politician reinforce what we already believe.  The idea that Senator Paul is some principled politician standing up to the abuses of arbitrary executive power are dramatically overstated.  If Senator Paul, becomes President Paul, we will see how he actually feels, if he can gravtiate towards a consistent political ideology.  Senator Paul may be better than some politicians on civil liberties; however, Senator Paul falls short of the idea of being America's greatest defender of freedom.












Saturday, May 10, 2014

Weekly round-up: Senate races

This week, we're going to look at three states that have an open Senate seat due to the incumbent Senator retiring.

Georgia: Georgia's Senate seat is open due to the retirement of two-term Senator Saxby Chambliss.  The Republican Party will have a fairly competitive primary on May 20.  Out of the declared candidates, there is not a clear favorite at this time.  The candidates are former CEO of Dollar General, David Perdue, Georgia Congressman Jack Kingston, former Secretary of State of Georgia Karen Handel, Georgia Congressman Phil Gingrey, and Georgia Congressman Paul Broun.  Gingrey and Broun have been coming up behind Perdue, Kingston, and Handel in recent polls.  Perhaps that is why Gingrey is debuting a new expensive advertisement.  If no candidate receives a majority of the votes in the primary, there will be a run-off in the summer with the top two vote-getters.  Gingrey, despite poor fundraising numbers last month, still has over $1 million in cash for the stretch run of the primary. Broun's campaign has run out of cash.  Despite high-profile endorsements from TEA Party organizations and Ron Paul, Broun's campaign is struggling.  The TEA Party organization and activists are upset that they have not been able to take advantage of the open Senate seat with their preferred candidate, Broun.  Handel is currently in third place in polls but she might be able to sneak in the top two.  Handel has received the endorsement from Sarah Palin.  Handel 's fundraising numbers are slightly higher than Gingrey and Broun but she does not have the cash on hand to compare to Gingrey.  The American Future Fund has decided to help out Handel and give their candidate some more media time. Kingston was the initial Republican establishment candidate and has maintained his status throughout.  Kingston has received endorsements from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and even Fox News Commentator Sean Hannity.  Despite pollsters in Georgia urging Kingston and other Republicans to temper down anti-Common Core rhetoric or they will lose in November, Kingston sent a direct mailer attacking Perdue and his statements on Common Core.  Kingston has decided to go negative in this stretch run, also targeting Perdue's business practices.  Perdue pumped in an additional $1 million of his own money in his campaign.  Perdue has been leading in most polls but he is not even close to the 50% mark in the polls.  Perdue has been able to get his name out there by spending big on television advertisements.  He appears to be safe to advance, at least, to the run-off.  

Iowa: In Iowa, Congressman Bruce Braley will be the Democratic nominee.  On June 3, Iowa Republicans will hold a primary to determine who will run against Braley to replace retiring Senator Tom Harkin's seat.  It appears to be a two-person race as the former CEO of Reliant Energy Mark Jacobs and State Senator Joni Ernst have emerged as the favorites.  Ernst has been endorsed by prominent Republicans Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Deb Fischer.  Ernst gained national attention with her advertisement showing her experience with pig castration.  Her newest advertisement has her at a firing range firing guns as the narration talks about her opposition to Obamacare.  Recently, she has told the Des Moines Register that the attacks that she was AWOL during state Senate sessions was offensive.  Polls have shown that she is actually polling worse than Jacobs among women.  That might just give Jacobs what he needs to be able to defeat Ernst.  However, Jacobs recently moved back to Iowa to run for the Senate seat.  This does not play well in midwest states.  Super PACs spent a lot of money stating that Jacobs is a Texas millionaire who lobbied President Obama for cap and trade.  Jacobs has stated that his support of cap and trade was only part of his company's view and not a personal view.  It looked, initially, that Braley would be easily elected.  Braley made somewhat of a gaffe, attacking Chuck Grassley for not having a law degree but sitting near the top of the Senate Judiciary Committeee.  Braley has quickly backtracked and released his first advertisement of the election season.

South Dakota: In South Dakota, Democratic Senator Tim Johnson decided to retire instead of running for re-election.  The candidates for the candidate are going to be former Governor Mike Rounds (R) and former staffer for Tom Daschle, Rick Weiland (D).  The most recent poll from Public Policy Polling shows Ronds leading Weiland by 10 points.  Weiland has tried to make campaign finance reform a major issue.  Weiland's latest news includes support of a bill that would allow college students to refinance student loans. 

Weekly round-up: Gubernatorial races

The three gubernatorial races, I am doing a round-up for are below.  This week I am focusing on three states that have a chance to switch from Republican to Democratic. There is one sort of surprise in there.  I hope you had a great week!

Florida: Rick Scott who governed to the right of many Floridians has tried to appear as more of a moderate in recent months.  Scott criticized Rick Perry for allowing undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition, vetoed a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to receive driver's licenses, promised to copy Arizona's controversial SB1070, and referred to President Obama's deferred action policy as unconstitutional.  Scott now endorses in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. Some believe that Hispanic voters in Florida will make the difference in this election.  Scott is also appealing a court's decision that ruled that drug testing welfare recipients was unconstitutional.  Despite Charlie Crist's rather famous political party switch from Republican to Democrat, Crist is somewhat attacking Scott from the right on raising taxes.  Crist made national headlines when he stated that racism is why he left the Republican Party.  Political observers have opined that Crist left the Republican Party because he couldn't win.  The polls indicate that Crist has a slight lead over Scott in the race.  This will be one of the closest gubernatorial elections in the country and one definitely worth watching.      

Nebraska: Primary elections in Nebraska are held on Tuesday.  Chuck Hassebrook is running unopposed in the Democratic Primary.  Most of the news coming out of Nebraska lately has been about the Republican primary while Hassebrook has been able to stay out of the fray.  The GOP primary had nearly $12 million flow in, prior to Tuesday's primary.  Pete Ricketts, an Omaha investor, has led the way with fundraising with nearly $4 million.  Ricketts was considered the heavy favorite until Attorney General Jon Bruning mounted a last minute campaign in February to secure the nomination.  Bruning has raised over $2 million.  He has also received the endorsement of well-respected Governor Dave Heineman and not as well respected Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert.  Ricketts, meanwhile, has received numerous nominations from outside of the state including Paul Ryan, Sarah Palin, Scott Walker, and Ted Cruz.  Nebraska politics are a little weird. High profile endorsements from outside of the state don't normally play that well.  Still Ricketts receives much of his support from the Omaha area, the most populous in the state.  The primary will be very close.  Despite the political party associated with his name, Hassebrook stands a good chance of winning the election in November. He has been able to gain support from large swathes of the population including the Democratic population in Nebraska (there is some, I swear) as well as many rural areas in the state. The support in the rural areas would be crucial to Hassebrook.  Despite some political pundits willing to write off the state after the primary, it will be an election worth watching in November.  

Pennsylvania: Embattled Republican incumbent Tom Corbett is running for re-election.  The Washington Post has identified this state as the most likely to switch parties in 2014.  Corbett who endorsed a voter id law earlier has announced that he would not appeal the court's ruling striking down the voter id law.  Tom Wolf seems to be the most formidable foe to Corbett.  Corbett has been on the attack drawing the ire of fact-checking organizations such as FactCheck and PolitiFact.  Corbett has often been criticized for a wide variety of reasons including rejecting the Medicaid expansion, the voter id law, and cutting education spending.  The primary is May 20th and that is when we find out if it will be Tom Wolf, Rob McCord, or Allyson Schwartz running against Corbett.  Corbett is one of the most vulnerable governors in the United States and will be the focus of fundraising, advertising, and lots and lots of money come November.  I don't foresee Corbett being the Governor of Pennsylvania in January.    

Primaries and predictions aftermath

My first attempt of predicting primary races are over.  We'll take a quick look at how I did and how I can improve.

Indiana:

This was basically a guessing game as there are not very many polls out there chronicling Congressional primaries, especially in states that lean a certain political persuasion.  If the Democratic party wants to switch a Congressional seat in Indiana, their best shot is the 2nd Congressional District.  Joe Bock, who was the favorite going into the primary, won the Democratic nomination with a convincing percentage of votes.  Now Bock can focus on Jackie Walorski in the general election.  My big upset pick was that David Stockdale would upset incumbent Susan Brooks in the Republican primary.  I'm not really sure why I picked this upset as I mocked Stockdale's candidacy in my first look at the primaries.  It appears that Congressional Republicans are getting better at fending off primary challenges and/or the TEA Party/insurgent Republican Party members are just not as good as they were.  A big reason for this is that the Republican Party has shifted to the right, thanks in part to the TEA Party challenges in 2010.  Democrats who want the Democratic Party take note.  Primary challenges is how you shift the party left.  The other Congressional District that could be interesting to watch is the 9th where incumbent Todd Young faces off against Bill Bailey.

Ohio:

Again, Congressional primary races are more or less guessing games.  I did a fairly poor job of guessing who would win the nominations. My two bigger predictions in Ohio were that John Boehner would do just fine in the primary and that David Joyce would win his primary.   Boehner won his primary with nearly 70% of the vote.  I didn't put an exact number on it, so you could say I didn't get this prediction right, but I think Boehner winning the primary at nearly 70% of the vote gives us an additional lesson that the establishment Republicans will do fine in primaries.  The incumbent, Joyce, won his primary with 55% of the vote.  I had heard reports that Joyce would face a stiffer challenge in the primary.  The 14th Congressional District, which Joyce represents, will be the only competitive district in Ohio this year.

North Carolina

This is where my predictions came to pretty much die.  My big predictions were that Thom Tillis would not be able to avoid a runoff, Phil Berger would not be avoid a run-off in the 6th Congressional District, Taylor Griffin would upset Walter Jones in his primary, Clay Aiken would barely beat Keith Crisco in the 2nd Congressional District primary, and that Malcolm Graham would win the Democratic primary in the 12th Congressional District. Had I seen the last poll by Public Policy Polling, I would have likely changed my prediction and predicted that Tillis would have avoided the run-off.  Tillis's victory is a victory for the Republican establishment.  However, it should not be seen as a victory for moderates in North Carolina.  Tillis represents a strong challenge to Kay Hagan and will be one of the most watched elections in the country.  Berger did not avoid a run-off only collecting 34% of the vote.  The person I thought would finish in 2nd finished in a distant 4th.  Mark Walker, a former pastor, finished in 2nd. Again, never discount evangelical voters in low turnout elections.  The Sarah Palin endorsed Taylor Griffin failed in his bid to upset Walter Jones.  Jones barely held on with 51% of the vote.  Perhaps, the pro-war Griffin learned that not many people are as hawkish as he is.  Aiken and Crisco are separated by about 300 votes, so it is a real coin flip at this point.  Finally, the 12th Congressional District was embarrassing for me.  Alma Adams won handily over Graham.  That's what I get for doubting internal polling.  The 2nd, 6th, 7th, and 12th Congressional districts will be the ones to watch out for in November.  You will hear more about the Senate race in North Carolina than you ever cared to know.  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Primary predictions: Day 1

There are three primaries tomorrow, kicking off an eight week run where there are primaries every week. I'm so excited; I just can't hide it. Anyway, I'm offering predictions for how the primaries will go and a couple things to watch for in each state. Note: I am only offering predictions where at least two candidates are filed.

Indiana:

Congressional Primary:

2nd: Joe Bock (D)
3rd: Marlin Stutzman (R); Justin Kulhne (D)
4th: Todd Gokita (R); John Dale (D)
5th:  David Stockdale (R); Shawn Denney (D)
6th: Lane Siekman (D)
7th: Catherine Ping (R); Andre Carson (D)
8th: Larry Bucshon (R)
9th: Todd Young (R); Bill Bailey (D)

What to watch for: Nothing essentially. The 5th Congressional District offers a decent look at the Republican establishment vs an upstart candidate. You'll notice that I did not pick the incumbent in that district.  The 2nd district primary may give us an idea of how viable it is for Indiana to flip one of its districts blue. The 7th district's Republican primary could be interesting as two former potential candidates are squaring off. The 9th district also gives us an idea if an incumbent Republican will lose in the general election.

North Carolina

Congressional Primary:

1st: Arthur Rich (R); G.K. Butterfield (D)
2nd: Renee Ellmers (R); Clay Aiken (D)
3rd: Taylor Griffin (R)
5th: Virginia Foxx (R); Gardenia Henley (D) I have no idea for this one at all
6th: Phil Berger, Jr. (R); Laura Field (D)
7th: David Rouzer (R)
9th: Robert Pittenger (R)
10th: Patrick McHenry (R)
11th: Tom Hill (D)
12th: Malcolm Graham (D)
13th: Virginia Conlon (D)

Senate Primary:

Democratic nominee: Kay Hagan
Republican nominee: Thom Tillis

What to watch for: Everyone will be watching the North Carolina Republican Senate primary as it is the establishment backed Thom Tillis vs. the TEA Party backed Greg Brannon.  Tillis should be the favorite going into tomorrow.  North Carolina is strange in that if the candidate fails to get over 40% of the vote, there will be a run-off.  Brannon could force a run-off.  Recent polls have been showing Tillis is straddling that 40% mark.  I think Tillis wins tomorrow but fails to get over 40%.  I think he gets about 38% of the vote.  Other than that, you have the 2nd Congressional district with Clay Aiken facing Keith Crisco, Sr.  I think Aiken wins because of his higher name recognition but it is essentially a coin flip.  In the 3rd district, there is Sarah Palin endorsed Talor Griffin attempting to unseat incumbent Walter Jones.  I think due to low turnout, Griffin is able to pull the upset.  The 6th Congressional District has a lot of Republican candidates vying for a seat.  Berger is the establishment favorite but polls are showing he is falling just short of the 40% marker to avoid a run-off. I think Bruce VonCannon comes in 2nd.  There's enough Republican candidates to split the vote keeping Berger from getting the 40%.

Ohio:

Congressional primaries:

1st: Jim Prues (D)
2nd: Ronny Harrison Richards (D)
6th: Jennifer Garrison (D)
8th: John Boehner (R)
10th: Bill Conner (D)
14th: David Joyce (R)

State executive:

Governor: Ed FitzGerald (D)

What to watch for: Ummmmm....some observers of politics are saying that it's important to watch the Congressional primary election in the 8th district to see how Boehner does.  I think Boehner does just fine but I guess it is SOMETHING worth watching.  The other Congressional primary to watch is the 14th.  First-term incumbent David Joyce is being challenged by Ohio House of Representatives member Matt Lynch.  Due to a lot of outside spending on Joyce's behalf, I believe Joyce survives. Ohio, despite being the only state that matters every 4 years, is devoid of challenged Congressional elections.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Weekly round-up: Senate races

I apologize, I haven't been posting as much lately.  I have been looking for a new job, don't have my own computer, and am still working at my current job.  I'll try to make it up to all of you.

ANYWAY...I had some high hopes for this election year but my time is being cut short.  At the very least, we will do at least a weekly look at three Senate Races and three Gubernatorial races until Election Day. For the first three, I just went in alphabetical order.

Alabama: Senator Jeff Sessions was the only candidate who filed prior to the filing deadline.  Because of this, he is running unopposed in both the primary and general election.  This past week, Senator Sessions made remarks indicating that President Barack Obama is making it harder to stop drug abuse when President Obama said that marijuana is not more dangerous than alcohol.  Senator Sessions has warned us that marijuana is not a non-dangerous drug.  Additionally, Senator Sessions has written a letter to the Social Security Administration (SSA) concerned that non-English speakers are being fast-tracked for disability payments. The conservative Washington Free Beacon obtained the letter stating with their editorial flourish that immigrants who do not bother to learn English should not be given priority over American citizens.  It's not surprising that a Senator from Alabama would bring this up, as Alabama has an immigration law that is stricter than Arizona's infamous SB1070 law.

Alaska: The primary date for both the Democratic and Republican Party is August 19, 2014.  In the Republican primary, there are three main candidates, Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell, former Alaska Attorney General Daniel S. Sullivan, and former magistrate judge Joe Miller.  The most recent poll from Moore Information has Daniel S. Sullivan leading the three-way race.  Miller wrote a pithy op-ed in Politico complaining about his loss in 2010 to Lisa Murkowski.  The Anchorage Daily News wrote about Miller's failed candidacy in 2010 labeling it as a campaign full of lies and irrationality.  Instead of complaining about the vested interests in Alaska, perhaps Miller should take a look at his falling polling numbers and lack of money being raised.  Miller, being the gracious loser that he has proven himself to be, has already stated he would not endorse the Republican primary winner if he loses.  During a meet-up for the party, Treadwell announced he would focus on federal budgetary reform stating that he would not vote for any legislation that increases the debt without a balanced budget vote.  Senator Mark Begich's campaign was criticized for an advertisement attacking candidate Dan Sullivan.  The advertisement claimed that Sullivan did not care about the closing of the Flint Hills Refinery.  Sullivan countered with an advertisement accusing Begich of not caring about the closure of the factory.  Like many states, the advertisements in these races have focused on the credentials of the candidate and if they are really from the state they are running in.  Begich recently ran an advertisement showing his support for abortion rights.  Additionally, Begich is trying to run against President Obama's low approval ratings in Alaska.  The Anchorage Daily News writes that Begich has been trying to take credit of any positive things that have taken place but conveniently passed the blame for problems to other people.  Begich might want to be concerned as he has been outraised by Sullivan, according to fundraising numbers.

Arkansas: First-term Representative Tom Cotton is running as the Republican candidate against incumbent Senator Mark Pryor (D).  This seat was initially seen as a place where Republicans could win against a vulnerable Democrat. The most recent poll, from Public Policy Polling (PPP), shows a very tight race, with Pryor having a slight lead.  Cotton spent $70,000 on lawyers following an ethics complaint based off a Huffington Post article.  Cotton has co-sponsored the REDUCE Act which would cut the Pentagon's civilian workforce by 15%.  Pryor has opposed the bill.  Cotton was one of five Republicans who voted against the farm bill which doesn't play well in Arkansas.  Voters in Arkansas know Pryor, which is important.  Perhaps even more importantly, Pryor has worked for bipartisanship in the Senate.  An effort that is endorsed by voters in Arkansas, who are increasingly fed up with partisan gridlock.  Pryor is opposed to same-sex marriage, widely considered pro-life, and voted against background checks for firearm purchases.  Issues that help Pryor more than the political party mentioned next to his name.