Friday, December 28, 2012

Piers Morgan, and First/Second Amendment rights

The petition against the television personality is unwarranted -- and unjust

CNN’s Piers Morgan isn’t exactly someone you’d ordinarily rush to defend. The former British tabloid editor, judge of “America’s Got Talent,” and replacement host of Larry King’s former talk show spot, doesn’t exactly reach the criteria for someone worth caring that much over.

With that said, Morgan’s recent stance on gun control in America is commendable -- and the response to it from gun owners is deplorable.

Morgan recently came out in favor of stricter gun control laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, which took the lives of twenty children and six adults. Morgan berated a gun rights spokesman on his show, calling him a “stupid” and “dangerous man.”

Perhaps Morgan’s response wasn’t the most cordial one. But it’s still his to make, and for us to accept or push aside, however legitimate we deem it to be.

Yet, because of his comments, right wing gun supporters have posted a petition on the White House’s website, urging President Obama to deport the television personality.

The petition states:
British Citizen and CNN television host Piers Morgan is engaged in a hostile attack against the U.S. Constitution by targeting the Second Amendment. We demand that Mr. Morgan be deported immediately for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights...
The irony behind this petition is that it claims Morgan is attacking an important freedom found in the Constitution while simultaneously neglecting the importance of another protected right: that of free speech. While the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, and the right to promote your ideas without fear or persecution from the government.

Of course, within all rights there are limits, usually defined by what harm befalls another individual due to their use/abuse. You cannot use speech rights to cause harm to others, for example -- screaming “bomb” on a crowded plane just to get a giggle isn’t acceptable, given the commotion and potential for injury to others surrounding you.

CNN's Piers Morgan favors stricter gun control legislation
But calling for stricter controls on guns, especially in the wake of such a horrible tragedy, doesn’t fit the bill for “harm.” Piers Morgan didn’t take away anyone’s rights with his words -- nor does he have the power to do so in any way, shape, or form.

Describing his comments as a “hostile attack” on the Constitution is therefore unwarranted, and beyond exaggeration. Morgan has every right to question the extent of the Second Amendment, and how far is too far when it comes to gun ownership. His freedom to do so is derived from a natural-given right to express himself without worry of political retribution from the government.

Those who signed the petition to deport Piers Morgan believe his right to question gun ownership goes too far -- and that’s an opinion they’re free to have. But if they’re to hold that opinion, that a person’s words can warrant outright expulsion from our nation, it’s hardly proper for them to also pretend that they’re somehow the keepers of our other liberties.

In fact, just the opposite holds true -- those claiming to be oppressed are in actuality advocating the oppression of another individual based on freedoms he deserves to exercise.

Agree or disagree with Mr. Morgan: the petition against him is rubbish, and his right to express his thoughts are protected.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Following another tragedy, some thoughts on the Second Amendment

The spirit of the Second Amendment shouldn't allow for abuse of the right at the expense of others' livelihoods

Following the horrendous tragedy that occurred in Connecticut, many people might say the following conversation is coming much too soon. But it’s a conversation that needs to be had, especially after the devastating, soul-shattering act that we witnessed on Friday.

Bringing him to tears, President Barack Obama made one thing clear: “these children are our children,” and the families of those affected by gun violence are our families. We feel for them, pray for them -- and can only imagine what they’re going through, dread the thought of having to go through it ourselves.

Yet throughout the day, the defense of Second Amendment rights was still prevalent, in conservative media as well as in social media. While pleas for stronger laws to protect future generations of children were being made, to possibly prevent future occurrences like these from happening again, some of our fellow countrymen and women made it clear that any action that took away gun rights wouldn’t be acceptable.

But at what point do we acknowledge that something is amiss here? At what point can we look at our nation, after witnessing atrocity after painstaking atrocity, and say that something is wrong?

To which I ask another important question: is the Second Amendment AS WE KNOW IT, which secures the right for one to bear arms, an archaic and outdated right?

The notion would be blasphemous to some minds. The right to protect oneself is as basic as can be. But I’m not talking about the right to protect yourself -- self-defense, in any situation that warrants it, is a no-brainer.

I’m talking about the extreme attitude that oftentimes coincides with the Second Amendment, the idea perpetuated by some that reasonable gun restrictions cannot co-exist with the right to defend yourself. I’m here to say right now that idea is a myth -- the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Reasonable restrictions exist on all rights. You can’t erroneously yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theater (or “BOMB!” on a plane, to modernize the idea). Speech rights aren’t absolute in that regard. Nor are religious liberties absolute, as religions that promote human sacrifices would be found to be in violation of other people’s liberties.

The fact is, when it comes to a certain liberty (any liberty), it can only be rightfully exercised so long as it doesn’t interfere with another person’s rights. That means that even rights we typically defend to the last breath aren’t absolute, if they’re abused in a way that hurts others.

With gun rights, the idea gets admittedly complicated. Individuals are the ones pulling the triggers -- it’s not as if guns are the sole reason behind our nation’s many shootings, but rather those that are using the weapons in a wrong way.

But there’s significant evidence that suggests tighter gun laws have positive effects on the safety of a population. States with tighter laws have less homicides per capita, for example. We also know that more guns equals more violence, between comparisons among separate countries as well as separate states within the U.S.

Still, this research suggests that safety comes with a small price: restrictions upon the rights of gun owners, who cry foul when suggestions are even made about the idea.

Are they complaining too loudly? Or is there significant reason to contemplate curtailing this supposed freedom?

To answer that, I want to ask (and then answer) two separate questions, one of historical importance, the other a hypothetical similarity to the situation at hand.

President Obama responds to the atrocious violence in CT
First, the question of history: The Second Amendment was written well over 200 years ago. Around that time, the possibility of foreign invasion was significantly strong, our nation having just won its independence barely a decade earlier. A surprise attack being a sincere possibility, the citizenry was encouraged to keep their arms in order to respond faster than a government-run military might be able to.

Today, foreign threats aren’t quite as capable of surprising our nation, at least in the sense that Washington, Adams, Jefferson, or Madison were concerned with. A full-scale invasion by a foreign adversary would be met with swift response from our military might, and likely not from a citizenry that kept a vigilant eye on things like at the turn of the 19th century.

With that in mind, I ask: does the Second Amendment need some readjustments? Does the right exist, yet do regulations become necessary not only on the “well-regulated” militias but rather on the right to bear CERTAIN arms (and accessories) as well?

Second, the hypothetical: suppose a company developed a type of technology that allowed a user to cause a miniature explosion within their immediate vicinity. Such a product would naturally have dire consequences, for the user itself and for those around him. Yet, certainly SOMEONE might purchase this device. Should the government consider restricting who can buy it, or whether it should be made at all? Or should responsibility rest solely on the individuals who purchase it, and not the company manufacturing it?

I will answer both with my own opinion. On the historical question of the importance of the Second Amendment, I believe there exists a need to reassess the protection of this right. Individuals deserve to feel protected -- they deserve to have the means to defend themselves -- and that was the original intent of the Second Amendment.

That right is being exploited by a small size of the population. It’d be wrong of us to say that the right must come to an end because of the actions of a few. But it’s in no way improper to say that certain limitations on what citizens can do to protect themselves should exist.

When the motive of a weapon becomes assault rather than defense, the spirit of the Second Amendment is not at work. Indeed, if we look at one extreme, at a certain point the “right to bear arms” might include allowing individuals to own nuclear arms -- and certainly no rationally-minded person wants anything like that to occur.

Which brings up my thoughts on the second question, the hypothetical involving the exploding device. Individual responsibility must be considered most of all when dealing with people whose destruction puts others in harm’s way. But a device such as this is just asking for trouble. To limit which individuals can purchase it goes beyond the point -- the device was made for a singular purpose, to destroy.

When a mechanism’s intent is destructive rather than enhancing a person’s livelihood, when it works to the detriment of society, it can justly be restrained. And that is how I feel about certain weapons and accessories in our culture. We KNOW that most people who own these items are law-abiding, safe citizens. That’s not our concern. Rather, what we worry over are those who would use these weapons for evil purposes. For when that becomes the intent, it’s events like what we saw on Friday that come about.

I’m not naive -- I’m well aware that weapons restrictions won’t totally eliminate violence. The adage that many conservatives cite, that criminals will still use outlawed weapons, may be true. But there’s ample evidence to suggest that such crimes will be reduced significantly if we’re willing to limit what they can legally have or obtain.

The right to defend oneself must remain intact. I don’t find fault with the true intent of the Second Amendment. However, the abuse of that right, of utilizing some blind indifference between weapons built for defense and those built for destruction, needs to be addressed.

Common sense dictates that, where a problem exists, reasonable action is required of us. To expect a different result -- to suggest that the answer is MORE guns, as some on the right have said already -- is pure fantasy, and logically unsound.

Pray for the victims' families, of this and of other tragedies that have occurred in the past. In their honor, may we do something to prevent or limit such heinous attacks on innocents in the future.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Same-day voter registration remains safe...for now

Governor's comments suggest the only thing stopping GOP is the economic impact of change

Gov. Scott Walker says that he won’t sign a bill into law if it eliminates same-day voter registration.

His reasoning behind his change of heart is financial: doing-away with the decades-old practice would cost the state more than $5 million initially, with additional costs of $2 million every two years after that.

So while Walker’s decision to push aside the issue is a welcomed one, his reasoning is less than noble -- it’d be much better if Walker had changed his mind based on the importance of preserving democracy rather than concerns of its costs. 
Still, it seems that same-day voter registration is safe, at least for now.

But that doesn’t mean that will always be the case.

Indeed, Rep. Joel Kleefisch, the Wisconsin Assemblyman who has dedicated himself for years towards ending same-day registration, says he’s pressing on with finding a way to get rid of the democratically empowering practice that Wisconsinites have enjoyed for generations.

“We’re going to continue to look at the potential to eliminate same-day voter registration while balancing its fiscal impact on the state,” Kleefisch said.

For some Republicans, it seems the only reason behind preserving the people’s right to register on Election Day is economic. For other Republicans, not even that rationale is enough to keep the practice intact.

What’s lost among both factions of conservative thought here, however, is the necessity of same-day voter registration, which is utilized by nearly half a million voting-age citizens.

Those citizens are not concerned with the economics of voting -- they’re just concerned with keeping their voices heard, through the power they have inside the voting booth.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

“Talk with Walker” tour is condescending to the people of Wisconsin

Governor fails to include constituents in his “conversations” with them

Gov. Scott Walker wants to talk to the people. He said so himself a week ago, when he announced his “Talk with Walker” tour:

“I’m looking forward to talking with people around Wisconsin about what is important to them,” he said. “We are looking for bold ideas and real solutions to the problems facing our state.”

It’s great that Walker has said he wants to talk to people. Unfortunately, it’s also untrue -- the so-called “Talk with Walker” tour doesn’t actually allow citizens to access the governor personally.

Instead, Walker is visiting local businesses, allowing only those employees and business leaders the chance to have real access to the governor.

Individuals who don’t share Walker’s views are disallowed from attending. So when Walker states that he “[wants] to have a conversation with the people of Wisconsin about the best ways to move our state forward,” he’s really saying that he doesn’t care one iota about your views.

But he's hoping this ruse of a “tour” will convince you he does.

These conversations are occurring between Walker and Walker-friendly businesses. That’s hardly a “conversation with the people” -- it’s a conversation with his friends only. It doesn't demonstrate leadership, but rather the opposite qualities of what a person in Walker's position should have.
Scott Walker doesn't care about your opinion

A respectable leader would be unafraid of opening up these meetings with real people from across the state. Such a leader would realize that ideas for the budget don’t come solely from his own side. Instead, Walker has closed these meetings off -- from you, from me, and from anyone else that has legitimate concerns about the next budget to be passed.

Though it’s understandable that Walker wouldn’t want to hear from opposing viewpoints, it’s both rude and condescending to his constituents to pretend that his “Talk with Walker” tour is a true conversation. Gov. Walker should be straight with the people he’s meant to serve, describing his little publicity tour exactly as it is -- a meeting of Walker’s allies that fails to allow everyone a voice in the conversation.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Debunking the "democracy vs. republic" debate

Conservative claims over our "republican" style of government misses the point completely

“We’re not a democracy; we’re a republic.”

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard that argument in the many debates I’ve had with others over the years. More often than not coming from the mouths (or keyboards) of conservatives, the line is meant to counter any argument made that the will of the people should be recognized, though usually only in times when liberals are in power.

I’ve heard the defense of this line as follows: as a republic, we’re meant to protect the rights of the minorities over the tyranny of the majority. In other words, despite winning a majority number of representatives in our government, or in winning the main seat of government (as the case is this year with President Barack Obama retaining the White House), the people’s will should be thwarted because our government is a republic, designed to restrict the ability of those who won from exercising the very platform they advocated during the campaign.

To some extent, there is truth in this argument; there have to be safeguards against the tyranny of the majority, against possible abuses of power by those who won contested elections, especially in these days when every election seems to be decided within five percentage points or less.

But arguing against representative government is a foolish ideal to promote. The very fact that these very people who make this argument rarely do so when their representatives are in power provides reason to be suspicious of this argument in the first place.

And then there’s the idea that republics inherently serve to promote the rights of minorities to consider. In fact, that’s not the case at all -- some people-unfriendly republics include very oppressive nations indeed, such as Cuba, China, and the former Soviet Union. And the promotion of minority rights was rarely seen in the post-Reconstruction south, when African Americans rarely had any rights protected at all.

What differentiates the current form of the United States from those other “republic” nations? The fact that our elections actually MEAN something. Within those republics, there’s little choice, and therefore little democracy. The single ruling party decides the outcome, determines the course the nation takes, not the people.

In America, though, elections have real consequences. That can be a dangerous thing, but it’s also a wonderful gift.

Our founding governing document reads “We the People.” That means that responsibility lies with us, not with a single party, not with our governing officials, but with those whose opinions and dictates eventually put our representatives into positions of power.

We’re not a full-fledged democracy; but neither are we a republic that is detached from the people’s wishes and desires. We’re a hybrid form of government, a representative democracy, that’s charged with two very important functions.

Firstly, we do have a responsibility to protect those that aren’t in power, those that could potentially see themselves tyrannized under other forms of governments. Our constitutional amendments, including the bill of rights, as well as other aspects of how our government was set up, ensure that such abuses don’t come to fruition.

But secondly, our representative democracy is also charged with promoting the policies and plans of those who rightfully won office, through the endorsement and the will of the people that put them in power. While respecting the rights of minorities is crucial, allowing those that aren’t in power to cripple the government is just as equally an unjust position to endorse.

Rule by minority obstruction restrains what makes America better than those other republics. The alternative -- allowing the majority in office to rule based on the people’s wants -- enables the people themselves to have a voice and make a difference in their own futures, to promote their own interests through the direct selection of representatives.

So yes, there’s a difference between a republic and a democracy. But what we have in America is neither of those two systems. We are neither a direct democracy, which has the unfortunate possibility of allowing the majority to rule the minority in tyranny. Yet, neither are we a simple republic, which would allow leaders to disregard the people’s needs and interests altogether.

We are a representative government, set up to simultaneously defend the rights and promote the wills of the people, both at the same time. It’s truly a glorious experiment, one that has stood the test of time as well as the tests of history.

Do not shun the democratic aspect of our great nation. To do so would disregard the government our founders set up for us, would shun the sacrifices of those who died defending our country. We are a country that defends others’ rights but promotes the democracy. And we should be proud of that duality.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Same-day registration, John Doe, create bad week for Walker

Governor twice thrice contradicted

Gov. Scott Walker isn’t having a great week.

For starters, he’s been thoroughly rebuffed on the issue of eliminating same-day voter registration. Citing concerns of poll-worker fatigue, Walker said it was necessary to do-away with the decades-old tradition.

“[I]t would be much better if registration was done in advance of Election Day, easier for our clerks to handle that,” Walker said.

But the clerks took note of Walker’s statement, countering what the governor assumed about their jobs with the reality of the situation: that same-day registration causes no additional headaches for them.
[N]early a dozen poll workers who spoke with The Huffington Post all had the same message: Same-day registration is not a problem, and Walker should not eliminate it.

“This whole idea that this is somehow a burden on poll workers is just not true, and I can guarantee you it’s not the perception of the vast majority of the people who work at the polls,” said Ruth Irvings, 61, who served as a poll worker in Milwaukee this year with her 24-year-old son.


Kevin Rusch, Lanore’s 53-year-old son who has worked at the polls in Wausau for the last year and a half, was more blunt in his assessment of Walker’s claim: “That’s utter bulls---. I don’t know who he’s talking to.”
After disregarding the concerns of poll workers, exaggerating their supposed “burdens,” Walker moved on to the John Doe investigation. After a plea deal was made between a former confidante of Walker’s when he was Milwaukee County Executive, Walker made the casual observation that he hoped the investigation would be done as early as this week.

“It's gone on for two years. Hopefully, after this week, it will be over,” he said.

But once again, Walker was rebuffed, this time by Judge Neal Nettesheim.

“The John Doe is not completed. It is still open,” he said.

Walker’s woes over John Doe don’t end there, however. It was further revealed that the investigation had gone all the way to Rice Lake, Wisconsin, to a Harley Davidson dealership, over very specific transactions that had occurred there in 2010.

Who from Milwaukee County government made a trip up to Rice Lake as part of a tourism/self-promotion tour? None other than then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, along with several members of his office.

To be sure, that bit of commentary is all conjecture on my part. But it surely has to be on the mind of Gov. Walker, on what the John Doe prosecutors are seeking out specifically. The bike trips, consistently derided as being more about Walker than tourism in Milwaukee, could be the very thing that brings Walker down in the investigation.

And just as you thought it couldn't get any worse...Walker failed to bag a deer this season, too, in a year that saw overall numbers go up by nearly eight percent.

Gov. Scott Walker can’t catch a break. This week was a pretty lousy one, indeed, being contradicted not once, not twice, but thrice.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Harry Reid considers changes to the filibuster

Reforms include actually making Senators stand on the Senate floor and speak

Sen. Harry Reid is signaling that he may change the rules of the Senate regarding the filibuster. While such a move would be drastic, it is nevertheless necessary to improve the function of that chamber, and of Congress overall.

Senate Republicans have abused the power of the filibuster. They have taken advantage of a Senate rule that was intended to give minority-party protection, and instead have used it to prevent any action on any bill proposed by the president or his party, which currently controls the chamber.

Or, at least they would, if given the right to do so.

In the past Congressional term, Republicans have used the filibuster to change the Senate from one of representative democratic rule to that of minority control. That is, instead of allowing the chamber to function as it normally would -- with occasional filibusters on matters of grave concern -- Republicans have wielded the power of the filibuster to prevent ANY bill, any policy, government appointment, or jobs plan, that the Democrats put forth, most of the time preventing those things from even being debated on.

The Republicans don’t run the Senate -- the Democrats are meant to. They were put in office by the people across the nation to run the upper house of Congress. But Republicans won’t let them.

It’s no wonder why Congress has such low approval ratings -- when bills can’t even be introduced, let alone be passed, by the party with majority control, deadlocking the process of government itself, the will of the people cannot be addressed.

What Sen. Reid is proposing is doing away with filibusters during the opening stages of debate. That is, when the bill is first proposed for full floor consideration, the vote for consideration cannot be blocked by a filibuster -- a simple majority vote will allow for consideration.

After that, Reid says, the filibuster would remain in place. The only other changes that might take place is that Reid might make the filibuster become AN ACTUAL FILIBUSTER, meaning senators would actually have to speak on the Senate floor.

Imagine that: filibuster reform that would actually make senators filibuster. I take back what I said earlier: Harry Reid’s reforms wouldn’t be that drastic after all.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Walker goes on offensive on same-day registration

Attacks on same-day voter registration a political ploy

Be prepared: Scott Walker isn’t done making democracy less accessible to the people.

In a speech he gave -- in California of all places -- outlining his plans for Wisconsin with a new, Republican-led legislature, Gov. Walker came out in strong opposition to the Badger State’s 40-year old tradition of same-day voter registration.

The practice allows all citizens, not just those who registered days or weeks before, the opportunity to vote. Registration takes just a few minutes, and requires simple proofs of residency within the ward you plan to vote in.

Gov. Walker wants to get rid of same-day voter registration
Citing the fatigue of volunteer poll workers, Walker stated that “it would be much better if registration was done in advance of Election Day, easier for our clerks to handle that.”

Same-day voter registration, though scorned by the right as somehow a “burden,” is perhaps the largest contributing aspect to our state’s high voter turnout. What’s more, there isn’t a lick of evidence, despite what some conservatives claim, that the practice might be riddled with fraud. Quite the contrary -- same-day registration has been shown to increase democracy, not hamper it.

In fact, in 2008 more than 460,000 voters in WIsconsin registered to vote on Election Day. Disenfranchising a number of the electorate that size would be like telling every voting-age resident of the city of Brookfield, Wisconsin, that they couldn’t vote -- for the next 15 election cycles.

Walker feigns concern that registration of voters should be done well in advance of Election Day. Yet, if Walker were truly concerned about alleviating the workload of poll workers, he’d find a way to lessen the “burden.” Instead, he’s done the opposite -- he and his Republican cohorts in the legislature severely truncated the time in which voters can “early vote,” shortening when municipal clerks can accept ballots, thereby actually increasing the workload for poll workers on Election Day.

The attack on the access to democracy is evident in Gov. Walker’s agenda. Despite claims of being pro-business and pro-jobs, Walker has instead shown us his focus is elsewhere, mostly on preserving a conservative majority in state politics (despite evidence that the voters want something else).

That’s not the purpose of his position in government -- but it’s precisely what Gov. Walker is using his office as a means to accomplish.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A response to secessionists in Wisconsin

An open letter to those advocating Wisconsin's departure from the U.S.

This is a response to the secessionist “movement” in Wisconsin, and directly to the petition posted on the White House’s website:
We the people of the state of WI wish to withdraw peacefully from the Union. We believe in our rights that were granted to us in the constitution our ancestors wrote, and we also believe that your administration is infringing on those rights. As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State:

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”

I previously wrote on the subject of the secessionists, who are urging the White House to allow various states to exit the Union, and in doing so are actually defying the Declaration’s intent. I focused more on the overall “movement,” taking a look at the sudden influx of petitions from a national standpoint. But right now, I’d like to talk about Wisconsin, and specifically to the author and signers of the petition pushing for our state’s departure from the U.S.

What you’re talking about -- leaving the Union -- greatly offends me. I grew up proud of our nation, and it’s disturbing that you are so willing to leave it so suddenly on account of a single legitimate election.

What’s more, it’s offensive to those Wisconsinites who fought hard to preserve our nation, who gave their lives up to defend the rights and liberties we hold dear...not only as Badgers, but as Americans as well.

Your assumption, that our rights have been truncated somehow, is greatly flawed. No one, not any person in our state nor in our country, has been denied the rights you describe in your petition.

And your notion, that we ought to “live free or die fighting,” frankly worries me. Though you write you want a “peaceful” withdrawal, your candor suggests otherwise. Without a just cause for your movement, without any actual rights being stripped from you, you advocate a violent response if your demands are not met.

How undemocratic of you. The people of Wisconsin voted for Barack Obama, our president, to have a second term. And now you advocate the removal of our great state from the Union as a result? The idea itself is absurd, laughable were it not so serious.

That you put so much weight into it -- suggesting that we “die fighting” against what are clearly the democratic preferences of the people you pretend to advocate on behalf of -- speaks volumes towards describing your principles.

You aren’t a patriot. You aren’t a defender of freedom. Simply put, you’re a bully. Your petition demonstrates that.

If you want to secede from the nation, I have a suggestion for you: do so, but on an individual level. Nothing is stopping you from leaving the greatest country the world has ever known -- and arguably, the greatest state the nation has.

Wisconsin made its choice last week on election day. You’ve made it clear you disagree. Either work within the democratic system, or leave it. But don’t advocate the destruction of, through peaceful means or otherwise, the ideals and sacrifices of thousands of Americans and Wisconsinites who came before you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Obama is right to stand up to the GOP

President Obama won't budge on fiscal cliff

President Obama won't back down
President Barack Obama is set to stand firm against the Republican Party when it comes to the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich.


The president ought not budge when it comes to the so-called “fiscal cliff.” Firstly, it’d be irresponsible and reprehensible to allow the Bush tax cuts on the top 1 percent to continue. Those tax cuts, along with two lengthy wars from the previous administration, have cost trillions of dollars.

Democrats and Republicans alike recognize that a significant budget crisis is looming. The difference between the two parties, however, is stark.

Democrats see that government cuts and adjustments to some programs need to be made, perhaps in some unwanted areas; but they also accept that cuts alone cannot fix this mess. A change in revenue, one that will increase what the U.S. government takes in overall, must take place if we’re going to seriously take on the budget deficit. 
Republicans, on the other hand, refuse to even discuss the issue of tax increases on the extremely wealthy. Cuts and cuts alone, to popular social programs and aid to the nation’s poor, are the only plans they have; and we shouldn’t sugarcoat their plan by describing it as anything different.

A reasonable person would see this fiscal mess and consider every angle possible to help stave off disaster. Indeed, as Republicans themselves oftentimes compare the fiscal priorities of the nation to a family budget, one has to wonder whether the GOP would discourage Americans from seeking ways to gain income themselves as a means to fix their own personal situations.

And that’s probably why more Americans are set to blame the Republicans in Congress than Obama if we fly off the so-called fiscal cliff. If a deal cannot be reached, the president isn’t going to be blamed -- the Republicans are, mainly due to their stubborn refusal to negotiate or unwillingness to read into what the electorate voted for.

The president is right to stand firm against Republicans. The GOP is only considering one half of the equation necessary to fix America’s problems. And their pseudo-math won’t help our real problems.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Secessionists defy Declaration's intent

Obama's re-election victory an example of consent of the governed”

Several citizens from dozens of states have filed grievances on the White House petition website, requesting to secede from the nation, likely in response to President Barack Obama’s victory last week.

Most of the petitions invoke the Declaration of Independence, citing the famous words from Thomas Jefferson, who wrote:

Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and institute new Government.
Those words, brilliant as they are, weren’t intended to thwart the democratic will of the people more than 200 years later. Indeed, the words encourage just the opposite, and the election of Barack Obama to a second term in no way undermines Jefferson’s intent from within the Declaration.

Instead, the secessionist sentiments of those forming these petitions go against the very idea that Jefferson had laid out in our founding document. The results of the election, which is representative of what the people wanted -- Obama won a popular and electoral college vote -- is in no way destructive of the people’s ends. If the people wanted something different, they would have voted for it.

It is unjust, then, to “alter or abolish” the current government, and unwarranted to “institute new Government” of any kind.

A petition requesting secession from the union
The colonies that came to comprise the United States of America seceded from Great Britain for a significant and unifying reason: they weren’t granted the right to self governance through representative electors. Despite all the noise modern-day secessionists are making on the internet, the current state of our nation doesn’t reflect that same grievance -- we still have representative democracy, stronger now than it was even during our founders’ time.

Those who demonstrate a feigned nostalgia for the founders’ words would do well to actually understand them, and to further understand the setting in which they were written. Secessionists act like spoiled children when they threaten departing the Union over an undesired electoral outcome. It's time for them to grow up.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Johnson, Baldwin trade barbs on understanding the budget

Sen.-elect Baldwin has more Congressional experience than "senior" Sen. Johnson

With the election of Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate, Wisconsin now sees an ideological split in their delegation to the upper chamber. Baldwin, a liberal Democrat, joins Ron Johnson, a conservative Republican, who now serves as the Senior Senator from the Badger state.

Johnson has taken the role quite seriously -- in fact, a little TOO seriously. In an interview with the Associated Press, Johnson has stated that he hopes Baldwin will take the opportunity to learn a thing-or-two from him:
Hopefully I can sit down and lay out for her my best understanding of the federal budget because they’re simply the facts,” he said. “Hopefully she’ll agree with what the facts are and work toward common sense solutions.”
Johnson also added that he felt the only reason Obama won was because people were apparently just too stupid:
Johnson attributed Obama’s win on the heels of those Republican gains in Wisconsin to an uninformed electorate who voted in this election but not in the Walker recall.
“If you aren’t properly informed, if you don’t understand the problems facing this nation, you are that much more prone to falling prey to demagoguing solutions. And the problem with demagoguing solutions is they don’t work,’ Johnson said. “I am concerned about people who don’t fully understand the very ugly math we are facing in this country.”
Wasting no time, Sen.-elect Baldwin responded, explaining she doesn't need any help with mathematics, thank-you-very-much:
I was a double major in college in mathematics and political science, and I served for six years on the House Budget Committee in my first six years in the House,” Baldwin responded in an interview with The Huffington Post on Friday.

“And I am very confident that when proposals come before the U.S. Senate, I will be able to evaluate them as to how they benefit or harm middle-class Wisconsinites. A yardstick of ‘does it create jobs,’ ‘does it lower the deficit’ and ‘does it help grow the middle class’ is an important one. I’m quite confident that I have those abilities,” she added.
Johnson’s assertion that he has to “lay out the facts” to Baldwin is laughable. Besides having served on the House Budget Committee, Baldwin was first elected to Congress in 1998 -- a full twelve years before Johnson even ran for the Senate against Russ Feingold.

What’s more, Baldwin’s career in governance -- she served in the state Assembly from 1993 to 1998 before serving in the U.S. Congress -- demonstrates that she knows the ins and outs of how to work in a legislative setting.

It’s absurd that Johnson believes he has to teach Baldwin something about the budget. If anything, Johnson could benefit from learning a thing or two from Baldwin, who has nearly 20 years of legislative experience, compared to Johnson’s two.

Johnson’s ignorance on Baldwin’s breadth of experience is telling of who the man really is. We’re fortunate to have a figure like Tammy take the second-half of our Senate delegation, if only to cancel out the arrogance and ignorance of our so-called “senior” Senator Ron Johnson.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Obama on dissent

Barack Obama speaks a simple truth about American democracy

Barack Obama, Nov. 6, 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012


Final thoughts on how the races will end up tomorrow night

Let’s be honest: a good prediction is what the people want to hear (or in this case, read). The presidential election isn’t a sure thing yet -- but many media are reporting on the odds of an Obama/Romney win. So with that in mind, I want to share my insights.

Obama will win 290-300 electoral votes, or more. Swing states Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida will swing for Obama. Nevada and Iowa are still too close in my mind, with either candidate in my mind being fully capable of winning both (Nevada's polls actually have Obama likely to win, but I'm still skeptical). New Hampshire is close, too, but will ultimately go for the incumbent. If those states all go as I predict, and Obama keeps Virginia blue, then the president will have a 300+ electoral college vote count. With some of those states being very close, however, the range will be between 290 and 300 for Obama.

The popular vote will be within 5 percent. Even with a strong electoral vote showing, Barack Obama will be hard-pressed to break the 5-percent spread over Mitt Romney. Blue states are strongholds for the president, but the red states are significantly more “redder.” The electoral college isn’t a democratic method of picking our president, and it’s even possible that Obama could win it without the popular vote. Nevertheless, my prediction is that Obama will have a 3-5 percent popular vote win.

The Senate will not change hands. Expect Democrats to hold onto the Senate. While moderate Republicans could have easily helped led the charge to take back the chamber, extremist elements have caused voters to baulk at giving the GOP control. Controversial comments about rape, and the legitimacy of abortions in that horrifying event, have caused many women (and their husbands/fathers) to back away from extreme-right Republicans.

Democrats won’t take back the House. They will improve, to be sure. Around 10-20 seats will be picked up by the Democrats, many of whom will be winning districts that will be swung by the president or were “over-swung” in 2010 by Tea Party hysteria, which has since died down in those moderate districts. But Democrats need 28 seats to take back the House. It’s not an impossible feat, and if I’m wrong it wouldn’t be that surprising. But it’s more likely that Democrats will have to try to win back the chamber in 2014 rather than in 2012.

Tammy Baldwin will defeat Tommy Thompson. In what has been one of the most grueling back-and-forth contests across the nation, Tammy Baldwin will pull this one out against the well-known former governor. Thompson has alienated far too many people with his comments on Medicare, claiming he’d be the best person to end the program. And extremist comments by his son, who joked about sending Obama back to Kenya, haven’t helped either. These factors, coupled by the amount of time Obama has dedicated to the state, will help bring Tammy to the upper chamber of Congress.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Political Heat endorses Barack Obama

The incumbent president deserves a second term in office

The official endorsement for president from Political Heat goes to Barack Obama.

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; I’ve long-been an Obama supporter, ever since he first announced he’d be running in 2008. Since then, President Obama hasn’t necessarily been my ideal president -- but he has come through on a lot of promises, delivering to America the things she needs as a country in a big way:

He spearheaded a stimulus package that, though pricey, helped invigorate the American middle class and improve the economic conditions of our nation;

He signed a law to help shrink the gender gap, to one day perhaps close the discrepancies in pay between men and women;

He repealed a policy that discriminated against gay and lesbian women serving openly in the military;

He enacted a health care law that not only makes it easier for families to afford decent coverage, but prevents companies from denying their clients the benefits they had been paying into all along based on pre-existing conditions;

He brought an end to the war in Iraq, and a drawing down to the war in Afghanistan, as well as a renewed respect for our nation across the globe when it comes to international diplomacy;

And unlike our last president, he got serious about finding and ordering a strike against Osama bin Laden, the man responsible for the largest terrorist attack in our nation’s history and the death of 3,000 American lives.

These aren’t accomplishments to scoff at -- they are significant, and considering the opposition he faced from Republican lawmakers (who filibustered his projects when they were out of power and refused to cooperate on any legislation when they assumed Congress), they are monumental in their scope.

There are many more accomplishments that he achieved as well, such as cutting the interest rates that students with Pell grants face, or expanding hate crime legislation, and so on. Where we are unimpressed with President Obama, we must remember that a lot more good was accomplished in his first four years than bad.

Does it warrant him another four more years? Without a doubt, yes. For, had President Obama been given a more cooperative Congress, one that wasn’t so willing to work against him for political purposes, there’s reason to believe that we could have seen even more from him than what we already have. Like a football coach with an injury-prone team, Obama cannot be faulted for his failure to do more.

He has, for instance, proposed a jobs bill that faced stiff obstruction. The bill would have been fully paid for, and would have added nearly two million more jobs.

Had that measure, and many more like it, been allowed to be enacted, there’d be no doubt that Obama would have cruised to a second term. But because of the GOP’s obstructive tactics, the president has seemingly failed to improve the economy beyond what he had hoped to have done when he took office.

Again, that isn’t Obama’s fault; and in spite of those tactics, unemployment is back below eight percent, with hundreds of thousands of jobs being added monthly.

With this in mind, Obama deserves to be returned to the White House. His counterpart’s plans are the same failed mistakes that got us into this fiscal calamity to begin with. Why should we believe, having enacted tax cuts ten years ago overwhelmingly to the rich and failing to see any real benefit from them as promised, that suddenly that tactic would somehow miraculously work now? The logic is flawed, and it won’t work.

Mitt Romney is a decent person; the personal stories told about him shouldn’t be disregarded, and his character as a human being shouldn’t be questioned. But his record as a politician and as a public servant in the state of Massachusetts, which was nearly last in job creation under his watch, shouldn’t be ignored either.

What’s more, the inconsistency in Romney’s positions gives us reason to question whether the real Mitt would govern this way or that way. Without fully knowing where he stands, how one can support his candidacy on any factual basis? The true base of support for candidate Romney rests upon those who oppose Barack Obama, which is hardly a reason to support anyone.

We know where President Obama stands. We also know what he’s accomplished. For those reasons, he deserves our votes, and a second term in office.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The political "blood sport" needs to end

Civility and respectful debate are sorely needed in our discourses again

We live in interesting times, indeed. Our democracy is in grave danger, and not from any extraneous threat, but rather from elements within our own nation. When people’s decision-making can be altered by the biases of rumor and innuendo -- when a good portion of the populace is easily convinced that the president’s birth was a fabricated event -- we’re in serious trouble.

The aforementioned deception mentioned above is but one example of what is wrong with politics today. There are many more similar in nature to it, derived from the extremes of both sides of the political spectrum. Most of us scoff at these laughable assertions, understanding that, with a little bit of research and some common sense, they don’t hold a weight of truth to them.

Others among us, however, fail to conceive that what is written in some media, what is portrayed as truth by some but is factually inaccurate when held up to valid scrutiny, could possibly be wrong. They inherently believe what is written in the headlines, failing to go beyond the title of articles or listen to speeches beyond the sound bytes they hear on television, to truly understand what it is they’re seeing, hearing, or reading.

These people aren’t stupid; rather, they’re willing to believe what they want to hear. A liberal mind that doesn’t delve into the depths of articles willingly believes that Mitt Romney didn’t pay any taxes for the past ten years before the years he did release publicly; conversely, a conservative mind that similarly refuses to dig deeper willingly considers President Barack Obama to be a communist, or better yet a non-citizen, though both assertions are false accusations.

Such sensationalism is despicable, and though most of the fault belongs to those refusing to go further than the byline, much of the blame lies within the media itself. The press and other opinionated media have a responsibility to provide the citizenry with the truth, and when applicable to let people know the difference between a newscaster’s opinion and fact.

This responsibility that the media has ignored is vitally important, especially during this day and age of extreme partisanship. When the people see the president or his opponent as being “the other,” rather than as human beings (fully capable of having some character flaws), it becomes a competitive blood sport, a game of sorts over who can make the other guy look worse.

This isn’t politics; it’s gossip. It’s worse than that even, because it affects all those who will be governed by the king of the bull-manure-laden mountain. The people deserve more than that -- they deserve meaningful dialogue and contentious debates over policy positions, over what the candidates stand for, and what they’d do if such-and-such situation came about.

We don’t need to know if the president ate dog as a child; we don’t care about what kind of underwear his GOP counterpart wears. What matters is what they will do if elected, and how it will affect the individual considering voting for them.

A return to civility is sorely needed. This doesn’t mean that argument needs to stop completely; indeed, argument is healthy in a democratic society. But some ground rules need to be established, some base of support erected, in order to ensure that all candidates will be given serious consideration when it comes to our elections. Without that base of support, we risk turning our politics into a dramatic theatrical performance, no better than the daytime soap operas or entertainment news magazines seen on television.

Our politics and our discussions should focus on what matters most -- what is possible and what will happen should this or that candidate assume office. Anything beyond that is simply a ball of fluff.

"Promoting the general welfare" -- it matters this election year

Only one candidate, Barack Obama, understand the necessity of promoting a healthy, prosperous populace

The founders of our nation had in mind a government that would be very minimal in scope of its powers. They saw fit, for a time, to enact a national charter that would limit what those elected to serve could obligate the states and the people to do, and if a state disagreed with a certain law, enforcement at the national level would be loose, at best.

That government was scrapped after less than a decade. It was replaced by the Constitution.

Few remember that the United States started out with the Articles of Confederation. Granting individual states veto powers seemed like a great limit on the national government, but in practice it wasn't feasible. For one, it granted smaller states with smaller populations unreasonably strong powers. In short, it was an anti-democratic, anti-representative ideal of limited federal powers.

The document that came replace the Articles most Americans are familiar with -- the U.S. Constitution. Yet, for all that it's been celebrated and heralded for, few have truly studied the document to a great extent. We hear many ideas about how it's supposed to limit the scope of federal power, about limitations that are placed on those who are meant to govern. Yes, those are a part of the great document. But refusing to accept that the government has powers, too, is a futile argument, one with serious consequences.

A libertarian might argue, perhaps, that the federal government doesn't have the power to help victims of storms like we saw hit the east coast this past week. Indeed, there isn't any mentioning of natural disasters in the Constitution.

Such strict interpretation of the document relies on ignoring a very important power that our founders left to us -- the "general welfare" clause, which is a broad but necessary provision for allowing lawmaking to be carried out in our nation.

In fact, the phrase "general welfare" is mentioned twice in the Constitution, within the preamble itself and within a provision granting Congressional powers to promote it.

The preamble:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
 And Article 1, Section 8:
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

This historical lesson is necessary for what I'm going to discuss next. This election is about more than two men from distinctly different backgrounds. It's more than the out-of-context sound bytes, the radical notions that one is more extreme than the other, the belief that there is "class warfare," or the claims of patriotism or birthright that have come to make a mockery of our electoral system.

It's about whether we truly believe that there is a power in our governing for the promotion of happiness, a promotion of "general welfare" that's necessary to bring about the successes of our nation.

"General welfare" shouldn't be construed to mean welfare by the definitions the word holds today; rather, "general welfare" is understanding that we hold in our power the ability to promote a better life for the general public, to make even the poorest among us to have certain safeguards and protections.

Within a civilized society,  the promotion of "general welfare" means we cannot accept that we are separate from one another, recognizes that when disaster and tragedy strike (either from a horrific storm or unfortunate economic events that cripple everyone's wallets), something has to be done. It's the belief that, when we're able to do so, we must take care of those who are in peril, facing hardships, or other discriminatory prejudices due to their positions in life.

We have a political candidate in Barack Obama who recognizes what the promotion of such an ideal should look like. It doesn't mean trampling upon the rights of the wealthy to get your pet projects done; but it does mean asking them to contribute a little more when things get tough for American citizens. From health care, to the stimulus package, to education, and on a myriad of other issues, Obama has been on the right side of the issue, has promoted both the welfare of the people and the prosperity of the nation through his actions.

The opposing side has a candidate that doesn't find prosperity or the welfare of the people to be wrong, but rather sees no need to include a role for the government to contribute to society's needs. If an economic collapse occurs, if a hurricane devastates an entire region, or even something as simple as a young person facing challenges affording an education they have earned, guess what? Mitt Romney doesn't want taxpayer dollars contributing to any of those needs.

His solution? Let the market fix it. Or ask for money from your parents. Or let the states deal with it.

Those solutions have failed in the past, and they will fail again in the future. "States' rights" was a great moniker for conservatives this past decade, but it also served as a fabulous phrase in the 1850s plantation South. Borrowing money from your parents to go to school would work, too, if your parents could afford to do so. Many families simply cannot take on that challenge head-on. And while the marketplace is the main generator of everything great in our country, there ARE challenges it is simply not equipped to take on. It was the market, after all, that failed to do away with the practice of denying care to ailing patients with pre-existing conditions.

Promoting the general welfare doesn't mean we should spend money like a teenager with their parents' credit card -- but it does mean recognizing a significant role exists for the government to interject itself occasionally into the affairs of its people. When hardships abound, when people are in pain, when communities are destroyed by cataclysmic events that cannot be overcome by their will alone, something must be done.

The founders recognized this; and even in their own time, a great debate took place on the scope of the "general welfare" clause. But even they understood that promoting the welfare of the people, by supplying certain goods and fulfilling certain needs, was in the best interests of the people. Whether the evolution of general welfare within the federal government took 10 years or 100 years, it didn't matter. That provision was put in for a purpose: to relieve the people in times of hardships, and to aid those in need when they had nowhere else to go.

One candidate gets that; the other scoffs at it. Who you choose to vote for come November 6 will determine the direction our country goes, and whether we recognize that we're all in this together, or it's everyone for themselves.

Vote for President Obama. He deserves a second term in office for what he's done for the American people, both those in need and those without hardships.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Christie, Obama demonstrate true leadership in the face of adversity

Looking beyond partisan divide, NJ Gov and POTUS work to aid those in need

The true measure of leadership sometimes takes you in directions you'd never imagine possible.

Case in point: Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a run-of-the-mill conservative in today's hyper-partisan Republican Party, has certainly surprised many by working side-by-side with President Barack Obama. The two have surveyed the damage of Hurricane Sandy, have discussed and begun implementing plans for recovery, all while both being on the exact opposite sides of the political spectrum.

In truth, we shouldn't really be that surprised, given the nature of both men's jobs. What's expected of both of them in their respective offices is to work together during such travesty, to get people's lives back on track.

Yet in a year that saw the nation nearly stumble into a second recession due to partisan politics, with conservatives on the right refusing for a time to increase the debt limit, it wouldn't have been too surprising to have seen Gov. Christie refuse to acknowledge Obama's presence in his state at all, especially during the final week of the presidential campaign season where Christie's ally, GOP nominee Mitt Romney, could capitalize.

Credit is due to both Obama and Christie. The two saw past the hyper-partisan atmosphere of today's political climate, saw the events taking place before them as more than mere opportunities to enhance their respective images, and instead put aside their differences to work together for a common good.

As a supporter, I didn't expect anything different from President Obama. He has, time-and-time again, tried to reach out to his opponents on the right, rejecting the extremism from Tea Partiers but hinting he'd acquiesce to some ideas from conservatives as long as they made sense.

I'm touched and humbled, however, by the cooperative spirit of Chris Christie, who became one of the most ardent opponents of President Obama during his rise to governor of the state of New Jersey. It's quite inspiring to see that Christie, who once criticized the president as presiding over an "era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office," is recognizing Obama's commitment in ways that go beyond what's expected of him, openly thanking him and giving him props for his leadership during this challenging time.

This isn't just a moment that legitimizes either man's political career; this isn't an event that, whether it's Obama in 2012 or Christie in 2016, will propel either man to greater things in the future. Rather, this moment gives us reason to hope once again, as the president urged us to do in 2008, for a better America overall, for Democrats, Republicans, and all others.

For I, like so many Americans, still hope for a day when we can put partisan divide behind us. Substantive arguments that debate the merits of this or that method of governance is one thing; it's an entirely different can of worms when sides refuse to even sit across from one another to open dialogues.

The Christie-Obama relationship that has blossomed as a result of this catastrophe gives us reason to believe that we can rise above the mess of partisanship. It shouldn't have taken a natural disaster for this to have happened. But nevertheless, there's still reason to celebrate the fact that, even during the toughest of times involving the harshest of divides in our nation's history, some fundamental truths can still be recognized by both right and left.

Gov. Christie and President Obama get it. No matter how distant we are in ideologies, when people are hurting, when disaster strikes, we cannot allow our differences to cause even more hurt in the lives of those in need.

It's one of the reasons why I support Barack Obama for president. But it's also a reason why I have new-found respect for Chris Christie.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Paul Ryan's "charity work" a clear example of GOP smoke and mirrors act

Both Romney and Ryan attempt to deceive the American people

Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan visited an Ohio soup kitchen this weekend, where he made time to wash dishes for a photo op on the campaign trail.

The problem with this particular photo op, however, was that it was entirely staged: Ryan didn't even do anything, didn't perform a service of any kind, because the dishes he washed were already clean.

As if that weren't bad enough, Ryan was apparently an unwelcomed guest in the kitchen. According to the president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul, the vp candidate "ramrodded" his way into the kitchen, violating the standards the organization has for political activities in its facilities:

Brian J. Antal...said that he was not contacted by the Romney campaign ahead of the Saturday morning visit by Ryan, who stopped by the soup kitchen after a town hall at Youngstown State University.

"We're a faith-based organization; we are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations," Antal said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. "It’s strictly in our bylaws not to do it. They showed up there, and they did not have permission..."

He added: "The photo-op they did wasn’t even accurate. He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall."
Emphases added.

Ryan's presence could also potentially cause damage to the mission of the charity as well:
[Antal] noted that the soup kitchen relies on funding from private individuals who might reconsider their support if it appears that the charity is favoring one political candidate over another. "I can’t afford to lose funding from these private individuals," he said. "If this was the Democrats, I’d have the same exact problem."
But Paul Ryan's impromptu performance at a soup kitchen (conveniently located in the most important swing state in the nation) wasn't just a flop -- it's also indicative of a greater problem within the Republican Party's presidential ticket. Whether it's talking about how horrible the economy remains under Barack Obama (while leaving out how terrible a condition it was when handed over to him), or erroneously describing Medicare savings through Obamacare as a "cut" towards current seniors' benefits, both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have attempted several times to throw the wool over the collective eyes of every American citizen.

There's still plenty left unknown about the GOP ticket -- for example, they say they can cut taxes for the rich and keep the debt down, but refuse to tell us how. When called out on it, they play the denial card, calling their critics liars but still supplying little-to-no information on the subject.

Americans deserve to know more about their potential leaders, about how they intend to govern the nation and what plans and specifics they will attempt to put into law. We've already received that courtesy from President Obama -- there's no doubt, whether you like him or not, that most Americans know where he stands on the issues; and where confusion does occur, it's not the fault of the president but rather due to confusion conjured up by those who oppose him.

But from the Republican ticket, we're still unsure of where Romney and Ryan stand on certain items. Indeed, when a presidential candidate can switch his positions on an issue of great controversy within a 24 hour period of time, it makes it difficult to understand with great clarity what his positions will be once sworn in.

That isn't to say that a candidate can't change their mind on issues; that's an entirely different can of worms altogether. But shifting your stance on an issue to satisfy the audience you happen to be standing in front of, and then doing so again later on in the day...what sort of candidate is that? Certainly, not one of great integrity.

The Republican ticket is employing a campaign strategy of smoke and mirrors. With Paul Ryan, we see a candidate who is trying to appear more humane, but fails to do even that with his fake work washing dishes; and with Mitt Romney, we see a presidential candidate who is trying to appease everyone all at once, taking several stances on issues when all we need is just one, definitive answer.

Either way, the Romney-Ryan ticket is trying to deceive us all into believing they're two men who stand alongside the people. In reality, they stand directly in contrast with real Americans, promoting the very policies that put us in an economic mess to begin with. No amount of tom-foolery, no clean dishes washed or false advertizing, should cause us to be forgetful of that fact.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Biden won the debate

Conservatives' tone shows focus has shifted Democratically

It may be two days late, but some analysis on the vice presidential debate is certainly warranted.

We're continuously asked to consider who "wins" debates, no matter what election year it is. Such analyses tend to miss the big picture -- such as, even when you win a debate, it can be done due to appearance rather than substance -- but regardless of such reservations, it remains important to consider who had the better points, and who came out on top overall.

In the first presidential debate, Gov. Mitt Romney appeared to overpower President Barack Obama in terms of his oratory skills. But looking at the debate itself, it's clear that, though he didn't appear to win, Obama stuck to the facts much more than Romney did. If one has to resort to telling a multitude of lies to win a debate, then in the long-run it could prove to be more beneficial for the "loser." Indeed, the following day Barack Obama was on the campaign stump touting his rivals misdeeds, and had a campaign commercial highlighting Romney's lies from the evening prior.

In terms of the vice presidential debate, however, I'd have to say that Vice President Joe Biden out-did Rep. Paul Ryan on a number of issues surrounding the event. First, in terms of energizing the base, Biden certainly woke up liberals across the country. Following a dismal performance (but again, more factually accurate) by Obama, Biden needed to do this more than anything. And he did -- Twitter and Facebook feeds across the nation have lit up with Biden "memes," as well as anti-Ryan images poking fun at recent images he posed for with Time Magazine.

Second, Biden did the exact opposite -- he had the conservatives on the defensive. Both candidates performed equally as well in terms of the bases of both. That is to say, conservatives with Ryan as well as liberals with Biden could both be considered satisfactory with respect to their ideological allies.

But Biden's performance more than infuse electricity in the liberal base -- it did so in the conservative side as well. Criticisms of Biden's performance from Thursday night varied, but for the most those on the right were more concerned with his behavior, focusing on his smiling and his interjections rather than his substance.

Meanwhile, their defense of Ryan's performance has been minimal, even when it's been shown that he told a multitude of lies. Put another way, conservatives were in attack mode, while liberals were celebrating. The end result was a promotion of one candidate (Biden) versus significant criticism of another (Ryan).

In the long-term, the debate won't determine who will win the least when it comes to policy. But the liberal base, newly energized, is ecstatic with Biden's performance. Conservatives, meanwhile, are equally ecstatic, but have focused much of their attention towards meaningless critiques of Biden, shifting the overall focus towards the Democratic Party's nominees in the mainstream.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Unemployment rate down, helping Obama

7.8 rate lowest since Obama took office

The Bureau of Labor statistics released jobs data today (PDF) that will without a doubt help President Barack Obama on the election trail during the final weeks of the 2012 campaign.

The U.S. unemployment rate is down three-tenths of a percent, to 7.8 percent, the first time it's been below 8 percent since President Obama took office. 114,000 net jobs were added in September, which isn't a significant margin. However, delving into the data a little bit more reveals that Obama's economic recovery, though slow, is indeed a reality.

For example, the number of individuals who have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks (6-7 months) went down by 189,000 from August to September. Year-to-year, from September 2011 to now, that number has decreased by 1.35 million. The number of short-term unemployed persons also went down: the number of unemployed for less than five weeks has decreased by more than 300,000 individuals from August to September.

These two stats (long-term and short-term unemployment), taken together, suggest it's easier to find work if you lose it.

There are undoubtedly going to be critics who will argue that the overall unemployment rate went down this month due to workers giving up. However, there's good news on that front as well: the number of "discouraged workers" went down by 44,000, and those "marginally attached" to the labor force went down by a similar measure.

The change in unemployment won't be a significant game-changer in this election. And while the numbers are improvements to previous data, it's going at a pace that's considerably slower than most Americans want at this point. Still, President Obama has a serious advantage here. When he talks about his record on jobs, he can say he has a net growth after inheriting one of the worst economies our nation has ever seen from his predecessor. When it comes to the unemployment rate, he can say he brought it back to levels from before he took office.

Mitt Romney will have a difficult time attacking that record. At best, he can say that growth is going too slow -- yet Obama can counter even that attack, stating that he achieved this feat even with a filibuster-crazy Republican Senate caucus in 2009 and 2010, and a completely oppositional Republican-led Congress in 2011 and 2012, which was hellbent on obstructing any improvements to the economy if it meant Obama would get some credit.

For the next few weeks, at least on jobs, Obama is in a strong place to control the debate.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"Liberal activist" moniker produces worthless dialogue

Walker's language of vitriol hurts the process overall

As I said yesterday, I'm in no position to comment extensively on the judicial ruling this past week that found Wisconsin Act 10 -- the law that restricted collective bargaining rights for state workers -- unconstitutional. Judge Juan Colás found that the law violated state and federal constitutional standards related to free speech and association rights that were violated under the law. You can read the full ruling here (PDF).

With that said, I do want to take a moment to criticize a comment made by Gov. Scott Walker regarding Colás's decision.

Walker responded to the decision with bravado that has become his typical response to rulings that undermine his policies. This time, however, Walker took it a bit further, calling Judge Colás a "liberal activist judge"

John Nichols has pointed out that this type of name-calling is ridiculous for Walker to make:
Instead of responding with a constitutionally grounded defense of a law that legislators and lawyers warned last year would not stand judicial scrutiny, the governor engaged in cheap-shot invective that is as ignorant as it is shameful.
Indeed, Colás isn't a "liberal activist." Though he was appointed by Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, Colás spent 15 years working for the Department of Justice in the state, working under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

In fact, part of Colás's decision actually sided with the Walker administration -- for example, the plaintiffs alleged that Walker had unconstitutionally passed the law during a special session. Colás disagreed, siding with Walker on that one.

The governor definitely took the low road in his comments following the ruling. What irks me most about his comments, however, isn't that Walker disagrees with it, or even that his ally in the DOJ, JB Van Hollen, already plans to appeal the ruling. That's the process that these things go through, and it isn't exactly a surprise.

Rather, what bugs me is the fact that Walker, instead of defending his law, goes on the attack on the person instead of the decision the person made -- that is, the criticism wasn't based on the ruling itself, but on the character of the duly elected official who issued it.

We're used to this sort of diatribe, of course, especially during a presidential election year. We hear "liberal this" and "conservative that," idioms that are meant to deride the person or persons involved in the debate but add nothing to the discussion itself.

If Walker wants to have a reasoned debate over the constitutionality of the law, he should do so. His administration is set to do just that in the impending appeal. Yet, calling a person an "activist," a purposeful shot meant to incite anger and vitriol, isn't the way to start things off.

The right thing to have done in Walker's shoes would have been to have explained calmly and collectively why he disagreed with the ruling made by Judge Colás, or even to have offered no comment other than he planned to appeal. Instead, he took the easy (but dirty) way out, resorting to kindergarten-type dialogue that produces no worth whatsoever towards the debate.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Reactions from Act 10 court ruling

State leaders, lawmakers, bloggers react to repeal of contentious law

I'm unable to publish an analysis of the recent court ruling striking down Wisconsin Act 10, the law that removed bargaining rights for state workers and prompted an unprecedented backlash throughout the state. I'm on vacation -- so my time online is limited.

But here's a few reactions that I thought were worth taking note of:

From Blogging Blue:
While Judge Colas’ decision is certainly good news, I don’t expect his ruling to last, given the conservative bent to our State Supreme court. No doubt Justice David Prosser will have another opportunity to prove that he is in fact an excellent complement to Republicans in the Legislature and Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
From Cognitive Dissidence:
The corporate special interests and the plutocrats started this round of class warfare, but they really should take some history lessons to see how that kind of ruling style usual ends up.
From Mike Tate, Chairman of the Wisconsin Democrats:
Today is a great day for Wisconsin workers. Now, we have the opportunity to go back and do things the right way, the Wisconsin way -- where everyone has a seat at the table and where we work together to find commonsense solutions.
From Scott Walker himself:
The people of Wisconsin clearly spoke on June 5th. Now, they are ready to move on. Sadly a liberal activist judge in Dane County wants to go backwards and take away the law making responsibilities of the legislature and the governor. We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process.
It will be interesting to see what the final outcome will be. An appeal is certainly coming -- and if done through the state courts, will ultimately make its way to the state Supreme Court, where the conservative majority will likely side with Gov. Walker.

But the federal aspects of the ruling also make it a possibility that an appeal could be made in federal courts, where the outcome would be less certain. The legal process for this act, which divided the state so severely (and helped contribute to the job losses our state witnessed during Walker's first year in office), will be long and drawn out -- and that's likely the only thing we can be sure of at this point.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering September 11 -- Unity.

We remember today as an anniversary of a terrible event that claimed the lives of thousands. The attacks of September 11 woke up our nation, brought to our attention a threat we had previously minimized. They united us in our common pursuit to bring about peace and justice to those whose actions brought us sorrow and confusion.

Political pundits and talking heads complain today that that unity is lost, that in all of the political vitriol and mud-slinging we are witnessing today we no longer have that feeling of shared purpose. But I disagree; political differences aside, we are a nation united by a common thread, of purpose that goes beyond simple retribution even for the attacks we saw 11 years ago today.

Our purpose is defined in our founding documents -- the pursuits of life, liberty, and happiness. Yet, even those without historical understanding of our nation's beginnings can tell you that we are indeed a country united. The ideal of America is stronger than any other force on this planet -- and no amount of political bickering, nor any physical attack, can bring our nation down, so long as the American dream endures.

We must be careful in our reflections not to deify ourselves; ours is a nation of imperfections, and we must always strive for better days. Yet, we're also a nation of great promise. It took us more than two centuries to get where we are today, but we have passed the tests, lasted through many great challenges, and remain a beacon of hope to millions around the world.

Today we reflect on those we lost, on the attacks that cost thousands their lives and millions more their peace of mind. We must never forget what happened -- and we must continue moving forward from that event, this day, and many others to come.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

DNC speeches will top RNC nonsense

"Highlights" of Republican convention leave Democrats low bar to contend with

The Democratic National Convention is set to kick-off tonight, with several speakers to speak during the next few days and in prime time (tonight, Michelle Obama will speak). President Barack Obama will accept the party's official nomination on Thursday night, with Wisconsin's own Tammy Baldwin speaking earlier in that evening as well.

The DNC could potentially upstage the Republican convention held last week, for a few reasons. First, it's the latter of the two conventions, meaning the president's speech later this week will be fresher in the minds of voters come time for the debates and the election itself.

Second, and more importantly, the GOP didn't deliver a "knock-out punch" during its own convention. It didn't even deliver a decent haymaker (OK, enough with the boxing terms). In fact, the highlights of the RNC included whether a hurricane would drastically hit the event (and the inappropriate comments that followed the storm's departure), blatant racism on the part of some delegates, a speech delivered by vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan that was riddled with inaccuracies, and a confusing conversation between Clint Eastwood and a chair.

Those "highlights" are problems for Republicans for many reasons, but chief among them is the fact that presidential nominee Mitt Romney's speech wasn't as remarkable as everything else that went down last week. And when your presidential candidate can't pull off a remarkable performance at his own nominating convention, it spells problems for your party when November rolls around.

Indeed, the Republican convention only netted Romney a 1 percent bump, according to The "improvement" is within the statistical margin of error, meaning it's possible that no "bump" even exists at all.

The Republicans in effect gave President Obama a huge gift by having one of the worst conventions held in recent memory. The president need only to have a speech that is memorable in order to come out ahead of Romney before the debates. That shouldn't be too difficult of a task for Obama to carry out.