Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ryan pick not paying off nationally for Romney

National poll shows VP pick didn't improve GOP's presidential prospects

A new poll shows that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's pick for his running mate isn't helping to improve his chances overall.

Generally, candidates can expect a nation-wide "bump" in polling following their vice presidential picks. In 2008, for instance, Barack Obama saw a jump in the number of voters who would be more likely to vote for him due to his pick of Joe Biden for vice president.

24 percent of Americans were more likely to vote for Obama due to the pick, as opposed to 16 percent who were less likely.

Other picks had similar outcomes:
  • Sarah Palin in 2008 (34 percent more likely vs. 25 percent less likely)
  • John Edwards in 2004 (28 percent vs. 7 percent)
  • Joe Lieberman in 2000 (20 percent vs. 7 percent)
  • Dick Cheney in 2000 (16 percent more likely vs. 14 percent less likely)
But polling for Mitt Romney following his pick of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) shows that voters are unchanged in their view of the GOP ticket.

22 percent of voters say they were more likely to vote for Romney based on his choice of Ryan, a significant jump to be sure. But 23 percent said they were LESS likely to vote for Romney due to the pick. 54 percent said the pick didn't affect their choice either way.

Mitt Romney's net polling numbers following his choice of Paul Ryan produce a negative result. While the pick may have helped Romney solidify the conservative base he had trouble courting during the primaries, in the end the pick has done little-to-nothing to help him politically come November.

(In fact, it may end up hurting him).

Monday, August 20, 2012

Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, and "legitimate rape"

Ryan's views on rape and abortion similar to Todd Akin's

During any presidential election year, it's inevitable that people attempt to link candidates to others who share their philosophical views. For instance, many have tried doing so with Barack Obama and Saul Alinsky, the famed author of "Rules for Radicals."

Yet, the association between Obama and Alinsky is a hard one to make -- Alinsky died when Obama was still just a child. And it's not as if Alinsky was a "radical" himself -- his book is more a lesson for radical youth to start acting within the system rather than against it if they want to create more change in the world.

So when associations between political candidates are made, they have to be taken with a grain of salt. They aren't necessarily strong ones to make, and in some cases are distortions of the truth or flat-out lies.

But the connections between vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) are stronger than people might think, and go beyond the remarks put out by the latter gentleman earlier this week.

Recent comments from the Missouri Republican -- who is running for Senate against Democratic incumbent Claire McGaskill -- have landed Akin in some pretty hot water.

Via ThinkProgress.org:
From what I understand from doctors, that's really where, if it's a legitimate rape, uh the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down...
Basic human anatomy is apparently not one of the strong-suits of Todd Akin, who is a member of the Science, Space, and Technology (PDF) committee in the House of Representatives. Akin's theories on the female body run contrary to scientific fact: one out of every 15 instances of rape result in the victim becoming pregnant, and there are reportedly more than 32,000 rape-related pregnancies per year.

Akin's inability to grasp the basics of health education are amusing and disturbing all at once, and are partially based upon an archaic, medieval belief that has long-since been disproven. But the idea of "legitimate rape" purported by the Congressman is also troubling.

The term may have had its origin in a bill that Akin had authored in early 2011 that would have limited what conditions the government could foot the bill on abortions for. Currently, the federal government cannot use funds to pay for abortions except for certain circumstances -- rape, incest, or in cases where the mother's health is at stake.

Nothing about abortion coverage will change under the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. But the Republican-controlled House of Representatives sought to pass a bill anyway, one that would prevent such policies from being offered within the insurance exchange.

Akin's bill would have still made exceptions for rape, incest, and the mother's health -- yet, in the original text of the bill, the exemption for rape would have changed (PDF), to only cases of "forcible rape."

Presumably, this meant pregnancies the result of other "methods" of rape -- instances where the victim was drugged, for instance, or in some other ways had been rendered mentally incapacitated -- would not be protected as an exemption defined by federal law.

The bill in its original form had several co-sponsors -- including Rep. Paul Ryan. Though the bill was eventually changed to reflect all forms of rape (not just "forcible") as exempted from restrictions, there's legitimate reason to believe that Ryan still supports the original context of the bill.

Ryan frequently touts himself as "as pro-life as a person gets." And though the Romney campaign has come out against the remarks that Akin made this week, they may also want to consult with their VP candidate, who has in the past made statements opposing rape as an exception as well:
Although Mr. Romney has stated this position before, Mr. Ryan, a seven-term congressman from Wisconsin, has opposed abortion in the case of rape. During his first run for the seat in 1998, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that he opposed abortions in all cases except to save the life of the mother.
Emphases added.

Again, associations between candidates for office need to be examined within greater context. Paul Ryan didn't say the words that Todd Akin did, and there's no way to determine if Ryan's beliefs about the female body mimic those of Akin's errant remarks. I would hope that they don't.

Still, we DO know that Ryan has the same restrictive attitude towards abortion when it comes to rape that Akin has. And past statements from Ryan make it clear that he believes even a pregnancy the result of a rape must be carried out, regardless of the victim's feelings on the matter.

I don't mean to pretend that I know how a woman feels -- I carry a Y-chromosome myself. But if you're a woman, and you care anything at all about your reproductive future, this should terrify you.

Friday, August 17, 2012

If it weren't for democracy we'd have jobs, says Walker

Governor places blame of minimal job creation, losses squarely on businesses' fears of electoral outcomes

Gov. Scott Walker has a problem accepting responsibility.

His administration, during the first two years of its run, has had a difficult time drumming up job creation in the state of Wisconsin (perhaps because tax breaks don't create jobs on their own).

Walker has tried to place the blame elsewhere. In 2011, he blamed the debt ceiling for stalling jobs, despite placing the blame on that event within the wrong month. He's blamed President Obama's health care package even though the vast majority of it hasn't been implemented. He's blamed protesters at the state Capitol for job losses, too, though jobs continued to drop after they left.

Just before June, he even blamed the recall election that had forced him to campaign for the job he had held for 18 months prior.

And now, he's repeating that same old line -- blaming another uncertain electoral outcome for the job losses the state is now seeing. This time, however, it's the general election rather than his own that's the "problem:"
"Overall, we'd like to see greater growth," Walker said in an interview Wednesday. "To me, I'd want to be going at record-setting pace. I don't think that's going to happen, based on the people I've talked with, until after Nov. 6."
Emphasis added.

Walker fails to realize that while jobs are being lost in the state of Wisconsin, in the rest of the country they're improving. Put bluntly, Wisconsin's "worst in the country" numbers aren't typical of the rest of the nation.

Furthermore, jobs aren't created because of electoral outcome -- they're created because of demand for products. Cut people's paychecks, and they're going to have less capital to spend. And with less capital comes less demand.

That's precisely what a UW economist predicted would happen as a result of Walker's Act 10, the bill that cut pay for state workers while simultaneously removing their contract bargaining rights.

The short of it is that tax breaks to businesses don't create jobs -- why would they use extra cash to create jobs if they got it by doing nothing? Without demand, it's simply like getting a greater profit. And as any businessman will tell you, if you can get a greater profit with the same workforce, you shouldn't go on a hiring spree.

Walker can cast the blame all he wants on the outcome of elections affecting the job situation in Wisconsin. But facts are facts: while other states are adding jobs, Wisconsin is seeing dismal growth, or worse, job losses. Until he realizes that demand, not tax cuts that benefit the top one percent, creates jobs, Wisconsin is in for a long, difficult tenure under Gov. Scott Walker.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ryan pick a failed attempt to deviate from Romney's tax issues

The VP candidate may contribute to woes as Romney would pay 0.82% in taxes under Ryan's plan

The choice of Wisconsin's own Paul Ryan for vice president within Mitt Romney's campaign is indeed a momentous occasion. It's not often, after all, that a politician from Wisconsin gets chosen for such an honor.

Still, the selection -- like all vice presidential candidates -- is a political one. Ryan helps Romney with his conservative bona fides, strengthening his base even if the Tea Party doesn't see Romney as right as they'd want him to be.

Romney's tax problems persist

More importantly, the Ryan selection distracts from the weeks of Romney avoiding the issue of his tax returns -- or rather, the lack thereof. While the Obama campaign has released 12 years of tax returns, a precedent followed by previous presidential candidates (and started by Mitt's father George in 1968), Romney has only released a single year of returns, from 2010.

Those returns show that Romney paid just 13.9 percent of his earnings that year towards taxes.

Supporters of President Barack Obama have wondered aloud why Romney hasn't released more records. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has even suggested that, according to a source close to Romney's Bain Capital days, Romney hasn't paid any taxes over a ten-year period of time.

Though Reid's statements are pure conjecture, they do emphasize a very perplexing question: what exactly is Romney keeping from the public? Even conservative pundit George Will has weighed in on the issue, stating that Romney is likely keeping the returns private for political reasoning.
The cost of not releasing the returns are clear; therefore he must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them
Emphasis added.

Obama's school records vs. Romney's taxes

The right's response to this has been to deflect the question instead towards Obama, stating that Romney doesn't need to release his tax records because the president is being just as secretive with his college transcripts.

But the precedent for releasing school transcripts is slimmer than the precedent for releasing tax returns. Indeed, in recent history the only person to voluntarily release his records while running for president was Joe Biden -- who did so in the 80s. Even Romney himself hasn't released his school transcripts:
Most presidential nominees (at least of late) do not release their grades from college. Romney hasn’t. John McCain disclosed his class rank in 2007, but not his grades. John Kerry made his Yale transcript public only after he lost the 2004 election. Sarah Palin didn’t talk about her grades until after the 2008 election. One exception is Joe Biden, who released his undergraduate transcript in 1987 as a form of damage control.
Emphases added.

So the president released 12 years of tax returns, but Romney released one year. Obama didn't release any school records, but neither did Romney.

And the right portrays it as Obama being more in-the-wrong than Romney? It makes very little sense.

Ryan as a transition in the debate? Perhaps not

To distract from this debacle, Romney finally named his vice presidential nominee. It certainly has taken some of the edge off of the criticism that Romney has been on the receiving end of. But in the end, it may also re-emphasize it as well, because Paul Ryan only intends to release two years of his tax records, too.

Barack Obama has released three times the number of tax returns that Romney and Ryan intend to release. But that's just the start of his tax worries with Ryan as his running mate. According to the Atlantic, Paul Ryan's tax plan would result in Romney paying virtually no taxes at all, if his future returns are similar to his 2010 earnings.

Putting it all together: Romney's taxes a backdrop of the debate

Why does this all matter? Some may say this is all personal, that this undercuts the real meat of what the election is about to be about: issues and policies that the candidates endorse and reject. But it's Romney's wealth and tax evasion schemes that provide the backdrop to the tax debate overall.

When a man like Romney earns more wealth annually than some people can dream of earning in a lifetime -- and more to the point, pays a proportionally less amount of taxes towards those earnings -- it's a sign that things need to change in our country.

We can no longer afford to hurt the American working class with tax policies specially tailored towards benefiting the extremely wealthy. A "shared sacrifice," a term conservatives touted ad nauseum during the 2010 campaign, means all income levels give some in order to make the country work again.

That cannot happen without sacrifice from the wealthy as well, in the form of a modest tax adjustment.

For my money, I'm going to support a presidential candidate who isn't afraid to give himself a tax increase in order to fix the economy. That candidate is Barack Obama. The other candidate, Mitt Romney, is seeking to grow his own wealth, which exceeds the combined wealth of the past eight presidents (TIMES TWO). And his running mate, Paul Ryan, has crafted a budget that does just that, reducing his taxes by more than 13 percentage points, almost to nothing at all.

That's not shared sacrifice; and it's not going to put America on the path to prosperity. The Romney/Ryan ticket is one that will make our country's financial struggles worse, not better.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Liberal is...

An attempt to put into perspective what liberalism truly is

I made this image, and while I intend to expand on this subject in a post later on, I thought it gave good insight into what exactly a liberal stands for (click to enlarge):

So many times, we often here statements of derision on what liberalism really entails. I felt it was important to point out that, under the conditions of what TRUE liberalism is, most people find these principles appealing.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A special note on the Oak Creek Sikh shooting

Ignorant, violent acts of intolerance need to be rejected by everyone claiming to be "American."

A senseless act of violence occurred yesterday in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. A shooting at a Sikh temple (called a gurdwara) left six members killed and several others injured.

The shooter (who was also killed), Wade Michael Page, was discharged by the Army in 1998 under less than honorable conditions. Page has also been characterized as a white supremacist. It's unclear what his motivations were at this time, but the crime is being investigated as a possible act of domestic terrorism.

Since September 11, 2001, several hundred members of the Sikh faith have been unduly attacked. In fact, one of the first hate crimes perpetrated after the terrorist event was an attack against a Sikh, Balbir Singh Sodhi, who was also killed by an ex-military extremist.

Sikhs are often mistakenly associated with the Muslim faith -- but they are their own religion, the fifth largest in the world, that have nothing to do with the faith of Islam.

Still, their ritual appearances -- notably a turban many Sikh traditionally wear -- is often seen by those ignorant of the faith as being Muslim, which has previously led to crimes like what occurred yesterday to be carried out.

But regardless of their appearances, whether people mistake them as followers of Islam or not, violence of this kind is unjustified, a grotesque example of detestable prejudice that must be found objectionable by any and every decent American citizen. Whether Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Sikh, or any other law-abiding faith in this country, no man has any right to act the way that Wade Michael Page did yesterday.

In expressing his concern for the events, President Obama stated that, "As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family." His political adversary, Mitt Romney, also noted that, "This was a senseless act of violence and a tragedy that should never befall any house of worship."

Both men are absolutely right. Our American tradition is one of tolerance, of respecting every house of worship, not just a specific creed of a single faith endorsed by a plurality of Americans. That some refuse to accept this tolerance is disappointing; that others, driven by this narrow point of view, choose to act out in such violent ways is deplorable, demeaning to that ideal which we hold dear, what we call the American Dream.

The word "terrorism" is often thrown around loosely, without much thought given to what the word really means. Indeed, one of the more important criticisms in the "war on terror" is that terrorism is so narrowly defined that it could mean anything.

Yet I personally have no trouble saying that this act, this violent and intentional move to create fear in a community of peaceful worshipers, was one that fits the bill of "terrorism." Such ignorance, such hate, and such violence needs to end.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chick-fil-A's First Amendment rights have not been attacked

Agreeing with the company president's comments isn't the same as "defending freedoms"

The recent controversy regarding Chick-fil-A, a fast-food restaurant whose president, Dan Cathy, recently made remarks regarding his views on same-sex marriage, is intriguing to say the least. It invites a multitude of views on the subject, and creates a debate that frankly needs to be hashed out in the open.

Cathy's words, which started the controversy to begin with, were the following:
I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,' and I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about.
Since the interview in which he made that statement, members of the LGBT community (and their straight allies) have launched a nationwide boycott against the company. Even the Muppets got involved, asking that toys depicting their characters in kids meals be removed from the menu.

Conservatives came to rally for the restaurant, with former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee both encouraging supporters of so-called "traditional" marriage to flood Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country yesterday.

Palin had some choice words about those who supported the boycott:
Calling for the boycott is a real -- has a chilling effect on our 1st Amendment rights. And the owner of the Chick-fil-A business had merely voiced his personal opinion about supporting traditional definition of marriage, one boy, one girl, falling in love, getting married. And having voiced support for kind of that cornerstone of all civilization and all religions since the beginning of time, he then basically getting crucified.

I'm speaking up for him and his 1st Amendment rights...
Emphases added.

Besides comparing the critical reaction to Cathy's views to a "crucifixion" (no doubt a purposeful use of the word, but one that also belittles the death of Christ), Palin makes an errant remark when she describes herself as defending the Chick-fil-A president's views.

A defense of the First Amendment only occurs when there is restraint of a person's speech rights, religious beliefs, press rights, or assembly. Cathy's views on same-sex marriage aren't being restrained, nor is anyone saying he has no right to express them. Instead, people are exercising their OWN free speech in criticizing Cathy's stance. People have the right to boycott based on political rationale, and any restraint on that WOULD classify as a freedom being denied.

Organizing against a corporation based on political topics is as old as America itself -- the original Boston Tea Party (not the right-wing movement) was a response to undue taxes without representation, a political stance the founders took by throwing tea from the East India Tea Company into Boston Harbor. And no one would say that the Montgomery bus boycott led by Martin Luther King was an attack on free speech -- it was a response to a long-standing discriminatory practice by the Montgomery public transit system.

So, no, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and everyone else out there who agrees with Chick-fil-A's same-sex marriage views -- you're not "defending" First Amendment rights when you bite into some chicken. You're supporting the views of the Chick-fil-A restaurant and its president. Which is fine -- it's within YOUR rights to do so. But it's also the rights of gay and lesbian couples, as well as their supporters, to launch a boycott against the company. Criticize it all you want -- it's still a right they retain.

Unfortunately, the issue goes beyond the First Amendment. And if you're comfortable supporting a restaurant that donates to an organization who urged Congress to not take a stance against killing gays in Uganda, then that's your prerogative. As for me, I'll buy my chicken where I usually get it -- the supermarket.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Memo to WI GOP: spell check works, but grammar still eludes the party

Is the party's disregard for grammar indicative of overall attitude towards governance?

Bill Lueders took an interesting look at the two major state political parties' platforms in the Isthmus today, revealing stark contrasts between the two in what he called documents that "appear to not just reflect different worldviews" but rather "come from different worlds."

Upon inspection of the documents, one line from the Wisconsin Republican Party's platform caught my eye, for reasons of grammatical importance rather than policy:
We believe the United States should grant citizenship only to those who want to embrace and defund American values and culture.
Emphasis added.

I highly doubt that Republicans wish to "defund" American values and culture, though we do know that Republicans want to "defund" the budget to the point where they can "drown it in a bathtub."

The word they probably intended to place here was "defend." Sadly for state Republicans, however, while Spell Check can catch important spelling errors, it can't correct words that are wrong for the sentence yet are still spelled technically correct. For proof on that, they can just ask our current Gov. Scott Walker, who has had similar problems on Twitter and elsewhere.

I'm not trying to advocate a complete "grammar police state" takeover or anything like that. Lord knows that I've made a few mistakes on this very site.

Still, I'm not an official state party or representative of the people. When it comes to important documents, things like party platforms, it seems fairly straightforward and obvious that a good old-fashioned proofreading is appropriate, if not required.

Sadly, what seems obvious to most, on both the subjects of grammar and governance, is often overlooked or ignored by Republicans in our state.

One bit of humor to this all: the next line in the Republican Party's platform states the importance of the English language, and touts that it should become the official language of the country.

Go figure.