Promote the General Welfare

(I tweeted all this earlier, but I’m including it here too.)

In the preamble of the Constitution are the words “promote the general welfare”. Why doesn’t health care count toward that?

Why should Americans have to worry about getting sick and not being able to afford health care? Why should Americans have to chose between treating illness or buying food and paying rent? Why should Americans not be free to quit their jobs and start their dream business without fear of losing their insurance? Why is single-payer Medicare acceptable for Americans 65 and older but not for Americans 64 and younger?

Health care should be alongside public schools, libraries, roads and highways, and police and fire protection. All things that promote the general welfare. All things that we don’t have to think about—worry about—being around or being able to afford.

We don’t worry whether or not the fire department will come if our house catches fire. Why do we have to worry whether or not treatment will come if we get sick?

Jeff Sessions: Wrong for Attorney General

Protecting and ensuring civil rights is important to me—which is why I believe Senator Jeff Sessions with his record of being on the wrong side of America’s ongoing civil-rights fight is the wrong person to lead the department of justice.

I wasn’t happy to learn Senator Dianne Feinstein, one of my California Democratic senators, was not committing to voting against him.

So, I wrote a script to use for a phone call and an email to her office.

If civil rights are important to you too, please call your US senators and urge them to vote no on Jeff Sessions for attorney general. Feel free to use my script or modify it to explain why you are against Sessions.

You can find contact information for your senators on this senate page. Californians: here’s Senator Feinstein’s contact information.

And if your senator (or senators) is on the judiciary committee tasked with recommending or not recommending his nomination to the full senate, I doubly urge you to contact your senator(s). Here’s the committee and their phone numbers:

Senate Judiciary Committee

Here’s my phone script:

Hello, my name is Joe Hribar, and I am one of Senator Feinstein’s constituents from Los Angeles. I am calling to urge Senator Feinstein to vote against Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general.

In 1986, he was deemed too racist by the senate for a federal judgeship. Since then, he has remained on the wrong side of America’s ongoing civil-rights fight with his opposition to the Voting Rights Act, the Violence Against Women Act, and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act as well as his support of suppressive voter-ID laws and a religious test to ban Muslim immigrants.

Senator Sessions is the wrong person to be entrusted with protecting and ensuring civil rights, and I urge Senator Feinstein to vote no on him for attorney general.

Thank you for your time and attention.

And here’s my email:

Hello, my name is Joe Hribar, and I am one of Senator Feinstein’s constituents from Los Angeles. I am writing to urge Senator Feinstein to vote against Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general of the United States.

Senator Sessions has a clear record of racist and anti-equality positions and is therefore the wrong person to lead the department of justice.

In 1985, he wrongly prosecuted three civil-rights activists (they were acquitted), including an aide of Martin Luther King, for voter fraud.

In 1986, he was rejected by the senate for a federal judgeship largely because of his racist past. As part of his hearing, Coretta Scott King wrote the senate in opposition to Senator Sessions stating he would “irreparably damage the work of my husband” and that “anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts.”

The department of justice is responsible for enforcing the Voting Rights Act. Senator Sessions has called it a “piece of intrusive legislation”. When the US Supreme Court in 2013 gutted the VRA, Senator Sessions called it “good news, I think, for the South.”

He is a proponent of the widely debunked claim of voter fraud and supports suppressive voter-ID laws.

Additionally, he has supported a religious test to ban Muslim immigrants, he voted against the Violence Against Women Act and the extension of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and he has consistently received a “F” grade from the NAACP.

Senator Sessions is the wrong person to be entrusted with protecting and ensuring civil rights, and I urge Senator Feinstein to vote no on him for attorney general.

I will be watching the vote closely. Should Senator Feinstein decide to vote in favor of Senator Sessions, I will be an active and vocal supporter of her primary challenger next year.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Sincerely,
Joe Hribar
Los Angeles

Fired Up. Ready to Go.

(I tweeted all this earlier, but I’m including it here too.)

The election broke me. Twitter made me more depressed, so I took a break. But I’m back. And I’m ready to fight. I’m fired up & ready to go.

Perhaps you, like me, are looking for ways to start dealing with the reality of what’s coming. Let’s stick together and help one another.

It’s symbolic, yes, but it’s a start: wearing a safety pin in support of those who are afraid and possibly harassed.

But a pin isn’t all we should do. If we see casual racism around us, let’s help stop it.

All of us showing up, stopping Trump, and taking care of each other is important right now.

And while we work for change at the local level, let’s also work for it at a more national level by supporting new leadership at the DNC.

I’m with Bernie Sanders in supporting Keith Ellison to be the next DNC chair. I encourage you to support him too.

ellisonForDncChair

Things will be rough, but we’re all in this together. So let’s not give up. America is already great. Let’s keep it that way.

False Equivalence

(I tweeted all this earlier, but I’m including it here too.)

I’m not particularly fond of Hillary Clinton, but I get angry hearing people say she and Donald Trump are equally bad. Not even close.

Don’t believe me? Let’s start with this from conservative writer Conor Friedersdorf:

To regard [Clinton & Trump] as equivalently bad candidates for the presidency isn’t just absurd, it is reckless.

Still don’t believe me? Here’s Jamelle Bouie on Trump undermining US democracy & possibly inciting racial violence:

Violence and intimidation” incited by Trump “will be against the chief targets of [his] campaign: people of color.

Still don’t believe me? How about this from conservative writer and former-George-W.-Bush speechwriter David Frum. Frum on voting Clinton:

You’re not doing it for her. The vote you cast is for the republic and the Constitution.

Still don’t believe me? Here’s Seth Meyers:

One candidate is bad at email. The other is a racist, misogynist, xenophobic, ignorant, serial-lying, swindling, narcissistic man-baby.

Is either candidate a great choice? No. But they are nowhere close to being equally bad. And only one—Hillary—is qualified to be president.

Shot and Killed

(I posted this on Twitter earlier and am cross-posting it here.)

In the last day and a half…

Two firefighters were shot and killed responding to a fire in West Webster, NY.

A 30-year-old man was shot and killed in a bar in Bellevue, WA.

A 48-year-old man was shot and killed in York, PA.

A man was shot and killed in Placentia, CA.

A man was found shot and killed in a car in Washington, DC.

An 18-year-old woman was shot and killed by her friend who was “recklessly playing” with a gun in West Dallas, TX.

A teenager was shot and killed after a restaurant fight in Poughkeepsie, NY.

The NRA would have you believe these people would all still be alive if they, too, were armed.

Because the only solution is more guns.

So more money flows to gun manufacturers.

And the NRA.

And more people are left dead.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Country First

Jon Huntsman gave his speech tonight in New Hampshire in front of a giant banner with these words: “Country First”. At first, I was miffed. “He’s using John McCain’s vapid, petty slogan from four years ago,” I thought. Ugh.

But then I realized “country first” aptly describes Jon Huntsman. Huntsman, who was a popular Republican governor, put his political career on hold to what? To serve in a Democratic administration as the ambassador to China. That’s putting country first.

During Sunday’s GOP debate, Huntsman said:

I was criticized last night by Governor Romney for putting my country first. And I just want to remind the people here in New Hampshire and throughout the United States that I think…

He criticized me while he was out raising money for serving my country in China, yes, under a Democrat, like my two sons are doing in the United States Navy. They’re not asking who what political affiliation the president is.

I want to be very clear with the people here in New Hampshire and this country: I will always put my country first. And I think that’s important to them.

And what did Mitt Romney say in response?

I think we serve our country first by standing for people who believe in conservative principles and doing everything in our power to promote an agenda that does not include President Obama’s agenda.

Translation: Politics first. Huntsman:

This nation is divided […] because of
attitudes like that.

It’s unlikely that Jon Huntsman will secure the GOP nomination, and that’s a shame. I would love to see the debates between Huntsman and Obama. They have very different political beliefs but are also intelligent, intellectual men. Theirs could be the Lincoln-Douglas debates of the 21st century where they could have lively discussions on the merits of their different political philosophies rather than trying to out-soundbite each other. Talk about putting country first.

Pennsylvania Double Dutch

After reading about the plan  Pennsylvania is considering that would change how the state allocates electoral votes, I was going to write up something explaining how the plan was a very bad idea like I did when Massachusetts signed on to the interstate compact.

But Nate Silver wrote something much better than I could. He highlights five problems the switch could create for Pennsylvania Republicans:

  1. The Electoral College split could work against Republicans and cost their candidate the election.
  2. The plan could undermine the integrity of the Electoral College, which is probably not in Republicans’ long-term best interest.
  3. The plan could motivate Democrats and lead to higher Democratic turnout both in Pennsylvania and nationally.
  4. The plan would significantly reduce Pennsylvania’s influence in the election campaign.
  5. The plan would probably become unpopular in the state over time, potentially costing some Republican office-holders their jobs.

I would only add that in a scenario where a state with a large amount of electoral votes swings an election because of a real—or perceived—partisan decision, popular sentiment might actually be strong enough to change the Constitution and eliminate the Electoral College. Americans still remember the last time that happened. But after the 2000 Electoral College debacle, any talk of changing the Constitution died out. If there is another controversy so soon after, though, perhaps that talk would resurface and would spill over to action and kill the Electoral College. And as Mr. Silver points out, that’s not in the long-term interests of the Republican Party.

“Give My Regards to King Tut”

President Obama this week gave a speech in Schenectady NY. And apparently he also opened the Stargate?

(Photo: http://www.timesunion.com/).

The Eagle Has Landed… Far From Home

While driving through Verona, NY (between Syracuse and Utica), I noticed this campaign sign for Mike Hennessy, a “fiscally conservative Democrat” running for the New York State Senate:

Here’s a better rendition of his logo:


(Photo source)

Patriotic, no doubt. The problem is, this logo was used once already. By a Republican. Running for president:


(Photo source)

Even the same color scheme. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any more information about the logo or any mention of it being a rehash (theft?) in any news article. Seems strange, though, that Mike Hennessy, a Democrat, is using Mitt Romney’s logo from his failed 2008 presidential campaign. But that’s politics, I guess.

Reporklicans

Republican Representative Mike Pence of Indiana was for defense spending cuts before he was against them while still remaining a “fiscal conservative.”

From a Politico article in June:

If we are going to put our fiscal house in order, everything has to be on the table. We have to be willing to look at domestic spending, we have to be able to look at entitlements, and we have to look at defense.

But in an interview last week, Pence said this:

HUNT: Everybody seems to be for most people say they’re for fiscal discipline, but it gets hard when it’s in your district. Let me give you one example for you. You went to the House floor to defend money for a second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter … [which would have] a factory in your district. The Pentagon says it doesn’t want it. The other day a Tea Party group this is a Tea Party group said of this project, it’s an example of “opportunistic parasite feeding on the expansion of government.” Tough stuff.

PENCE: Well, sure. And everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but and not entitled to their own facts. The reality is, and the Heritage Foundation produced a very important study on this, is that it is believed that when you were talking about a military defense contract that will span decades of time, it is in the interest of taxpayers in the long run to have more than one source, more than one manufacturer of that engine.

The fact that one of those two engines in part is manufactured in Indiana, we certainly welcome. We’re proud of those jobs. But at the end of the day, I really do believe that it was in the interest of our national defense.

Dissenting opinions are healthy and necessary for debate.  Hypocritical dissenting opinions, however, aren’t healthy for anything except to get yourself off.  If you want to be a fiscal conservative, then BE a fiscal conservative.  Don’t be some narcissistic, bloviating, self-rightous, insensitive, pompous, truth-be-damned, hypocritical jackass.

Cuts in defense spending shouldn’t be off the table when asserting the federal budget needs slashing even when cuts mean sacrifices at home and making tough decisions. This is the same as if the person I know who complains that Apple celebrates and fosters consumerism and materialism would go buy an iPhone 4 because her friend works there.

A hypocrite is a hypocrite whatever way you try to spin it. Mike Pence is a hypocrite.

Counting the Vote

The Massachusetts state legislature today passed a bill that would force its state electoral votes to be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes nationally.  Having done my graduate school thesis project on Electoral College reforms, I had to jump on this.

Forcing the Electoral College to follow the national popular vote effectively renders the Electoral College moot.  The winner of the national popular vote would automatically be the winner of the Electoral College—at which point the Electoral College serves no purpose.  But without a constitutional amendment, the Electoral College has to exist is some bastardized form of a LOST-esque purgatory.

A national popular vote, while seemingly popular, probably wouldn’t change election outcomes much; candidates will still likely campaign the same or similarly to how they do now.  The Democratic candidate still will not campaign in Massachusetts, California, or Illinois, and the Republican candidate will still not campaign in Texas, Georgia, Utah, or Oklahoma.  Who most voters in these states will vote for is all-but determined before the election season even starts.   Instead, both candidates will still campaign in the battleground states of our existing electoral system in an effort to secure as many toss-up votes as possible.   Why?  Because this is where the majority of toss-up votes are.  They’re battleground states for a reason.

If the purpose to switching to a national popular vote is out of anger at the Electoral College, the anger is misplaced.  The thing is, a close election will be a close election no matter how the vote is counted.  Take 2000 as an example.  Of the roughly 105 million votes cast, less than 540,000 votes separated Bush & Gore—roughly 0.0052 of the total.  In 1888, another year the popular-vote winner lost the presidency, out of 11 million votes cast, less than 91,000 votes separated Harrison and Cleveland—roughly 0.008 of the total.

Close elections will remain controversial.  The nightmare scenario with a national popular vote would be a recount of every vote in the nation.  What would the recount threshold be?  0.01?  0.005?

A far more interesting Electoral College reform to explore is a proportional allocation of each state’s electoral votes.

As a review, whichever candidate in a state receives the most popular votes in the state also receives all of that states electoral votes.  If the candidate receives 1 more vote or 1 million more votes, that candidate gets all of the electoral votes.  This process is in effect in every state but Maine and Nebraska (these two states award electoral votes based on which candidate wins each congressional district and two for the winner of the state’s popular vote.  Maine adopted this method in 1972 and has never split its vote; Nebraska adopted this in 1992 and only split its vote once: 2008).

The proportional allocation plan splits a state’s electoral votes according to what percentage of the state’s popular vote the candidate won.  So if a candidate wins 60% of the state’s popular vote, the candidate receives 60% of the state’s electoral votes.

With a proportional allocation plan, no disbanding of the Electoral College would be necessary.  State results are still state results—thus retaining the federalist aspect of presidential elections.  And, switching the Electoral College to proportional allocation wouldn’t require a constitutional amendment; rather, each state would pass a law directing their electoral votes to be proportionally allocated (there isn’t anything in the Constitution on how a state’s electoral votes be allocated; only that they must exist).

More than anything else, though, the best aspect of proportional allocation is the likelihood of increased voter participation.  Suddenly, every vote matters. Candidates would have to alter their campaign strategies.  California’s 55 electoral votes and Texas’s 34 are up for grabs more so than they are now.  John McCain would have won 20 electoral votes in California and Barack Obama 15 in Texas.  Republicans in decidedly-Democratic states and Democrats in decidedly-Republican states who might not vote in the current system because “their vote doesn’t count” now have more relevance and have more purpose to vote.

And that, is the point.  Increased voter participation is the real issue.  So whether proportional allocation is the method or a national popular vote, if more people vote and vote smartly, everyone wins.

If you’re interested in how reform proposals might have changed past presidential elections, check out my thesis project where you can apply a reform proposal to a past election and see the results both nationally and state-by-state (mouse-over each state for further breakdown of results).

Toles

toles

We Need a Hero

Jon Stewart had a pretty good take-down of the president this week (starting around 4:39):

Whether or not there is more that the president can do, he needs to convince the American public that he is doing all that he can. Every classic story has a villain and a hero. We have a villain: BP and Big Oil. Now we need a hero. Especially if the computer models are correct (via Discovery News) or if a hurricane (or two) blow through the Gulf.

Socialism!!!

top tax rate

(Via Chart Porn)

Anti-Government Spending, Pro-Government Subsidies?

There’s a term for people who are against federal-government spending and against the federal government but who gladly accept federal dollars to support their states.   The term is Tea Partiers hypocrites.

The Fourth Branch posted this week about government spending and highlighted two maps.   The whole article is a great read.   Here’s the key info:

The red states in the map below are states which received more than $1.00 in federal money for every $1.00 in taxes paid by residents of that state. Blue states are states which received less than $1.00 in federal money for every $1.00 paid by residents of that state in taxes (information from a 2005 study by the Tax Foundation).

taxes

Look at all familiar to you?

election results

From The Fourth Branch:

There is a very strong correlation, then, between a state voting for Republicans and receiving more in federal spending than its residents pay to the federal government in taxes (the rust belt and Texas being notable exceptions). In essence, those in blue states are subsidizing those in red states. Both red and blue states appear to be acting politically in opposition to their economic interests. Blue states are voting for candidates who are likely to continue the policies of red state subsidization while red states are voting for candidates who profess a desire to reduce federal spending (and presumably red state subsidization).

So should those of us in blue states like Connecticut ask the Tea Partiers in Kentucky, Louisiana, Georgia, and, ahem, Alaska to give us our money back?

(Nod: Ezra Klein)

He’s There to View the Tapestries!

From the White House Flickr stream:

President Barack Obama admires a tapestry at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, April 8, 2010.

tapestries

He went to view the tapestries! But he is neither a Scottish lord nor Mickey Mouse.

Just as long as he hasn’t gone and caught a sniffle.

Toles

toles

All the President’s Pens

From The White House:

Why do presidents use so many pens to sign legislation? White House Staff Secretary Lisa Brown explains.

AND!!!   Brown confirms my speculation back in December that Obama’s pens are left-handed pens!

(Nod: Nagle)

Things That Go Bump in the Mess Hall

Well, those crazies did try to warn us President Obama was intent on destroying the country from within.   This weekend he was at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan converting/recruiting unsuspecting U.S. troops with the super-secret, infectious move: the terrorist fist bump.

bump

From the White House Flickr stream.

Just a Bill?

He’s not just a bill.   No, not only a bill:

bill

See here if you missed the joke.

(Nod: Nagle)

“The Unfinished Business Is Done.”

kennedy

From The Washington Post:

The political odyssey of health care reform in many ways is the story of Ted Kennedy, and as President Obama signed the historic bill into law Tuesday, Kennedy’s gravesite was a place of quiet celebration and poignant reflection.

The late senator’s widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, spent hours Sunday at the simple white cross at Arlington National Cemetery marking where her husband was laid to rest only seven months ago. Ted Kennedy’s youngest son, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), visited on Monday morning and left a hand-written note that read: “Dad, the unfinished business is done.”

Yes We Can! Hell No You Can’t!

(Nod: Roger Ebert)

Approved

From the White House Flickr stream today:

approved

In case you’re concerned that the president can’t draw a circle, his name contains 11 letters, but he used 20 pens to sign his name, so more than one pen was used for some letters.

Toles

Another brilliant cartoon by Tom Toles:

toles

“This Is What Change Looks Like”

White House photographer Pete Souza captures President Obama applauding the House passage of the health care bill last night:

obama