Sunday, March 31, 2013

Denying Your Vote

Have you gone into the election booth Nov 6, looked at the ballot for Judges feeling that glassy eyed fugue come over you?  That fugue is being used as the basis for making changes in how we elect judges.  To change from allowing you choosing to vote for someone, to only being able to vote against a governor appointment, six years later.

This was the topic of a recent Speechless Show.  Tim Kinley shows testimony from the recent hearings at the legislature.  This is a must see to follow the issue of electing judges.

The first problem is there is still much confusion about having Judges inform us where they stand on issues.  There is a perception that having them be silent on the issues maintains a higher level of "judicial independence and impartiality".  In reality ideology is present in everyone, and partisanship will be present always.  Shirley Abrahamson (in a MN State Bar Pub) wrote:
In Republican Party of Minnesota v White, decided on June 27, 2002, the United States Supreme Court held that the portion of Canon 5(A)(3)(d)(i) (2000) of the Minnesota Code of Judicial Conduct, providing that a “candidate for a judicial office, including an incumbent judge” shall not “announce his or her views on disputed legal or political issues,” violates the 1st Amendment.  In response to the United States Supreme Court decision in White, the American Bar Association amended its Model Code of Judicial Conduct.
So if they choose, the Judges can inform us of their principles and ideology, what informs their world view.  An unlikely event, but no longer restricted by rules.

The second problem is the election process itself.  The Minnesota Constitution states that we the people directly elect our judges.
Article VI, Sec. 7. Term of office; election.
The term of office of all judges shall be six years and until their successors are qualified. They shall be elected by the voters from the area which they are to serve in the manner provided by law.
But when election day comes around we almost universally find incumbent Judges running unopposed. Typically Judges announce retirement well before the election, giving the Governor the ability to appoint the successor. They later enter an election with the word "incumbent" beside their name, allowing for a virtual lifetime appointment if they choose.  In 2010 Washington County Judge Thomas Armstrong and his law clerk Dawn Hennessy both filed for election to "his" seat 3, followed by Armstrong withdrawing, a rather transparent attempt to "pass" the office.  Because it was a unique open seat, there were 25 candidates filing for the seat ultimately won by Tad Jude, and all the other District 10 seats were unopposed.  When asked why they did not run for the other seats, responses were that incumbency identified on the ballot made the probability of overcoming extremely low, and the subsequent threat of retaliation against their clients unacceptably high.

Two plans have been presented to address two very different ideological views.  The first is a very simple solution to that which the candidates have said was a huge issue.  Drop the word incumbency.  This continues the ability of the people to vote FOR a candidate.  Leaving the people in control.

The second plan is far more pervasive and is currently being presented as an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution to entirely change the constitution, giving full power to the Governor to appoint judges recommended from a merit selection commission. This will be dominated by lawyers, and judges, with some non-lawyers appointed by the governor. All of who will bring their partisan views to the selection process.  It eliminates voting for a candidate, but only redacting a governors appointment 6 years later.  Leaving self and special interests in control.

Minnesota Legislature: Bill seeks amendment vote to change how judges are elected
Voters would vote "yes" or "no" on an incumbent. No other candidates would appear on the ballot. If a majority of those voting on the retention question voted "no," the governor would appoint a replacement judge from a list of nominations by a merit selection commission.
Washington County District Judge Tad Jude said the proposed system would let the state's political and legal "establishment" pick judges and disenfranchise rank-and-file voters. Besides, he said, "I don't know what problem you're trying to solve."
This amendment will eliminate your current freedom to select the judges that could decide your fate if you appear before them for legal issues.  Rather than eliminating partisan influences, it will result in a very partisan biased process, appointment by the governor, a partisan politician, an unelected board of lawyers and judges who have an ideological (possibly fiducial) interest, and partisan appointees.  Senator Julianne Ortmann gives the definitive summary to the bill in a 1:18 minute presentation.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

MNCD4 2013 Convention a video retrospective

The 2013 Minnesota Congressional District 4 Convention was held Saturday 3/23/2013.  If you have never been to a convention here's a very brief guide.

The party business is conducted to elect officers for the next two years in the "off year" of the legislative election cycle.  The process of certification of the delegates and alternates, who are elected during the election year precinct caucus, takes much of the early part of the day. Then the possible constitutional issues, amendments and by-laws are considered and discussed.  The final order of business is the election of the new Chair, Deputy Chair, Vice Chairs,  and State Executive Rep. The day is filled with long periods where votes are counted or other preparation steps have to be done.

So these "lull" periods of the day are filled with often great speeches from many people seeking party office, endorsement, and legislators giving speeches of both information and encouragement to the people who have help in support for the party and the campaigns.  The speeches are a great vehicle to let citizens know what is happening at the many levels of government and to introduce candidates to the district supporters.

So here are the great speeches at the CD4 convention:

Candidates for State Party Chair
Bill Paulsen
Bonn Clayton
Don Allen
Keith Downey

Candidates for State Party Deputy Chair
Corey Sax
Kelly Fenton

Senate Minority Leader, Senator David Hann (48)
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (31A)
Senator Dave Thompson (58)

National Committee-man and woman:
Jeff Johnson  (one I always consider a must hear..)
Janet Beihoffer

Minnesota State College Republican Chair candidate
Danny Surman

Announcement of the 2013 Candidates Award
Tony Hernandez

Thursday, March 21, 2013

It’s the truth, even if it didn’t happen

On my YouTube channel I found an interesting exchange between two commentors on one of the videos.
Commentor 1
Democrats don't care for the facts. They follow the old adage "One lies and the other swears to it..." The other being the media.  and so weak minded people are convinced that the "lie" is the truth.
Commentor 2
It is in fact "the facts" that the Democrats are interested in. Clearly not a large enough number to have stopped the liars and thieves that run the Republican party.  [commentor 1] Instead of just pointing fingers how about distributing some "facts" to justify your pejorative? How about the Iraq war? Jack Abramoff? Tom Delay? Plame? etc. You are showing your ignorance in an astounding fashion. The media is profoundly ruled by the right wing and their corporate agenda that the truth is forever gone.
My reaction:
LOL!  Oh you really meant that?
So let's take Commentor 2's arguments and consider each point.  Is what he presents really a collection of objective "facts", or misleading subjective reality?

"How about the Iraq war? Jack Abramoff? Tom Delay? Plame?"

I am not sure where he is going with that.  As an argument for "Republican lies" I find this stream of consciousness particularly un-convincing.

The usual liberal theme on Iraq was that there was no reason to go into Iraq.  An argument that will go on for eternity.  Was there a tie (of mutual support) between Sadaam Hussein and Al-Queda?  Not particularly.  They didn't really like each other either.  Sadaam was a singular threat to peace in the middle east, and murderous to people on a horrific scale. Intelligence agencies from France to Russia thought and reported he was nearing a nuclear capability. The latter of which was essentially "disproven", once it was all over. The world is a far better place with him removed.

For a Jack Abramoff, I'll raise you a Norman Hsu, John Corzine, Jesse Jackson Jr, Steve Westly And Steve Spinner.

For a Tom Delay there is Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich,  Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Senator John Edwards, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and the list goes on.

Valerie Plame was "outed" by Richard Armitage, who is often ascribed as being a Democrat (though that seems unlikely) working for Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.  The left's insistent theme was that Joe Wilson's statements undermined the Bush administrations arguments for invading Iraq (never mind his subsequent statement was at odds with his own congressional testimony about Saddam's interests in uranium rich yellow cake) causing a reprisal against his wife. Liberals claimed that it was Karl Rove who "outed" her, and could never get over the fact it wasn't. In fact they already knew she wasn't a covert operative and had found out the name of the leak. Armitage wasn't punished, didn't face trial, and wasn't even indicted. He said he was sorry, and the news moved on, while the trial continued.

The real message is that corruption is not really tied to political ideology.  All mankind falls short of righteousness irrespective of ideology.

The media is profoundly ruled by the right wing and their corporate agenda that the truth is forever gone.

This is a theme that makes me laugh every time it is spoken. There is so much evidence to the contrary that it cannot be seriously thought true.  It only "feels true" because so many people cannot distinguish the difference between "relative bias" and "absolute bias".  Comparing Keith Ellison to Collin Peterson may make Peterson seem conservative, but in any real analysis Collin Peterson is still liberal, with a 61% progressive advocacy score.

So starting first with real factual analysis of media bias:

Media Bias Is Real, Finds UCLA Political Scientist
By Meg Sullivan December 14, 2005  
"I suspected that many media outlets would tilt to the left because surveys have shown that reporters tend to vote more Democrat than Republican," said Tim Groseclose, a UCLA political scientist and the study's lead author. "But I was surprised at just how pronounced the distinctions are."
"Overall, the major media outlets are quite moderate compared to members of Congress, but even so, there is a quantifiable and significant bias in that nearly all of them lean to the left," said co-author Jeffrey Milyo, University of Missouri economist and public policy scholar.
Five news outlets — "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," ABC's "Good Morning America," CNN's "NewsNight With Aaron Brown," Fox News' "Special Report With Brit Hume" and the Drudge Report — were in a statistical dead heat in the race for the most centrist news outlet.  Of the print media, USA Today was the most centrist.
That was 2005, and the bias has become even more pronounced since then.

Washington Whispers Poll: Fox, O'Reilly Most Trusted News Sources
By Paul Bedard May 20, 2011
In a stunning rejection of network news and nightly news anchors, cable news, driven by the Fox News Channel and mouthy Bill O'Reilly, is now the top most trusted source—by a mile.
In a new poll from Boston's Suffolk University, more than a quarter of the nation says Fox is tops when it comes to who they trust the most and O'Reilly is the most believable.
Book: Liberal Media Distorts News Bias
By Paul Bedard June 16, 2011
The liberal bias of the mainstream media tilts so far left that any outlets not in that political lane, like the Drudge Report and Fox News Channel, look far more conservative than they really are, according to a UCLA professor's new book out next month.
"Fox News is clearly more conservative than ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and National Public Radio. Some will conclude that 'therefore, this means that Fox News has a conservative bias,'" he writes in an advance copy provided to Washington Whispers. "Instead, maybe it is centrist, and possibly even left-leaning, while all the others are far left. It's like concluding that six-three is short just because it is short compared to professional basketball players."
What's more, he says, "this point illustrates a common misconception about the Drudge Report. According to my analysis, the Drudge Report is approximately the most fair, balanced, and centrist news outlet in the United States. Yet, the overwhelming majority of media commentators claim that it has a conservative bias. The problem, I believe, is that such commentators mistake relative bias for absolute bias. Yes, the Drudge Report is more conservative than the average U.S. news outlet. But it is a logical mistake to use that to infer that it is based on an absolute scale."
And what about that ever popular meme that Fox viewers are less informed an assertion by comedian Jon Stewart (though the left thinks of him as "astute political commentator")
Similar single-issue reports exist on subjects like global warming, Obamacare, and the Ground Zero Mosque. If these were the only polls that existed on the knowledge of Fox News viewers, then one could see how Stewart could confidently claim Fox News viewers are always the most misinformed.
But all of these polls were conducted by ideologically liberal organizations out to prove that Fox News is biased and that conservatives are misinformed. What if a more centrist organization asked more factual questions on a broad array of issues? Turns out the Pew Research Center does such a poll and on a regular basis. And the results contradict Stewart’s claims.
Second: anecdotal evidence that even the son of Ted Turner, who has worked at CNN in the past, agrees that CNN is basically un-watchably liberal, and watches mostly Fox News.  Which leaves open the question of where that would place the ridiculously liberal MSNBC/MediaMatters.

So in review, it would seem the commentors facts and  assertions are dreadfully lacking as useful facts for his argument against Republicans.  Although it does fit handily in as baseless political strategy for discrediting the opposition.  All that aside, it does show the very real problem with extensive media bias and induced subjective reality.  People become easily confused about reality vs reinforcement induced beliefs.  Three people telling you something (reinforcement) does not make it true. But it will seem to be.

It’s the truth even if it didn’t happen.  –Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

For further examples:
PEW Study Winning the Media Campaign 2012 November 2, 2012
Both Candidates Received More Negative than Positive Coverage in Mainstream News, but Social Media Was Even Harsher

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Betty McCollum on the Sequester

The first event at the Saturday Mar 9 Woodbury town hall was a 3 round knock down debate on specific details about the sequester.  During her introductory comments Rep Betty McCollum made a statement about the sequester. See in the complete video from 4:40 to 7:30.  Or in this tubechop version of just the clip.

[Betty McCollum] If your family really had to make some tough decisions in spending and you were sitting around the kitchen table would you say well let's cut everything by 8%. Let's cut our mortgage payment by 8%, let's cut our food by 8% let's cut our moving budget by 8%, our transportation by 8%, our health insurance, we're just going to cut it all by 8% and that's how we're going to balance everything.  Now not one of you would do that in your real life. Unfortunately that's what the sequester is a real basic. There are some carve out's, department of defense is in one pot of money with VA and State and the other discretionary is another.  But the military came and testified, I'm on the military sub-committee, you know we don't need to cut our military teachers by 8% because if the schools aren't open...

[Voice from the back] Ma'am, ma'am tell us the truth. Its not 8%, [many voices come in] It 2.4.. Don't tell us..   Thank you..

[Betty McCollum] Sir, sir...[Betty trying to overwhelme the voices] ...  I have a limited voice, people came to hear, I'm going to make comments, and then we're going to open it up to comments.

[Voice from the back] We don't want to hear lies.. We don't want to hear lies..  [others adding..] Its 2%..

So for all the discord, what's the real history and facts of the sequester.

Both Betty McCollum's 8% and the 2.4% are "correct", just misleading or not complete descriptions, because of the varied way's statistics can be created to create a wide variety of impressions. Though probably a "bit" more misleading on Rep McCollum's part, because her use of "everything" is simply not correct.  The original proposition about the sequester was to cut 8% from parts of the military budget and some entitlements. So she is "technically" correct, the wording did use 8%. The combined areas that were subject to the cut comprises near 25% of the spending, that's how we get to 2.4% of the entire budget.  We can't really call it a budget since no budget has passed the Democrat controlled Senate since Barack Obama became President.  I am somewhat surprised Betty McCollum did not state this to quiet the detractors. As a member of the budget and appropriations committee's she would certainly know the exact terms.  Tactically [and that's what politics is all about, in the new Obama world] it wouldn't support her and President Barack Obama's meme of horribly damaging/draconian cuts. So she probably doesn't want to have it remembered as such, the "8%" certainly has much more flair.  The White House stance is too make the sequester look as painful as possible with immense histrionics, and has sent emails to that effect, committing to make it that way for the public.

The sequester was an idea originating in the Obama White House and submitted to Harry Reid and Congress as a way to get agreement to raise the debt ceiling once again by "balancing" increases with some cuts.
Georgetown University Government Affairs Institute, Impact of the Sequester
"Of the $85 billion in scheduled cuts, $71 billion will come out of discretionary funding, and $14 billion will come out of entitlement programs. Within discretionary funding, defense (excluding military personnel accounts) will be cut by around 8% across the board, and nondefense funding that’s subject to the automatic reductions will be cut by between 5 percent and 6 percent."
To follow Rep Betty McCollum's analogy, and correct it to match the actual sequester language and effect, you would have to modify her statement to be [noting "we're" = anthropomorphizing of federal government spending, which Rep McCollum agreed later in the discussion "we have a spending problem"]:
If your family had to make some tough decisions about reducing spending, you can't choose your fixed mortgage or health insurance, but might choose expenditures on gas and say we're going to cut all non-work related use of gasoline 8%.  And since we're more than a little over weight, we're going to go on that long needed diet and cut the, non child related, food bill by 8%  To get a 2.4%  reduction in our total spending.
Throughout the town hall discussion Rep Betty McCollum kept saying we shouldn't be doing these "across the board, dumb cuts". It would seem she would want to support an alternative to be able to make more scalpel like decisions in what to cut. Did she support the Inhofe-Toomey bill that would have given President Barack Obama the ability to do just that, "smart/targeted" cuts?  He said he didn't want that authority, did she support him in that?