Fellow Travelers

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Vote against Clinton



Things like this are why I will never ever vote for Hillary. Ever. I don't care if Trump wins. I don't care if Cruz wins.

For one thing, I cannot allow blatant rulebreaking and reward it with my vote. Because that's what we're doing if we vote for her. We're saying we don't care what you do, we only care about our team winning. It'd be like being a Patriots fan. They blocked polling locations, there are multiple first-hand accounts of this. They campaigned in polling locations, and yes, Bill Clinton being there in person gladhanding people and standing outside with a megaphone does count as campaigning, whether or not the Massachusetts Secretary of State has been browbeat into saying they did everything legally. They broke fundamental and nationwide laws because they knew they couldn't be touched. I cannot support that.

Also, I don't want to be expected to spend the next 4 years defending an administration that will be dominated by blatant rulebreaking and disregard for the laws that the little people are expected to follow. Look at how Clinton has run her campaign and tell me you want to see a country run the same way. Do you want to spend the next 4 years defending every petty vengeance, every act of collusion with the bankers bleeding us dry, every smarmy denial of wrongdoing, every favor handed out to her party loyalists, on and on?

If she wins the nomination and wins the presidency it will be fatal to the Democratic Party. There will be no way for Democrats to win in 2020. We'll have 4 solid years of scandal. And a lot of it will be dismissed as right wing noise, but there will be some truth to much of it.

If she loses, the Democrats can be an opposition party and go on offense for the next 2-4 years. They'll have much better chances of taking House and Senate seats in 2018 and 2020, and winning in 2020 will control redistricting and let us fight gerrymandering.

Of course, that'll only happen if the Clinton Old Guard gets swept out in 2016 and 2018, because otherwise they'll just gerrymander for Democrats and we'll still be in the same boat.

A Trump or Cruz presidency would be disastrous for the Republicans. Being their own crazy selves will do a great job of driving opposition and outrage, and get people motivated in 2018 like they were in 2006. But you cannot tell me honestly that Hillary Clinton as President in 2018 and 2020 will do anything to help turnout and voter involvement.

2020 is the most important election for a decade. Redistricting after the 2020 census matters way more than whoever sits in the office from 2016 to 2020. A resurgent progressive candidate running against a primary-unchallenged Republican idiot will galvanize voters and turnout and lead to a blue sweep.

But only if Clinton loses.

This is all moot if Sanders wins the primary, which he still might. A lot of big and favorable states are coming up, and Clinton could still be indicted for mishandling classified material and intentionally trying to find a way around laws regarding classified material. A Sanders presidency wouldn't be constantly marred by scandal and he could actually motivate voters to show up in 2018 and 2020.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The "Hillary Clinton Victory Fund"

A Win For Hillary Clinton's Methods Is A Loss For Participatory Democracy

From the 18th century to the 20th century Tammany Hall was one of the most powerful political organizations in New York City. It was also one of the most corrupt. Among its more notorious leaders was old Boss Tweed in the late 19th century;

William Magear Tweed (April 3, 1823 – April 12, 1878) – often erroneously referred to as William Marcy Tweed (see below),[1] and widely known as "Boss" Tweed – was an American politician most notable for being the "boss" of Tammany Hall, the Democratic Party political machine that played a major role in the politics of 19th century New York City and State. At the height of his influence, Tweed was the third-largest landowner in New York City, a director of the Erie Railroad, the Tenth National Bank, and the New-York Printing Company, as well as proprietor of the Metropolitan Hotel.[2] 
Tweed was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1852 and the New York County Board of Supervisors in 1858, the year he became the head of the Tammany Hall political machine. He was also elected to the New York State Senate in 1867, but Tweed's greatest influence came from being an appointed member of a number of boards and commissions, his control over political patronage in New York City through Tammany, and his ability to ensure the loyalty of voters through jobs he could create and dispense on city-related projects.
According to Tweed biographer Kenneth D. Ackerman:
It's hard not to admire the skill behind Tweed's system ... The Tweed ring at its height was an engineering marvel, strong and solid, strategically deployed to control key power points: the courts, the legislature, the treasury and the ballot box. Its frauds had a grandeur of scale and an elegance of structure: money-laundering, profit sharing and organization.[3]
Tweed was convicted for stealing an amount estimated by an aldermen's committee in 1877 at between $25 million and $45 million from New York City taxpayers through political corruption, although later estimates ranged as high as $200 million.[4] Unable to make bail, he escaped from jail once, but was returned to custody. He died in the Ludlow Street Jail.


Boss Tweed's ghost is alive and well in the Democratic Party today. Establishment political figures are backing Hillary Clinton for money and favors.

There's a reason we suddenly have so many establishment Democrat politicians backing Hillary. They want the big donor money she brings them for their own campaigns. To go into greater detail, let's read about the Hillary Clinton Victory Fund.

Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, has set up a joint fundraising committee with the DNC and the new rules are likely to provide her with an advantage.
The new rules have already opened up opportunities for influence-buying “by Washington lobbyists with six-figure contributions to the Hillary Victory Fund,” said Wertheimer, suggesting that lobbyists could also face “political extortion” from those raising the money.

The move to create the “Victory Funds” – in which the money raised would be divided between the state parties and the Clinton campaign – comes as efforts to form a joint fund-raising agreement with the Democratic National Committee have repeatedly hit snags over concerns in the Clinton campaign about the current party leadership’s controlling the money in any shared account. The national committee, which is intended to remain neutral, has been accused by Mrs. Clinton’s rivals for the nomination of taking actions that could benefit Mrs. Clinton, such as restricting the number of debates.

According to a Wednesday night FEC filing, the states set up agreements with the "Hillary Victory Fund," ensuring that each state party "collects contributions, pays fundraising expenses and disburses net proceeds for ... the authorized committee of a federal candidate." Many key primary states and battleground states signed the agreements, such as Florida, Ohio, Nevada, South Carolina and New Hampshire. 
In addition to the 33 state agreements, the Hillary Victory fund also has set up joint fundraising agreements with Hillary for America and the Democratic National Committee. By doing so, Clinton's fundraising dollars can aid Democrats in each of the participating states and allow donors who give to the state parties to aid her campaign, thus linking the success of other Democrats to her own dollars and vice versa.

The Clinton campaign’s super joint fundraising committee is out of the ordinary for two reasons. First, presidential candidates do not normally enter into fundraising agreements with their party’s committees until after they actually win the nomination. Second, Clinton’s fundraising committee is the first since the Supreme Court’s 2014 McCutcheon v. FEC decision eliminated aggregate contribution limits and Congress increased party contribution limits in the 2014 omnibus budget bill.

A great example of the corruption we're seeing in this new fundraising reality is the chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, Andrea McGuire. She has been a dedicated Clinton campaign operative since 2007, even going so far as to have a HRC2016 license plate:
One of the first Iowans to buy "Hard Choices" was Dr. Andrea McGuire, who was co-chairwoman of Clinton's 2008 campaign in Iowa. "I want to see what she has to say about what she did as secretary of state and how she's become the great leader she is," she said. 
It wasn't a leap to suspect McGuire would add the book to her collection. The license plate on her Buick Enclave says "HRC 2016."
"It was a Christmas gift from my kids," said McGuire, who lives in Des Moines. "They said what would their mom like best and what she would like is for Hillary to be president."

Sanders aides asked to sit down with the state party to review the paperwork from the precinct chairs, Batrice said.
"We just want to work with the party and get the questions that are unanswered answered," she said.
McGuire, in an interview with the Register, said no.

But it's not like there was any sign of top-down incompetence and disorganization in the Iowa caucus, except for later in that article:
Democratic voters reported long lines, too few volunteers, a lack of leadership and confusing signage. In some cases, people waited for an hour in one line, only to learn their precinct was in a different area of the same building. The proceedings were to begin at 7 p.m. but started late in many cases. 
The scene at precinct No. 42, the one with the final missing votes, was "chaos" Monday night, said Jill Joseph, a rank-and-file Democratic voter who backed Sanders in the caucuses.
None of the 400-plus Democrats wanted to be in charge of the caucus, so a man who had shown up just to vote reluctantly stepped forward. As Joseph was leaving with the untrained caucus chairman, who is one of her neighbors, "I looked at him and said, 'Who called in the results of our caucus?' And we didn't know."

Expect to see this repeated in other primaries and caucuses, as a political system bought by the Clintons and coerced into a symbiotic relationship where the local and state level Democratic political leaders cannot survive without the Clintons makes perfectly clear that the voices of the little people are not desired or heeded. 

The reason so many state and local level politicians have come out supporting Hillary Clinton's presidency, the reason she has so many more superdelegates this time than in 2008, is because of matching funding through the Hillary Clinton Victory Fund. They raise funds for Hillary, and they get a cut of those funds. Here's how it works:
  1. Donations to the "Hillary Clinton Victory Fund" are spread out among campaigns in the participating states. 
  2. Politician campaigns for Clinton and calls on people to donate.
  3. Donors donate to the "Hillary Clinton Victory Fund"
  4. Donations are shared between Hillary Clinton and the politician who was campaigning for her.

It's all documented. And that donation-sharing goes not just for small time internet donors but for big campaign fundraisers.

If this is successful in 2016, we won't see an end to it.

Superdelegates have been a big topic of opinion pieces recently, same as they were in 2008. They're going to be irrelevant soon. The Democratic Party can do away with them in order to create the illusion of reform.

Even though many places have gone into the history of delegates and superdelegates recently, I'll do another brief overview. The 1968 Democratic National Convention was an utter disaster for Democrats. Party leaders selected a candidate over the complaints of the base, there were protests and riots, and ultimately the election was handed to Richard Nixon. In the aftermath, the McGovern-Frazer Commission recommended reforms to the process that ensured state level party leaders couldn't simply select their own delegates, and everyone in the party would have a say in the process. This was, for a time, the end of the “smoke filled back room” and these reforms were implemented by the 1972 election.

As a result, George McGovern was selected in 1972 as the Democratic candidate, and Jimmy Carter in 1976. These selections were seen as too extreme by party leaders, and the political insiders wanted a greater say in the process so that going forward they could spike any candidate unacceptable to the Democrat political establishment. From this, the superdelegates were born.

Now that the Clintons, and their successors in 2020, 2024, 2028, and onward, can simply purchase all levels of state leadership, there's no need for them to worry about superdelegates. It'll be a pretty simple process:

  1. The establishment's chosen candidate, based on whoever's “turn” it is, sets up a Victory Fund that links funding between their primary campaign and the re-election campaigns of all incumbents, as well as the campaigns of anyone chosen by party leadership to challenge a Republican
  2. With the full might of the national, state, and local Democratic Party leveled against any potential challengers, the challenge becomes clearly futile (especially if Clinton's plan works in 2016) and every primary is a coronation.
  3. Campaign contributors, including business interests, are able to simply buy not only the candidate they want but the support of the entire state level party. The candidates who get through the process will all be corrupt, as it will be impossible for an honest politician to survive politically.
  4. Scare tactics will be used to coerce the voting base into voting for whoever is presented, no matter how bad they are, because they aren't on the opposing team.

Understand that I'm not talking about a presidential primary process made meaningless. I'm talking about every primary process made meaningless. And if this works for the Democrats, the Republicans are going to pick it up too. It will not be stopped or overturned by anyone who gets through this political process. Anybody who thinks that Hillary Clinton will appoint Supreme Court Justices, that will overturn the decisions which made the Hillary Clinton Victory Fund and Hillary Clinton's subsequent election possible, is unbelievably naive or an outright idiot.

If this becomes successful in the primary, the only way to fight it is vote against Clinton in the general. Vote for whoever else is closest to your politics. I'm 92% aligned with Jill Stein, 55% with Gary Johnson, so I'll be voting for Jill Stein if the Democrats are successful in shutting out Bernie Sanders. Voters must boycott any candidate selected using these methods, until the parties using those methods stop or are destroyed.


The alternative is a government nakedly owned by the wealthy where as voters we have no say in the process whatsoever. That means that whatever social, economic, or foreign policies you may like would be absolutely irrelevant, government would instead work exclusively for their financial backers. Participatory democracy where a voter's vote actually matters in any meaningful way would cease to exist. To be sure, we don't have much of that now, but what's there would be gone. 

Replaced by the Establishment Candidate Victory Fund.

And in an echo of Tammany Hall, we'll see a return to the days of patronage and unchecked cronyism. Government will exist purely as a mechanism to transition money from the taxpayers to the wealthy. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, the middle class gets fucked, and we finish our headlong rush into a new "Gilded Age".

Sunday, December 20, 2015

In third debate Democrat primary candidates show they know nothing at all about guns


The shittiest part for me was this:
MUIR: Senator Sanders, I did want to ask you about a neighbor in San Bernardino who reportedly witnessed packages being delivered to that couple's home, that it set off red flags, but they didn't report it because they were afraid to profile. What would you say to Americans afraid to profile? Is it ever acceptable?
 SANDERS: Well, the answer is, obviously, if you see suspicious activity, you report it. That's kind of a no-brainer. You know, somebody is loading guns and ammunition into a house, I think it's a good idea to call 911. Do it.
So, any time I'm putting cased guns and ammo boxes into the back of my car for a range trip, or unloading it after a range trip, I have to worry about somebody actually listening to Bernie Sanders and SWATting me. I have to worry about them pissing their pants because somebody has a gun in Ohio, and calling the police on me. If I order ammunition online or get any parts shipped to my house, I have to worry about getting turned in for it. It's already happened, as a likely result of the exhortations of anti-gun groups telling their supporters to do exactly that.

Bernie Sanders also went after civilian ownership of any guns designed by the military. 
"In my view, we have got to see that weapons designed by the military to kill people are not in the hands of civilians."
 So, turn in your 1911 .45 pistols folks. The biggest problem I have with this is that it does not seem at all like Bernie Sanders considers self defense a valid reason to own firearms. Because one of the purposes of guns is to kill people. When a crazed serial rapist breaks into your house in the middle of the night with a butcher knife you want to be able to stop the threat. Guns are a particularly efficacious way to do that. And there is an entire category of recognized firearms collectors, the Curio & Relic license, which focuses on antique military firearms. Like the "potential terrorists" comment of Sanders, this is an overly broad category that would keep people from owning black powder revolvers from the 1800s, as they were designed by the military to kill people. Do you have an Enfield? An M1 carbine? Turn it in. You should be limited to a hunting shotgun. 
"SANDERS: Sure did. All right. First off, we can do all the great speeches we want but you're not going to succeed unless there is a consensus. In 1988, just to set the record straight governor, I ran for the U.S. House. We have one House member from Vermont, three candidates in the race. One candidate said, you know what, I don't think it's a great idea that we sell automatic weapons in this country that are used by the military to kill people very rapidly."
If it was 1988, no, nobody was selling automatic weapons. because of the Hughes Amendment in 1986 that banned sale of any automatic firearms manufactured after 1986. Any pre-ban guns are heavily regulated under the National Firearms Act, require approval from your local law enforcement to buy, include a provision that the ATF can inspect them at any time, and are usually going to cost tens of thousands of dollars.

But it's not like Sanders, or Clinton, or O'Malley, are the first Democrats to intentionally or ignorantly conflate semi-automatic with automatic or select fire.

Martin O'Malley last night came up with a new extra-scary term for those extra-evil semiautomatic rifles. They're now "COMBAT assault weapons". Not just an assault rifle, a "COMBAT" assault weapon.

Some examples: 

"When ISIL does training videos that say the easiest way to get a combat assault weapon in the United States of America is at a gun show, then we should all be waking up."
"Because, Martha, it would prevent people like the guy that just got charged yesterday perhaps from being able to buy combat assault weapons."
"ISIL videos, ISIL training videos are telling lone wolves the easiest way to buy a combat assault weapon in America is at a gun show."
Unsurprisingly, O'Malley was lying.

There are no known ISIL training videos telling lone wolves that the easiest way to "buy a combat assault weapon" in America is at a gun show.

"Both Clinton and O’Malley referenced videos for the Islamic State terror group that, thus far, do not appear to exist. (Clinton used the acronym for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and O’Malley used one for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. But it’s the same organization.)
...
Meanwhile, O’Malley’s campaign pointed to a news report about a video circulated by an al-Qaeda spokesman, Adam Yahiye Gadahn, who was not affiliated with the Islamic State. (The American-born Gadahn was killed in 2015 by a CIA drone strike in Pakistan.) Al Qaeda is not the same terror group as the Islamic State, though former elements of al Qaeda have affiliated with IS.
In 2011, Gadahan urged followers: “America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”

And of course the terrorist was wrong, you can't just go down to your nearest gun show and buy a fully automatic rifle. Not in the least. Plus going to a gun show looking like any kind of Muslim would probably not be a swell idea in America right about now.

Hillary Clinton in her opening statement backed using the no-fly list to restrict gun ownership, which is a terrible idea for reasons I've already gone into at length and which she totally doesn't give a single shit about. 

There was a lot of alarming stuff in this debate. None of the candidates have any regard for gun ownership as a means of self defense. They're not big fans of encryption or privacy. Hillary wants to fight ISIS using no-fly zones, which as the debate moderator pointed out doesn't make a lot of sense since ISIS and AQ don't have planes

Bad time to be a gun owner. Of any political persuasion, really. Because your options are Democrats who don't like that civilian gun owners exist and think the police and military should have a monopoly on deadly force, or utter lunatic Republicans who want to put Muslims on lists, amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage, end reproductive choice, put in a flat tax, on and on. There are no good options. Only the least worst. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Secret Terrorism Lists, the ACLU, And Why I Can No Longer Support Bernie Sanders

Here's the TLDR. I might still vote for Sanders but I'm not going to provide any support because he's betrayed his past principles on civil liberties and the security state.

Recently Bernie Sanders sent out a tweet.
I don’t think it’s very hard to understand that terrorists or potential terrorists should not have guns.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 9, 2015
This was coupled with his signing a letter supporting the recent bill by Dianne Feinstein to bar anyone on the terrorism watch list from buying a gun. And then by his voting in support of that bill, along with all other Senate Democrats with the exception of Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

There's a problem with this, specifically with three words of what Sanders said.

"...or potential terrorists..."

The terrorism watch list network is broken. It has been broken for a long time. Going back to 2004, the late Senator Ted Kennedy was prohibited from flying because he was accidentally on the list.

Senator Kennedy Flagged by No Fly List
Federal air security officials said the initial error that led to scrutiny of the Massachusetts Democrat should not have happened even though they recognize that the no-fly list is imperfect. But privately they acknowledged being embarrassed that it took the senator and his staff more than three weeks to get his name removed. 
A senior administration official, who spoke on condition he not be identified, said Kennedy was stopped because the name "T. Kennedy" has been used as an alias by someone on the list of terrorist suspects.
It took three weeks to get a sitting US Senator removed from the no-fly list. These aren't new problems. From that 2004 article:
Critics said the senator's experience served as the latest example of how a system designed to improve security is instead targeting innocent travelers. 
The government does not make public the names or the total number of people on the list, which officials say is constantly updated. According to FBI documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under a Freedom of Information Act request, more than 350 Americans have been delayed or denied boarding since the list's inception. The list has not led to any arrests, officials said. 
The ACLU has sued on behalf of six Americans who have had experiences similar to Kennedy's. The travelers suing the government include a Vermont college student, a retired Presbyterian minister and an ACLU employee.
Another innocent caught up in the watch list dragnet was Rahinah Ibraham:

Here's Why the ACLU Is Suing the Government over the No-Fly List—and Winning

Rahinah Ibraham is not a suspected terrorist. She was a scholar and doctoral candidate at Stanford University in the United States from Malaysia with a valid student visa. She ended up on the no-fly list on what turned out to be a clerical error. It wasn't even a case of mistaken identity. An FBI agent literally checked the wrong box when filing paperwork in 2004. It took a decade of fighting with the government to fix this problem. Why? Because the system by which the government adds people to the no-fly list has absolutely no transparency or due process in its appeal process. Until this year, the federal government wouldn't even confirm that an individual was even on the no-fly list, which coincidentally made it a challenge to fight one's inclusion. A judge in 2014 ruled that the government violated Ibraham's and others' rights by mistakenly adding them to the no-fly list and refusing to fix the problem.

People who have been cleared of all terrorism charges can stay on the terrorism watch lists, according to this 2011 article from the New York Times:

Even Those Cleared of Crimes Can Stay on F.B.I.’s Watch List
The 91 pages of newly disclosed files include a December 2010 guidance memorandum to F.B.I. field offices showing that even a not-guilty verdict may not always be enough to get someone off the list, if agents maintain they still have “reasonable suspicion” that the person might have ties to terrorism. 
“If an individual is acquitted or charges are dismissed for a crime related to terrorism, the individual must still meet the reasonable suspicion standard in order to remain on, or be subsequently nominated to, the terrorist watch list,” the once-classified memorandum says. 
Ginger McCall, a counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said: “In the United States, you are supposed to be assumed innocent. But on the watch list, you may be assumed guilty, even after the court dismisses your case.”
For people on the watch lists, suspicion is guilt. This should be a repulsive idea to anyone who values due process and the rule of law, and certainly to any Bernie Sanders supporter. The FBI assure us we shouldn't be worried about that, because “mere guesses or ‘hunches’ are not enough" to keep someone on the watch lists. Isn't that reassuring?

Since 2011 there have been some changes to the watchlisting criteria. Not for the better. A piece by The Intercept in 2014 covered the negatives of the watchlists as they exist now:

The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You A Terrorist
The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept. 
The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings. The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place entire “categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted.
It's easier than ever to get onto the list. Even if you have utter and absolute trust in the Obama Administration... how much do you trust a Trump or Cruz Administration with this power? It's the same question I asked Republicans in 2005, and they said "What are the odds there will ever be a Democrat President ever again?"

Worms turn.

More about the lists:
The document’s definition of “terrorist” activity includes actions that fall far short of bombing or hijacking. In addition to expected crimes, such as assassination or hostage-taking, the guidelines also define destruction of government property and damaging computers used by financial institutions as activities meriting placement on a list. They also define as terrorism any act that is “dangerous” to property and intended to influence government policy through intimidation. 
This combination—a broad definition of what constitutes terrorism and a low threshold for designating someone a terrorist—opens the way to ensnaring innocent people in secret government dragnets. It can also be counterproductive. When resources are devoted to tracking people who are not genuine risks to national security, the actual threats get fewer resources—and might go unnoticed. 
“If reasonable suspicion is the only standard you need to label somebody, then it’s a slippery slope we’re sliding down here, because then you can label anybody anything,” says David Gomez, a former senior FBI special agent with experience running high-profile terrorism investigations. “Because you appear on a telephone list of somebody doesn’t make you a terrorist. That’s the kind of information that gets put in there.”
And its failings:
The system has been criticized for years. In 2004, Sen. Ted Kennedy complained that he was barred from boarding flights on five separate occasions because his name resembled the alias of a suspected terrorist. Two years later, CBS News obtained a copy of the no fly list and reported that it included Bolivian president Evo Morales and Lebanese parliament head Nabih Berri. One of the watchlists snared Mikey Hicks, a Cub Scout who got his first of many airport pat-downs at age two. In 2007, the Justice Department’s inspector general issued a scathing report identifying “significant weaknesses” in the system. And in 2009, after a Nigerian terrorist was able to board a passenger flight to Detroit and nearly detonated a bomb sewn into his underwear despite his name having been placed on the TIDE list, President Obama admitted that there had been a “systemic failure.”
The article includes the "Minimum Substantive Derogatory Critera" for being placed on the watch lists:
To meet the REASONABLE SUSPICION standard, the NOMINATOR, based on the totality of the circumstances, must rely upon articulable intelligence or information which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrants a determination that an individual is known or suspected to be or has been knowingly engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to TERRORISM and/or TERRORIST ACTIVITIES. 
In determining whether a REASONABLE SUSPICION exists, due weight should be given to the specific reasonable inferences that a NOMINATOR is entitled to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience and not on unfounded suspicions or hunches. Although irrefutable evidence or concrete facts are not necessary, to be reasonable, suspicion should be as clear and as fully developed as circumstances permit.
Uncorroborated Facebook and Twitter posts are explicitly regarded as sufficient grounds for putting an individual on a list.

The ACLU's lawsuit against the government concerning these watch lists with some success but there are still a lot of problems:

LATIF, ET AL. V. HOLDER, ET AL. - ACLU CHALLENGE TO GOVERNMENT NO FLY LIST
In a motion for partial summary judgment, the ACLU asked the court to rule that the inadequate redress process for people on the list violates the Constitution’s guarantee of due process. The court partially granted that motion in August 2013, holding that the Constitution applies when the government bans Americans from air travel. In June 2014, the court struck down the government’s redress process as unconstitutional, and it ordered the government to tell the ACLU’s clients why they are on the No Fly List and give them the opportunity to challenge their inclusion on the list before the court. In October 2014, the government finally informed seven of the 13 plaintiffs that they were not on the list, and it then provided the remaining six plaintiffs with unclassified “summaries” of the reasons for their placement on the list. However, the government still keeps its full reasons secret. It also withholds evidence and exculpatory information from our clients and refuses to give them a live hearing to establish their credibility or cross-examine witnesses. Because of these and other serious problems, the ACLU has challenged the revised process as unconstitutional. 
Until the government fixes its unconstitutional new process, people on the No Fly List are barred from commercial air travel with no meaningful chance to clear their names, resulting in a vast and growing group of individuals whom the government deems too dangerous to fly but too harmless to arrest.
And this is why those three words from Bernie's tweet are so dangerous. You cast a very wide net when you include "and potential terrorists". It's a net that includes everyone. Anybody could be a "potential" terrorist. Even and especially the activist base supporting Bernie Sanders. By way of demonstration, look at Bush-era abuses of the watch lists by the FBI:

FBI Placed Left-Wing Activists On Terrorism Watch List Without Cause
The FBI had a weak factual basis for opening and extending some investigations of U.S. activist groups and put individuals affiliated with Greenpeace USA on the terrorist watch list improperly, a report by the Justice Department's Inspector General released Monday found. 
In addition, FBI Director Robert Mueller was also found to have unintentionally provided inaccurate testimony to Congress because he was given bad information. FBI personnel told him that certain persons of interest in international terrorism matters were expected to be present at an anti-war rally in Pittsburgh in 2002, according to the report.
The review addressed FBI activities from 2001 to 2006 related to the Thomas Merton Center; People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); Greenpeace USA; The Catholic Worker; and an individual described as a Quaker peace activist.
...
In addition, the FBI also wrongly classified some nonviolent civil disobedience under its "Acts of Terrorism" classification, which led to subjects being added to the watchlist without merit.
Also, anti-war activists were tracked by Homeland Security and listed as terrorists in a Maryland state police database:

Federal Agency Aided Md. Spying
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security tracked the protest plans of a peaceful Washington area antiwar group and passed the information to the Maryland State Police, which had previously labeled the activists as terrorists in an intelligence file. 
The federal agency obtained two e-mails containing plans for upcoming demonstrations at a military recruiting center in Silver Spring in 2005, the first indication that DHS might have worked with the police to monitor advocacy groups. The notification by DHS appears in a state police file on the DC Anti-War Network, or DAWN, provided to The Washington Post under the Public Information Act. 
The file is one of five created by the state police on the antiwar group in 2005 and 2006. Along with 53 individuals and about two dozen other protest groups, including Amnesty International and CASA of Maryland, the network was labeled a terrorist group in an internal police database. Police have said the names were not put on federal anti-terrorism lists.
The ACLU and Bernie Sanders have (previously) long been in agreement. He has a 93% rating from the ACLU. Their statement on watch lists includes the following:
The consequences of being placed on a government watchlist can be far-reaching. They can include questioning, harassment, or detention by authorities, or even an indefinite ban on air travel. And while the government keeps the evidence it uses to blacklist people in this manner secret, government watchdogs have found that as many as 35 percent of the nominations to the network of watchlists are outdated and tens of thousands of names were placed on lists without an adequate factual basis. To make matters worse, the government denies watchlisted individuals any meaningful way to correct errors and clear their names. 
The ACLU is seeking reform of this broken watchlisting system in a variety of ways. We filed a landmark challenge to the No Fly List in which a federal judge struck down the government’s redress process, ruling that it “falls far short of satisfying the requirements of due process” and is “wholly ineffective.” The ACLU continues to advocate for broad reform of the watchlisting system, consistent with the court’s ruling and the Constitution. 
A bloated, opaque watchlisting system is neither fair nor effective. A system in which innocent people languish on blacklists indefinitely, with their rights curtailed and their names sullied, is at odds with our Constitution and values.
With these problems, it wouldn't be out of the question to ask why we even have terrorism watch lists anymore, or why they haven't been drastically reformed. As the only current US Senator who voted against the Patriot Act (when he was a House Representative) Bernie Sanders would and should be the prime candidate to ask these questions. He has long stood against the overreach of government power and the preservation of civil liberties.

And that is what makes this new position of his such a betrayal.

The solution to this problem is not to expand the use of the watch list. This would certainly lead to misuse of the list as a cudgel against political enemies of whatever administration is currently in office. Gun purchasing and ownership is an individual constitutional right under our Supreme Court's current interpretation of the Constitution.

Curtailing a constitutional right without any due process is an outrage against civil rights.
And it is a practice that would only last as long as it takes the first innocent person to be denied a firearms purchase, because then it goes right up through the courts and the bill gets overturned. The courts have already held, counter the administration's position, that there is a constitutional right to travel, even if that right is not explicitly stated in the constitution. It would take even less time to rule that the government cannot infringe upon the constitutionally protected right to firearms without due process.

An easy solution would be to call for reform and overhaul of the watchlist process. This is the position that the ACLU takes:

Until the No Fly List Is Fixed, It Shouldn’t Be Used to Restrict People’s Freedoms
Last night, in response to last week’s tragic attack in San Bernardino, California, President Obama urged Congress to ensure that people on the No Fly List be prohibited from purchasing guns. Last week, Republicans in Congress defeated a proposal that would have done just that. "I think it’s very important to remember people have due process rights in this country, and we can’t have some government official just arbitrarily put them on a list," House Speaker Paul Ryan said. 
There is no constitutional bar to reasonable regulation of guns, and the No Fly List could serve as one tool for it, but only with major reform. As we will argue to a federal district court in Oregon this Wednesday, the standards for inclusion on the No Fly List are unconstitutionally vague, and innocent people are blacklisted without a fair process to correct government error. Our lawsuit seeks a meaningful opportunity for our clients to challenge their placement on the No Fly List because it is so error-prone and the consequences for their lives have been devastating.
...
We disagree with Speaker Ryan about many things. But he’s right that people in this country have due process rights. We want to see them respected.
Bernie Sanders did not take that nuanced position. He did not and has not called for reform of the watchlisting process. Instead he bulled ahead along with the overwhelming majority of Senate Democrats and pushed for this new change, painting opponents of this change as unreasoning NRA-controlled gun nuts.

This is coupled with new anti-gun rhetoric that has become increasingly divorced from reality, and increasingly alienating to gun owners.

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders seek gun control reform after shootings

Sanders said Thursday that mass shootings had reached "epidemic levels" this year. 
"It is very difficult for the American people to keep up with the mass shootings that we seem to see almost every day. Yesterday, San Bernardino, a few days ago, Colorado Springs, before that Roseburg, Oregon, before that Chattanooga, Tennessee, and on and on it goes," Sanders said in a statement. "The San Bernadino shooting was the 355th mass shooting this year. Gun violence has reached epidemic levels in the United States."

As I noted recently, the San Bernadino terrorism attack was not the 355th mass shooting this year unless you intentionally use a definition so broad it ceases to lose any meaning or value. Gun violence is decreasing in the US and has been for twenty years.

Study: Gun homicides, violence down sharply in past 20 years

Looking back 50 years, a Pew Research Center study found U.S. gun homicides rose in the 1960s, gained in the 1970s, peaked in the 1980s and the early 1990s, and then plunged and leveled out the past 20 years. 
"Despite national attention to the issue of firearm violence, most Americans are unaware that gun crime is lower today than it was two decades ago," the researchers say. 
A Pew survey of Americans in March found 56% believed gun-related crime is higher than 20 years ago and only 12% said it's lower. The survey said 26% believed it stayed the same and 6% didn't know. 
The new study found U.S. firearm homicides peaked in 1993 at 7.0 deaths per 100,000 people. But by 2010, the rate was 49% lower, and firearm-related violence -- assaults, robberies, sex crimes -- was 75% lower in 2011 than in 1993, the study found.
It's not anywhere close to "epidemic levels":
In 2014, the violent crime rate was 365.5, making America the safest it has been since 1970, and the murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate was 4.5 out of 100,000, making 2014 the safest year in terms of murders since 1960.
There is a reason why, despite repeating the now thoroughly debunked "355 mass shootings" claim, Bernie Sanders was only able to list 4 specific mass shootings. The mass shooting tracker at liberal (and pro gun control) publication Mother Jones only has four listed for 2015.

US Mass Shootings, 1982-2015: Data From Mother Jones' Investigation

San Bernardino Mass Shooting San Bernardino, Ca 12/3/2015
Umpqua Community College shooting Roseburg, OR 10/1/2015
Chattanooga military recruitment center Chattanooga, TN 7/16/2015
Charleston Church Shooting Charleston, SC 6/17/2015
Confusingly, which Bernie Sanders included the domestic terrorism attack in Colorado Springs which does not qualify as a mass shooting (but is definitely domestic terrorism), he did not include the racially motivated (and I would argue also domestic terrorism) attack in Charleston.

It's worth noting that the terrorists who attacked in San Bernadino were not on any watch lists, and so would not have been prevented from buying guns under the law proposed by Senator Feinstein and supported by Senator Sanders. This is true to form, as many of the recent and very public shootings have involved firearms purchased legally and with background checks before their purchasers did anything that would cause them to be flagged, and yet these incidents have led to demands for "universal background checks" and "closing the gun show loophole".

When you see a problem, and the laws you propose have nothing to do with that problem, you're just exploiting that problem to get what you want into the law and don't care about actually solving the problem. And that's dangerous. That's as dangerous as restricting a constitutional right without due process, and with a great deal of regret it's not something I can support.

Using bad statistics and appeals to emotion is a bad idea when restricting any right, whether its First Amendment religious rights that the Republicans attack or Second Amendment self defense rights that the Democrats attack. I expect Bernie Sanders to support magazine limits and an AWB, because he is far left. As frustrating as it is to somebody who is further left yet also pro-gun, for some reason a large part of the far left in America is completely devoted to opposing civilian gun ownership. I can understand where they're coming from, even though I think it's incredibly foolish to give an exclusive monopoly on deadly force to the people we protest every other day of the week as violent and corrupt. What I cannot understand or accept is the betrayal of Senator Sanders' past principles in his current support for the terrorism watch lists.

When the NSA spying scandal broke, Sanders had this to say about anti-terrorism efforts and government power:
“The NSA is collecting enormous amounts of information. They know about the phone calls made by every person in this country, where they’re calling, who they’re calling and how long they’re on the phone. Let us not forget that a mere 40 years ago, we had a president of the United States who completely disregarded the law in an effort to destroy his political opponents. In my view, the information collected by the NSA has the potential to give an unscrupulous administration enormous power over elected officials,”
This was followed by:
“Clearly we must do everything we can to protect our country from the serious potential of another terrorist attack but we can and must do so in a way that also protects the constitutional rights of the American people and maintains our free society,”
In that he repeated something he said in 2011 when he voted against that year's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):

Why Senator Bernie Sanders Voted Against the Defense Bill
“This bill also contains misguided provisions that in the name of fighting terrorism essentially authorize the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens without charges. While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and the civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans.”
I agree with 2011 and 2014 Bernie Sanders, and unfortunately this puts me in the position of having to disagree with 2015 primary presidential candidate Sanders. That is infuriating.

Previously one of the best features of Bernie Sanders as a politician and as a candidate was his consistency. He would pick the right position and stick to it, not altering it subject to the political winds. This is why he opposed the Patriot Act when Hillary Clinton supported it. It's why he opposed the Iraq War when Hillary Clinton supported it. It's why he supported gay marriage long before the majority of the country, and longer still before Hillary Clinton supported it. Now there is inconsistency where before there had been consistency and honesty.

I don't know which would be worse; is he inaccurately and uncritically repeating bad statistics and supporting bad laws, but doing so out of honest ignorance, or is he instead intentionally repeating and supporting these things simply for political gain because he's in a fierce primary contest? Is he an unaware hypocrite, or an aware one? Does he believe these things or is he simply trying to appease the (misguidedly) antigun left?

Regardless, I can't continue to support his campaign. Oh, I may still vote for him, if by the time the primaries get to Ohio he's still in the race. If he's won it by then or lost it by then I may look at the Republican side in our weird open/closed primary system. I may still vote for him in the general too, the likelihood of that will depend on his opponent. But I'm not going to volunteer. I'm not going to donate. I'm not going to defend him or advocate on his behalf with others. I'm pulling myself from grassroots support.

It's not because of his anti-gun positions, which I expect and can accept even though I disagree. Disagreement on some things can be fine and healthy. It's because for the first time, he's taken a position that is anti civil liberties. It is anti due process. It is a position that supports the overreaching post-9/11 security state. I can't agree to disagree on due process, nor should anyone who genuinely values the constitutional protections they enjoy.

As Sanders himself said in 2011 and 2014 when he wasn't running for President, in fighting terrorism we must still protect constitutional rights. Senator Sanders should know better, and either he genuinely doesn't know better, which is bad enough, or he does know better and he's pandering for votes, which might be worse.

You'd think at this point in my life I wouldn't be surprised when a politician disappoints me, but it does still sting a little.

Edit:
Here's the thing. Bernie Sanders is a sitting US Senator. He could introduce a bill to reform the watch lists. Provide oversight for them. Make them a more tightly focused and effective tool in fighting terrorism while also preserving civil liberties. This on its own would have its own numerous benefits, and should easily get bipartisan support. After that a bill to restrict gun purchasing by people on the newly tightened up terrorism watch list would have a very good chance of passing, or at least a much better one. 


He didn't do any of that. He betrayed his principles and took the low road, the unconstitutional security theater road that so many Republicans and Democrats have gone down before. He could be better, he could so easily be better, and he's not.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Can't Stump the Trump

Everybody is freaking out about Trump, in support or opposition, left and right. Here's my take on him.

Trump has two purposes. First is to make Republicans look bad. By saying outrageously hateful and xenophobic things and still maintaining a sizable lead in the Republican primaries he shows their base for what it is, hateful and xenophobic. This also further marginalizes and radicalizes that xenophobic base, because Trump is repeating what's in their dark petty hearts, so "just speaking the truth", and he's being attacked by phony Republicans, the biased liebrul media, and gutless progressives who can't wait in their cowardice to surrender to the "islamofascists".

His second purpose is to make Hillary Clinton electable by looking like literally Hitler in comparison. The Democratic leadership will be knifing progressives in the back up through the convention, have already started in many ways, and the only way to keep those voters in the fold will be to say "what do you want, for TRUMP to win???" And you can already see this in many places.

So, make Republicans unelectable, and make Hillary electable. What does he get for this? A market and audience of tens of millions of right wing extremists who, after he loses the primary or general, will buy the new book he'll write, listen to the podcast, and watch the show on Fox News.

If he wins the Republican primary and Hillary wins the Democrat primary, look for him to go way more extreme.

If he loses the Republican primary and Hillary wins the Democrat primary, he'll run as a third party to split the Republican vote.

If he loses the Republican primary and Hillary loses the Democrat primary he'll come out strong supporting the Republican nominee and calling for unity in the face of socialism.

If he wins the Republican primary and Hillary loses the Democrat primary he'll run hard and fast to the middle, trying to be as reasonable as possible. Supporters will be ticked but at least he isn't a socialist.

If he somehow wins the election it'll be 4-8 years of empty rhetoric and talking conservatives into supporting the political ideas of an east coast big city liberalish conservativeish businessman. People forget he's been anti gun and pro gay and pro choice.

Donald Trump isn't the most dangerous thing about Donald Trump. His supporters are the most dangerous thing. They're now getting a national audience for every bit of outrageous hate filled xenophobia, and the negative reactions to this just further isolates and radicalizes them. This has already led to violence and will lead to more. It's ugly and going to get uglier.

PSA - either Australia has mass shootings or we don't have one a day

I see plenty of memes on Facebook that we've had a "mass shooting a day". This number originated as intentional propaganda by an anti-gun subreddit, and has been repeated by the Washington Post, the Guardian, and the New York Times.

But by the Mother Jones definition we've had 4. Their editor did an op-ed for the New York Times where he explains:

At Mother Jones, where I work as an editor, we have compiled an in-depth, open-source database covering more than three decades of public mass shootings. By our measure, there have been four “mass shootings” this year, including the one in San Bernardino, and at least 73 such attacks since 1982.

 He then describes the different methods of counting used:

For at least the past decade, the F.B.I. regarded a mass shooting as a single attack in which four or more victims were killed. (In 2013, a mandate from President Obama for further study of the problem lowered that threshold to three victims killed.) When we began compiling our database in 2012, we used that criteria of four or more killed in public attacks, but excluded mass murders that stemmed from robbery, gang violence or domestic abuse in private homes. Our goal with this relatively narrow set of parameters was to better understand the seemingly indiscriminate attacks that have increased in recent years, whether in movie theaters, elementary schools or office parks.

The statistics now being highlighted in the news come primarily from shootingtracker.com, a website built by members of a Reddit forum supporting gun control called GunsAreCool. That site aggregates news stories about shooting incidents — of any kind — in which four or more people are reported to have been either injured or killed.

He explains the danger in using the wider definition:

There is value in collecting those stories as a blunt measure of gun violence involving multiple victims. But as those numbers gain traction in the news media, they distort our understanding. According to our research at Mother Jones — subsequently corroborated by the F.B.I. — the more narrowly defined mass shootings have grown more frequent, and overwhelmingly involve legally obtained firearms. Experts in the emerging field of threat assessment believe that this is a unique phenomenon that must be understood on its own.

I also see plenty of memes on Facebook saying that since Australia passed "reasonable gun control", meaning they more or less banned civilian gun ownership in most circumstances, they haven't had a mass shooting.

For example, the New York Times, same people who repeat Reddit when saying we have a mass shooting a day, claimed that Australia ended mass killings. In fact, in order to have Australia meet that criteria, the New York Times doesn't use the "GunsAreCool" definition of a mass shooting and instead creates their own:

The oft-cited statistic in Australia is a simple one: There have been no mass killings — defined by experts there as a gunman killing five or more people besides himself — since the nation significantly tightened its gun control laws almost 20 years ago.

 Well shit, that's a tighter threshold than the FBI or Mother Jones used. By that standard we would have had much less "mass killings" in the US than even those claimed by Mother Jones, and thousands less than claimed by... the New York Times.

In Australia following the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre, Australia passed strict restrictions on civilian gun ownership. Australia's former Prime Minister has said:

"We will find any means we can to further restrict them because I hate guns. I don't think people should have guns unless they're police or in the military or in the security industry. There is no earthly reason for people to have weapons. Ordinary citizens should not have weapons. We do not want the American disease brought into Australia."

When you see people supporting the Australian method, this is what they're saying. Ordinary citizens should not be arms, and guns will be restricted by any means necessary because the people pushing for gun laws hate guns. If your position is that we should have some new laws but still have citizen "weapon" ownership, realize that when you join with people pushing for Australian gun control and looking at Australia as a model.

If you're a gun owner trying to find a middle ground, realize you're working with people who hate that you as a civilian are able to own any firearm and every new law they get passed is towards the ultimate goal of ending that.

 I digress.

Following those restrictions was the Monash University shooting in 2002.

The Monash University shooting refers to a school shooting in which a student shot his classmates and teacher, killing two and injuring five.

By the GunsAreCool standard, a mass shooting. 7 people were shot.

In 2011 there was the Hectorville Siege.

It began after a 39-year-old resident of the suburb, later identified as Donato Anthony Corbo, entered his neighbours' property and shot four people, killing three and severly wounding one. An eight-hour stand-off with police followed, during which time he shot and wounded two officers.

By the GunsAreCool standard, a mass shooting. 6 people were shot.

In 2014, the Hunt Family murders.

Murder-suicide shooting spree by Geoff Hunt who killed his wife and three children before turning the gun on himself

Five fatalities, four family members and a suicide by the killer; a mass shooting by GunsAreCool **and** FBI standards. But not by the much tighter New York Times standard intended to make Australia look perfect, which would exclude the perpetrator.
 
Under the new federal definition which was ordered by Obama and lowers the number required for the FBI to declare something a mass killing from four to three, Australia has another. The 2014 Wedderburn shooting:

A shooting murder of a neighbour family (Greg Holmes, 48, his mother Mary Lockhart, 75, and her husband Peter Lockhart, 78) by Ian Francis Jamieson, 63.

On top of these four mass shootings, there have also been 171 deaths in mass arson attacks, there was a mass stabbing that killed 8, and a mass blunt instrument killing that killed 5. This shows that mass murderers will find other methods.

There's a graph by GunPolicy.org an anti-gun site, showing the rate of firearms deaths in Australia falling over time.

If that data line looks familiar, there's a reason. Here's the rate of homicide gun deaths for the US for roughly the same time.

In both countries, murders have been consistently falling, at roughly the same rate and over the same period of time. Since we have drastically different gun laws, maybe the gun laws aren't the factor.

Regardless, here's my main point. If anti-gun activists want to use their wildly inflated "a mass shooting a day!" bogus statistic, they cannot then claim that Australia hasn't had any mass shootings since they passed "reasonable gun control".
 
And these definitions are important, as discussed by USA Today:

Yet marking the death toll of mass killings in America is anything but simple. It's hampered by the FBI's voluntary reporting system that gets it right a little more than half the time, and by advocacy groups who may count only incidents that support their cause, ignoring killings that don't involve a gun or did not get heavy media coverage.

Concentrating on just one type of mass killing — or only on those that get a lot of attention — may be worse than just using the FBI data, because it can skew public understanding and lead to ineffective policies, says Grant Duwe, a senior researcher with the Minnesota Department of Corrections, who has written a book on mass killings based on a data set he built covering the 1900s.

USA Today also mentions that the FBI is releasing the raw data for easier review but there's a caution against misuse:

Even with better data, special interest groups or unscrupulous academics can manipulate the numbers, just as with any other data set.

"If you have a cherry-picked list of cases, it's basically garbage in, garbage out," Duwe said. "And it does have important implications to additional research we do in terms of public policy."

Careful and scrupulous review of the data by USA Today provided interesting results:

USA TODAY's data debunks common beliefs. For example, it shows that the number of mass killings has not increased in recent years; most occur among family members; and handguns, not assault weapons, are most commonly used.

Honesty and academic rigor is important. It's especially important if your goal is to enact effective public policy and to negotiate in good faith with both sides of a political issue. But they are much less important if your goal is to simply repeat phony statistics that make you feel good and that you and your friends think illustrate the bloody handed evil and greed of the "gun lobby". This can feel satisfying in the short run, it may drive Likes and Shares and Pageviews, but it doesn't do anything about violence and makes genuinely effective policy changes much harder to attain.

There's a reason why people with an agenda, and the New York Times is leading the charge on that, want to use a different definition of mass shooting for Australia than they use for the US. It's important to make it look like new gun laws work. So Australia must have a perfect record. These people with an agenda are selling a promise of safety and security. "If we enact Australia's gun laws it will end mass killings in America." But nothing is certain. And the reason they use a different number for the US is so that they can inflate the severity. Four mass shootings a year would be bad enough. But it doesn't generate enough of an unreasoning panic, so they have to change the definitions to make it look like there's a Newton or Columbine every day.

The lesson of Australia is that you don't end gun violence or mass killings just by passing a law. There's not a magic legal wand you can wave to end violence. And if somebody is offering you one, they're lying to you. Be very careful before you repeat anything they say.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How I'm voting in Columbus Ohio in 2015

These are just who I'm voting for, these are not in any way official endorsements and should not be taken as encouraging anyone else to vote any particular way.

Mayor:
Zach Scott presents his ideas better and Ginther represents the recent severe corruption problems we've had in our city government. Scott also supports using Seattle as an inspiration in minimum wage increases, which I like. Basically Ginther has negatives, Scott does not. I'll be voting for Zach Scott.

Columbus City Council, pick 4 from 8
Elizabeth C. Brown - Not from Columbus, wants to increase minimum wage but says we can't at local level, supports body cameras
Zach Klein - lots of national experience, also OAG and US AG experience, wants to increase minimum wage but says we can't at local level, supports body cameras
Jaiza Page - Young, supports minimum wage and body cameras.
John Christopher Rush - massive family, veteran, says a *lot* while saying little. Might support body cameras and minimum wage? Sounds good but delivered in a very obfuscatory way.
Besmira Sharrah - no data, didn’t respond to the survey at all.
Ibrahima Sow - Immigrant, does support a minimum wage increase modeled after Seattle, doesn't support police body cameras.
Dimitrious Stanley - opposes a minimum wage increase for terrible reasons. Supports body cameras.
Michael Stinziano - Says what he would do and why on minimum wage, and supports body camera, and he's local. Probably my favorite out of all of them.
There are four open seats for city council. Besmira is out. Rush seems slimy. I don't like Dimitrious' reasons for opposing the minimum wage.

I think Ibrahima's perspective will be an interesting one. Brown is a "Full time candidate" which kind of turns me off. I'm thinking I'll vote for Stinziano, Klein, Page, and Sow. But Brown could be switched out for Sow.

Columbus City Council, pick one
Shannon G. Hardin is being challenged by Ashley Wnek for his city council seat. Wnek has a confusing reason for opposing minimum wage increases, she claims that it will lead to automation forcing people out of low wage jobs. Uses the example of "every time I go to the grocery store there are less checkout lanes operated by good people, and more self checkout lanes!" But automation is  going to do that anyway. Hardin is thoroughly dirty in the Redflex scandal and claims the public still trusts the city government, which just plain isn't true. Both candidates support body cameras. Wnek wants to improve public transportation in Columbus, including better routes and more methods than just the bus, and this is what pushes me to vote for Wnek over Hardin, despite disagreeing strongly on the issue of minimum wages.

Franklin County Municipal Court Judge; McCarthy or Morehart
I'll be voting for Sean McCarthy because they both look similar on issues but he's a veteran. Reportedly both would equally be great choices so I’m coming down on the McCarthy side solely because he’s a veteran.

Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Jan 5 term; Ebner or Glaeden
I'm voting for Ebner to get new blood and because I greatly prefer Ebner's stated judicial philosophy, which emphasizes fairness. Glaeden describes hers as "to hold offenders accountable and to make victims whole when possible" which sounds to me like she thinks anybody who comes before her is going to be guilty. I like that Ebner is coming at this from a Criminal Defense standpoint.

Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Jan. 6 term; Pfau, Paley, or Paat
Pfau is a Green Party candidate so he’s already ahead in my book as the first third party candidate I’ve encountered on this ballot. He’s gay, he’s a Buddhist, he’s been a Guardian ad Litem, he has a lot of experience, he’s fair, and he’s got a great judicial philosophy. Easy call for me.

Hilliard Board of Education, pick 2 of 4 candidates
Heather Keck  - existing school board member and attorney.
Nadia Long – nothing to really separate her from anybody else.
Carmen Malone – Auditor. I would like having an auditor.
Charles Ramsay – Journalist, and I would like a journalist too.
Everybody has pretty much the same opinions on everything. I’m picking Malone and Ramsay because I like their backgrounds. An auditor will make sure things run efficiently and a journalist will be able to keep an eye out for any wrongdoing.

Issue 1: I absolutely support redistricting reform. Gerrymandering prevents competitive elections and stagnates the political process. It lets somebody who isn’t a good candidate get into an office and stay there. It lets the majority party in the statehouse run all over the minority. I wish it did more to prevent gerrymandering of US Congressional districts (where it does nothing) but it will help with the state legislature, and that is an important first step.

Issue 2: I oppose Issue 2 because it exists solely to fight legalization, not just the current Issue 3 path but also future attempts. It will require two votes, at two separate elections, for any citizen ballot initiative that has any impact on taxes. For example, it would require two separate elections for the “Legalize2016” initiative since it has parts in it relating to taxation. At the first vote, the public would have to exempt the proposed issue from the prohibition, and then the second vote would be on the actual issue. This would so thoroughly confuse the voters as to ensure that the only ballot measures that become law are those proposed by the legislature. Additionally, it says it’s against monopolies but it does nothing at all about the casino monopoly already existing in the state constitution.

Issue 3: Like the ACLU of Ohio, and NORML, and a number of other individuals who’ve studied the issue, I support Issue 3. It will bring in a lot of tax revenue, it will save a lot in court and police costs, and it will prevent usage from resulting in a criminal record that destroys someone’s life. Opposition to it is being driven by the Republicans who rushed Issue 2 onto the ballot, various police, religious, and family organizations, and any dealers who don’t like the idea of someone being able to buy legally what they sell illegally. They’re also supported in this by gullible ideologues and purists who are content to tell people to “wait till next year so we can do it right!” every single year because they’re not in danger of going to jail themselves. I realize that the Republican controlled government officials who set the ballot language were able to call it a monopoly bill and this was approved by the Ohio Supreme Court, but I don’t see a monopoly when 10 companies are required to all compete with each other. The positives are vast and the negatives are palatable.

ADAMH Levy: I support renewing the levy for mental health, alcohol, and drug addiction programs. I’d even support an increase but this is just a continuance.

Columbus Zoo levy: It’s a continuance levy and it’s not for that much, so I’m backing it.