Saturday, October 27, 2012

If I had to vote today

I'm still an undecided voter in terms of many of the down-ballot elections. On some of them, I still have no clue since I have yet to do my research. So, with a week and a half till voting time, this is where I stand. Please challenge me on any of this. However, unless you have some really incredible point to make regarding the presidential race, I think I have gotten more than my share of information on that race. I would prefer if you saved your comments for the races down the ballot.

Race Candidates AZ Republic Pick My Pick Rationale
Presidential Race Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein Mitt Romney Barack Obama I would say I'm leaning Obama. I may decide to go third party. I have a fairly surprising long list of reasons I've been less than satisfied with Obama's last four years. None more than his willingness to assassinate suspected terrorists without trial even when they happen to be US citizens. And then his use of drones to perform these assassinations. The problem with Mitt Romney is that not only has he endorsed these practices but has indicated he would expand on them.
US Senate Jeff Flake, Richard Carmona, Marc Victor Jeff Flake Richard Carmona I think Jeff Flake is a great candidate and I wouldn't mind a Flake victory here. Richard Carmona has an amazing background; he is a viciously independent thinker; and more moderate than Flake. This is a close call for me, but I really want Democrats to hold onto the Senate.
US Representatives in Congress District 9 Vernon Parker, Kyrsten Sinema, Powell Gammill Kyrsten Sinema Kyrsten Sinema I like Vernon Parker. He's more moderate than most Republicans currently in Congress. He opposes Ryan's economic plan for example. Although, he's trying too hard to defend much of the Republican ideology and he has a very difficult time doing so. Check him out here on Sunday Square off for example Sinema has a pretty boiler plate agenda, but she's extremely smart and has an impressive record in the legislature.
State Senator District 26 Jerry Lewis, Ed Ableser, Damian Trabel Jerry Lewis Ed Ableser I think Jerry Lewis has been a good Senator, but he does have some curious votes, going a long with a pretty kooky party far too many times, apparently even voting for an insane UN bill "Lewis says he voted for the UN bill after being assured that it would die in the House." And being the decisive vote on getting the insane proposition 120 on the ballot. In the past year or so, he's been much more engaged then Ableser,and has been and over all a moderate voice in the House. Ableser prioritized his first born over spending time with a pretty polarized legislature. Overall though, I think we need Democrats in the Senate.
State Representative District 26 Raymond Speakman, Mary Lou Taylor, Juan Mendez, Andrew Sherwood, Chris Will, Haryaksha Gregor Knaue Juan Mendez and Andrew Sherwood Juan Mendez and Andrew Sherwood The first easy one on the ballot. I know nothing about Mary Lou Taylor, she skipped the debate and according to the article refuses to stake positions on key issues. Juan Mendez and Andrew Sherwood have passion and energy and would be good assets in the House.
Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump, Susan Bitter Smith, Robert Burns, Paul Newman, Marcia Busching, Sandra Kennedy, Christopher Gohl, Daniel Pout, Thomas Meadows Bob Burns, Bob Stump, and Marcia Busching Bob Stump, Marcia Busching, and Sandra Kennedy Bob Stump is extremely smart and accomplished, Marcia Busching also seems smart, pragmatic, and reasonable. I'm thinking about going with Sandra Kennedy as my third choice. Bob Burns is probably the better qualified candidate, but Kennedy isn't bad. She's an incumbent and a Democrat, so going with ideology here.
County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Michael Kielsky Not Sure Bill Montgomery I haven't studied this race enough yet. Kielsky is a libertarian and is focused specifically on avoiding prosecuting "victimless crimes - drugs, prostitution. I think this is a bit too far, though it's an appealing thought. Montgomery is far better than his predecessor who was more inclined to go after political enemies. The Democrats sent no one to oppose him.
County Recorder Helen Purcell Not Sure Nor Sure She's running unopposed, but I reserve the right to not vote for her. I need to do my research here.
Sherriff Joe Arpaio, Paul Penzone, Mike Stauffer Paul Penzone Paul Penzone The easiest race on the ballot - by a mile. Literally, if you vote for Arpaio, you are either not paying attention or a hopeless partisan who would vote for Republican no matter how bad.
County Treasurer Charles Hoskins Not Sure Not Sure
Central AZ Water Conservation District Janie Thom, Lisa Atkins, Robin Bain, Linda Brickman, Gayle Burns, Guy Carpenter, Terry Goddard, Carrie Hamstra, Heather Macre, Jean McGrath, Brett Mecum, John Minieri, Pamela Pickard Terry Goddard, Lisa Atkins, Pamela Pickard, Guy Carpenter, Heather Macre Terry Goddard, Heather Macre, Guy Carpenter, Pamela Pickard Terry Goddard has influence and experience. Heather Macre is young and cares about climate change. Guy Carpenter has experience and expertise. Lisa Atkins has done a lot on the board. The rest are either too extremely conservative or I could find no good information bout them.
Maricopa County Special Health Care District District 1 Mary Harden, William Bruno Not Sure Mary Harden I'm going with Mary Harden on this one. She is a career nurse and has worked within MIHS for most of that career. Although Bill Bruno the incumbent seems to have better answers, he has no direct medical experience, has been more of a manager over his career.
Maricopa County Community College District 1 Frank Denogean, Doyle Burke Not Sure Doyle Burke Burke is the clear choice here. He's been an English professor at a community college and the incumbent. Denogean has had a checkered past and is a substitute teacher currently.
Tempe Union No. 213 Question 1 Bond Approval Not Sure Yes I'm voting on anything that gives our schools more money.
Tempe Union No. 213 Question 2 Bond Approval Not Sure Yes I'm voting on anything that gives our schools more money.
Tempe Union No. 213 High School Governing Board Moses Sanchez, Dave Wells, Don Hawker, Michele Helm, Sandy Lowe Not Sure Moses Sanchez, Dave Wells, and Michele Helm Moses Sanchez is a return Afghanistan veteran with kids in high school. Dave Wells is an ASU professor and Michele Helm is a long-time educator. A good mix of experience. Don Hawker is too conservative. Sandy Lowe is good, but I liked the other three better.
Tempe Elementary No. 3 Budget Increase Not Sure Yes
School Governing Board Tempe Elementary No. 3 Rochelle Wells, Teresa Devine, Suzanne Durkin-Bighorn, Kathleen Espinoza Not Sure Rochelle Wells, Teresa Devine, and Kathleen Espinoza Rochelle Wells is the incumbent and she came to our house for a personal chat (though long-winded). Loved Teresa Devine's answers to the survey and her experience. Kathleen Espinoza is a long-time educator. Had trouble finding any information on Durkin-Bighorn.
City of Tempe Question 1 Bond for Public Safety Not Sure Yes
City of Tempe Question 2 Bond for Park Improvements Not Sure Yes
City of Tempe Question 3 Bond for Infrastructure Preservation Not Sure Yes
Judges Skipping Skipping
Proposition 114 Proposition protecting crime victims from getting sued. Opposes No Just a waste of time.
Proposition 115 Proposition changing the process for Judge Selection. Opposes No We need to keep our judicial system non-partisan, this proposition will reduce its independence.
Proposition 116 Property tax exemptions for small businesses. Supports No Let's keep our tax code simple.
Proposition 117 Property Tax Assessed Evaluation. Opposes No It will defund our government in the face of rising property values
Proposition 118 Establishment of Permanent Funds Supports Yes Guarantees a stream of funds for schools.
Proposition 119 State Trust Lands Supports Yes Sounds sensible to me.
Proposition 120 State Sovereignty Opposes No Dumbest proposition on the ballot.
Proposition 121 Direct Primary Election Law Supports No This will weaken political parties which I think are doing more good than people realize.
Proposition 204 Sales Tax Increase for Schools Opposes Yes We need to money for schools.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Vice President Debates

Now that there's a little space between me and the two presidential debates, I wanted to assess my own emotional reaction to them given that I've been on Team Democrat for some time now. With the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney took it to Obama, attacking the weaknesses of his first four years. It was frustrating because Obama didn't defend himself well nor did he hold Romney's campaign accountable for their bad ideas.

Going into the vice presidential debates, I was hoping Joe Biden would help do what Obama failed to do. I watched the 2008 primary debates and based on his performance then, I knew Biden is a good debater, usually the best of the group, and more then ready for this task. He has sincerity and passion and those qualities come out. I was looking forward to it.

Let me say, I only caught pieces of the debate, but enough of it that I didn't feel like it was worth my time re-watching the whole thing again later. I think Joe Biden did his job, he defended the Obama record and called Ryan out on some of their policies that demanded a bunch of additional scrutiny. Did Biden go too far? On occasion, and I want to point out how using an example. In fact, this example was on an issue that I think most of this presidential campaign rests. Take a look at this clip:

This I think captures the essential differences between the two presidential campaigns on one of the core issues facing our country.

We are facing the dual and mutually exclusive challenges of a growing debt and high, pervasive unemployment.  Given that our unemployment challenges are a direct result of not enough demand for the abundant supply of goods and services, anything the government does to tackle unemployment (cut taxes or increase spending) grows the deficit. Anything the government does to tackle the deficits (increase taxes or cut spending) grows unemployment.

The responsible thing is to grow the short term deficit while addressing long term debt. The way to do this is to slowly, carefully simplify the tax code so that it's fairer, less distortive, but maintain its prorgressive properties as a tool to add some redistribution to our highly and economically dangerous inequities. This means closing loopholes long term, cutting taxes for the poor and middle class in the short run.

You can't do this quickly, every loophole helps certain industries and immediately closing these loopholes would have devastating consequences. For example, closing the mortgage interest loophole would hurt our housing industry. Closing the employer health insurance loophole would put pressure on companies and employees who count on it.

When Mitt Romney claims he can simultaneously close loopholes, grow the economy, make taxes revenue neutral, cut taxes across the board by 20%, balance the budget, and not add a dime of economic burden to the middle class - in other words solve every current economic problem without having to specify how in the world he could possibly accomplish this - he is taking on the role of economic savior every bit as crazy as the hysteria surrounding Obama's presidential race in 2008.

You can't claim to be a miracle worker and give no indication how the miracle can be performed. You can't hide behind the claim that you're laying down principles that will be worked out in a bipartisan way when these "principles" are mathematically impossible.

Where I got frustrated with Romney was that Barack Obama kept calling his bluff (or tried to) by asking Romney how in the world can Romney make up for the $5 trillion dollar tax cut (over 10 years) and Romney refused to admit he would do so as if the 20% across the board tax cut promise didn't exist.

Joe Biden put the impossibility of this position front and center. Ryan was going to use a lot of smart sounding words to give their position the air of sophistication and possibility. Biden interrupted often here to prevent him from getting away with it.

Was Biden rude while doing so? Did he get carried away?

One final point, Ryan was about to use Kennedy and Reagan as examples of how cutting taxes can stimulate growth and that growth can be factored into the deficit mathematical equation. This is the central point made by Romney apologists. First, both Kennedy and Reagan were cutting tax rates significantly higher than what we're seeing today. Second, in both cases, the economic problems being faced then had much more to do with inadequate supply than inadequate demand. The problems were different then, the solutions are different today.

No, Ryan, you are no Jack Kennedy.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Is the Republican Party Racist?

That's the provocative claim on Slate today, but actually it's not nearly tendentious as it sounds and actually the author makes a really great point. The meat of the article can be found in these two paragraphs:
No, I’m not saying all Republicans are racist. I’m saying that as a party, ever since Goldwater and Nixon concocted the benighted, openly racist “Southern Strategy” in the ’60s, the Republican Party has profited from overt and covert racism.
The Southern Strategy was designed to capitalize on Southern white resentment of court-enforced busing to end school desegregation, of the 1964 Civil Rights Act's prohibition of discrimination in interstate commerce, of enforcement of the 1965 Voting Rights Act to prevent historically racist Southern counties and states from discriminating against blacks who sought to exercise their right to vote where once they'd been effectively barred. By playing on these issues, Nixon and other Republicans of this era won many traditionally Democratic votes in the South. Later, GOP opposition to affirmative action, race-based hiring "quotas" and all other methods of compensating for the debilitating legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and segregation fed into what was one of the momentous shifts, a total turnaround in just more than a decade (1970 to 1984) from a solidly Democratic South to a solidly Republican one.
With the following consequence:
Which means in practice that the GOP starts out every presidential election with (depending on census changes in electoral vote numbers) some 100 electoral votes, more than a third of the way to the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.
Ok, here's my take. It's true that the states in the deep south, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina have a deep residue of racism that inspires its politics. To deny this is to be well in denial. Now Texas is a big state that spans a large geography and a state I'm not sure is as embedded in racist politics as the others. Given that it currently has 34 electoral votes, or a third of the 100 identified by the author, it kind of dampens the author's thesis. Of course Texas is a red state because of Nixon's and Reagan's southern strategy? I would say its complicated.

Additionally, you can say that the Democratic party has an equal if not greater built in electoral college head start that includes largely populated states in the Northeast and California. These states are probably blue in part as a backlash to this same southern strategy.

However, I do think it was inevitable that the southeast portion of the United States has enough of an electoral college influence to send at least one of the two major parties down this dark path. That one of the two parties would take advantage of it to earn a significant advantage electorally makes sense.

And you can see the consequences in some of the conservative ideology, especially in terms of welfare, affirmative action, and immigration. These issues are certainly broad minded enough to include non-racist supporters, especially those who have not had the exposure to race issues to understand the deeper intent behind these programs (I'm looking at you Utah).

It partially explains Mitt Romney's strategy to attack Obama on his attempt to supposedly gut welfare to work:
At the very least these patterns make Southern voters susceptible to what some observers have called "dog whistle" appeals to racism, such as Mitt Romney's false claim in campaign ads that Obama had "gutted" welfare reform work requirements, reminding many of Reagan-era attacks on "welfare queens" in Cadillacs.
 It was a lie. It's also an issue that is not overtly racist so it appeals to non-racist conservatives but it has a definite appeal to those who are.

For me, it also explains why there's been this irrational hysteria from the right in reaction to a Barack Obama presidency. Again, it's complicated. Some of it was resentment to the way Obama captured the white-house. This savior dropped in from heaven to rescue America from itself. Some of it was also just the natural polarization that is at play in this country. Finally, of course, deep economic trouble tends to bring out the worst in people.

But some of it was inspired by the core Southern conservatives who just can't stomach a black president.
The final presidential tally in 2008 gave ample warning of the potency of the GOP’s conservative white constituency. Obama made a major breakthrough by winning a significant percent of votes from white independents and young white voters. Among Southern and Heartland America white male voters, Obama made almost no impact. In South Carolina and other Deep South states the vote was even more lopsided among white voters against Obama. The only thing that even made Obama’s showing respectable in those states was the record turnout and percentage of black votes that he got. ...
Any fair minded person would have to admit, the over-the-top anti-Obama rhetoric from the right is irrational. They were never willing to compromise on any issue from day one. Every issue Obama put on the table was a deal-breaker for them. There was not an ounce of decency shown by most Republicans in Congress, and they got away with it only because the economy was down the toilet.

Was this racism? Generally no, but to think that over a third of your electoral college support comes from a set of states that do this:
Is it any accident that they fly Confederate flags from their statehouse, as in South Carolina, or incorporate Confederate flag symbols into their state flags as in Mississippi and Alabama, or allow them to be flaunted on state-issued license places, even passing laws that declare they must be respected. If you’ve traveled much in the South (as I have), you see them flying too from courthouses, municipal buildings, and other private establishments. If it’s not unconstitutional, it is, frankly, disgusting.
And in a not as over-the-top comparison as it seems at first:
If a conservative government in the German state of Bavaria decided it was going to allow the flying of the SS death’s-head flag, would we find it a touchingly nostalgic tribute to “tradition”? We would not. And yet, as I’ve said before, slavery was a slow-motion genocide that murdered, over three centuries, as many or more human beings than Hitler did. And after a brief reconstruction period, people in the slaveholding states continued to murder, rape, and otherwise oppress the freed slaves and their descendants for another hundred years until they were forced by Federal laws and courts against their will to exercise their racism in less obvious ways, voting being just one.
I left the Republican party because it got too crazy for me. I think this party needs to do some introspection. At this point, it would be suicide for the party to renounce 100 electoral college votes from the south. But they should. They should find ways to adopt saner immigration policies, policies that help address poverty and blight in minority neighborhoods.

They should, but they won't.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

LD 26 Video Debates

Just finished the Arizona Legislative District 26 debate:

Let me summarize some of my thoughts.

First of all, those in attendance included Jerry Lewis and Ed Ableser running for State Senate; Juan Mendez, Andrew Sherwood, and Ray Speakman running for the two open House seats. Ok, there was a libertarian and a green candidate, but they were so bad they aren't worth mentioning. There is also another Republican running who didn't show, Mary Lou Taylor. I'm not sure why people don't attend or want to engage in a debate. It makes it harder for a voter to get to know where they stand and who they are. Mary Lou Taylor, who are you, beyond a name on a political sign?

Ok, surprisingly enough, every candidate agreed on every issue, from the need to provide Kid's Care (health insurance for the poor), high tech jobs for Arizona, investment in education, investment in solar, and on and on. So, ideologically, they might as well all belong to the same party.

Where the starkest contrast comes from was in tone, background and approach to politics. The three Democrats are all young, energetic, and passionate. They each have different backgrounds, but are hyper-motivated to make a difference in the political process.

Ed Ableser has the longest tenure in the legislature starting in his twenties. He is a counselor by training and profession and is passionate about the effects of policies on individuals, especially those most at the margins in society.

Juan Mendez grew up in the valley from immigrant parents. He grew up poor, but his parents took advantage of state programs, health insurance, training programs, schools and scholarships. Mendez is alarmed (as am I) at the extremes in the Republicans in Arizona's legislature, folks who cares more about tax breaks for corporations, balanced budgets and rainy day funds then funding essential services for the poor. Worse, they care more about demagoguery on immigration, conspiracy theory legislation on global warming or birthed theories, then they do about solving real problems we face - but I digress.

Andrew Sherwood has been a volunteer for the party for a while and is running on jobs - high tech jobs for the future and making sure we have an educated work force to fill those jobs.

Jerry Lewis has the most impressive and extensive business resume of the group and it shows. He's been a religious leader in his community. He's been involved in education, in business, he's an accountant by training and profession. He took Russell Pearce's seat in an historic recall election and is running as a moderate. Someone who is trying to roll back from within some of the extremism in the Republican party of late. He wants to be someone who listens, finds common ground and compromise.

Ray Speakman has the least impressive resume of the group and it shows. He's older but his experience does not seem that relevant. He has eight kids and a bunch of grandkids. He's been a volunteer in scouting and has owned business, construction and design. However, he doesn't seem to have the much grasp on the issues and shows almost no passion, energy, or charisma.

Lewis vs. Ableser
It seems that Ableser's main critique of his opponent is Lewis's voting record, primarily his vote for the Republican budget that cut Kid's Care. Lewis's retort as far as I understood it was that he's worked with Republicans to moderate these bills but fundamentally must go along with bills, however flawed to get things done. Lewis is not there to make statements.

Ableser, Mendez and Sherwood definitely take a harder stand in their approach. They want to stand up for principles and on certain things may not be as willing to find common ground.

Lewis's main attack on Ableser was on his attendance record, something Ed never really addressed in the debate. In my home he had a really good explanation. He has actually had a stellar attendance record up until his wife became pregnant and their baby was born. Then, he chose to skip non-essential votes to assist his wife with the pregnancy. I'm not sure why he didn't offer this defense in the debate.

Lewis in his attack did say something I loved, that he shows up, he represents, he listens to those he represents, even those that didn't vote for him. Along that vein, where was Mary Lou Taylor?

Of the two in the debate, and it was close, but I found Lewis more well-spoken, seem to speak more from the heart and was less reliant on notes. In my home visit, I found Ableser knowledgeable and charismatic in fact more so than when I met Lewis at a different house party, which is why I found it surprising that he read his opening and closing statement.

It's hard for me, based on the information I have to know conclusively whether Lewis or Ableser would be the more effective legislature. I guess my next step would be to look at their legislative record and to figure out which bills they sponsored, what were their priorities, which one of the two seemed to make the bigger impact.

As of now, for me it comes down to what I want from my state government. I want to see greater representation from the Democratic caucus. I want Republicans that are forced to listen and work with Democrats. The only way to get there is to elect Democrats to office. I think Ed Ableser is more than qualified and deserves to be elected. I wish I could elect Jerry Lewis as well, but I can't. As of now, I'm likely to support Ableser.

Juan Mendez and Andrew Sherwood are clearly better than Ray Speakman. That race should not be close.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ed Ableser for State Senate

I just had an immensely gratifying evening with Ed Ableser who is running State Senate from my legislative district. A few months ago, I spent an evening listening to Jerry Lewis, the person he's running against. Admittedly, I tend to just like people so I'm easily taken by impressive presentation. So, let me preface with this blog with that.

But man, to be honest, this was a really great evening. In attendance was the bishop of my church congregation, the congregation's former high priest group leader, a former young women's president, friends, and few neighbors that dropped by. I was hoping for a bit more of a turnout, but really, I cannot complain.

All in all, I totally enjoyed it. We had smart people asking smart questions and I was really impressed with Ed's answers. He had such a grasp on the issues and knew policy inside and out. He has a really interesting perspective and experience. He's a counselor by trade and talked in detail about his experiences working with people struggling with addictions and other serious problems.

I'm telling you, we had a smart, respectful crowd. The topics range from gay marriage, legalization of marijuana, abortion, Kid's Care, university education funding, foster care and CPS, slum lords, dumb tax loopholes giving incentives to business simply to move from building to building, the list goes on and on.

We talked about the super majority enjoyed by the Republicans in the legislature right now which has inspired completely nutty legislation such as labeling global warming a global conspiracy or worse gutting programs that help people in need. In this election the Democrats have a chance at getting a 15/15 split in the Senate but its contingent on the race in this district. A 15/15 split forces Republicans to compromise. We desperately need balance in this state, Republicans forced to work with Democrats making sure smart legislation is passed to deal with actual problems facing Arizonans.

And there are reasonable Republicans. He talked about how many Republicans in the state and national legislature favor things like the  "Dream Act" legislation but SB1070 literally moved immigration reform back years. That bill changed the rhetoric around the issue for the worse. Congressional Republicans and Democrats are closer on this issue than people think, but Republicans can't concede and give Democrats a political victory.

Kid's Care was the biggest no brainer issue for me discussed today. Over the past four years, the state legislature has cut funding to programs that help people even as they've provided give aways to businesses. Kid's Care is health insurance for the poor. Jerry Lewis, to say it bluntly, voted to have its funding cut.

He also defended himself against the attacks from his opponent that claim he's missed a lot of votes. He's been in the legislature a number of years. For most of the years, he's sponsored bills, and has shown up for almost every single vote. Recently, he had his first baby, who graced our home as well :-). He chose to spend more time with wife and baby and missed more votes as a result. However, he made sure he attended the significant ones.

I must say, I think Ed gets a bit carried away on how involved state government should really be in the lives of people. I'm with him for the most part, a couple of times he went a bit farther than I would go. Most notably, he talked about how we should do more proactive mental health screening, which sounds good and I'm not exactly clear on his views on the specifics, but is perhaps a bit more intrusive than I believe.

Anyway, loved the evening and I appreciate Ed for sharing his time with us. I thank Andrew Sherwood and Juan Mendez for their appearances as well. I especially thank my loving wife who worked hard to get our house ready for the evening all while she was busy dealing with our four challenging children.

To find out more about Ed Ableser, check him out here and here.