Politics Archive

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Here are two great comics for Halloween. The first one, I'm pretty sure, is the original. Even with my left leaning tendencies, I've always found it pretty funny. The second is updated to turn the tables.

Halloween Comic - Democratic Version

Halloween Comic - Republican Version

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rick Perry's Extremist Views

Rick PerryI had been thinking about writing a blog entry about Rick Perry to highlight his extremist views. I realize his popularity in the polls has dropped quite a bit from when he first entered the presidential race, but I still have to live with him here in Texas, and I'd love to see him get voted out of the governor's office. Plus, there's still the slim possibility he might get the Republican nod, and given Obama's current approval rating, it scares the hell out of me that Perry might have a chance to be President (as a friend of mine put it, a sack of potatoes has a decent chance of beating Obama this time around).

But when I checked my inbox this week, there was an e-mail from the Texas Freedom Network, with a link to a page that had already done what I was intending to do. The page is:

Rick Perry Watch

They've provided details on Perry's stance on the following issues:

  • Using Faith as a Political Weapon
  • 'The Response' Prayer Rally in Houston
  • Creationism
  • School Prayer
  • Same-Sex Marriage
  • Sex Education
  • Private School Vouchers
  • Women's Health and Reproductive Rights
  • Texas State Board of Education

Needless to say, his stances are pretty extreme. Go read that page for details.

But, I noticed that they left off a few other issues, so I figured that I'd still make a blog entry out of this. Here's some more info on why Rick Perry is just so bad.

Execution of an Innocent Man and Subsequent Interference with Investigation

I've mentioned this on the blog before, but it bears repeating. In December of 1991, there was a house fire that killed the three children of Cameron Todd Willingham. Willingham was accused of started the fire, convicted of murder, and sentenced to death. Prior to his execution, other arson investigators questioned the evidence that led to his conviction, and determined that the fire most probably was accidental. However, Perry refused to grant a stay of execution, and Willingham was killed in February of 2004.

The Texas Forensic Science Commission began an investigation of the case, and was due to issue a report in August of 2009. However, just days before the report was to be released, Perry replaced three members of the board, essentially killing the investigation.

So, not only did Perry do nothing to stop the death of a likely innocent man, he interfered with the subsequent investigation that could have cleared Willingham's name.

More Info:

Suppression of Scientific Data on Global Warming

According to Mother Jones:

For the past decade, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which is run by Perry political appointees, including famed global warming denier Bryan Shaw, has contracted with the Houston Advanced Research Center to produce regular reports on the state of the Bay. But when HARC submitted its most recent State of the Bay publication to the commission earlier this year, officials decided they couldn't accept a report that said climate change is caused by human activity and is causing the sea level to rise. Top officials at the commission proceeded to edit the paper to censor its references to human-induced climate change or future projections on how much the bay will rise.

As a sign of just how egregious this censorship is, every single one of the original authors of the report have demanded that their names be removed from the final version.

More Info:

Marriage Equality

I've already mentioned this particular issue on this blog before, and the TFN article discussed same sex marriage, but TFN left out Perry's vow to support a Constitutional amendment that would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Denying marriage equality is bad enough, but to actually want to pass a Constitutional amendment that would take away people's rights is un-American.

More Info:

Sodomy Laws

As if banning marriage for homosexuals wasn't itself bad enough, Perry actually supported Texas's anti-sodomy laws, making the very act of homosexual sex illegal. Even after the Supreme Court said the laws were unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas, the Texas legislature hasn't removed the laws from the books, and Perry dismissed the court's decision as the product of "nine oligarchs in robes."

More Info:

Direct Election of Senators

This issue isn't morally reprehensible like the four previous issues I discussed. It's just ... odd. For a quick history lesson, U.S. Senators were originally elected by state legislatures. Although intended to keep the senators isolated from the whims of the population, for a variety of reasons (such as susceptibility to corruption), it was decided that direct election of the senators by the people they were supposed to represent was a better approach. So, the 17th Amendment was passed to effect that change. For some reason I can't follow that supposedly has to do with states' rights, Perry doesn't like this, and would like to see the 17th Amendment repealed.

More Info:

I had found a couple more articles on Perry that highlight some of his crazier positions and actions. Although some of the points in those articles are a bit of a stretch (such as his remarks about secession), many are valid. Here are links to those articles.

If it was just for Perry's anti-science stances, or his bigotry towards homosexuals, that would be enough to not get my vote. When you add in things like his personal integrity or his crazy views on government, I don’t see how anybody could support him.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thoughts on the Death Penalty

Scales of Justice with NoosesWith the uproar over the execution of Troy Davis, it's gotten me thinking of capital punishment. In short, I oppose it.

I suppose there are several arguments surrounding the death penalty and its justifications. And I guess there are a few distinct ways of looking at sentences (though not mutually exclusive). One is as punishment - justice for a crime. If a criminal did something bad to somebody, then something bad is done to them in return. Another is deterrence. If somebody knows that they'll be punished for a crime, then they'll be less likely to commit the crime in the first place. A third is simply eliminating dangerous criminals so that they can't harm anybody else. To repeat something I heard the other day, 100% of executed criminals never commit another crime.

To be honest, I'm kind of ambivalent on the death penalty being used for vengeance. This may make me look barbaric, but I really don't have a whole lot of sympathy for some people. For example, just reading about the murder of James Byrd makes me not lose sleep over the recent execution of one of his killers. But I also don't feel strongly that people should be put to death out of vengeance.

So, what about using the death penalty as a deterrent? Well, it doesn't really make much of a difference. Here's an excerpt from an article from the Columbia Law School:

When we apply contemporary social science standards, the new deterrence studies fall well short of this high scientific bar. Consider the following: Most of the studies fail to account for incarceration rates or life sentences, factors that may drive down crime rates via deterrence or incapacitation; one study that does so finds no effects of execution and a significant effect of prison conditions on crime rates. Another report shows incarceration effects that dwarf the deterrent effects of execution. Most fail to account for complex social factors such as drug epidemics that are reliable predictors of fluctuations in the murder rate over time. The studies don't look separately at the subset of murders that are eligible for the death penalty, instead lumping all homicides together.

According to a study that polled criminologists on the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent:

There is overwhelming consensus among America’s top criminologists that the empirical research conducted on the deterrence question fails to support the threat or use of the death penalty.

So, it doesn't appear that the death penalty acts as a deterrent.

What about eliminating criminals to make society safer? Well, I think simple life sentences with no possibility of parole are enough to keep violent criminals away from society at large. And once you factor in the appeals process and other costs associated with an execution (each execution costs the state between $2.5 and $5 million), life in prison is actually the more economical way to keep those criminals off the streets.

So, from what I see, the only valid justification for executing criminals is vengeance (and of course, valid there depends on your opinion - there's no objective answer). The other justifications I've heard people use just don't hold up to scrutiny.

In my opinion, the strongest argument against the death penalty is that our justice system isn't perfect. Innocent people are sometimes found guilty, and as bad as it is to lock up innocent people, it's horrific to put them to death. Just consider Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in Texas for a crime he didn't commit. The state has now become the murderer.

And it's not as if false convictions are rare. Take a look at The Innocence Project for a sampling of convictions that have been overturned. According to their site, there have been 273 exonerations based on DNA evidence (since 1989). 17 of those people were on death row before being released.

So, considering that the death penalty does nothing to keep society safer, and that it carries the very real risk of killing innocent people, I don't see any reason why it should continue to be practiced.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gary Hubbell

Well, I guess I've gone and pissed somebody off. An article I wrote back in April of 2010 has apparently just become noticed by the person I was criticizing. My blog entry was, Response to Anti-Liberal Article by Gary Hubbell, and it was in response to an article that Hubbell had written for the Aspen Times Weekly, Barack Obama has awakened a sleeping nation.

I've just been threatened with a lawsuit over this entry, because I included the full text of Hubbell's article. I thought the manner in which I was using it would have fallen under fair use, so I didn't think I was doing anything illegal. But, since this blog is just a hobby of mine, I don't feel like getting caught up in a legal battle over it, especially since I'm not an expert on copyright law. So, for the time being, I've modified the entry to remove most of Hubbell's content.

For reference, here's the e-mailed threat that I received. I suppose I should mention that it's possible to spoof e-mails, so there's no guarantee this is actually from Hubbell.

From: Gary Hubbell [e-mail address redacted]
Date: 24 Sep 2011, 10:21:29 PM
Subject: You have one day to remove my copyrighted content from your website

I will sue your stupid liberal ass for more than you ever knew you possessed if you don't remove my copyrighted content from your website at once.

If you don't believe me, contact your copyright attorney and see who's right and who is wrong. I know the law and you don't, you ignoramus.

It would be fun to go through with this, because you have defamed me, I can prove it, and you have violated my copyright.


Gary Hubbell, Broker/Owner
United Country Colorado Brokers
Hotchkiss, CO 81419

[contact info redacted]

It's also worth mentioning that I'm far from the only person who has reprinted Hubbell's article in its entirety. If you just google "Barack Obama has awakened a sleeping nation", you'll find many, many pages which have simply reprinted his article, with minimal commentary. Like I wrote above, I would have thought that the manner in which I inserted commentary throughout would have made my blog entry fall under fair use, while those other reprints I see are clear copyright violations. I wonder if Hubbell is going after all of them, or just me, because I happen to disagree with him.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Thoughts from a Retired Republican

Republican ElephantOkay, I've been blogging an awful lot about politics recently, but here's one more. I'm going to mention an article titled Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult, written by Mike Lofgren for the website, Truthout. This article has already made the rounds on many liberal and progressive websites, but I'm guessing I have a few readers who don't frequent those sites, and who might not have seen this yet.

What prompted Lofgren to leave after nearly 30 years of service? Here's how he put it.

I left because I was appalled at the headlong rush of Republicans, like Gadarene swine, to embrace policies that are deeply damaging to this country's future; and contemptuous of the feckless, craven incompetence of Democrats in their half-hearted attempts to stop them.

Here are a few more quotes to give a taste of the article.

To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics.
The debt ceiling extension is not the only example of this sort of political terrorism. Republicans were willing to lay off 4,000 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees, 70,000 private construction workers and let FAA safety inspectors work without pay, in fact, forcing them to pay for their own work-related travel - how prudent is that? - in order to strong arm some union-busting provisions into the FAA reauthorization.
Everyone knows that in a hostage situation, the reckless and amoral actor has the negotiating upper hand over the cautious and responsible actor because the latter is actually concerned about the life of the hostage, while the former does not care. This fact, which ought to be obvious, has nevertheless caused confusion among the professional pundit class, which is mostly still stuck in the Bob Dole era in terms of its orientation. For instance, Ezra Klein wrote of his puzzlement over the fact that while House Republicans essentially won the debt ceiling fight, enough of them were sufficiently dissatisfied that they might still scuttle the deal. Of course they might - the attitude of many freshman Republicans to national default was "bring it on!"
A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.
Thus, the modern GOP; it hardly seems conceivable that a Republican could have written the following:
"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid." (That was President Eisenhower, writing to his brother Edgar in 1954.)

It is this broad and ever-widening gulf between the traditional Republicanism of an Eisenhower and the quasi-totalitarian cult of a Michele Bachmann that impelled my departure from Capitol Hill.

There's much more. Even if you don't agree, at least go read it to see a view different from the typical right wing e-mail forwards.


Selling Out