Later On

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Archive for the ‘Election’ Category

How elections affect police shootings

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Radley Balko has an interesting column:

The Albuquerque Journal has posted an interesting analysis of five years of police shootings, between 2010 and 2014. One thing the paper found is that 39 percent of the shootings over the past five years were by officers who were hired between 2007 and 2009, a period “when APD changed its recruiting and hiring practices in an effort to bolster the ranks.”

Those policies were implemented by police chief Ray Schultz, who was hired to take over the city’s police department in 2005. Oddly, Schultz had previously left the department after a major scandal in which thousands of dollars in cash in evidence were reported missing from the APD evidence room. Schultz at the time was deputy police chief and oversaw the evidence room. Until the media got wind of the story, the only officers punished were those who came forward to report the problem. Schultz left Albuquerque for a position in Arizona in 2003 but was then rehired two years later.

As I wrote in a post last April, over the next nine years, Schultz “managed to preside over a dramatic rise in police shootings, preside over a series of sex scandals within the department and win the wrath of the police union.” Mayor Richard Berry appointed a replacement for Schultz last year. But the effects of his tenure still linger.

It’s worth pointing out again here that it didn’t need to happen this way. As I explained in last April, back in the mid-1990s, Albuquerque was again in the news for a series of police shootings. The city brought in criminologist and policing expert Sam Walker to study what was going on. Walker was floored by the department’s toxic culture, training practices and policies that encouraged the escalation of force. The mayor of Albuquerque who oversaw the police department during this time was Martin Chavez. He decided not to run for reelection in 1997, opting instead to run for governor of New Mexico.

In 1999, new mayor Jim Baca brought in a reform-minded chief from Toledo, Ohio, named Jerry Galvin to clean up the department. Galvin raised the standards candidates needed to meet to become a police officer, including a requirement of at least 60 college-level credits. The higher standards resulted in a reduction in the number of police officers, but it’s far from clear that this was a bad thing — the crime rate continued to fall as well. The city also created a civilian review board to rein in police abuses, in addition to a number of other reforms.

But none of these reforms lasted long. After losing his bid for governor, Chavez came back to run for mayor again in 2001. He defeated Baca. Shortly after taking office, Chavez dismissed Galvin and named Gilbert Gallegos police chief. The civilian review board was also already losing its power. The police union was instructing officers not to testify before the board, while simultaneously lobbying to strip the board of its power. (The union head at the time, Paul Pacheco, is now a New Mexico state representative, and vice chair of the state’s House judiciary committee.) The board was basically rendered powerless. Given the police union’s efforts to undermine the citizen review board at the time, it’s notable that Gallegos, the man Chavez nominated to succeed the reformer Galvin, was a former president of the police union.

The old APD culture quickly returned, as officer shootings and allegations of corruption and excessive force began to mount. In 2005, Chavez appointed Schultz to head up APD, despite his prior history at the department. One of Schultz’s major initiatives was . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 March 2015 at 9:31 pm

Ted Cruz was born in Canada, thus he cannot be president, if you accept the U.S. Constitution—and he says he does

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I thought Sen. Cruz was a great fan of the Constitution, so that it’s odd that he’s not noticed that even if he’s elected, he cannot (Constitutionally) serve.

And the stories I’ve seen don’t mention this (extremely obvious) fact.

What’s up? Is the Constitution now to be ignored in all cases instead of just some?

UPDATE: I stand corrected.

UPDATE 2 and MORE IMPORTANT: Obama had a mother who was an American citizen, so why was hi qualifications to be President EVER in question? If Ted Cruz, born in Alberta, Canada, of an American mother, is qualified to be President, why would Obama, born wherever, not be qualified to be President?

Perhaps the GOP can answer that? But the GOP is not so good at answering questions—and certainly not the questions you ask. (The answer is: Racism.)

Written by LeisureGuy

23 March 2015 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Is a New Political System Emerging in This Country?

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Tom Englehardt wrestles with trying to make sense of what we see all around us:

Have you ever undertaken some task you felt less than qualified for, but knew that someone needed to do? Consider this piece my version of that, and let me put what I do understand about it in a nutshell: based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name.

And here’s what I find strange: the evidence of this, however inchoate, is all around us and yet it’s as if we can’t bear to take it in or make sense of it or even say that it might be so.

Let me make my case, however minimally, based on five areas in which at least the faint outlines of that new system seem to be emerging: political campaigns and elections; the privatization of Washington through the marriage of the corporation and the state; the de-legitimization of our traditional system of governance; the empowerment of the national security state as an untouchable fourth branch of government; and the demobilization of “we the people.”

Whatever this may add up to, it seems to be based, at least in part, on the increasing concentration of wealth and power in a new plutocratic class and in that ever-expanding national security state. Certainly, something out of the ordinary is underway, and yet its birth pangs, while widely reported, are generally categorized as aspects of an exceedingly familiar American system somewhat in disarray.

1. 1% Elections

Check out the news about the 2016 presidential election and you’ll quickly feel a sense of been-there, done-that. As a start, the two names most associated with it, Bush and Clinton, couldn’t be more familiar, highlighting as they do the curiously dynastic quality of recent presidential contests.  (If a Bush or Clinton should win in 2016 and again in 2020, a member of one of those families will have controlled the presidency for 28 of the last 36 years.)

Take, for instance, “Why 2016 Is Likely to Become a Close Race,” a recent piece Nate Cohn wrote for my hometown paper.  A noted election statistician, Cohn points out that, despite Hillary Clinton’s historically staggering lead in Democratic primary polls (and lack of serious challengers), she could lose the general election.  He bases this on what we know about her polling popularity from the Monica Lewinsky moment of the 1990s to the present.  Cohn assures readers that Hillary will not “be a Democratic Eisenhower, a popular, senior statesperson who cruises to an easy victory.”  It’s the sort of comparison that offers a certain implicit reassurance about the near future.  (No, Virginia, we haven’t left the world of politics in which former general and president Dwight D. Eisenhower can still be a touchstone.)

Cohn may be right when it comes to Hillary’s electability, but this is not Dwight D. Eisenhower’s or even Al Gore’s America. If you want a measure of that, consider this year’s primaries. I mean, of course, the 2015 ones. Once upon a time, the campaign season started with candidates flocking to Iowa and New Hampshire early in the election year to establish their bona fides among party voters. These days, however, those are already late primaries.

The early primaries, the ones that count, take place among a small group of millionaires and billionaires, a new caste flush with cash who will personally, or through complex networks of funders, pour multi-millions of dollars into the campaigns of candidates of their choice.  So the early primaries — this year mainly a Republican affair — are taking place in resort spots like Las Vegas, Rancho Mirage, California, and Sea Island, Georgia, as has been widely reported. These “contests” involve groveling politicians appearing at the beck and call of the rich and powerful, and so reflect our new 1% electoral system. (The main pro-Hillary super PAC, for instance, is aiming for a kitty of $500 million heading into 2016, while the Koch brothers network has already promised to drop almost $1 billion into the coming campaign season, doubling their efforts in the last presidential election year.)

Ever since the Supreme Court opened up the ultimate floodgates with its 2010 Citizens United decision, each subsequent election has seen record-breaking amounts of money donated and spent. The 2012 presidential campaign was the first $2 billion election; campaign 2016 is expected to hit the $5 billion mark without breaking a sweat.  By comparison, according to Burton Abrams and Russell Settle in their study, “The Effect of Broadcasting on Political Campaign Spending,” Republicans and Democrats spent just under $13 million combined in 1956 when Eisenhower won his second term.

In the meantime, it’s still true that the 2016 primaries will involve actual voters, as will the election that follows. The previous election season, the midterms of 2014, cost almost $4 billion, a record despite the number of small donors continuing to drop. It also represented the lowest midterm voter turnout since World War II. (See: demobilization of the public, below — and add in the demobilization of the Democrats as a real party, the breaking of organized labor, the fragmenting of the Republican Party, and the return of voter suppression laws visibly meant to limit the franchise.) It hardly matters just what the flood of new money does in such elections, when you can feel the weight of inequality bearing down on the whole process in a way that is pushing us somewhere new.

2. The Privatization of the State (or the U.S. as a Prospective Third-World Nation)

In the recent coverage of the Hillary Clinton email flap, you can find endless references to the Clintons of yore in wink-wink, you-know-how-they-are-style reporting; and yes, she did delete a lot of emails; and yes, it’s an election year coming and, as everyone points out, the Republicans are going to do their best to keep the email issue alive until hell freezes over, etc., etc.  Again, the coverage, while eyeball gluing, is in a you’ve-seen-it-all-before, you’ll-see-it-all-again-mode.

However, you haven’t seen it all before. The most striking aspect of this little brouhaha lies in what’s most obvious but least highlighted.  An American secretary of state chose to set up her own private, safeguarded email system for doing government work; that is, she chose to privatize her communications.  If this were Cairo, it might not warrant a second thought.  But it didn’t happen in some third-world state.  It was the act of a key official of the planet’s reigning (or thrashing) superpower, which — even if it wasn’t the first time such a thing had ever occurred — should be taken as a tiny symptom of something that couldn’t be larger or, in the long stretch of history, newer: the ongoing privatization of the American state, or at least the national security part of it.

Though the marriage of the state and the corporation has a pre-history, the full-scale arrival of the warrior corporation only occurred after 9/11.  Someday, that will undoubtedly be seen as a seminal moment in the formation of whatever may be coming in this country.  Only 13 years later, there is no part of the war state that has not experienced major forms of privatization.  The U.S. military could no longer go to war without its crony corporationsdoing KP and guard duty, delivering the mail, building the bases, and being involved in just about all of its activities, including training the militaries of foreign allies and even fighting.  Such warrior corporations are now involved in every aspect of the national security state, including torture, drone strikes, and — to the tune of hundreds of thousands of contract employees like Edward Snowden — intelligence gathering and spying.  You name it and, in these years, it’s been at least partly privatized.

All you have to do is read reporter James Risen’s recent book,Pay Any Price, on how the global war on terror was fought in Washington, and you know that privatization has brought something else with it: corruption, scams, and the gaming of the system for profits of a sort that might normally be associated with a typical third-world kleptocracy.  And all of this, a new world being born, was reflected in a tiny way in Hillary Clinton’s very personal decision about her emails.

Though it’s a subject I know so much less about, this kind of privatization (and the corruption that goes with it) is undoubtedly underway in the non-war-making, non-security-projecting part of the American state as well.

3. The De-legitimization of Congress and the Presidency

On a third front, American “confidence” in the three classic check-and-balance branches of government, as measured by polling outfits, continues to fall.  In 2014, Americans expressing a “great deal of confidence” in the Supreme Court hit a new low of 23%; in the presidency, it was 11%, and in Congress a bottom-scraping 5%.  (The military, on the other hand, registers at 50%.)  The figures for “hardly any confidence at all” are respectively 20%, 44%, and more than 50%.  All are in or near record-breaking territory for the last four decades.

It seems fair to say that in recent years Congress has been engaged in a process of delegitimizing itself.  Where that body once had the genuine power to declare war, for example, it is now “debating” in a desultory fashion an “authorization” for a war against the Islamic State in Syria, Iraq, and possibly elsewhere that has already been underway for eight months and whose course, it seems, will be essentially unaltered, whether Congress authorizes it or not.

What would President Harry Truman, who once famously ran a presidential campaign against a “do-nothing” Congress, have to say about a body that truly can do just about nothing?  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 March 2015 at 7:49 pm

The horror of voter fraud: 44 invalid votes in 14 years

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Kira Lerner writes for ThinkProgress:

Forty-four non-citizens may have voted illegally in Ohio at some point since 2000.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has been on a mission to weedout purported voter fraud in the state since he took office in 2011. After launching an investigation into what he called an “expanding loophole” allowing non-citizens to vote in Ohio and potentially decide elections, he announced Thursday that 145 non-citizens were registered to vote illegally in 2014, amounting to just .0002 percent of the 7.7 million registered voters in the state.

Husted’s office would not provide any information about the 27 people it referred to the Attorney General’s office for further review. But in 2013, his office sent 17 potential cases — .0003 percent of total ballots cast in the state — to the AG who eventually referred them to county prosecutors. Most reports of voting irregularities were dropped by the county prosecutors because the “voter fraud” problems were determined to have been caused by simple mistakes and confused senior citizens, according to a Cleveland Plain Dealer investigation.

Voter fraud in Ohio is a fifth-degree felony and could carry up to a year in prison. But of the cases referred to prosecutors’ offices in 2013, most irregularities were caused by voter confusion or mistakes made by elections officials and not deliberate attempts to commit fraud, the investigation found. For example, Cuyahoga County looked into 15 cases referred from Husted’s office and chose not to pursue criminal charges against any of the individuals, concluding that the voters were confused about the “Golden Week” during which people can both register to vote and also cast their absentee ballot.

In total, only four people were convicted of voting fraud as a result of the 2013 investigation, Eve Mueller, the deputy director of communications for the Office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, told ThinkProgress. Mueller said the office could not comment on the ongoing investigations into the newly announced cases.

“In all of the instances where potential voter fraud has been brought up, even outside of undocumented people who may be voting… the prosecutors have said, ‘this is not a person who was really trying to defraud the system. They made an innocent mistake and this is not what voter fraud really is,’” Ohio ACLU Senior Policy Director Mike Brickner told ThinkProgress. “I suspect that once a lot of these other cases that Secretary Husted has pointed out really come under scrutiny, most of them will not end up in convictions or prosecutions and again the number will be really small.”

According to his announcement Thursday, Husted identified two non-citizens who registered to vote and then cast ballots in Hamilton County. In 2013, he referred 48 potential cases of voter fraud to the county prosecutor’s office and only six cases were pursued, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Julie Wilson said in 2014.

“The non-citizen issue certainly was not the biggest problem with those cases, that’s for sure,” Wilson told ThinkProgress, adding that maybe one, if any, of the six cases concerned non-citizens voting, although she could not confirm that information.

Husted also said in his announcement Thursday that his office would likely turn up more cases of voter fraud if the federal government would provide it with the social security numbers of non-citizens so it could cross-check the voter rolls. But the federal databaseHusted wants access to is often outdated and error-riddled, as GOP officials who used the database to purge the rolls of non-citizens in Florida, Colorado and Iowa discovered. Those efforts ultimately found almost no non-citizens.

Last month, Husted wrote a letter to President Obama in which he claimed the executive action on immigration will lead to non-citizens registering to vote which would have “lasting implications for the integrity of our elections,” although he admitted at the timethat non-citizen voting “is not a huge problem.”

“I am committed to my responsibility to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat, and with the cooperation of the federal government we can do this without any additional burden on the voters,” Husted said in a statement Thursday. “Without access to the information we need, this will continue to be an unresolved problem.”

While Husted may say he intends to make it easier to vote, his actions suggest otherwise. In 2012, he made extensive efforts to cut early voting, going so far as to defy a court order requiring early voting hours to be restored. In 2014, Husted agreed to join anerror-riddled multi-state voter purge database which he claimed would prevent voters from casting ballots in multiple states during an election.

Also during the 2014 election, more than 10,000 absentee ballots were rejected in Ohio, according to State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D) who told the Plain Dealer that Husted’s time should be dedicated to eliminating cases of voter suppression.

“I would like to see the Secretary of State focus on the real problems in our elections instead of playing to his base with these distractions,” Clyde said in a statement. “Ohioans deserve answers on why their votes are being thrown out.”

Conservatives have long tried to tie immigration reform to potential voter fraud. Those like Husted who claim undocumented immigrants could influence elections continue to cite a study suggesting that non-citizen voting could have determined the 2014 election. But the research has largely been debunked, and the study’s authors acknowledged thelimitations of their findings.

According to a recently released report by Nonprofit VOTE, voting in Ohio dropped by 22 percent from 2012 to 2014 and the state ranked 34th in overall turnout in 2014, a year which saw the lowest national turnout since World War II.

“We don’t have enough people coming out and voting, and a lot of that is due to the constant barrage of voter restrictions we have in the state,” Brickner said. “For a decade now, we have been constantly having restrictions coming from our General Assembly, from our Secretary of State and from our governor’s office all designed to make it harder for people to vote. That’s really the problem with our election system, not that there are scores of people out there trying to register and defraud the system who aren’t supposed to be voting.”

Conservatives don’t understand facts very well.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 March 2015 at 6:41 pm

Posted in Election, GOP, Government, Law

Scott Walker simply makes things up

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It’s unclear if he is a sociopath who simply is uninterested in the truth or… well, maybe it’s not so unclear.

Read this brief post by Kevin Drum on what PolitiFact found. It contrasts Walker’s statements with the truth.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2015 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

GOP presidential candidates clueless about ISIS

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Scott Walker famously states that if he can defeat 100,000 union protesters, he will have no trouble with ISIS. (Note: the union protesters lacked artillery support nor were they armed. It’s unclear from Walker’s statement whether he actually knows what ISIS is, but he apparently believes that if you strip them of their bargaining rights, that will do the trick.)

Marc Rubio is neck-and-neck with Walker in the cluelessness sweepstakes. As Kevin Drum points out:

Steve Benen points me to Marco Rubio today. Here is Rubio explaining how his ISIS strategy would be different from President Obama’s:

“ISIS is a radical Sunni Islamic group. They need to be defeated on the ground by a Sunni military force with air support from the United States,” Rubio said. “Put together a coalition of armed regional governments to confront [ISIS] on the ground with U.S. special forces support, logistical support, intelligence support and the most devastating air support possible,” he added, “and you will wipe ISIS out.”

Hmmm. As Benen points out, this sounds awfully similar to what Obama is already doing. Local forces? Check. Coalition of regional governments? Check. Logistical support? Check. Air support? Check.

But there is one difference. Rubio thinks we need a Sunni military force on the ground to defeat ISIS. The Iraqi army, of course, is mostly Shiite. So apparently Rubio thinks we should ditch the Iraqi military and put together a coalition of ground forces from neighboring countries. But this would be….who? Yemen is out. Syria is out. That leaves Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Turkey. Does Rubio think these countries are willing to put together a ground force to invade Iraq? Does he think the Iraqi government would allow it?

It is a mystery. What exactly does Marco Rubio think?

Written by LeisureGuy

27 February 2015 at 10:46 am

Why do politicians believe they understand technical issues?

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I suppose politicians have to make decisions, but they do seem not to be able to listen well or learn quickly. They have the typical chief executive’s belief that what s/he strongly desires must be possible, even if those with knowledge explain repeatedly that it’s not. CEOs simply cannot comprehend that something they want so very much might not be possible because, after all, they are powerful and wealthy, so surely that must mean that they can get anything they want. Right? (The Dunning-Kruger effect also plays a role: politicians are so ignorant of the relevant science and technology that they don’t even have enough information to know how uninformed they are.)

In the Washington Post Andrea Peterson has an excellent article on a specific instance. By all means read the whole thing. Here is the conclusion:

“I think what we’re missing is that people are kind of in their corners arguing about liberty versus security instead of saying, ‘Look, we all want to have privacy for the end users’ — that’s what the companies are responding to. They’re trying to be able to tell their customers, ‘We’re going to protect your data,'” she [Hillary Clinton] said. “But we also don’t want to find ourselves in a position where it’s a legitimate security threat we’re facing and we can’t figure out how to address it because we have no way into whatever is holding the information.”

Clinton said people have a “legitimate right to privacy,” but she argued that the encryption debate was about finding “the right balance” — a balance Clinton said she hasn’t figured out yet.

Clinton said her position was “not a dodge,” but some within the tech industry were not convinced, including Nu Wexler, a member of Twitter’s policy communications team.

Asked by Re/code’s Kara Swisher how she might resolve the issue, Clinton said she would start with having a “real conversation” with tech executives. “I think the conversation, rather than ‘you don’t understand privacy and you don’t understand security,’ ought to be ‘OK, let’s figure out how to do this,'” she said.

But there is already a dialogue going on between the Obama administration and leaders of the technology industry — and much of it is coming down to the technicalities of how encryption works more than an ideological debate over privacy and national security.

Technology companies have moved to expand their deployment of encryption in the wake of revelations about the scope of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. Apple and Google, for instance, have made it impossible to unlock many mobile devices using their operating systems even if served with a legitimate warrant. This has created tension with U.S. law enforcement officials, who warn that this could allow cybercriminals or terrorists to “go dark.” The officials have urged technology companies to build into their products ways for the government to intercept encrypted communications.

But cybersecurity experts have criticized this approach, saying that such “lawful intercept” technology can’t be implemented without fundamentally undermining how encryption works — adding complexity into the code that multiplies risks and gives hackers yet another target to attack.

The debate sparked a heated exchange between NSA Director Mike Rogers and Yahoo’s information security chief officer, Alex Stamos, at a cybersecurity conference Monday. “It’s like drilling a hole in the windshield,” Stamos said.

Clinton’s husband, former president Bill Clinton, oversaw an earlier round of the encryption debate, during the 1990s — commonly known as the “cryptowars.” As part of the cryptowars, the government promoted the use of NSA technology called the “clipper chip” to provide intercept capabilities for encrypted phone calls. But researchers discovered vulnerabilities in the design that could be exploited, leaving those calls insecure against others hoping to eavesdrop.

“We had this fight almost 20 years ago, and we thought we’d answered the question — that the benefits of strong encryption outweigh the needs for tap-ability,” Alan Davidson, vice president and director of New America’s Open Technology Institute, said in an interview Monday after the exchange between Rogers and Stamos.

But political leaders appear to be re-hashing the same debate in search of a compromise solution that technical experts say does not exist.

“Everybody in Washington loves the notion of a middle ground, but the solution people are looking for just doesn’t exist,” Davidson said. “You can’t build a strong encryption system with guaranteed tap-ability.”

Clinton seems completely incapable of grasping that a compromise is not possible: encryption either does not allow third parties to decrypt the message, or (if it does) then the message is not really encrypted. What Clinton wants is some sort of encryption scheme that can detect whether those trying to break the encryption are “good” (in which case the encryption releases the information) or “bad” (in which case the encryption remains strong). But encryption cannot make those decisions.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 February 2015 at 12:43 pm

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