Thursday, December 25, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Here is this week's radio/YouTube address from the President-elect:
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
According to a local Iowa television station, Barack Obama will announce Tom Vilsack as his cabinet choice for Agriculture Secretary tomorrow. From ABC affiliate, KCRG-TV...
Democratic sources say President-elect Barack Obama has selected former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary and will announce the appointment on Wednesday.
Two sources familiar with the selection process spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the selection.
Vilsack sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 but dropped out after poor showings in early primries. He endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and campaigned actively for her in the long primary campaign against Obama. After Obama defeated Clinton in the primaries, Vilsack endorsed him.
Vilsack served two terms as governor of Iowa, a major farm state. He was first elected in 1998.
Three weeks ago, the Des Moines Register headlined a story that read "Vilsack won't be ag secretary" and quoted Vilsack as never having been contacted about the position.
Speculation that Vilsack might run for Senate in '10 may now be put to rest. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who is up for reelection, will be 77 in 2010.
That's how long it's been since a Democrat represented the state of Kansas in the U.S. Senate.
We speculated a few weeks ago about the possibility of Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) running for Brownback's seat in 2010. Adding to our curiosity, just days ago she removed herself from being considered for an Obama cabinet post. Politico picks up this story along with a few clues about GOP frontrunners, Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt.
Ever wonder if voters in the United States will ever cast their votes online? Who knows if that'll ever happen? But Estonia, which already allows its citizens to vote online, will become the first nation to allow voters to cast their ballots via their cell phone in 2011! MSNBC has the story on "M-Voting."
The mobile-voting system, which has already been tested, requires that voters obtain free, authorized chips for their phones, said Raul Kaidro, spokesman of the SK Certification Center, which issues personal ID cards in Estonia.
The chip will verify the voter's identity and authorize participation in the electronic voting system...About 30,000 Estonians, or 3% of eligible voters, voted online in parliamentary elections in 2007.
Estonian officials said the Internet voting system in 2007 proved secure despite worries about hacker attacks, identity fraud and vote count manipulation.
An update to our report last week regarding GOP lawmakers in Ohio and their attempt to end same-day registration in the state. From the AP:
The Republican-controlled Ohio Senate approved a bill Tuesday that eliminates a weeklong window during which people can register and vote on the same day.
The 19-to-11 vote came over the objections of Gov. Ted Strickland, elections chief Jennifer Brunner and other Democrats, who have said voter convenience is being removed without evidence that the window created problems.
Supporters of the bill have said same-day registration and voting invites fraud.
If passed by the House and signed into law, the bill would eliminate the window by changing the dates when absentee ballots will be made available to early voters.
State Senator Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who sponsored the bill, said it is impossible to know whether fraud occurred in November because Brunner blocked access to some of the identifying voter information needed to do cross-checks. About 13,000 people registered and voted on the same day.
Brunner spokesman Jeff Ortega said county boards of elections have always had access to the mismatch information, just not in the format that some might want.
The bill was hastily written and needlessly complicated, Ortega said.
The GOP-controlled House was to continue hearings on the bill Wednesday.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The arrest this morning of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) on federal charges of corruption revealed a scandal so sweeping it surely must establish a new low-water mark in the recent history of American political corruption. It unmasked a politician so drunk with his own power that he ran amok in unbelievably arrogant attempts to enrich himself and his wife while desperately trying to crush anyone who got in his way. US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who came to national prominence leading the investigation into the Bush Administration's outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, is in charge of the Blagojevich probe. In a late morning news conference. Fitzgerald said that Blagojevich's actions constituted "a political corruption crime spree". That's putting it mildly.
The federal allegations against Blagojevich fall roughly into three categories:
1. The so-called 'pay to play' scheme in which the Illinois Governor is accused of demanding personal and/or political monetary kick-backs in exchange for awarding state contracts or granting state funds. As appalling as these charges are, they are pretty much the garden variety of political corruption. There is nothing particularly new in this, but it is loathsome nevertheless. In just the past few weeks two long-serving members of Congress lost their re-election bids because of similar corrupt behavior: Alaska Senator Ted Stevens (R) and Louisiana Representative William Jefferson (D). Some fine group of public servants that.
2. Blagojevich is accused of attempting to get at least one political writer for The Chicago Tribune fired in exchange for state backing of renovations at Chicago's Wrigley field, a facility owned by The Tribune's parent company. It seems the journalist(s) had written numerous articles and op-ed pieces highly critical of the Governor. Such overt attempts at muzzling members of the Fourth Estate are very rare in American politics, but are all too common in other countries. For example, Russia's Vladimir Putin would undoubtedly recognize a soul-mate in Mr. Blagojevich. Beyond disgusting, this alleged action earns Blagojevich a very special place in the Political Corruption Hall of Infamy. He will have to fight for a seat with the ghosts of despicable foreign dictators like Haiti's 'Papa Doc' Duvalier and Chile's Augusto Pinochet. Fair enough.
3. If you thought Blagojevich couldn't sink any lower, think again. The Federal criminal complaint asserts that Blagojevich was trying to sell the US Senate seat just vacated by President-elect Barack Obama to the highest bidder. Although not totally unheard of in American politics, the brazenness of the Illinois Governor's efforts to get cash from such a high-level, high-profile appointment is breathtaking and virtually unprecedented. You'd have to look at the behavior of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe or Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko to find anything comparable in today's world. Great role models those.
Although we must be careful to preserve the very important legal presumption of innocence, it is clear that Blagojevich must go... and go now. If he refuses to resign, then the Illinois legislature should remove him from office immediately. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has suggested that the vacant Illinois Senate seat should be filled by a special election, not by appointment. That sounds like a very good idea. Maybe all the states should adopt that plan for filling Senate and House vacancies.
Fortunately, there is no indication whatsoever that President-elect Obama or anyone on his staff played any role in Blagojevich's nauseating behavior. That's a very good thing indeed. Nevertheless, with an eye to the important notion of the presumption of innocence, Obama must distance himself from Blagojevich in no uncertain terms. The President-elect should throw the Governor under the bus - and then back that bus over him repeatedly.
As he gets ready to assume the highest office in the land, President-elect Obama must make it crystal clear that this sort of behavior by a public official is utterly unacceptable. No minced words, no nuanced phrases.
Public approval ratings of President-elect Barack Obama are sky-high according to a poll released this morning by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation. The survey found that a staggering 79% of those queried approve of the way Obama has handled the transition so far. A mere 18% disapprove. President-elect Obama's approval mark is 14 points higher than the comparable number for Bush in 2000 and 17 points higher than former President Bill Clinton's approval rating in 1992.
CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider said: "An... approval rating of seventy-nine percent [is] the sort of rating you see when the public rallies around a President after a national disaster. To many Americans, the Bush administration was a national disaster."
Amen to that, Mr. Schneider.
After losing an appeal to Democrats in the the Ohio Supreme Court back in September, Ohio Republicans will try once again try to block one-stop voting in future elections, this time by changing the law. The AP recently reported that Republican lawmakers in Ohio are doing all they can to quickly pass legislation that would end early voting procedures as we know them. Time is of the essence however as Republicans have only one month left of their majority stake in both the state's upper and lower legislative chambers.
While Republican officials were scrambling in Columbus last week, Ohio Secretary of State, Jenniffer Brunner, was focused on hosting an election summit where a few hundred election officials from around the country provided input as to how Ohio can improve in the future. From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
There was important conversation about provisional voting, registration problems, data bases, poll-worker training, early voting and the merits of touch-screen vs. optical-scan balloting. Not everyone agreed on everything, but one line of consensus did emerge:
Election practices are complex and interrelated, so beware of quick fixes. They tend to cause unexpected problems down the road.
This is the otherwise known as "unable to win by the rules, so let's change the rules" tactic in politics. There's just one problem however...
Democratic Governor, Ted Strickland, is likely to veto the bill if passed. Whewww.
Barack Obama won Ohio's 20 electoral votes this year, beating John McCain by more than 200,000 votes (+4%).
Monday, December 8, 2008
According to PostPolitics, the Tennessee Supreme Court today removed the last legal challenge to an English-only ballot measure in Metro Nashville. The state high court refused to grant an expedited hearing on an appeal of a lower court ruling that the referendum could go forward on January 22nd. If approved by Nashville voters, the English-only proposal would mandate the use of English in all official transactions of the city government. The proposed measure provides for a few exceptions but they seem murky and largely unworkable.
What a really bad idea. Not only would such a measure be very bad public policy, it would send an even worse message to the rest of the country (and the world) about the Music City's unwillingness to welcome non-English speaking tourists, foreign businesses and international conferences.
As public policy, this measure could easily hamstring efforts by law enforcement to keep Nashville safe. Imagine a police officer, fluent in Spanish, who would now be unsure whether he could take the statement of an eye-witness to crime who happened also to be a Spanish speaker with limited command of English. Imagine undercover law enforcement agents unable to obtain permission to conduct operations in any language other than English.
For Nashville's large and growing foreign tourism and business investment sectors, the English-only law would have a chilling effect. Imagine city agencies charged with promoting Nashville to foreign tourists and business prospects not knowing for sure if they have to do so in English only. What do they say to prospective visitors and investors who ask about the meaning of this English-only nonsense?
Nashville is home to several internationally prestigious health care facilities and universities with global reputations for their cutting-edge research. How is Nashville supposed to bill itself as a potential host of international conferences for important world-wide health groups when we hang out the 'English-only' sign?
Finally, we have to wonder what message passage of the English-only law would send to our children and students. Would they not naturally conclude that study of foreign languages is unnecessary and even undesirable? What a terrible lesson for the future leaders of our city as they prepare to take their rightful place in a highly complex and increasingly interconnected world.
The world becomes smaller every day. The citizens of Nashville cannot allow the world to believe that our minds here in Middle Tennessee are also getting smaller. Tennessee's capital city is large and diverse and plays an increasingly important role on the world stage. Passage of the English-only initiative would be a big step backwards and an embarrassment to those who fight every day to make our city safer, more prosperous and culturally richer.
Those fighting to defeat the English-only referendum have launched a new website to stop this nonsense. It's called Nashville For All of Us. ElectBlue encourages all of our readers, Tennesseans and non-Tennesseans alike, to visit the website and offer help in whatever way you can.
Now that the 2008 election is finally over (well, except for the US Senate race in MN - ugh), ElectBlue has fine-tuned its mission statement for the 2009-2010 election cycle. Earlier today we updated our About ElectBlue post to reflect our new focus. The key sentences read:
"In the 2009-2010 election cycle ElectBlue is focused on supporting the progressive policies of President Obama and increasing Democratic majorities in the US House and, particularly, in the US Senate. We will also target certain state and local progressive issues as well as selected gubernatorial races. Our goal is simple: to create the best possible political environment for the enactment of progressive public policies."
We have also added a sentence encouraging broader guest blogger participation in the up-coming election cycle:
"We will... post, unedited and uncensored, blogs by selected advocates of progressive policies and referenda on public policy changes which we support or oppose (as the case may be).'"
We encourage our readers to take advantage of the opportunity to be a guest blogger on ElectBlue. You can find out how to do that, and learn more about us, by clicking on the About ElectBlue icon at the left side of the page - or by simply clicking the hyperlinked text above.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
There are very few times I find myself applauding a Republican electoral victory, but yesterday's special election in Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District produced a result that can only be seen as unequivocally good for everyone. Republican Anh 'Joseph' Cao defeated nine-term Democratic incumbent, and unbelievably corrupt, US Representative William 'Dollar Bill' Jefferson. Cao, a relatively moderate Republican, will become the first American of Vietnamese descent to serve in Congress.
Although voter turnout was extremely low, the people of New Orleans (which constitutes most of the 2nd District) clearly rejected the self-serving, greedy corruption of Mr. Jefferson. Most people will remember Jefferson as the Congressman who was found to have squirreled away some $90,000 in cash in his freezer. He is currently under numerous federal indictments on charges of bribery and corruption in which that cold cash figures prominently. Unlike defeated Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, Jefferson has yet to be convicted of anything, but that is a distinction with little difference. Hardly anyone doubts Congressman Jefferson's complicity in a wide range of criminal activities.
The people of New Orleans, the US House of Representatives and both political parties are better off - much better off - now that 'Dollar Bill' Jefferson will not be a member of the 111th Congress.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Here is this week's radio/YouTube address from the President-elect.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Republicans won't be taking chances with weak candidates in 2010, even if they are incumbents. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Republican Senator Mel Martinez will not seek reelection in 2010.
Here's one good reason why.
A new Quinnipiac poll released this morning shows that just 36% of Floridians would vote for Martinez if they election were held today.
A statement from Martinez's office.
"So today, with deep love for this country and with sincere gratitude to the people who placed their trust in me, I announce that I will not run for reelection to the United States Senate.
“I thank all of those who helped me reach the highest elected office that an immigrant can hold in this great country. And I especially thank my family, who has supported me every step of the way – especially Kitty, who has sacrificed much more than me and without whom none of this would have been possible.
“Some might try to characterize this decision in terms of political affairs. Some will say a re-election campaign would have been too difficult. But I’ve faced much tougher odds in political campaigns and in life. My decision was not based on reelection prospects, but on what I want to do with the next eight years of my life.
“So with two years left in my term, I make this announcement today in order to give the many qualified individuals who might choose to try to succeed me an opportunity to organize and gather support.
“I look forward to serving out these next two years. There are big problems facing Florida and the nation, and I will continue to do what I think is in the best interests of the people whom I represent.
“Thank you; God bless you; and God Bless the United States of America.”
Monday, December 1, 2008
Richard Lugar showed his support for Barack Obama's approach to foreign policy weeks before this year's election. Now with just fifty days until Obama takes office, the Indiana Republican is once again showing his approval. Lugar appears to be quite comfortable with the future national security team. Appearing on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, here's Lugar's vote of confidence for Obama's new team.
Stephanopoulos: "..we expect to hear tomorrow in Chicago -- the appointment, of course, of Senator Hillary Clinton as secretary of state; Robert Gates expected to stay on at the Pentagon; General Jim Jones, the former commandant of the Marine Corps, supreme commander of NATO, will be national security adviser; and Dr. Susan Rice likely to come on as U.N. ambassador."
"Senator Lugar, as a Republican, as the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, how do you assess that team?"
Lugar: "I think they're excellent selections. I think it will be a strong team. I would just say, as an individual, I look forward to working with each one of them. Bipartisan support of this team really is of the essence right now."