Thursday, March 27, 2008

Another international law quietly taken away

The Supreme Court this week handed down a landmark ruling this week that you probably didn't hear about. In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled against what amounts to international miranda rights and habeas corpus standards. I actually wrote a paper about the case, Medellin v Dretke last year.

The case involved a Mexican national who was tried and convicted of committing a gang rape and murder of two women in Texas. No doubt that it was a heinous crime, and the petitioner in this case, Jose Medellin, was given his miranda rights and admitted to committing the crime. He was sentanced to death for this rape/murder. So where is the problem?

According the Vienna Conventions, a treaty that the United States is a party to, a foreign national who is accused of a crime must be informed of his right to contact his state of origin's consular's office. Basically, a foreign national is allowed to contact an attourney from their embassy to explain the law to them. Mr. Medellin, claims that despite the fact that he confessed to the crime and was made aware of his miranda rights, the Texas police did not inform him of rights under the Vienna Convention despite the fact that the police were aware of the fact that he was a Mexican national.

There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Medellin is guilty of the crime, and that he is probably trying to find a way out of his capital sentance. But by the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the state of Texas in this case, we may be loosing something important to Americans travelling abroad, as well as overlooking Constitutional law.

Believing that Texas needed to grant Mr. Medellin a new trial based on the Vienna Conventions, President Bush sent a memo requesting that they state courts give him a new trial. The Supreme Court stated in its opinion that Bush was acting in good faith and that what he did was to maintain possitive international relations, but that no federal or state court should be held to a international court ruling. The problem is, that Mr. Medellin's conviction not only offends the ICJ's ruling, but it violates US federal law. According to the Constitution, if a treaty is ratified by 2/3 of the Senate and the President, it is as good as law. President Bush was not only acting in good faith, he was (for once) actually following the law.

So the Supreme Court has ruled that despite the fact that the Constitution gives a detailed description about how treaties are ratified, and that explains in plain word that they are federal law once in place, that they are still non-binding. This ruling comes from the justices who claim to rule by "original intent" such as Justices Scalia and Alito. The application of the Vienna Conventions Treaty is written as plain as day.

Not only is this a sad day for Constitutional law, but it is also a sad day for international civil rights. Now that the Supreme Court has told the world that the US doesn't have to grant its citizens their Vienna rights, what is to stop a foreign state from denying these rights to an American?

Friday, March 21, 2008

More on Red Light Cameras

Turns out, the idea about Red Light Cameras gets worse. A new study from Texas is showing that the cameras don't even generate much revenue. Worse still, while they do reduce the some accidents from people running lights, they cause more rear-end collisions.

So lets review:
  • These cameras are extremely intrusive, and violate the privacy of motorists.
  • The purpose of these cameras is to generate revenue and not advance safety.
  • They seem to cause more rear-end collisions while slightly reducing accidents cause by people running lights
  • The cameras don't even generate much revenue, in fact some cameras don't even pay for themselves.

I believe that the city needs to increase revenue to maintain its budget. It just needs to find another way to do it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cameras and Street Cars

The two big issues this session of city council seem to be red light cameras and street cars. The street car proposal includes an initial line being built between University Hospital and downtown. The red light camera proposal seems to have the sole purpose of generating revenue for the city.

I think that the street car proposal is a great way to connect the city. Any increase in accessible public transportation will do a lot to help with traffic problems, as well as generate revenue for local business. It will encourage people to visit downtown and Clifton, and to check out what these two neighborhoods have to offer. I believe that the tax revenue that will be generated from the increase in business will outweigh the initial cost of creating a streetcar system.

City council is already projecting 1 million dollars in revenue for this fiscal year from the installation of red light cameras. This news comes on the heels of another story that says that red light cameras increase accidents. According to this study, many drivers are more inclined to slam on their breaks when they see a yellow light to avoid a ticket, thus causing drivers behind them to rear end their car.

I haven't heard city council even claiming that there is a need for red light cameras based on public safety concern. This is a cynical money grab, not a legitimate concern for the city. I will be watching closely who votes in favor of the cameras and who doesn't.

So I guess I am giving city council a mixed review so far. I am enthusiastic about the street cars, and I am disappointed about the red light cameras. From what I understand, Chris Finney and the NAACP have taken out petitions already to create a ballot referendum against the cameras.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Is the Window of Opportunity to Beat Mean Jean quickly Closing?

This week has not been a good week for the already battle bruised Victoria Wulsin. There has been a group of stories to come out of the race for Ohio's 2nd Congressional District that seem to help Jean Schmidt, and hurt Dr. Wulsin. I wouldn't concede this race just yet, but one thing is becoming clear; it seems like Jean Schmidt is starting to learn how to become a less polarizing and more effective congresswoman.

The first damaging story came from the DCCC who did not include Ohio's Second Congressional District in its "Red to Blue" program. This is a program that focuses money and attention from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to races that they feel are competitive in districts with a GOP incumbent. While Steve Driehaus, Democratic candidate in Ohio's 1st District which neighbors the 2nd District, does appear on the list, Dr. Wulsin does not. The DCCC has said, however, that this is only the first round of anouncements in its 2008 "Red to Blue" program, and that the 2nd District race may very well end up on one of the future lists. Either way, Congresswoman Schmidt is touting this list as evidence that the Democrats will not be trying as diligently as before to unseat her. She narrowly won reelection in 2006 with 50.5% of the vote against a well funded Dr. Wulsin.

The next damaging story comes from Iraq War veteran, Paul Hackett. Paul Hackett was Jean Schmidt's Democratic opponent in the 2005 special election in which she was narrowly picked to replace former Congressman Rob Portman. It was Hackett's strong showing in a reliably GOP district (Bush won 65% of the vote in the 2nd District in 2004) that propelled the DCCC to view Jean Schmidt as a weak incumbent. Hackett, however, this week said that he too believes that the window is closing on the opportunity for the Democrats to beat Jean Schmidt. Hackett cites the improvements that Jean Schmidt has made after two terms in congress. She does seem to have become less abrasive, and less combatant than when she first entered and made the infamous "cowards cut and run" speech on the House floor. Hackett also refers to some of Wulsin's "issues and problems and challenges" as a candidate, possibly referring to the questions surrounding malariotherapy and her work with the Heimlich Institute.

The third story that is hurting Wulsin is the recent story about a bi-partisan bill that Jean Schmidt is working on with Congressman James Oberstar of Minnesota. The bill would supply aide to pregnant teenagers who are looking to give up their baby for adoption. It seems to me that this is a good piece of pro-life legislation. I am happy to see a pro-life candidate working on making adoption an easier choice rather than simply attacking abortion rights.

With all of these stories coming out this week, it does force Democrats to wonder if the 2nd District is now a missed opportunity. Please do not think that I am in any way warming up to Jean Schmidt, I still hope that Dr. Wulsin defeats her in November. However, the Wulsin campaign is going to need to pull out all of the stops and really pound ahead this time. I think that if Jean Schmidt is to win this election, her incumbency in the 2nd District is all but entrenched.

Friday, March 14, 2008

RIP Howard Metzenbaum

Former Senator Howard Metzenbaum died today at the age of 90. He was a firebrand liberal, who often held one man filibusters against corperate-friendly legistlation. He fought hard to defend working people, frequently capitalizing on the rules of the Senate to increase his personal power in the chamber.

Relentlessly attacking corperate intrest and special tax breaks, Sen. Metzenbaum established himself as one of the most liberal members of the Senate. It was a label that he didn't shy away from, even as Republicans began to take control of Ohio's executive offices.

Ohio mourns the loss of Sen. Metzenbaum

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

We Were Supposed to be Better Than This

I am shocked like most people about the revelation that New York's seemingly squeaky-clean governor was involved with a prostitute. I'm not naive about the philandering of politicians or anything, but I really thought that Gov. Spitzer was a good thing for New York. I stood in awe of his career as New York's Attorney General as he battled corporate crooks. I thought that he was the real deal, and I saw him, as many did, as a rising star in the Democratic Party.

Why do smart people do stupid things? I mean, there are one of two roads to take here. If Gov. Spitzer feels that prostitution shouldn't be a crime, then why wouldn't he try to change the law in New York? I mean, he either feels that prostitution is wrong, and is a complete hypocrite, or he feels that it is not a big deal, but never did anything in his capacity as governor to change New York's laws about prostitution. Either way, it's a shitty thing to do.

I feel disappointed by a politician that I had a lot of admiration for. I think that it is time for Gov. Spitzer to step down. This is a hard blow for the people of New York, as well as the Democratic Party. We were supposed to be better than this.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Trouble for GOP in congress?

While yesterday's special election in Illinois was drown out by the news of Obama's victory in Wyoming, there certainly are reasons for the GOP to be scared of their congression prospects this fall. Democrat Bill Foster defeated Republican Jim Oberweis in the special election to replace Dennis Hastert, the former Speaker of the House. Dennis Hastert announced shortly after the begining of the 110th Congress that he would be retiring, and decided last fall to resign before completing his final term.

The Republicans should be scared about this win for the Democrats for three reasons. This was a reliably GOP district stretching from the western cusp of Chicago to the banks of the Mississippi River. Congressman-elect Foster won this district by a narrow margin of 52% of the vote, but even a narrow margin of victory for a Democrat in a GOP district like this one is impressive. This is a seat that was held for more than twenty years by a staunch conservative. Former Speaker Hastert holds the record of being the longest serving Republican Speaker of the House. This former GOP powerhouse's district has just gone to the Democrats.

The second reason that the GOP should be scared are the issues of the special election. Bill Foster did not run as a conservative Democrat; he ran opposed to the war in Iraq saying that he would be a reliable anti-war vote. Oberweis seemed to counter with a message claiming that the surge is working. John McCain, who lent some of his time and money to this campaign, is running his campaign for president based on the success of the surge and possible victory in Iraq. If this message is no longer resonating in reliable GOP districts, then where will it work on the campaign trail?

The third reason that the Republicans should be scared is that the fundraising advantage that the Democrats already hold in the DCCC will undoubtedly only be bolstered by a victory in GOP territory. Minority leader Boehner has already told his fellow house members to "get off their asses" and start fundraising. Looks like John Boehner's dream of becoming Speaker of the House is slowly slipping through his fingers doesn't it?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Obama Wins in Wyoming

Welcome to the snow day edition of Fear and Blogging!!!

It looks like the Democrats of Wyoming have finally landed a place in presidential politics. Obama has racked up another caucus victory, and a another mountain west victory. The Clinton people were already downplaying the significance of the caucus before it even started, but the fact that the entire Clinton family has been activly campaigning in Wyoming for the past few days is pretty telling about whether they were actually conceding the state or not.

Clinton's people keep saying that she should be the nominee because she is winning in the big states that matter like Ohio, California, New York, New Jersey, etc. Well, it seems like the rhetoric is backfiring on the Clintons; if they don't feel as though the voters in smaller states matter for a Democratic victory in November then those voters aren't going to vote for them. This is sort of a weak argument when faced with the fact that it is unlikely that California or New York will go Republican regardless of who the Democratic nominee is. It also ignores the polls which show Obama winning with more states, and by a larger margin against McCain.

Following Obama's victory in Wyoming the campaign will now shift for a few days to Mississippi. Obama is expected to do well in Mississippi as well, which combine with Wyoming will probably erase the 10-15 net gain in delegates that Clinton won on Tuesday. This leaves a 6 week gap before the final large contest.

My guess is that as of right now Clinton will win Pennsylvania, but not by more than a few points. As of right now she is leading Obama in the polls by 10-15 points, but Sen. Obama seems to be able to dwindle away those leads when he has a good chance to campaign in a state. The demographics of Pennsylvania are similar to those of Ohio, with a similar political situation. PA's governor has endorsed Sen. Clinton. But if Sen. Obama is able to either pull off a win here, or at least narrow Sen. Clinton's margin of victory, I can't see Sen. Clinton winning the remainder of contests following April 22nd.

I'd say that Obama is still the odds on favorite for the Democratic nomination.

Friday, March 7, 2008

What to do about FL and MI

The new war in the Democratic campaign for president is about whether or not to seat the delegates from the states of Florida and Michigan. Florida and Michigan held their primary elections prior to February 5th, thus violating DNC rules. The states are going back and forth with Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee about the controversy. The Clinton and Obama campaigns are also weighing in; Sen. Clinton wants the delegates to be seated while Sen. Obama's campaign would rather hold another primary or caucus.

The tragedy here lies with the disenfranchised voters of each of these states, though the states are to blame. I find it unreasonable to leave out people from the process at the convention, but it also unfair for Sen. Obama suffer for following DNC rules. The only reasonable way to solve this delima seems to be to have another election. I am not saying this simply as an Obama supporter, but out of fairness to both the campaigns and the voters.

Is it fair to seat Michigan's delegates when Sen. Obama's supporters didn't even have a chance to vote for him because his name did not appear on the ballot? Of course not, and in a proportional system for allotting the delegates, it is unreasonable to believe that Obama would not have at least won a portion of Michigan's delegates had there been a real contest. The DNC threatened candidates who campaigned early in Florida, where Clinton also won, so should Obama also suffer for following the rules? Anyone who will take of their Obama or Clinton partisan blinders would be able to see that it is both not fair to leave people out, and it is unfair to punish a candidate for following the rules.

So that leaves one option in the name of fairness; hold a new primary. While each of these states are now complaining that a new primary a caucus will be costly, shouldn't they have considered the implications and or repercussions for their actions? They were warned by the DNC not to hold early primaries. They didn't follow the rules, and now they are turning around and saying that Howard Dean is being irresponsible. Howard Dean is not responsible for disenfranchising the voters of Florida and Michigan, it is their own selfish state legislatures and governors. These states thought that they could have more clout if they voted early, but as it turns out the conventional wisdom about this primary season was wrong. States like Wyoming and Mississippi who elected to hold their votes later are having a bigger impact on this race because of their patience.

The states of Florida and Michigan should have a new vote in the name of fairness. Don't disenfranchise the voters, and don't punish candidates who follow the rules set out by the DNC.

The Rush Limbaugh Strategy

Aparently Rush Limbaugh instructed his listeners to "crossover" and vote in the Democratic primaries in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, and Vermont last Tuesday. His instructions included the request that his listeners not only vote by Democratic ballot, but also that they vote for Hillary Clinton to keep the Democratic race going. I suppose that a wide open race for the Democrats is supposed to benefit John McCain, the Republican candidate that Rush says he is considering not voting for. So Rush wants to keep the Democratic race wide open so that the guy he is not voting for has a chance to gain ground? Someone better make sure Rush hasn't been popping any pills lately.

I'm not sure I understand the logic behind this strategy. If you watched the coverage of the March 4th primaries, you probably noticed the lopsided coverage as I did. John McCain locked up the Republican nomination, yet the entire night was dedicated to the Obama/Clinton race. So basically, supposing that Rush's listeners were the deal breaker for Clinton on March 4th then wouldn't Rush actually be helping to focus MORE attention on the Democrats? As long as this primary race keeps going, all of the attention will be on the Democrats. This isn't because of the "liberal media bias" that I can already almost hear coming out of Rush's mouth, but because that is where the interest and the story are.

So my advice as a Democrat is this: please let Rush continue to direct his listeners in the remaining primaries. The Democratic party isn't divided, we just havn't picked out who the winner of our version of "Survivor" is. Either way, most of us are happy with who our eventual nominee will be. The GOP, however, could probably use someone to unite them behind McCain. So keep wasting your time by keeping the Democrats and Sens. Obama and Clinton in the news. We will take the free press. Oh yeah, keep bitching about how aweful your candidate with cross-apeal is too. Seems like you've figured out a sure fire formula for loosing in Novemember.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A primary and a petition in Hamilton County


I have spoken to Chris Dole's campaign about my proposals for the upcoming Democratic County Central Committee meeting, and he has advised me not to propose that the Democratic Party endorse his canidacy for County Commission. He says that it could actually hurt his chances for ballot access because the Board of Elections could claim that he did not file as in independent in good faith. I wrote the Dole campaign back to let them know that I will be available to help them in any capacity that I can. I will continue to update F and B readers about Chris Dole's historic race for County Commission.

First of all, I know I've been a bad blogger, but I assure you that I am back. Hopefully we can get Ron up and rolling here soon too. Now on to the content:

It has now become clear that Sen. Clinton is the winner of the primary in Ohio. While I voted for Obama and will continue to support his candidacy as the primary calander moves on, I congratulate Sen. Clinton on a hard fought victory. It is also aparent now that John McCain has gone from being the presumptive Republican nominee to having enough delegates to be the nominee. It seems as though the help of Gov. Strickland helped Sen. Clinton through Ohio's Apalaichan belt. I could sit here and analize who voted for Clinton and who voted for Obama, but the fact is that Hillary Clinton won more votes than Barack Obama in Ohio.

As for our countywide races, it appears as though Vic Wulsin and Jean Schmidt will get their rematch in Ohio's 2nd Congressional District. Vic Wulsin performed very well against Schmidt in 2006, and is poised to maybe gain victory in what is looking to be a very Democratic year. The Democratic primary race has been smeared by mudslinging between Vic Wulsin and her opponent Steve Black. Hopefully 2nd District Democrats can all line up behind Vic now so that she can beat the embarassment that is Jean Schmidt.

The other "primary" that took place in Ohio was candidate Christopher Dole submitting his petitions to the board of elections to appear on the November ballot for the office of County Commissioner. His campaign is reporting that he collected over 4,700 signatures, well over the 2,800 needed. Hopefully his petitions will pass what will probably be the high level of scrutiny leveled against them by Chairmen Burke and Vincent, the local Democratic and GOP chairs who also have seat on the board of elections.

Another primary winner today is me! I know I recieved at least on vote in an unopposed race for Democratic County Central Committee. I plan on introducing a resolution this year to endorse Chris Dole for county comissioner, as well as one to prevent our party from challenging petitions for independent candidates based on the candidate's party registration.

Anyway, I'm not sure if anyone is still reading this blog since I have let it go inactive for so long, but if you are thank you. Fear and Blogging is back!