Saturday, January 14, 2006

Was Jefferson a Democrat?

Many Democrats like to claim that their party has been in existence since 1792, when Thomas Jefferson founded the "People's Party" in opposition to the conservative Federalist Party founded by Alexander Hamilton. If this is true then Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and John Quincy Adams were all members of the same party as Bill Clinton. Unfortunately, to call the former men Democrats is disingenuous, as the modern Democratic Party was formed by a man who felt betrayed by the Democratic-Republican Party establishment: Andrew Jackson.

Jackson formed the Democratic Party after the "Corrupt Bargain" of 1824, in which none of the four presidential candidates (all Democratic-Republicans) won the necessary votes in the electoral college for victory. The election then went to the House of Representatives, where Speaker of the House Henry Clay (himself an underdog presidential candidate) used his influence to throw the election to John Quincy Adams, who then coincidentily selected Clay to be his Secretary of State afterwards. Jackson, who had won 40% of the popular vote versus Adam's 30%, was infuriated. Four years later, he and his newly founded Democratic Party cruised to victory in a landslide.

Democrats acknowledge Andrew Jackson's important place in party history, and sure enough, fundraisers are known as "Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinners."

Do the Numbers Support the Smoking Ban

Sharon, at Center of NJ Life, has speculated on the projected loss of tax revenue due to the indoor smoking ban passed in the state assembly on January 9th, with a vote of 64-12.

Apparently, the especially high taxes levied on cigarettes in the Garden State have largely benefitted entitlement programs such as health care for the uninsured, anti-smoking programs, and school debt reduction. Some opponents of the ban worry that with less people buying cigarettes, vital funds for these services will be eliminated.

Now, the anti-smoking program is one thing. As smoking reduces, so will the need for the anti-tobacco campaign. However, general health care is different. It makes perfect sense for people who have little sense for health to fund those who can't afford it. Nevertheless, as Sharon points out, the reduction of smokers could will lessen the burden on the health care industry, and allow costs to lower for those who currently can't afford it.

It's hard to determine how the numbers play out.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

On the air with Mark Levin

I was listening to WABC-770 AM here - to my most favorite host, Mark Levin. He's even more closed-minded and far more outlandish than Sean Hannity, but I have to concede that he is a fantastic radio host. Seriously. He plays to his conservative audience incredibly well, and he has confidence you can hear over the airwaves. In his mind, if you don't share his views, there is simply no way that you're remotely right. I've realized over the time I've sporadically listened to him that calling up and trying to disagree with him is like playing that basketball game on the boardwalk where the rim's diameter is smaller than the ball's. Even realizing this, I called him up tonight after being driven mad by his foolishness about how the Democrats were "abusing" and "harassing" Judge Alito with their questioning. Surprisingly, I got on.
Levin: Sam, go right ahead.

Me: Hey Mark, how are you? Alright, what kinds of questions do you think the Democrats should be asking Alito?

Levin: I've got a question for them to ask: "What time would you like to be sworn in?"

Me: Well, I agree he's a qualified man, but don't you agree that the Democrats have some role?

Levin: Yeah, they have a role. "What's your judicial philosophy?"---

Me: Nothing more specific than that, though?

Levin: What do you want from me? Thanks for the call.

Again, Levin's outlandish, but I think that there is a significant number of people watching these hearings that would agree with him and say that critics or true questioners have no place in this process. Whether Alito is qualified or not, it's depressing and disheartening to think that that view is widely held, or held at all.

Dems Look to hit Center and Right of GOP in 2006

You hear about the vulnerable Republican senate seats in Rhode Island and Ohio, where the GOP is simply weak. In Rhode Island, possibly the most liberal state in the nation, Lincoln Chafee, despite boasting the most left leaning voting recording in the Republican Senate Caucus, is at imminent risk of defeat this year. Most strategists blame his status on his inability to garner strong support from the Republican base because of his liberal record, as well as his refusal to completely rebuke the Bush administration, which is sending out a team to help him on his campaign. In Ohio, the moderate Republican Mike DeWine is suffering from a scandalous Republican governor, an unpopular son, and a possible minimum wage ballot initiative.

However, emboldened by the increasing unpopularity of the GOP congress and the continuing unpopularity of the president, the DNC has successfully targeted several other races including conservatives in Montana, Missouri, and Tennessee. In Montana, incumbent senator Conrad Burns has lost double digit leads over potential Democratic rivals in recent polls due to his tight connections with Jack Abramoff. It's hard to understand exactly why James Talent is vulnerable, other than the fact that he's a freshman senator in a politically turbulent state.

Alito Hearings Cause Tempers to Flare

Confirmation hearings continued for the second day reaching a climax when two high ranking senators engaged in a verbal dispute. The dispute came after Senator Ted Kennedy criticized Alito's membership in a conservative Princeton alumni group that opposed admitting more women and minorities to the university. Kennedy demanded the committee immediately rule on retiring to executive session to rule on the subpoena. Specter said this was the first time he had heard about Kennedy's request, and Kennedy repeated that he had mailed him a letter about the issue. The two Senators continued to go back and forth for several minutes, something seen at a elementary playground, not a confirmation hearing.

Aside from the bickerings, lawmakers covered familiar territory Wednesday, raising many topics discussed by Alito the day before. After being asked by Senator Durbin about Roe v. Wade, Alito refused to aknowledge that this was "settled law."

As the hearings continue, expect to see a further rise in tensions as the democrats scrape for ways to stop Alito from getting confirmed, something that is going to be very hard to do. Look for a possible filibuster as a last resort for the democrats, for if Alito is confirmed, democrats and the entire nation will face an ultra conservative court for years.

Monday, January 09, 2006

NSA Dupes Intelligence Committee

Blanton and Ashton's made a good point today when they asked why the head of the NSA can defend domestic spying to the public but he can't to the House Intelligence Committee.

Let me be clear: I vehemently reject the notion that the President as Commander in Chief, or in any other capacity, had then or has now the legal or Constitutional authority to order you or any other intelligence agency to conduct such surveillance of Americans outside the bounds of the FISA statute. Accordingly, I request that you order any programs similar to those reported (of warrant-less surveillance) to be suspended until a full and thorough Congressional review of this matter is completed, and that you provide to the Congressional intelligence committees, in a forthcoming manner, all information about any related activities. Further, my consultations with counsel have left me doubtful that such activities by NSA share the protection of covert action under which the President can minimize the number of Members who are briefed.

Frogsdong added that Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) sits on the Intelligence Committe and can't be trusted to represent 650,000 citizens. I think the jab is slightly under the belt, as everybody has been in the dark about the spying except the administration.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Do You Live In the Exurbs?

If so, your neighbors probably voted for Bush over Kerry 62-37, according to Emerging Democratic Majority.

Ruy Teixeira goes on to say that the exurbs are history for the Democrats. However, the suburbs is a much closer contested battleground, which is also considerably more important electorally.

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