Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Primaries: Ohio Still Matters

I’ve written a few blog entries outlining my displeasure with part of the election process. Some of it has centered on the primaries and the fact that the media seemed to think the Democratic candidate would be decided at the Iowa caucuses. Then the media said that if it wasn’t decided at the Iowa caucus, that Super Duper Tuesday would seal the deal.

Here we are, just a short time away from March 4 and the Ohio and Texas primaries, and there still isn’t a definitive candidate for the Democratic Party. They’re getting closer, mind you, but it’s still not decided yet.

The media’s wish to minimize the importance of the entire primary process has failed. Ohio still lives. In fact, the Democratic debate in Cleveland, Ohio that is occurring tonight – February 26 – is being billed as the most important debate for the Democratic primary. Why? Because the previous primaries failed to bring on a clear winner, with both candidates not having enough elected delegates to win the nomination. The primaries for Ohio, and of course Texas, will probably make things a lot clearer, with a lot of delegates at stake.

The one thing that still disturbs me is the media’s continued reporting of poll numbers, which as we all know, have not always been a clear representation of reality. My opinion is that the media is more interested in influencing the outcome of the election, rather than reporting hard facts. Save the poll numbers for the people running the campaigns so they know what they are up against. But the poll numbers themselves, while they may be considered a fact as reported by the pollster, may not be reflective of reality, as they often poll only a small sampling of the total voting block.

Another thing that stumps me. I have received three phone messages from Hillary Clinton’s campaign (all pre-recorded of course, two of which were from Hillary) and several mailings from Clinton’s campaign. What I don’t understand is I haven’t received word one from Barack Obama’s campaign. Seeing that Obama has reportedly raised so much more money than the Clinton, I am a little perplexed as to why I have been ignored. As a matter of fact, no one else that I know here in northeast Ohio has received anything from Obama’s campaign either. Does that mean that the Obama campaign feels so assured of themselves that they don’t think they need to work for my vote? I am not sure of the reasons but I would like to feel like they think my vote is important to them.

I haven’t decided as yet how I am going to vote in the Ohio primary. I’m very close to deciding, and hopefully the debate in Cleveland will help me in that regard. One thing is for sure – it’s nice that I feel like my vote is important again.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Congress: Little Excuse for Missed Votes

Recently, the Washington Post published a list of those members of Congress who missed votes. I have a list below from the Washington Post web site showing some of the top "offenders" of the 110th Congress who have missed a significant number of votes. I’ve eliminated those who missed a large number of votes due to major illness or death. With the exception of those reasons, there should be little reason for members of our Congress to miss so many votes. In my opinion, campaigning for the office of President of the United States is not a valid reason. A person running for the highest elected office in the country should have a better record than those listed below. It is understandable that come campaign commitments would cause them to miss some votes, but it shouldn't be as many as you will see below.

Our tax dollars go to the salaries of these people, who are supposed to be earning that salary by representing their constituents. Imagine if you had an employee that was absent 20% of the time. You’d fire them, wouldn’t you?

Still, most people remain fairly ignorant of our voting and performance records of our elected officials. So, take some time to look at the list of names below. Do you want these people representing you? If you would like to further explore the complete list, it can be found on the Washington Post web site,here.


55.7% Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
Representing: Arizona
Votes: 261 votes missed (55.7%), 208 votes cast

38.8% Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL)
Representing: Illinois
Votes: 182 votes missed (38.8%), 287 votes cast

37.3% Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE)
Representing: Delaware
Votes: 175 votes missed (37.3%), 294 votes cast

35.4% Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT)
Representing: Connecticut
Votes: 166 votes missed (35.4%), 303 votes cast

29.0% Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS)
Representing: Kansas
Votes: 136 votes missed (29.0%), 333 votes cast

27.1% Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
Representing: New York
Votes: 127 votes missed (27.1%), 342 votes cast

10.2% Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Representing: Hawaii
Votes: 48 votes missed (10.2%), 421 votes cast

52% Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY)
Representing: Wyoming, At Large
Votes: 651 votes missed (52.0%), 602 votes cast

33.4% Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-LA)
Representing: Louisiana, District 1
Votes: 395 votes missed (33.4%), 788 votes cast

30.9% Rep. Julia Carson (D-IN)
Representing: Indiana, District 7
Votes: 359 votes missed (30.9%), 803 votes cast

30.1% Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
Representing: California, District 52
Votes: 376 votes missed (30.1%), 874 votes cast

27.7% Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)
Representing: Texas, District 14
Votes: 339 votes missed (27.7%), 887 votes cast

27.5% Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO)
Representing: Colorado, District 6
Votes: 337 votes missed (27.5%), 889 votes cast

19.4% Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL)
Representing: Illinois, District 18
Votes: 242 votes missed (19.4%), 1007 votes cast

17.2% Rep. Eddie Johnson (D-TX)
Representing: Texas, District 30
Votes: 215 votes missed (17.2%), 1035 votes cast

17.0% Rep. Don Young (R-AK)
Representing: Alaska, At Large
Votes: 208 votes missed (17.0%), 1016 votes cast

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Beef Recalls: How Safe is Our Food?

Another beef recall was announced recently, this one being the largest recall in US history. A California slaughterhouse has been accused of mistreating cows, and they agreed recall 143 million pounds of beef in what federal officials called the largest beef recall in U.S. history. There have been no cases of reported illnesses from this beef, but the undersecretary of agriculture for food safety, Dick Raymond, said that there is a remote possibility that it could cause illness in humans. The recall is considered a Class II recall, which indicates there is little risk of the beef causing any illness. The recall dates back to February 1, 2006, but the general feeling is that most of the meat involved in the recall has probably been eaten already.

Can the USDA keep up with all the requirements of food inspection? It seems that with all the focus on beef handling over the years to keep out mad cow disease, that unsafe meat handling and processing is still taking place. Funny, on January 17, I wrote in this blog about cloned beef (see link here ). It won’t really matter much if the beef is cloned or not if the cows are not been properly raised, handled, and processed.

While I believe that the majority of meat sold in the US is raised and processed properly, it does make me wonder what is happening behind the scenes when the USDA inspectors are not there. The fact that there must be a recall of this size when there are supposed to be guidelines in place already governing beef processing tells me that the USDA is not doing its job.

At least for me, if I continue to eat beef, I will only get it from reputable grocers, and will avoid at all costs those mass-market merchandisers of beef products. While I don’t eat much beef now, I admit I’m thinking of completely dropping beef off my list of foods I eat.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Superdelegates: A Cause for Concern?

I thought I was very attentive to things having to do with elections, but why is it this year I feel like I am just hearing about the Democratic “Superdelegate”? They’ve been around since 1980, put in place to recognize the input of party leaders and key party officials for the party Presidential primary.

Maybe it never mattered to be because we haven’t had a Democratic primary that hasn’t really seemed to be a close race until recently.

Wikipedia explains that “Superdelegates to the 2008 Democratic National Convention include all Democratic members of the United States Congress, Democratic governors, various additional elected officials, members of the Democratic National Committee, as well as "all former Democratic Presidents, all former Democratic Vice Presidents, all former Democratic Leaders of the U.S. Senate, all former Democratic Speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democratic Minority Leaders, as applicable, and all former Chairs of the Democratic National Committee." There is an exception, however, for otherwise qualified individuals who endorse another party’s candidate for President; they lose their superdelegate status….The 2008 Democratic National Convention will have approximately 796 superdelegates….”

Wow. That’s a lot of “bonus” votes, which in my opinion can have a huge impact on who gets to run for President for the Democratic Party.

What really scares me is seeing the name Dennis Kucinich on the list of Ohio Superdelegates. After all, he is a congressman (well, maybe not for long if his opponent dethrones him in the upcoming election) so I suppose he qualifies as a Superdelegate. But, Dennis overstayed his welcome in his own bid for President, and frankly I’m not sure I have any confidence that he can be objective in representing what’s best for the party. And there are several others that make me feel the same way.

Even more frightening is that once the people have spoken in their respective state primaries, these Superdelegates can still vote however they want in order to chose the party’s candidate. As they are considered unpledged delegates, unlike delegates pledged by the vote of the people in the primaries, these delegates don’t have to follow any one’s opinions but their own.

I’ve already written about my discomfort with the Electoral College. The “Superdelegate” issue makes me even more concerned that the people are not the ones who really have the power to elect their own President.

How did this happen? How did we get so far away from the people themselves being able to choose? I sense that since this Democratic primary is going to be so close that the Superdelegates will be choosing who will represent the Democratic party, and however they go, there will be a huge block of people that will be very unhappy with the choice. Maybe this is the only fair way to broker a virtual tiebreaker. It does concern me that there have been reports that the presidential candidates are already lobbying the Superdelegates in order to gain their pledge. I can only imagine the political wheeling and dealing going on.

I’m still going to the polls, and voting for whom I think is the best candidate. I would like my candidate to go all the way, of course, but I won’t be crazed if he or she doesn’t. Still, I find myself wondering again if there isn’t a better way for the peoples’ voices to be heard, and the winners to be a real reflection of the popular votes. I suppose all we can do is…wait and see!

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Annoying Political Telemarketers

Telemarketers are annoying enough. Luckily, there is the “Do Not Call” list, which has spared many of us from the constant interruptions of telemarketers trying to sell us something that we really don’t need or want.

But believe it or not, there is a worse breed of telemarketer that the Do Not Call listing doesn’t block – the Political Telemarketer.

Particularly annoying is the political telemarketer who picks on one candidate and does everything they can to trash them. There is one group – American Family Voices - that just left me a message on my answering machine, which bashed Congressman Steven LaTourette, and then encouraged me to call his office to voice my concerns over his action. This is not the first time American Family Voices has left me a message. Someone like them also calls almost every three weeks – and has done so for as long as I can recall – to tell me how much they dislike Congressman LaTourette and why I should dislike him, too.

I can think for myself, thank you, and I don’t need some political action committee or special interest group to tell me how I should think or feel. These types of political telemarketers do more to annoy than to get someone interested in their cause. In fact, they do a better job in getting people to tune them out to their cause. I am not even remotely interested in whatever message they are spewing. It is especially annoying when they resort to what I consider childish name-calling of the object of their wrath. If they have a message, get out the message without the poisonous bashing against the person. Maybe then people will listen to the actual issue and form their own opinions.

I did call American Family Voices – their voice was a voice mail by the way – and told them to remove me from their calling list, plus gave them some commentary of my own about their calls. I don’t need any political action group slinging their mud my way. And that’s my one voice from one American family.

It’s going to be a long election season….

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Monday, February 4, 2008

The Electoral College: Is It Necessary?

Map of number of electoral votes by state after redistricting from the 2000 census.

With every Presidential election, the subject of the Electoral College always comes up. Or maybe it’s really the question of whether we need the Electoral College. I always have to refresh my memory on how the Electoral College works, and a simple Google search turns up many references. But, after reading a few articles on the subject, I find my head spinning and my stomach turning. Here’s the shortest overview of the process that I could find, from the Congressional Research Service, prepared in 2004:

"When Americans vote for a President and Vice President, they actually vote for presidential electors, known collectively as the electoral college. It is these electors, chosen by the people, who elect the chief executive. The Constitution assigns each state a number of electors equal to the combined total of its Senate and House of Representatives delegations; at present, the number of electors per state ranges from three to 55, for a total of 538, a figure which includes three electors for the District of Columbia. Anyone may serve as an elector, except for Members of Congress, and persons holding offices of “Trust or Profit” under the Constitution. In each presidential election year, a group (ticket or slate) of candidates for elector is nominated by political parties and other groups in each state, usually at a state party convention, or by the party state committee. It is these elector-candidates, rather than the presidential and vice presidential nominees, for whom the people vote in the election held on Tuesday after the first Monday in November (November 2, 2004).
In most states, voters cast a single vote for the slate of electors pledged to the party presidential and vice presidential candidates of their choice. The slate winning the most popular votes is elected; this is known as the winner-take-all, or general ticket, system. Maine and Nebraska use the district system, under which two electors are chosen on a statewide, at-large basis, and one is elected in each congressional district. A second alternative, the proportional system, would award electors to presidential tickets in direct proportion to the percentage votes they received in a particular state. Electors assemble in their respective states on Monday after the second Wednesday in December (December 13, 2004). They are pledged and expected, but not required, to vote for the candidates they represent. Separate ballots are cast for President and Vice President, after which the electoral college ceases to
exist for another four years. The electoral vote results are counted and declared at a joint session of Congress, held on January 6 of the year succeeding the election. A majority of electoral votes (currently 270 of 538) is required to win. Constitutional amendments to abolish or reform the electoral college system are regularly introduced in Congress. For information on legislative activity in the current Congress, please see CRS Report RL32612, The Electoral College: Reform Proposals in the 108th Congress, by Thomas H. Neale."

(You can find the full report and explanation here.)

Is YOUR head spinning yet? And do you get the feeling that now your vote counts even less? If you need a recent example where the need for the Electoral College was in question, look to the 2000 election, when Republican George W. Bush won the electoral vote, and the election, over Democrat Al Gore, who won the popular vote. Cries of a stolen election and conspiracy still circle.

There are pros and cons to the Electoral College. Both sides hinge a lot of their argument on whether or not the EC accurately reflects the voting numbers. The pros think it does, by preventing overly populous states from having too much clout; the cons think eliminating the EC would prevent smaller or rural states from having too much clout for their small populations. Both have valid point. A popular election could be decided easily by just the populations of New York, California, Texas and Florida. But the EC could give proportionately more votes, and therefore voting power, to smaller states like North Dakota, Wyoming, Vermont, etc. And I also think both sides cringe at the prospect of “faithless electors” who do not vote in the manner in which they were pledged.

My opinion is that an election should only have one winner, and it should be chosen by the people. The Electoral College seems just another way for the bureaucrats to inject themselves into what should be a simple process. The manner in which Congress is allotted House and Senate members is already skewed, with every state given two Senate seats, regardless of population. And some states, because of their population, have more member of the House than others, giving them more weight.
Why shouldn’t the popular vote reflect the winner of the election? Maybe if we eliminated the Electoral College, we would see people from other states working more closely together to align voters to their regional needs to ensure their voting power is better represented for Presidential elections.

There has to be an easy – and fair – way to elect a President. Ideas welcome.
Cartogram for US Electoral College in 2008. 1 square equals 1 electoral vote.

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Friday, February 1, 2008

Ohio’s 2008 Voting Mess

I’m ashamed to say that I live in Ohio. And I’m very worried that there will be big problems in the upcoming March primary.

The problem? In December, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (a Democrat), told Cuyahoga county (the county in which Cleveland is located) to drop its touch-screen voting machines. Her decision followed a study that found problems in all of Ohio's voting equipment. She also wants the entire state to stop using touch-screen machines by November, and is looking for state and federal money to help pay for the changes, including reimbursement for Cuyahoga County's current change.

And she is changing everyone back to PAPER BALLOTS, which will be tabulated using optical scan. I live in neighboring Lake County, and in the 30+ years I have lived here, I have never used a paper ballot. This change seems so backwards to me that I am still in disbelief that they are going ahead with it.

What also concerns me is that places like Cuyahoga County just spent tons of money ($21 million in Cuyahoga’s case) to convert to the touch-screens. And I am also concerned that it doesn’t appear that the paper ballot/ optical scan system is any more secure.

Mind you, Cuyahoga County has been a voter’s nightmare for a long time. The last election using the touch-screens was a near disaster, for many reasons, many of them people-related. The last presidential election, before touch-screens, was even more problematic. But, my opinion is that voter confidence was pretty high with the new touch-screen systems, and I believe that the board of elections would have worked out the security issues – if there really were any – before the primary, if given the chance.

Instead, I’m now worried that the Ohio primary vote and presidential election will be filled with problems. And I want my vote to count. I’m also worried that the State of Ohio is spending money, both state and county money, to fix a problem that may or may not exist.

It’s no wonder that people lack confidence in their elected officials. And it’s also no wonder that Ohio has a hard time keeping jobs – and residents – here. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I can tell you that if there are any major problems with the primary, Ohioans will not be very tolerant.

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