Saturday, September 30, 2006

Horn (Constitution Party) Says: Vote Walberg

More news this week from the Battle Creek Enquirer:

U.S. Taxpayer candidate David Horn is not making a serious run for office.

He does not intend on investing in his election efforts before the Nov. 7 election or doing much campaigning.

It's not often that you have a candidate that comes out publicly to say that he doesn't want the job he's running for, so of course this caught my attention. There are, of course, two forgotten candidates for Congress in our 7th District. Robert Hutchinson is the Libertarian nominee for Congress (in 2004, Libertarian Ken Proctor got 3,034 votes, or 1 percent), and David Horn is the U.S. Taxpayers Party nominee. Horn ran for Congress in 2004 as well, earning 9,032 votes, or 3 percent-- many of whom were disaffected Walberg supporters.

The U.S. Taxpayers Party is the state affiliate of the Constitution Party. I'll come back to that in a moment. But first, why won't David Horn campaign for Congress?

"Basically, for anyone to want to vote for me, they'd have to be too Libertarian to vote for Walberg, and too conservative to vote for the Libertarian (Robert Hutchinson)," Horn said. "That's a pretty, pretty narrow focus there."

While Horn doesn't want Democrat Sharon Renier in office, he thinks it would be good if Walberg were elected.

"I'd probably be a Republican if more Republicans thought as he did," Horn said.

Horn said he agrees with Walberg's stances on "probably 90 percent of the issues."

(Emphasis added)

Yes, that's right. David Horn agrees with Tim Walberg on 90 percent of the issues. Or, conversely, one could say that Tim Walberg agrees with the Constitution Party on 90 percent of the issues.

So what do David Horn and the Constitution Party stand for? They say that they support returning to a strict interpretation of the Constitution, and a focus on Christian values as the basis for American laws. No Separation of Church and State for these folks. Let's look at a few issues.
I support abolition of the income tax and repeal of the 16th Amendment. I wish to restore taxation to that prescribed by our Founders: tariffs and excise taxes.
Not quite the same as Tim Walberg, who instead supports a national sales tax. But still, just as constricting and regressive.

How about "family values"?

The law of our Creator defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman. The marriage covenant is the foundation of the family, and the family is fundamental in the maintenance of a stable, healthy and prosperous social order. No government may legitimately authorize or define marriage or family relations contrary to what God has instituted. We are opposed to amending the U.S. Constitution for the purpose of defining marriage.

We reject the notion that sexual offenders are deserving of legal favor or special protection, and affirm the rights of states and localities to proscribe offensive sexual behavior. We oppose all efforts to impose a new sexual legal order through the federal court system. We stand against so-called "sexual orientation" and "hate crime" statutes that attempt to legitimize inappropriate sexual behavior and to stifle public resistance to its expression. We oppose government funding of "partner" benefits for unmarried individuals. Finally, we oppose any legal recognition of homosexual unions.

We recognize that parents have the fundamental right and responsibility to nurture, educate, and discipline their children. We oppose the assumption of any of these responsibilities by any governmental agency without the express delegation of the parents or legal due process. We affirm the value of the father and the mother in the home, and we oppose efforts to legalize adoption of children by homosexual singles or couples.

We affirm both the authority and duty of Congress to limit the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in all cases of state sodomy laws in accordance with the U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 2.

That bit does sound a lot like Tim Walberg, actually.

Then, there's federal spending:

The Constitution assigns all powers not delegated to the federal government to the states or the people.

Domestic federal "aid" not authorized by the Constitution is not only illegal, it is immoral.

We call upon the states, therefore, to decline to accept all monies from the federal government for any purpose not specifically and clearly articulated in the Constitution, and reject all federal mandates and regulations which are unconstitutional, thus restoring the intended balance of power between the states and their creation, the U.S. Government.

While not exactly what Tim Walberg has said, it has the same tone to it. Walberg and his supporters advocate a small, disengaged government, which does as little as possible for its citizens. The Constitution Party, by the way, also calls for the elimination of the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the gradual elimination of Social Security, and a host of other important government programs.

Feel free to browse the party platform and Horn's issue position. It's interesting, to say the least. Also check out the Wikipedia entry on the party.

And apparently David Horn, Constitution Party candidate, agrees with Tim Walberg on 90 percent of the issues.

To moderates in the Republican Party and Democrats unsure of Renier's chances of winning, I ask that one considers the type of government Tim Walberg and those like him hope to create. Religious intolerance becomes part of the law, government ceases to provide essential services, and state governments struggle to cover the needs of their citizens. True, we have strayed from the original text of the Constitution in some areas-- but then, a lot has changed since 1789. Do you really want to go back to that?

And to those who have been unsure whether to vote for Tim Walberg, a Republican, or David Horn, the U.S. Taxpayers/Constitution Party candidate, I say: go ahead and vote for Horn, the one who you agree with 100 percent of the time. Don't vote for Walberg.


VP Cheney is Coming to Town

The Jackson Citizen-Patriot reports that next week will feature a visit from Vice President Dick Cheney, fundraising on behalf of Tim Walberg.

Despite endorsing Tim Walberg's opponent in the GOP congressional primary, Vice President Dick Cheney will fly into Michigan next week to collect cash for the Tipton minister's campaign.

Thursday's fundraiser comes on the heels of a Monday event in East Grand Rapids for Mike Bouchard, a Republican who's trying to unseat U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

Walberg, who is squaring off against Sharon Renier, D-Munith, said the vice president's staff called him this month to offer Cheney's fundraising services. He and state Republicans confirmed the event, which a spokeswoman for Cheney would not do Thursday.

Now, at this point, there are a lot of things I could say about Vice President Cheney. Lots of jokes could be made at his expense. But I'm not going to do that, because it's just too easy.

As is always the case with this sort of thing, a lot of money will be raised by a lot of rich donors-- the same sort of folks that fund the Club for Growth. After all, who else would have the money?
The invitation-only shindig isn't cheap. It takes $1,000 to buy a photo with Cheney at an 11:30 a.m. reception. Lunching at noon will cost another $250.
(Emphasis added)

I don't know about you, but the last lunch that I bought cost a lot less than that. And I personally think that a $1,000 photo is a little overpriced, no matter who's in it. Compare this posh fundraiser to Democratic nominee Sharon Renier:
"I don't have any more pennies anywhere else," the congressional candidate said. "I took in pop cans and beer bottles yesterday to get gas. I'm poor. I'm very poor. But it doesn't mean I'm not smart."

Renier has experienced the country's economic woes firsthand and so, for the second time, the Munith resident is hoping to help Michigan's 7th Congressional District by representing it.
Of course, the Walberg-Cheney fundraiser isn't even being held in our Congressional District... which is perhaps troubling on its own:
The fundraiser also isn't in the 7th Congressional District. Walberg said security reasons forced organizers to move the locale from Jackson to Hawk Hollow Golf Course & Banquet Facilities in Bath, a Lansing suburb.
Sharon Renier offers her take on the fundraiser, noting that, as the weak candidate many consider her to be, the GOP seems to be working hard to defeat her.

"Why are they bringing in Cheney against some little chicken farmer?" asked Renier, referring to herself. "Are they worried?"

The Democrat called the swanky soiree a "wonderful thing" for her campaign, noting that President Bush and Cheney continue to flag in the polls.

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Schwarz Files FEC Complaint

It's been a busy week in my personal, non-blogging life, so there are a few brief posts coming today. If you're interested in ensuring timely reporting of 7th District-related events and Tim Walberg (R) and his radical conservative policies, e-mail me if you'd like to start blogging.

From a few days ago, emptywheel has a diary on Michigan Liberal about Congressman Joe Schwarz filing a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission about Tim Walberg and his questionable relationship with the Club for Growth. Quoting from an AP article:

The FEC complaint contends the Club for Growth coordinated expenditures from its political action committee and 527 organization, listing common political strategists and pollsters who were paid by the Club for Growth, Walberg and three other campaigns: Senate candidate Steve Laffey in Rhode Island, and congressional candidates Sharron Angle in Nevada and Bill Sali in Idaho.
It's up to the FEC to decide if Walberg and his allies violated election laws. However, it is worth pointing out that some of the Club for Growth's ads (thanks to the Adrian Insider) followed Tim Walberg's talking points pretty closely.

Read the whole article, and make up your own mind. Frankly, even if there weren't any violations of the law, the fact that groups like the Club for Growth support Walberg is enough to give Sharon Renier my support.

On another, completely nonpolitical note, I'd like to express my sympathy for former State Rep. Walberg, whose grandson passed away last Sunday following complications from a three-month premature birth (Battle Creek Enquirer; again, via the Adrian Insider). While I might have harsh words for Mr. Walberg's politics, this sort of tragedy is tough for any family to work through. If you're religious, consider including Walberg and his family in your prayers.

If I may, I'd like to also say that I'm disappointed with the Battle Creek Enquirer's Andy Rathbun for using Walberg's grandchildren's health as justification for Walberg's political positions, just as I'd be disgusted if someone were to use them to attack Walberg. There should be a line drawn between what should and should not be used in political discussions. Family members-- especially grandchildren-- are decidedly on the "should not" side.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Sharon Renier on Taxes and The Economy

Not much time tonight, but I promise a more in-depth look at this soon. Via the Adrian Insider, an article in the Battle Creek Enquirer in which Sharon Renier discusses the economy, taxation, and her own personal finances.

Just a nice little quote to get you interested...

While Renier said millionaires need to face more taxation, she said she doesn't support across the board tax increases. Rather, she would like to see some people get a break from paying Uncle Sam.

"Anybody that makes $20,000 dollars or less," Renier said, "I would like to see them have no taxes taken away from their check."

(Emphasis added)

Just a note: under the Renier plan, 18.3% of 7th District households would no longer have to pay taxes, as they earn under $20,000 per year. Who would have their taxes raised? Well, only 1.5% of households in the district earn more than $200,000 per year. (Based on 1999 statistics).

So who's really pro-taxpayer? Or is Tim Walberg (R) just for the wealthy?

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Comment Roundup

I'd argue that the most important part of blogging (especially political blogging) is the fact that readers can comment. Sure, anyone can stand out on a street corner with a "Walberg=Bad" sign, and anyone can go ahead and post that on the internet as well. But with blogging, there's instant feedback from those hearing your message, and that forces you to work harder-- either to convince those with negative comments or to keep up the good work for the folks with positive comments.

Now, I'll admit, this is an area I need to work harder on. What I ought to do is post well-reasoned, insightful responses to all of your comments in the comments section. And I hope to do that in the future. But lately, I've been kind of busy and kind of lazy. I haven't taken advantage of the dialogue opportunity.

There are, however, some really great comments from the last couple weeks that I'd like to point out. My one complaint: Why so many "Anonymous"'s? Come on, guys, give me a name to work with!

In my brief link to the Sharon Renier interview, there's been a bit of a discussion on Renier's message. One Anonymous writes:
This is the first of any "substance" I have found on Sharon Renier. So far her campaign has been lackluster at best, I was hoping for much more from her, especially facing a wingnut like Walberg. He can be defeated.

Two things I find troubling. She's one of those who support our troops, but not the war. Can't have it both ways. You cannot support the troops by opposing what they are doing. It makes no sense whatsoever, liberal cliche-ism.

"Tax cuts for the rich" is another cliche out of the liberal playbook. That's simply a class warfare slogan. If she's going banter about cliches like this I have touble supporting her. Using that term signals an incredible ignorance of economics.

I think she is right on about her assessment of Walberg and the lies he told about Schwarz (no T). From her orginal statement, she doesn't seem to have much regard for Schwarz which also troubles me. If I were her, I would be getting to know him and his supporters and learn all you can about what he has done and what she can continue for our District. There is a huge population like me that cannot morally vote for Tim Walberg after what he did and who he aligned himself with in the primary.

I'm really hoping she can beat Walberg, he's a disingenous, morally corrupt, ideologue who will do nothing for our district. She needs to be smart; bantering about liberal cliches will not attract the middle. She needs to understand the center and know what is important to the district, especially economically. She needs to run a smart campaign of substance not rhetoric.

I'm an independent, but I deeply admired Schwarz and zealously supported him in the primary although I didn't always agree with him, I trusted him. I'm sickened by that happend in this primary and the outside influences that meddled in the race. But having to make a choice between both extremes isn't appealing either.

I MAY vote for Sharon, but I know I WILL NOT vote for Walberg. She needs to look at what Schwarz has done and follow his lead...if she is serious about winning.

We face serious issues as a nation, especially in the arena national security, which is undoubtedly the keystone issue in the 110th Congress.
And another anonymous responds:
You guys are the ones who sound like a cliche machines, not Sharon Renier. How is supporting the troops but not the war a cliche? Maybe you're not old enough to remember the aftermath of Vietnam, but when those soldiers came back home, they were directly blamed for what had happened. They were shunned, spit on, ignored. Renier's point is that it is not the fault of the soldiers that they're fighting a destructive pointless war and getting killed for nothing, worse than nothing. She is a strong supporter of the military, including expanded access to jobs and education, for those coming home. If you call that having it both ways, fine.

The same is true for tax cuts for the rich. When an administration and Congress enacts massive tax cuts which only have any meaningful effect for people earning well into six figures, I call that a tax cut for the rich. It's true that these things get labeled in shorthand, but that doesn't make them cliches. Sharon's point is that she wants to see taxes cut for those who truly need the tax cuts, and that those at the very top should pay more. Is that being out on the liberal fringe? A cut from the Pelosi playbook? Sharon’s an NRA member, and strongly against any amnesty for illegal immigrants. Does that sound like Nancy Pelosi? You might want to look up cliche in the dictionary.

The other thing is that I know there are things that Joe Schwarz started that Sharon admired and would like to finish. She has great respect for him. But her name is Sharon, not Joe.
When Joe Schwarz launched an editorial attack on the far-right in the Washington Post, I asked anyone with links to some of the pre-primary attack ads to let me know. The Adrian Insider answered:
To see some of those ads, check out this page:

After Lincoln Chafee won his primary over a Club for Growth challenger, one anonymous commenter suggested that the Club was doomed to defeat nationwide, and MI-07 was the exception, not the norm.
CFG's defeat of Joe Schwarz was for all intent and purpose...a fluke.

A dismally low voter turnout got Walberg elected, it was not about ideology but pure numbers. Speaking of numbers with less than 18 percent of the voters going to the polls, less than 9 percent actually voted for Walberg.

I hope every other CFG candidate goes down in flames. Schwarz only lost because of voter apathy, he is far more mainstream and qualified than Walberg who borders on facist. If anything, Walberg won the primary because the GOP (and the media) was asleep at the switch.

Unfortunately, Michigan was a wake-up call for complacent voters. We all have lost big-time in this election, but hopefully the rest of the nation can learn from it and with Chaffee's win, I think they got the message about CFG.
I hope s/he is right... Incidentally, another commenter on the same subject reminds us:
Bouchard is also endorsed by Club for Growth.
That being Michael Bouchard, Republican opponent to Senator Debbie Stabenow.

When an article appeared quoting some harsh rhetoric against Tim Walberg by Schwarz, one anonymous commenter reminded us:
Let no one forget that Walberg refused to endorse Schwarz after the last primary. He encouraged people to vote for the Constitution Party candidate in 2004 when he lost to Schwarz.

His campaign was based on hot-button wedge issues attacking homosexuals and hispanics.

This is not the republican party I want. Vote for the dem or write in someone with some common sense, Schwarz or otherwise.
With that, today's Comment Roundup concludes. If you're upset that yours wasn't included, don't take it personally. I have no doubt it was interesting and insightful.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Tim Walberg and James Dobson

If one ventures over to Tim Walberg's campaign website, the endorsements page is an interesting read. In addition to naming supporting organizations like the Club for Growth and Right to Life, he includes a list of "community leaders" that support him:

Dr. James Dobson? A "Community Leader"? Considering he was born in Shreveport, Louisiana and broadcasts out of Colorado, the Walberg campaign has a pretty broad definition for "community." But obviously he must be an important leader, being at the top of Walberg's list. And Dobson must think Michigan is a pretty important state, too. From Americans United for the Separation of Church and State:

The Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group said it will mail a special election-year alert to all houses of worship in 11 states, reminding them that intervention in partisan political campaigns is a violation of the Internal Revenue Service Code.

The letters, totaling over 117,000, begin mailing today and will be sent to every house of worship in Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Missouri and Virginia.

Churches in those states are being targeted by James Dobson and other Religious Right leaders who want to build a church-based political machine on behalf of favored Republican candidates.

“Dragging churches into partisan politics is just plain wrong,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “It violates tax law, it damages the integrity of religion and it harms our democracy.
So let's take a closer look at James Dobson.

Dobson is best known for his "Focus on the Family" radio broadcast and published materials advising parents on how to, supposedly, build strong families and raise productive children. It sounds like a noble goal, and one that wouldn't necessarily be political in nature. However, the issues which Dobson focuses on (and the positions he takes) are cause for some concern.

Mind you, it isn't that he's not a compassionate man-- when it comes to corporal punishment, he says:
"It is not necessary to beat the child into submission; a little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child. However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely."
Just hard enough to cause genuine tears. No more than that.

I admit, that wasn't entirely fair of me. Lots of parents have lots of techniques on raising children, and certainly firm authority is sometimes useful. That said, the quote is a bit troubling, I think.

Dobson, like many others in the Religious Right, has had his share of controversial statements. Perhaps most memorable was his feud with SpongeBob Squarepants and homosexuality. That subject in particular seems to be very important to him, having been quoted in the The Daily Oklahoman (Oct. 23rd, 2004) saying:
"Homosexuals are not monogamous. They want to destroy the institution of marriage. It will destroy marriage. It will destroy the Earth."
Destroy the Earth? Really? Here I was, worried about weapons of mass destruction and bird flu. The real threat is that my neighbors might be gay.

According to Dobson, homosexuality is a condition which can be treated and cured with proper parental involvement throughout childhood. He offers a lot of "information" on the subject here (link found via the Wikipedia article). I would quote from it, but frankly, I don't know where to begin. I would wish, however, that we would become a society more tolerant of one another. If you don't want to let same-sex couples marry, that's fine. But to try to "cure" them? That's a little disturbing, in my humble opinion.

Of course, controversy surrounds more than just his stance on homosexuality. James Dobson also gained some attention for his opposition to stem cell research. On that subject, he commented:
But I have to ask this question: In World War II, the Nazis experimented on human beings in horrible ways in the concentration camps, and I imagine, if you wanted to take the time to read about it, there would have been some discoveries there that benefited mankind. You know, if you take a utilitarian approach, that if something results in good, then it is good. But that's obviously not true. We condemn what the Nazis did because there are some things that we always could do but we haven't done, because science always has to be guided by ethics and by morality. And you remove ethics and morality, and you get what happened in Nazi Germany. That's why to Senator [Senate Majority Leader Bill] Frist [R-TN] and the others who are saying, "Look what may be accomplished." Yeah, but there's another issue, there's a higher order of ethics here.
(From Media Matters; emphasis included from source)

Hm. Incidentally, Tim Walberg opposes stem cell research as well, being "100% pro-life". As a side note, Media Matters has all sorts of information on Dobson-- my personal favorite is when he compared the Supreme Court to the KKK.

But political involvement aside, Dobson still wants to promote strong families. That's why he advocates a household dominated by the husband, with the wife playing the "submissive" role. Wikipedia leads one to an article on his organization's website (though not written by him) that has some interesting thoughts on the subject:
This may be shocking news to you, but an overwhelming majority of wives in my survey said they want to submit to their husbands. They want their husbands to be the head of the home, and they have no desire to usurp that God-given position of leadership. They know what the Bible says on the subject, and discerning wives want to do what God wants because they understand that God’s ways work best.
If you feel that your wife is not submissive, pray for her to have a submissive heart, first toward God and then toward you. Then ask God to help you love her the way He does. I guarantee that you will see her submission level rise in direct proportion to the unselfish love you exhibit for her. And let her see that you are seeking God for guidance. If she knows that you are asking God to show you the way, she will follow you anywhere.
Oh, and then there's the "Prayer Power" portion of it:
Lord, I submit myself to You this day. Lead me as I lead my family. Help me to make all decisions based on Your revelation and guidance. As I submit my leadership to You, enable (wife’s name) to fully trust that You are leading me. Help her to understand the kind of submission You want from her. Help me to understand the kind of submission You want from me. Enable me to be the leader You want me to be.

Where there are issues over which we disagree, help us to settle them in proper order. I pray that I will allow You, Lord, to be so in control of my life that my wife will be able to freely trust Your Holy Spirit working in me. Help me to love her the way You love me, so that I will gain her complete respect and love. Give her a submissive heart and the faith she needs to trust me to be the spiritual leader in our home. At the same time, help us to submit “to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). I know that only You, Lord, can make that perfect balance happen in our lives.

I don't know about you, but I happen to know certain women that would object to total submission to their husbands-- especially if that means giving up their careers.

Religious faith is an important part of American society, and helps define who we are as individuals. But men like James Dobson aren't interested in creating the loving, peaceful society faith should lead to. Instead, they exploit faith and use select passages from the Bible to advance their hateful political views.

And, of course, Dobson supports Tim Walberg.

Support Sharon Renier for Congress


Friday, September 22, 2006

Sharon Renier Interview

Meant to mention this yesterday, didn't quite get to it...

Over at Who Got The Gravy? (part of Michigan's fantastic and growing progressive blogosphere), Nirmal interviews Sharon Renier, Democratic nominee for Michigan's 7th Congressional District, and opponent of radical conservative Tim Walberg (R).

I'm in a bit of a rush, so I'm not going to give you any highlights. Besides, it's an interesting interview, with plenty of candid thoughts on the race and issues facing America. Definitely worth reading in full.

Sharon Renier


Saturday, September 16, 2006

More Harsh Words From Schwarz

Congressman Joe Schwarz picked up his pen once again for a column in Sunday, September 17's Washington Post (apparently available early online).
I am the political equivalent of a woolly mammoth, a rarity heading for extinction. Yes, I'm a moderate.
I can't tell you how important it is to read this column in full. I'm going to offer a few highlights and some commentary, but you really should go and read it yourself.
Our plight today is dire. Even though more than half of all American voters consider themselves centrists, the Republican and Democratic parties are finding themselves controlled to an ever-greater extent by their more extreme elements. On the Republican side, the "religious right," the quasi-theocrats, are infiltrating the party power structure quite effectively. On the left, the moneyed Eastern establishment and California liberals shrilly tell Americans that the sky is falling, that the world hates us and that Republican policies are all wrong. Yet they offer no viable alternatives. As a result, they have managed to alienate much of the traditional working-class Democratic base, good people caught between Republicans they don't like and Democrats who have abandoned them. What's a moderate to do?

In my case, lose an election.
(All emphasis added)

Schwarz does not mention Tim Walberg, the radical conservative that defeated him, by name-- to do so would invite criticism that he's just a "sore loser"-- but we all know who he's talking about. The interest groups that helped Walberg win the nomination are not what the Republican Party once was. They are not the ones that knew how to govern through so many administrations since 1860. The religious right now controls the GOP, one of many reasons why a unified Republican government, with the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court, can't govern effectively. They've alienated intelligent, dedicated moderates that knew how to get things done.
My loss had nothing to do with his popularity, or national issues such as the war in Iraq. What did me in was voter apathy, and moral absolutist groups supported by a vitriolic negative-ad campaign funded by organizations on the far right.
I'm sure everyone in the district remembers the ads that Walberg's associates ran during the primary. I wish that I had been forward-thinking enough to save a few of them when they were available online-- especially the ads run by the Club for Growth-- as evidence of their negative campaign. If anyone out there did save them, or might perhaps be able to find them online, let me know.

After 16 years in the Michigan Senate and service as mayor of Battle Creek, I was elected to Congress in 2004. But my moderate positions on Roe v. Wade (I do not support overturning it, believing that a woman has the right to choose) and embryonic stem cell research (I strongly support it), as well as my general feeling that religion and moral and ethical issues are private matters, did not sit well with those who would mix church and state in a way that is antithetical to the principles of separation on which our country was founded -- in other words, the hard right.

So in the Republican primary, the opposition got its vote out. The effort was funded, probably to the tune of $1 million or so, by the Club for Growth, a Washington outfit supported by plutocrats nationwide who apparently have nothing better to do with their money than give it to an organization that stands for nothing -- though it says it's "anti-tax" -- and likes to play in elections in which it has no logical interest.

From a Republican endorsed by President Bush, John McCain, and prominent GOP interest groups like the NRA and the US Chamber of Commerce, these are some pretty harsh words for the dominant forces of the Republican Party.
It was a classic example of a motivated minority -- just 7.8 percent of the Republican electorate districtwide -- nominating a congressional candidate. The moderates stayed home in droves, felt horrible the next day, and vowed never to miss another vote. They will. The hard right won't. And fewer and fewer sensible "let's take the broad view" candidates will have any chance of being elected.

But politics needs a middle. Communication across the aisle in Congress and in legislatures is the sine qua non of effective public policy formulation. The reluctance -- at times, the near-total unwillingness -- to consider the other side's position has hamstrung political bodies from coast to coast.

It isn't about seeking a "sensible center" as some Washington consultants seem to believe. Instead, it's about a willingness to work with others, regardless of party, in creating an effective government that works for all its citizens. For example, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) embodies many liberal values. Yet he is able to reach across the aisle on countless issues in order to get things done. Why? Because he listens to his constituents.

Tim Walberg and the extremists of the GOP don't do that. Instead, they listen to the groups that dump $50,000 into the campaign on their behalf just days before the election. Isn't it nice to know that there's an alternative?

If "Joe Schwarz is a liberal," then surely any 7th District Democrat must be wildly leftist, right? Well, let's look at Democratic nominee Sharon Renier on the issues.

SHARON RENIER, Democrat: Says she believes women should have a choice, but wants abortion to be as rare as possible. Renier says she has a different perspective on the issue than other candidates because she is a woman.
Energy and the Environment:
RENIER: Says she “absolutely” believes in tax breaks for alternative energy, and also wants to look at incentives to homeowners who use efficient technologies to reduce energy usage. Opposes drilling in ANWR, saying: “Can’t we just leave our hands off something?”
RENIER: Believes the U.S. needs to begin pulling troops out of Iraq and allowing the Iraqis to concentrate on rebuilding their country. Favors a staggered plan of withdrawal.
RENIER: Says she is a card-carrying NRA member who supports gun rights.
... And so on. Is that really so radically liberal? Actually, it sounds like a lot of common-sense, moderate positions. It also sounds a lot like some of what Republican Congressman Joe Schwarz has said. So who's really out of step with Michigan's 7th District?

Joe Schwarz may be "the political equivalent of a woolly mammoth" in the Republican Party, but moderates are alive and well in the Democratic Party. Sharon Renier would be a fair representative of Michigan's 7th District, certainly moreso than the Radical Right's Tim Walberg.

Support Sharon Renier:


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Club for Growth Defeated In RI

Lincoln Chafee is the kind of Republican that used to be common in this country. He's a social moderate, reflecting the views of his left-leaning state as best he can, and a fiscal conservative in the traditional, Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller sense.

Of course, this wasn't good enough for the Club for Growth. They spent a significant sum of money in support of Mayor Steve Laffey, a far-right conservative in the mold of Tim Walberg, in his bid to defeat Chafee for the Republican nomination.

Happily, there's still a place for moderates in the GOP... but only in Rhode Island.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans may not like moderate Sen. Lincoln Chafee, an Iraq-war opponent and frequent foe of the Bush administration, but they love what he could do for them in November's battle to control Congress.

Chafee's win over a conservative challenger in Rhode Island's Republican primary on Tuesday kept alive the party's hopes of retaining his crucial Senate seat, one of six seats Democrats must pick up in November to regain a majority in the chamber.

The White House and national Republicans held their noses and poured money and political workers into Rhode Island to defend Chafee, believing his moderate views gave them their only shot at keeping the seat in the heavily Democratic state.

Chafee, who did not even vote for President George W. Bush in 2004, writing in Bush's father instead, still faces a tough November campaign against Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse. But polls had showed Chafee's conservative Republican primary opponent Stephen Laffey would lose badly to Whitehouse in November.

Yes, Lincoln Chafee succeeded, defeating Steve Laffey by a significant margin. But who are the big losers?
Club For Growth: The Club made no secret that defeating Chafee was its No. 1 priority this cycle. And despite funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to Laffey's campaign and spending similar amounts on advertising to knock off the incumbent, its efforts came up short. Laffey's defeat keeps the Club from claiming the prize it wants most -- defeating a sitting senator who fails to hew to its free-market agenda. That said, the Club has had an extremely successful run so far this cycle -- playing a major role in the loss of moderate Rep. Joe Schwarz (R) in Michigan and winning a number of contested Republican primaries in other states. Still, the group's inability to beat Chafee takes some of the shine off '06 cycle for the Club.
In the coming days, I hope to offer a detailed look at the Club for Growth and what they really stand for. But as good news as it is for Senator Chafee, it's not over by any means. The Club for Growth will still support Tim Walberg between now and November, and will presumably be taking an active role in Michigan. A quick look at their website will show who one of their other endorsed candidates is: Michael Bouchard, Republican nominee for US Senate.

As always, support Sharon Renier in the 7th District (contribute; volunteer), and support Senator Debbie Stabenow against Club for Growth candidate Michael Bouchard (contribute; volunteer).

In other, unrelated news, a major victory for tolerance and progress: the first Muslim member of Congress may soon be headed to Washington. Regardless of political leanings, State Rep. Keith Ellison's victory represents the best of America. After September 11, Muslims have been subject to harsh and terrible discrimination. One day after the five year anniversary, Minnesota primary voters chose him as their next representative. Racism has no place in America, and Ellison's victory is a step forward for our country.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Schwarz: "There are people out there who believe that that this country should be a theocracy."

Congressman Joe Schwarz, having been defeated by Tim Walberg (R-MI-07) in August 8th's primary, has been largely silent about his plans for the future. However, it's becoming increasingly clear what he does not intend to do:
WASHINGTON -- In the wake of his loss in the primary last month, U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz says he won't endorse or vote for the Republican pastor who defeated him and accused "right-wing intimidators" of running moderates like himself out of the party.
That's right. Joe Schwarz-- a prominent Republican from Battle Creek, who served in Michigan's legislature for years, served Michigan's 7th District in Congress, and even ran for governor in 2002-- will not even vote for his party's nominee, Tim Walberg.

The Detroit News article continues:

"The far right, the religious right are driving moderates out of the party. In the end, that can only hurt because it takes a critical mass to have a successful party," Schwarz said in his first extensive interview since losing the Aug. 8 primary to Tim Walberg.

The Battle Creek physician said several friends told him they plan to leave the party after watching him be hammered on social issues and then lose in spite of endorsements by establishment Republicans including President Bush and Saul Anuzis, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.

Schwarz said he could see circumstances under which he would join them.

Schwarz accused Walberg of running a "character assassination" campaign, which was aided by a series of "moral absolutist" votes on the U.S. House floor in mid-July -- three weeks before the primary.
While Schwarz has had some harsh criticism of Tim Walberg and the religious right before, this is the closest he's come publicly to switching parties. But just when you thought his criticism couldn't be more harsh, you read this:

Schwarz decried the growing role religion is playing in politics.

Schwarz, who at 68 hasn't ruled out running for elective office in the future, said, "There are people out there who believe that that this country should be a theocracy."

(Emphasis added)

This stunning statement is sure to catch people's attention, as it should. Tim Walberg does not represent the political views of Michigan's 7th District. He represents the views of a small yet influential minority of the Republican Party.

The race also earns the attention of Jack Lessenberry in a column for the Toledo Blade. The relevant portion:
Now, Mr. Schwarz is returning the favor. “I’ve lost elections before, and after each one I could invite my opponent out for a beer. Not this time. I can’t endorse Walberg. His campaign tactics were reprehensible, consisting of one lie and mischaracterization after another.”

During the race, Mr. Walberg painted Mr. Schwarz, a Vietnam veteran, former CIA agent, and strong supporter of the Iraq War, as a liberal who was far too left-wing for the district.

The congressman, who is also a medical doctor, complained that virtually all his opponent’s money came from not only out of the district but out of state, mainly from the shadowy Club for Growth, which funded a smear campaign against him.

Whether he will endorse the Democratic nominee, 50-year-old organic farmer Sharon Renier, is unclear. Two years ago, she lost to Mr. Schwarz, 58 percent to 36 percent, but had no money. The district, which includes Hillsdale and Lenawee Counties, is mainly Republican — but voted for Bill Clinton twice. Any Democrat is a long shot … yet keep an eye on this one.
(Emphasis added)

Help Sharon Renier defeat Tim Walberg-- contribute, volunteer, and tell your friends to support the candidate that really represents the district.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Tim Walberg and the Minutemen

Tim Walberg's plan for immigration is clearly extreme and misguided, and would lead to tough punishment of the wrong people. But what about his other connection with the immigration issue?

During the primary campaign against Congressman Joe Schwarz, Minuteman PAC (the "political arm of the Minuteman Movement") was a major presence in support of Tim Walberg. On their website, he is listed as one of their four endorsed candidates.

Their involvement didn't go unnoticed. As reported by The Adrian Insider on August 3rd (five days before the primary):
The Minuteman PAC plans to pour $150,000 into a media blitz on Tim Walberg's behalf to oust incumbent Joe Schwarz, R-Battle Creek.
Walberg says Schwarz supports amnesty for illegal immigrants and is siding with his friend, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and Sen. Ted Kennedy, the senior Democrat from Massachussets.
Walberg's ads linking Schwarz to Kennedy are likely to enrage and presumably bring out the district's conservative base.
But now the Minuteman's political action committee is marching into the 7th District race, having already spent $29,000 in ads, the Jackson Citizen Patriot reported Wednesday.
Although they now say they only spent $50,000, high spending in the final days of a tight election is more than a little significant. What do we know about the Minutemen?

The "founder" of the Minuteman movement is Jim Gilchrist. Gilchrist, a failed third-party candidate for Congress, is associated with the far-right Constitution Party, and has political views which largely match those of Tim Walberg-- "strongly pro-life," supports tax cuts, and opposes same-sex marriage. He also wants to boycott the Ford Motor Company because of a single television ad.

The head of Minuteman PAC and the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps is Chris Simcox. Under his leadership, the Minutemen have begun building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. The "wall," and the leadership of Simcox, haven't been without controversy. From the Southern Poverty Law Center:

The pivot point on which Simcox's own kind turned against him is his refusal to account for the $1.6 to $1.8 million in private donations he estimates MCDC raised, including $600,000 for the "Minuteman Border Fence," -- a slick fundraising campaign with a stated goal of $55 million. Simcox pledged the money raised by the campaign would go to build a high-tech security barrier along 70 miles of private ranchland on the Arizona border. Mass-mailed MCDC solicitations and full-page color advertisements in The Washington Times since mid-April promoted the Minuteman Border Fence as an "Israeli-style" barrier "based on the fences used in Gaza and the West Bank." Fundraising illustrations depict a 6-foot trench and coils of concertina wire backed by a 15-foot steel-mesh fence crowned with bulletproof security cameras. Estimated cost: $150 per foot.

Construction began Memorial Day weekend with much fanfare. Since then, MCDC volunteers erected just over two miles of five-strand barbed wire attached to short metal posts. What they built is a standard cattle fence, costing about $1.50 per foot, or about one one-hundredth the cost of the advertised "Israeli-style" barrier.

So far, in other words, the Minuteman Border Fence hasn't come to much. "It wouldn't stop a tricycle," American Border Patrol's Glenn Spencer posted in a recent online tirade. "It's shameful that [Simcox] would deceive the American people in this way."

The Southern Poverty Law Center goes into considerable detail regarding the lack of financial accountability in the Minuteman organization-- the "wall" is just a small part of the problems Simcox faces. But what kind of people are motivated to join the Minutemen? Well, the Southern Poverty Law Center can tell us that as well.

The night of April 3, armed vigilantes camped along Border Road in a series of watch posts set-up for the Minuteman Project, a month-long action in which revolving casts of 150 to 200 anti-immigration militants wearing cheap plastic "Undocumented Border Patrol Agent" badges mobilized in southeastern Arizona. Their stated goal was to "do the job our government refuses to do" and "protect America" from the "tens of millions of invading illegal aliens who are devouring and plundering our nation."

At Station Two, Minuteman volunteers grilled bratwursts and fantasized about murder.

"It should be legal to kill illegals," said Carl, a 69-year old retired Special Forces veteran who fought in Vietnam and now lives out West. "Just shoot 'em on sight. That's my immigration policy recommendation. You break into my country, you die."

Carl was armed with a revolver chambered to fire shotgun shells. He wore this hand cannon in a holster below a shirt that howled "American bad asses" in red, white and blue. The other vigilantes assigned to Station Two included a pair of self-professed members of the National Alliance, a violent neo-Nazi organization. These men, who gave their names only as Johnny and Michael, were outfitted in full-body camouflage and strapped with semi-automatic pistols.


"The thing to do would be to drop the bodies just a few hundred feet into the U.S. and just leave them there, with lights on them at night," he said. "That sends the message 'No Trespassing,' in any language."

The conversation stopped just short of decapitating Mexicans and putting their heads on pikes, facing south.

Of course, it's not just the immigrants they hate; sometimes, you can be anti-immigrant, but too soft on them:
The woman, who said she was with a Pennsylvania anti-immigration group, had outraged Johnny and Michael that afternoon by reporting for duty with a Star of David pendant dangling below the neckline of her "I Survived the Minuteman Project" t-shirt. She also squabbled with them over the morality of pit bull fighting, and expressed her belief in animal rights and no-kill dog and cat shelters. They started calling her "Jew bitch" behind her back.
But that's not all...
While Gilchrist is newly prominent on the anti-immigration front — he recently joined the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, a hate group whose leader routinely describes Mexicans as "savages" — Simcox has been active since 2002, when he founded Civil Homeland Defense, a Tombstone-based vigilante militia that he brags has captured more than 5,000 Mexicans and Central Americans who entered the country without visas.

The graphic on Michael's sign was almost identical to the imagery on a billboard the Alliance paid to put up earlier this year in a predominantly Latino neighborhood of Las Vegas and on Alliance fliers that were tossed onto driveways and lawns in Douglas and Tombstone in late March during a dead-of-night distribution drive.

"Immigration or invasion?" those fliers read. "Non-whites are turning America into a Third World slum. They come for welfare or to take our jobs. They bring crime. Let's send them home now!"

Johnny and Michael offered their last names to no one, and never spoke of their jobs, though Michael said he had fought in the first Gulf War with the 82nd Airborne Division. At the protest, he wore a desert camouflage vest over a black shirt emblazoned with a white fist and combat boots. There were other small clues to the pair's ideology. Driving to the protest, they blasted the white-power rock band Youngblood. Johnny made several references to the "14 Words," a white supremacist adage ("We must secure the existence of our race and a future for White children"). Johnny also had a National Alliance symbol tattooed to the back of his neck and "Born in the C.S.A." (referring to the Confederate States of America) inked below his left jawbone.

These are the people that support Tim Walberg enough to spend $50,000 on his behalf. I don't intend to accuse Walberg himself of anything. However, the policies he supports, which earn him the affection of the Minutemen, should be seriously questioned.


Tim Walberg on Immigration

This post relies heavily on Migra Matters: Progressive Immigration Reform, a blog dedicated to analyzing illegal immigration and the politics surrounding it. My selective quoting and not-so-witty commentary doesn't come close to the comprehensive information collected at that site, and anyone interested in the issue should spend a great deal of time there.

We all know Tim Walberg (Radical Conservative) is anti-abortion, anti-marriage equality, and anti-taxation. But what about the divisive issue of 2006, immigration?

The Adrian Daily Telegram reported this:
WALBERG: Says the proposal passed by the U.S. House of Representatives has been the closest to his ideal plan. First, Walberg says, borders need to be secured. No amnesty will be offered, but the legal immigration process must remain open. Immigrants must have clear documentation. “As we find them, then we must deal with the illegals that are here and deal with the employers that knowingly hire illegal aliens,” he says.
It sounds straightforward enough. Secure borders, but allow legal immigration. Then we "deal with the illegals" and their employers. He says it's all put together in the proposal passed already by the US House of Representatives, but that stalled in the Senate and the White House.

This is what the House bill would do (courtesy of Migra Matters, an immigration reform blog):
  • Increase security forces and surveillance along the border.
  • Give the power to immigration officials within 100 miles of the border to expel without a hearing anyone believed to be a recently arrived illegal immigrant.
  • Expand mandatory detention to apply to all non-citizens arriving at a port of entry or “along” the border.
  • Limit the basic rights of immigrants to judicial review, even by the constitutionally guaranteed writ of habeas corpus.
  • Criminalize all violations of immigration law, even if the violation was unintentional or the result of processing delays
  • Give additional powers to detain non-citizens indefinitely without judicial review, potentially placing many non-citizens in a legal black hole that subjects them to a life sentence after having served a criminal sentence, or, in some cases, without ever having been convicted of a crime.
Sounds tough, right? But there are some problems with the bill, as outlined by Migra Matters. For starters, it gives border patrol agents broad powers outside of our judicial system or the current administrative process.
It would require the border patrol to pick up and deport, without any administrative hearing, anyone within 100 miles of the border that an agent thinks is an undocumented immigrant who has been present less than 14 days. How the officers are to determine the legal status of the deportees is not addressed in the legislation. The de facto result of this legislation is that anyone within 100 miles of the border (north or south) who is suspected of being here illegally could by deported without any sort of hearing or reviews.
Anyone can recognize the danger in this-- an agent's own prejudices and suspicions could lead to legal residents being deported without an opportunity to argue their case. But what about the rest of the bill?

The mandatory detentions?
Under current law, individuals who arrive without documents, including asylum-seekers, are subject to mandatory detention. Again this applies mainy to those arriving at airports or by sea. 60% of detainees are held in local jails under contract to the federal government, where they are generally not segregated from the criminal population even if they are asylum-seekers and others with no criminal record.

Under this new bill, the mandatory detention policy would be extended to all non-citizens who are detained at any port of entry or anywhere “along” the border for any reason.
Any non-citizen, not just those without documentation, detained for any reason ends up in jail. That's quite a friendly welcome to the land of the free.

When the bill was passed, a great deal of attention focused on the provision making illegal immigration a felony. Many, I'm sure, would argue in support of that tough-on-crime stance, since they are, after all, breaking the law. Right? Well...
As defined in the bill it includes any violation, even technical, of any immigration law or regulation. Even if the immigrant was to fall “out of status” unintentionally, or do to paperwork delays. In essence, the bill makes every immigration violation, however minor, into a federal crime. As drafted, the bill also makes the new crime of “illegal presence” an “aggravated felony” for immigration purposes.
(Emphasis added)

How is an "aggravated felony" usually defined? Here's a sample, but a full definition is available if you follow the link.

The term "aggravated felony" means

(A) murder, rape, or sexual abuse of a minor;

(B) illicit trafficking in a controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act), including a drug trafficking crime (as defined in section 924(c) of title 18, United States Code);

(C) illicit trafficking in firearms or destructive devices (as defined in section 921 of title 18, United States Code) or in explosive materials (as defined in section 841(c) of that title);

I'm a little old-fashioned, but I never thought of paperwork delays as quite this serious.

Migra Matters continues...
HR 4437 would permit indefinite detention of an increased broad class of non-citizens, including:
  • those with a contagious disease
  • any non-citizen convicted of an “aggravated felony,” (see above)
  • non-citizens whose release would pose foreign policy problems
  • non-citizens charged even with very minor immigration violations who, based on secret evidence, are deemed a national security risk.
    Indefinite detention? Secret evidence?

    Immigration reform is a serious issue facing the country today, and ought to be addressed. But the bill that Tim Walberg supports doesn't address the issue. It creates new standards for punishing immigrants without regard for guilt or innocence, and gives broad new powers to border patrol agents-- powers that police and the military aren't trusted with.

    And on top of that, it counts on the government always having its information organized. Is that something you'd bet money on?
    The problem with all of HR 4437 (outside of its possible unconstitutionality, racist overtones, and a lack of judicial checks and balances) is that all of these new programs are predicated on the government having a reliable, accurate and easily accessible information management system to ensure that those who don't "belong" here are kept out, while those who do belong are not penalized.

    Currently immigrants can wait for months and sometimes years to have their paperwork handled. Often they will fall "out of status" for long periods of time while they wait for the government to process their paperwork. Work permits expire, TPS status expires, and immigrants must wait for their new cards to be processed. Under 4437 all of these immigrants would automatically be subject to prosecution.

    Then there is the problem of the computer systems and record keeping. The US Citizenship and Immigration Service, a branch of Homeland Security, has come under fire from outside analysts and government auditors for having one of the most ineffective data management systems in the entire government.
    This is the kind of immigration reform Tim Walberg wants. Is it really what Michigan's 7th District wants?

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