Saturday, December 29, 2007

On Marriage and Civilization

Earlier this month, I received an e-mail from someone with some text from Congressman Walberg's campaign website, and some thoughts that I could potentially turn into a post. I started working with it, but found that one item in particular was taking up a lot of space, and deserved a post of its own. Now, I'm finally getting around to writing this post.

On Congressman Walberg's campaign website, he writes:

The differences between my agenda for change and the status quo in Congress couldn’t be clearer:

  • I am working to restrain government spending and cut waste to balance the budget. The current leadership in Washington continues to overspend and pile more debt on our children and grandchildren.
  • I am fighting to make the 2001 and 2003 tax relief permanent. The current budget will raise taxes on the American people by $400 billion, which amounts to $3,000 per person. That’s unacceptable.
  • I oppose giving social security benefits to illegal immigrants. The current leadership has supported giveaways to illegal immigrants time and again.
  • I support expanding the use of alternative energy and exploring for energy in Alaska and the Inter-Continental Shelf. It is time to eliminate America’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
  • I believe marriage is between one man and one woman. Many in Washington support redefining this institution that has served as the foundation of civilization.
  • I will support giving our intelligence agencies the tools to keep Americans safe. The current House leadership wants to gut intelligence services and take away these vital tools.
  • I support the right to life and oppose using taxpayer dollars to subsidize abortion.
  • I believe our government should be colorblind and provide for all Americans equally. And I’m committed to protecting and restoring the beauty of our Great Lakes.
I believe my vision of freedom and returning to our common-sense values will lead to hope and opportunity for all Americans and a better brighter future for our children.
There's a lot to work with in there and a lot of contradictions. But tonight, I want to focus on just one item:
I believe marriage is between one man and one woman. Many in Washington support redefining this institution that has served as the foundation of civilization.
Let's talk about marriage and civilization.

Before going any further, I'll say right now that I know that my position on same-sex marriage is not popular in this state or this country. Michigan adopted an amendment to the state constitution that banned same-sex marriage in 2004 by a 59 to 41 percent margin. Only two counties-- Ingham and Washtenaw-- had a majority of voters oppose the amendment. I opposed that amendment, and I support allowing same-sex couples to have the same rights that I enjoy.

But that's not important right now. I believe what I believe, and Congressman Walberg clearly states: "I believe marriage is between one man and one woman." That's a perfectly legitimate position to take, and if he had left it at that, I would have left it alone.

Instead, he said:
I believe marriage is between one man and one woman. Many in Washington support redefining this institution that has served as the foundation of civilization.
It's that second sentence that's a problem. Walberg gets his facts wrong on both counts.

"Many in Washington support redefining this institution..."

Do some people in Washington support redefining marriage-- or, rather, opening it up to same-sex couples? Yes. A few politicians here and there do. But Walberg's claim in the full text above was that these were the differences between his agenda and the "status quo in Congress." To me, that implies that he thinks a majority of Congress is trying to redefine marriage.

Is anyone in Congress trying to redefine marriage right now? Here are the bills that have been introduced in the 110th Congress that relate to defining marriage, with relevant text:

HR 107 (January 4, 2007)
"To define marriage for all legal purposes in the District of Columbia to consist of the union of one man and one woman."
Pretty straightforward.

HR 300 - We the People Act (January 5, 2007)

    The Supreme Court of the United States and each Federal court--

      (1) shall not adjudicate--

        (A) any claim involving the laws, regulations, or policies of any State or unit of local government relating to the free exercise or establishment of religion;

        (B) any claim based upon the right of privacy, including any such claim related to any issue of sexual practices, orientation, or reproduction; or

        (C) any claim based upon equal protection of the laws to the extent such claim is based upon the right to marry without regard to sex or sexual orientation; and

      (2) shall not rely on any judicial decision involving any issue referred to in paragraph (1).

In other words, you can't claim the right to marry based on the Fourteenth Amendment ("equal protection of the laws"). This is a Ron Paul bill, which seeks to right any number of supposed wrongs that Paul sees.

HR 724 - Marriage Protection Act of 2007 (January 30, 2007)
"To amend title 28, United States Code, to limit Federal court jurisdiction over questions under the Defense of Marriage Act.


"No court created by Act of Congress shall have any jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court shall have no appellate jurisdiction, to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, section 1738C of this section."
In other words, this bill says that the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, cannot be challenged in any court.

H. J. Res. 22 - Constitutional Amendment (February 6, 2007)

    `Section 1. Marriage in the United States shall consist only of a legal union of one man and one woman.

    `Section 2. No court of the United States or of any State shall have jurisdiction to determine whether this Constitution or the constitution of any State requires that the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon any union other than a legal union between one man and one woman.

    `Section 3. No State shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State concerning a union between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage, or as having the legal incidents of marriage, under the laws of such other State.'.

A constitutional amendment, because this is obviously an issue worth amending the founding document of our nation over.

Did any of those look like those liberals wanting to redefine marriage? To me, it looks like the only folks interested in defining marriage in Washington are folks like Tim Walberg.

Now, about that other part...

"... redefining this institution that has served as the foundation of civilization."

So, marriage is the foundation of civilization? Here I was, thinking the wheel and fire had something to do with it.

Seriously, though, here's what the American Anthropological Association had to say:
The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.

The Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association strongly opposes a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.
The experts say that Tim Walberg is wrong. What does make a civilization? Wikipedia says:

Social scientists such as V. Gordon Childe have named a number of traits that distinguish a civilization from other kinds of society.[9] Civilizations have been distinguished by their means of subsistence, types of livelihood, settlement patterns, forms of government, social stratification, economic systems, literacy, and other cultural traits.

All human civilizations have depended on agriculture for subsistence. Growing food on farms results in a surplus of food, particularly when people use intensive agricultural techniques such as irrigation and crop rotation. Grain surpluses have been especially important because they can be stored for a long time. A surplus of food permits some people to do things besides produce food for a living: early civilizations included artisans, priests and priestesses, and other people with specialized careers. A surplus of food results in a division of labour and a more diverse range of human activity, a defining trait of civilizations.

Civilizations have distinctly different settlement patterns from other societies. The word civilization is sometimes defined as "a word that simply means 'living in cities'".[10] Non-farmers gather in cities to work and to trade.

Marriage, however, didn't seem to make it in there.

I disagree with Congressman Walberg on same-sex marriage, but I realize that a lot of people disagree with me. But to suggest that Walberg is part of a struggling minority defending traditional marriage or to suggest that marriage is the foundation of civilization is both stupid and wrong.

And besides, is there anyone right now that thinks same-sex marriage is going to be an important issue in 2008? Is this what Walberg is going to try to run on?

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Looking South and Looking Forward

On Tuesday, December 11th, voters in the Ohio 5th Congressional District chose a new member of the House of Representatives. The incumbent, Congressman Paul Gillmor, was found dead on September 5th, leaving the seat open for a special election. The Ohio 5th is located in the northwest corner of the state, just to the south of Lenawee and Hillsdale Counties in the Michigan 7th.

Having lived in Michigan my entire life, I know the danger of ever suggesting to anyone that Michigan is anything like Ohio. It’s just not done. That said, I feel that the results from Tuesday and the overall course of the campaign leading up to those results offer us a glimpse of what might, perhaps, happen in the Michigan 7th come November 2008.

The Ohio 5th shares certain characteristics with the Michigan 7th. It’s a geographically large district, stretching across northwest Ohio, while being careful to exclude major Democratic-leaning population centers. Like the Michigan 7th, it’s gerrymandered to be an easy Republican win. It’s PVI is R+10, while the Michigan 7th’s is R+2.5, so it is more Republican than the 7th District, meaning that it should be easier for a Republican to get elected there than here. President Bush carried the mostly rural district with 61 percent of the vote, and in 2006, Congressman Gillmor was re-elected with 57 percent over under-funded Democratic challenger Robin Weirauch.

In the special election, Weirauch was the Democratic nominee once again, with no real opposition in the primary. Her opponent was state Representative Bob Latta, who had to overcome a fierce primary over a Club for Growth-sponsored Steve Buehrer. Sound familiar? Still, Latta is no Joe Schwarz, being more conservative and a much worse campaigner. After some grassroots energy and some encouraging polling, it looked like Weirauch might have a chance at winning, capitalizing on bitter Republican voters withholding their support from Latta.

I’ll spoil the ending for you, in case you didn’t already know it. Latta won, Weirauch lost, and the margin was roughly the same as the 2006 election (Latta 57 percent, Weirauch 43 percent). There were several Michigan bloggers doing work for the Weirauch campaign—most notably lpackard at Michigan Liberal—and if you’re interested, read what she wrote about her experience during the final days before the election (here, here, here, here, and here). It’s definitely worth checking out.

But the Democrat lost. Bummer, eh? Is it a sign, perhaps, that running against Walberg is a hopeless cause, because he’s got the advantages of incumbency and a gerrymandered district? Well, not so fast. In addition to the $508,000 that now-Congressman Latta spent, the National Republican Congressional Committee spent $537,038.24 in order to pay for a status quo victory.

So why is the amount that the NRCC spent so significant? Well, simply put, that was 21 percent of their total cash available, $2,513,816. The DCCC, in contrast, has $29,212,545 available to spend, and used less than one percent of their cash available (about $244,000) on this election.

In the past eight years, there have been 25 special House elections. Of those 25, only three resulted in a change of party. Special elections generally reflect the composition of the district, with a lower turnout and less attention paid to the national issues that could lead to a “wave” election as in 2006. While immune from the “wave” forces, however, they do potentially predict such waves in the election cycle which will follow. When Paul Hackett nearly won in the Ohio 2nd in 2005, it was a sign that even the most Republican seat could be in play.

Bob Latta didn’t almost lose the way that Jean Schmidt did in 2005. However, he did show us the price tag that comes with just an ordinary win. Unfortunately for the GOP, there just isn’t enough money to spend that much on every competitive district. When the NRCC is looking at which Republican-held districts are vulnerable, they’ll see the Michigan 7th. They’ll look at Tim Walberg’s lack-luster fundraising, they’ll look at Mark Schauer’s campaign, and they’ll look at Walberg’s performance thus far.

Does anyone think the NRCC would be willing to spend $500,000 to save a freshman in a blue state when there are so many open seats and senior members with strong Democratic challengers? Is it possible that the NRCC might do the math and count Tim Walberg as a loss?

I’m not saying Walberg won’t get any support from his party, but when their resources are so limited, is it worth it to put up a big fight to save one of the least important members of the caucus? With no sign of improvement in the NRCC’s finances, there’s a very real chance that Walberg could find himself on his own. Will the Club for Growth bail him out again?

Meanwhile, the DCCC is still targeting the Michigan 7th, and Mark Schauer had no trouble at all raising money in the third quarter. Walberg still has a big advantage as the incumbent in a gerrymandered district. But his advantages are slowly dwindling.

For those interested, Chris Bowers offers his explanation for why Weirauch lost. It’s good advice for messaging and issues in 2008, which any Democratic candidate should read—especially one in a district like ours.

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Beautiful But Empty

From the Battle Creek Enquirer:

With wrapped boxes in hand, nine people walked up the stairs in the Commerce Pointe building to U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg's Battle Creek office on Wednesday.

Chris Simmons, field representative for the Tipton Republican, greeted the group who handed him the six empty packages.

"These gifts are like Congressman Walberg's promises," said Dale Bennett, speaking on behalf of the group. "They're beautiful and they're empty."

Bennett, a member of the Joint-religious Organizing Network for Action and Hope (JONAH) Clergy Caucus, was accompanied by five other members of the caucus, three members of the Kalamazoo-based Michigan Citizen Action and a representative of the national environmental organization Clean Water Action.

Erin Knott, Michigan Citizen Action assistant director, said the empty boxes represented Walberg's support for critical domestic priorities, including education, children's health care and veterans' benefits.

(Emphasis added.)

Beautiful and empty. Honestly, I wish I had thought of that. If you've ever heard Congressman Walberg speak, his rhetoric sounds great, but means nothing. Beautiful and empty.

Walberg's website reads:
The Great Lakes are a treasure essential to both Michigan and the entire nation.
Beautiful, isn't it? But how does he really feel?
“I don’t know how many of you realize that here in this state in the United States, we do not allow even the slant directional drilling under the Great Lakes... Our environmental lobby has done so well in lobbying efforts from keeping us from doing that, that we don’t drill in ANWR, we don’t drill under the Great Lakes... I don’t understand that.
On Iraq, Walberg says:
Without a doubt, mistakes have been made in Iraq, and these mistakes are important to acknowledge, but we must go forward with a new strategy in Iraq based on quantifiable goals and measurable results.
That sounds pretty good to me. "A new strategy," with "quantifiable goals and measurable results" is a reasonable policy. But when Congress considers legislation that
Directs the President, by January 1, 2008, to transmit to the congressional defense, appropriations, and foreign relations committees a comprehensive U.S. strategy for Iraq. Requires the President to update such strategy no later than July 1, 2008, and every 90 days thereafter, including a description of the number of Armed Forces deployed to Iraq and the missions for which they are so deployed.
Tim Walberg votes No. A beautiful promise, but, apparently, empty.

For that matter, Congressman Walberg promised $500,000 for W.K. Kellogg Airport, which was a particularly beautiful promise. We weren't supposed to notice that it was an empty promise, as he went ahead and voted No on that funding.

When given these symbolic gifts, what was Congressman Walberg's response?

Walberg was in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday when the gifts were delivered, but he responded via e-mail, saying excessive government spending and tax increases have delivered a recession and job losses for Michigan families.

"I voted for the largest increase for veterans care in American history, while consistently working to eliminate wasteful spending to balance the budget and prevent more tax increases on struggling Michigan families and small businesses," he said.

Matt Lahr, Walberg's press secretary, said the congressman was expected to vote in favor of State Children's Health Insurance Program legislation approved Tuesday by the U.S. Senate that extends the program into 2009 without the $35 million expansion sought by Democrats.

Lahr said Walberg also supported reasonable education initiatives such as the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007.

Yep. More empty promises.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Van Hollen: Walberg Is A Target

We've heard it before, but it's always nice to hear it again. Unlike in 2006, when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee more or less ignored the Michigan 7th, it'll be a top target in 2008.

Today, subscription-only Roll Call has a list from Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), head of the DCCC, of the 40 seats they'll be targeting. Via MyDD, here's the list:
AK-AL: Don Young
AZ-01: Open
AZ-03: John Shadegg
CA-04: John Doolittle
CA-26: David Dreier
CA-50: Brian Bilbray
CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave
CT-04: Chris Shays
FL-08: Ric Keller
FL-09: Gus Bilirakis
FL-13: Vern Buchanan
FL-24: Tom Feeney
ID-01: Bill Sali
IL-10: Mark Kirk
IL-11: Open
IL-14: Open
MI-07: Tim Walberg
MI-09: Joe Knollenberg
MN-03: Open
MN-06: Michele Bachmann
MO-06: Sam Graves
NV-03: Jon Porter
NJ-03: Open
NJ-07: Open
NM-01: Open
NM-02: Open
NY-13: Vito Fossella
NY-25: Jim Walsh
NY-26: Tom Reynolds
NY-29: Randy Kuhl
NC-08: Robin Hayes
OH-01: Steve Chabot
OH-02: Jean Schmidt
OH-14: Steve LaTourette
OH-15: Open
OH-16: Open
PA-03: Phil English
WA-08: Dave Reichert
WV-02: Sheley Moore Capito
WY-AL: Open
(Emphasis added.)

I'm a little disappointed that MI-08 and MI-11 aren't on there too, but I'm more than satisfied to see that the DCCC is going to make a serious attempt to pick up seats in Michigan. What are the qualifications for a seat to get on this list?
Among the 40 Republican-held seats the DCCC is targeting generally, Van Hollen acknowledged that not all of them are exceedingly vulnerable to a Democratic takeover. But he said they all exhibit potential, and include a mixture of the following factors:

* The demographics of the district benefit the Democratic candidate.

* The Democratic presidential nominee won the district in 2004.

* The Democratic presidential nominee performed reasonably well in the district in 2004, and the 2008 Democratic House candidate is particularly strong.

* The Republican incumbent running for re-election in the district is damaged -- either ethically or in some other manner.

"We're now letting our base know, our supporters around the country know, that it's critical that they now start directing resources to some of our key challengers," Van Hollen said. "We think we've done a good job putting our Frontliners in good shape."

I can see a few ways that the 7th District fits into those. As I said, it's not necessarily news, but it's always good to see.

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Odds and Ends

I haven't been doing a great job here lately, but hopefully that'll change in the near future. After a couple of stressful weeks, I took a bit of a blogging vacation. But I'm back.

I'll have plenty of Walberg Voting Record updates coming up, but for now, here's some stuff that should be posts on their own. Instead of giving all the topics the time they deserve, I'm going to try to run through them all in this post.

The DCCC has been kind enough to put me on their press release e-mail list. Here's some of what they've been sending me lately.
Representative Tim Walberg Puts Big Oil Ahead of Middle Class Americans

‘Gas Prices Hit a Record High’ is a headline Americans are all too familiar with these days. Rather than join the bipartisan solution to lower energy prices and end America’s dependence on foreign oil, Representative Tim Walberg voted yet again for Big Oil.

“Hardworking Americans are being squeezed by skyrocketing gas prices, high health care costs, and increasing college costs. Rather than relieve Americans’ pain at the pump, Representative Tim Walberg voted to keep spending our tax dollars on subsidies and tax breaks for Big Oil making billions of dollars in profits,” said Jennifer Crider, Communications Director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Representative Walberg opposed a common sense, bipartisan energy plan that reduces America's dependence on foreign oil, lowers gas prices, and creates jobs.”


· The Energy Independence and Security Act (H.R. 6) will take groundbreaking steps toward ensuring America’s energy independence and national security, including the first increase in vehicle fuel efficiency in a generation [H.R. 6, #1140, 12/6/07].

· The measure will increase the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard for new cars and trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. This is the first increase in the fuel economy standard by Congress since 1975 and will reduce American oil consumption by 1.1 million barrels per day (roughly half of our current oil imports from the Persian Gulf).

o According to the American Automobile Association, drivers in Michigan currently pay an average cost of $ 3.01 per gallon at the pump []. This increase to the fuel economy standard will and save America’s families between $700 and $1000 per year at the pump and reduce America’s output of greenhouse gases equal to taking 28 million of today's average cars and trucks off the road.

· The measure will repeal the Bush Administration’s tax breaks for Big Oil companies and invest those savings in renewable sources of energy.

· The bill is supported by a wide range of leading business, labor, and environmental advocacy groups including the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, The United Auto Workers, the Sierra Club, and the League of Conservation Voters.
Representative Tim Walberg Opposes Middle Class Tax Relief for 23 Million Americans

Late last night, Representative Tim Walberg voted to raise taxes on more than 23 million middle class families across America, including 771,200 Michigan taxpayers who will be hit by the Alternative Minimum Tax in 2007.

“Representative Tim Walberg voted to raise taxes on 771,200 hard working middle class families in Michigan already squeezed by expensive mortgages, growing credit card bills, and skyrocketing gas prices,” said Jennifer Crider, Communications Director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “This holiday season, Representative Walberg has given middle class families a giant tax bill to look forward to. Clearly, Representative Walberg values rubber stamping President Bush more than the middle class families he represents.”


* The Temporary Tax Relief Act (H.R. 3996) would cut taxes for 23 million middle-class Americans by providing them relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). [H R 4351, #1153, 12/12/07].

* According to Citizens for Tax Justice, an estimated 771,200 taxpayer’s in Michigan will be hit by the Alternative Minimum Tax in 2007.

* Additionally, the Temporary Tax Relief Act will expand the Child Tax Credit to provide tax relief to 12 million families with children

* Middle class tax relief is paid for in this measure, rather than the Republican plan that leaves it to future generations to pay for tax cuts.
Representative Tim Walberg Voted Against Community Policing

Despite the FBI reporting that violent crime has increased for the first time in a decade, Representative Tim Walberg opposed giving law enforcement in Michigan the resources they need to fight crime in our communities.

“Even with violent crime on the rise, Representative Tim Walberg voted against giving police and prosecutors the vital resources they need to keep Michigan’s communities safe,” said Jennifer Crider, Communications Director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Keeping Michigan’s communities safe should be Representative Walberg’s highest priority, not Rubber Stamping President Bush’s proposed cuts to state and local law enforcement.”


* The Consolidated Appropriations Bill includes $2.7 Billion to help state and local law enforcement fight crime and keep communities safe [H R 2764; Roll Call Vote 1171]

* The measure also rejects the President’s proposed 94% cut to the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program and instead provides $587 million to fund COPS. This includes $20 million for the “COPS on the Beat” program, which hires more police officers and has not been funded since 2005.

· According to the FBI, violent crime in America increased in 2005 and 2006 for the first time in a decade. [LA Times; 12/19/06]
That's the DCCC's take on his votes. Perhaps biased? Maybe. But I am glad to see they're keeping the pressure on him as we approach November 2008.

Susan Demas has a column in a recent issue of the Battle Creek Enquirer that's kind of harsh on all fronts, criticizing both Congressman Tim Walberg and Michigan Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer. It's worth reading, even for those of us that might not agree with everything she says. Francis Pepper mentioned the column in a post below, but I wanted to point out something from the last couple of paragraphs:

Both candidates play the part of the principled politician to the hilt - Walberg as the über-conservative, anti-abortion warrior and Schauer as the bright-eyed, progressive reformer.

In reality, modest Mark takes his marching orders from the governor and the reverend's soul is the property of Club for Growth.

But wait, some of my liberal friends will yelp. You can't be saying Schauer would be as bad as the congressman.

Policy-wise, Schauer would certainly be a step up if he could manage to pen press releases without lying about snaring money for the Battle Creek airport that he voted against.

What I find revolting is that both men swim the sewage of politics and don't retch - they actually seem to feed off the stench.

It's still early enough for other candidates to jump in. Lord knows, we deserve better.

While acknowledging that Schauer would be a better congressman, it's more than obvious that Demas wants a third alternative. Is she talking about Sharon Renier? I can't speak for her, but I'm guessing probably not. Is there another candidate that Demas is hoping will jump into the race?

That question brings me to former Congressman Joe Schwarz. He had a fascinating interview with Jack Lessenberry on WGTE's "Deadline Now" program, and I've wanted to write about that for a while now. I even went so far as to get a copy of the interview from the very friendly folks at WGTE (Toledo, Ohio's public broadcasting station), though the interview is now available online (you've got to scroll down the page a bit to the October 19 broadcast).

The whole thing is worth watching, but I want to look at one exchange in particular. In the interview, Lessenberry asks Schwarz whether he'll run again, and Schwarz says:

I don't know yet, it's one of the things that I've decided not to decide. It is a purposeful choice, not to decide. What candidates do at this stage of the game is go out there and vie for name recognition. I don't perceive myself as having name recognition problems in the 7th Congressional District, first. And secondly, quite frankly, the mechanism by which the Congress operates is seniority and whether you're a junior member of either the majority or the minority in the U.S. Congress, you're not pulling a lot of strength. Decisions are made by committee chairs, ranking members, senior members, so the status of a junior member, especially a junior member of the minority party, whichever party that may be after 2008, isn't going to be much.
Schwarz then continues to talk about the things he would like to still work on in the committees he served on, but says that while it was a privilege to serve in the House, "it's not the be all and end all."

It's always dangerous to read too much into statements like this, because politicians can and do change their minds (as they should). But to me, I'd say that right now, I don't think Schwarz will run. If that's who Susan Demas and others are looking toward as a viable third option, it doesn't look like it'll happen.

It looks like Jack Lessenberry reached about the same conclusion I did. If you watch the end of the program, he offers his own commentary, in which he compares Joe Schwarz to Al Gore. Both, he explains, are politicians who lost close elections and then went on to do a great deal of good work outside of elected office.

As for me, I thought I'd throw in my own thoughts on Joe Schwarz. If Schwarz were to challenge Tim Walberg and win the Republican nomination, I would not vote for him, I would vote for the Democratic nominee. If Schwarz were to run as an independent against Walberg and a Democrat like Mark Schauer, I would not vote for him, I would vote for Schauer. If Schwarz were to run for the Democratic nomination, I probably would not vote for him in the primary.

Why? Because, despite the lies Walberg espoused, Joe Schwarz is a conservative man. He and I disagree on countless issues, and if he ran as a Democrat, he'd certainly not represent the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. But he's a thoughtful, honest conservative, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I have nothing but respect for him, even when we disagree, because hearing him speak, you can tell that he truly believes the things he says, and he's thought them through.

Of course, maybe I'm just easily fooled by politicians that look and sound genuine. After speaking with Mark Schauer, I was left with the impression that he was a genuine, hard-working progressive reformer, but according to Susan Demas, that's not true. Interesting.

And now, the last item is a challenge for all of you loyal Walberg Watch readers. About six months ago, I got a new computer, and discovered Windows Movie Maker was pre-installed on it. Now, it's not much compared to the high-quality video production software available, but to a novice like me, this is new and exciting.

After a while, I started making some videos related to Tim Walberg. Not so much attack ads as informative videos, showcasing some of Walberg's votes and finer moments (like, drilling for oil in the Great Lakes, or "Iraq is as safe as Detroit"). But they're a little dry... Before they can go on YouTube, they need background music!

That's where you come in. I can't just stick in music from my own collection because that runs into copyright violations. I may, in fact, be the only YouTube user that cares about that, but nevertheless, I want to avoid phone calls from lawyers. Does anyone know of a good resource where I can get high-quality, public domain audio recordings? MP3 files would be best.

I hope everyone's holiday season is off to a good start.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Campaign finance for charlatans"

(Cross-posted from To Play the King.)

The Battle Creek Enquirer
recently did a compare-and-contrast piece on the political fundraising practices of Tim Walberg and Mark Schauer.

The article takes both candidates to task.

"What I find revolting is that both men swim the sewage of politics and don't retch - they actually seem to feed off the stench," writes author Susan J. Demas.

It's worth a read.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Does Walberg Support Torture?

Today, the House of Representatives considered HR 2082, the Intelligence Authorization Act conference report, which reconciled the House and Senate versions previously passed. It reauthorizes funding for our intelligence-gathering agencies (at a cost of $2.00 per American). As far as I know, that part wasn't controversial, and I'm guessing that Congressman Walberg and most other members of Congress are fine with funding our intelligence agencies.

Here's the part that people disagreed with:

The House, in a 222-199 vote, passed annual policy legislation for intelligence agencies that included the ban on the use of simulated drowning in interrogations.

``This would mean no more torture and no more questions about what the CIA is allowed to do behind closed doors,'' said Representative Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat.

U.S. interrogations emerged again as a controversial issue after Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Hayden revealed on Dec. 6 that the agency destroyed videotapes of the questioning of alleged terrorists made in 2002.

(Emphasis added.)

That's right. The controversial part, apparently, is that the bill bans torture. That's controversial.

As you read above, the House passed the conference report, 222 to 199.

Congressman Tim Walberg voted No. The entire Republican delegation from Michigan shared his position.

I was ready to write up something on how absurd it is that anyone would think it's unreasonable to outlaw torture, including waterboarding-- the simulated drowning technique mentioned above. But instead, I'll give you a much better take-down, by DHinMI at DailyKos. I don't usually like to quote entire posts, but really, you can't get a better explanation than this:

One might have thought the waterboarding debate in the US was settled over a century ago:

The water board technique dates back to the 1500s during the Italian Inquisition. A prisoner, who is bound and gagged, has water poured over him to make him think he is about to drown...

Water boarding was designated as illegal by U.S. generals in Vietnam 40 years ago. A photograph that appeared in The Washington Post of a U.S. soldier involved in water boarding a North Vietnamese prisoner in 1968 led to that soldier's severe punishment.

"The soldier who participated in water torture in January 1968 was court-martialed within one month after the photos appeared in The Washington Post, and he was drummed out of the Army," recounted Darius Rejali, a political science professor at Reed College.

Earlier in 1901, the United States had taken a similar stand against water boarding during the Spanish-American War when an Army major was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor for water boarding an insurgent in the Philippines.

In 1901 women were prohibited from voting. We were less than 50 years away from legalized slavery, and most African-Americans were denied the full rights of citizenship. Children were working in mines, we were on the cusp of becoming an imperial occupier of the Philippines, and "polite society" accepted most of the tenets of eugenics. But even then, our interrogation techniques had evolved beyond the practices of the Spanish Inquisition, and we punished torturers, even if they were our torturers.

Just as the military rejected torture during previous wars, soldiers today know that torture yields bad information, dehumanizes the torturers along with the tortured, and makes it more likely that when our soldiers are captured that they too will be tortured. That’s why 30 retired generals and admirals implored Congress to pass the prohibition against torture.
Congressman Walberg, I admit, I don't know that this is the reason why you didn't support the bill. Maybe you had an issue with the cost, or maybe you thought that our intelligence agencies would be protecting the wrong people or something... that seemed to be your problem with S-CHIP, after all.

But the impression I get is that you and your Republican colleagues opposed this bill because you think torture is just fine. You think it's a legitimate method of interrogation, even if it doesn't actually yield results and is a violation of human rights and any sense of decency we might have.

That's the impression I get. Am I right? Congressman Walberg, do you believe waterboarding is torture? If you do, do you think it's a legitimate interrogation technique?

If you don't think waterboarding should be allowed, then I'll issue an apology for this post right away. I would feel terrible if I accused you of something so despicable as supporting torture and it wasn't true. I'd really appreciate a response or a public statement to clear things up. Torture is a serious thing to me, and I find it hard to believe anyone who claims to be Christian-- or, for that matter, anyone who claims to have any morals, regardless of faith-- would support it.

Do you support the use of torture, Congressman Walberg?

I'm sending a copy of this post to his office in hopes of a response, but I think it would be great if more people were to ask him about it. Contact Congressman Walberg and ask him about this vote. Ask him whether he supports torture. I'm eagerly awaiting his answer.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

America's Historical and Natural Legacy Study Act - Walberg Votes No

Today, December 4, 2007, the House of Representatives examined HR 3998, "America's Historical and Natural Legacy Study Act". The bill's description:
To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct special resources studies of certain lands and structures to determine the appropriate means for preservation, use, and management of the resources associated with such lands and structures.
In the text of the bill, there is a list of ten historical and natural sites, from the site of the Battle of Camden to Harry Truman's birthplace to the Mississippi River itself, and it authorizes the Department of the Interior to study ways to preserve the sites and possibly integrate some into the National Parks system. It's a study only.

HR 3998 passed, by a vote of 326 to 79.

Congressman Tim Walberg voted No. He was the only member of the Michigan delegation to vote against the bill.

Nice. I guess someone didn't like history class field trips.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Rick Baxter and Walberg Staff Changes

I first wrote about Rick Baxter nearly a year ago as then-Congressman-elect Walberg was setting up his office. Baxter, who had represented a state House district in Jackson County until losing re-election to former Jackson mayor and current Representative Martin Griffin, had just been named as Walberg's district director. (Around the same time, he also became the head of the Jackson County Republican Party.)

Baxter, Walberg, and Joe Wicks (Walberg's chief of staff) have a long history together. Baxter volunteered for Walberg's state House campaigns while a student at Lenawee Christian High School, and Joe Wicks helped run Baxter's first state House campaign and was Baxter's own chief of staff until leaving to help Walberg.

So it really was kind of strange this fall when Baxter decided to quit.
Rick Baxter, formerly district director for U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, said Friday he resigned his position with the congressman's Jackson office on Oct. 16 to work in the family business.

Baxter now is the business development director for Jackson-based Baxter Machine & Tool Inc.
Back to the family business? The article goes on to explain that it had absolutely nothing to do with Mark Schauer entering the race, and that it was just an "interesting coincidence."

Right. Because a young, motivated, rising Republican would never jump off a sinking ship to save his own political career. Obviously that's not why he left.

Now, I don't know whether the family business was the real reason that he quit or not. But here's the strange thing-- apparently, the rest of Walberg's staff doesn't know either.

I usually don't post much on rumors, but this was very interesting. From an e-mail I received not too long ago:
As far as Baxter's leaving, that is a lot more complicated. His leaving is very hush, hush and most of the general staff have no idea why he left. The little bit I know is that there were some bad feelings between Baxter and Wicks and Walberg himself. The best I have put together is that Baxter was "too honest" about his analysis of Walberg's public speeches and told Walberg exactly how he felt. Baxter would tell both Wicks and Walberg what he disagreed with as far as messages coming out of DC, press releases, their bad press relationships, and things Walberg would say in public. I know Walberg didn't like to be corrected and Wicks said it was Baxter not respecting Wick's or Walberg's positions. Now how that came to Baxter leaving and if that was the main reason I don't know. Both District and DC staff really don't know why he left. They just got an email from Baxter one day that said he had resigned and they haven't seen him since. I'm sure it does Walberg no good to down talk Baxter, due to his strong ties to Jackson and his connect to Jackson money, and it does Baxter no good (especially if he has future political plans) to down talk Walberg who is loved by the conservative voters in and around Jackson. But something pushed him to leave.
At the request of the source, I can't give you the name of the person who sent me that. Unfortunately, there's not an easy way for me to verify any of that... for some reason, I don't have a lot of friends in the Michigan GOP who would tell me about this sort of thing. So, take that as you will.

So, Baxter, Walberg, and Wicks may have had a personal clash, and now Baxter's out. How does that change the way Walberg's office is run?

First, it's worth noting that Rick Baxter was an important figure in Walberg's office. As district director, he was present at many of Walberg's events and was the only highly-publicized hire while Walberg was organizing his office. Serving as the chairman of the Jackson GOP at the same time probably helped to strengthen Walberg's ties with the party establishment, who had overwhelmingly supported Joe Schwarz in the 2006 primary. And, of course, as I've written before, Jackson County is very important to winning the district.

Losing that presence will probably hurt Walberg some. But there's perhaps a greater impact. As Walberg Watch readers noted last January, some of Walberg's staff in the district was hired by Rick Baxter and had worked with him before. Jill Larder (field representative, then casework/awards) and Mary Ann Duffy (constituent relations) each worked for Baxter in the past. What kind of impact did Baxter's sudden departure have on them? It's certainly worth asking about.

It's especially worth asking about in light of Baxter's replacement, Ryan Boeskool. He had been the field representative for Eaton and Jackson Counties. From the same source above, he has a decidedly different managing style than that of Rick Baxter, and is apparently not all that popular with the district staff. As the source claims, Boeskool will "openly berate employees in front of their co-workers," including Keith Brown, the Lenawee and Hillsdale field representative. Brown is the oldest and most experienced person on staff, having worked as Nick Smith's district director. Boeskool sounds like a nice fellow, eh? Apparently the incident with Brown led to some real bad feelings with the staff.

Now, some of you are probably thinking to yourself, "Fitzy, this is all very interesting, but a lot of it is coming from one source! How do we know this isn't all made up?" I asked the same thing, and I can't give you a good answer, except to say that if the person who sent me this e-mail made it all up, s/he made a lot of details and did a good job of it. It's consistent with what I know of Walberg, Wicks, and Baxter, and sounds plausible enough for me to write about it. Plus, I'm the trusting sort.

If you want, the source also makes a prediction:
This isn't public yet, but another staffer for Walberg is leaving next month [this month; I got the e-mail in November]. Tony Reinhard who is their DC scheduler and who also worked on the 2006 campaign is leaving before the end of the year.
Tony is not leaving on good terms and is being forced out. They are giving him this time only so he can find another job and so they can say he is just leaving for a "better opportunity."
So, let's see what happens. I'm kind of curious.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sharon Renier Website Updated

Although my last post was focused on a Schauer-Walberg race, there is still a third candidate running-- Sharon Renier. She filed a statement of candidacy with the FEC on October 15, 2007, and in the third quarter she raised $810 and spend $187.43.

Compared to Schauer and Walberg, it's not much of a campaign, but it is a campaign and deserves mentioning.

Now, she's updated her campaign website, which had gone unchanged for a year, with a new design and links to contribute through PayPal and ActBlue.

I just thought I'd mention it.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

The 2008 Election and Geography

Before I begin this post, I want to be clear that it's not an endorsement of Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer. That's not a pro- or anti-Schauer statement, either, but merely a reaffirmation that I'm not endorsing anyone on this blog in the Democratic primary, because I don't want to be accused of bias one way or another. Sure, I have my personal preference, but I can and will enthusiastically support either Mark Schauer or Sharon Renier.

All of that said, right now, there's a very strong chance that Senator Schauer will be the Democratic nominee. In terms of money and name recognition, he's certainly the strongest Democrat the district has seen in the last 15 years. He's in a pretty comfortable position to win his party's nomination.

So, assuming Joe Schwarz does not run as an independent, what would a Walberg versus Schauer campaign look like? It would certainly be a contrast in ideology and a contrast in style, but there's another aspect that I'd like to look at: geography.

Here's Michigan's 7th District, with the hometowns of Congressman Walberg and Senator Schauer indicated.

Walberg-- the red dot-- is Tipton/Franklin Township, while Schauer-- the blue dot-- is Bedford Township/Battle Creek. The map above really isn't necessary, I just wanted a visual way of showing that Walberg comes from the eastern, southern part of the district and Schauer comes from the northern, western part. You all knew that already, but I like maps.

So what's the significance of that? Well, it's not just that Walberg's end of the district makes refrigerator compressors and Schauer's end makes cereal. There's a significant population difference:

The map above shows the percentage of the total 7th District voters who voted in the last presidential election year that came from each county. (I used 2004 because, like 2008, it will be a presidential election year.) For example, 19.2 percent of 7th District voters in 2004 cast their ballots in Calhoun County. The data that produced the map:

Branch - 5.6%
Calhoun - 19.2%
Eaton - 17.5%
Hillsdale - 5.9%
Jackson - 22.5%
Lenawee - 14.2%
Washtenaw - 15.0%
Again, I just really like maps.

From this, we see that Schauer is from and has a history representing the more populous parts of the district, while Walberg's strength-- primarily Lenawee County, which he represented in the state House, and the conservative southern tier of counties-- has fewer people. When we draw onto the map Senator Schauer's current Michigan Senate district, we see:

From this, we see that Senator Schauer's current district already covers nearly 40 percent of the district's voters, including Battle Creek and Jackson, the two largest cities. In 2002, he was elected with 55.1 percent, and in 2006, he was re-elected with 61.2 percent. (In 2004, John Kerry received 46.4 percent in the Senate district.)

That's not a bad base to start off with. There are a lot of voters who know Schauer's name, know the work he's done for their communities, and are used to voting for him. They know him and, based on the previous election results, they seem to like him.

So what does that mean for Schauer?

In 2006, Sharon Renier won Calhoun County, Eaton County, and Washtenaw County, while Walberg won everywhere else. Let's assume that Mark Schauer can do the same, while perhaps increasing the margin in Calhoun County (Renier's 51 percent in Calhoun County was well below Schauer's 61 percent and Granholm's 57 percent, suggesting room for improvement). Absent an enormous victory in Calhoun County (as in, >70%) or in Eaton County, the key to winning, as I pointed out about a year ago, is Jackson County.

In addition to having the largest population on my map above, Jackson County is the only county that Jennifer Granholm carried in 2006 and Sharon Renier did not. Walberg won Jackson County 51 to 46. Could Schauer do better? Let's look at that map again.

Most of Jackson County is in Schauer's Senate district, including the city of Jackson. Schauer carried the Jackson County portion of his district with 56 percent in 2006, but in 2002, he lost that portion of his district, 47.7 percent to 52.3.

So, really, what does all this mean? I really wish I could say, in big bold letters, "Schauer wins!" but I can't. There are a lot of things I haven't taken into account, but here's what it comes down to:
  • In a Schauer versus Walberg election, Schauer will probably win Calhoun, Eaton, and Washtenaw Counties. Walberg will probably win Branch, Hillsdale, and Lenawee Counties.
  • Jackson is and has been the "battleground county" and could easily go Democratic or Republican. It appears to be trending Democratic (see 2006, with Granholm, Griffin, and Simpson), but that may have been a 2006 fluke.
  • Schauer is in a good position to perform well in Jackson County, already representing most of its residents. He's a known quantity, and showed improvement from 2002 to 2006.
But there are some obvious criticisms of all that, too:
  • Presidential election years are different. More and different people come to the polls and you really can't compare them to midterm years.
  • We don't elect a member of Congress based on how many counties he wins, we elect based on the total number of votes. It's entirely possible that Schauer could win big in Calhoun County and underperform everywhere else and still win. It's also possible that Walberg could lose Jackson County but increase his margins elsewhere and make Calhoun and Eaton Counties closer and win.
So, really, it could be argued that this post is an exercise in futility, but I don't think so. Schauer has a real geographic advantage by being from the more populous part of the district, which is already slightly more Democratic than the southern and eastern parts. He has a history with the voters of all-important Jackson County, which will prove beneficial. And, like Schwarz before, he's the "local boy" in Battle Creek, which means he has a chance to build on Renier's showing in Calhoun County.

All in all, I think Schauer starts off with the geographic advantage, which may be enough to blunt Walberg's incumbency advantage. But that's just my gut feeling.

And I got to make some nice maps. So, there's that too.

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