Sunday, November 10, 2013

Reporting on Obamacare - Is There a Journalist in the House?

Taking a look at the Code of Ethics for the Society of Professional Journalists, I see that a journalist should, "test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error." Or, as a huge sign at the City News Bureau of Chicago used to remind young news reporters, "IF YOUR MOTHER SAYS SHE LOVES YOU, CHECK IT OUT."

Jobs in journalism are getting harder and harder to find. This makes professional standards such as the Code of Ethics more important than ever.  If paid reporters are going to distinguish themselves from the two-bit-opinion bloggers like me, then they need to, among other things, report news stories accurately.

This is why I'm baffled by the recent phenomenon of "Obamacare Victim" interviews. In these interviews, popular with cable news since the web site went live in October, a good citizen recounts their shock at finding out that their new health insurance will cost them much more than their perfectly good insurance did before. The fact that these stories aren't true is beside the point. The question is: why aren't journalists either verifying or refuting these stories before they report them?

 Case in point. This CBS News report explained last month that, "people are losing their existing insurance plans," because, "requirements in the law, like prenatal and prescription drug coverage, mean their old plans aren't comprehensive enough." We are then introduced to Dianne Barrette, a 56-year-old Florida resident, who was recently informed that her new plan will increase from $54 to $591 per month.

Shocking! Except here's what that report didn't tell you. First, Dianne isn't being asked to pay more than ten times as much for, "prenatal and prescription drug coverage." In reality, her current "plan" isn't actually health insurance, and even Dianne isn't aware of how little she's getting for her money. As blogger Heavy Mettle of notes, "Ms. Barrette goes on to say that this 'insurance' is perfect for what she needs: a doctor visit copay and prescription copay, and maybe some outpatient services. It turns out that she actually had that reversed and the insurance company paid a $50 'copay' towards a doctor visit, and $15 for prescriptions, and she herself was responsible for all the rest of the costs." "Now this is exactly the type of junk insurance Obamacare is meant to do away with, and it is not surprising that people don't know what their insurance covers."

Nancy Metcalf of Consumer Reports also followed up on Dianne's story, and came up with the same information,

"Barrette’s expiring policy is a textbook example of a junk plan that isn’t real health insurance at all." "She's paying $650 a year to be uninsured," Karen Pollitz, an insurance expert at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, said. "I have to assume that she never really had to make much of a claim under this policy. She would have lost the house she's sitting in if something serious had happened. I don't know if she knows that." "So, using tools available through I determined that she qualifies for a premium subsidy of $320 a month. She can use that to purchase a Humana Direct Silver 4600/6300 plan for $165 a month."

Some of this information also came to light as the result of the a follow-up interview with Dianne Barrette on Fox News. Putting aside the irony of Fox News actually correcting the mistakes of another news outlet, the interview in question also uncovered the fact that CBS News failed to report a key fact regarding Dianne and her new health insurance options. As Timothy Christopher of notes, the Blue Cross plan in question, "was only one of many plans Dianne has to choose from, 10 of which are cheaper than that $591, and based on her income, she’d only pay around $209 a month." Although CBS News did mention that Dianne might qualify for a subsidy, they failed to investigate and report on the fact that Dianne will only have to pay about a third of the quoted price of $591 for what is real health insurance. And again, why did CBS refer to Dianne's current plan, which provides only small co-pays for a few services, as "insurance?" To me, that's like referring to quack nostrums such as Bonnore's Electro Magnetic Bathing Fluid which claimed, among other things, to cure cholera, epilepsy, and scarlet fever, as "medicine."

On October 28 NBC News aired a virtually identical "Obamacare rate shock" story, also chock full of misleading information. That report introduces us to Deborah Cavallaro, someone, "who buys her own insurance." Paul Waldman of the The American Prospect summarizes the rest of the story,

"We learn in this story that her insurer is cancelling her current plan, which costs $293 a month, because it doesn't comply with the new law. They've offered her a new plan at $484 a month." The report tells us that, "the administration points out that many people will get subsidies to offset the higher costs." So what about Deborah? Is she going to get subsidies? (The report) doesn't say, but she well may, which would mean she wouldn't be paying more, or might actually be paying less."

"But wait. Maybe she's not a victim after all. How does the $484 plan her current insurer is offering compare to the other ones she could get? Did she or the reporter go to the California exchange and try to figure that out? Apparently, they didn't. But I did."

"It took less than 60 seconds. Let's assume that Deborah has a high enough income that she isn't eligible for subsidies. I put in that I was 45 years old and got nine different choices for a Bronze plan, which in all likelihood most closely resembles what Deborah has now. The average monthly cost was $258, or $35 a month less than what Deborah's paying now for her bare-bones plan. And that's for a plan that, while it's the least expensive option, almost certainly involves less cost-sharing that what Deborah has to deal with now. She can get a Silver plan, with more generous coverage, for $316, only $23 more than she's paying now. Congratulations, Deborah!"

In closing, I'd like to return to Dianne Barrette one more time. Now that she's fully aware about the quality, affordable health insurance available to her through Obamacare, how does she feel? Jonathan Cohn of the the New Republic, spoke to her, and,

"I would jump at it," she said. "With my age, things can happen. I don’t want to have bills that could make me bankrupt. I don’t want to lose my house."

Barrette can't be sure until she sees the numbers for herself. And so far she hasn't been able to do so, thanks to the technological problems at But as she’s become more aware of her options, she said, she’s no longer aghast at losing her plan—and curious to see what alternatives are available. "Maybe," she told me, "it’s a blessing in disguise."

Too bad CBS News doesn't have any real journalists, or Dianne might have been aware of the benefits of Obamacare a lot sooner.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

I Have Rights Too: An Argument Against Guns in Public Places

I've always loved Mark Twain's semi-autobiographical book entitled Roughing It. It principally follows Twain's travels through the Wild West in the 1860s. Among the the many colorful stories in Roughing It are tales of old-time bandits and gunfighters.

Twain described life at a stagecoach station in the Rocky Mountains this way:

It was the very paradise of outlaws and desperadoes. There was absolutely no semblance of law there. Violence was the rule. Force was the only recognized authority. The commonest misunderstandings were settled on the spot with the revolver or the knife. Murders were done in open day, and with sparkling frequency, and nobody thought of inquiring into them. It was considered that the parties who did the killing had their private reasons for it; for other people to meddle would have been looked upon as indelicate.

Regarding the "gunfighters" of the Old West, Twain said,

The best known names in the Territory of Nevada were those belonging to these long-tailed heroes of the revolver. They were brave, reckless men, and traveled with their lives in their hands. To give them their due, they did their killing principally among themselves, and seldom molested peaceable citizens, for they considered it small credit to add to their trophies so cheap a bauble as the death of a man who was "not on the shoot," as they phrased it. They killed each other on slight provocation, and hoped and expected to be killed themselves-- for they held it almost shame to die otherwise than "with their boots on," as they expressed it.

 While it all sounds quite romantic, I can't say I'm eager to live in a place where a heavily-armed citizenry practices vigilante justice and routinely settles petty arguments with bullets. But in 21st century America, that exactly where we're headed.

I've been asked if the Second Amendment is outmoded. It isn't. It's simply been misinterpreted thanks to one of the many disastrous 5-4 Supreme Court decisions of the last few years. Until 2010, the law of the land on prohibiting ownership of some kinds of weapons was based on the case Miller v. United States:

"In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a 'shotgun ha
ving a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument." Describing the constitutional authority under which Congress could call forth state militia, the Court stated, "With obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of such forces the declaration and guarantee of the Second Amendment were made. It must be interpreted and applied with that end in view." 

In the 2008 case of District of Columbia v. Heller  the Supreme Court overturned Miller, and by extension the District of Columbia's ban on handgun ownership. The Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home, and, that handguns are "arms" for the purposes of the Second Amendment.

I was never in favor of a total ban on handguns. I think it makes more sense to try to convince people that keeping them in their homes is a bad idea. I'm much more disturbed by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in December of 2012 striking down Illinois' ban on concealed-carry of handguns in public. In a 2-1 ruling, the Court said "The Supreme Court has decided that the amendment confers a right to bear arms for self-defense, which is as important outside the home as inside."

Personally, I agree with the dissenting Judge in the Court decision cited above who noted, "when firearms are carried outside the home, the safety of a broader range of citizens is at issue. The risk of being injured or killed now extends to strangers, law enforcement personnel, and other private citizens who happen to be in the area." Or, to put it more simply, as then Governor of California Ronald Reagan said in the 1960s, "There’s no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons." Americans do not need handguns to protect themselves in public. I do not want to be shot by concealed handguns that fire accidentally. I do not want to be shot by stray bullets fired by armed vigilantes trying to stop crime. I do not want to be accidentally shot by people firing their guns to scare other people. I do not want to be shot by people with concealed-carry permits who go crazy and just start shooting. I have rights too, including the right to not be put at risk of being shot by people who carry loaded guns everywhere for no compelling reason.

But the gun lobby is never content. The right to carry loaded handguns in public is not enough of course. So we move to the next fight: the demand for the right to carry guns everywhere, even on private property. And with that demand, of course, comes the nonsense argument that more guns in private places makes everyone safer.

Businesses are now under heavy pressure to allow customer to carry guns on their premises, As the Chicago Tribune reported recently,

"Under the recently passed concealed carry law, businesses can now choose whether to allow handguns on their property. If they post a sign outside their business declaring it gun-free, patrons are not allowed to bring them in.

But in deciding to ban or allow guns, business owners worry they may alienate patrons who support one side or the other. Business owners also worry their choice could saddle them with legal liability, should something go terribly wrong."

The gun lobby of course has no intention of letting businesses decide for themselves whether to allow guns. According to the Arizona Daily Star,

"The Arizona Citizens Defense League, a nonprofit group that supports expanding gun owners' legal rights, provides templates of business-sized cards on its website that users can print out to hand to business owners who prohibit firearms. Under a logo indicating no guns means no money, the cards say "You have made a decision to ban guns in your store. I am going to respect that decision and take my gun and my money to a competing business.""

Companies like Starbucks Coffee have made it clear that they would prefer not to allow guns on their premises, but they no longer feel they have choice. A spokesman for the company has commented, "In communities that permit open carry, we abide by local laws. Where these laws don't exist, openly carrying weapons in our stores is prohibited."

In Arizona, Pizza Hut has reversed its no-guns policy and is allowing customers to carry firearms into the restaurant if they are legal possessors. A spokesperson noted that the new policy doesn't apply to employees, who won't be able to carry guns at work. "For safety reasons we have always had a 'no weapon' policy (while working) for all of us at Pizza Hut of Arizona" It's interesting that Pizza Hut's official comment on the change is similar to that of Starbucks: they believe that guns on the premises make everyone less, not more safe.

They're right of course: guns carried by persons without weapons and law enforcement training make everyone less safe. This is not an opinion, it's statistical fact, as demonstrated by actuarial science. Consider for example a recent decision in Kansas that permits teachers and custodians to carry concealed firearms in schools. Journalist Charles B Pierce notes,

"The EMC Insurance Co. insures 85 percent to 90 percent of all Kansas school districts and has refused to renew coverage for schools that permit teachers and custodians to carry concealed firearms on their campuses under the new law, which took effect July 1. It's not a political decision, but a financial one based on the riskier climate it estimates would be created, the insurer said. "We've been writing school business for almost 40 years, and one of the underwriting guidelines we follow for schools is that any on-site armed security should be provided by uniformed, qualified law enforcement officers," said Mick Lovell, EMC's vice president for business development. "Our guidelines have not recently changed.""

"Bob Skow, chief executive officer of the Independent Insurance Agents of Iowa, said he's not surprised by the companies' decisions. Insurance is all about risk and about pricing the cost of coverage in a way that correctly reflects it. That's one of the reasons many schools have gotten rid of their trampolines, he said. "It's one thing to have a trained peace officer with a gun in school; it's a completely different situation when you have a custodian or a teacher with a gun," Skow said."

The law enforcement community has expressed concerns similar to that of the insurance industry. Regarding Mississippi's new open-carry law, Ward Calhoun, chief deputy of the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department said, "One of our main concerns with a citizen carrying a firearm, no matter under which law it is, that they are trained not only in the operation and functions of the firearm but when that person can deploy that firearm." Mississippi does not, of course, require any such training to carry a gun.

It's also worth pointing out that introducing guns in schools, even when carried exclusively by police and trained security officers, presents its own dangers. Schools in Highland, New York recently began putting armed police officers in schools, and it wasn't very long before one of them accidentally shot his gun in a school hallway. This past May, an armed security officer at a school in Aurora, Colorado accidentally shot a student in the leg. In January, a security officer in Michigan left an unloaded gun in a school bathroom.

So, open and concealed carry without a permit on the street, in every business, janitors carrying guns in schools, is there anything I forgot? Why of course: guns in government buildings! From, "The Gilbert (Arizona) Town Council is considering allowing the public to carry deadly weapons, including guns, into town buildings and events after two conservative councilmen last week voiced support for the proposal."

But to return to my original point, the principal danger every American now faces is not that guns are carried in every public and private place. The real danger is gun-toting vigilantes who see themselves as authorized to use deadly force in public.

In August of 2012, two teens in Jacksonville, Florida attempted to rob a local store using BB guns. A customer in the store shot and killed one of them.  My reaction to this is, "the customer is not a police officer. What right does he have to deal out deadly force when he believes a crime is being committed?"

My opinion, however, seems to be very much at odds with other people commenting on the situation. The gun lobby, of course, touts the story as an argument in favor of concealed carry. And as strange as it seems to me, local law enforcement chose to praise rather than condemn the use of vigilante justice. Lt. Rob Schoonover of the Jacksonville police said, "He put himself in harm’s way by getting involved," "To us, he prevented any other violence from happening."

When I get on the bus Monday morning, and one of those odd verbal altercations I often hear between passengers on public transportation begins, will the people involved then decide to escalate the matter by drawing their legally carried guns? Will another person then decide to settle the issue by shooting them both dead? If he does so, will he then be praised by the police, rather than charged with murder?

With each passing year, I'm coming closer to the conclusion that I'm living in the wrong country.

Monday, May 27, 2013

All Politics, No Policy: The New Negligence of Congressional Republicans

Last month Congress held a hearing on long-term unemployment before the 19-member Joint Economic Committee. No Republicans attended. There are 82 vacant federal judge slots around the country, 61 of which don't even have a nominee, largely because some Senate Republicans have simply stopped participating in the nomination process. Meanwhile on the legislative front, taking a look at the agenda set by the House Republican leadership, Jonathan Bernstein of notes,

"Over 100 days into the current Congress, their agenda is … almost completely empty. In fact, of the (first) 10 reserved slots, there’s only one bill filed. That’s H.R.3. a bill to force the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. Even that is pretty minimal – it’s far more of a symbolic position than it is an energy policy. And even that took until March 15 to introduce. But at least it’s a real bill, and to their credit it is a substantive measure, even if it’s not an overall energy policy. Beyond that, Republicans have announced that H.R. 1 is reserved for a tax reform bill. There is, however, no bill, at least not so far."

So, did the Republicans disappear? Were they called up to heaven in the rapture, and the rest of us are, "Left Behind?" Sadly, no. Instead, they've simply stopped fulfilling their responsibilities to keep government functional. Apparently, Congressional Republicans are content to stop pretending that they're doing anything but trying to build and maintain power and to hold an endless series of "symbolic" votes condemning President Obama. In April, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC commented on this, suggesting that Republicans in Washington are now simply, "post policy."

Maddow was discussing the fact that Republicans had demanded that President Obama accept Social Security cuts, Obama had agreed to the cuts in hopes of reaching a budget compromise, and Republicans then attacked Obama for proposing the cut they demanded. This resulted in the following exchange between Maddow and Ezra Klein of the Washington Post:

MADDOW: Does that mean that [Republican policymakers are] post-policy, that the policy actually -- even some things that seem like constants don't actually a matter them, that it's pure politics, just positioning themselves vis-a-vis the president, and they're not actually invested in any particular outcome for the country?
KLEIN: I would like to have an answer where that isn't true. I really would. And I've tried -- I've been trying to find it. I'm sure part is I'm not smart enough to do so, that I've not found the right people to have spoken to them. But it is hard to come up with one.

In most jobs where you get a paycheck, Congressional Republicans would have been fired for dereliction of duty by now. But that's not how Congress works. I've been taking a look at WHY Republicans are doing what they are doing, and here's what I've come up with.

Reason #1: Hate.
On a recent appearance of Bill Maher's Real Time on HBO, filmmaker Michael Moore suggested, according to Jeff Poor of the Daily Caller, "that Republicans’ efforts to repeal Obama’s health care reform and Senate Republicans’ blocking of his judicial nominations go beyond loyal opposition and could rise to the level of treason." On the show, Moore commented, 

"What about trying to repealing [Obamacare] for the 37th time? Is that a wise use of our resources and time? I mean, at some point obstruction becomes, I don’t know, treason, you know? I mean they’ve also blocked Obama’s head of the EPA. There’s no head of the circuit court in D.C. You know, at some point it just becomes more about hating him than loving your country."

Are Michael Moore's comments over the top? Not really, when one considers that Republican leaders are admitting that what Moore is saying is true. Consider the recent failure of background check legislation for private gun purchases, a law supported by 90% of the public. Republican Senator Pat Toomey claims that the GOP minority killed the bill with a filibuster because, "There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it." And such an admission is not anything new. In 2010, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell stated that in no uncertain terms that his primary focus was not good government, but instead, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
Reason #2: Laziness
Returning the Jonathan Bernstein article I linked above, "My guess is that the Republican-aligned partisan press is just so easy for Republican politicians that they’ve all become lazy. If all you have to do to be a favorite guest on Fox News or on syndicated conservative talk radio is to mutter something vague about Benghazi and make a teleprompter joke, what’s the incentive of doing the hard work of actually writing a bill?"

Bernstein is quite correct about the attitude of the right-wing press. Leading conservative publications are openly encouraging Republicans to remain "post policy." In a recent letter from the Heritage Foundation to members of Congress, that organization encouraged Republicans to focus their time and attention solely on Obama administration "scandals," saying,

"it would be imprudent to do anything that shifts the focus from the Obama administration to the ideological differences within the House Republican Conference."

"To that end, we urge you to avoid bringing any legislation to the House Floor that could expose or highlight major schisms within the conference. Legislation such as the Internet sales tax or the FARM Act which contains nearly $800 billion in food stamp spending, would give the press a reason to shift their attention away from the failures of the Obama administration to write another ‘circular firing squad’ article."

Reason #3: Republicans Can't Stand Each Other
Ah yes, about that "circular firing squad" the Heritage Foundation letter mentioned. In a recent article entitled, "A House in Chaos," Jake Sherman of noted,

"Speaker John Boehner, (Majority Leader Eric) Cantor and (Majority Whip Kevin) McCarthy are plagued by a conference split into two groups. In one camp are stiff ideologues who didn’t extract any lesson from Mitt Romney’s loss and are only looking to slash spending and defund President Barack Obama’s health care law at every turn. In the other are lawmakers who are aligned with Cantor, who is almost singularly driving an agenda which is zeroed in on family issues."

How has this divide manifested itself? Well, last month Majority Leader Eric Cantor actually made a sincere effort to create some legislation. Cantor's effort to "rebrand" the Republican party began with a speech in which he suggested the pursuit of, "an agenda based on a shared vision of creating the conditions for health, happiness and prosperity for more Americans and their families." This "vision" of course, translated into yet another in an endless series of votes to repeal health care reform. Unfortunately, according to an April 24th article by Lisa Mascaro of the Los Angeles Times,

"That ambitious goal ran smack into political reality Wednesday as conservative lawmakers rejected a Republican bill to help Americans with preexisting health conditions gain access to insurance coverage. Republican leaders had to abruptly yank the bill from consideration because they did not have enough votes from their rank and file to pass it. The episode was another example of the difficulty the Republican Party faces in corralling its unruly majority and finding a common message to attract voters."

In conclusion, House Republicans may be in power for some time, given that they've gerrymandered enough states to virtually guarantee majority control. Considering their recent conduct in Washington, public approval of Congress is likely to long remain where it is today: at an all-time low.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Between Equality and Condemnation There Lies "States' Rights"

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages even if they are allowed in certain states. Currently, there is widespread prediction that the Supreme Court will overturn DOMA in its upcoming ruling in the case of United States v. Windsor. This prediction is based on comments made by swing-Justice Anthony Kennedy in oral arguments on the case. According to The Hill, Kennedy, "asked openly whether the federal government should be playing any role in regulating marriage, arguing that it infringed on states’ rights to define marriage."

If the Supreme Court overturns DOMA, it will be doing the right thing. But there's also a political motivation for a conservative court to lend a hand to a Republican party increasingly uncomfortable with its own "no gay marriage anywhere ever" policy. By making it an issue of "states rights," the Court makes it a lot easier for Republicans to pander to different audiences. Republican politicians are under a lot of pressure from their base not to move to the left on LGBT issues. As Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post points out, most Republicans, "don’t think same-sex marriage should be allowed, which explains the politics of why the GOP hasn’t moved swiftly to embrace it the way Democrats have. Fifty-nine percent of Republicans oppose allowing gay couples to marry, compared to just 34 percent who support it." On the other hand, Republicans politicians don't want to alienate the 58 percent of Americans who now believe it should be legal for same-sex couples to marry. With DOMA out of the way, Republicans leaders will then be free to say, "I'm against gay marriage, but if the people of some states want it, that's ok too. I support states' rights."

Sounds reasonable doesn't it? Well, not really. Stop for a minute and think how ridiculous a position this really is. Let's take a look at where President Obama stands on the issue of marriage equality. In 2008, Obama was on the record as being against marriage equality. In 2012 however, he shifted his position to say that he is personally in favor of marriage equality, while at the same time acknowledging, "states’ rights" to define marriage as they saw fit.

Jim Neal of the Daily Beast wrote a good summary of what's wrong with the President's stance:

"To a lot of us, that example of a state’s right tasted a lot like Jim Crow. I imagine there were many interracial couples who felt similarly when the president was born in 1961: then, 21 states outlawed interracial marriage—prohibiting the marriage of Mr. Obama's own parents.
Obama's nuanced acceptance of marriage equality falls short of the sort of unambiguous weight that President Johnson threw behind expanding federal civil rights  legislation that gutted the states' abilities to limit the voting rights of black Americans. LBJ declared outright war on the constitutional primacy of states’ rights over equality. And he won.

Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago for the 12 years prior to his election to the Senate in 2004. So he is no doubt familiar with the landmark 1967 ruling in which all nine Supreme Court Justices voted to strike a blow at states’ rights' in those 17 states that still banned marriages between people of color and white people. In its ruling, the court stated: “The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the state."

I agree completely. If the President believes that the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees the right to marriage equality for LGBT persons, he should say so. If he doesn't believe it, he should explain why.

Moreover, the idea that major civil rights issues should be decided in this country on a state-by-state basis has never worked and makes no sense. The Declaration of Independence
states that everyone has, "certain unalienable Rights" that no government authority can legislate against. All civil rights must be declared to be unalienable. It is ridiculous to take a position that says, "I support allowing everyone to marry the partner of their choice, but if a narrow majority of Alabamans disagrees, they can prohibit marriage equality, because marriage equality is a right, but not the same kind of right as free speech."

Whatever their motivations, public officials would be wise to get on the right side of history and back marriage equality as the right of every person, and the sooner the better. If not, they're going to look as silly as the plurality of Mississippi Republicans who still believe that people should not be able to marry if they have slightly different skin tones.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Predictions: 2013 and 2014 Gubernatorial races

Final prediction:
 Democrats to pickup Florida, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania 
Republicans to pickup Arkansas, Massachusetts
Independent to win Alaska

In 2014, thirty-six states will hold an election for chief executive. Only 10 of these offices are held by Democratic incumbents, as the blue team got clobbered in 2010. The Democrats would especially like to grab the top office in northern states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where Republicans ran the table last time around. Why? Because winning in 2014 means having an incumbent with a good chance to win in 2018, which means having more say in the decennial redistricting of congressional seats in 2021. You see the only reason that Republicans control the US House is because they were able to gerrymander so many states in the last congressional redistricting in 2011. Michigan, for example, elected 9 Republicans and only 5 Democrats to the House in 2012 despite the fact that President Obama beat Mitt Romney there by almost 10%. Unfortunately, in 2014 the Democrats will also be facing the fact that in the mid-term election in the sixth year that a President is in office, the party in power usually does very poorly. In the 2006 election for example, the Republicans failed to unseat a single incumbent Democratic Governor, Senator or House member.

The races are categorized as (1.) competitive or at risk of being won by the party out of power, and (2.) unlikely to become competitive. This post will be updated continuously until election day.

Competitive/at-risk races:

Rating: Leans Independent takeover
Republican: Sean Parnell (incumbent)
Independent: Former Mayor of Valdez Bill Walker
Overview: (9/2/14) Poll have been showing that incumbent Governor Parnell would cruise to victory over independent Republican Bill Walker and Democrat Byron Mallott. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. an August poll showed Walker with a small lead over Parnell in a theoretical two-man race. Well, the theoretical has become the actual, as Walker has dropped his Republican affiliation with Mallott dropping down to the Lt. Governor's slot on a "unity" ticket with Walker. Walker has come out against Parnell's tax cut for big oil and for Medicaid expansion and unions, so hopefully the Walker-Mallott gambit will succeed.
(10/25/14) Parnell is trying to cope with being tied to the Alaska National Guard sex abuse scandal. Walker leads in the polls and I think that will hold through election day.

Rating: Leans Republican hold
Republican: State Treasurer Doug Ducey (incumbent Jan Brewer term-limited)
Democrat: Businessman Fred DuVal
Overview: (3/17/13) You never know what kind of Governor you're going to get in Arizona. In 2006, Democrat Janet Napolitano beat her opponent nearly two to one. Yet in 2010, the state elected cuckoo-bananas racist Republican Jan Brewer. The race is drawing a lot of interest, and both parties should see crowded primaries.
(1/20/14) Apparently the above comment is half right. While the GOP primary is crowded, Democrats have "cleared the field" for businessman Fred DuVal. While Mr. DuVal seems like a fine person, I have to pretty skeptical of the idea of him beating a Republican who's already won a statewide election in Arizona.
(4/21/14) This race is not on a good trajectory for the Republicans. Ken Bennett, their most prominent candidate, has not managed to put any distance between himself and the seven (!) other candidates in the GOP primary. So the Republicans have to wait until just ten weeks before the election to find out who their nominee will be, whomever that is may have received only about one-quarter of the primary vote, and none of their potential nominees are really polling ahead of Democrat Fred DuVal. So far so good for the blue team.
(9/2/14) Doug Ducey won the GOP primary with an unenthusiastic endorsement of only 36.9% of the vote. Limited polling shows a deadlock race, with Ducey bleeding some support to the Libertarian candidate. A true toss up.
(10/25/14) Both candidates have piled up a few scandals. Ducey had maintained a small but consistent lead in the polls. Ducey will win.


Rating: Leans Republican hold
Democrat: Former Congressman Mike Ross (likely) (incumbent Mike Beebe term-limted)
Republican: Former Congressman Asa Hutchinson?
(3/17/13) Arkansas is in the part of the country that really, really does not like President Obama. So there's a good chance Republican candidates will do well there in 2014.
(6/18/13) I think Mike Ross will get the bid for blue team; Halter is too far to the left. For the Republicans, there's a small army of top-tier potential candidates. But the key word is potential. If none of them get in, then the GOP gets Hutchinson, who is a good candidate but not really top-tier.
(1/20/14) Apparently this race will be Ross vs. Hutchinson, and polls show a dead heat. Ross has the advantage that the last time anyone heard of Asa Hutchinson, he was losing the 2006 Arkansas gubernatorial election by a huge margin to Democrat Mike Beebe. Hutchinson has the advantage that it's going to be very difficult for a Democrat to win in Arkansas in 2014.
(4/21/14) Recent polls have shown Ross with a slim lead. Hutchinson may need a Republican wave to win.
(7/20/14) Nothing has been resolved here. Hutchinson now consistently leads in the polls, however, he's also bleeding support to the Libertarian candidate.
(10/25/14) Hutchinson has a small but persistent lead in the polls. In red-state Arkansas, that's all he needs.

Rating: Toss up
Democrat: John Hickenlooper (incumbent)
Republican: Former Congressman Bob Beauprez
Overview: (3/17/13) Hickenlooper is riding a high approval rating, but a Democratic incumbent in a purple state has got to be at least a little bit worried, considering that 2014 is likely to go the Republicans' way.
(1/20/14) A recent poll shows Hickenlooper leading Greg Brophy by only 1 point in this race. But he enjoys quite a few advantages. The GOP primary has a small army of candidates vying for the nomination. The Constitution Party has "major party" status in this election and will appear near the top of the ticket. Between that party and the Libertarians, the Republicans can expect to see a lot of conservative votes go down the drain, just as they did in 2010. Hickenlooper also has a lot of money.
Bob Beauprez seemed to disappear after getting crushed as the Republican nominee in the 2006 Colorado gubernatorial. Eight years later, he's the GOP nominee again and has pulled into a tie with Hickenlooper in the polls. Hickenlooper has the advantage in fundraising and wide support among business leaders. But if 2014 turns into a Republican landslide, Beauprez will win.
(10/25/14) A very close race. But Hickenlooper razor-thin lead combined with the fact that Democrats tend to outperform the polls in Colorado mean I'm calling this one for the blue team. Connecticut
Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Dan Malloy (incumbent)
Republican: Former US Ambassador Tom Foley
Overview: (3/17/13) Malloy's approval ratings are nothing to write home about. However, the Connecticut Republican party hasn't had much of a pulse for the last decade or so.
(1/20/14) Six Republicans have already declared for the primary; none of them are top-tier candidates. Not a good recipe for upsetting an incumbent.
(6/22/14) Apparently Foley will be the GOP nominee, and apparently he's also running even with Malloy in the polls.
Foley was the nominee in 2010 and Malloy beat him by 0.5%. Malloy's campaign is complicated by the independent candidacy of former Democratic state representative Jonathan Pelto. I'm inclined to think Malloy can hold on, as Republicans tend to underperform in Connecticut, but Foley has a strong chance.
(10/25/14) Foley has made this one very close, but unfortunately for him, independent Republican candidate Joe Visconti is eating his lunch. Malloy will hang on.

Rating: Leans Democratic takeover
Republican: Rick Scott (incumbent)
Democrat: Former Republican Governor Charlie Crist
Overview: (3/17/13) A recent poll shows Scott with a 33% approval rating, and shows him losing a hypothetical matchup with former Governor Charlie Crist 53% to 39%. A lot of Florida Republicans aren't happy with Scott, and the recent resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll over an Internet gambling scandal hasn't helped matters. A primary challenge to Scott is not out of the question.
(6/18/13) Crist leads Scott by 10 in current polling. Scott has a challenger in the primary in the person of Elizabeth Cuevas Neunder, founder and CEO of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commence of Florida. I don't expect Cuevas Neunder to mount a serious challenge to Scott for the nomination, but her candidacy isn't good news for him. Hispanic voters in Florida usually give significant support to Republican nominees. If Scott loses the Hispanic vote in a big way, he really is in trouble.
(1/20/14) There have been no very recent polls of this race, but all those taken in the last part of 2013 show Crist with a significant lead.
(7/10/14) Scott is now even or slightly ahead of Crist in the polls. The number here to remember is $129 million dollars. That's what Scott spent to get elected in 2010. Months before the election, Scott's already spent $15 million on ads attacking Charlie Crist. Apparently you really can buy an election. From the National Journal: "Two of the biggest takeaways for Democrats from 2010 were that Scott's early spending spree helped define (Democratic nominee Alex) Sink and gave him an advantage later on. The cash vacuum left by the state's sprawling and diverse media landscape left too little funding for field and voter-turnout operations—particularly in heavily Democratic and Hispanic South Florida—that are widely recognized as crucial for Democrats in low-turnout midterm-election years." I'm starting to get a bad feeling about this race.
(10/25/14) Crist has a tiny edge in the polls. This one is tough to call, but the old rule is that an incumbent who is not ahead on election day will lose.

Rating: Leans Republican hold
Republican: Nathan Deal (incumbent)
Democrat: State Senator Jason Carter

Libertarian: Dr. Andrew Hunt
Overview: (6/20/14) What should have been an easy reelection campaign for Deal is being dragged down by ethical lapses and dissatisfaction over his refusal to expand Medicaid. State Senator Jason Carter (and grandson of former President Carter) is more or less tied with Deal in the polls. But winning this race isn't as simple as getting more votes than Deal in November. Georgia has that pesky law that requires candidates to get 50% of the vote. Carter might well beat Deal in November, but then lose a runoff. Oddball elections tend to get poor turnout from Democratic voters, and Deal would probably benefit from the Libertarian candidate no longer being on the ballot.

(7/20/14) Long story short, an old ethics scandal involving Governor Deal now has new life. A poll taken just after news broke that Deal had pressured the head of the state ethics commission returned a result of Carter 49%, Deal 41%, Hunt 4%. Republican corruption and extremism may finally have gone too far in red-state Georgia.
(10/25/14) The polls show a race too close to call. However, both Carter and Democratic candidate for Senate Michelle Nunn have shown momentum in the past few days. I think Carter has the edge.
(11/3/14) Deal has had the better numbers in the final polling. I'm flip-flopping and calling it for Deal.

Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Senator David Ige
Republican: Former Lt. Governor Duke Aiona
Independent: Former Democratic Mayor of Honolulu Mufi Hannemann
Overview: (6/16/14) I have no idea if the Civil Beat Poll is reliable, but it suggests that incumbent Governor Abercrombie could lose his primary. In any case, Republican Duke Aiona now has a very good chance in this race as the Democratic vote will be split between the eventual Democratic nominee and former Democratic Mayor of Honolulu Mufi Hannemann who is running as an independent.
(8/22/14) Students of politics will be interested to study how incumbent Governor Abercrombie lost his primary by better than 2-to-1. Democratic David Ige needs to get organized in a hurry if he's going to overcome losing votes to Hannemann.
(10/25/14) Ige has rallied support well and will win.

Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Pat Quinn (incumbent)
Republican: Businessman Bruce Rauner
Overview: (3/17/13) Pat Quinn was the comback kid of 2010. The final polls showed him losing to state Senator Bill Brady by 4 to 5 points, but Quinn surprised everyone by beating Brady 46.8% to 46.0%.
Brady's candidacy was crippled by the fact that he won the primary with only 20% of the vote. One of the six other candidates Brady beat was Kirk Dillard, whom he bested by only 193 votes. If the Republicans can get their act together in 2014, Quinn is very vulnerable.
(1/14/20) Apparently Pat Quinn was born lucky. In a recent PPP poll he chalked up an approval rating of 34%. For an incumbent, that would usually mean he's dead in the water in terms of reelection. However, 2014 seems to be shaping up to be a replay of 2010 in that four candidates are splitting support in the GOP primary. Furthermore, the three "insider" candidates, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Senators Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, all trailed businessman Bruce Rauner in a recent PPP poll, and, Rauner is the only one of those four candidates who trailed Quinn for the general election in the same poll.
(4/21/14) In an ominous sign for Rauner, he only narrowly won the GOP nomination despite recent polls showing him with a huge lead over this Republican opponents. The people of Illinois will have to decide how much the like a candidate who enjoys bragging that his wealth makes him the, ".01 percent." There are no recent polls here, so until I see that Rauner is getting more traction with voters, I'm sticking with Quinn to win another term.
(8/22/14) Democratic polling show Quinn trailing by three. Rauner has lost some support recently due to a series of significant, but not necessarily deal-breaking scandals. The race will probably come down to turnout.
(10/25/14) Quinn pulled ahead in the polls in recent weeks, now Rauner has made a bit of a comeback. In a race this close, I have to say that Quinn will outperform the polls as he has in the past.

Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Terry Branstad (incumbent)
Democrat: State Senator Jack Hatch
Overview: (4/21/14) As things stand right now, Terry Branstad will likely sleepwalk his way into a sixth term as Governor of Iowa. He shouldn't have run again; he's clearly lost his mojo. He'll only win if he can contain the damage from a still-emerging scandal involving hush money paid to state employees wrongfully fired for political reasons. Branstad's once-insurmountable lead over second-tier Democratic candidate Jack Hatch has been whittled down to about 10 points.
(10/25/14) Who am I kidding? Of course Brandstad's going to win.

Rating: Toss Up
Republican: Sam Brownback (incumbent)
Democrat: State House minority leader Paul Davis
Overview: (1/20/14) Kansas politics are very weird. It's kind of a three-party system, split evenly between very conservative Republicans, slightly-less conservative Republicans, and Democrats. The slightly-less conservative Republicans insist that their more conservative brethren not get too pushy, or they threaten to vote for Democrats out of spite. This is the kind of thing that allowed Democrat Kathleen Sebelius to be reelected as Governor of Kansas in 2006; her running mate was the former chair of the Kansas Republican party. The most recent (albeit old) poll of the 2014 race shows State House minority leader Paul Davis actually leading Brownback. Apparently the "moderate" and conservative Republicans are engaged in another civil war I don't care to think too much about. In any case, add that conflict to the fact that the Libertarian and possibly even the Reform parties can siphon off a few Republicans votes, and we might have a race here.
(2/21/14) A new PPP poll shows Davis leading by 2. Brownback approval rating is a crushing 33%, and he's trailing Davis despite the fact that few have even heard of him. I'd be interested to know whether the Libertarian candidate is getting any support.
(4/21/14) PPP now has Davis up by 5. Brownback has declined to expand Medicaid despite widespread support for the measure among Kansans. I guess he thinks he's invincible.
(8/22/14) PPP once again is showing Davis clinging to a 2% lead, with Brownback bleeding support to the Libertarian candidate. Brownback may still be saved by a Republican wave.
(10/25/14) Brownback's policies are a disaster, and the proof just keeps on rolling in. The voters are not happy and Brownback will lose.

Rating: Leans Democratic takeover
Republican: Paul LePage (incumbent)
Democrat: Congressman Mike Michaud
Independent: Attorney Eliot Cutler
Overview: (3/17/13) LePage won in blue-state Maine in 2010 because the vote on the left was split between the Democratic nominee and left-leaning independent Eliot Cutler. LePage has never been popular, and polls show that in 2014 he is likely to lose a two-way race, but has a good chance to be re-elected in another three-way contest.
(1/20/14) Paul LePage is a bad person who would not stand a chance of being reelected if spoiler Eliot Cutler were not once again running as an independent and siphoning off Democratic votes. But even that may not be enough for LePage in 2014. Recent polls show Michaud with a slim lead even with Cutler in the race.
(9/2/14) Not much has changed all year - polling in limited but all agree Michaud is the front-runner.
(10/25/14) This election just won't resolve itself. A recent PPP polls shows LePage and Michaud tied at 40% with Cutler at 17%. The Cutler campaign has more or less disappeared, and I predict that's enough to put Michaud over the top.

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Lt. Governor Anthony Brown (incumbent Martin O'Malley term-limited)
Republican: Businessman L.J. Hogan, Jr.
Overview: (3/17/13) Brown will probably run for Governor, and should have the inside track. The Maryland Republican party hasn't had much of a pulse lately.
(1/20/14) Brown is leading two other Democrats for the blue team nomination. Four Republicans are running for the GOP bid; all are pretty much third-tier candidates. Brown is favored.
(7/20/14) Brown holds a big lead over real estate broker Lawrence Hogan. This one's over.

Rating: Leans Republican takeover
Democrat: Attorney General Martha Coakley? (incumbent Deval Patrick term-limited)
Republican: Businessman Charlie Baker?
Overview: (3/17/13) Time was when Massachusetts liked to elect Republican Governors to provide some balance to its nearly 100% Democratic state legislatures. But big name Republicans are few and far between in Massachusetts; the GOP seems to be having a tough time finding anyone to run in the open-seat Senate race created by John Kerry's retirement. It will be hard for them to elect a Governor in 2014 if their candidate goes into the race with zero name-recognition.
(1/20/14) Although a number of Democrats are running, the apparent favorite is Attorney General Martha Coakley, who is known to people outside Massachusetts as the candidate who, against all odds, lost former Senator Ted Kennedy's seat to Republican Scott Brown in 2010. Massachusetts voters have already had their say on Charlie Baker for Governor; he lost the 2010 race to Democrat Deval Patrick. Coakley is favored.
(7/20/14) The Boston Globe shows Coakley leading Baker by only 3%. On the other hand, The Globe's last poll of the 2012 Senate race showed a tie, but on election day Elizabeth Warren beat incumbent Scott Brown by 7.5%. So I'm not worried.
(10/25/14) Polls a month ago showed Coakley ahead, more recent polls give Baker the edge. Given Coakley's track record, I have to give the edge to Baker.

Rating: Leans Democratic takeover
Republican: Rick Snyder (incumbent)
Democrat: Congressman Mark Schauer
Overview: (31/17/13) When political-nobody Rick Snyder was elected in 2010, he could have tried to balance the wants of the Republicans who elected him with those of the union workers who make up the backbone of Michgian's labor force. Instead, he's governed as far to the right as possible. As a result of signing anti-union legislation into law, and a lot of other things, Snyder's approval rating stands at only 36%, and polls show him losing in 2014 to any of several potential Democratic nominees.
(1/20/14) State politics in Michigan has been a sad, sad story for a number of years, and it looks like there's a strong chance that will continue through the 2014 election. Governor Snyder's approval ratings, have, most improbably, shown improvement, and he probably has the lead over his little-known challenger former Congressman Mark Schauer. Could there be anything more depressing that Michigan becoming a union-busting "right to work" state? How about the fact that Democrats may also lose the seat of retiring six-term Senator Carl Levin? Sorry, Michigan. A better day will come.
(7/10/14) PPP shows this race now tied. Schauer is in a good place for a challenger who's just starting to become known, with a net-positive approval rating among the half of voters who've heard of him. There's hope for this one yet.
(10/25/14) And PPP still shows an absolute tie. Another race almost impossible to call, but Schauer has run a good campaign so I'm giving it to him.

Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Businessman Pete Ricketts (incumbent Dave Heineman term-limited)
Democrat: Former state University Regent Chuck Hassebrook
Libertarian: Mark Elworth
Overview: (3/17/13) "Competitive" in name-only; I include all open-seat races on the competitive list.
(1/20/14) The Republicans have several strong candidates, the Democrats have none. What a shock.
(6/16/14) How Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning lost the Republican primary to political nobody Pete Ricketts I have no idea. But it's turned one of the easiest "holds" for the GOP into a competitive race. PPP currently has this race as Ricketts 42%, Hassebrook 38%, Libertarian Mark Elworth 11%. That said, I don't really think Hassebrook has a chance, as Democrats tend to underperform against the polls in Nebraska. For example, in 2012 two late polls showed the Nebraska Senate race as surprisingly close, yet on election day the Republican nominee won 58% to 42%.

New Mexico
Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Susana Martinez (incumbent)
Democrat: State Attorney General Gary King

Overview: (6/20/14) Polls indicate this slow-developing race will be at least sort of competitive. Beyond that, there's not much to go on yet. Martinez's governing style might best be described as, "vindictive" but I'm not sure that's enough to bring down her reelection campaign.

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: John Kitzhaber (incumbent)
Republican: State Representative Dennis Richardson
Overview: (3/17/13) Assuming Kitzhaber runs in 2014, it will be for a fourth term overall. His approval ratings are good. This race will likely turn on the fact that the Republicans just don't have any big names to run against him.
(1/20/14) Kitzhaber is running. So far only third-tier candidates have announced on the GOP side. Kitzhaber is favored.
(6/16/14) Kitzhaber is polling a double-digit lead in this race and I expect him to cruise to victory.

Rating: Likely Democratic takeover
Republican: Tom Corbett (incumbent)
Democrat: Former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue Tom Wolf
Overview: (3/17/13) Corbett has an approval rating of 26%. Ouch. Democrats like former Congressman Joe Sestak to run against him, and a recent poll shows Sestak leading 47% to 38% in a potential matchup.
(1/20/14) Sestak intends to run in the 2016 Senate race. The Democratic primary is very crowded, but the the likely nominee is Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, who is off to a great start. Polls from late 2013 show her with a substantial lead over Corbett.
(4/21/14) I'm not sure how Allyson Schwartz stumbled so badly, but former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue Tom Wolf will win the nomination. A February poll showed Wolf with a staggering 19% lead over the incumbent. A convincing win by Wolf could be huge for the Pennsylvania Democratic party. Currently Republicans control both the state House and Senate by only a few seats, and one of the big goals for the blue team is a more favorable environment the next time the redistricting of Congressional seats rolls around in 2021. Pennsylvania is one of the places where Republican control in 2011 caused Democratic to get clobbered on redistricting.
(10/25/14) The polls can't agree whether Wolf is leading by 9 points or 23 points, but he's going to win.

Rhode Island
Rating: Leans Democratic hold
(Independent: Lincoln Chafee, incumbent, is retiring)
Democrat: State Treasurer Gina Raimondo (likely)
Republican: Mayor of Cranston Alan Fung?
Overview: (3/17/13) I suspect incumbent Lincoln Chafee will not run another term, as his approval ratings are dismal. Best bet is that deep-blue Rhode Island will elect a Democrat.
(1/20/14) This race will probably be Raimondo vs. Fung. There are no recent polls, and Fung is a fairly strong candidate, but Raimondo is favored in deep-blue Rhode Island.

South Carolina
Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Hikki Haley (incumbent)
Democrat: State Senator Vincent Sheheen?
Overview (4/4/13): A December PPP poll suggests that Haley would lose a rematch against her 2010 opponent, Vincent Sheehen. I'm not buying it frankly; no Democrat has been elected statewide in South Carolina since 2002. President Obama may have taken about 45% of the vote there in both 2008 and 2012, yet in every election the Republicans run the table.
(1/20/14) A major poll last fall actually showed Sheheen leading Haley. There is some threat of an independent Republican getting into the race. I think that's about the only thing that could really make this one competitive.

Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Attorney General Greg Abbott (incumbent Rick Perry retiring)
Democrat: State Senator Wendy Davis
Overview: (3/17/13)  list this one as "competitive" only because it is likely to be an open-seat race. Rick Perry could run for a fourth term, but I don't think Texans have any more stomach for him. Polls show that any of the little-known Democrats who might run could give Perry a competitive race, but with anyone else the Republicans have nothing to worry about. Enjoy it while it lasts, Republicans. Texas will not be in the bag for you much longer.
 (1/20/14) I'm glad that Democrats have a high-profile candidate in the person of state Senator Wendy Davis. I'm glad that Texas is slowly but inexorably moving from red state to purple state status. But as for Davis actually winning this race... better luck next time.

Virginia 2013
Rating: Leans Democratic takeover
Republican: State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (incumbent Bob McDonnell term-limted)
Democrat: Former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe
Overview: (6/18/13) Leave it to the 21st century Republican Party to nominate candidates so repellent that they might not be able to beat a slimeball like Terry McAuliffe. Ken Cuccinelli is a right-wing kook, surpassed only by the GOP's nominee for Lt. Governor, E.W. Jackson, who believes that the practice of yoga may result in Satanic possession. Terry McAuliffe is good at exactly one thing: fundraising. McAuliffe has a slight edge in the polls.

Rating: Leans Republican hold
Republican: Scott Walker (incumbent)
Democrat: Former
state Commerce Department Secretary Mary Burke
Overview: (3/17/13) There is probably no Republican that Democrats hate more that Scott Walker. Putting the passion aside, the facts are these: 2014 will be a year in which Republicans have the advantage, and Walker is an incumbent with fairly strong approval ratings, meaning that there is a good chance he will be re-elected.
(1/20/14) The best way to beat Scott Walker would be to recruit a top-tier candidate. Apparently that isn't going to happen.
Mary Burke is a former state Commerce Department secretary, and that's great, but it would be better if we could get someone with a bit higher name recognition. The polls tell the story: Walker is hated enough that any candidate polls fairly well against him. But not well enough to beat him. Probably the only way Walker loses is if he's brought down by one of the many scandals for which he's now under investigation.
(6/20/14) Prosecutors has now produced, among other things, an email in which Scott Walker discusses with Karl Rove who will coordinate an illegal fundraising campaign. I don't know how Walker gets out of this one. He can't claim, like New Jersey's Chris Christie, that he had no knowledge of the illegal activities of the people working for him. Mary Burke had just about caught up with Walker in the polls before these revelations. It's hard to imagine how Walker survives this.
(9/2/14) The only recent, reliable poll of this race shows Burke with a 2.1% lead. The bad news continues to pour in for Walker. He's trumpeted deficit-cutting among his biggest accomplishments, but news last week revealed revenues far short of predictions. The key to this race is that Walker has always been both more deeply loved and deeply hated than the run-of-the-mill politician. If those who love him stop loving him quite so much, he'll lose. Because those who hate him have definitely not cooled down.
(10/25/14) Yet another race that's too close to call. I may flip-flop on this one in the last few days, but Democrats have endured a lot of heartbreak in Wisconsin in the last few years, and I just don't see enough positive signs to call it for Burke.

Races unlikely to become competitive:

Alabama, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming have incumbent Republican Governors who are likely to win reelection in 2014. Same goes for New Jersey in 2013.

California, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont have incumbent Democratic Governors who are likely to win reelection in 2014.

Rating: Guaranteed Republican hold
Republican: John Kasich (incumbent)
Democrat: County Executive Ed FitzGerald
Libertarian: Charlie Earl
Overview: (1/20/14) Hard to believe that Kasich might lose to a third-tier candidate like Ed FitzGerald, but a December poll shows Kasich leading by only 2 with the Libetarian candidate siphoning some of his support. What happened? The Wikipedia article on this race has a fascinating summary, "John Kasich, who was elected with Tea Party support in 2010, has faced a considerable backlash from the Tea Party movement. His decision to accept the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid, his increased spending, taxation of fracking on Ohio farmland and his perceived failure to go far enough on charter schools and school vouchers have seen Tea Party groups refuse to support his re-election campaign. When Kasich passed over Tea Party leader Tom Zawistowski for the position of Executive Director of the Ohio Republican Party, in favour of Matt Borges, who worked with a gay rights group, that was seen as the final straw. Tea Party groups have announced that they will support a primary challenger, or, if none emerges, the Libertarian nominee. Zawistowski said, "John Kasich is going to lose in 2014. We don’t care who else wins." He worked with a gay rights group?! Well, I can see why the teabaggers are furious.
(7/20/14) FitzGerald seems to be building momentum. In a recent PPP poll, one that did not, by the way, include Liberarian Charlie Earl, FitzGerald trailed Kasich by only 1. Republicans will be pretty embarrassed if they lose this one after choosing Cleveland for their next national convention.
(8/22/14) FitzGerald's campaign has collapsed in scandal. Good grief, Ohio Democratic Party, did you think you could just hide this stuff?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Stopping War Crimes is Patrioitc. A Few Words on Jane Fonda and Vietnam

In 1972, actress Jane Fonda went to Vietnam to call attention to what America was doing to that country. Four decades later, she's still being pilloried for making the trip. And as far as I can tell, there are few people who know, or want to know, what that trip was about.

On April 25th, 1972 President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had the following conversation:
Nixon: “We’ve got to be thinking in terms of an all-out bombing attack [of North Vietnam]…Now, by all-out bombing attack, I am thinking about things that go far beyond…I'm thinking of the dikes, I'm thinking of the railroad, I'm thinking, of course, of the docks."
Kissinger: "I agree with you."
Nixon: "And I still think we ought to take the dikes out now. Will that drown people?"
Kissinger: "About two hundred thousand people."

The White House quickly moved to make good (or rather bad) on this plan. In Jane Fonda's own words,

"On May 8th, 1972, President Nixon had ordered underwater, explosive mines to be placed in Haiphong Harbor, something that had been rejected by previous administrations. Later that same month, reports began to come in from European scientists and diplomats that the dikes of the Red River Delta in North Vietnam were being targeted by U.S. planes. The Swedish ambassador to Vietnam reported to an American delegation in Hanoi that he had at first believed the bombing was accidental, but now, having seen the dikes with his own eyes, he was convinced it was deliberate.

That May, I received an invitation from the North Vietnamese in Paris to make the trip to Hanoi. Many had gone before me but perhaps it would take a different sort of celebrity to get people’s attention. Heightened public attention was what was needed to confront the impending crisis with the dikes. I would take a camera and bring back photographic evidence (if such was to be found) of the bomb damage of the dikes we’d been hearing about.

It quickly became clear to Fonda and to others investigating the matter that the bombing campaign was a methodical attempt to commit genocide against the people the Vietnam. Fonda began publicizing the bombings, for which then U.S. Ambassador to the UN George H. W. Bush accused her of lying.

Rick Perlstein of the London Review of Books describes what happened next,

"At a press conference in Paris Fonda presented film proving that they had taken place. That same day, the State Department cancelled its scheduled rebuttal. One of the diplomats laid low by the humiliation was America’s UN envoy, George H.W. Bush. ‘I think that the best thing I can do on the subject is to shut up,’ he told the press, after promising them evidence of American innocence."

Thus was the Nixon White House embarrassed into stopping the bombing of the dikes before potentially hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese civilians were killed by flooding. And how is Jane Fonda remembered today for her courageous acts? As a beloved American patriot?

Yeah, not exactly.

For millions of Americans, Jane Fonda will always be their personal whipping-girl for all the dirty hippie protestors they've always hated. You see, Jane once said, of American POWs in Vietnam, "I’m quite sure that there were incidents of torture…but the pilots who are saying it was the policy of the Vietnamese and that it was systematic, I believe that’s a lie." Well, it turns out torture was the policy. Jane also made radio broadcasts from Hanoi asking American pilots to refrain from bombing the country. And most significantly, in most people's minds, she was photographed sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun. She described that incident in this way,

"I hardly even thought about where I was sitting. The cameras flashed. I got up, and as I started to walk back to the car with the translator, the implication of what had just happened hit me. “Oh my God. It’s going to look like I was trying to shoot down U.S. planes.” I pleaded with him, “You have to be sure those photographs are not published. Please, you can’t let them be published.” I was assured it would be taken care of. I didn’t know what else to do."

Hardly a day goes by in America without someone reminding us how evil Jane Fonda is. Recently, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky suggested that if drone weapons had been around during the Vietnam War, one might have been used to kill Jane Fonda. But Senator (and former Vietnam POW) John McCain was kind enough to come to Jane's defense, "I must say that she is not my favorite American. But I also believe that, as odious as it was, Ms. Fonda acted within her constitutional rights."

Here's a Fox News article from last year describing "Growing Outrage" (frankly I think that may be an exaggeration) over Fonda's casting as Nancy Reagan in a movie,

"The Hollywood actress is of course known for her time traveling to Vietnam during the war, denouncing American political and military leaders as war criminals, and sitting on an anti-aircraft gun that appeared to be trying to shoot an American plane."

My point is this. It isn't just Fox News and Republicans who are blind to the idea that the story of Jane Fonda and Vietnam might have something more to it than, "actress loves commies, hates America." Just try and find a news item, any time, anywhere, which describes Jane Fonda as, "the Hollywood actress of course known for her time traveling to Vietnam during the war, and demonstrating that American leadership had conspired at the highest level to commit genocide against Vietnamese civilians, a plan which was brought to a halt after Fonda and others exposed it to the public."

In conclusion, thinking about this makes me want to paraphrase Richard Nixon, when he said, after losing the 1962 gubernatorial race in California, "I hope that what I have said today will at least make television, radio, the press, recognize that they have a right and a responsibility, if they are against a candidate, give him the shaft, but also recognize, if they give him the shaft, put one lonely reporter on the campaign who will report what the candidate says now and then."

Dear readers, I hope that what I have said today will at least make television, radio, the press, recognize that they have a right and a responsibility, if they are against Jane Fonda, give her the shaft, but also recognize, if they give her the shaft, put one lonely reporter on the campaign who will report the good she did now and then.