Monday, November 2, 2015

A Few Truths About the GOP Presidential Race

In the 2004, 2008 and 2012 elections, I've written extensively about the various candidates for President, and my thoughts about each of them. This time around, I haven't written much of anything - in large part due to me not writing much in the past year or so. With that said, I should mention a few really basic truths about this election that we should all keep in mind.

Not All Candidates Are Running For President to Become President

There are lots and lots of reasons to run for President, and only one of those reasons is to actually become President. Think of it, for an eight or nine month period of time, you're activities are followed by the National media. SNL, hopefully, gets a comedian to parody you, and just you, for the entire election season. So, if you're a politician, and you want to be known on a national level, running for President is a fantastic idea. Sure, it's more work, and you will probably lose the race, but winning is beside the point the first time around.

The king of running for President for reasons other than being President is the one and only, Dennis Kucinich, who's campaigns in 2004 and 2008 were laughable until we all realized he was running to meet women. And, it worked. Other candidates run for President in hopes of getting on the short list for positions with the next Administration, or run to get their issues front and center. Still others are running to become a nationally known politician.

Now, this point is key because when a politician is running for President for reasons other than becoming President, he/she will still run for President even when it's pretty clear that he/she has no shot whatsoever. This race is interesting because most of the candidates, including the frontrunners in the GOP race, aren't running for President to become President (at least this go around), they almost all have other reasons to run. So, if they have enough money to keep campaigning, few have any incentive to drop out.

On the other side of the equation, there are candidates who run for President with the sole goal of becoming President. These are candidates who have reached a level of national prestige that they don't need to run for President for people to know who they are. In this race, that was Hillary Clinton, Jeb! Bush, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and Joe Biden. As soon as it became clear that Walker and Perry weren't going to be the nominee, they dropped out. Biden never entered the race because he wasn't going to be the nominee with Clinton in the race.

Jeb! Bush is Toast

When Jeb first stepped into the race, he had all the advantages - he had a pretty extensive name id, a $100 million SuperPAC warchest, and the backing of the GOP establishment. Those advantages gave him frontrunner status, which means that before GOP primary voters considered anyone else, they spent at least moment looking at Jeb! So, the fact that Jeb! is currently polling in the single digits (between 6-7%) is really, really, really bad. Now, in some cases, such as Kerry's 2004 run, the former frontrunner can make a comeback after the insurgent candidates flameout (think Dean scream), but only if there isn't another alternative. And here, GOP voters have both Kasich and Rubio to fall back on when Carson and Trump flameout.

Oh, and one other thing - since Jeb! is a Bush, and a national figure, every floundering moment of his dying campaign will be covered instead of ignored (which is what happened to McCain in 2008 and Kerry in 2004). That, in turn, will create more and more narratives of failure, and well, it's just bad. Jeb! is dead. He just doesn't know it yet.

Trump and Carson Will Flameout

The two frontrunners on the GOP side, Trump and Carson, are interesting fellows. Both jumped into the race without ever holding any political job, and both are doing fairly well in the polls - each are polling around 20%, a trend which has held steady for quite a few polling cycles. Now, everyone knows that these two will flameout, but everyone seems to think its because of something crazy one of them will say that becomes their undoing. It won't be, but it doesn't matter.

What does matter is organization. Presidential campaigns are huge undertakings that collect data from voters, processes that data, and then reaches out to those voters across multiple states. Now, a good organization won't help you if you are a crap candidate (sorry Jeb!), but if you are within striking distance, a great organization will propel you to the White House, which is exactly what happened in the 2008 Democratic Primaries, where Obama beat Hillary mostly due to his campaign's superior organization (more on Hillary later). This kind of an organization takes months to set up properly, but is absolutely essential, particularly in caucus states like Iowa.

But neither Trump nor Carson have much of an organization. Carson has raised a lot of money, but most of what he makes is spent on raising more money. Trump doesn't really raise money, but he isn't setting up very many campaign offices either. Neither man has put himself into a position to translate popularity into votes, and that's why, ultimately, they will flame out.

Cruz Has Put Himself in an Interesting Position

Ted Cruz is an odious Senator from Texas, and is so obnoxious that his fellow GOP Senators openly express their disgust for him. With that said, he is a clever politician, and he's placed himself in an interesting position. Right now, the GOP race is made up of outsider/insurgent candidates (Trump, Carson, Fiorina), and insider/politician candidates (Rubio/Kasich/Bush). But the insurgents are polling over 40%, collectively, and have been doing so since July. So, the GOP electorate is pretty sick of the establishment guys, but at the same time, the outsiders don't have the requisite campaign organizations to translate popularity into votes. 

But Ted Cruz, smartly, has been putting together his organization, and he is positioning himself as the fallback guy when Trump and Carson flameout. He may not be the nominee, but Cruz will be a player.

Clinton Has the Nomination in the Bag

Now, I know there are a lot of Bernie Sanders' supporters out there, but guys, he's not going to win. I don't say that because of any particular failing of Sanders, but rather, because Clinton has responded to his candidacy the way that a frontrunner should - she's moved to the left. Now, call that shift to the left whatever you want, but as a frontrunner she has one very big advantage - every Democratic voter will look at her as a candidate first, and then if they don't like what they see, they will look at other candidates. 

Also, Clinton has shown both in this campaign and in 2008, a resiliency that most candidates lack. When it looked like all was lost in 2008 after Iowa, and she teared up on the campaign trail, her campaign rebounded. This time around, she sat before a Congressional committee for 11 hours of testimony, and the Republicans couldn't lay a glove on her. 

What's more, her campaign, particularly her social media staff, has been good this time around. Really good. I don't know if she'll win the Presidency, but she won't lose the nomination. And really, that's been the case for quite some time. If anything, having Sanders in the race has helped her by forcing Clinton to reach out to progressives and liberals. This is a good thing going forward.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Don't Call it a Comeback! But Do Call It a Short Post on Donald Trump

Wow, first blog post in months. Who knew that becoming a partner at a law firm and having a kid would suck up so much time? Okay, everyone, but that's beside the point. Since I used to write a blog where I would rate the contenders for the Presidential nomination, I thought I would take a moment to write about the Donald Trump.

Now, of course, a lot has been said about the Donald, and we all know who Trump is. But in the past week or so, an interesting dynamic is emerging in this race. Namely, the division between the conservative media and the conservative elites. The conservative elites know that Donald Trump is absolute poison for the GOP - not only does he make himself look bad, but he makes the other GOP candidates bad as well. After all, if Jeb Bush can't beat Donald Trump, who calls Mexican immigrants rapists, and who says that the reason Megyn Kelly was harsh to him was due to her menstrual cycle, then how in the hell can he beat Hillary Clinton?

But at the same time, over 24 million viewers watched the GOP Presidential Debate on Fox. Not only was this the highest rated Presidential primary debate on Fox, it was the highest rated program on Fox News in its entire history. And in the world of media, ratings = advertising = money. Oh, and then Trump, the very next day, makes his comments about Kelly, and then a bunch of people watched her show to see what her reaction would be. So, even if he's a dangerous baffoon, Trump is literally ratings gold.

And that's where things get interesting. In the first debate, it was pretty clear that the Fox News moderators were going hard after Trump. They attacked him over his bankruptcies, his comments towards women, and his willingness to run as a 3rd Party Candidate. But now, Roger Ailes calls up Trump, and offers him the whole store. Why? Because holy fucking shit, Fox News got 24 million viewers to watch a primary debate, and we all know that all those viewers didn't show up to see Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

So while Fox News is the communications wing of the Republican Party for all intents and purposes, it is still a business that is dependent on advertisers. Oh, and these advertisers, who might stay away from Hannity or Kelly, or whomever, would LOVE to advertise during the debates because it looks patriotic, not craven.

It is this dynamic that is going to be worth watching over then next few months - Trump is going to be Trump, and he's going to suck all the oxygen out of the room. And as long as he brings big ratings to Fox, they're not going to go after him the way that they did last Thursday. That will drive the GOP establishment crazy.

Oh, and by the way, as a Democrat, I'm LOVING THIS. Remember that Clinton's biggest political strength is her ability to turn outrage into votes. Can you imagine a Trump v. Clinton general election debate? He'll say something outrageous, and she will turn it into millions of votes. And even if Trump ultimately loses, the eventual nominee will come into the General Election looking like the 2nd choice.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Few More Thoughts on the Chargers Stadium Situation

A month ago or so, I posted a relatively short post about my general thoughts regarding the stadium situation with the Chargers. Since then, I've been thinking and reading more and more about this situation, and am coming to believe that the Chargers' threat to move to Carson is either (a) empty, (b) desperate, or (c) incredibly stupid. Now, no one has ever accused the Chargers organization of being geniuses, but rarely do they do something categorically stupid. Here, though, moving to Carson would be a phenomenally bad idea. 

That's primarily because, in contrast to staying in San Diego, a move to Carson will take years, and result in a ton of lawsuits against the Chargers by angry fans, angry cities, and angry former business partners. In 1998, the City of San Diego passed Prop. C, which got Petco Park built. The campaign to build Petco was all-emcompassing, and probably one of the better political campaigns run. Per the terms of Prop. C, Petco was supposed to be built by 2002. It wasn't. Thanks to a lot of litigation, the Padres didn't open Petco until 2004. But it did open, thanks to favorable rulings by local judges who may or may not have been swayed by local sentiments. By the end, most of the plaintiffs in the cases against the Padres were denigrated.

But if the Chargers move, the local judiciary, along with the local jury pool, won't be so inclined to give the Chargers a break. What's more, the proposed Carson stadium is being built in direct competition with a sports complex that's already in Carson. So, not only will you have a lot of sour grapes from San Diegans, but there will be at least one lawsuit from people in LA with fairly deep pockets. Maybe the NFL convinces them otherwise, but maybe these deep pocket interests side with Stan Kronke's Inglewood stadium. Either way, the Chargers will be tied up in lawsuits for years.

But lawsuits aren't the only problem - all projects have to undergo an environmental review under California law. These EIRs generally take 18 months if there's no problem. The only way out of such a study is if the California Legislature specifically exempts the project from an EIR. Now, if the City and the Chargers figure out a stadium deal, then, most likely, the Legislature would pass such an exemption. But if the Chargers move to Carson, then such a deal is unlikely because the current Speaker of the State Assembly represents the City of San Diego. Oh, and unlike the Qualcomm site (where the Chargers currently play), the Carson site is rumored to be highly polluted (the Qualcomm site has undergone a major clean-up), so the EIR would not go smoothly. 

All this means is that the Chargers' proposed move to LA would take years. Where in those years would the Chargers play? It can't be in San Diego, their popularity would be almost nonexistent. Could the Chargers afford to play in a terrible nonfootball stadium in LA for five years? What if in year three of the move the stadium plans fall through, the way that so many other stadium plans have fallen through in LA over the years? Where do they go then?

So, I guess my point is that the Carson isn't the escape hatch the Chargers make it out to be. Leaving San Diego and ending up in limbo in LA is the likely scenario for such a move. And with that being the case, the City and County shouldn't feel pressured because of the threat.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Rethinking the Standards for the Crime of Sexual Assault

Over the past year or so, we've seen dozens, if not hundreds of stories about sexual assault and/or rape perpetrated either on college campuses, or sadly, by beloved celebrities. The most recent Pro Publica article about Darren Sharper (a NFL player and a William & Mary alumnus, unfortunately) highlights that when sexual assault occurs, it is often not reported, and even when it is reported, the police don't investigate, and prosecutors don't prosecute the crime enough. On college campuses, the failures of administrators to adequately deal with sexual assault has the Department of Education to actually threaten to pull federal funding from these universities.

So what is going on? While we can debate the patriarchy and the prevalence of rape culture until we're blue in the face (and which are all valid points), doing so won't fix the problem people raping without fear of either prosecution or convictions. And here's why: the fundamental problem with rape is that it is defined in most criminal statutes as knowingly having sexual intercourse with someone without their consent.

Based on that definition, the prosecution has to prove that there was: 1) sexual intercourse; 2) no consent by the victim to have sexual intercourse; and 3) the Defendant knew that the victim did not consent or could not give consent. And the prosecution has to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt, meaning that the jury is supposed to look at the facts, and if its possible that to find consent, even if its unlikely, they're supposed to vote for acquittal. Now, when it comes to a stranger rape - random guy breaks into a woman's home and rapes her, or, grabs her off the street and rapes her - consent is easy to disprove because the man's actions indicate his intent to rape. But, in the case of date rape, where there will be two separate stories of what happened, with one party saying it was rape, and the other party claiming it was consensual, the waters are muddied, and it comes down to whether or not the jury believes the rape victim or the perpetrator. In that context, a conviction for acquaintance rape is almost impossible.

So, for police and prosecutors, rape cases are difficult, emotionally draining, and rarely result in the "bad guy" going to jail. Even if they were inclined to take date rape seriously (and sadly, many don't), tilting at windmills ultimately takes it toll. Little wonder then that, as with the Darren Sharper case (who raped at least nine women), police and prosecutors are reticent to get involved.

But the one thing about laws is that they can change. And here, I think legislatures could change the law slightly. Rather than make consent an element of the crime of rape (and thus, has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt), make consent an affirmative defense to the crime of rape. That is, once the prosecution has proven the basic elements of rape, and has a complaining witness* (the victim, and only the victim), make the accused prove that consent was given - not beyond a reasonable doubt, but by a preponderance of evidence (a/k/a "more likely than not").

*The reason for needing a complaining witness is basically this - if rape is defined as sex without consent, then not having to prove consent means all sex could be deemed rape. Having a complaining witness might fix that problem.

Obviously, this isn't a panacea. And it may be something that college campuses should implement first (some have already), and then for the legal system to catch up. That said, if convictions are more likely, then prosecutions are more likely, and that may or may not be a good thing. But it would or could be a start.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fixing California's Initiative System

My home state of California has always tried to be on the forefront of law and politics, to be as progressive as possible. California was one of the first community property states (implemented to encourage more women to move to California), one of the first to reform its procedures for lawsuits (the Field Code, for you legal scholars), and one of the first to allow the citizenry to vote on legislation that created and drafted by other citizenry - the initiative system.

And from that system, there's been some good things like medicinal marijuana, and real clunkers like Prop. 8, which made same-sex marriage unconstitutional, and the latest disaster - an initiative that would allow Californians to shoot and kill gays on the spot. But on the more pedestrian level, the initiative system allows the corporations to pull a lot of crap. For instance, in San Diego, when the City of San Diego refused to allow a Wal-Mart to be built in an area, Wal-Mart threatened to force the City into an expensive special election by placing its hand-written initiative on the ballot. Currently, there's a petition out there that would reverse an earlier, 7-2 decision by the City of San Diego to build a residential/commercial development, put forward by the developer's competition in the area.

Part of what drives the problems in the initiative voting process is the fact that voter turnout varies - general elections of Presidents get high turnout (50% or more of registered voters), primaries have a lower turnout (around 20-40%), and special elections have even lower turnouts (some as low as 10%). But an initiative passed in any election, regardless of the votes it receives, becomes law. What's more, the legislature can't overturn the initiative, but instead has to work around it. Little wonder the whole process is broken.

So, I have a few ideas on how to fix what could be a good system.

1) QUORUM CALLS: In any legislative body, anywhere, before the body can vote on any piece of legislation, the body has to count the number of members present to determine if there is enough people to vote. If there is enough people, there's a quorum, and the vote progresses, if not, the vote stalls. But as I stated above, once an initiative makes it on the ballot, it gets voted on, regardless of turnout, and if it passes, it becomes law. 

So, here's how I would fix that. If the People of the State of California are sitting as a legislative body, then like any other legislative body, there has to be a quorum of votes before any initiative can pass. This would be counted on election day (obviously), and I would humbly suggest that the quorum for initiatives be 50% of registered voters.  So, for an initiative to pass in this system, not only would the initiative have to get the majority of people who vote to vote for the initiative, but when counting the total votes (everyone who votes for and against the initiative), at least half of registered voters must have voted on the initiative one way or the other.

If there was such a requirement, think about how this would work - virtually every special election initiative would be lose because of turnout. That threat by Wal-Mart, or for One Paseo would also go nowhere. And that's important because special elections cost extra money that cities and counties may not have. What's more, there would be a focus on getting people to vote for the ballot initiative either way. 

2) VARY THE THRESHOLDS: One other annoying feature of the initiative system is that it allows voters the alter the California Constitution by a simple majority. And in the case of Prop. 8, this meant taking away some fundamental rights (the right to marry) from a whole lot of people by a majority vote. This is also stupid. If the State Legislature wants to amend the California Constitution, it requires a 2/3rds vote. The voters of the State of California should be held to the same standard. So, I would would require that any constitutional amendment must 1) meet the quorum requirement from above; and 2) get at least a 2/3rds vote. By the way, we already do this in the case of tax increases. Why should fundamental rights be any different.

And ultimately, this requirement would encourage more initiatives to be passed as statutes, not as amendments - which is a fantastic thing because even well-meaning initiatives are poorly written or poorly thought out. But if an initiative is a statute, rather than an amendment, it can be modified, corrected, or even overturned by the State Legislature and Governor. And given that the California State Legislature is a functioning legislature (unlike, say, Congress), the ability to modify statutes is significant.

While my suggestions may be idiotic for a variety of reasons, something has to be done to fix the initiative system.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

So You Wanna Beat Hillary Clinton, Huh?

In 2008 and 2012, my favorite posts to write were my "Rate the Contenda" blog posts, where I would make snarky and/or intelligent observations about candidates, such as when I said that Romney is naturally an asshole, but tries to hide it by being robotic (I still stand by the opinion), and I could write that blog post for the 2016 elections. Iowa, after all, is nine months away.

But let's face it, the 2016 election is going to be Hillary Clinton against some Republican dude. And if recent polls are to be believed, she's going to crush said Republican dude. And I will dance in glee over said election. 

With that said, if the GOP really wants to win in 2016, I am offering a few points, and hopefully, Secretary Clinton's people will read this and understand where her weak points are. So, without further ado, here is my first edition of, 


Let's begin:

1) Drop the Clinton Scandal Mongering: Hillary Clinton is sort of the opposite of George W. Bush - where Dubya got away with torture, lying the American people into war, having his VP shoot a dude in the face, imprisoning thousands of innocent people, more torture, trying to convince people that voting Democratic was treason, having his VP threaten to cancel elections, letting New Orleans drown, allowed corruption to take hold of the rebuilding process in New Orleans, and ignoring the CIA's repeated warnings about Osama bin Laden - Hillary gets shit on for a week about her emails. People are still steamed about it. The point being, that for whatever reason, every single bullshit thing thrown Hillary's way will stick. 

So, why not ride out the whole Clinton scandal of the week? Because like George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, De Lazio, and a myriad of other fools, relying on scandals guarantees you 40% of the vote. Votes that you had to begin with as the dude running against HRC. Since 1992, who was the only guy to beat the Clintons? Barack Obama, and he ignored the bullshit scandal mongering.

2) Forget the Center - you know how Nixon said that during the primary you should run to the right, and then in the general you should run hard to your left? Yeah, that ain't gonna happen. Hillary Clinton is, like her husband, a Centrist. And yes, I capitalized Centrist on purpose. I don't mean that Clinton triangulates and ignores her values to be a centrist, I mean she's a to the core Centrist. Her most basic instincts will always pull her to the center. The one time she drifted leftward, you assholes hammered her down (the healthcare bill in 1993). Since then, she and Bill are hardcore moderates. And yes, that's a thing.

3) HRC's Biggest Weakness is Her Left Flank: I know you think that Clinton is the most liberal person ever, but that's because she's a woman, and so she must be a liberal. But as noted above, HRC is a Centrist to her core. As such, the Left of the Democratic Party like her, but we don't love her. We love Elizabeth Warren and Al Gore, we like Hillary. And that's where her weakness is - her left flank. If you, Republican dude, were to run to Hillary's left on some issue - legalization of pot, prison reform, open government, to name a few examples - it would resonate with a lot of voters. Remember Bush won in 2000 because Ralph Nader exploited the general discontent of the Democratic left with the Clintons.

4) Never, Ever, Ever, EVER Say ANYTHING EVEN REMOTELY MISOGYNISTIC: Yes, there are a lot of women who don't like Hillary Clinton personally, and if you play your cards right, you might get most of those women to vote for you. But God help you, if you make this race about misogyny, all of those women (even the ones who hate Hillary) will vote for her, and you will lose. Right now, she's the best chance women have to elect a President in the near future, and they don't want to fuck that up, especially to elect a misogynistic douchebag.

5) Corollary to No. 4: If You Pick A Woman as VP, She Better Hold Her Weight: I can see the thought process of picking a woman as VP - you get a mild buzz, and you defuse a bit of HRC's swagger. Its not an awful idea. 50 years of anti-choice policies won't help you, but if you can keep women from voting for Hillary en masse, you might have a shot. If you go this route, DO NOT PICK A DITZ. This woman will be poked, prodded, and tested. If she isn't up to snuff, you will look like a misogynistic douchebag and will lose badly.

With all that said, good luck to you. You're gonna need it. Honestly, I think the only way Hillary Clinton loses this race is if she fucks it up badly. Really badly. 

Also, for the peeps of the Notorious HRC (and you're not reading this vulgar blog, but whatever) - seriously, watch your boss' left flank. Its vulnerable. Come out in favor of something lefty, like marijuana legalization or something. Otherwise, you could get Nadered. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Sometimes, Even Conservatives Are Right (Or They Should Be)

Since last summer, we've seen a rash of police violence that many of us on the Left are troubled, if not outraged by. It seems that some police departments are practically at war with the African American communities they are supposed to serve. The recent report by the Department of Justice on the Ferguson Police Department is absolutely damning - the City of Ferguson has used its police force to gin up traffic fines and increase overall revenue for the City, and engaged in a policy of targeting African Americans, using excessive force, and then hiding behind their position of law enforcement to prevent any repercussions.

Beyond me being appalled, the one thing that gets me is that, by and large, the issues raised in the Ferguson PD story, or in Tamir Rice killing, is the seemingly lack of conservative outrage. If ever there was a reason for conservatives to be outraged, its what happened in Ferguson. The Ferguson Police Department was tasked with shaking down Ferguson residents for money. Court fines and fees represented a huge portion of the City of Ferguson's annual revenue. In many cases, the DOJ's report instructs that the reason for the fines and fees were simply bullshit.

In the Tamir Rice killing, a 12 year old boy was killed in the park by Cleveland PD because it was reported that he had a gun (it actually was a toy that shot plastic pellets). The Police didn't know that because, per the video evidence, they pulled up to the boy in a squad car, got out, and immediately started shooting. Now here's the sad kicker - OHIO IS AN OPEN CARRY STATE. Even if he had a gun on him (which he didn't), for all the Cleveland PD knew, he could have been legally permitted to carry such a weapon openly. In other words, as far as the Cleveland PD knew, the boy (remember, Tamir Rice was 12) HAD NOT COMMITTED ANY CRIME.

In each incident or incidents, its been us lefties protesting and raising a ruckus. But I have to wonder, where is the conservative outrage? In Ferguson, citizens are being shaken down for money. In Cleveland, a 12 year old was killed while allegedly exercising his Second Amendment rights.  The NRA should be all over the asses of the Cleveland PD. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Jeb Bush should be fighting over cameras to put out their statements before one another. Fox News should have sent Hannity out to Ferguson to lose his shit on national television. These incidents are, after all, the result of government overreach and tyranny.

But no.

That's because the victims of the Ferguson shakedown scheme and Tamir Rice are African American, and the perpetuators are all white. And if the most recent polling data shows us, African Americans are almost exclusively Democrats (with less than 10% of African Americans voting for the GOP). Latino and Asian Americans have been following suit for decades.

Now, keep in mind that I'm not saying that all conservatives are racists (though that is definitely a perception that many non-white voters have), but I am saying that race is screwing up our politics. There should be a national outcry from both the Left and the Right over Ferguson, the over reliance on flashbang grenades by police, by the deaths of unarmed young men and boys, and a combined dialogue. Conservatives should be on the air denouncing the liberal nanny state and government tyranny, because here, THEY ARE ACTUALLY RIGHT. This is a winning issue for y'all. But no.