Archive | May 2013

the IRS and Abuse of Power

President Obama spoke today on the growing scandal involving the IRS and their targeting Tea Party organizations for scrutiny and investigation.  Does the President’s statement and actions adequately address the concerns raised by the IRS’s actions?  Is the White House doing a good job, in terms of public relations, communicating their message?  Are criticisms of the White House in conjunction with this scandal fair?

 

No Early Voting in New Jersey

Governor Christie yesterday vetoed a bill that would have allowed early voting in New Jersey.  After reading the following, comment on whether or not New Jersey should have adopted this measure.  Do the benefits outweigh the costs (both real and potential)?

Christie vetoes early voting bill, angering Democrats

Jenna Portnoy/The Star-Ledger By Jenna Portnoy/The Star-Ledger

on May 09, 2013 at 3:35 PM, updated May 10, 2013 at 7:16 AM

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie today vetoed a bill that would allow early voting at polling places, prompting Democrats to brand it a politically motivated effort to suppress the vote months after Hurricane Sandy exposed vulnerabilities in the state elections system.

The Republican governor called a proposal to let voters cast ballots at designated polling places during a 15-day period before Election Day “hasty, counterproductive and less reliable” than the current system.

“I support responsible and cost-efficient election reform that increases voter participation because democracy works best when the most people vote,” Christie said in the veto message. “But this bill risks the integrity and orderly administration of our elections by introducing a new voting method and process.”

Christie’s veto bucks a national trend. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia had instituted some form of in-person early voting as of September 2012, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That does not include New Jersey, which allows absentee voting without having to provide an excuse.

State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex), a primary sponsor of the bill (S2364), said Christie’s veto shows he is out of step with most states.

“The governor now joins other Republican governors who have sought to stifle the vote and limit access to the polls,” she said. “Once again he is catering to his national base at the expense of New Jersey residents.”

Currently, voters can cast a “mail-in-ballot” by mailing or hand-delivering a competed ballot to their county clerk starting 45 days before the election.

Christie said the expanded early voting system envisioned by the Legislature would create a side-by-side voting process, noting it would cost the state $23 million in the first year and $2 million each year after that. He also questioned the security of transporting paper ballots around the state during the early voting period and the call for a quick setup before July 1.

Christie, who is seeking re-election, raised the ire of unions and the Democratic Governors Association, who are backing his likely opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex).

“The governor’s veto shamefully silences the voices of an untold number of New Jersey families,” New Jersey AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech said. The Democratic Governors Association immediately issued a statement likening Christie to what it called “shameless Republican governors restricting voting rights for partisan political gain,” citing Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and others.

“Governor Christie’s veto is yet another example of Republican politicians taking the cynical view that making voting more difficult will win them more elections,” Buono said.

Hurricane Sandy damaged polling places and severely limited residents’ ability to get around the state days before the November presidential election. In response, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno issued a last-minute patchwork of directives intended to help people vote, including letting residents request and return mail-in ballots by fax and e-mail.

Christie said those measures worked well and the election went smoothly, pointing to the nearly 300,000 mail-in ballots cast. Voting rights advocates maintain that many residents were disenfranchised.

About 67 percent of New Jersey voters cast their ballots last year. For at least a century, New Jersey had never gone below 70 percent voter turnout in a presidential election year.

 

US foreign policy in Syria

In the following Wall Street Journal interview/video editorial, Fouad Ajami is highly critical of the Obama administration’s policy in Syria.  He asserts, among other thins, that Obama is neither loved nor feared in the Middle East.  If you were president, would you advocate greater US intervention in Syria?  Should we have armed the Syrian rebels?  Should we arm them now that the rebellion has apparently been radicalized?  What if it was confirmed that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons?

 

Does the government record your telephone calls?

In this piece from last week on CNN, a former FBI counterintelligence officer suggests that all of your telephone calls are recorded… or at least that they could be accessed at a later date by the government if it were investigating you.  Does this concern you, from the perspective of civil liberties and privacy?  Does this violate individuals’ 4th amendment “right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizure”?  Or should the government be able to access any conversation you have — on the telephone or online — in conjunction with a terrorism investigation?