Archive for September, 2015

Rand Paul gains ground in latest poll

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Originally published at Rare

According to a poll released by Reuters this week, Rand Paul is gaining after a summer slump.

Presently, Paul garners at 5.6 percent of the vote, with Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz just behind him at 5.3 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively.

While the three “outsider” candidates, Donald Trump (30 percent), Ben Carson (12.9 percent), and Carly Fiorina (10.8 percent) remain at the top of the pack for now, Paul’s gain, particularly in light of Scott Walker and Rick Perry dropping out, is a sign that interest in his campaign could be increasing. Unusually, a specific margin of error was not provided in the Reuter’s survey.

Paul polling ahead of his senate colleagues Rubio and Cruz is positive news for a candidate that many in the media have speculated would be the next to drop out. Paul is pulling triple duty currently between a presidential race, his senate reelection, and regular voting business in Washington. He has spent this week in the senate focused on battles over funding the government.

On Tuesday, Paul gave an impassioned speech against voting for a continuing resolution, chiding his senate colleagues for continuing what he called their “immoral” deficit spending, which is reliant upon borrowing one million dollars per minute. Cruz joined Paul in voting against the continuing resolution, while Rubio, who has missed nearly 30 percent of his senate votes, wasn’t present.

Due to his less-than-ideal fundraising and polling numbers in recent months, some news outlets have speculated that Paul’s upcoming trip to Kentucky to focus on his senate reelection is a death knell for his presidential ambitions. His campaign however, asserts that splitting Paul’s time in this fashion was always a part of the plan, and is charging ahead, happy with the latest polling news.

Said Paul’s campaign manager Chip Englander, “The Reuters poll tracks with our internal metrics that show Senator Paul moving up in the polls.” Englander further noted that this comes on the heels of Paul winning the largest Republican straw poll in the country, held in Michigan earlier this month.

Englander continued, “Senator Paul is generating huge crowds everywhere he goes as he talks about his plan to eliminate $500 billion in one year, pass a flat tax, and term limits to get rid of the career politicians.”

“This Reuters poll is just the latest in several metrics of the Senator’s strengths,” he added.

Whether Paul can continue to gain if the three non-politician frontrunners falter, remains to be seen. What we do know however, is that it’s not uncommon for outsider candidates to fade, similar to Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain in 2008.

Perhaps Paul, who was elected to the Senate as the ultimate outsider, can be successful playing a slow and steady game, or can at least show this is still anybody’s race to win.

This new disclosure shows the utter hypocrisy of the Drug Enforcement Agency

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Originally published at Rare

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the bureaucracy responsible for waging the War on Drugs, appears to take a do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do approach towards employee accountability.

First there was the revelation earlier this year that DEA agents attended drug cartel-funded “sex parties” with prostitutes while on assignment in Colombia.

In the wake of congressional testimony about the incident, DEA administrator Michele Leonhart resigned, and the Department of Justice launched an investigation into whether the DEA is properly punishing wrongdoing among its agents.

Reports obtained this week through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, however, appear to show that pervasive accountability problems persist at the DEA. As USA Today reports:

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has allowed its employees to stay on the job despite internal investigations that found they had distributed drugs, lied to the authorities or committed other serious misconduct, newly disclosed records show….

…Records from the DEA’s disciplinary files show that was hardly the only instance in which the DEA opted not to fire employees despite apparently serious misconduct.

Of the 50 employees the DEA’s Board of Professional Conduct recommended be fired following misconduct investigations opened since 2010, only 13 were actually terminated, the records show. And the drug agency was forced to take some of them back after a federal appeals board intervened.

According to the newly obtained information, previously revealed drug-fueled sex parties were just the tip of the iceberg. DEA agents can apparently fail random drug tests, drive and damage government vehicles while drunk, falsify documents, lie about the discharging of weapons, sexually harass others—even sell drugs—and not only stay out of prison, but keep their jobs.

Per USA Today:

The DEA’s internal affairs log shows investigators review more than 200 cases each year and often clear the agents involved. When they do find wrongdoing, the most common outcome is a either a letter of caution — the lightest form of discipline the agency can impose — or a brief unpaid suspension.

In fewer than 6% of those cases did DEA managers recommend firing. In some of those cases, the agency allowed employees to quit. More often, it settled on a lesser punishment… Even when employees are fired, records show the punishment doesn’t always stick because the agents were reinstated by the federal Merit Systems Protection Board, the independent body that reviews federal disciplinary matters.

These double standards, set for those who are supposed to be enforcing our laws, are nothing short of outrageous. It’s especially enraging considering the fact that our prisons are overcrowded with individuals doing time for drug charges, many of whom come from impoverished backgrounds and should be treated for addiction rather than thrown behind bars.

Unfortunately, the situation at the DEA reinforces the idea that if you have access to power, you’re above the law; a sad reality that flies in the face of the notion that justice should be blind. Today, more than half of federal prisoners are incarcerated as a result of drug charges, yet if a DEA agent engages in the same activity, he or she can apparently get off, in most cases, with a mere slap on the wrist.

Hopefully, Congress and the Department of Justice will do the right thing and force accountability within the DEA. Given the pace and efficiency of federal bureaucracy, however, we shouldn’t hold our breath.

Here’s how bad things are looking for the “inevitable” Hillary Clinton

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Originally published at Rare

For a decade, we’ve been told that Hillary Clinton is “inevitable.” Yet it seems that whenever she’s within striking distance of the presidency, serious obstacles challenge the validity of that narrative.

In 2008, she couldn’t out-maneuver upstart Senator Barack Obama. Today, she’s plagued by the scandal surrounding her private email server, the details of which seem to worsen with every new drop in her polling.

Her campaign is increasingly facing headlines such as “Hillary Clinton Says She Cannot Explain Why Previously Undisclosed Emails Turned Up,” and “Yes, Hillary Clinton Broke the Law.”

Meanwhile, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd asked her this past Sunday, “Can you say with 100 percent certainty that the deleted emails, that the FBI’s not going to find anything in there that’s going to cause you to have to explain again?” Her response? “All I can tell you is that when my attorneys conducted this exhaustive process, I did not participate.” When pressed further, Clinton explained that the technical aspects of what’s going on are “beyond her understanding.”

These aren’t exactly satisfactory answers when voters are wondering why the FBI is parsing through the deleted emails of the Democratic frontrunner and contemplating whether or not she compromised classified information.

As Andrea Mitchell said on Meet the Press after Clinton’s interview:

She is carefully saying that I’m not an IT person, I’m not technical, we know that about her. It was the IT people, it was the lawyers who decided which emails to delete, which to turn over. So she’s building in deniability …. But she’s basically not dealing with the question that there is this continued drip, drip, drip. And she cannot get to the policies that she wants to talk about. She tries to pivot to it. She does in (Todd’s) interview …. But she can’t, this is all …. overshadowing what she really wants to be talking about. And that is the reason why she is hurting in the polls.

Hurting in the polls is right. Clinton’s favorability ratings are upside down, and according to a recent Bloomberg poll, she’s only on top of the Democratic field by eight points, when she was once the prohibitive favorite. She’s also slipping in key early states, with Bernie Sanders ahead of her in New Hampshire—and that’s without Joe Biden stepping in. Were Biden to enter the race, the situation would look even bleaker for Clinton.

Despite the challenges she faces, however, leading political prognosticator Nate Silver predicts she will prevail as the Democratic nominee. As he wrote earlier this month, “So then: Clinton is toast? Probably not. In the assessment of betting markets, she’s still a reasonably heavy favorite for the Democratic nomination. That’s my assessment too.”

Still, all of the negative news stories could hurt Clinton with potential swing voters. She is now neck-in-neck in a potential general election contest with GOP candidates Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, and Carly Fiorina. Prior polls also show her losing to Rand Paul and Marco Rubio nationwide. As it stands, only 39 percent of voters see her favorably.

Whether Clinton can turn that around, win the Democratic nomination, and clinch the general is still an open question. It will likely depend in large part on how the GOP field shakes out in the coming months.

This leading Democrat just accused Marco Rubio of cavorting with Nazis

Saturday, September 26th, 2015

Originally published at Rare

Manufactured political outrage reached new heights this week, foisted upon us by none other than Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

In a scathing press release, Wasserman Schultz accused Marco Rubio of cavorting with Nazis—a serious charge! That’s the kind of accusation that ought to be backed up with strong evidence, no?

So what horrible offense did Rubio commit to receive such treatment from the DNC—on the eve of a major Jewish holiday, no less? The presidential candidate dared to attend an event at the home of a man who collects historical artifacts, some of which make reference to, believe it or not, bad things that happened throughout history. That includes certain Nazi memorabilia.

Imagine that! A man who has converted a portion of his home into a museum happens to have among his vast collection items relating to unsavory individuals.

Wrote the DNC, “Senator Marco Rubio will hold a fundraiser in a home that features two paintings by Adolf Hitler, a signed copy of Hitler’s autobiography, Mein Kampf, and a cabinet full of place settings and linens used by the Nazi leader.”

Naturally, they forgot to mention everything else the man in question, Mr. Harlan Crow, collects. As the Dallas Morning News wrote earlier this year:

Over the past 40 years, Crow has collected thousands of documents, manuscripts and works of art that span centuries. “Many people have their own hobbies and have vocations,” he said. “American history is mine.”

Among his favorites, Crow counts an Abraham Lincoln syllogism about the evils of slavery, a copy of Poor Richard’s Almanac and a letter written in 1493 by Christopher Columbus, after his first trip to the New World. The collection has paintings by Renoir and Monet and by Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

A sculpture garden includes likenesses of Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, the late British prime minister. It also has busts of dictators, including Russian communist leader Vladimir Lenin, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and Yugoslav dictator Josip Broz Tito. Crow has said the collection is not intended as a celebration of repressive regimes but to preserve a part of world history.

But by the DNC’s logic, Crow is a Nazi, and Rubio in turn is a Nazi sympathizer for refusing, as Wasserman Schultz demanded, to cancel the fundraiser this “dangerous” man out to preserve world history was hosting for him.

“An event at a home with items like these is appalling at any time of the year. Adding insult to injury, Rubio is holding this event on the eve of the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur. Holding an event in a house featuring the artwork and signed autobiography of a man who dedicated his life to extinguishing the Jewish people is the height of insensitivity and indifference,” penned a breathless Wasserman Schultz.

“Mr. Rubio, who by the way, represents a sizable Jewish population in our home state of Florida, should cancel this tasteless fundraiser. It is astounding that the presence of these items that represent horror for millions of Jews the world over, would not stop Mr. Rubio or anyone on his team in their tracks when planning this event,” she added.

Perhaps Wassmerman Schultz failed to consider the fact that Rubio’s staffers might be able to grasp the concept of a museum and the purpose it serves. But recognizing that would mean she’d give up the opportunity to call the junior senator from her home state a Nazi sympathizer. And who doesn’t love a bit of mindless demagoguery to round out their week?

As the kids say these days, this is why we can’t have nice things.

Stop Expecting Conservatives to Give Up Their Identities

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Originally published at Every Joe

As a libertarian-conservative, I generally agree with the assertion put forth by my fellow ideological travelers that the left takes identity politics to an absurd extreme. Too many liberals expect fealty to an ideology of ever-expanding government as an expression of loyalty to one’s race, gender, or class. I’ve penned many a diatribe rejecting this premise, noting that it’s not only possible, but sensible to identify fully with one’s community or background while repudiating the idea that the hiring of yet another government bureaucrat is a solution to the social ill du jour. Most conservatives and libertarians, when the argument is presented in that way, will nod their heads in agreement. But when you drill down into specifics, too many appear to conflate any acknowledgment of cultural or social identity outside of their own mainstream with the left’s more extreme form of actual identity politics.

Over the last several years, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to friends made through my work in politics who come from groups that the left categorizes as marginalized. As a result, I’ve gained a great deal of valuable perspective through both these conversations themselves and observation of how these individuals are treated in the broader conservative movement. What a lot of people on the right either don’t want to see (or are blinded to due to the circumstances of their own lives) is that the left, despite their tiresome policing of language and endless desire to grow government, has a point: It is harder, on balance, for women and people of color to get ahead. It’s also true that mainstream society and politics have been, historically speaking, dominated by white men. Naturally, culture has in turn followed the same trajectory. Despite obvious social progress and inclusion of others in relatively recent history, changes in this arena never happen overnight.

To be abundantly clear, I’m not suggesting that every white man “has it easy” or that their perspectives are less valuable than anyone else’s. I’m not a fan of the left’s attempt to silence debate by saying that only certain people are allowed to hold opinions on various topics, and I’ve always been a strong advocate of honoring the hard work every person engages in, regardless of their background. But what appears to escape far too many conservatives and libertarians, is that it’s difficult for individuals from the aforementioned groups to feel welcome in a movement where too many people tell us daily that our experiences and perspectives are invalid because they stray from a mainstream that is by default, and through no individual fault of any one person, white-male centric.

When you tell a conservative woman who is inspired by Carly Fiorina’s empowering vision of what feminism ought to stand for that she’s engaging in identity politics, you’re making her feel as if she’s wrong for embracing a fundamental part of herself. When you tell a young libertarian who praises the first woman of color to win an Emmy that she must be a liberal for identifying with someone of the same background explaining how she fought against the odds to be where she is, you’re denying her the very essence of her being. When you tell a black Republican to stop talking about the violence, unrest, and police brutality he sees on the streets everyday, you’re denigrating the people and places he loves; expecting him to abandon his culture and community.

By engaging in these behaviors you are also, consciously or not, pushing people who share your overall perspective on policy away from your political movement. You’re denying those who agree with the premise that government ought to be limited, the basic dignity of a perspective that is, and should be, different from your own. What you’re ultimately doing is driving people who ought to be your allies into the arms of an abusive political relationship with the left; because at least there – authoritarian policies that damage the very people they love be damned – they aren’t constantly berated for refusing to give up who they are. And remember, most people will choose culture and community over complicated policy that almost nobody has the time to wrap their heads around. Keep that in mind the next time you look around the room at a center-right political meeting and wonder where the minorities are.

The fact is, you never hear charges of “identity politics” automatically levied at white men who happen to support or admire other white men. And to be clear, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with looking up to people who share your experiences or background; I’m acknowledging the fact that it’s natural. As people, we draw inspiration from those we identify with and strive to emulate. That’s the premise of role models. And while I agree with the quintessentially libertarian point that the smallest minority is the individual, it doesn’t mean I reject the fact that we as units make up different, diverse communities, often based on fundamental and shared characteristics.

What many on the right would do well to understand is that there’s nothing wrong with allowing people’s diverse backgrounds to shape their viewpoints and perspectives. These don’t need to be cast aside to embrace conservatism or libertarianism. Instead of rejecting anything outside of your frame of reference as “identity politics,” take a moment to listen to people who are fundamentally different from you. Perhaps you’ll learn that you too engage in your own form of “identity politics” on a daily basis – it’s just that no one notices because in doing so, you’re simply going with the mainstream flow.

And by all means, as you genuinely listen to others, particularly your fellow conservatives, continue to mock the left for its absurdities. Liberals deserve every moment of ridicule they get for their hapless policies that encourage dependency rather than progress – just as they’ve earned criticism for using the realities of what marginalized groups face as means to shut down debate and avoid political accountability. Remember though, that the left wants nothing more than for conservatives to deal with their behavior by being reactionary to the point of alienating everyone who isn’t, as they like to say, “old, rich, white, and male.” Don’t let liberals’ abuse of identity politics allow you as a conservative to fulfill their prophecy and drive those of us who don’t fit that bill out of the movement. Because the reality is, we often feel unwanted. Help to change that by opening your mind, listening to others, and creating a welcoming space for people who, in many ways are fundamentally unlike you. Absent those prerequisites, the left will win.