Early Voting in Ohio

By

Filed Under Predictions on Sep 30 

The right to vote has a long and fascinating, and yes controversial, history. Not stated as a specific right in the Constitution, it has traditionally been a state prerogative and has evolved through a series of amendments over the years which have, step by step, expanded the franchise of voters and usually has meant federal involvement in state rules on voting rights. Does any of this, strictly speaking, have anything to do with SCOTUS’ decision to delay early voting in Ohio? The court’s decision to not allow registration and early ballot casting at the same time was divided among conservative and liberal judges in a split 5 – 4 decision. Republican state officials are now pitted against black civil rights groups and church groups who say it will unfairly restrict african-american voters ability to cast their ballots. Once again, like in Georgia, we have a concerted rush to the finish line to register voters and loud posturing against anything that gets in the way of this rush. Once again, it must be asked why a steady year-long campaign to register voters was not employed, or if employed, was not successful enough. Ohio is a swing state of course, and no amount of voters on either side is enough for either party. It’s a matter of getting out as many voters as possible to try and move the vote in a close election. That’s electoral politics and almost all is fair in war and love and elections, but is it a negation of voter rights to roll back the start of early voting?

Early voting has become an increasingly important factor in Presidential elections, increasing from around 7% in 1992 to about 30% of votes cast in the 2008 election. It seems that SCOTUS has called a delay, (the voting in Ohio will start on Oct. 7, almost a month before Tuesday November 4), to establish some clarity over early voting in the face of partisan push-and-shove at the state level. Some form of early voting exists in all but 14 states according to the National Confederation of State Legislatures, so it seems to be a matter of dealing with the details of early voting rules across different states. Those who oppose early voting warn of fraud and in any rush to register voters in the weeks leading up to an election there is surely a gray area between sloppy paperwork and deliberate falsification. How much of a potential problem this may turn out to be, however, is a matter of debate. We now have to wait to see what further clarification may come from the court and wonder whether another amendment to the Constitution, one that deals with early voting, awaits voters in the US in the years ahead.

The legal battle over online taxes actually began in 1967 with National Bellas Hess, a retail mail order business whose main physical place of business was Missouri where the plant would receive mail orders from its customers and ship off their consumer products to their clients. The State of Illinois – home to more than a few heavy handed local governments over the years – decided to slap a user tax on all state clients of National Bellas and a court battle ensued. The Supreme Court in 1967 handed the State of Illinois a defeat stating, ” The Commerce Clause prohibits a State from imposing the duty of use tax collection and payment upon a seller whose only connection with customers in the State is by common carrier or mail.” Quill corp v North Dakota in 1992 reaffirmed the precedent set in 1967: the only way a company would have to pay state taxes would be for it to have a nexus or physical presence within the state of residence of the consumer.

That was just a year before the world wide web exploded in case anyone needs reminding. For the US Senate, SCOTUS decisions are not good enough, so last year they passed the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 which gets right down to business in section 2: Authorization to require collection of sales and use taxes. It authorizes state governments to collect and remit sales taxes on “remote sales sourced to that Member State.” And now the wise and honorable members of the Senate have found a way to take another step towards assuring interet taxes prosper far and wide across the land. They plan to link an internet sales tax provision to a bill prohibiting the collection of internet access taxes. In other words, if Congress, and especially the House, want to continue upholding the ban on internet access taxes then they will have to bite the bullet on online sales taxes. All this in a lame duck session, seeing the current ban on access charges to the internet expires in December. Brick and mortar retailers are all for it. Both Dems and Republican members of Congress seem to be for it. One wonders if the Senate tactic succeeds, what further measures might be proposed for the good of the internet as well as for the good of local and state coffers. One can use the challenges of the internet to encourage simplifying and unifying state tax codes to encourage all business, online or offline. Or one can revert to blunt attempts to turn back the clock in the name of government tax grabs. It’s clear which way the US Senate has chosen, just like the State of Illinois in 1967. Do we need a new proposition-13 style revolt? It may be the only response possible from those who wish to move forward and not backwards.

Is Matthew Todd Miller a martyr for freedom, an unhinged young man from Bakersfield, California, or a bargaining chip for the crazed North Korean regime to use in its upcoming nuclear tests? It is hard to glean much information aside from the Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, official news releases, especially given Reporters Without Borders ranks the Stalinist state at or near the bottom of it’s world rankings for press freedom. So their declaration that Miller tore up his tourist visa upon entering the country has to be treated, as with all their other press releases, with caution to say the least. Unfortunately, that bit of news might be at least partly true. Miller has recently spent several years in South Korea where one of his brothers is stationed with the Air Force, and he taught English and learned Korean apparently. Did he conceive of a crazed mission to reveal to the world how repressive a regime North Korea is? In a closely monitored interview with APTV he stated that he has received no response from the State Department who have investigated his situation since his April detention.

Does that mean he is indeed a bargaining chip and Foggy Bottom are negotiating behind the scenes? Negotiating, it must be added, with what is the world’s most unpredictable government, to put it politely. North Korea is capable of kidnapping people from neighboring countries like Japan and it may very well be Miller merely entered the country and was arrested. Or maybe not. His family is pleading privacy which is understandable, but one wonders if the bright and shy youngest son of two petroleum engineers is a little eccentric. If he indeed did rip up his tourist visa in some deranged quest, then Matthew Todd Miller has made the USA’s position in the Korean peninsula that much more difficult. Everything diplomatically feasible must and is being done to release him but he is in the confines of a horrifyingly repressive state and his outcome is uncertain. Because America values freedom, people like Matthew Todd Miller can travel to North Korea and expect that their government will aid them if they are placed in jeopardy. One hopes that the young man from Bakersfield will be grateful for the aid and support he receives when he does get released. Unfortunately, any possible outcome in his case is highly uncertain. If you cross the border into North Korea, you have to know you are entering an extremely dangerous country that can and will arrest you at the drop of a hat, and certainly at the tearing up of a tourist visa card.

If a 300 pound Black Bear is stalking you, don’t run. Walk slowly and avoid eye contact. Do not run. That’s the advice New Jersey state officials have for hikers after Darsh Pratel lost his life, having apparently been mauled to death by precisely such a bear in the Apshawa Preserve in West Milford, New Jersey. Pratel’s four friends ran away just like he did when they noticed the bear stalking them, but were a little luckier; they weren’t hunted down by a large predator capable of speeds of up to 35 miles an hour over short distances. The 22 year old Rutgers student is the first victim of a bear attack in the state for over 150 years and that must offer no consolation to his distraught family. The bear was shot to death by officials after they found it circling Pratel’s body and after it did not respond to attempts to have it leave the area. We wll have an autopsy and we will also have wildlife experts explaining to everyone how rare an encounter this is and how wonderful it is to have bears roaming the woods of New Jersey as in the days of yore. New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection, however, allow a legal bear hunt to cull the numbers of black bears in the state and lessen the probabilities of human encounters, especially tragic ones like this one.

The question becomes then, what are the limits of biodiversity that a post-industrial society is capable of supporting? The answer depends on who you ask: deep environmentalists would have almost all humans eliminated from North America as well as those invasive domestic breeds like cattle. Urban environmentalists think the increasing number of city-dwelling coyotes in North America is a good thing, and us humans will have to make sure that packs of urban coyotes don’t drag our pets or children into the bushes to be devoured. Ranchers in places like Montana would like to have every last wolf and coyote converted into pelts to be proudly displayed beside their fireplaces. In other words there is a choice to be made about how we coexist with wildlife. While the young Rutgers student’s horrifying fate is likely an anomaly, statistically speaking, bear culls, especially black bear culls, need to be part of any wildlife area’s policy tools. And the Disneyfication of dangerous predators in various media, which will surely continue, must be countered with sober and pragmatic education that lets hikers and others know just what kind of an animal they are dealing with.

If Rep Tim Bishop (D, NY) is right, there are about 40 ISIS, (or ISIL), fighters who are back in the US after having left the country to fight for the terrorist group in the Middle East. According to Bishop, the FBI has them under surveillance so the threat is not quite imminent. That is scant comfort, given the arrests in Australia this week. While all the information regarding their plans is not public, it appears that ISIL supporters in that country were planning random kidnappings in order to then behead the Australians kidnapped right off the sidewalk and film the execution. All this at the behest of an ISIL member who has Australian citizenship and ordered the terror campaign to be carried out on the streets of Australia. Clearly, similar campaigns will be attempted – if they are not already being planned, in the US. Better to alert the public about possible dangers than have the horrifying outcome of a victim of ISIL on home soil.

The odds of something like this being attempted have just shot up. With ISIL there is no limit, it seems, to their savagery and as much intelligence as possible must be accumulated and sifted through continually. Profiling potential ISIL terrorists – young angry men with roots in the Middle East who have recently returned from there might be a good place to start – but unfortunately the profiling will have to much broader than that. The medieval delusion of a revived Caliphate in the Middle East has not died with Bin Laden, it remains a motivating factor for those whose fanaticism leads to this sort of evil. One of the lessons learned from 9/11 is the vital. life-saving importance of coordinated intelligence between all levels of law enforcement and security. That cooperation is now needed even more than it has been in this last decade and a half. ISIL has to be fought on every front and thwarting their evil at home means everyone from the head of the NSA to your hometown police officer needs to be, in some way, part of the effort. Let the ACLU fret and fuss all they want. For the intelligence and police forces, to not profile and assemble the data and, you bet, eavesdrop, means to shirk their duty to defend the nation. We don’t need crazed conspiracy theories about drones attacking innocent americans. We need full utilization of all intelligence assets to safeguard citizens from a possible attempt, even a lone deranged attempt. That does not mean an overbearing apparatus that monitors every move anyone makes. It means getting to the right information as quickly as possible, and letting government lawyers worry afterwards about future lawsuits filed by the usual suspects, like the ACLU.

“Republicans have for too long been captive to industry lobbyists seeking special favors.” Those are Tim Carney’s words writing in the Washington Examiner. The motivating reason for Carney’s declaration is electoral of course, as well as political. Main street does not like corporate welfare, and lobbying is seen as an inside track to gain advantages for any given corporation or industry. K street does not play well on Main street. With midterm elections a few weeks away, the GOP – specifically what the GOP’s agenda will be when and if they gain control of the Senate – matters to the electorate and quickly cozying up to business lobbies is a worry for some party supporters. There are three easy, make that visible, targets for anti-lobbying crusaders to take on: The Export-Import Bank, Ethanol subsidies, and Sugar subsidies. Bobby Jindal has planted a stake coming out for the elimination of ethanol subsidies and righting the market distortions that they create. The Export-Import Bank is perhaps a less rational target, seeing they aid US corporations that sell abroad. A trade surplus is hardly something to run screaming from as a true populist, and helping US corporations compete against European and Asian competitors who receive all sorts of subsidies makes economic sense. One can argue that it is a violation of free market principles, but who goes first? Think of Boeing and the jobs – those in the US – it creates by selling its aircrafts around the world. Does Boeing lobby Washington? What do you think? Finally, Sugar subsidies mean higher prices for US consumers. Of course, cutting sugar subsidies will hardly play well in Florida and may come back to hurt GOP chances in the state in 2016.

There is the matter of free speech as well. SCOTUS has ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations. So as a matter of law, whether settled law might be too early to say, K street is within its rights to spend a lot of money to gain Washington’s ear. Direct contributions are still banned, so for business – big, medium, or small – K street is their most effective route, literally and metaphorically, to argue their case. That’s a rollback of some of McCain-Feingold and it might not sit well in Main Street. That is, until voters in any district realize that that an evil corporation has lobbied for a subsidy or rule change that means more jobs in their district. It’s the age old story of Federal politics in the US: get the government out of the economy except when it creates jobs in my district. Big business is bad, especially if it doesn’t lobby for favors that could mean a new plant opening up down the road. Every senator, whether GOP or Dem, knows this in his or her bones, and so it will be interesting to see how vigorously the Senate pushes an anti-K street agenda after November.

Scott Brown and Jeanne Shaheen have been firsts or near-firsts at a few things in their political careers and their lives. With Brown’s victory in the GOP primary they now get to decide who will be first in November in the race for Shaheen’s Senate seat representing New Hampshire. Should Brown win, he would be the first senator to have represented 2 different states since 1879 when James Shield represented Illinois and Minnesota. Shaheen is the first female senator to represent New Hampshire as well as the first woman to be elected governor in the state. She is also the first female elected to both governor and senator in the US. While selling herself – successfully it must be admitted – as a moderate in New Hampshire, she has worked on Democratic campaigns for everyone from Carter, through Gary Hart, and Al Gore as well as John Kerry. She has taught at Harvard and has been a fellow at their Institute of Politics. Gore apparently had her on a short list for VP. In other words, Shaheen is as big L Liberal as they come. And yes, she likes taxes, being one of the first New Hampshire politicians in 4 decades_ not_ to promise no new taxes. Her attempt at a sales tax was defeated by the state legislature over ten years ago.

Scott Brown knows what it is to battle with Liberals, certainly female lionesses of the left like Elizabeth Warren, who he lost his 2012 US Senate re-election to in Massachusetts to. One could describe Scott Brown as a Massachusetts Republican, having voted about 90% of the time with the state Republican leadership. He has also been willing to work across party lines and has also earned conservative Tea Party criticism for his opposition to budget cuts in 2011. Does that mean that Scott Brown – he has earned endorsements from them in the past – is a moderate Tea Party candidate? He introduced Mitt Romney at the Conservative Political Action Conference, but has not been beyond considering supporting jobs bills promoted by Democrats. He calls himself a fiscal conservative and a social moderate: on issues like gay marriage he is flexible if not overtly supportive, and he has called Wade v Roe “settled law.”

Will New Hampshire – where he has childhood ties and has vacationed in for years – accept Scott Brown? The primary victory is a clear “yes”, and some polls suggest his popularity is starting to surge and he could chip away at Shaheen’s 12 point lead, reducing it to single digits by November. If Brown is able to win in New Hampshire, GOP control of the US Senate will be even more assured. Once that gets done, then voters can decide exactly what type of Republican Scott Brown is.

It appears that President Obama now has a plan of sorts to deal with IS in Iraq and Syria. On the eve of the 13th anniversary of 9/11, Obama delivered an address on IS and what actions the U.S. will take to counter it. I had low hopes for the speech and as anticipated, I was let down by it. In presenting his plan he prioritized rhetoric over details and answers to questions while doing little to instill confidence that he truly believed in what he was suggesting. Now it would appear that we are engaging in a half-hearted attempt to “degrade and ultimately destroy” IS, a campaign that might extend into the next presidency. The plan is unrealistic, simplistic, and is a poorly crafted attempt to rectify the failure of this administration to generate a strategy against dealing with a group we’ve been fully aware for over a year.

I find the strategy put forth by the president as completely lacking. There are too many questions that remain unanswered while the plan itself seems simplistic and poorly conceived. One of my biggest problems is the military strategy. There is an absolute reluctance and opposition on the part of the president and many of the American people for the use of ground forces regardless if they are in combat or not. Obama insists that the eventual 1,000 troops we are sending will only advise and train the Iraqi military. Various analysts though have suggested that the troops sent are too few and upwards of 10,000 troops will be needed for such activities to be successful. To that end, our campaign against IS depends on using the forces of Iraq, militia groups, and Syrian rebel groups as our ground troops, all of whom have already proven to be less than capable of meeting this threat.

Our primary military contribution to the operation will be airpower. Airstrikes as they are being conducted now against IS in what is a piecemeal manner will not bring about the groups destruction. Airpower would have made a major difference when then ISIS was on the offensive and convoys were travelling in the open desert between cities. Now we are forced to engage a group no longer in the open but that is blending in with civilians in cities and towns. Our intelligence estimates on IS are sorely lacking and this will further hamper destroying them; just recently the CIA revealed that it had grossly underestimated the number of IS fighters in Iraq and Syria. When you are conducting an aerial campaign it tends to help when you can identify targets and know critical information about your enemy. It seems though that we know little about IS and as a result airstrikes will continue to be against targets as they present themselves rather than being truly focused. Prepare to be awed by videos of $60,000+ missiles being used to destroy random pickup trucks and tents while the administration insists that we have the upper hand.

Then there is the problem with arming and providing more assistance to moderate Syrian opposition groups which is part of Obamas plan. Just weeks ago Obama considered such a move as “fantasy” arguing that arming who are essentially “former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth” would make little difference in the fight against Assad. Well now that’s no longer the case; never mind that the moderate rebels also have to contend with fanatical IS fighters in addition to government forces. Then there is difficulty in choosing who to provide assistance as there is a history of groups we supported later turning on us. Also weapons we provide to supposedly moderate groups have a habit of falling into the hands of the enemy. Lastly there is the complexity of the situation itself in Syria; a conflict between the government, moderate opposition, and IS fanatics all of whom are backed by different actors internationally. Are we arming moderates to fight just IS or also Assad? What if IS is defeated and Assad is still in power, do we abandon the moderates or do we become militarily engaged against him as well?

Finally there is the issue of time and what will happen if IS is ultimately destroyed. Already the White House has said the campaign against IS might take three years, mind you a three year military campaign against a group the president earlier this year termed a “JV” basketball team. Now the situation might play out radically different. Sunni groups that had allied themselves with ISIS in a move that was seen by some to have been meant as a political message to the government, are now ready to fight against IS. The Iraqi military and the Kurds might successfully rally and go on a full offensive against IS. There is that chance that IS might be defeated by mid-2015, anything is possible. Regardless, if this administration is serious about defeating IS don’t say it can take three years because it looks like we aren’t serious. Furthermore how far have we planned this because I highly doubt that we will be able to just extract ourselves from this easily. Upon defeating IS we might be setting ourselves up for a military confrontation with Syria or the Kurds might push for greater independence from Baghdad; in either case we will remain heavily involved.

I want to see IS absolutely liquidated but that doesn’t mean I will support a plan that I don’t believe in. What has been proposed is a military strategy that is watered down to be politically acceptable and to reduce the footprint of U.S. involvement. Remember, Obama ended the war in Iraq and it is no doubt hurting him that we are returning to Iraq. If you engage in military conflict you do it to win, not a partial but an absolute victory; this plan speaks of an absolute victory but it doesn’t portray the realistic ways and means to achieve it. Furthermore I feel it is too open-ended and leaves us open to a military confrontation with Assad in Syria. I firmly believe IS must be dealt with though I would rather take the time now to create an effective strategy rather than rushing in with one that is so lacking.

The Levin brothers, Rep Sander Levin and Sen Carl Levin are out to get Burger King. The issue at hand is tax inversions, like the fast food chain’s purchase of Canadian Donut Franchise Tim Hortons and its announced plans to move it’s HQ, if not much of it’s staff, to Canada to benefit from a lower tax rate. In other words, the so-called tax inversions that the Levin brothers fear will cause a wave of US companies to move their headquarters offshore and reduce the US tax base. While Sander’s boss Harry Reid has not been overly enthusiastic about introducing anti-inversion legislation for now, the way forward for these two economic policy wizards seems to be promoting a change in Treasury Department policy that would make it less profitable for US companies to utilize tax inversions. How to do it would be through some sort of policy directive that would reduce the tax benefits of moving to a lower tax jurisdiction. That would have to mean penalties of some sort, whether directly applied or perhaps involving the elimination of any benefits or subsidies that the tax-inverting corporation was deemed to be receiving.

So, the question is, what can the Treasury Department actually do that doesn’t require Congressional approval? The Treasury Department has been around a long time. Along with State and Defense, (The Department of War until the late 40’s), it was one of the first three executive departments of the nation, having been founded in 1789. But Congress has always had the power to pass the laws which the Treasury Department then enforces, and without Congressional approval, Treasury is limited to some sort of administrative action. Whether opposing or attempting to prohibit corporations seeking tax efficiency is good economic policy in today’s world is doubtful. But even assuming it is a worthwhile fight, Treasury seems to be limited in their scope of retaliatory measures. And let’s be clear, this is retaliation to discourage a feared flood of tax inversions eroding the tax base. This seems rather to be a case of moral suasion, or spin to put it more bluntly, pursued by the administration rather than a clear change in policy. There of course could be a way to solve this problem: lower the corporate tax rate from the near-European level of 35%. That would certainly be a clear change of policy rather than Secretary Lew giving press conferences to supplement the President’s sound bites about over-taxed corporations being “deserters.” And the Levin brothers would have even less of a chance to pursue their ill-guided legislation.

In Colorado, Rep Mike Coffman is studying with a tutor for an upcoming debate in the race for his House seat. What is Mike Coffman studying? Spanish of course. The debate will be on Univision, the Spanish-language network, and his Democratic opponent, Andrew Romanoff, is apparently fluent in Spanish. This matters of course, because some re-districting means that about 20% of voters in his district are Latinos. To his credit, Coffman has maintained a hard line on illegal immigration, advocating denying illegals public services, for examples, and allowing a sort of hotline to report on suspected illegals. On the other hand, he has advocated giving DREAMers a path to citizenship by serving in the military and has worked with Dems in the House on trying to put together an immigration reform package. As he girdles himself for combat in another language one wonders if Coffman’s efforts will be appreciated by the Latino community in Colorado.

It’s an interesting question because right now Colorado Latinos are really mad at Obama. At least that’s what people like Sonia Marquez, of the Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition (CIRC), have stated, saying that her coalition is “outraged by President Obama’s continued lies and betrayal” and is determined the latino voice in Colorado will be heard. The question is how they will express their anger. She is referring to Obama’s no-show on the promised amnesty which is in great part the result of pleading by people like Colorado’s Democratic Senator Michael Bennet and other nervous red state dems to hold off on any amnesty until after the mid term elections. The CIRC will hold a protest this week outside the senator’s offices but Bennet hardly needs reminding that Latinos want amnesty. The question remains as to how they will vote in November. If they hold to the threat of an electoral boycott then the Senate race could very well go the GOP’s way, adding a key seat in the upper house for the party. Are Latinos really that mad? Perhaps they are. Will their votes be important in places like Colorado? Important enough for Mike Coffman to debate in Spanish, but not important enough for him to betray his beliefs – and those of his conservative base – on illegal immigration. It will be up to the exit polls in the end to fully answer the question of whether latino votes were key in 2014.

Thirteen years later, the former White House Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer, shared his day on 9/11/01 that began in a motorcade with President Bush to an elementary school. Where he initially planned to discuss education with a small group of folks which turned into a speech that America was under attach by terrorists.

Fleischer addresses a moment that Democrat film maker, Michael Moore, initiated a controversy that the President continued reading to a class knowing America was under attack. He tweeted, “Bush said later he stayed 2collect his thoughts and send a signal of calm. He said he didn’t want 2bolt from his chair and alarm the nation.”

“Bush also told VP – and I quote – ‘We’re at war Dick and we’re going to find out who did this and we’re going to kick their ass.'”

Fleischer concluded this live 9/11 timeline on Twitter saying, “I don’t remember what time I got home that night. It was a long day – and its ramifications, as world events today show, still haven’t ended,” and, “That’s what I did September 11, 2001. Thanks for listening. God Bless America.”

Check out Ari Fleischer on Twitter @AriFleischer to read the entire timeline. It’s pretty remarkable.

If you want to get technical on a sensitive issue, then one can consider the accepted definition of the medical community of when a pregnancy begins: when the fertilized egg successfully implants itself in the lining of the uterus. That makes sure that most contraception – and especially the Birth Control Pill – acts before pregnancy begins, which draws a clear line between contraception and abortion. Now that definition may not accord with the view of Catholic Bishops in America, and the Catholic Church in general, as well as other religious groups and some pro-life advocates, but for most, it is a common sense and comfortable demarcation. Well, actually, most who approve of over the counter BC pills haven’t dug down that deep into the science and perhaps would be uncomfortable doing so. Or maybe not.

The GOP, candidate by candidate with Bobby Jindall’s op-ed piece in December of 2012 as a key moment, has decided to support over the counter BC pills. In the most part this is to neutralize the Democrats constant attack on the party´s supposed lack of support for women’s rights in general, and women’s health issues in particular. But it is more than that; the issue seems to be one on which a large majority of women, and a majority of the general population in America have made up their minds. And the optics of birth control according to health organizations like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists seems to be one of educating parents – you can think of it as reprogramming family values – to ensure a productive and functional family outcome. That means the conditions for having a child are starting to approximate a privilege that must be earned by potential parents displaying the right attitudes, budget, and even lifestyle. Spanking, for example, has been criminalized in parts of Europe, and it is only a matter of time before a court case in America decides against any physical punishment of children, even as teenage violence against parents is a relatively minor but noticeable problem. Are families happier, healthier, and safer than they were fifty years ago? It seems impolite to ask the question to many nowadays. What matters to them is that families are changing and BC pills available over the counter, according to this view, is just one piece of our postmodern world’s matrix of entitlement and efficiency. Birth Control will likely disappear as an issue over this election cycle. The GOP has decided to help the issue on its way to oblivion, and it is a reasonable – if not completely comfortable – choice they are making.

How would you like to be the ambulance driver who took the doctor who has Ebola to the hospital in Nebraska? Or the health care workers who will look after him? The Ebola virus is a Risk Group 4 Pathogen. It requires BioSafety Level 4-equivalent Containment. That means you use positive pressure personnel suits, multiple showers on entry and exit to any area where the virus is contained, There is a segregated air supply, a vacuum room, an ultraviolet light room and other precautions. The Ebola virus is often fatal and there is no known vaccine. Almost 2,000 people have died in the recent outbreak in Liberia and other parts of West Africa, but that didn’t stop Dr. Rick Sacra from heading there to help deliver babies after having heard that two other missionaries had become ill. So now he lays in a special isolation ward in a Nebraska hospital infected with a deadly virus that he knew was ravaging people in an outbreak in the area he deliberately visited.

Maybe what is being done with Dr. Sacras is the most rational way to control the outbreak of the deadly virus, but one wonders what the total cost will be and what the risk is to anyone along Dr. Sacra’s travel route to that Nebraska Hospital as well as the people in the vicinity of that hospital. How many millions will have to be spent? But at least this way, it is done in the open, and that does allow a rigorous control. One can also assume that Dr. Sacra is now the latest guinea pig in the desperate search for a cure. He will be studied carefully and his agonizing journey of sickness may provide cold hard data that will help, someday, to arrive at a vaccine. Did this have to be done smack in the middle of the USA? Places like Guantanamo Bay, for example, could provide an isolated location where the disease can be studied under secure conditions. There of course are multiple security concerns. The ability to isolate and reproduce the ebola virus is something terrorists – ISIS and al Qaeda for example – would love to be able to do to unleash their hatred on the rest of the world, and America in particular. So keeping Dr. Sacras safe from others as well as others safe from him seems to be the deadly balancing act that is being done right now in the heart of the US.

Did he have to go? No, of course not. It was an act of defiant charity, of a “we´re all in this together” ideology taken to it’s most dangerous limit. Almost any hint of discrimination against anyone because of possible diseases – even fatal ones like ebola – is seen as infringing on the rights of the diseased to circulate and live freely, according to this view. Nigeria’s President Jonathan complained of discrimination to UN special envoy David Navararo after Nigeria’s team was forced to abandon it’s participation in the Youth Olympics in China because of fears of the disease spreading from Nigeria to China. It is almost impossible to hear the word “quarantine” issue from the lips of any politician almost anywhere because of the worries of the optics of such a call. It goes without saying that deadly infectious diseases like Ebola do not discriminate; and that is precisely why quarantine – however we call it – must be part of the responses available to contain any outbreak that threatens lives from villagers in Liberia to ambulance drivers in Nebraska. We cannot simply assume that diseases will inevitably reach across the globe, a reasonably rigorous policy of containment must be done with no shame on anyone’s part. It is in the interests of all, as the best medical minds continue to try and find a cure. Dr. Sacras is not one of them.

Nelva Gonzales Ramos earned her law degree from U of T in 1991 and was confirmed by unanimous consent to the bench in 2011, with support from both Democrats and Republicans. She now has the Texas Voter ID case in her court and must decide whether the law brought by Attorney General Greg Abbott, who will almost certainly be governor of Texas come early November, discriminates against the poor and elderly. It is assumed they vote Democrat more than Republican. It is also assumed that Voter ID Laws are about discrimination.

The right to vote has been defined over the years by four amendments to the Constitution that have expanded the franchise from the mid-19th century through the early seventies when 18 to 20 year olds were given the right to vote. The Constitution itself did not explicitly state who had the right to vote and that right has been expanded by the courts and the legislatures over the last 150 years or so. Is the Texas law a step backwards? Should Texas have to bend over backwards to prove it is not discriminating against voters?

The best way to answer that question is to look at the details of the law itself. You basically need a legitimate photo ID that can be one of seven types, from a driver’s license to an Election Identification Certificate or EIC. Passports and Military ID’s are part of the list as well. Does this requirement seem onerous and discriminatory? These types of documents are the basis of one’s legal identity in most states, and many other countries as well. Voting is both a right and a responsibility in the US, and obtaining such ID’s seems a reasonable act of responsibility. Is voter fraud a major problem? Perhaps not, because the issue is more a case of who else will have the right to vote in future elections, whatever the intentions of Texas in framing the law. For example, for voting rights activists convicted felons should be able to vote. Are alien voting rights next on the list? Beyond immediate partisan gain in any given election, this is the bigger issue that is waiting in the wings and that judge Ramos will perhaps have to consider. Right now, the case will be about whether the law is discriminatory, but the right of permanent residents who are not US citizens to vote has already been attempted in Texas by representative Roberto Alonso in 1995. Judge Ramos has a lot more on her plate than she might have asked for. Her ruling, and other court decisions that follow, will resonate far beyond the November elections.

The US Chamber of Commerce likes Washington so much that they spent over $35 million on federal elections in 2012 according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s hardly surprising seeing they represent companies in the world’s largest economy. No the Chamber of Commerce is not a government department, it’s a lobby group. How conservative the Chamber of Commerce actually is, is open to debate. They supported the Clinton’s failed health care reform and lost a few members as a result. Since the early 90’s they have apparently shifted back to the right, but last fall, Bloomberg News declared that a civil war had erupted between Tea Party stalwarts like Ted Cruz and the USCC over it’s opposition to government shutdowns as a negotiating tactic. They did not support Obamacare but now a key decision is coming if Obama uses an executive order to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants. USCC members like the National Restaurant Association are in favor of amnesty and business groups worked with the gang of eight in the Senate in its attempt at immigration reform.

Assuming Obama does issue that executive order – some are beginning to doubt it because blanket amnesty would anger some labor groups as well as African Americans – there could be a further split between Tea Party members and some conservatives and big business. There is a curious confluence between those on the left who argue that illegals help keep wages low because of their vulnerable status, and those on the right who say illegals take jobs away from those Americans as well as keep wages low. Their solutions are diametrically opposed; Amnesty or Deportation. Amnesty is uncomfortable at a certain level for big labor as well; they would love to increase latino participation in union membership and turn back a steadily declining trend, but also are aware that a large pool of illegals will inevitably keep wages under pressure for their members. Whether business has thought through the consequences of a large scale amnesty and how it likely would encourage further illegal immigration on an even larger scale is uncertain. A low wage economy is hardly the recipe for future prosperity. An economy where the rule of law is respected, and where labor markets have the freedom to be flexible within that very rule of law, is something else.

Will Florida matter as much in 2016 as it did in 2000? We seem to be getting a preview in the bare-knuckles, too-close-to-call race for governor. Incumbent Rick Scott and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist are at it, and it will only get nastier between now and November. That won’t be such a bad thing in fact because one of the central focal points in the mud slinging is Obamacare. Rick Scott built one of the largest healthcare companies in the world, Columbia HCA, and was then forced to resign after a payments scandal with respect to medicare and medicaid that resulted in charges being laid and a $600 million fine being paid. This will be dragged across the stage by Crist’s campaign, but the fact remains that Scott was not personally implicated and no charges were laid against him.

Governor Scott, on the other side, is launching attacks on Obamacare and the flexible – from Republican to Independent to Democrat to staunch Obama ally – Crist’s support for the Affordable Care Act. His attack is based on the fact that Crist’s support for Obamacare is not about liberal principles on the part of the former governor, but rather convenience. He gets the full support of the White House in return for being an unqualified supporter of Obamacare. Whatever party, whatever policy it takes, Charlie Crist wants back in the governor’s office. And Crist seems to be aiming for South Florida’s undecided voters rather than just focus on Central Florida.

That means working on turnout among Democratic voters in South Florida. Does that sound familiar? The primaries that both contenders easily won indicate that voter turnout among Republicans was higher. Not a good sign for Crist’s campaign and hence his focus on South Florida. That means not only talking about Obamacare but also railing about immigration – Rick Scott’s stance on immigration that is. In fact, after winning four years ago with a hard-line stance, Scott has softened on the issue, supporting reduced college tuition for younger illegal immigrants, the so-called dreamers. Crist is also focusing on South Florida because Obama has managed to win there – barely, but win he did – for two consecutive elections, And those staffers that plotted those victories are now available for Crist’s campaign. Tampa, as always, is still key and if Crist can do well there then his chances against Scott improve. Scot will keep hammering with negative ads to ensure Democratic or Independents do not turnout in increased numbers. With Libertarian Adrian Wyllie as a wild card, the election for governor in the sunshine state will be very hard to call. If Crist wins, it will not be what he stands for, but because Democrats are scared that Florida will go the other way in 2016. So they are willing to suspend judgement on who Charlie Crist really is, and vote for the former Republican.