Wednesday, October 22, 2008

News Roundup (October 22, 2008) - Part 2

For the last few days, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin keep claiming that Sen. Obama is a "socialist". Forget for the time being whether they are right or wrong (they're wrong) or what the real definition of a socialist is. Instead, focus on the policy of Sen. Obama are being labeled as socialist: namely his proposal to give a tax cut to 95% of working Americans while slightly increasing (about 4%) taxes on the wealthiest Americans. The idea that we might tax the wealthy a bit more to give a tax break to the middle class is what the Republicans are calling "socialist" and clearly Sen. McCain is no socialist, right?

Then again...

The McCain campaign has also begun using a truly repulsive new robocall featuring as its designated purveyor of political sleaze: Ruly Guiliani:

Here's the transcript (from Talking Points Memo):

Hi, this is Rudy Giuliani, and I'm calling for John McCain and the Republican National Committee because you need to know that Barack Obama opposes mandatory prison sentences for sex offenders, drug dealers, and murderers.

It's true, I read Obama's words myself. And recently, Congressional liberals introduced a bill to eliminate mandatory prison sentences for violent criminals -- trying to give liberal judges the power to decide whether criminals are sent to jail or set free. With priorities like these, we just can't trust the inexperience and judgment of Barack Obama and his liberal allies. This call was paid for by the Republican National Committee and McCain-Palin 2008 at 866 xxx xxxx.

In the robocall, Guiliani claims to have "read Obama's words". Let's do that shall we? Here is the relevant portion of Sen. Obama's platform:

Eliminate Crack/Cocaine Disparity: The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 imposes a five-year mandatory minimum penalty for a first-time trafficking offense involving 5 or more grams of crack cocaine, the weight of less than two sugar packets and yielding between 10 and 50 doses. To get the same 5 year mandatory minimum for powder cocaine, an offender would need to traffic 500 grams of powder, yielding between 2,500 and 5,000 doses. Against the recommendation of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, these mandatory minimums were signed into law again in 1995. Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe the disparity between crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong, cannot be justified and should be eliminated. The sentencing disparity has disproportionately filled our prison with young black and Latino drug users – men and women who he will work to rehabilitate so they can become productive and responsible community members. More than 80 percent of crack cocaine defendants in 2006 were African American, and African Americans now serve as much time in prison for drug offenses (58.7 months) as whites do for violent offenses (61.7 months). Republican Senators, like Jeff Sessions from Alabama, have argued that as a matter of law and public policy, the heavy mandatory sentences for crack as compared to cocaine make no sense. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will work in a bipartisan way to eliminate these disparities. They will also repeal the mandatory minimum sentence for first-time offenders convicted of simple possession of crack, as crack is the only drug that a non-violent first-time offender can receive a mandatory minimum sentence for possessing.

Reform Mandatory Minimums: There are at least 171 mandatory minimum provisions in federal criminal statutes. According to the United States Sentencing Commission, in FY 2006, 33,636 counts of conviction carried a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment, affecting 20,737 offenders. Most of these counts of conviction – 82.9 percent – were for drug offenses. Black and Hispanic offenders make up the overwhelming majority of individuals convicted under a mandatory minimum sentence. A RAND study found that mandatory minimum sentences are less effective than discretionary sentencing and drug treatment in reducing drug-related crime, and every leading expert body in criminal justice has opposed the use of mandatory minimum sentences, including the Sentencing Commission, the Judicial Conference, the American Bar Association, and leading criminal justice scholars. Chief Justice Rehnquist observed that “one of the best arguments against any more mandatory minimums, and perhaps against some of those that we already have, is that they frustrate the careful calibration of sentences.” Justice Kennedy stated that he “can accept neither the necessity nor the wisdom of federal mandatory minimum sentences.” Justice Breyer, one of the architects of the Sentencing Guidelines, noted that “[m]andatory minimum statutes are fundamentally inconsistent with Congress’ simultaneous effort to create a fair, honest, and rational sentencing system through the use of Sentencing Guidelines.” Politicians of both parties have also come out against mandatory minimums. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will immediately review these sentences to see where we can be smarter on crime and reduce the ineffective warehousing of nonviolent drug offenders.

Now if you read even a little bit carefully, you will note that Mayor Guiliani left out one teeny tiny little word: "mandatory". Sen. Obama does not say that he opposes "mandatory prison sentences" as the robocall claims; rather, Sen. Obama opposes mandatory minimum prison sentences. See the difference? That the McCain campaign would allow a proxy to claim (in a robocall paid for by the McCain campaign) that Sen. Obama doesn't support prison for criminals is simply shameful and represents the absolute worst kind of political smear.

And I'm sure that you've already read this by now, but I wouldn't feel as if my post was complete with a reference to the Republican National Committee's little shopping spree:

The Republican National Committee has spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August.

According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74.

The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September.

The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August.

The cash expenditures immediately raised questions among campaign finance experts about their legality under the Federal Election Commission's long-standing advisory opinions on using campaign cash to purchase items for personal use.

All kinds of jokes come to mind when I read this; most of them are simply too easy. But I told my wife that she should run for office so that we can get political contributions to buy her a new wardrobe. Maybe my kids can run for office, too!


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At Wednesday, October 22, 2008 4:59:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you write a blog you should keep it short and to the point, that way people will read it. I don’t read any blog that rambles. I’ll make an exception for you because you’re family.

Let’s start and end with your first paragraph, I don’t have the time to read the novel. The Democratic Party has a long history of supporting tax increases and Obama’s voting record should not lead one to believe it will change if he were president. Even Clinton promised to reduce taxes for the middle class but raised them once he was in office.

If I did believe Obama, currently the rich pay nearly 40% of their salary in taxes while the poor pay nothing. So let’s be clear, Obama is simply targeting a minority of the population that doesn’t have many friends. Sounds like another, not so great leader…Hitler.

At Wednesday, October 22, 2008 10:19:00 PM , Blogger Charles said...

Wow. With family like that...

I actually appreciate your blog, Mike, because of its length. I am envious that you have the time to organize and explain your thoughts to the extent that you do. In fact, I don't post to my blog more because I want to do my posts justice rather than just spit out information.

And I really couldn't have read "fever"'s final comment correctly, because that would mean that he/she just compared raising taxes on the rich to the Holocaust. Really?

At Thursday, October 23, 2008 10:55:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, Hitler is a stretch. How about Mugabe, he targeted the rich to give to the poor. Based on the way the election is shaping up we should change the name of the U.S. to the People’s Republic Of America.


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