Friday, October 23, 2009

Crunch Time in NJ & VA, Why Hate Crime Laws Are Bad for Democracy, Obama Approval and Appropriations Updates

Down to the Wire in NJ and VA -- One Toss-up, One Almost-Sure GOP Gain
As the campaigns wind down in a flurry of ad spending, we are getting a clearer picture of the two Governor's races this November: New Jersey still looks like a down-to-the-wire Democratic Hold, Virginia a sure-thing GOP pick-up.

Let's look at the numbers:
New Jersey
Including Rasmussen (Excluding Rasussen)
Weighted Average of Polls = Christie +0.4% (Corzine +0.2%)
Unweighted Average of Polls = Christie +0.2% (Corzine +0.4%)
Median of Polls = Christie +1.0% (TIED)
Average of All Averages = Christie +0.5% (Corzine +0.2%)

Anyway you dice this one, this is still damn close. My only reason for continuing to predict a Corzine hold is my sense of history in New Jersey. Maybe it will hold this time, maybe it won't. Officially, this is still a toss-up.

Including Rasmussen (Excluding Rasussen)
Weighted Average of Polls = McDonnell +11.6% (McDonnell +13.6%)
Unweighted Average of Polls = McDonnell +12.0% (McDonnell +13.7%)
Median of Polls = McDonnell +11.0% (McDonnell +14.0%)
Average of All Averages = McDonnell +11.5% (McDonnell +13.8%)

Craigh Deeds is toast. Mark this a Likely GOP Pick-up.

Hate Crime Laws Are Un-American
Long-time readers of this blog know that I am a tireless advocate for the rights of LGBT Americans (that's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered for those of you less familiar with the group.) I have called the ban on gays in the military "the worst law in the land". I've forcefully advocated for the right of marriage for gay couples. I've argued for increased employment protections for LGBT's.

So it may surpise many of you to learn that I fervently oppose the hate crime measure attached to the Department of Defense construction appropriations bill which makes crimes against gay people a hate crime.

It is not because I in any way shape or form advocate, appreciate or sympathize with violence against LGBT's. Attacking someone for their sexual orientation is abhorant and if there is a god, I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for those who commit such crimes.

Having said this, ALL hate crime laws are dangerous, on face.

Let's consider what exactly the laws do. They separate crimes such as assualt and murder into multiple categories of punishment. The severity of that punishment is based on your motivation to commit the crime -- that is, what we believe was in your mind and motivated you to commit the crime. As evidence of what we think is in your mind, we take your stated biases, your words as evidence of your higher order crime.

Once we start punishing crimes based on what people THINK veruss what they DO, we are all in trouble. Who decides what thoughts are motivators deserving of higher punishment and which ones deserve only the ordinary punishment?

Attacking a person for being gay is obviously wrong. But attacking people without provocation is always wrong. The nature of the punishment should depend on the severity of the crime, period. What you were thinking has nothing to do with it.

Presidential Approval -- Still About the Same
In a consistent theme of the past few weeks, President Barack Obama's approvals continue to hover just above his election result in November. The country is just about the same amount divided it was back then. Conservatives hate his policies, liberals, for the most part, approve of them. Moderates are split. Same as 2000, same as 2004, same as 2008.

On a monthly basis, President Obama continues to show more or less constant over the past 3 months. He still has some political capital left, but no longer inspires any fear in the GOP, which has continued to be emboldened by the prospect that Obama is not immune to public disapproval.

Ever-So-Slight Progress on Appropriations
The President has signed the Agriculture bill, making it only the second bill of the new fiscal year to become law. Three other bills -- the Energy Bill, the Homeland Security Bill, and the DOD Construction bill, which also included the LGBT hate crimes measure are on his desk awaiting signature. All are expected to be signed. As late in October as it is, we are all but assured of another continuing resolution at month's end. At least one more month without a real federal budget. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.

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