Friday, July 25, 2014

Mark Takai Proposed Testing Homeless Veterans For Drugs


"I am proud to support Stanley Chang for Congress. Stanley knows what needs to be done to fix Wall Street and protect the rights of consumers. He has declared his support for the Better Off Budget, which would create 8.8 million jobs by 2017 and reduce our deficit by $4 trillion over the next ten years. Stanley is a champion for civil rights for all and will work toward a more secure and peaceful world. The Progressive Caucus and its members will work hard to support Stanley to see that he joins us in the 114th Congress."
- Keith Ellison, co-chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus

"Stanley Chang is the clear choice to represent Hawaii’s first district in Congress. His Agenda for Change calls for universal early childhood education, which has been a key focus of my work as a member of the Committee on Education and The Workforce. Stanley has proposed a bold job creation plan and is fighting for an increase in the federal minimum wage. I look forward to working with him on important environmental priorities such as preserving wilderness and protecting endangered species. We need more bold progressives like Stanley in Congress."
- Raúl Grijalva, co-chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus

Congressional candidate Mark Takai wants to subject homeless veterans to drug tests.

Ironically, he’s campaigning as a supporter of military veterans. Takai, who is running for the open seat in Hawaii’s First Congressional District, campaigns in his National Guard uniform-- which isn't legal-- and recently secured a Vote Vets endorsement. More identity politics, like EMILY's List endorsement of the other conservative in the race, Donna Mercado Kim.

As the Vote Vets PAC has highlighted for years, unemployment and homelessness have long been rampant among veterans.

As a Democratic back bencher in Hawaii’s legislature for the past 20 years, Takai has compiled precious few legislative accomplishments. Takai is a former athlete at the University of Hawaii, and much of his work has focused on raising money for the school’s athletic department (notably, not for its libraries). But over the last three years, his other pet cause has been imposing warrantless, suspicionless drug tests on anyone seeking public benefits.

Served your country in Iraq and Afghanistan, but returned home to face difficulty finding good work and feeding your kids? Takai wants you tested for drugs.

He introduced legislation for that purpose in both 2012 and 2013. The 2012 bill would have imposed the most stringent drug-testing program in the country, requiring all applicants for temporary assistance for needy families to pass a drug test as a prerequisite to receiving any benefits. A failed test would result in the applicant being denied benefits. That bill went nowhere. The 2013 bill had an even more far-reaching policy goal: “to ensure that only those who choose not to use illegal drugs” would be eligible for any “public assistance programs.” The proposal was mitigated by the prerequisite of cost-benefit analysis. Takai’s colleagues recognized suspicionless drug testing of welfare recipients is not only cruel, but also inefficient, and also defeated this bill.

In Wednesday night’s debate-- the final candidate forum before the August 9th Democratic primary-- Takai had the nerve to express concern for the more than 800 homeless veterans in Hawaii. But it’s clear he’s much more of a pro-military candidate than a pro-veteran candidate.

He’s been most comfortable in debates talking about the need for more Pentagon spending. It’s a topic he turns to again and again-- often including strong critiques of President Obama (despite this being Obama’s birthplace and a 70-percent Obama district)-- even giving exclusive interviews to right-wing blogs and talk shows.

Takai’s use of his military uniform while campaigning and constant defense references are attempts to give him some foreign-policy gravitas. But he in a recent debacle, he showed he’s over his head when it comes to foreign affairs, while also committing a serious ethical breach.

Takai took a free trip-- valued at $8,000-- to Azerbaijan last year to participate in a conference sponsored by oil companies. He came back home and promptly introduced two resolutions drafted by the Azerbaijan government-- expressing anti-Armenian viewpoints-- and actually scheduled them in his committee. An international embarrassment was narrowly avoided as Armenian-Americans from Hawaii and U.S. Mainland expressed outrage and convinced Takai’s colleagues to defeat the resolutions.

Ben Lowenthal, a local newspaper columnist has more on the story:
And what about an oil-company sponsored holiday? Is that an ethical problem? No way, says Takai. Civil Beat reported that Takai explained to its reporters that at the time of the trip, the Hawaii Legislature had not addressed any relevant issues that directly would benefit Azerbaijan so there was no ethical problem in going on the trip.

But that may not be the case for the future. Taka and Cabanilla introduced in the House this session two resolutions addressing a very touchy subject in that part of the world.

House Resolution 13 states a number of facts that you would not expect to find floating around our legislature. It addresses an armed conflict that broke out between Azerbaijan and Armenia as the Soviet Union collapsed. The countries have been (and continue to be) locked in a territorial dispute for some time.

According to the resolution, the town of Khojaly in Azerbaijan was the site of a massacre on February 25 and 26, 1992. There, the resolution states that six-hundred men, women, and children were killed, and thousands were wounded and captured by Armenian and Russian forces. The resolution marks the twenty-second anniversary of the “Khojaly tragedy.” The other resolution urges the United States to strengthen ties to Azerbaijan in coming up with some kind of settlement with Armenia over this disputed region.

The factual claims in the resolutions have been hotly disputed by our local Armenian-American community and the greater Armenian population.

. . . Mark Takai doesn’t seem to have a problem with taking sides. Last year he-- along with other American legislators-- signed off on a birthday note to the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. Takai congratulated Aliyev in his efforts to reduce crime within the country and promoting allegiances abroad.

Aliyev has been criticized by many diplomats and those that follow international relations as an autocrat. After taking office in 2003, he eliminated term limits for himself from the constitution. He’s been accused of running a corrupt government, clamping down on a free press, and rigged elections. The infamous Wikileaks website released a cache of diplomatic cables in 2012 that compare him to a mafia crime boss. Surely, Takai was aware of this before congratulating him on reducing crime in his country eight time zones away, right?
With just over two weeks left in what figures to be a close election (with seven candidates), Takai is scrambling for support and even reaching out to gun guys. The Hawaii Rifle Association recently lauded him for his “supportive record,” which the organization noted contrasts with his two main rivals in the congressional race, Donna Kim and Stanley Chang. A Hawaii-based gun rights blog last week featured this entry: “I have been personally been contacted by Mark Takai requesting my vote and monetary contribution toward his campaign. . . He claims to be the closest one that will get an endorsement from HRA.” On his campaign website, Takai goes out of his way to voice his support for hunting and notes he’s only concerned about regulating “military grade weapons.”

Courting the Right has been part of Takai’s campaign strategy throughout his tenure. For instance, he’s repeatedly bragged to the Hawaii Family Forum that he opposes the right of rape victims to receive emergency contraception at all hospitals.

Amazingly, Takai is being touted in some circles as the progressive choice in this race. But how could anyone who pays attention to his record possibly fall for that one?

Thankfully, Chang provides an actual liberal alternative.

He’s been winning the debates with clearly stated progressive views-- he was the only candidate Wednesday to state concern about children refugees at the border-- as noted in real time via social media:
A committed environmentalist and civil libertarian, Chang has been endorsed by People for the American Way, the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC, the new Climate Hawks Vote and Blue America. With absentee voting already underway, Chang needs help in getting out the vote to ensure the only progressive candidate emerges as the victor in this crowded field, and that neither of the two conservatives from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, Kim and Takai, pulls the wool over voters' eyes and succeeds as passing themselves off as progressives.

Stanley with Juan Antonio Vargas

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At 3:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's send Takai to fight in the Ukraine and see if he comes home clean.


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