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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bitch Slapping Al Gore

Al Gore opened his mouth, inserted his foot, and got bitch slapped for it, by a Canadian no less!
(Notice, I didn't use "nappy headed ho' bitch slapped", so it's an okay statement).

Al was complaining about the Canadian government's plan to reduce their current greenhouse emission by 20% by 2020; about 15% less than the Kyoto protocol would have them doing by 2012.

This ticked Gore off, and he made this statement (From the AP via the Washington Post):

"In my opinion, it is a complete and total fraud," Gore said Saturday. "It is designed to mislead the Canadian people."

Keep in mind this is "Carbon Offset Al", who spends more on electricity in a year than my wife earns, but buys carbon offsets so he can feel all warm and fuzzy, while he soaks in his Jacuzzi.

Canada's Environmental Minister John Baird wasn't buying what Al had to sell, and in a wonderful smack down, replied:

"The fact is our plan is vastly tougher than any measures introduced by the administration of which the former vice president was a member."

In fact, in case Al needs reminding, the Kyoto Protocol Treaty has never been presented to the US Senate (over which he presided in 1998 when it was drafted).

The Senate had already passed a binding resolution (S. 98) in 1997; by a vote of 95-0; denouncing what was coming in the Kyoto documents, which was a punitive treaty for the developed world, that left "developing countries", like China, and India with no need to comply or reduce their emissions. The Clinton administration wouldn't present it because it would have been politically humiliating, Bush won't because he knows it's economically crippling.

Ed Koch, former Mayor of New York, wrote a blistering rebuke of Gore's position before the 2004 elections, reminding him of his failure to get Kyoto rewritten to include developing nations, or to send it to the Senate.

Al, here's some advice. Before you tell Canada how to deal with emissions, turn down the temp on your pool by 7 or 8 degrees, drain the hot tub, and turn off some lights. Maybe even install a few more solar panels and wind mills on the property. Once you have your own house in order, then you can tell the Canucks how to run theirs.

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Busy Week

I've got a busy week coming up, and how I'm feeling when I hit the hotel rooms will determine how much I post.

I drive to Cedar Rapids, Iowa tomorrow morning (280 miles), then after I finish there tomorrow night, drive to Bettendorf, Iowa to work there and Rock Island, Illinois Tuesday and Wednesday with the possibility of staying for Thursday also. Then it's back here for a quick job Friday, and then home to get ready for my ISO standards audit next week.

To make it worse, almost all of the jobs this week include large equipment that needs two hands to work; and I burnt one on the lawnmower today. So I may be zoning out on pain killers every night instead of posting. (The pills are working well enough now that I can type)

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Running The Wrong Way?

I've been reading all the news coverage of the Democratic debate the other night, and one thing above all strikes me. The Democrats don't know who they are running against. They seem to be spending a lot of time, money, and energy running against George Bush, who, unless we amend the Constitution in the next 16 months won't be in the race next year.

That's contrasted by the GOP candidates, who will actually be on ballots, who are running against the Democratic ideology of big government, retreat in Iraq, and general gloom and doom tones.

While I can somewhat understand the Democratic idea, in the long run I dont' think it's going to be helpful to whoever wins their nomination. While we'll all be sure that the nominee isn't George Bush, I don't think we're getting a full view of who they are.

For instance, if you got your Obama fix from the debates he's gave one tone on foriegn policy, and military interventions of the Bush type. Yet, last week he gave a speech in Chicago in which he sounds much more like GWB than he doesn't a Democrat who's against the war, or use of force. In fairness though, he ignored radical Islam as a threat, as most Democrats do; thinking it's a few scatter folks who hold the ideology.

It will be interesting, as next January and the first caucus's and primaries get closer, to see if the Democrats actually start running for something, or continue to run against someone who isn't running. I think if they chose to continue to run against Bush they'll find out it's a mistake. Yes, he's unpopular, but he's also not on the ballot.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

ERA Won't Fix Any Of These Problems

So, I'm reading the Op/Ed pages lately, and there has been a growing clamoring, now that Democrats control Congress, to get the Equal Rights Amendment back on the front burner.

This weeks report that women start making less money than men straight out of college is the latest report to get feminists up in arms, and declare that an Amendment to the Constitution is the only solution.

In today's Washington Post Martha Burke and Eleanor Smeal argue that "gender gaps" in education, health care, and political positions will somehow magically disappear with the passage of the ERA. Salaries will somehow become comparable, differences in health insurance rates will go way, suddenly political participation will be based on population distribution.

It's all bunk. Let's start with their statement that "And in every state except Montana, women still pay higher rates than similarly situated men for almost all kinds of insurance". Actually, if they had said "all kinds of health insurance" they would have been correct.

Women have lower rates for life insurance, car insurance, and homeowners insurance in pretty much every state. That's because insurance is a risk based business, the insurance company charges premiums based on how much the client will cost them. In every example but health insurance, men are bigger risks. We drive faster, die younger, so life and car insurance are always higher for two equal people of different genders.

Health insurance is the same, it's risk based. Men are less likely to use it, first off. We (for some reason) hate going to the doctor, that right there lowers our cost to the insurance company. Secondly, men are less likely to have expensive treatments than women until you get into the 60+ age group.

The gender gap in pay won't magically go away unless Congress decides on a national pay scale for every job, regardless of all other factors. For instance, the 7% gap at college graduation is explained in two ways that weren't in that recent report. Men are more likely to be tougher negotiators on their own behalf. I don't know why, but they are, I've never started a job at less than $5,000 OVER the average starting salary, because I know how to sell myself, and my skill set. I'm also not afraid to push the envelope in negotiations with a potential employer. Women, according to two of the personnel managers I've talked to, are more likely to ask what the starting salary is and accept it.

Secondly, one of the factors that the wage report on college grads didn't really hit was minor degrees. Business School grads are the prime examples. Men are more likely to get a Business degree with a minor in a technical field. This puts them into areas like R&D or product management.

Women who get the business degree, are more likely to have social minors, sociology, psychology, etc. This puts them in HR departments and personnel management areas, which pay less, for the same major degree. Unless the ERA stipulates that minor degrees can't be factored into salary and puts a wage scale on majors it won't change the gap in business school grad pay.

The ERA won't help women in politics, either, unless Congress is going to pass a law that says 50% of all candidates must be women. Even then that wouldn't mean 50% of those elected are women, unless of course we're going to try and get an election fairness doctrine passed.

It may well be that the same factors that keep women from being tough salary negotiators keep many of them from wanting to become major political figures. It's a very similar situation, that compromise doesn't work well in; especially in today's poltical world.

Finally, it won't help in education, either, unless we are going to force students to chose majors based on gender distribution. We can tell boys and girls that everyone should try everything, but unless we force more women into science and math departments, the numbers will probably stay the same. It's that odd "free will" thing that keeps them in humanities and teaching, not the evil empire.

Maybe Larry Summers, former Harvard President was right, maybe there are some genetic differences that keep men and women unequal in certain respects. Maybe Burkes right, and it's all because evil men run the world and don't want women to be equal. The truth is probably somewhere between the two.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Senate Votes for Defeat In Iraq

Joining their brethren in the House, the Senate today voted to accept defeat in Iraq, regardless of the long term consequences there or in the region as a whole.

In basically a party line vote (one Republican voted yes), the bill passed 51-46. Now it goes to the President for his promised veto.

One thing I noted in the Washington Post story, and predicated a few days back, was that there is no talk in either chamber of an attempt to override the veto, due to the close votes (218-208 in the House). Instead the House is now going to try and introduce parts of the retreat and defeat plans in other pending legislation, hoping it will get passed some other way.

The Senate, lead by Harry Reid and Russ Feingold will try and pass a bill that funds the war, but then cuts off all funding at a specified date. That has about as much chance of being signed into law as I do of being the next American Idol.

If no funding plan is passed that's palatable to the White House in the next three to four weeks, expect to see the President use the method I mentioned the other day to continue funding operations. Executive orders to transfer funds inside DoD.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Draft Is Coming!

That's right folks, you read my headline right; there is a draft coming to the US, and coming soon. It's a bit strange though, because unlike other drafts, you have to be two years out of high school to be drafted, and 99% of the people who get a slip for it will be college educated.

It is of course the NFL draft, and it's this weekend. For us football junkies this is important stuff, thousands of them will be at Radio City in New York to watch this weekend, millions will tune it at different times to ESPN to try and see where their favorite college player went, or who their pro team picked up.

Every year there is a sort of strange story out of the draft, usually where some star player fell to, or a surprise pick in the first round of some unknown, who usually stays unknown for their short career.

This year the story is already out, University of Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas, a probable top five pick has said he can't make it to New York to go on stage and get a jersey and hat. He's decided to go to Lake Michigan fishing with his dad instead. I applaud him, I missed a lot of years of fishing trips with Dad while I gallivanted around the globe, and they can't be replaced.

In a world full of prima donna athletes, it's refreshing to find one who'd rather go fishing than work on his acceptance speech and stage strut. For those who followed Wisconsin football though, it's not a surprise.

A few years ago, when Thomas could have been a top 5 pick if he came out early he put team in front of self, and could have paid dearly. UW's defensive line was decimated by injuries, and the All American offensive tackle told the coach he'd play defensive line, too, to help the team. Then, in every jocks nightmare, he blew his ACL during a bowl game, playing on the "wrong side' of the ball". He still ended up as the best lineman in football last year, winning the Outland Trophy, and being a consensus All American.

I'm not sure where Cincinnati is picking in the first round, but the Commissioner ought to force them to take Thomas, since they are a team in need of character and he seems to have some.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Showdown Week

This will be the week for grandstanding and the showdown over Iraq, kind of. The House and Senate conference committee reconciled the two versions of the War Funding/Emergency Pork bills they passed before spring break, and by Friday it should go to the White House for it's promised veto.

The true showdown will come next week, when Congress has to decide to either try and override the vetos, or come up with a new plan of their own, since the one with deadlines is dead on arrival.

Don't bet on a symbolic vote to override the veto; it would come up with much smaller numbers than the compromise bill will get in either chamber, embarassing Pelosi and Reid. Neither can twist enough arms to get a two thirds majority, and so the folks who were bribed into accepting a bill they disliked in the first place have no reason to vote for the override. That would be a legislative victory for Bush that neither Reid or Pelosi could stomach, so they'll just let it die.

If I were the President, I would in fact dare Reid and Pelosi to bring it up for an override vote, and challenge their authority. Yes, it's crass partisanship, but it's also a good way to smack both of them down by showing how limited their power in Congress really is with such slim majorities.

For their part, here's what Congress could probably could get in the compromise, but because of their far left money support won't try for, yet. They could probably get a date put in the new bill to limit the number of troops after August or September, limiting the time on Bush's surge in Iraq. They could most likely get the majority of the benchmarks for the Iraqi government, which aren't a bad thing since they seem to need prodding. They could even keep the majority of their training requirements to try and limit troop deployments.

Bush for his part has a bigger stick than the Democrats like to admit. He can, like his predecessor did for Kosovo, use executive orders to get around the funding issues, and at the same time punish Congress men and women at home.

Bill Clinton couldn't get the GOP controlled Congress to pass what he wanted for funding for Kosovo, so he signed executive orders halting certain defense contract work, and shifting the money to fund troops. Those orders stopped work at plants in key (opposing) congressional districts, putting lawmakers in a quandry, do we give the President the money he says he needs, or do we try and explain to the voters in our district why we think their jobs are worth sacraficing.

While national polls might have said then, as they do now, that the idea of the war was unpopular, unemployment is less popular and especially in the House local districts are more important come election time than national polls.

My guess is Bush won't stick to defense projects to borrow money from, either. He'll hit all kinds of popular projects in all sorts of districts to keep the money flowing to Iraq and Afghanistan, and they'll be targeted at the weakest Democratic seats in the House with an election next year.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Reconciling the Irreconcilable

Congress has a problem, and they are at a point where they have to deal with it. It's not the Iraq funding bill, they are going to buy themselves more time on that by allowing it to be vetoed.

No, this one has to do with reconciling the promise by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to restore the "pay-go" rules of the 1990's with their desire to turn the Alternative Minimum Tax into a issue that they can claim.

As a person who's been whacked by the ATM once, and will definitely get hit by it next year, I want to see it fixed. For those that don't understand, nearly 40 years ago Congress passed the ATM to nab a 150 or so super rich folks who didn't pay any taxes due to deductions and exemptions. Unfortunately, Congress then, and since, hasn't fixed it's glaring issue, it isn't indexed for inflation. So now something designed to snare the rich is getting ready to hit the middle class, about 20 million of them.

The problem is, a true fix, indexing the ATM, would cost $50 billion a year under the Pay Go rules that Congress has imposed on itself. They have given waiver provisions in those rules, but granting a $50 billion dollar waiver would make for good political attack ads next year, so they probably won't.

That means they have to either cut money, a lot of it, or jack up taxes somewhere, which is the other problem. The Dem's want to frame the ATM as a "tax cut" for the middle class, even though most have never paid the ATM. If they do as they propose, jack up rates on the top end of the ATM, and index it, the numbers will show that the middle class didn't actually get any true relief, there was just a $50 billion tax hike somewhere.

The GOP doesn't want the Democrats to have ATM as "their issue", so they may be willing to stall fixing it, then claim that the Democrats in control of Congress didn't do anything to help 20 million Americans. Considering the fact that we are great not understanding soundbites, not facts, it's probably not a horrible political strategy, it's just a bad one for tax payers.

Hopefully, at some point the two sides come together and do the right thing for taxpayers, instead of trying to do the right for their respective parties, but I'm not holding my breath.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Pressing For The Underdog

George Will today presses for a GOP underdog as a person who'd actually be one of the best candidates for the party come 2008.

Tommy Thompson, long time governor of Wisconsin, and former Health and Human Services Secretary seems to have caught Will's eye. It's not a bad eye to catch if you are an underfunded, underknown candidate in a big field of people.

I was a registered Wisconsin voter for quite a few of the years Tommy was in office in the state, and liked a lot of what he did, but not everything. He is a politician, and they always do stupid things.

If you liked the idea of welfare reform at the federal level, thank Tommy, when he proved that "welfare to work" wasn't going to turn every family getting assistance into street people it suddenly became viable at the national level.

If you are a champion of school choice, and need a good example, look at the program he ramrodded through in Wisconsin. Yes, it's had some issues, like all big programs, but has been a success by and large. The biggest group arguing for more choice in the state are inner city poor, who've watched it work for a (legislatively) limited group. The groups fighting it are the teachers unions at the schools those kids go to; they like their captive audience.

Unlike Romney and Guilianni he doesn't have to change stripes on many core conservative beliefs to be electable, he's got a long history of being pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-growth.

He's had a few gaffes of late, making the statement that "making money is a Jewish tradition" to a Jewish group, but the press seems more upset about it than the people he made the joke to. But then again, the press often reminds us of what should offend us, even when it doesn't.

He also did a few things as Governor I didn't like. When Wisconsin allowed Indian gaming he didn't give any legislative oversight to the process. While that seemed to work fine while he was in office, the current governor has shown that it was probably a bad move.

When the state decided to index the gas tax for inflation annually, without a legislative vote and he went along with it, it was a mistake. That's been correct in the last year, but not without a fight.

He also spent a lot of time stringing the state GOP along last year when they were looking for a challenger to Herb Kohl for his Senate seat, waiting until close to the last minute to decide against running. He'd have served folks better had he dropped his name off the list early, and not gone through the speculation process.

His method for trying to win the White House is a little odd. He doesn't have a ton of money, so instead of spending it, and his time in a bunch of states, he's concentrating on winning in Iowa, and using that to move forward in the primaries.

Overall though, if you are looking for an actual conservative candidate, who doesn't have the downside of guys like Brownback and Tancredo, and more leadership experience than say Duncan Hunter (who I'd also have no problem with), Thompson is someone you should probably give a closer look.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Taking Aim But Missing The Mark

E.J. Dionne Jr. takes aim at a lack of gun control laws after the Virginia Tech shooting, but misses the mark (as usual) by omitting some important facts.

While he'd like to see tougher gun control laws because of the shooting, the truth is if the current federal laws had been followed the shooter couldn't have bought his guns. That was straight from the paper E.J. editorializes for, maybe he should read more of it.

In both cases his background check came up clean, when it shouldn't have. You see, that judges order against him from December 2005 should have put him in the federal registry for instant background checks. Except that Viriginia's law about mental illness and gun buying isn't as strict as the federal one; so the Sherriff didn't report him to the State, who didn't report him to the feds.

Even if the County had reported him, there is no guarantee that he would have gotten into the federal registry, though. You see, many states don't send reports to the feds except on convicts because it costs money, and they want the feds to pay for it. Since the feds don't pay for it, the states don't report.

Then, when something like this happens, we have guys like Dionne asking for more laws, when the truth is, the one that would have prevented the tragedy is on the books, but whining politicians haven't started following it yet.

So folks, before you decide we need more laws, how about we fund the one's we already have so they can work!

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Whack Job

I just saw parts of the video NBC received from the shooter, Cho Seung-Hui , at Virginia Tech. The first thing that came to my mind was a phrase I heard about 30 years ago on some weird HBO special... "Fucked up like a football bat", I think that describes him pretty well. (sorry for the naughty word)

That's about the only way to describe the guy. As Glenn Beck noted tonight, a guy like him would have found a way to kill folks, even if guns were tougher to get. He wanted people to die, and wanted it to be memorable. Without a gun he'd have just built a bomb, or used a chainsaw or figured out some other way to leave his mark.

I'm wondering how the doctors who didn't commit him in 2005, after the courts decided he was a danger to himself (links to PDF file) , are feeling right now. It's becoming more obvious how big a whack job this guy was, and how somehow he wasn't helped by the system, even though it's obvious someone in the system tried to help him.

You can talk about gun laws being the problem, but when someone is diagnosed as an imminent danger to himself and others but not put in the hospital it's not the gun law that's the problem. When that person doesn't get other treatment, it's not gun law that let him kill people.

Maybe, if anything good comes of this, folks who deal with this type of stuff will be more likely to err on the side of overtreatment, instead of the other way.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Tragedy and the Gun Debate

First, my heart felt condolences to the victims , their families, friends, and the whole Virginia Tech family. What a sick incident yesterday, that's the only way I can think of to describe it.

The editorialists are of course already asking "how did he get the guns", a legitimate question, but only to a point. Illegally is probably the answer, the serial numbers were obliterated on both of his weapons.

I was surprised last night, while watching Lou Dobbs (I was in a restaurant, and couldn't pick the channel) when one of his guests basically said Lou, if easy access to guns were the problem, we'd have had tons of these types of things happening in the 1950s, 60's and 70's, when pretty much anyone could buy one anytime, just about anywhere.

Wolf Blitzer got the same answer about 45 minutes later, both he and Dobbs had these incredible looks on their faces, wondering how their guests could possibly challenge the conventional wisdom that access to guns, period, is the problem.

The fact is both guests were right, it's not the access to guns that caused yesterday's tragedy. Such things have happened in Britain and Japan, both of whom have very strict gun laws. They didn't happen here 40 years ago when gun laws were nearly unheard of. Something else is the cause of the problem, not the guns.

We'll probably never truly know what caused this guy to snap in this kind of way, you don't just shoot dozens of people like that if you are having a bad morning. We'll get a week of listening to the talking heads try and figure him out. But some things are probably never going to get answered.

Hopefully, for the comfort of the survivors and the victims families they'll learn something during the investigation. Knowing why a guy is nuts is better than never learning why the tragedy happened.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

More On Imus and Duke

When white commentators started taking on Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton over the obvious double standard of their conduct towards the Duke Lacrosse players and Don Imus not much was thought about it.

Then Jason Whitlock, a well known black sports commentator called them out. Whitlock has gotten lots of press (Little Miss Chatterbox has a good round up) and is starting to make the talk show rounds to give his side of it. But even he isn't quit as "credible" when it comes to discussing race as Jackson and Sharpton claim to be; mostly be cause he's a sports writer.

Now, Joe R. Hicks, former leader of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference has called out Sharpton and Jackson in the Washington Post with an Op/Ed piece entitled "Drop the Race Card".

Hicks, along with Whitlock, and Bill Cosby; who gets a quote in the piece; all seem to have come to a realization that while racism isn't dead in America it may not be the biggest problem facing today's African Americans.

Writers like Clarence Page and Thomas Sowell have tried to point this out for years, only to be called sell outs, and ignored by the Reverends Jackson and Sharpton. As Hicks says in his editorial:

It's no wonder that some critics, like me, argue that figures such as Jackson and Sharpton, among others of their ilk, are dinosaurs fighting only to maintain a patina of relevance.

Jackson and Sharpton aren't along in the group of dinosaurs though, labor leaders are fighting the same battle, and losing. In their case workers figured out that promotion based on productivity, not seniority isn't a bad thing. They found out that companies (for the most part) treat productive workers pretty good without a union; it's the non-productive folks who need the protection.

In both cases, though, leaders want followers to feel as though they are always victims, so they have someone to protect. Once people start figuring out that they are actually victims of the leadership, things start to change.

That's not to say that occasionally they don't get it right, like airline unions complaining about seven figure bonus' for executives while workers are taking pay and benefits cuts. But the truth is more often than not labor has become it's own worst enemy. Refusals to budge on pay and benefits pretty well destroyed the US steel industry, and certainly hasn't helped the auto industry.

Give Hicks a read today if you get the chance, it's a refreshing, and honest look, at both the Imus and Duke cases.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Comparing Iraq

If you need an op/ed column to read today, I'd suggest this outstanding piece by Stuart Gottlieb, Director of Policy Studies at Yale, and former Democratic foreign policy advisor comparing Rwanda and Iraq.

Remember Rwanda? The history books have not treated kindly America's inaction while more than 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered by their Hutu compatriots in the spring of 1994 after a plane crash killed the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi.

Now consider a scenario in which the decisions and actions of the United States were the primary reasons for a country's descent into chaos and sectarian violence, yet instead of doing everything possible to avert a humanitarian catastrophe, America chose to walk away. What would the history books say about that?

Gottlieb places blame where it belongs, on the Bush Administration for a lot of the problems in Iraq, but also reminds the Democrats that it wasn't a 51-49 party line vote that got us there.

How does Gottlieb think history will remember the US as Iraq is concerned? He starts with another history lesson (mostly for Democrats);

History will note that the same Democrats who supported America's interventions to help end civil wars in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s now favor a withdrawal policy in Iraq that is likely to cause even greater human suffering.

I believe that it's a subtle reminder to Democrats that the "moral imperative" that was invoked to stop the ethnic cleansing in Europe in the 1990's is probably even a larger imperative in Iraq. While there is no doubt that what was going on in both Bosnia and Kosovo were horrible, what will happen in Iraq will be worse, and of our own doing, more so if we leave prematurely

Gottlieb doesn't stand up for an opened commitment in Iraq, however he does seem to think the idea of a quick withdrawal is the worse of the two options, because of the aftermath.

The commenter's on the article for the most part prove how horrible most Americans are at seeing the truth when it doesn't fit their ideology. We watched what happened in Rwanda, and continue to cry for Darfur, but for some reason think Iraq will be "Heaven on the Tigris" if we just leave. Suddenly everyone will love each other, and there will be no need for sectarian violence.

Those folks ignore the targets of the violence, not the US troops for the most part; just enough of them to keep it on the nightly news; but instead civilians in Iraq, whom the sides are trying to terrorize into compliance, so that when we do pull out, they can have their way.

Gottlieb makes a lot of sense in his article, you just have to pull off your ideological blinders to see it.

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Friday, April 13, 2007


More from Jason Whitlock on Tucker Carlson's show. Wow is all I can say. He completely calls out Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and the media on a few points.

H/T to MacRanger, whom I owe a few articles for the week.

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Mr. Madigan on Taxes

Mike Madigan, the Speaker of the Illinois House, told his audience in Lake County yesterday that we will see a tax increase out of the legislature this year. He's not sure which it will be, the Governor's misguided Gross Receipts Tax, or the (not quite a) swap plan which recently left committee, which would raise the income tax to 5% from it's current 3%.

"Before we finish our budget in May or June, Illinois is going to see a tax increase," he said.

One of Madigans more disturbing comments yesterday was this, "There has never been a tax for education legislation that I ever voted against." While I'm glad he's dedicated to education maybe he should also start voting FOR legislation that includes accountability for our money, and the education our children receive.

Unfortunately Mr.Madigan, like most of his party, is too beholden to the money of the Illinois Federation of Teachers and NEA. Any suggestion of actual meaningful reform that includes accountability will lead to a quick drop off in campaign contributions.

While taxes probably do need to go up in the state due to our fairly low income tax rate, the truth is just like businesses, there are a lot of personal loopholes in the system that could be tightened up before we jack every one's taxes up. Because our state Constitution requires on tax rate for everyone to do this would require making the tax code more complex, but probably less regressive than it is now.

For instance, one of the reasons I live here is my military retirement pay isn't taxed at all. The state could fairly easily tax pensions, based on a persons actual income. For instance if pensioners don't make over 200% of the poverty level (about 38 grand for a couple) in total income they aren't taxed at all. As the income goes up, the percentage of pension taxed goes up. There is probably a hundred million or so in new income, that isn't coming out the pockets of "poor retirees".

Since the Governor wants to use 400% of the poverty level as the cut off for the health care program he'd like to start, why not use it as the starting point for limiting child tax credits and deductions for things like day care? There's a few hundred million more, without jacking the rate on the bottom end of the wage scale.

One of the problems not addressed by either the gross receipts tax or the "tax swap" is that both make the system even more regressive than it already is. Lower income people end up either paying more for goods because of the GRT, or more income tax with the supposed swap.

Both promise some sort of property tax relief, but at the lower end of the income scale that really doesn't matter; they probably don't own their own property, so they'd have to hope that that tax savings are "trickled down" to them by have rent go up less.

Of course the true solution is a rewrite of the State Constitution to fix the way we can tax, instead of making a bunch of hodge podge changes to the tax code. Unfortunately I doubt we'll see a call for a Convention on the 2008 ballot to do just that.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Best Take On The Imus Flap

Yes, Don Imus has been fired by both MSNBC and CBS, so lots of folks are happy. But one guy isn't, Jason Whitlock at the Kansas City Star. He doesn't think Imus should have been canned, or even a big story.

Whitlock is a former writer at ESPN, and still a columnist for the Star, and has a history of talking straight about the true problems in the black culture (Read this interview). Unfortunately, he's a lonely voice in his community.

Here's part of what he had to say about the Imus flap today:
We all know where the real battleground is. We know that the gangsta rappers and their followers in the athletic world have far bigger platforms to negatively define us than some old white man with a bad radio show. There’s no money and lots of danger in that battle, so Jesse and Al are going to sit it out.

He's unfortunately right with that statement, and another concerning the reaction to Imus:
It is us. At this time, we are our own worst enemies. We have allowed our youths to buy into a culture (hip hop) that has been perverted, corrupted and overtaken by prison culture. The music, attitude and behavior expressed in this culture is anti-black, anti-education, demeaning, self-destructive, pro-drug dealing and violent.

Rather than confront this heinous enemy from within, we sit back and wait for someone like Imus to have a slip of the tongue and make the mistake of repeating the things we say about ourselves

Give his whole column a read. What he says doesn't make what Don Imus did right, or less wrong, but it does bring a different perspective to it.

As for my opinion on the firings? CBS and MSNBC were right to fire him, he cost both a lot of sponsors dollars, and his job is to bring money in, not make it go away. I'll also lay odds that within 6 months he's back on the air someplace, probably XM or Sirius, but he won't be out of work long.

(H/T to Charlie Sykes who pointed out the column on his show today)
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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

No Politics Involved

The Senate Democrats, now wanting to wring politics into any type of prosecution by anyone appointed by George W. Bush are asking for documents in a recent Wisconsin corruuption trial.

Georgia Thompson was found guilty by a jury of rigging the bidding for a state travel contract to go to a sizeable donor to Governor Jim Doyle's campaign fund. However, an appeals court overturned the conviction last week.

Now the US Senate wants to know if politics was the reason for the investigation and trial. The problem is, the investigation was started by Wisconsin's (Democratic) Attorny General at the time, Peg Lautenschlager, not Steve Biskupic, the US Attorney who actually tried the case.

In fact, the Senators don't even need to get any documents, they could just read the e-mail from Lautenschlager's top deputy, Dan Bach, another democrat, about the case. He sent it to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, and Madison Capital Times, but neither has published any part it. Maybe because it doesn't fit into the view that Biskupic must be a political hack.

Here is part of what Bach had to say about the whole process...

I participated in several meetings with prosecutors and investigators both before and after the Thompson trial. Having spent more than a dozen years as a federal prosecutor and four more as the state deputy attorney general, I will attest that this case was handled by professional, career prosecutors and investigators in as fair, thoughtful, and apolitical fashion as any I have witnessed. In contrast, the one-sided, self-interested criticisms of the decision to prosecute stand apart in their rush to judgment.

Keep in mind, this is coming from a guy who's boss lost her job in the November election, and really has nothing to gain at this point by making such statements. It's not like the new Republican AG is going to suddenly go grab him for a top post.... Though that might not be a bad idea. He's probably not going to be appoint by George Bush for a new job as a US Attorney.

So why send a letter like this, maybe he's actually interested in seeing the truth come out about the whole process, instead of listening to the politicians bloviate. It would be refreshing if that was also the politicians motive, but I'm pretty sure that it isn't.

H/T to Jeff Wagner who has the rest of Bach's letter.

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Never Mind

As I read about the charges being dropped in the Duke (wasn't a) rape case, I'm reminded of the old lady Gilda Radner played on Saturday Night Live. You remember, the one who got everything confused on the news, and then at the end, when she was corrected, looked at the camera and said "Oh, never mind".

Unfortunately, cases like this are what happens when over zealous prosecutors and community "leaders" decide to try a case on TV and in the news, before they actually look at evidence.

Mike Nifong, the DA on the case is now facing removal from the State Bar for his actions, and hopefully will lose his law license after this rebuke from the AG in North Carolina.

Now we should all start asking if Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton will agree to meet with the 3 men who were wrongly charged, and appologize for their comments in defense of the accuser. My guess is neither will. It's not like they did anything like Don Imus. They only tried to help destroy three peoples lives by sending them to prison for something they didn't do.

As for the nappy haired ho' (look at pictures of her, and the DNA evidence in the case, it's not a slur, it's the truth) who made the accusations she won't be charged. While the AG said it's because "she actually believed the many stories she was telling." I'm betting that he just doesn't want to put up with the publicity putting her on trial would garner.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Funny Stuff From Cohen

Richard Cohen of the Washington Post isn't normally known as a funny guy. However, his column today "Candor? Call the Special Prosecutor!" got a chuckle out of me.

Just the first paragraph should tell you what he's going after:
Monica Goodling is not my kind of gal. A graduate of two schools not known for partying (Messiah College and Pat Robertson's Regent University Law School), she would not be my ideal seatmate on a long airplane flight. But for vowing to take the fifth in the ongoing probe of why and how eight U.S. attorneys were fired, I offer her my hearty congratulations. She knows that in Washington, free speech can cost you a fortune in legal fees.

Cohen, like a lot of us has figured out that even telling the truth, as you recall it, is tantamount to lying on purpose on Capital Hill these days.

He does misfire on a few points in his column, such as (Referring to Alberto Gonzalez):

...May I suggest, further, that he and Karl Rove and, of course, George W. Bush have unforgivably politicized the hiring and firing of U.S. attorneys --

Political hire and firing of US Attorney's has gone on since they were invented, they are political appointees, charged with enforcing the law, but held accountable to the President.

By nature the job is political as much as law enforcement, and has been for two centuries. This is just one of few Congresses to decide they don't like how the system works (though it's in the Constitution).

The rest of the column though, is true to his point, he uses the example of Scooter Libby, who was convicted because of a fishing expedition for perjury; the Special Prosecutor knew BEFORE Libby testified that there had been no crime in the Plame case.

The Clinton's, both Whitewater and Monicagate get some ribbing from him for the same reason, Special Prosecutorial fishing trips.

As Cohen put it, "After all, it is a permissible exaggeration to say that in recent years more senior federal officials have had sit-downs with prosecutors than have members of the Gambino family." It's a sad, but too close to true statement.

Where does this come from? The power split in Washington. The out of the White House party, for the last two plus decades has consistently looked for a way to make the party in the White House look bad, for political gain if they've controlled on chamber of Congress.

What they are doing and why isn't really 'for the good of the country' as they like to tell us. It is, in fact for their own good in the polls. The GOP was guilty of it in the 90's with Clinton and the Democrats are today, just like the were with Iran-Contra in the 1980's.

None of those three time periods though actually brought anything new or really unknown in Washington to light. Funneling arms, as in Iran Contra wasn't a new practice, it wasn't something unheard of. It's been done by our government for as long as we've been around. When it's felt to be appropriate to arm the rebels, we've done it.

Whitewater was no better or worse land deal than probably a dozen Senators and Representatives have enjoyed before and after that debacle. Hell, Clinton's blow jobs weren't illegal, just a little shady (he could have done better than Monica, face it).

The problem with the Special Prosecutor laws that Congress has passed is they don't really limit them; if the original crime isn't there, they just kind of keep looking until they find something to justify the expense reports and time. Both parties have complained about them, but not done anything because by the time it gets to the front burner again, the complainers are out of power.

The fix to it, and the way to get folks like Monica Goodling to actually talk to Congress is to rewrite the law, so that Prosecutors scope is very limited, and their term and their Grand Juries term ends when they know that what they were appointed for doesn't exist.

Fitzgerald would have been done within the first few months, though the Plame's wouldn't have been happy. Instead we got 18 months, $30 million spent, for a perjury conviction that's got 3-1 odds of being overturned.

But don't look for that change in the law right now, maybe in January 2009, if the Democrats gain control of the White House and keep Congress.... Though if that was the case it should have been fixed in 2001.

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Al Gore Baseball Games Against Global Warming

This week the "Al Gore Baseball Games Against Global Warming" will be played in Milwaukee vice Cleveland between the Indians and the California Angels (I don't use the LA A of A name, it's stupid!). The games have been moved because an inverted global warming cell has appeared over Cleveland, causing massive snow fall and cold temperatures.

I'm serious about everything but the "Al Gore" thing, Major League Baseball has moved the Indians v. Angels series to Milwaukee's Miller Park because of the number of snowed out games in Cleveland and the difficulty in scheduling make up games. The retractable roof in Milwaukee makes the stadium a good venue for cold weather baseball games.

This is kind of a deja vu thing for the Indian's franchise. The movie Major League, which featured the Indians as baseballs loveable losers was actually filmed at Milwaukee's old County Stadium. This time though, the Indians don't get to borrow Bob Ueker, he's traveling with the Brewers in Florida this week.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Illinois' Tax Mess

John McCarron has a decent op/ed piece in the Chicago Tribune this morning on the fact that we need an adult to negotiate the tax mess that is brewing in Springfield; and don't seem to have one in place.

Mr. McCarron, like may editorial writers lately seems to have forgotten that Illinois' Constitution is part of the problem with our states tax issues. Many of them lament the fact that we have a flat tax rate of 3% on income in the state, and want to see it changed to a graduated tax. To do so would require a revision of Article IX of the Illinois' Constitution, which states:
Section 3a: Tax on or measured by income shall be at anon-graduated rate. At any one time there may be no more than one such tax imposed by the State for State purposes on individuals and one such tax so imposed on corporations. In any
such tax imposed upon corporations the rate shall not exceed the rate imposed on
individuals by more than a ratio of 8 to 5.
The legislature has in it's power the ability to make more things deductible for state tax purposes, and give credits for things to reduce the burden on the low income, but no real way to increase on high income earners as McCarron and others would like. That will require a Constitutional Convention, which could be called for on the 2008 general election ballot if the Legislature can muster the will to vote for it.

Others, such as the Governor, have been calling on increases in business taxes, strictly using the corporate income tax as the measuring stick of what business pays in Illinois. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have disputed the numbers on what they pay in taxes, using more realist numbers that include unemployment and workers comp payments to the state, other things.

McCarron does a decent job of pointing out areas where business does get off somewhat lightly, but doesn't point out why on some things.

Property taxes on business are, in some cases, lower than the rate on residential property. However, in many areas that's to attract business, which cause a lower burden on municipalities than residential construction does.

If you build a thousand housing units you need more fire protection, more police, and more schools, along with social services for residents, etc. If you build an equivelant size retail or other commercial establishement you will likely need less extra police and fire units, and no extra classrooms and teachers or social workers.

But the rates that each is assessed at isn't a job of the state, but instead each county decides on taxing rates. So including property taxes as something the state can "fix" isn't really correct on McCarrons part.

He also notes that businesses, especially large ones, can negotiate rates on electricity and other utilities that residential customers can't. He doesn't point out that many of those negoiations are two way. A business may get a lower rate on electricty, if they promise to limit peak hour consumption during the summer months. They are also required to buy set amounts per day for the period of the negoiated rate. Consider a plant that enters a 1 year electric contract, but six months in they lay off an entire shift. Even though their consumption will go down, they will still have to pay for the unused power they contracted for.

Residential customers can apply for "Real Time Rate" programs, which charge for electricity based on when during the day you use it, similar to what business do. However, McCarron doesn't mention that in his piece, though it has the potential to reduce residential bills by more than they went up with the recent rate increase.

On the whole, McCarron is right that we need someone with some backbone in Springfield to get the ball rolling on real, meaningful tax reform for the state. Part of that reform can be done by the legislature, but some of it needs to be agreed on by everyone, though changes to the Constitution, specifically Article IX.

Until someone sets down Gov. Blagojevich, Emil Jones, and Mike Madigan, and gets them to work for what's best for the state, not just their poll numbers and own pet projects, nothing is going to happen; and we'll continue our slide into a fiscal abyss. Maybe, as McCarron points out, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn is the guy, he seems to have no problem bucking the Governor lately.

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Shot Across The Bow

Kathleen Parker will be named Anti-Feminist of the year if she keeps writing op/ed pieces like she has in today's Washington Post. It is a total shot across the bow of the feminist movement.

Mother of All Blunders questions why the west is insistant on sending the mothers of toddlers off to war. The answer of course is the word "equality".

Women are in the US, and European militaries based on the desire to be treated as equals to men. It also gives, in the era of volunteer militaries, a bigger pool of potential enlistees. But if we go to a draft, at least in the US, women are safe, they aren't eligible to be drafted, and don't even have to register for it. Evidently small wars are okay for them to fight in, but if we get into a really big one, we want the guys going.

Equality for women is a funny thing, because they only seem to want parts of it; and other parts they want tailored so inequal treatment for them is considered equal.

Take working moms who take time off after having kids. Feminists and womens rights advocates would like that time treated as though it doesn't exist. If you leave work at 25 to have a child, and come back at 29 when you think day care is appropriate, according to many that should be a freebie. Wages, work positions, etc, should all be treated like you were never gone.

The truth is, others have passed you by in those years. Their skills have evolved while the person who was off had hers erode in most cases. The people who were there are the most up to date on current trends in the business, others are four years behind. Sure, you could read professional journals, trade magazines, etc, but nothing beats experience in the trenches to keep you current.

I learned that the hard way going back to working with things I hadn't touched in four years. I spent my first four months just relearning terminology, and changed terms, and changes in the way things worked. I wasn't an equal to those who'd been doing it continuously for that period.

We have probably hundreds of laws on the books to "protect women" who want to be treated as equals. Why? If they are equal shouldn't they not need a special law?

Parker points out other areas that women aren't equal to men, but would like everyone to ignore. Give her article a read.

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Friday, April 06, 2007


I was listening to Jeff Wagner today on my way to lunch, and happened to catch is conversation about Billy Packer's use of the word "fag" on Charlie Rose's show.

Unfortunately for Billy, most of America isn't familiar with the fact that the word fag has a lot of meanings. In England a "fag" is a cigarette, in the US we immediately jump to the derogatory meaning concerning gays. When Billy was young, it had a completely different meaning.

From Dictionary.Com (and Random House Unabridged):

1.to tire or weary by labor; exhaust (often fol. by out): The long climb fagged us out.

This was the context Billy was making the comment in, not calling Charlie Rose Gay. Now people who don't understand that words sometimes have more than one meaning want Billy fired. I'd like him gone because I hate his announcing style, but not for his comment.

It's too bad that our "never offend me" country has come to this. It's easier to write the editor about something while completely clueless than it is to get informed before you spout off.

Mitt Romney and John McCain have had similar experiences with the phrase "tar baby", which today is a derogatory term towards blacks. Forgetting they have to speak to the lowest common denominator in society; folks who do nothing but watch TV; they used a term that got it's origins in an 1881 Uncle Remus story, he used tar to trap Brer Rabbit. The actual definition and origin of the term (from American Heritage Dictionary):

tar baby n. A situation or problem from which it is virtually impossible to disentangle oneself.

In the context both used it (Iraq) it's a true and appropriate term, if your audience understands it. To the dismay of both politicians, they found out that most people don't understand it.

Now, after three 12+ hour days in a row, I'm completely fagged out, and will be leaving for the weekend. Everyone have a happy Easter, if you celebrate it. If you don't, enjoy the weekend. See you Sunday

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Power Mad(igan)

House Speaker Michael Madigan's come up with a great idea to fix Illinois's increased electric rates. He'd like the state to become an electric utility to compete for your business.

This all stems from the surprising fact that after a ten year price freeze was lifted the cost of electricity went up. Holy Cow, who could have seen that coming? In retrospect, anyone who's got a clue could have seen it coming, the politicians just chose to ignore that it would happen.

After listening to months of grumbling from Springfield about this surprisingly simple series of events, I've come to realize that the folks in the House and Senate knew full well what was going to happen.

However, it wasn't in their best political interest to do something before January 1st. Instead they chose to wait until the rate hikes hit, act surprised, and then start coming up with boneheaded ways to fix a problem they created 10 years ago. You see, for them to look like the heroes legislators wish they were, they had to have a problem to solve, so everyone would think they were wearing big white hats and riding to the rescue.

The truth is, they are the bad guys. Unless all of them failed basic economics (maybe that's why most are lawyers??) they knew that there would be ten years of catch up rate hikes coming. Hell, ComEd told them it was going to happen, as did the other utilities. The markets told them it was coming; when ComEd's bond status was reduced to just above junk status due to cashflow.

Now comes Mike Madigan, wanting to wear the biggest white hat. He's decided that the State of Illinois should become a power and light company. He wants the state to produce and distribute electricity, at it's cost, using Illinois coal as the prime energy source.

There are of course problems that Mike won't mention, heroes don't often tell the down side of their story.

First is the incredible cost of getting into the business, coal fired power plants cost upward of $1 billion dollars to build, the state would need a few of them to be a big enough operator to effect prices in any meaningful way. They could, theoretically buy up some older plants from Exelon and other producers, but those aren't cheap either; and the one's utilities would be likely to sell would be old and inefficient.

Second, coal is a dirty, very "ungreen" fuel to be burning, especially Illinois coal. Scrubbers and CO2 capture devices add about 20%-30% to the cost of a new plant. CPS Energy is Texas is spending $200 million just on the capture devices for one new plant. But even after that is paid, captured CO2 has to be stored. A European small scale project is hoping to be able to do that for the minor cost of only $35/metric ton of CO2, or about $1.5 million per year on an average coal plant using clean low sulfur coal. Illinois coal isn't low sulfur, so that cost would at least double.

Third, according to Madigan's bill the State would be a producer of a commerically available commodity, but not be liable to the State Commerce Commission. (H/T Archpundit) Just think a utility that didnt' have to answer to the folks utilities are required to answer too. That's rich, Mike.

Finally, because of generally sloppy government book keeping practices, it's doubtful we'd ever know if the rates charged actually were the "cost" of producing the electricity. It's pretty easy for the state to bury extra money for a project somewhere else. I have a hard time envisioning a scenario where the state provided my electricity cheap, and my tax bill didn't go up somewhere else to help cover the cost.

So, Mr. Speaker, my answer is "NO THANKS" keep the power professionals running the power industry, and let the state do what it does best, waste my tax money, in other ways.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Ignatius Right?

I don't generally agree with columnist David Ignatius of the Washington Post, but maybe today he's right, that Congress, and the President, need to find a common ground to work from in Iraq.

He suggests the Baker Hamilton report issued last year. The Democrats claim to be invoking it with their milestones and withdraw deadlines, but the truth is both of those items were written as hard and fast in the congressional legislation, which isn't what the report recommended.

Baker Hamilton does call for deadlines and milestones in Iraq, however they suggested they be worked out between the US and Iraqi governments, not mandated by either of the two. Unlike what the Senate has passed, March 2008 was listed as a "goal date" for beginning to withdraw combat troops, based on progress on milestones, progress on the ground, and mutual agreement between the governments. The House bill is even worse, with March as the pull out date either because we can't win or we already did, ignoring anything that might resemble progress in between those two ends.

Ignatius also wants to see us, as the report called for, negotiating with Iran and Syria to stem the flow of insurgents and weapons. The problem with that proposal has always been that we have no position to bargain from. Congress' actions over the last few weeks have made that abundantly clear, obviously more to Iran and Syria than US congressional leaders.

Yes, we've met with both in Baghdad, but one time, with nothing new scheduled. My guess is because both Iran and Syria; despite evidence to the contrary; denied they are either implicitly or explicitly helping with the insurgency. Until they are willing to admit their own parts in the insurgency, the President is right, and further meetings aren't going to be useful.

Here's my suggestion to Congress, and the President. First, Congress, get the bill sure to be vetoed to the White House quickly, so it can be. Then Harry, Nancy, George, Condi and President Talabani or Prime Minister al Maliki of Iraq all need to spend a week at Camp David working out a set of goals for the new legislation. Ban the press from the event, which will piss them off, but who cares, and get a workable solution for all parties to present to Congress.

That solution does need to contain goals for the Iraqi's to meet, and some target dates for those goals. It needs to contain updates to Congress on Iraq's progress on them. Those goals require some carrots and some sticks, to help hold the Iraqi's to them.

It needs to contain funding for the surge, which Baker Hamilton did say was a possible solution in Bahgdad, but should also set some limits on deployability of troops (training, etc.). It also needs to recognize (unlike either bill in Congress) that the military leaders in Iraq are much more qualified to tell congress what progress is being made than CNN or Fox News.

Comprise, and a lasting solution for Iraq, are possible, but only if all sides work together on it, instead of playing one upsmanship in the media and chicken with the forces on the ground.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Pointing Out The Obvious

Today's News Sun has a great article on business' take on the gross receipts tax. The president of MacLean-Fogg, Barry MacLean summed it up very well....

"Only the state and county have borders. A business does not have borders. It does not have to sit in the same place,"

To many of this his observation is a no brainer.

Business owners brought up other legitimate concerns about the tax, and what it's supposed to be used for. For one, health care. While most like the idea of free or cheap health care, business owners seem to know what the truth is. If a state makes health care free, folks who want free health care will flock to that state. And, once that happens the tax that pays for it has to go up to cover the extra people.

If you don't think that's how it works consider this, the last time the US offered amnesty to illegals there were about 8 million of them eligible. Now, after a program that was supposed to "end illegal immigration", we have between 13 and 18 million illegals here, waiting for the next amnest program.

Something that surprised me was some of the business owners said they don't want a lot of extra money tossed at schools if there was no accountability with that money.

Jeff Mays, president of Illinois Business Rountable, said a huge infusion of money to school districts facing financial difficulties could fuel deficit spending and schools should be held accountable for academic achievements in math and science. He criticized the state for lowering standards to allow students to pass

I think Gov. Blagojevich is going to find out that his tax is going to end up costing more than businesses; some of the "average folks" he's supposedly trying to protect with it are going to end up needing free health care when they lose their jobs to some other state or country.

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Tribune Sale Details Coming Out

With yesterday's announcement of the sale of the Tribune Company to Sam Zell, today comes the details, some of which should be a little scary to employees.

The Tribune Company is a media company, with the majority of it's income being derived from newspapers. Considering the sale of the company is being done basically with a leveraged buyout funded with the employee stock ownership plan that Zell is creating to borrow the money, employees should be wary.

ESOP's aren't necessarily a bad thing, but that plan is borrowing 8.4 BILLION dollars to buy back all of the stock. This at a time when the original asking price for Tribune Company was $55 a share, and the sale price ended up at $34 per share. That kind of shows the trend of media stock, specifically newspapers, so something has to be done to get earnings up, or the value of that stock plan won't be much of a nest egg.

Zell is doing a few smart things in the buy. First, he's not putting much of his own money into the plan, about $315 million dollars according to the Chicago Sun Times (Not a Tribune Co.).

Secondly, he's selling off the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field and the 25% ownership stake in Comcast Sports Network that The Tribune Company currently holds. Prices range from $600 million to $1 Billion for that package, which will be used to service some of that debt.

Some of the marginal papers in the Tribune portfolio will probably get sold off, as well as a few TV stations to help with the debt. While it will hurt some of the employees of those outlets, overall it should be good for those who remain.

But the question remains, can a company that is primarily a newspaper company make enough money for that ESOP to end up paying off in the long run? Considering the trend in newspaper stocks and income over the last few years that's questionable. Sam is going to have to come up with something big to completely turn around the company and make this a great deal for the employees, too.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

New Place To Find Me

Hey all, a quick note to let you know that there is now a new place to find feeds of Crazy Politico's Rantings.

Besides using feedburner or the other links on the left sidebar, you can now go to www.Blognetnews.com/illinois to find out what's up on my blog, and many other good blogs in Illinois. Thanks to the folks at Rogers Park Bench for pointing out BlogNetNews to me.

If you aren't from Illinois, and would rather find info from blogs in your state, replace Illinois with the place you live, and see what happens. I know that Tennessee has a page, as does Virginia. So check it out, see what you find.

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Constitutional End Runs

EJ Dionne Jr. is proud of the fact that Maryland is trying to make an end run on the Constitution. Specifically, the Electoral College.

You see, the folks in many "blue states" are still (after 7 friggin' years) ticked off that Al Gore isn't President, even though he won the popular vote. It's not the first time that's happened in our history, and, unless the deconstructionists get their way, it may not be the last.

The new method in blue states to make sure that they get a Democrat in office is to try and change the system, but not within the Constitution, but instead by circumventing it. A couple of groups are pushing states to adopt laws that say that electors are to be distributed not based on the vote in the state, but on the national popular vote.

You see, changing the Constitution to provide for a direct election of the President might take too long, or not happen at all. And god knows, we can't let a little thing like the Constitution get in the way of political expediency.

Now, I'll give the Maryland Senate a little credit. Their bill requires that all electors of the state go to the winner of the national popular vote, but only if enough votes are gotten to receive 270 electoral votes, the number needed to become president.

Here's the problem, though. Every state that passes a law like Maryland's has to understand how electors are apportioned by the other 49 states. For instance there are states that apportion them based on popular vote in their state. Then the others that give all to the winner of the popular vote. Still some allow the electors to vote for whomever they chose (1 electoral vote was cast in 2004 for John Edwards).

The other thing that Dionne, and the folks pushing this forget is that, while not directly electing the President, the electors job is to vote for the people the state voted for. So if Maryland were to vote 70-30% for Hillary in 2008, but Fred Thompson or Rudy Guilliani gets 55% of the national vote, would those electors actually represent "the will of the people" of Maryland?

That's where these types of issues become tough. How long will an election be held up by challenges in court to such a system? In a close election you can see those challenges coming.

One arguement (a decent one) against the Electoral College is that it gives a disproporation share of representation to small states. However, that was by design of our founding fathers, to prevent the President from being elected by and basically ignoring those small states. Many worried that elections would basically only matter in New York and Pennsylvania if a strict popular vote was held.

In Federalist Number 68 Hamilton explains, better than I can, the reasoning behind the Electoral College, and why it exists.

That all being said, I'm all for a Constitutional Amendment to eliminate the Electoral College and go to a popular vote (preferably with an instant run off attached). What I'm not for is individual states deciding that the Constitution is something to be skirted when it meets their political goals.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

More Please....

Governor Rod Blagojevich has realized that me made a mistake with his proposal for a $6 Billion dollar tax hike on Illinois business. The Mistake? It wasn't big enough! That's right, just like at the federal level, the state has a problem with getting enough votes to pass things, so it buys them.

In this case the Governor was already going to go after "big bad business" and make them pay for free health care for everyone, and now an extra billion for schools and (supposedly) property tax relief.

Once again, our elected officials have shown that when the votes aren't there to get their way, they'll look for another way to buy votes to get their pet projects.

The biggest problem with this whole thing is that health care and property taxes aren't the biggest issues that he should be looking at in the state budgets. Instead, he might look at the state's underfunded pension liabilities; a problem he's exasperated by funding other projects by deferring payments to that fund.

School funding is an issue, but it's one that could be addressed separately from the health issue, and probably get enough votes to pass on it's own merits if the right plan were presented.

Instead, Governor "Buy All The Votes" has decided that instead of taking care of existing problems; which may well require a tax increase; he'd rather create huge new layers of goverment, and probably future funding issues.

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Final Four's Biggest Loser

I know I don't do sports often on here, but I do occasionally cover them. I've watched a lot of the NCAA tournament the last few weeks, and have thoroughly enjoyed it. College basketball, and Women's College Basketball are the two best forms of the game out there.

Last night though, I saw the guy destined to be the biggest loser in the Final Four, even though his team won. That guy would be Greg Oden of Ohio State. For the first time in his career he played against a center that was not only taller than him, but more athletic, and it showed.

For weeks Oden has been praised as the "Next Big Thing" in college basketball. But he was playing against teams without a decent center. Wisconsin was the closest to have one, but Brian Butch went down in the first meeting, and didn't play in the second. Had he been able to go the whole way both games Oden may have been exposed as 'not ready for prime time' earlier by playing a guy that would force him away from the basket on defense.

What Roy Hibbert of Georgetown showed last night, even though both were limited in minutes by fouls, was that Oden has limited defensive chops, and struggles offensively against bodies that are as big as him. He hasn't developed a move to the basket when he's got the ball but not position.

Yes, when he can stand in the box and shoot from five feet and in he's awesome, but make him try and move to that spot against a body, and he's disappears. Defensively his feet were always a step slower than Hibbert, or the guy cutting to the basket when Hibbert pulled him away. In the NBA that equates to fouling out a lot, as the players are a lot faster there than they are in college.

After watching that game, I think that Kevin Durant of Texas' stock in the draft just jumped up should he go pro, and Oden dropped a few spots in the first round. He'll still get millions, but not as many as he would have last week.

Here's my advice (to both of them) play another couple of years of college ball where the coaching is better, and the pressure is lower. When you go to the NBA as a lottery pick, then you'll find out what pressure is. Ask Andrew Bogut, who averages 13 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists a night and is considered a bust, and possible trade bait after two seasons.

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