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Friday, March 30, 2007

Sick Bastards!

Only a sick, sick individual would go around the internet searching for this. Sorry, you demented individual, but even if what you are looking for exists, it wouldn't be found here.






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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Illinois House Votes To Give Illegals Licenses

According to the Illinois House immigrants who don't have social security numbers should still be able to get drivers licenses.

Here's the deal, though, according to current law, you don't need to have a Social Security Number to get a drivers license. You see, if you are a legal temporary immigrant who wants a license, all you need is a letter for the SSA stating you aren't eligible for a number due to your temporary status (See rules here).

That means legal immigrants aren't affected by the lack of an SSN to get a drivers license. That leaves one group who would need a license, but can't meet the current requirements, illegal aliens.

So, thanks legislators, for deciding that the best thing to do for illegals is reward them.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dave Ratliff Responds

I posted a few days ago, in "Going Local" that Zion's most important race is the one for Mayor. David Ratliff, who is challenging incumbent Mayor Lane Harrison has responded to my post. His response is below. I've e-mailed Mr. Harrison, and offered him the same chance, but have heard nothing from him.

Upon reviewing the financial information provided to me through the Freedom of Information Act for the City of Zion I have determined that the City of Zion is now facing a severe financial crisis. While economic development gives the outwardly appearance of progress, it has been undertaken without regard to other important services that must continue to be provided to the citizens of Zion. While a few commissioners have stated that they believe in balanced budgets, the 2006/2007 budget was passed with a $772,000 budget deficit. This budget deficit for the 2006/2007 may grow well over $1,000,000 dollars by fiscal year end. The council most recent practice of increasing water and waste service fees charged by the general fund in attempt to balance the general fund will only assure that water and waste rates will be increased to provide the needed repairs to maintain 100 year old water and waste system. In the current budget year, cable franchise fees have been diverted from the general fund to further increase the budget deficit. The five million dollars received from Commonwealth Edison to be used for economic development purposes has been overspent by over 1.7 million dollars and has depleted cash reserves needed to weather future budget shortfalls. In addition, to improve its cash position the City of Zion is not performing its fiduciary duties of remitting collected impact fees and has horded over $200,000 belong to the Zion High School, Park District, Library District and Beach Park Elementary District as of December 2006.

The mayor/city manager has shown his inability to address important financial issues. Administrative adjudication that was mentioned during the 2006/2007 budget approval process as problem continues to be a cash drain on city resources. What was once a revenue producer of over $200,000 in non-traffic related fines collected can now be estimated to cost the city $80,000 over the amount of fines collected. The enforcement of city sticker is not being performed; the city only has a 65% estimated rate of compliance. We either need to enforce the law, or remove the City sticker ordinance! Workers Compensation and pension costs have soared and have reduced the available tax levy to fund the fire, police, building and public works departments and its policies suggest that this problem is largely being ignored. The mayor/city administrator economic practices have created bad will with our neighbors to the South. The surreptitious agreement made with Wadsworth and the North Shore Sanitary District to provide sewer access to Trumpet Park has hindered Beach Park’s economic development and has precipitated retaliatory measures by Beach Park.

With our crime rate the second highest in Lake County, we are unable to retain business' that we are forcing to relocate to Zion through grants. We are forcing supply, when there is currently very little demand. By restoring the police department back to par, we will force the gangs, drug dealers and those who choose not to live the American dream, to move on. This will turn the community around, force demand, in turn force supply without grants for relocation. Business' will be needed, wanted, and thrive in a better economy once the criminal element has been removed through proper policing. With more business, less crime, we will attract home owners from around the State, our schools will improve, our Zion community will thrive! The nickname Zompton will be a thing of the past!

For further answers, please visit www.daveformayor.com , or feel free to question me directly. It is time for the average citizen to take a stand! It is time for the average citizen to have a say! It is time to elect David Ratliff, a career citizen, not a career politician! For a stronger, safer Zion, please vote David Ratliff for Zion Mayor on April 17th.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

BLOG FOR SALE!!!

Listen folks, I love this blogging gig, but after I did the little "how much is your blog worth" widget thing, I've decided that Crazy Politico's Rantings is FOR SALE.

E-mail me with your offers. The address is in my profile.




My blog is worth $191,379.06.
How much is your blog worth?



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How High Has That Tide Risen?

E.J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post has an op-ed piece up called "An Antiwar Tide on The Rise"; while he is correct that Washington's anti-war sentiment has risen, I believe he misjudges how much.

There is the reality of the anti-war sentiment, as compared to the vote last week in the House that reflected pork barrel politics and strong arming by the Speaker as much as that tide rising.

It's kind of like the hype around Al Gore's movie, and the truth of global warming. While Al tells us that ocean levels will rise 20 feet in the next century, actual scientists say between 1 and 3, maybe.

You see, if the anti-war sentiment in the House was as high as E.J. states, then there would have been no need to increase the bill's cost by 30% with add ons to buy votes. There would have been no need for orchestrated campaigns in Louisiana, Colorado and Kansas against House members based on the riders, not the bill itself. Maxine Waters wouldn't have been threatened with a committee chair seat by the Speaker if she didn't get her troops in line.

The Senate is a slightly different story, though basically the same. Because of voting rules they'll need to get a much larger majority to begin debate the bill. So they are watering down deadlines and increasing pork to even higher levels to buy votes.

The folks at The Democratic Daily disagree with me. Unfortunately, they make the mistake of most on the left, and believe that poll numbers are all that matters, and actually doing the right thing is of secondary importantance.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Going Local (again)

We've got an election coming up here in Zion, Il in just a few weeks. In fact, if you are a Zion resident, and didn't know it, early voting opened up today and you can go to City Hall to vote if you think you may be out of town on April 17th. That's exactly how I plan to vote, since I'm nearly positive I'll be out of town that day.

The big race is of course, for Mayor, between Dave Ratliff and incumbent Lane Harrison. While Dave hasn't given a really good estimate of how he'll pay for the new programs he's proposing, at least he's willing to look at the City and see the problems. He's also been willing to answer questions when asked, the Mayor sends out flyers telling me how great everything is.

Mayor Harrison seems to live in a fantasy land where everything in Zion is wonderful. I'd suggest he go hang out near Salem Market for a few hours on a Friday or Saturday night, and see what's really going on in his town. Then, on a Friday night hang out near the high school, and find out what the kids are really doing. Maybe then he'd realize why Dave wants more cops out in the city.

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Obama Called Out

I've posted a number of times about the Democrat's plans for 'Universal Health Care', and specifically about Barack Obama touting it as a major campaign theme, though it's not on his web site anywhere.

Yesterday in Las Vegas an audience member at a candidates forum asked Obama what his plan was, since it's no where to be found on his website. The answer is he doesn't have one yet, the campaign is young; but it's really important to him, and he'll have universal care in place by the end of his first term.

John Edwards claims he can pay for a 90-120 billion dollar program by simply removing the 2002 tax cuts on incomes over 200,000 per year. However, if you do the math on that, those 3.01 million people will each get a tax increase of just under 40,000 per year to pay for his plan.
(the math can be done here by dividing cell B160 by the amount the plan will cost). If you look at the 2002 tax numbers you'll see that he'll have to raise extra revenue somewhere.

Now, if this is true universal coverage, I want to know how, at $400 per person, Mr. Edwards is going to make this happen. Other countries providing universal coverage are spending between 3 and 10 times that per year per person.

Bill Richardson claimed he'll do it for about the same price, without raising taxes. Instead, he'll end the war in Iraq and use all the money for health care. Again, not telling us how he's going to cover everyone for under $500 per person each year.

Hillary say's (link is to new WaPo story) she's going to adjust the current system of employer based health care, and expand it by going after insurance company profits to cover the uninsured. With 45 million uninsured she'd have to get about 45 billion from the insurance companies per year to take care of that. While they've had decent profits, I'm pretty sure they weren't that high.

Dennis Kucinich, to his credit, called out the rest of the field telling them their band-aid approach wasn't going to work, and would cost too much. He wants to scrape the current system entirely, and start from scratch.

The problem with his idea is convincing the 85% of us who are covered, and 60% who are happy with it, that we need to give up what we have for a new government run program. Whie it would be the most painful way of doing things for the majority of us, from a pure standpoint of getting the system right Kucinich's idea is the only one that makes sense.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Greenpeace Gores Al

I was link hopping last night, and went from www.dhmo.org to Greenpeace USA's site, and found that the world's best known environmental group isn't too happy with Al Gore of all people.

It seems Al is on the board of directors of Apple Computers, and wouldn't support a Greenpeace endorsed e-waste and chemical directive to the company. Instead, along with the rest of the board, Al voted to recommend that shareholders vote against the idea of Apple not using PVC and other chemicals, and coming up with a recycling program for e-waste.

Now I'm not a "greenie", and disagree with a lot of Greenpeace's stances on things. However, the idea of finding a way to recycle e-waste isn't a bad idea considering how much of it is generated. Dell Computers now has a program to recycle and donate old computers to keep them out of landfills, having other computer companies follow their lead would be a good thing.

As far as not using PVC and some other chemicals, I'm not sure on that idea. I don't know the economic impact on Apple from trying to eliminate them. If it's something that would raise their (already high) prices enough to cut their fairly small market share, then it's probably not a great idea until it's more economical. However if it can be done at a reasonable cost, then they probably should look into it.

I just found it odd that Al, savior of the planet, didn't seem to like the Greenpeace idea.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

How To End Run Immigration Law

Rep. Luiz Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced legislation last week to change the status of Elvira Arellano to a legal immigrant, and grant her a permanent resident visa.

For those not in the Chicago area, Ms. Arellano is an ILLEGAL alien, who's been holed up in a church since last August, fighting her deportation back to Mexico because it wouldn't be fair to her son, who is a legal resident due to birth status and has some (minor) medical problems.

Gutierrez and others in the Illinois delegation to DC have tried, unsuccessfully, to get Arellano more stays of her deportation. But since the President and DHS aren't giving them, evidently an end run through congress is the new tactic. If you can't get DHS to say "this illegal is okay", then try and pass a law giving her permanent resident status.

Gutierrez isn't the only one trying such tactics, though. Since this congress convened, over 40 such bills have been entered. Consider that in the preceeding Congress about 100 such bills were entered into the record, it's easy to see that the Democrats in control are looking to make such end runs much easier. To find such actions, just go to www.thomas.gov and search "for the relief of".

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Today's Post

I've been invited as a guest blogger over at Mac's Mind, like me he has lots on his plate and not enough time to blog. Today's post can be found there. Read this for a hint on what it's about.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Damn Inconvient Truths

MIT is out there pointing out "inconvient truths" about greenhouse gas emissions. In their "Future of Coal" they point out that even if developed nations use (new and untested) carbon capture systems on all new coal power plants, and increase the use of renewable energy sources, in 2050 the level of CO2 emission in the world would still be at today's levels.

The problem is carbon capture systems reduce output of coal fired power plants by 20% or so, and increase the cost of them by 40%. So, those developing countries, that need cheap, plentiful fuel for their own economic expansion (which coal is) can't afford CCS technology to get it nearly carbon neutral. And developed countries won't want to spend the money to build new plants to replace those that can't be retrofitted.

Coal won't go away, even in developed countries because it's cheap, stable, and locally available. As Robert Samuelson pointed out today in the Washington Post, a Wood Mackenzie study, even if the US increased use of renewables by 5 times by 2026 we'd still have to build coal plants to meet our energy needs. On top of that, they predicted even if Congress gets it's way and demands that 15% of all new generation capacity be renewable, we'd still be increasing our output of CO2 by .8% per year.

Even if you don't argue the point that global warming is happening (hate to have death threats against you), and say "Yes, it's occurring", the MIT and Wood Mackenzie studies have to make you wonder, how much are you willing to pay to not make a difference?

Unless NIMBY's enviromentalists are willing to accept a large increase in nuclear and hydro power (in the US), or someone comes up with a workable fusion solution, fossil fuels will be around, and increase in use.

Even if they do accept those things, the third world can't afford anything but coal, and telling them to not get out of poverty probably isn't the best option.

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Moonbats in Brew Town

Sunday night somewhere between 20 and 30 (depending on who's numbers) folks showed up at a Milwaukee Army recruiting office to "peacefully protest the war in Iraq". Evidently peaceful protests include smashing windows, spray painting graffiti, and smearing human excrement on the building.

A couple of notes to the young, inexperienced protesters. First, if you want to make a statement at a recruiting office, you might try showing up when someone is there. Second, if you are so proud of your cause, try not wearing masks when you show up. Third, make sure everyone you are taking with you is on the same page about what the word peaceful means.

Having followed Milwaukee politics and crime for most of my life, since I lived in the area most of it, I'm pretty sure the DA won't file anything other than disorderly conduct charges, which is too bad. The kids (they were 13-20 years old) will get tickets and nothing else.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel headline on the story "Damage Blamed on Frustration", and the second line "Some predict violent protest may be sign of things to come" should point the DA to toward taking a stronger stand and filing more charges in the case.

If protesters think "hey, I can trash a building and only get a $50 fine" they are more likely to do it. If they see a couple extra misdemeanor charges or possibly felony destruction 9f property ($1000 damage on federal property) they might think twice about turning protests ugly.

I don't disagree with the kids right to protest, hell I gave up 20 years to defend it. However, peaceful protests are different than trashing buildings. For the lefty's and peaceniks who want to defend this as a form of free speech, keep in mind if this is free speech, then you have to condone the right to life folks trashing abortion clinics as the same type of free speech.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

A Fair Trial?

I'm wondering if Conrad Black, who is on trial in Chicago, can actually get a fair trial.

For those who don't know, Black was in charge of Hollinger International, which owned newspapers in the US, Britain, Israel and Canada. According to the SEC and others, he and some other members of the board defrauded shareholders out of about $50 million bucks.

You see, I don't think that it's possible for someone of Black's wealth to get an "impartial jury", as the 6th Amendment calls for, unless you can find a dozen CEO's, and CFO's who can take six weeks off work to sit in the court room. Most of us equate the 6th's jury clause to mean a 'jury of our peers' ( person who has equal standing with another or others, as in rank, class, or age) but who, using that definition are his peers? Not stay at home moms, construction workers, and retired cops, that's for sure.

It's already known that the prosecution in the case, while they'll present evidence of the alleged wrongdoing, is planning on concentrating on Black's lifestyle as much as possible crimes in the case. In other words try and get that retired guy on a pension to see Black as evil because he has money.... More than the retiree will ever see.

The judge has already told every juror that working around the tax code and accumulating wealth ISN'T a crime, knowing what the prosecution is planning on doing. She even took the odd step of handling jury questioning on her own, rare in most cases, to try and make sure that they understood the above.

The truth is, though, even with my income which when combined with the wife's has reached six figures, I can't imagine $50 million. I'm not sure I could avoid holding a grudge against a guy who can afford to buy enough tax attorneys to not pay taxes, while I'm still paying off the last couple of years mistakes.

But just because someone got rich doesn't make him a crook, and I'm not sure Mr. Black is going to get a jury that believes that here in Chicago.


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Perspective From Ben Stein

I caught part of CBS Sunday Morning yesterday, just in time to see Ben Stein beat up Wall Street for the panic it's creating over the subprime mortgage market.

Wall St. of course, isn't the only place beating the drum about how the subprime market is going to kill the economy, James Grant writing in the Washington Post today suggests foriegn entities holding US mortgage securities should start dumping them.

The MSM has been all over the subprime mortgage issue, at least in the last few months when they started defaulting. Two years ago they were touting how easy it's been to get a mortgage, and how many folks were living the American dream because of the ease of getting money.

The reality is, the subprime market is full of loans that shouldn't have been written, to get people into more house than they could really afford. But is it really as big a deal as everyone's making of it?

Stein pointed out yesterday that those loans, while the amount sounds huge, are really not a huge blip on the whole economic radar of the country. Only 1% of all mortgages ($80 Billion) are in default in a 14 trillion dollar economy, or about 1/2 of 1% of GDP.

He even pointed out that Goldman Sachs; who should be scared to death based on what we are hearing about subprimes; is BUYING subprime mortgages, not selling them. Why do they do that, if, as the MSM and recent market activity says that paper is pure death?

The truth is, even if 5% of subprimes fail, that means that 95% end up being good mortgages, with higher interest rates, and they'll still make money. The owners of those homes will either sell, them or refinance into a better loan when they can. Goldman makes out on those loans.

They also get the bad ones, but they either sell those mortgages or the property off, and offset some of the loss on the bad paper. That's something about mortgages that is different than other loans, there is definitely something tangible there. The property is still probably worth close to what was paid for it, and even if there's a 50% loss on each of the bad loans the amount made on the good ones offsets it by a ton.

Goldman realizes that in the long term they stand to make a large amount of money off the current panic, and are moving the right way, buying at bargain prices. The time to truly worry about the mortgage market is when companies like Goldman Sachs start selling off their portfolios of mortgages.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

False Advertising and the New TV War

AT&T is trying, though some deceptive advertising, to convince everyone that their new U-Verse service, which is TV over IP, should replace cable TV. The advertising comes from a group called TV4US, which, while it has an impressive list of backing organizations, is nearly 100% funded by AT&T.

AT&T does get one thing right, my cable bill has gone up over the last 8 years, but doing the math, my cost per channel has gone DOWN by about 20%.

My original cable service in Illinois (through, AT&T oddly enough) gave me about 75 channels total on the medium tier service I buy, for $39.99 Today, after Comcast took them over, I'm getting about 130 channels on that same tier of service, for $59.99. But I also get video on demand, and 100 more music channels than I did then. So I've actually dropped from AT&T's rate of about 54 cents a channel to around 43 depending on how you count music and VOD as channels.

One of the ways AT&T is keeping it's IPTV service cheap is by only rolling it out in cities that aren't requiring it to sign franchise agreements to provide TV service. Franchise agreements came out in the 70's, when cable first started being delivered. To keep city utility right of ways from being clogged with 10 cable companies wires, cities negotiated with one cable company, and charge a fee (generally 5%) for use of utility poles or underground access.

AT&T's logic is that they shouldn't have to pay the fees because their service is different from cable, due to the delivery method. However under the reasoning for the fees, there is no difference, fiber and cable both take up space on poles and in underground utility conduits.

The truth is, in many markets it's only the packet technology that is different between AT&T and say Comcast or Time Warner. My current Comcast service, like AT&T uses fiber optics to deliver the service to a node (actually to the pole in my alleyway) and a wire to my house. AT&T is using IP packets (internet) and Comcast uses their own system.

Now, does all this mean I'm against AT&T rolling out video service? No, actually I do like the idea of competition. However, I'd like it on a level playing field, with either AT&T signing franchise agreements on their video services, or cable companies having those fee eliminated.

AT&T's offer in most markets has been to pay the same fee as cable companies, but with no contract with the municipality. While it sounds good, without a contract that spells out the service, AT&T can change whatever they want, with no local oversight.

The last Congress tried to address this in legislation, but since it wasn't weighted to one side or the other, both the cable and phone companies lobbied against it. This congress probably won't do anything about it. Meaning we'll get 50 states and thousands of local levels of regulation making a bigger mess of the TV universe.

Verizon, in some areas is also starting to offer IPTV, but has agreed to pay the franchise fees to the cities it's operating in. They've also gone the fiber to the house route, giving much more bandwidth to each user (about 100mbs vs. 24 for AT&T) though it does cost more money.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Exhausted

Sorry for the lack of posts this week, but honestly, I'm exhausted right now. I got my oil changed last Friday at 29,372 miles. When I get home tomorrow night the truck will be at 31,240 miles, give or take. Lots of traveling, plus 34 or so hours of actual work at customer sites and as many nights in hotels as at home, and I'm pretty beat.

On top of that, some issues at home have come up that require a lot of attention, which I'm having a hard time giving them with the above mentioned travel schedule this week.

However, just because I'm tired doesn't mean the world quit turning. In fact it might be turning on it's head, and I just haven't noticed. So, if you are wondering what's going on with the whole "Alberto Gonzales should resign" affair I will direct you to Macsmind, which has a lot on the story. He also has a little forgotten history from 1993, when the Clinton Administration fired all 93 US Attornies. Yes, all of them have been fired before (only once though).

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Long Week

So, Saturday I drove to Columbus Ohio (420 miles) to move the daughter, then drove back yesterday. This morning I'm driving to Peoria, Il (220 miles) to do a two day job, coming back home for a one day local job and then heading to the far east side of Indiana for two days (200 miles).

In other words, it's going to be a long week, and I may not be posting much. Depends on how I'm feeling when I get to the hotel each night.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

FBI Fumbles on Patriot Act

To listen to Ted Kennedy and Pat Leahy howl, you'd think the FBI had hit every house in the country with a national security letter, not misdocumented some (5-20% depending on how you read the report) of the letters they used.

When I heard the story on the news the first time this afternoon, the newies had the numbers backwards, claiming only 1 in 15 letters was correctly authorized. The Justice Department IG report actually found that the FBI had requested over 156,000 letters, and they (the AG) found 8800 cases of letters being used with no request being on file for them.

They also found some extigent letters used to gain access to phone records, but gain, a fairly small number based on the total number filed correctly.

They also found that there seemed to be no intentional criminal acts involved in the letters; just mismanagment and lack of understanding on the scope of use of such letters.

Does my tone mean I'm blowing it off as meaningless? No, I think the FBI needs to hold a lot of training, and tighten up it's own record keeping on such letters. However, when you are talking about a huge load of such letters, mistakes are going to happen.

The folks who hate the Patriot Act will scream this shows how bad it is. The truth is, it more likely highlights how operational loads at the FBI have made proper training a tough chore. Having spent 20 years in a government operation, I can say from first hand experience that training seems to be the first thing cut when the operational load goes up.

Hopefully the AG, and FBI director will get things straightened out, so that the letters are used for the intended purpose, and in the correct manner.

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Rehab Now, Dentist Later

I just caught the AP article that Eddie Van Halen is heading to rehab so that he can give 110% to his fans.

I've always loved Eddie's guitar playing, and most of Van Halen's music. I also envied Eddie because he married my childhood crush, Valerie Bertinelli.

Now, though, after seeing his picture today, I understand why my parents worried about us idolizing Eddie....
So, anyway Eddie, when you get done with rehab, hows about a quick trip to the dentist, and maybe a barber. You're only 52, but you look like the crazy old man who lived down the street from all of us when we were growing up.

Oh yeah, stay away from that bald Chick Britney, she wouldn't be a good fit as lead singer for the band. Though Wolfgang might appreciate it.


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Conflicting Plans for Failure

House and Senate Democrats have conflicting plans for US failure in Iraq. Even in the chambers though, there are divisions. Maxine Waters and her group of 75 want us out now, and want funding cut. Blue Dogs, especially those elected in November want a different approach, and Pelosi is basically backing Murtha's plan for defeat with a few modifications. The basics are strict guidelines for the Iraq government, any of which isn't met means a quick pull out, with a complete withdraw by September 2008.

The Senate plan wants us out by March 2008, and doesn't do much to fund the President's build up, while the House added $20 billion to the President's request. However, a bunch of that extra money goes to stuff completely unrelated to Iraq (big surprise there).

In fact, in a move reminiscent of the last Congress, Pelosi & Co. have tied agricultural support, the minimum wage, veterans health benefits and a multitude of other items into the Iraq Bill. The idea they need to tie so many diverse things into the package to get enough votes in their own party shows the weakness of their ideas.

The President himself has already said he's going to veto either of the proposals that come before him. The great thing about being a lame duck is that you can veto something "for the kids" and not have it bite you in the next election.

I don't know that either chamber can come up with a veto proof plan, based on Republican's in the Senate and a coalition of Blue Dogs and Republicans in the House. However, if they do, I'd say the President needs to offer a compromise date of July 2008 for the withdraw.

I pick that date for a purely political reason, the two nominees for the 2008 election will be known by then. When the inevitable chaos in the region ensues, the GOP will have plenty of time to assail whomever the Democratic nominee is (presumably Clinton or Obama) for their role in the deteriorating conditions there, the instability that will occur, and the new regional strength of Iran.

It would be interesting to see if Hillary started a new "if I knew then what I know now" campaign when chaos reigns in Iraq after a forced pullout she voted for.

For those thinking that a US pullout will turn into a kumbaya moment in Iraq, consider when the Taliban began taking over Afghanistan; after Russia withdrew and left a power vacuum in the country.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Novak On Libby

Robert Novak, the guy who started the whole Valerie Plame affair, by using information from Richard Armitage weighs in today on the Libby verdict.

Novak is on the side of the fence with a number of (good) lawyers, even the guy who defended Al Gore in 2000, that there should have been no trial of Libby, since there was no underlying crime he was covering up.

That of course isn't the feeling on the left side of the aisle, which refuses to believe that someone, specifically Karl Rove, shouldn't be in jail for (not) breaking 1982's Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Yet, as he points out, Armitage, the source of the leak wasn't prosecuted, even though he turned himself in, because he didn't break that law.

It will be interesting to see if, in the civil case that the Wilson's have brought against Libby and others, Patrick Fitzgerald is called to testify to that point. My guess is Plame-Wilson and her husband will object if he's put on the defense witness list to be asked that question, since the answer will blow their case.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Blown Call

Guess I blew my call this weekend that Scooter Libby would be walking. Instead, he was convicted on 4 of 5 counts before the court, and will probably spend a little time in jail.

Probably the best piece I've read on the story though, isn't about the effect on the White House, or how the jury came to their decision, instead it's Howard Kurtz' Media Notes in the Washington Post reminding us that this is how the game is played in DC.

It's not just with this administration, every previous administration, Congress, and different departments all use the media to do their bidding, under the "unnamed sources" mantra.

When a Congressman wants to save a pork project in their district, an unnamed soure will tell the media how some big baddy in government is trying to put people out of work someplace by killing something.

When an agency is trying to sell a hard to sell project, it comes out in the media that it's the greatest thing since sliced bread to try and get some support for it.

The biggest thing to come out of the Libby trial is that we all need to remember, the media works for someone elses agenda quite often, and should be taken with a grain of salt; Bloggers included.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Governor Proposes Driving Business Out Of State

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has decided on a new scheme to get money to pay for semi-socialized health care in the state. The newest way of getting money from business, or more correctly, driving business from the state, is a gross receipts tax on business.

What this tax does is taxes goods every time they change hands between companies, instead of just a sales tax at the end of the chain. So, right now the way it works is Company A makes a widget that goes into Company B's product, which is sold to the consumer. Right now Comp. B doesn't pay a sales tax when it buys the widget, instead the entire product is taxed at sale. Under Blago's plan every step gets taxed.

Proving a complete lack of economic skills, the Governor and other supporters of this plan seem to think that business will gladly take a 300% increase in taxes, and none of it will be passed on to consumers. Sure Governor, and the tooth fairy is going to come visit tonight.

Here's my guess, if this actually makes it into law, Illinois will see an exodus of business on an unprecedented scale. Companies like Caterpillar, who struggle to compete in a global market place can't handle the type of tax increases they'd see on raw materials and supplied parts and stay competitive. John Deere has been under pressure for years from other farm equipment makers, and this will be the straw to break their back, and ignore their history in the state.

Sorry Governor, this plan is a loser, that sounds great to the electorate, because they think "big bad business" will be giving them a free visit to the doctor. They'll need it when the are unemployed as those "big bad businesses" leave the state.

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House Passes Bill to Raise Inflation, Unemployment

The bill I'm talking about, of course, is the "The Employee Free Choice Act", better known as the card check bill.

Under current labor law, if 30% or more of employees sign cards signifying a desire to join a union, employers may either recognize the union, or ask for a secret ballot on unionizing. Unfortunately for labor organizers, the vote generally comes out under 50%, and the union loses the ballot.

There is good reason for this, union's only tell one side of the story to employees when they are trying to organize them. Basically they promise them the "free lunch" theory. You'll get hire wages, better overtime, more benefits.

What they don't tell them is that companies have to make up that cost somewhere, and it generally comes in the form of layoffs of enough workers to make up the difference in costs.

They also let the workers know that seniority, not performance, will now determine your pay. So that 20 year guy that does as little as possible to stay out of trouble won't have to worry about a layoff, but the 3 year guy working his ass off will probably get cut when the time comes. Sorry, that's how union shops work.

For a great look at union's effects on workplaces, just look at how the Big 3, all UAW represented, are shedding workers, while Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and BMW, with non-union workplaces are adding them in the US.

The retail sector, with Wal-Mart and Target as two huge employers is one of the main targets of labor organizers in getting this bill through Congress. They see millions of potenial dues payers to their causes that they haven't been able to get organized by ballot. Card Check organizing of course allows them to either intimidate, or lie to employees about the paradise that is the union shop.

Before folks guffaw at the above paragraph, remember that a Democratic President and Congress passed the current labor law in the 1930's because of such union intimidation of employees who resisted organized labor.

Luckily enough Senators have promised a filibuster to keep it from getting through that chamber, and the President has promised a veto if it does make it to his desk.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Creating A Panic for Profit

Merck Pharmaceuticals has got to have a board room fully of giddy folks these days. 20 states are now looking to make their human papillomavirus vaccine mandatory for 5th or 6th grade girls. Merck charges a mere $360 for the 3 shots that make up the vaccine, and they are looking at literally millions of doses per year being sold by government mandate.

It doesn't help when newspaper have headlines that say "Millions In U.S. Infected With HPV", but then in the fine print tell you that only about 2.2% of women will develop the type that the vaccine actually does any good with.

The Washington Post even carried a story with the headline "1 in 4 U.S. Women Carries Cervical Cancer Virus", that doesn't explain ANYWHERE in the story that only a few strains of the over 100 forms of HPV actually have been linked to cancer.

Cervical cancer isn't a joke, don't get me wrong. But HPV derived forms of it aren't horribly common, either, with only about 7,000 cases per year according to the CDC.

The HPV vaccine is the next Segway Human Transporter as far as I'm concerned. Something of limited practical use, but hyped by it's maker to a point that it gets a market by default. In the case of this vaccine, Merck has created a panic based on their faulty numbers on the infection rate, their own advertising, and the presses poor coverage of the actual facts surrounding HPV and cancer.

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Picking Nits on a Jury

I'm going to make a prediction today, Scooter Libby will walk in his perjury trial. I say this because generally, after 8 days of deliberation, a jury ends up hung, or acquitting.

In the case of Libby, they are starting to pick nits, asking the judge for the definition of "reasonable doubt" as it relates to his memory of events leading to the Grand Jury inquest.

In the case of Libby, and that requested clarification, my guess is you'll see a hung jury by Wednesday, and a humbled Prosecutor deciding not to refile charges. Patrick Fitzgerald knows that he'll probably get the same results next time if he retries the case.

The request probably points to a few members of the panel who are voting for acquittal being pressured by those voting guilty. By asking for the clarification, the one's who want to vote guilty are (probably) trying to show the others that "reasonable doubt" doesn't mean "any doubt". The problem is, most folks in jury rooms, once they make up their minds, have a hard time changing them based on new definitions being forced on them.

In a perjury trial like this, the prosecution has to prove, beyond that subjective reasonable doubt, that Libby didn't just misspeak at a Grand Jury, but that he intentionally misspoke to them. That's pretty tough when you are talking about people who generally work 15 hour days, and meet dozens of different people and groups per week, and spend hours a day on the phone with various people.

As an example, Monday I'm visiting a company I've been to 3 times since last July. Yet I'm positive I don't know every piece of equipment they have, or all of their special configurations.

Libby is being tried for supposedly hiding exact details of 10 minute conversations 18 months prior to the Grand Jury. Go ahead, think of a 10 minute meeting at work in August 2005, and see if you can remember exactly what it was about, or exactly what you said. I know without looking at past paperwork I can't tell you what equipment I calibrated last October in that lab I mentioned, much less what I talked to their technicians about.

I think that with the reasonable doubt question coming up it shows the jury is worrying about exactly what the Fitzgerald didn't want them to, how hard do you hammer people strictly on memory. As I said at the start of this post, I think that Scooter is going to walk.

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