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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bye Bye Rudy and John

Presidential candidates are dropping like flies after the Florida primary. Rudy Guiliani and John Edwards both dropped out today. I'm not really sure the race is any worse off on either side of the ticket with their departures, either.

While Rudy had some good points, like Romney and McCain he had more than a few liberal tendancies, and I'm not sure with his personal baggage he'd have been the best foe for Hillary or Obama.

Edwards never really had a chance, and was basically running to remind us there are still a few straight white guys in the Democratic party, though no one in the party courts their votes. I personally think John would have had a better chance had he dumped his wife, grabbed a boyfriend, and ran trying to be the first gay president. Let's face it, that silver spoon in his mouth and his $1200 haircuts made his message of being "for the little guy" kind of hard to believe.

It will be interesting to see, if McCain ends up as the GOP nominee, if the 'true conservatives' who claim to hate him are going to be willing to vote for him, or will they sit on the sideline knowing that without their votes Hillary could be the next President. To me sitting out the election would be the ultimate "cutting off of the nose to spite the face" move on their part.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Sometimes It Takes Years...

Sometimes it takes years for a point to get across. You may have the greatest arguements in the world to pose to your adversaries, and they just don't (or refuse) to get it.

A few things 17 years in the making are starting to become clear to people who ignored them that whole time. Harken back with me, to the last century, circa 1991, and the beginning of the Bill Clinton Era. Conservatives and liberals remeber that time frame differently. Democrats saw the dawning of the "New Camelot", Republicans saw the opening stanzas of "Liars Club".

When the right (rightfully) said that Bill Clinton would say or do anything to get into office, and provided numerous examples we were brushed off by the media and the left as "bitter" over Clinton's plurality election win(s).

Bill was chastized for making his wife 'too powerful' by making her chairman of the committee to figure how to nationalize health care. We on the right said that's a job for a professional, not the first lady, and she proved she couldn't handle the job.

When we complained of the backhanded inuendo slung about towards political enemies we were told "get a thicker skin, that's how the game is played".

But now, the right is feeling some vindication, especially after the South Carolina Primary. The media is having a hard time figuring out how to cover the Democratic primaries, Obama v. Billary Clinton, but they figuring out that Bill will say or do anything to get the wife elected to his old office, and even liberal commentators are taking notice.

Joe Klein, in Time's "Swampland Blog" called the South Carolina vote "moral reprimand delivered to Bill and Hillary Clinton by a united Democratic Party". He went on to say that "Clinton was quoted reminding people that Jesse Jackson had won the primary in 1984 and 1988--which was, of course, a history lesson not a race jab. Of course."

But, hey, Bubba has always "given lessons" and not taken jabs, at least that's what the media tried to lead everyone to believe for about 9 years. Seeing the MSM and especiallty liberal activists coming to the realization that "Clinton Politics" is synonomous with dirty politics is particularly thrilling for those of us who called it years ago. The question now becomes, can the Comeback Kids figure out another one, even after the folks who helped them to their other comebacks have figured them out?

Hillary is now focusing on Florida; stripped of it's delegates like Michigan for moving before Super Tuesday; in hopes of regaining some momentum. Funny thing, like Edwards and Obama she vowed to not campaign there, but her name is on the ballot and she's decided to make a showing. I'll still venture to say that if the delegates of those two states make the difference between a Clinton or Obama ticket we'll see a fight to get them seated. If it's Clinton that's behind you can bet we'll see some more interesting politics from the family.

So, for the folks on the right, enjoy basking in the afterglow of the Clinton meltdown, and for those on the left, sorry about that empty feeling that comes when you realize you've been hoodwinked for years by someone you thought you knew.

*Another quick link for you from Wall Street Journal on the South Carolina primary.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

The Great Money Give Away

The so called economic stimulus package negotiated by the President, John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi isn't looking so certain, now the the Senate has it's hands on it.

First though, a couple of things about the general idea of the economic stimulus package; it's not needed, and even if it were, it's misdirected at any type of sustained growth.

The only folks in the real business world licking their chops at this package are the makers of one time big purchases. You'll see tons of big screen TV's computers, etc, getting bought when the checks come out. Probably 70% of the people getting the money won't use it in a way that actually has lasting effects. Those TV makers though, they're probably going to be happy with their 3rd quarter numbers this year.

Why do I say it's not needed? Well we aren't in a recession, and even if we were to slip into one, most of the actual economic indicators point to a short (1-2 quarter) one with little effect. The GDP grew last quarter at a 2% annual rate, not spectacular, but far from the negative growth that recessions bring. Inflation, while slightly higher last quarter is tame due to interest rates being low. Unemployment, while it's gone up slightly (5%) is still lower than the 6% that's been considered "full employment" since the end of WWII.

Why do I think the package is misdirected? Tax cuts, rather than one shot rebates do more to sustain economic growth in the long term. Don't believe it, look at the last 6 years. Look at the data from the last 30 years, in fact. The biggest growth occurs in the periods taxes are cut, the least growth, and most recessions, in periods when they are raised.

Back to the original idea of the post, though. The package negotiated by Bush, Pelosi and Boehner had one linchpin, it was centered on a tax rebate. However, the AARP is complaining that over 50% of the folks aged 65 and over won't get any of the money. Duh, they don't pay taxes. It's hard to give a rebate on something you didn't pay for. Hell, send in the mail in form and try and $200 from HP without actually buying the laptop. They won't give it to you.

Other groups are complaining they won't get anything either. Unions want unemployment benefits extended as part of the deal, the northeast Senators want home heating oil rebates. The Senate, is of course entertaining all of these ideas, and my well kill the whole package because they are trying to turn a tax rebate into the Great Money Give Away of 2008. I won't cry if they do, because of the reasons I stated above.

The ironic thing about this whole stimulus idea is that the Democrats are pushing hardest for it, and it undermines their whole taxing philosphy. If, as the stimulus idea would suggest, giving people money helps the economy, why give one shot tax rebates? Wouldn't it work as well, or even better, if you just let them keep it in the first place?

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fixing Illinois Pt. II

The folks at Illinoize were nice enough to republish Fixing Illinois the other day, and some of the commenters were nice enough to point out some problems with my idea of 1 state senator per county. Namingly that the Warren Court of the 1960's ruled that both bodies of a state legislature (but not the federal) required proportional represenation.

My contention on that is the ruling itself is ripe for being reversed. It failed in a number of ways, and over the years has been weakened by subsequent rulings on gerrymandering of districts (which is spawned), and constant court battles over geography.

The ruling also created, by it's over reach, the exact problem it sought to fix. The court ruled that "one man one vote" had to be the rule for both legislatures due to rural overrepresenation in State governments. At the time many states had a Senate made up of 1 senator per county, and a House made up of 2 members per county. And, rightfully, this did lead in many states to over represenation of the rural areas. The decision though, actually created an urban overrepresenation in state government, and destroyed any checks and balances on urban powers in many states.

Instead of doing the common sense thing, and finding that States, like the federal government, needed one population based half of the legislature, and one based on subordinate government entities (counties in my example) Warren's court decided that the Constitution said that both bodies of the republican form of government needed to be represenative based on population.

In fact Section 4 of Article IV of the Constitution only requires a republican form of government for states. Each state was allowed to decide exactly how that government would be set up.
Article V specifically denied the right to amend the Constitution (on a federal level) that underminded the equal sufferage represenation in the US Senate. Warren's court, however found that no such protection was needed for a state's citizens in state government! They found equal sufferage anywhere but the federal government to be unconstitutional!

That's why I think Illinois should adopt a State Senate made up of 1 Senator per county, and challenge the Warren rulings in court based on the States right, under Article IV to set up it's government, and the principle of equal sufferage in representation.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Fixing Illinois

Jack Davis has a nice piece in the Chicago Tribune about the mass transit funding bill that saved the Chicago area from a transit doomsday. And he rightfully says it didn't go far enough, but disagree with him on where the fixes need to be centered.

Jack, and the non-profit group he works for Chicago Metropolis 2020, like many in Springfield believe that the only way Illinois as a state can be great is to make Chicago better, and have the greatness spread. I say they are all blind, and ignore the fact that we've been trying that since the state was formed, and it's not working.

Instead, a "spread the weath" formula needs to be developed. While the 2020 groups contention that faster rail would make folks more likely to use it has merit, so does the idea that a non-Chicagocentric system for the RTA would help. Making it easier to get from Points A and B, without going through Chicago, or close to it would help. Metropolis 2020 ignores the fact that a lot of the traffic on Chicago freeways isn't going to Chicago, it's going somewhere less well served by our current transit structure.

One of the downsides to the current transit structure is that is makes it nearly impossible for the collar counties to develop their own transit systems, the money they have for it is already tied up in the bloated RTA, CTA, Pace, Metra system leaving little for regional transport outside of Chicago.

Chicago Metropolis 2020 points out that the number of trucks jamming the roads is part of the problem. Easing truck congestion is much easier than anyone will admit, because it doesn't fit in the "Chicago First" mold. Rockford has an excellent airport that is tossed occasional bones in cargo transit, but is basically locked out of becoming a major regional hub by O'Hare contracts. The same is true of major brand airlines trying to fly from Rockford. Anything that takes away from idea of O'Hare as the epicenter of Northern Illinois transit is looked on as bad, and whispers of punishment from the O'Hare folks shut down the idea quickly.

DeKalb and Rockford both have the rail, road and air transport facilities to reduce the congestion in the O'Hare area, and Chicago area as a whole, but have been, through state and regional actions, hampered in developing them to their full potential. Both area also closer to other states time and distance wise than Chicago, and could be used to attract business from them, growing Illinois, but the same groups that want to grow Illinois by making Chicago better ignore methods that would grow Illinois anywhere but Chicago.

So, how does this get fixed? Well this year Illinois has the chance to vote on holding a Constitutitional Convention to rewrite or Amend the State Constitution. Changing Article IV of the State Constitution to change the makeup of the state legislature would be a good start. Currently the makeup is completely population based, with 59 districts, each providing one Senator and 2 Assembly members. Because over 65% of the states population is located in Cook County and it's "collar counties" both houses of our the legislature are disproportionately representative of that area, making everything else in the state second rate as far as the legislature is concerned.

A good change would be to make the Legislature more like the Federal Government. The Assembly could be made slightly bigger, by coming up with 70-75 districts based on population, with 2 members from each. However, the Senate could be based on Counties instead of population, with 1 Senator from each of the 102 counties. By giving equal voice to all of the counties in one branch of the legislature we'd be able to mitigate some of the Chicago First mentality, and maybe, just maybe, grow the whole state from different angles, instead of hoping growth radiates from an overgrown and overburdened epicenter.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More Lawyers for Elections?

I'm just wondering, after yesterday's Michigan primary elections if they might not lead to a lawsuit.

Specifically, Hillary Clinton was the only "big name" Democrat on the ballot, and easily won 57% of the vote (uncommitted came in second). But, because Michigan insisted on moving their primary up before February 5th, the party has stripped the state of all of it's delegates.

The GOP also took delegates, but only half of them.

This leads me to wonder, if come Democratic National Convention time, if Hillary trails Barack Obama by less delegates than she would have won in Michigan, could we see a lawsuit over the DNC's actions?

Hillary is smart like a fox sometimes. While both Obama and Edwards managed to get their names off of Michigan's ballots, Hillary didn't, and instead just vowed not to campaign there. It makes me wonder if she hasn't been thinking all along that she'd win the vote (duh) and then try and get the delegates seated if she needed them.

Just a thought.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Oops, got it wrong

Hey, I predicted Guliani, Romney, McCain in New Hampshire, and Huckabee in 5th. I got it wrong, it looks like McCain, Romney, Huckabee (a distant third), Guiliani and finally Ron Paul and Fred Thompson with little discernable pulse.

On the Democratic side it looks like the media lovefest with Obama may not have given him any win, much less the double digit one predicted this as late as this morning. The women who abandoned Clinton in Iowa seem to have shown up in New Hampshire, as well as a good portion of registered Democrats.

On the GOP side, with no real front runner I'm not sure that the New Hampshire results make much difference. Though Romney failing to get within 10 points of McCain could have some impact on his fund raising.

On the Democratic side, though they might mean more than Iowa did. The death watch will suddenly be removed from Hillary's campaign, and Obama might start getting actual questions asked about his plans for 'change'.

Clinton may also decide against writing off Nevada and South Carolina, in hopes of stringing a couple of wins together. Many predicted she'd skip appearances in both states to concentrate on Super Tuesday. I'm thinking that now if she feels close in either or both states she'll show up with the bandwagon in hopes of a few more wins, to try and reestablish the inevitability of her campaign.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

The Big Surprise

There were really only two surprises in Iowa yesterday. Hillary Clinton coming in 3rd in the Democratic caucus, and the fact that she didn't win the female vote. Huckabee wasn't really a surprise, and Obama winning wasn't as big a surprise as the media would make it. Both were doing well in polls for weeks.

A few months ago the Clinton Machine(tm) was spout off about how, if nominated, Hillary Clinton would siphon off 25-50% of all GOP women and have them voting for her.

Well, now we've seen, at least in Iowa (see my last post) that Hillary is having a hard time getting a majority of women in her own party to vote for her. So I wonder, will her folks still stick to the "siphon" idea.

It will be interesting to see what Senator Clinton does over the weekend to try and get top billing back before Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. I can't see her letting the media gush over Obama for 96 hours before the next voting takes place. (For those of a technical nature, Wyoming votes tomorrow, but they're less relevant than Iowa). While coming in 3rd in both Iowa and New Hampshire won't doom her candidacy, it does destroy the "inevitability" of it, which is a good portion of what she's been running on. In fact, anything less than a very close 2nd place in New Hampshire may cause her lots of fund raising problems.

Obama, for his part, seems to be doing a decent job today of not rubbing Hillary's nose in the fact that she finished 3rd in the race. That's a good strategy, since Iowa didn't assure him of winning New Hampshire, and a fall off there could be a problem for him, since he's running on the "groundswell for change" platform. Never mind he's never given us the details, only lots of slick sales pitches.

One the GOP Side
For the Huckabee supporters who are ecstatic about last nights results, don't get too giddy. My guess is he'll finish a distant 5th in New Hampshire, and John McCain or Rudy will suddenly be the flavor of the week for the GOP. My predicted order of finish Tuesday is Guiliani, McCain, Romney, Thompson, Huckabee. The top three could flip flop amongst their positions, moving one spot either way.

If you need a reason, it's the lack of evangelical supporters in N.H. As ABC new's pointed out this morning, while 60% of Iowa GOP voters said faith is extremely important to them, that number plummets to 20% in New Hampshire.

While he could come back in South Carolina with help from the same group, my guess is that Romney and Guliani will be 1-2 there, pretty well dooming the Huckster before Super Tuesday.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Should Iowa Matter?

The title is the real question, should Iowa matter this much in politics? Should a state with 1/2 the average population of US States, no significant minority representation, no real industrial base, and second and third tier urban areas be this important?

The answer is, of course, no. The only reason it is this important is the media has decided it should be. Due to that decision, nearly every other state has tried to move it's primary elections up, to maintain relevance.

Say Iowa's winners, Obama and Huckabee, end up with the nominations? Is that what we 'really' want? On the Democratic side it's possible, on the GOP side, I'd say no. In reality, neither is probably ready for the job. Of course, if voters actually looked at qualifications, not just commercials, Bill Richardson and John McCain would probably have wiped everyone off the map. But voters don't, we don't like to admit it, but we buy the sales pitch, and don't really kick the tires.

Some folks will drop out after today, hopefully Dennis Kucinich and Duncan Hunter (who's probably more qualified than both of the winners) take quick exits. But some folks who might actually be better qualified, and have a chance at winning may leave too. That's too bad; one small; really insignificant; state making that big a difference in how we select our leaders.

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