Tuesday, January 30, 2007

TDW Daniels Insult Count

After twelve days on the straight and narrow path to full recovery from insult addiction, Democratic Party blog mouthpiece Taking Down Words couldn't hold back any longer. The run of posts avoiding insults to short people by ragging on Mitch Daniels' height was nice while it lasted, but it is at an end.

January 30: 1 (little fella)

I am sure it was only a temporary lapse.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Hill: "Health Care Is a Constitutional Right"

Baron Hill, Constitutional Scholar
"What we ultimately do remains to be seen."

This is what the people of the 9th Congressional District elected Baron Hill to represent them for, to tell us that the Constitution makes health care a right for all Americans.

"I think access to health care is a constitutional right," Hill said, adding that it's not clear what form a revised system would take.

Not a human right, but a constitutional right. Yes, somewhere in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the other amendments, the framers wrote a provision requiring that the government buy people like you and me Tylenol and even Viagra.

They probably had the foresight to ensure that the government would pay for invasive surgeries too. Why, I bet James Madison foresaw the need for the government to pay for organ transplants. The Founding Fathers were visionaries, after all.

It's not enough for Baron Hill to propose a constitutional amendment that would make health care a right. No, that would be too difficult and might actually require him to write or sponsor legislation. After all, actually writing legislation is something that Baron hasn't managed to do yet (as of this posting, go here and click sponsored legislation).

He has found lots of opportunities to add his name to the legislative work of others--he's done it eleven times, which is like signing your name to homework done by someone else--but he can't be bothered to write anything himself. He's too busy noticing how many people come to visit him at law firms.

Anyway, the right to health care is in there somewhere, inside the Constitution and its amendments, and we just needed to elect Baron Hill for him to find it for us. He's not just a Congressman. He's a constitutional scholar without peer. He'll show us where the constitutional right to health care is located, because I sure couldn't find it when I went to look.

Back during the debates (question #3), Hill got preachy about this very subject. Eric Schansberg, the Libertarian, took him to task over it, differentiating between economic rights and individual rights. The right to freedom of speech costs those not speaking nothing, except maybe the effort to listen or walk away. A "right to health care" will cost everyone a lot of money.

At least in the debate Hill avoided the rather interesting stretch that health care was a constitutional right. Now, having been elected, he can dispense with that and go ahead and start interpreting the constitution for us.

At his event for the elderly, I wonder if Baron trumpeted his achievement for his constituents in passing legislation to have Medicare negotiate drug prices.

This would be another product of the Democratic House that hasn't yet passed the Senate or been signed by the President into law. Yet it wouldn't surprise me for Baron to have taken credit for it back here at home anyway; he seems to have done it before.

More genius from Mr. Hill, the sort of thing we elected him for:

"What we ultimately do remains to be seen," he said.

No? Really? I would never have guessed.

Things are more like they are now than they have ever been. If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure. Our future lies ahead. *end sarcasm*

LATER EDIT: The Courier expanded on Hill's visit in a larger column in its Tuesday edition; it doesn't make him look any less foolish.

Talking Smack to Chicago

Matt Tully's column over the weekend pokes fun at Chicago, and at the interesting tradition of politicians betting against each other on sporting games played by their hometown teams.

The Constitution mandates that politicians bet with each other before the Super Bowl and other big sporting events. That's fine. I'm all for gambling. But if these guys want to get some free publicity out of their wagers, they could at least knock the stakes up a notch or two.

Try this: If the Bears win, Peterson has to go to Chicago next time it snows and shovel sidewalks in the Loop. But if the Colts win, Daley has to travel to Indianapolis and spend a day cleaning up the starling droppings on Monument Circle.

I was going to suggest a bet in which the loser would travel to the winner's city next season to sell peanuts on game day. But given the reputation of Colts fans (courteous and caring) and Bears fans (drunk and disorderly), that probably wouldn't be fair to Peterson.

Of course, Indianapolis is known for its helpfulness. So as Peterson mulls a wager, he should consider lending his Chicago brother a hand.

Say if the Bears win, Peterson can teach Daley how to keep his City Hall cronies out of jail. Or he could show Daley how to guard the cemeteries on Election Day. Or he could hire a tutor to teach Chicagoans how to pronounce the word "the."

In the end, perhaps it's best to stop all this betting talk and just repeat what I said earlier: Hey, Chicago, our team is gonna beat your team.

You can't go wrong mocking the political machine in Chicago.

I wonder if any of the politicians being offered free tickets to the Super Bowl will forgo the chance to watch the game, instead perhaps selling the tickets and donating the money to a worthy charity. Or they could just donate the tickets themselves to a charity (like, say, the Hoosierpundit Super Bowl Trip Foundation).

Somehow, I doubt that this will happen.

Anti-War Protesters Leave Their Mark on DC

Nice. Last time I checked, spray painting is vandalism. Is spray painting the Capitol Building really a valid form of speech with First Amendment protections?

I somehow doubt that I could spray paint a mustache on the faces of Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln at their memorials in Washington and get away with calling it free speech.

Quote of the Day

“A politician is an animal which can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears to the ground.”
- H.L. Mencken

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Winning Friends and Influencing People

The Corydon Democrat has reported that the Harrison County commissioners have hired a firm to lobby on behalf of the county's interests, primarily vis-a-vis riverboat revenue.

It has also been suggested, by Terry Miller and J.R. Eckart, that the county work jointly with other riverboat counties in this lobbying effort. Getting counties that share a piece of our riverboat revenue to help with the lobbying effort (even if proportionately) is probably not asking too much either.

All of that seems, I think, exceptionally prudent. Everybody, of course, is against lobbying and lobbyists except when the lobbyist is lobbying for something that they want. This is one of those times, I suppose.

And while it's true that there is no immediate threat to the county's riverboat revenue, there is no guarantee that the situation will not change. It could change unexpectedly and with precious little warning.

When Indy area politicians come calling again in a few years to take a bigger piece of the riverboat revenue from Harrison and the other riverboat counties, and they will, it will be good to be ready with our own friends in the legislature and prepared with our own advocates to sway others.

The handful of legislators actually representing riverboat counties (or counties sharing riverboat revenue) will not be enough alone to stop the Indy politicians. If spending a few thousand dollars a month (preferably split among as many riverboat counties as possible) can save the county from having millions of dollars taken from us, then so much the better.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound (or even a ton) of cure.

Quote of the Day

“Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.”
- Vince Lombardi

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Don't Count Your Bills Before They're Signed

What a happy expression, Mr. Hill.
What is Baron looking at?

Maybe he just needs a reminder of what's in the Constitution. Perhaps that old "Schoolhouse Rock" video about how a bill becomes a law would help him. Or maybe Baron just wanted a quick, easy, and empty photo-op.

Whatever the reason, it's a bit much to be trumpeting that you have passed legislation that hasn't gotten through the Senate, hasn't made it through the conference committee, and hasn't yet been signed by the President.

When the Republicans controlled the House, they passed all manner of legislation, including various tax cuts, government reforms, and things like tighter immigration laws. Many were popular and desired by their constituents.

Yet nearly all of these things died an early and quiet death in the Senate, sort of like the much-touted Democratic minimum wage increase just got stalled today.

The Republicans, however, (at least most of them) knew enough about the Constitution and the process of how a bill becomes a law to not go home to their constituents and hold events heralding an achievement that was not yet an achievement.

Don't could your bills before they're signed, Congressman. Next time, wait until the process is actually finished before going and telling your constituents that Congress has done something for them.

And in case Baron needs a refresher, here's that classic Schoolhouse Rock video, courtesy of the wonders of YouTube:

Judy O'Bannon to Chair Young Campaign

Though nobody seems to be giving him much of a chance, Richard Young filed his exploratory committee paperwork yesterday. It seems that Frank O'Bannon's widow, Judy, will be chairing his campaign committee. The News & Tribune and the Courier-Journal both have the story.

It's worth noting that Young filled the senate seat opened by Frank O'Bannon when he joined Evan Bayh's gubernatorial campaign and ran as lieutenant governor. Mrs. O'Bannon is probably returning the favor to an old friend.

Mrs. O'Bannon has politics in her blood perhaps more than her husband ever did, but I'm not thinking that her chairwomanship will put Senator Young into the frontrunner position, even in a field of one.

I doubt that determining the state bat (as in Batman bat) of Indiana will be a central theme of Young's candidacy, though.

Quote of the Day

“And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure.”
- George W. Bush

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Kagen Apologizes

A while back, I posted about freshman Congressman Steve Kagen (D, WI-8) and his rather impolite comments to Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, the President, and the First Lady. It seems that Kagen has now apologized, saying, "My mishandled attempt at humor wasn't delivered or received well. It won't happen again."

Good for Congressman Kagen for doing the right thing. He won the election; he doesn't have to gloat. And if he hadn't, he wouldn't have had to apologize now.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Quote of the Day

“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”
- Abraham Lincoln

Polling the Politics of Taxing Smoking

The Star and the Courier-Journal report that there is broad support, 62% to 36%, in favor of raising the tax on cigarettes if the money went to fund health care and to help people quit smoking. I wonder what proportion of that 62% are likely voters, and what proportion of the 36% are likely voters.

I wonder what sort of impact that will have on legislative support for Daniels' proposal to get health care coverage to the uninsured.

Anything to do with smoking is a raw nerve issue, moreso for smokers than anyone else. Louisville found this out a couple of years ago when they moved to ban public smoking and to prevent smoking in restaurants.

Measures targeting smokers, bans or taxes, tend to motivate a negative response from the smokers far more than any positive response from people that don't smoke. I suspect that it is the same here.

TDW Daniels Insult Count

Since starting the insult count, Democratic Party blog mouthpiece Taking Down Words has managed to restrain itself from insulting the governor.

It's a notable trend (and a positive one, if it continues for whatever reason), particularly if you go backwards from the date of the last insult and look at their frequency.

Little fella is the most popular insult by far (Google gives it 95 returns, filtering out for possible duplications). Imagination for others seems sometimes lacking.

Anyway, here's to a long run of posting without having to resort to mocking short people.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

COLTS WIN!

Going to Miami!

Quote of the Day

“You don't have to win it, just don't lose it.”
- Ray Lewis, NFL linebacker

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Corydon Democrat Questions Donahue Hire

In its lead editorial this week (written by Tonya Windell) the Corydon Democrat has questioned the decision by the County Council to hire Shawn Donahue as their attorney. The issue is nothing new here, but it's good (nay, great) that someone has finally called attention to this issue after so much effort has gone by some into sweeping it under the rug.

Color me surprised. As a conservative and a Republican in these parts, I have (like many) taken it as an article of near-faith that the Corydon Democrat and some of its reporters will turn a blind eye to the mischief of those in the county of the political party that shares the paper's name. Could a newspaper once owned by Frank O'Bannon, a Democratic governor of Indiana, ever be seriously critical of another Democrat? I didn't think it possible.

It seems that I was wrong (at the very least in this instance), as there were at least enough people at the Democrat to write this editorial and to support its lead placement. Hopefully the editorial will draw much-needed attention to the matter.

It might not be too much to hope for the Democrat-dominated county government to actually do something about the incident. Openly investigating this thing shouldn't be hard, and it shouldn't take so long.

I've already picked one quote for the day, but I have another. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (who was, history trivia, from Louisville, Kentucky) wrote in 1914, "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants."

Today, 93 years later, it still is.

Mitch's Growing Campaign Arsenal

The Indianapolis Star says that Mitch Daniels, despite still not declaring if he will seek reelection, has raised about $2 million for his campaign. Moreover, he appears to just be getting started.

Two million dollars seems like a lot of money, and it is, but it is a far cry from the $24.5 million that the Daniels and Kernan spent in 2004 (according to the Secretary of State website; Kernan spent about $10.6 million, Daniels the rest).

Billy Harper, who is challenging Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher in the Republican Primary, has already spent "several" million dollars (at least two million), and that race will likely be between Fletcher and Anne Northup in the end.

Given such fundraising figures from recent history, $2 million doesn't seem so substantial just yet. It's more than the $22,000 that Richard Young has accumulated, that's for sure.

To break his fundraising level for 2004, Daniels will need to raise almost $15 million. If (as if there is doubt) he runs, he will probably need to raise more. I don't know what sort of fundraising goals the Daniels campaign will set for itself, but it's safe to say that they will want to top their prior performance and then some.

Between both parties, the race will probably cost $30+ million.

Quote of the Day

“When a great truth once gets abroad in the world, no power on earth can imprison it, or prescribe its limits, or suppress it.”
- Frederick Douglass

TDW Daniels Insult Count

Time for a count of how often Jen Wagner has to resort to insulting Mitch Daniels' height in a given day.

January 18: 2 (the wee one, the little fella)

I'll do a running total.

I also make no guarantees that I won't miss some; after all, there are a lot of them.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"There’s Probably Not a Whole Lot Wrong with Going to Lunch with a Lobbyist..."

Baron Hill
You too can be as orange as the Great Pumpkin, in just eight minutes a day!

The News & Tribune's David Mann gives Baron Hill the softball treatment in a recent interview. Among the pressing questions interesting to the people of the 9th District are "What's it like?" (it's very good), "What's the longest you've been without sleep?" (20 hours), and "How do you keep that great year-round tan?" (eight minutes a day in a tanning bed).

I, too, could easily interview Baron Hill with such cuddly carebear questions.

What is your favorite kind of cookie?

Are you proud of still holding the state record for the 100 yard dash?

What is your favorite thing about being in Congress?

What was it like to be drafted by the New York Giants and be able to turn them down?


Anyway, even with such dainty globs of fluff lobbed in his direction, Baron still manages to shame his handlers. My personal favorite: "There’s probably not a whole lot wrong with going to lunch with a lobbyist and having him pay for it."

Still no word on Baron's scheme to replace the ethics committee and let the former inmates police the prison. I guess there's not a whole not wrong with things the way the are. At least he stays away from talking about how the most notable thing about his return were how many lawyers came to see him at a reception.

Baron also thinks that it is a strong message to oppose the President's call for more troops in Iraq. This is interesting, since the President's so-called "new way forward" specifically gives the Iraqis until November of 2007 to get their act together. I would have thought that this was the sort of benchmark and deadline that Baron wanted to give the Iraqis when he talked about it back in the last debate.

He repeats the same old, same old, about how he was "lied to about Iraq." That's a spineless excuse to avoid admitting that you (and everyone else) were wrong, an attempt to have it both ways with liberal activists in Bloomington and lean-conservatives everywhere else in the district. At least he didn't say, as he did in an interview with Indiana Insiders during the campaign, that he would vote the same knowing what he knew now as he did then.

Advance Indiana recently took it to freshman Democrats Joe Donnelly and Brad Ellsworth for voting against the recent stem cell legislation. If you accept the underlying premise of AI's argument, that Donnelly and Ellsworth are voting firmly "Right to Life," then what does that say (by extension) about Baron Hill? If he is not right-to-life / anti-abortion, is he not pro-choice / pro-abortion?

The News & Tribune also has a nice letter by a former Sodrel staffer, glowing about her defeated boss. Wonder what Sodrel is doing now. Driving trucks? Vacationing in someplace sunny? Plotting a comeback?

Quote of the Day

“In America the President reigns for four years, and Journalism governs forever and ever.”
- Oscar Wilde

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Just Curious

The Courier-Journal reports that Indiana Democrats are looking to raise the state's minimum wage. Not that the federal minimum wage hike passed by the Democrats in Congress won't already cover their legislation, but they get points for effort I guess. It's not terribly efficient to spend precious legislative session time to pass something that Congress seems likely to enact (and the president sign) anyway.

I wonder whether Hoosier Democrats will approve an exception to the minimum wage for a specific part of the state, like Nancy Pelosi and Congressional Democrats did with their federal bill to the benefit of a large corporation in Pelosi's district. Maybe Pat Bauer, who is from South Bend, could exempt businesses in his home town from paying the minimum wage. Perhaps he could exempt educational institutions, since he works for Ivy Tech.

Quote of the Day

“Maybe it will take a woman to clean up the House.”
- Nancy Pelosi

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Classless Gloating

Steven Kagen, WI-8, D

Some minor attention has been given lately to rather classy (sarcasm here) behavior by one of the Democratic freshman class, Steven Kagen of Wisconsin 8.

Does Representative Kagen feel better for the high school tactic of confronting someone in the bathroom? Does he feel vindicated by insulting someone's wife? Steven Kagen, like a great many Democrats, has one fact that requires no gloating. He won the election; he doesn't have to behave like a teenage social pirana, yet he does. Not only that, but he likes to gloat about his behavior to others.

I would say that the White House is doing him a favor by saying that he wasn't making a proverbial ass of himself. Even stranger is the fact that Kagen seems to feel vindication in retelling the encounters to those in his district. This might feed the Democratic base, but Kagen was elected by a razor-thin margin in a district that went for George W. Bush in 2004 by eleven points.

Reelection might be a bit difficult for Mr. Kagen; maybe that's why he has decided to act so interestingly. Enjoy it while it lasts, and all that. But Bismarck was right, and Kagen isn't one of those.

Quote of the Day

“A really great man is known by three signs - generosity in the design, humanity in the execution, moderation in success.”
- Otto von Bismarck

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What the Buck?

Shawn Donahue (left) and Buck Mathes

The Corydon Democrat reports that Buck Mathes, a larger-than-life character in Harrison County politics if there ever was one, has been selected by the now Democratic-dominated County Council to be their new Council Chairman.

Buck stirs the pot, so to speak (to put it lightly), so I had serious doubts as to whether the Democrats would go ahead and pick him. Kudos to the Corydon Democrat's Jackie Carpenter for predicting this last week. The Democrat article doesn't say who voted for Buck on the council. I wonder if he received all of the Democratic votes, or had a little Republican help.

Anyway, the Democratic restructuring was swift. Their first votes will hopefully not be indicative of the sort of course they intend to take as they lead the county for the next two years.

They approved $75,000 for a contract for Indianapolis architectural firm RQAW. A senior vice president for RQAW, Joseph Mrak, gave Terry Miller (past and now current commissioner) $1,450, in two separate contributions, for his election campaign in 2006. See more about that here (bottom).

Quite the return on investment for RQAW and Mrak, especially if that firm is chosen to actually do work beyond the preliminary plan approved this week. I wonder if Terry Miller, due to potential conflict of interest, will recuse himself from any such decision and abstain on any votes concerning Mrak or RQAW. I doubt it.

The Commissioners replaced Chris Byrd, the previous county attorney and a Republican. They replaced him with a lawyer who is also the county attorney for Crawford County (in addition to being the Senior Deputy Prosecutor in Harrison County). Byrd ran against Democrat Paul Robertson in the District 70 State Representative race back in November. I am not inclined to believe that their selection of someone else was a coincidence.

In another action that also defies easy swallowing as a coincidence, they replaced longstanding County Council Attorney Michael Summers, a Democrat and a ten-year veteran in the job, with Shawn Donahue. Regular readers of this blog might recall him (one, two, three, and four; I might be forgetting a couple).

Donahue--a highly partisan individual by any standard, a former staffer for Baron Hill, and a Democratic precinct committeeman--unlocked the Courthouse under questionable circumstances before the election to enter a restricted area to use county equipment to fold what he said were personal papers.

Credit and serious kudos to the Corydon Democrat and to Tonya Windell for mentioning this in this week's article; it has largely been swept under the rug since the election. Things like this shouldn't be ignored by public officials or the local media.

Rumor had it at the time that Donahue entered the Courthouse to use a county folding machine to prepare a Democratic Party mailing. The State Police are still investigating this matter. Donahue has since refused to say who gave him a key to the Courthouse.

Surveillance video showed him entering the Courthouse twice. While I am no expert, I know enough about video cameras and have seen enough of those CSI shows to know that you can enlarge and enhance that video footage. Such a process would probably answer once and for all whether Donahue entered the Courthouse with personal papers or with a political mailing.

When asked what he was doing, his evasions were interesting. The Courier-Journal's Grace Schneider recounted it at the time:

In the interview, Donahue said he dropped by the courthouse to use a letter-folding machine on some letters "that we needed folded."

When asked who "we" is, Donahue said the papers were his personal letters.

"I was under the understanding that anybody could use the letter folder, so I used it," he said.

He declined to say who gave him a key to the courthouse.

I have heard that Rena Stepro, then the County Treasurer and now elected as County Assessor, gave him the key. No word on whether Donahue has even been asked if this was the case by anyone. It would be interesting to know.

If Mr. Donahue is to be attorney for the County Council, this matter needs to be openly and satisfactorily resolved. The people of Harrison County deserve to have a council attorney who either is free of such questions, or one who did not engage in such activity.

Shawn Donahue and Buck Mathes, despite the difference in their ages, will likely be thick as thieves for the next two years. Donahue and Mathes once judged a wet t-shirt contest at Lisa's, a sports bar in Corydon. Rumor has it that Donahue proceeded in subsequent days to tell several women working at the Harrison County Justice Center that they should have participated in the contest. Nothing came of that either.

We should all be reassured by knowing that the County is in such honest, open, and judgmental hands as these.

Quote of the Day

“I haven’t committed a crime. What I did was fail to comply with the law.”
- David Dinkins, then Mayor of New York City, answering accusations that he failed to pay his taxes

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

(Re)Discovering Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford, 1913-2006
Gerald Ford, 1913-2006

The Corydon Democrat's Tonya Windell, like a lot of Americans, rediscovered President Gerald Ford in the wake of his recent passing. Much has been said about Ford since he died, nearly all of it positive. As it has been with Ford, it was with Reagan (and, if memory serves, even Nixon when he died). Ford was a unique figure in American history. Some have called his arrival in that position, at that time, as an act of Providence.

It is easy to be nice to a politician when they are dead and gone; they seldom get that sort of praise in life. Many of the figures we hold in such high regard today due to the distance of history (and their deaths) were not held in such esteem at the time. Ford was fortunate in that he lived long enough for many of his opponents to come around to his positions on many issues. Ted Kennedy, who was quite critical at the time, gave Ford a Profile in Courage award for pardoning Richard Nixon.

Being a history buff, I can't say that I didn't know about most of what Ford did. My own "rediscovery" of Gerald Ford came in a book about the 1976 Republican Primary, Reagan's Revolution by Craig Shirley (Amazon). Ronald Reagan challenged Ford for the Republican presidential nomination in that year, and fell just short of taking the nomination.

What was so interesting about the book is that there were no villains, and no wrong answers. Both the Reagan and Ford campaigns held closely-cherished beliefs they were unwilling to yield. Ford felt Reagan unelectable and too conservative. Reagan felt Ford too liberal and too close the party's recent past. The primary was contentious. If pardoning Richard Nixon did not cost Ford a second term, then Ronald Reagan's challenge certainly did.

In 1976, Gerald Ford beat Ronald Reagan in a procedural fight on the convention floor. It was the last such spectacle in American political history; conventions have ever since been staged and predetermined affairs. Yet in losing to Ford, Ronald Reagan also won.

Gerald Ford was magnanimous. Reagan had been vanquished. Ford, having just completed his nomination speech (considered to be the best speech of his life), did not need to beckon defeated challenger to join him on the stage, and Reagan refused at first. But Ford was insistent. The crowd chanted "We want Ron!"

Reagan came to the stage. He gave a few unprepared remarks (read them here, though the text doesn't do the delivery justice) that greatly moved the convention. President Ford had won. He could afford to be generous, and he was. In that generosity, Gerald Ford gave Ronald Reagan what would likely have been his last appearance on television. Ronald Reagan, in turn, stepped onto that stage and out of political oblivion.

So, I'd agree that Gerald Ford had a lot to do with Ronald Reagan eventually becoming president. And, by a sort of presidential Seven-Degrees of Kevin Bacon, I'd say that he had a lot to do with everyone after Reagan, too.

Note on the Windell opinion piece:

Ford appointed three people to office who are influential in politics today. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was appointed secretary of state, Vice President Richard Cheney as his Chief of Staff, and former President George H.W. Bush as director of the CIA.

Rumsfeld was Ford's first chief of staff. Cheney the second. Rumsfeld went on to become Secretary of Defense, not Secretary of State; he is the only person to ever hold the position twice and is both the youngest and the oldest person ever to hold the job. Henry Kissinger was Ford's only Secretary of State.

Quote of the Day

“For myself, and for our nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.”
- Jimmy Carter, on Gerald Ford

Monday, January 8, 2007

Legislative Session Opens

Mitch Daniels
"I'd rather we were ambitious in this state"

The General Assembly began its session today. The Indianapolis Star and the Courier-Journal have articles. Most of the attention has not been on what issues will be addressed in the legislative session, but instead upon the ruling by a Federal judge forbidding the mention of Jesus Christ in the opening prayer and the "non-sectarian" prayer to Almighty God resulting from it.

I wonder if atheists, wiccans, polytheists will be offended by praying to Almighty God. Might what the General Assembly does after the prayer be meriting, just slightly, of more attention than the prayer itself?

The General Assembly must produce a budget and will likely have to act on a number of Governor Daniels' proposals (all-day kindergarten, the toll road around Indianapolis, the cigarette tax hike for health care, and privatizing the lottery) and those of the Democrats (ending the sales tax on gasoline, providing free text books, and--of course--all-day kindergarten).

All of the Democratic proposals thus far have been stunts with the exception of all-day kindergarten. Little of substance has followed them on how they will be financed or implemented. It's nice to call for free textbooks or eliminating sales taxes on gasoline when you get to paint the more realistic opposition as being mean and heartless for being against such things. It might be better to have actual policy proposals instead of political footballs.

Daniels' proposals, meanwhile, have been staggeringly ambitious. I think that continued privatization is probably dead at this point. All-day kindergarten of some implementation or format, is probably assured. The cigarette tax hike is probably dead on arrival. The Democrats, having found a new love for cutting the sales tax on gasoline, probably won't be able to bring themselves to give poor Hoosiers health care by raising the cigarette tax. The Commerce Connector may happen as a part of a broader compromise with the Democrats.

The budget itself, with its sparse new funds, will be the main focus of partisan battle. Everyone dreams of where to spend the budget surplus, created by the Indiana's first genuinely balanced budget in something like eight years, but there is precious little new money available. Other, more basic, government functions (like general education) need increased funding as well.

Quote of the Day

“The constitution was never meant to protect people from praying; its declared purpose was to protect their freedom to pray.”
- Ronald Reagan

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Hill Back Home While Congress Works

As the Democrats' "Hundred Hours" ticks down--what with its pledges of actual full five-day work weeks for elected officials, possibly working through weekends, and mountains of up-front accomplishments for the American people--Baron Hill somehow found time to fly home to treat some of his supporters to a mock swearing in ceremony in New Albany. CJ article here.

The number of supporters present should not be surprising, unless Hill is "stunned" that there are 150 people in the whole district that would care that much. If memory serves, Sodrel had at least that many people want to come with him to Washington (though he found that he couldn't use his own buses to take them due to ethics rules).

Hill talks a lot about energy reform but, as I noted earlier, his talk of a reformed ethics committee seems to be gone with Election Day. Sadly, I can't say that I'm "stunned" by this interesting omission.

Quote of the Day

“We’re going to turn this team around 360 degrees.”
- Jason Kidd, when drafted to the Dallas Mavericks

Saturday, January 6, 2007

I-64 Shooting Lawsuit

The Courier-Journal reports that, not content with court verdicts against him, a fleeing criminal shot by Corydon and Harrison County police officers (they thought he was armed due to miscommunication) after a lengthy chase from Kentucky is suing the town of Corydon, Harrison County, the city of Louisville, the city of New Albany, and "unknown officers" for what happened to him.

Harrison County doesn't exactly need another lawsuit filed against it. Heck, none of the defendants need lawsuits filed against them any more than I need a hole in the head. I agree with the CJ commenter that a million in lost wages is rather fanciful.

Hopefully the lawsuit will be dismissed quickly. The legal fees would rack up swiftly if it dragged on (which is probably the implied threat to gain a much smaller settlement), to say nothing of if it had to be settled or paid.

Hoosier Triangulation

The Indianapolis Star touts the coming "bipartisan approach" of Mitch Daniels as he heads into a new legislative session and a new Democratic majority in the House. Advance Indiana and Democratic mouthpiece Taking Down Words (the latter complete with the usual cheap shots about him being just plain mean, a sure political selling point) note Daniels' move to the center.

AI notes its similarity to Clinton's strategy of triangulation (a comparison that should come as no surprise to readers here), and TDW spouts off the usual partisan talking points. Daniels is a meanie, he privatizes everything, he's short, the economy stinks, he's a meanie, and--in case she didn't mention it--he's mean and short.

And here, silly me, I thought being mean was a "badge of honor"; it sure was by her own account when Wagner was named "the nastiest woman in Indiana politics" by Brian Howey. My how times change in two short days when political expediency requires spinning in a different direction.

More seriously, the movement by the governor to the middle has been a long time coming. He will need it if he intends to secure another term.

Those in the seats on the left, like Jen Wagner, writing the governor's political obituary should bear in mind that moving to the middle works. Calling names doesn't change that, and the results can come with a very short turn-around time. Arnold Schwarzenegger (for example) suffered a political body blow in California in November of 2005 when his ballot initiatives went down in landslide defeats, only to move to the middle and win himself by a landslide one year later. Indeed, the middle is a lot further to the right in Indiana than it is in, say, California.

Daniels is intelligent, snide remarks about him being arrogant about his "brilliance" aside, and he likely realizes what he needs to do to win reelection. Now, he seems to be starting to do it.

Quote of the Day

“One man who has a mind and knows it, can always beat ten men who haven’t and don’t.”
- George Bernard Shaw

Friday, January 5, 2007

"Like I Never Left" - Baron "Returns" to DC

The Courier-Journal reports on Baron Hill's return to Washington. He says, "It's like I never left."

I guess this reaction is unsurprising and entirely to be expected, given that Baron never did really leave. When he lost last time, he got a job as a "senior advisor" to a registered lobbying firm.

Given that Baron's first musings to the Courier-Journal about his return were how many people came to see him at a reception at some big Washington firm, compared to how many wanted to visit with him last time around, this is just par for the course I suppose.

Speaking of the 9th District race, I saw (but never posted about) a story about three weeks ago by David Mann in the News & Tribune that said that Mike Sodrel had thirty times as much money left at the end of the campaign as Baron Hill did. For some reason, today's article on Baron Hill reminded me of it. I recall at the time noting that Hill was broke going into election day, and that the DCCC was sending more money into the 9th District race to bail him out. Seems that he was, and they did.

I've heard it said that it is better for a campaign or a party to spend everything, rather than to have money in the bank after Election Day and be left to wonder whether the remaining money would have made a difference somewhere or somehow. Sound wisdom, I think. It's not like Sodrel couldn't raise more after the election once reelected, or even finance a post-election recount if that proved necessary.

Perhaps that hundred or so thousand dollars left is just seed money to finance another go in 2008. It will be interesting to watch and see.

If Mike Sodrel runs again and were to win, though, I bet his first thoughts upon going back to Washington wouldn't be about it being like he never left, or about how many people came to see him at a reception compared to last time.

Quote of the Day

“I have returned.”
- Douglas MacArthur

Thursday, January 4, 2007

This Didn't Get Much Attention...

Given that some in the legislature seem interested in "turning back the clock" on Daylight Savings Time, it's rather odd that basically no press was given to a survey by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce showing that 62% of businesses like DST. Only 13% think it impacted them negatively.

The story about the survey was buried in the business section of the Star. I'd bet that if the survey had told the opposite, having 13% positive and 62% negative, that it would have been loudly trumpeted everywhere by the Democrats. The Republicans, in contrast, seem slow on the uptake.

See also the survey press release, here.

Cartoon

Quote of the Day

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.”
- Clarence Darrow

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Warm, Fuzzy Thoughts for the New Year

Tonya Windell, writing on the opinion page of last week's Corydon Democrat, had some interesting thoughts on how to make "a 'little brighter, bit safer, more positive' new year." This from the person that thought that Harrison County taxpayers should pay for children to go to school in Crawford County.

I want our county government to continue to do what they can to help the people who live and work in Harrison County. I hope the county commissioners and council develop a more sensible, fiscally responsible plan for spending riverboat revenue especially since the Indiana Legislature will reconvene in January and Harrah's has just entered an agreement to sell out to Texas Pacific and Apollo Management.

First, a change in ownership of the riverboat doesn't change Harrison County's agreements regarding revenue from it.

Second, leaders in both the House and Senate in Indianapolis have ruled out changes to riverboat revenue arrangements.

Third, how is continuing to send money to Crawford County (when they will also now be getting money from Orange County) sensible and fiscally responsible? How does it help people who live and work in Harrison County? It's all well and good to share riverboat revenue with surrounding counties, but let's not mince words and construe that as directly helping people in Harrison County.

I hope county officials will listen more to the concerns of those who elected them and plan projects to the best of their ability. The county is growing, and it will take a collective decision of county officials and those who live here to decide what is best for Harrison County. Residents also have to accept the fact that the county will continue to grow, so they need to be open to change and trust county officials to do their job, which hopefully will be done in such a way as to not seemed forced upon them.

I somehow doubt that this is going to be realized. Growth creates change, yet the county has taken precious few steps in the past decade to ensure that growth is managed. Without proper planning in advance of the actual growth to prepare the county and to prepare its denizens, the change brought by that growth does indeed seem forced.

It's far too easy to approve new subdivisions containing hundreds of homes, while not giving a single thought to having to build bigger schools a few years down the line when all of those subdivisions are full of families with kids that need to be educated.

County officials need to support Lifelong Learning and its services. I think the $270,000 the county commissioners want to spend on a higher-learning facility would be better spent on Lifelong Learning to develop existing programs and provide the funding to allow Lifelong Learning to bring in more classes. However, don't just provide monetary support; county officials need to actually support the program. County government created Lifelong Learning, yet some officials seem ready to throw it in the gutter for something they view as a better deal. Lifelong Learning does a good job and could do much better if everyone supported it.

Well, if they just all said that they supported Lifelong Learning, I guess that this entire problem would be solved. That's all that's needed; soothing words of support solve all of our problems. It's not like the county wouldn't benefit from both a community college and a career retraining program.

In 2007, Harrison County needs to continue to support its downtown Corydon merchants by shopping with them and eating at the restaurants there. The county also needs to keep offices downtown to help keep a flow of traffic to the area. There are so many historical aspects of the downtown area that this county needs to preserve.

$11,000 sits in an account set aside for a humane society in Harrison County. This money was saved from a dog tax the county used to have. We have a humane society in Harrison County. The money should be given to them to further the cause.

Do something with the old Keller Manufacturing property in Corydon. Turn it into a park, build a water park, anything. It's been sitting vacant way too long. Here's a thought. I keep hearing about developing Harrison County and bringing in more tourists and residents. How about a Harrison County Convention Center?

Here, here. Good ideas all.

I wish Gov. Mitch Daniels would remember he no longer works for Eli Lilly and Co. but for the state of Indiana now. The bottom line isn't everything, especially when it means taking away Hoosiers' rights. If we continue to privatize everything from the lottery, social services and roads, then what are we Hoosiers paying Daniels to do? We might as well pay some big-shot CEO to do his job. Governor, how about listening to Indiana in 2007 and doing what is best for us instead of the bottom line?

For sixteen years, the state of Indiana was driven into a crisis of fiscal insolvency by three Democratic governors that paid absolutely no attention whatsoever to the bottom line. Instead, they used budget trickery and math gimmicks to conceal their financial mismanagement.

"Privatization" is the new Democratic bogeyman, but for some reason they weren't complaining about the fiscal situation or the policies of their governors then. When their party ran the state, the fiscal situation was so bad that it resulted in them raiding the teachers' retirement fund (for just one example) to make ends meet in the budget. Better a balanced budget and a smaller and more efficient government than a government that is stealing retirement money from teachers.

The late Frank O'Bannon began pushing for all-day kindergarten when he was governor, an office he was elected to for two terms, first in 1996. This year, Indiana had some of the lowest ISTEP scores in the country. I think it's time the Hoosier state had a program designed to better prepare our children for school.

And who better to bring that to the state than Mitch Daniels, eh?

State Sen. Richard Young announced recently he is running for governor in 2008. I hope people continue to support him in 2007 so that he can be prepared for what the election campaign will bring. I hope he gains the support and funds he needs to run a strong campaign. He is one of the few politicians I have met who simply wants what is best for Indiana and those who live here.

Let's all just hold hands and support. It's a warm and fuzzy word. Everybody can agree to support.

One of the aims of the United Nations is to safeguard human rights. In fact, it was one of the main reasons for its creation. The United States is part of this organization. This year, the United Nations anti-torture panel recommended the closure of Guantanamo. I want to see it closed. I want to see the United States hold itself to the same standards it holds every other country. We expect other countries that are members of the United Nations to abide by their recommendations, and we should as well.

I'd like for the United Nations Human Rights Council to not be filled with countries--like Saudi Arabia, Cuba, China, Pakistan, and Russia--that routinely violate human rights far more than anything America is being lectured about for Gitmo.

It's true, if we live in a glass house it is hard to throw rocks. That, however, goes both ways.

If anyone in this world is in need of help right now, I think it is the people in Sudan. The crisis in Darfur, a western region of Sudan, has been called the worst humanitarian crisis in the 21st century by many. If this is so, I want to see more aid to these people by our government and others. I have already donated money to the cause, and I hope others will too. More than two million people have been displaced due to the conflict and an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 have been killed, many as a result of a militia formed by their own government.

All well and good, it's true. But what use will that aid money be when the government of Sudan and its militia allies have slaughtered everyone while the United Nations has done absolutely nothing?

The people of Darfur need more than monetary and humanitarian aid. They need aid of an entirely different sort, and the UN doesn't seem to be giving it to them.

Finally, my last wish for 2007 is something I believe is long overdue. It is time the minimum wage be raised above $5.15 per hour, whether it be at the state or federal level. The minimum wage hasn't been raised since October 1996. Rep. John Day, D-Indianapolis, already has a bill which he will introduce to the Indiana General Assembly that would raise the minimum wage to $7.50 an hour. While it may not be the most decent of wages either, it is certainly a start, and I hope our legislature passes it and the federal government follows. Decent wages is something everyone in the country needs.

I like the idea of raising the minimum wage. Nothing like the government mandating a pay increase for everyone that makes minimum wage (which isn't a huge percentage of people, but it's a nice warm and fuzzy idea nevertheless).

Unfortunately, it's not likely that many people making more than the minimum wage will see similar pay increases. What they will see, instead, will be price increases. Business owners will just pass on their increased labor costs to consumers. I don't like the idea of paying more for stuff.

Here's to a year of more warm and fuzzy ideas.

Quote of the Day

“How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.”
- Benjamin Disraeli

Monday, January 1, 2007

New Year Introspection, Prediction

Nancy Pelosi and George W. Bush
Probably not the tone of things to come.

The coming of a new year always results in the usual columns and television news segments, "The Year in Review", "Best and Worst of the Year", and so forth (see Matt Tully for an example). This year is no exception. It is also a time for predictions of what will come, resolutions of what to change, and the like (Terry Cummins has a humorous prediction column with the News & Tribune). Now it's my turn.

Looking Back

I recently read that when Ronald Reagan was governor of California, his staff had a motto. They said, "When we begin to talk of government as 'we' instead of 'they,' we've been here too long." I think that a lot of Republicans, who held control on Capitol Hill for fourteen years, had come to think of government as "we," a dangerous thing for a party whose base (divergent as it sometimes is) is united in its opposition to various aspects of government, be that taxation, gun control, balanced budgets, interventionist judges, or whatever else.

In 2006, the Republican Party was punished for two things. The first was for being the anti-government party that became (by corruption, intellectual laziness, big spending, earmarks, and a dangerous sense of entitlement) the party of government. The second was for the lack of progress in Iraq, and their willingness to sit still for the President, the leader of their party, making no progress in the war. Casualties are terrible, but I think that Americans are troubled more by the growing perception (right or wrong) that their sons and daughters in the military dying for no reason.

The faults and failings of the national party permeated every level of government. In Louisville, it was George W. Bush and the war that did in Anne Northup and sent to Congress somebody that not even the DCCC thought could win (they gave John Yarmuth no money and ran no ads for him). It was a Democratic year. Yet even in this Democratic year, the results are surprising.

For all of Mitch Daniels' unpopularity and all of the national factors in their favor (to say nothing of the map being drawn to their benefit; though their mapmaker lost his reelection bid), the Democrats gained only the narrowest of majorities in the State House. The Republican majority in the State Senate was never seriously in danger. Republicans easily won the three statewide races for Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Auditor.

John Hostettler ran an even more quixotic and anemic campaign than normal, and was defeated for it. Chris Chocola, a high-water Republican in a swing district, was defeated. Mike Sodrel had the narrowest race of the three defeated Hoosier Republican Congressmen. He got more votes than either Hostettler or Chocola. Quite an achievement, for a campaign with so many problems.

In Harrison County, the tide of the year swept a lot of Democrats to victory when Republicans would likely have won in any other year. The Democratic margin of four hundred in straight-ticket voting in Harrison County is not likely to be repeated.

Many candidates lost through no fault or failing of their own, and certainly not from any shortcoming in campaigning. Others won in spite of lackluster campaigning and often shockingly dismal records in office.

The Democrats benefited greatly from a perfect storm. The wind isn't likely to be at their backs next time.

Looking Forward

There were many ads run in the election campaign. For the Democrats, I found their most effective ad by far to be one that ominously intoned, "George W. Bush and the Republicans control everything. Democrats have a better way." An effective message for the Democrats. They won, and this is no longer the case. The ad is itself a lesson for the future.

Having campaigned exclusively in opposition to the Bush administration and a Republican Congress that no longer exists, the Democrats must now actually come up with ideas. They must deliver. In Congress, they must work with the President and must accomplish things.

History has shown that the most dangerous time for a party newly in power in the House are its first two years (just as it is for House incumbents in general). Republicans gained House majorities in 1946 and 1952, only to lose them two years later because they could not get anything done. Democrats gained power in 1954, survived in 1956, and held on to power for forty years. Republicans won in 1994, survived in 1996, and held the majority for twelve years.

If the Democratic majority in the House is to be undone any time soon, it will be undone in 2008. The Republicans would have to regain sixteen seats. This is not as difficult as it sounds. There are seventeen seats gained by the Democrats this year that were carried in 2004 by George W. Bush by more than six points (see here), and many seats are so gerrymandered as to not be competitive to the other party save in wave years such as 2006. The so-called "scandal seats," like the Foley and DeLay seats, are heavily Republican and will likely revert in 2008.

The Republicans have their work cut out for them, if they wish to regain the majority. The Democrats, meanwhile, should learn lessons from the Republican Congress of 1946 (the infamous "Do Nothing Congress") that spent most of its time investigating "communist infiltration" of the Truman administration and trying to roll back the largely popular achievements of twelve years of prior Democratic Congresses. There is a lesson there for the Democrats today, for the Republicans were thrown out of power in 1948 in a landslide.

The Senate is an entirely different animal. In 2008, the Republicans must defend 21 seats, the Democrats only 12. They are protecting the gains of 2002, a high water year for the GOP. As it stands now, the Republicans are unlikely to gain even the one or two seats that they need to swing the Senate back in their favor here.

Within Indiana, the State Senate remains Republican for some time to come. It isn't competitive, but the House is. Even if Mitch Daniels were to lose in a bid for reelection, the narrow margin is such that Republicans could very well pick up control of the House anyway.

Speaking of the governor, Mitch Daniels has his work cut out for him. When they elected him, Hoosiers voted for change. Daniels has changed things, yet he now runs the risk of having only one term if he changes things too much.

The governor's situation is still quite strong. He has accomplished much, even if it was controversial, and will likely accomplish more. And those accomplishments will, by their very nature, be more bipartisan (and thus more popular with the broader electorate) by virtue of the outcome of the 2006 election.

Mitch Daniels' fate is not in the hands of Richard Young, or any Democratic challenger. His fate is in his own hands.

For the Republicans, there remains a dangerous political possibility. January will bring a speech from the president on a change in Iraq war policy. He has already rejected many of the suggestions of the Iraq Study Group. Another two years of the same, or the same with little more than cosmetic changes, with regard to the war will result in further political consequences. George W. Bush will never face the American people again, but virtually every Republican currently in office at every other level most likely will.

In 2007 and 2008, more of the same is not an option for George W. Bush. Simply staying the course is no longer an option. More of the same is also not an option for the Democrats. Complaining will no longer cut it.

Quote of the Day

“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’ How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”
- Abraham Lincoln