"Every aspect of our lives must be subjected to an inventory."
- Nancy Pelosi, to a group in China (where the government knows something about subjecting lives to an inventory)
Thursday, May 28, 2009
"Every aspect of our lives must be subjected to an inventory."
Not so much, according to Charles Krauthammer:
“If hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, then the flip-flops on previously denounced anti-terror measures are the homage that Barack Obama pays to George Bush. Within 125 days, Obama has adopted with only minor modifications huge swaths of the entire, allegedly lawless Bush program... The Bush policies in the war on terror won’t have to await vindication by historians. Obama is doing it day by day. His denials mean nothing. Look at his deeds.”
Jennifer Rubin adds:
Yes, it must be infuriating to realize the all-purpose bogeyman of the Left had these challenges and more or less got it “right.” So Obama must pout and fuss, try to stomp on the news cycle of his predecessor’s vice president and deny, deny, and deny. But we come back to reality: he is not abandoning Iraq or Afghanistan, has no stand-in for Guantanamo, and isn’t about to risk dismantling the anti-terror architecture that has kept us safe. So all he can do is give a peevish speech complaining that he inherited a “mess.” Well, the “mess” served us well and it’s seemingly going to continue on for sometime.
And Dick Cheney is making the case, and he's like no opponent Barack Obama has ever had to face before:
Mind you, [Cheney] is the man who, as vice president, responded to a comment about his policy positions being unpopular with "So?"
Dick Cheney isn't running for anything. He doesn't have to worry about approval ratings, or tailor his remarks to a focus group or polling demographics or anything. He essentially has nothing to lose, and this makes him very different from John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Alan Keyes, or any of the tomato cans Obama knocked over in the Democratic Senate primary. Also note that Obama is used to campaigning, but this isn't a campaign; there is no ballot between Obama and Cheney.
Events will offer their verdict on Obama's policy changes before the American people get their next chance to weigh in.
And Cheney's offensive is yielding concrete results according to Commentary:
Perspective comes sooner than you think: poll numbers for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are on the rise. Not all that surprising since for weeks people have been reminded of all the measures the Bush-Cheney administration employed to keep the country safe from attack after 9-11.
How things change: “Republicans have been able to drive the Washington agenda for the first time in months, and dent the top two Democrats’ armor, by hammering away on antiterror policy and keeping the debate squarely in the GOP comfort zone of national security. Some Republicans see in events of the past two weeks — the culmination of a carefully developed GOP strategy and missteps by Democrats — the beginning of a political comeback, and they plan to keep pressing the issue.” I don’t suppose we’ll hear too many more anonymous GOP consultants griping about Dick Cheney for awhile.
The AP grudgingly concedes that Cheney has got the best of the public debate with the president.
Geraghty puts Cheney's argument rather succinctly and pithily:
No Attacks on U.S. Soil For 2,689 Days. I Dare You to Do Better.
From the Courier-Journal:
The Harrison County Council voted 4-2 last night to give final approval to a proposed $15 million renovation of the former county hospital for government offices.
The vote -- which split along party lines -- paves the way for the massive construction project and partial demolition of the old hospital. The work could start as soon as this fall.
"The majority of people I've talked with are in favor of remodeling (the former hospital)," Councilman Bill Nichols said. "I'm voting for remodeling."
Nichols, along with fellow Democrats Leslie Robertson, Gordon Pendleton and Richard Gerdon, voted for the project. Republicans Jim Heitkemper and Ralph Sherman opposed it.
The action represents the culmination of months of discussions and meetings after the commissioners' decision last year to pull the vacated hospital off the market and have an Indianapolis-based architectural firm, RQAW Corp., explore converting it and two nearby doctors' office buildings for a government complex.
The project, which involves upgrading roughly 65,000 square feet of space, would be funded with a $9 million grant from the Harrison County Community Foundation.
The foundation would be allowed to get the same amount during the next year or so from the $8 million to $12 million in annual profit-sharing money that Horseshoe Casino pays directly to the county under a development agreement.
That's about $1,500 for every family living in Harrison County.
What a deal we got, building lavish new offices for public servants at a time that the public they are serving is struggling to get by. And we're not just building offices for current public servants, or the public servants we might have in ten years.
Heck no. We're building offices for public servants that it is estimated we might have in another twenty-five years. And who did the estimate that says we might need them? Why, the company (RQAW) that will make a hefty fee off of the building contracts, that's who.
RQAW has in the past, I am told, gotten a fee of about 7% on its work for Harrison County; that means that they stand to make over a million dollars on this project. No wonder they give so much in campaign contributions to certain county commissioners that advocated so strongly for RQAW's proposal.
RQAW and the commissioners pointed to many reasons for their proposal being a good idea.
They said it would be cheaper to build it now than at any other time; that's sort of like finding an item on sale in the store and buying it just because it's on sale, not because you really need it.
They said their study indicated that we needed it; not that there might be a slight conflict of interest involved in that. RQAW's last such study for the county in the late 1990s projected 20 years into the future. Now, barely halfway through the period covered by it, their study was so wrong that they are telling us that we need to rely on a new study by them to get them to build even more buildings for us. Why should we believe them this time when the last one was so wrong? The current study is supposed to predict 25 years into the future; sometime long before that, RQAW will be back with a new study saying that we need even more government buildings.
They said that the old hospital building was just sitting there; that's true, but it's also the triumph of the "don't just sit there, do something or spend some money" mentality. It could have been demolished, turned into a community college, or any number of other projects that would have returned the land to the property tax rolls and would not have burdened Harrison County taxpayers or the county's finances.
They said that the location was ideal; the location was so ideal that the hospital wanted desperately to relocate from it because the site sits on a steep hill that is difficult to access in rough weather in the winter. Sounds like just the place you want important county government buildings to be located.
They say that they want to favor local contractors as a way of stimulating the local economy; bidding laws mean that they'll have to go with the lowest bid, which could well not come from within the county itself. There is no guarantee that any local businesses will get any work out of the project at all, and the work is expected to employ between 20 and 50 people; hardly a great economic boost. But it's safe to say at least some of those contractors will have given campaign contributions to at least one of the commissioners before the whole thing is said and done.
They say that the scheme conjured up to pay for this leaves no real cost to the taxpayer; a feat of voodoo accounting worthy of Wall Street or Washington.
They want to get a loan from the Community Foundation (which cannot legally give loans, so they are calling it a "grant" and operating on the understanding that it will be repaid, which even prominent Democrats on the County Council admit makes it a loan no matter what the verbiage used calls it). In raiding the Foundation money, they want to make it appear that there is no cost. But in repaying the Foundation, the money will have to come from somewhere eventually, and that piper will have to be paid when the time comes.
Many of the assumptions underlying the project seem deeply flawed. It's also likely that the project will run--as so many projects undertaken of late in the county have--over budget (the new hospital was supposed to cost around $30 million; it ended up costing around $45), take longer than anticipated (see the new hospital), and face more difficulties than originally expected (see the new hospital).
The site has been decaying for several years (while the commissioners had the study done and declined, stifled, or killed other opportunities for the site, especially a community college initiative back in 2006) and there are probably numerous lingering and undetected problems that are going to be discovered, were not planned for, and are going to have to be overcome (at additional project cost, no less).
I fear that we've just bought a lemon, and a very big lemon at that, important questions about the project that should have been posed by members of the council were never even asked, and we certainly aren't making an expenditure that is a wise use of taxpayer dollars and county funds in a very difficult economic time.
Cap-and-trade is coming out of committee in the House, and Baron Hill has voted for it.
I'm sure his vote has nothing to do with cap-and-trade tax hikes being a signature issue for Obama, and Obama just being in Indy to help Baron raise money for his reelection bid.
Those advocating for the tax hike are quite pleased with Baron's position:
“Today, Rep. Baron Hill cast one of the most important votes of his career. In supporting the passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, he put America on the path to a clean energy economy that will create millions of jobs, reduce our dangerous addiction to foreign oil, and protect our planet from global warming. His constituents should be proud of their Representative and proud to have elected him.”
I wonder what most of Baron's constituents--who live in coal mine country, get their electricity from coal-fired power plants, and will see their electric bills skyrocket (up to $3,100 by one MIT estimate) thanks to Baron's vote--think of how Baron voted for "one of the most important votes of his career."
Federal tax revenue plunged $138 billion, or 34%, in April vs. a year ago — the biggest April drop since 1981, a study released Tuesday by the American Institute for Economic Research says.
Big revenue losses mean that the U.S. budget deficit may be larger than predicted this year and in future years.
Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence committee, has it right:
Hoekstra said he could not see a clear moral distinction between denying the due process of the American justice system to terrorist combatants on the one hand, and the administration's covert activities in Pakistan (which Hoekstra said he supports) on the other. In war, he said, it is acceptable to hold enemy combatants until hostilities are concluded, and if we're at war then that's what we ought to do. "If this isn't a war, then what are we doing assassinating people with no due process?" he asked. "Morally, where does that stand in comparison with waterboarding?"
The circle Obama is attempting to square with his rhetoric just doesn't hold up to simple reasoning.
Obama is willing to assassinate terrorists with air strikes from robot drones flying a mile or more up in the sky, inside other sovereign countries without the permission of their governments and often with collateral damage to the citizens of those countries.
Yet if those same terrorists were captured and we needed to get intelligence from them to keep American citizens alive, Obama would not allow anyone to trick the terrorists into believing that they are drowning in order to get them to talk.
If you have no problem conducting extralegal attacks on terrorists in foreign countries (and I don't), you should logically have no problem with pouring water over their heads to get them to reveal secrets that might save American lives.
He's a good trooper:
Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said Monday that Pelosi may be forced to resign if her claims are proven untrue.
"Either the CIA needs to be held accountable for their performance during this time, or the speaker needs to be held accountable and be responsible for the actions and the statements that she made last week," Hoekstra said.
But Rep. Baron Hill, D-Indiana, said Republicans are trying to divert attention from the question of torture by attacking Pelosi.
"I think a lot of people have lost focus on the people who put those torture policies in place in the first place," Hill said. "Nancy didn't do anything wrong, in terms of the legalities, that I'm aware of. I don't know what she was told."
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Telling throw-away line at the end of this article by National Journal:
This isn't to say that Obama's all about sticks and no carrots. Just last weekend, while in Indiana for the Notre Dame commencement speech, he also made a lower-profile fundraising appearance for some Democratic congressmen. Three of the four -- Joe Donnelly, Brad Ellsworth, and Baron Hill -- sit in swing districts. But all have ultimately supported his fiscal policies, including stimulus funding and the budget. The message he sent with this fundraiser was clear: If you stick with me, I'll stand by you.
I think that what Obama bought with that fundraiser will rapidly become apparent as the time comes for the primary creator of that fundraiser, Baron Hill, to vote on cap-and-trade carbon taxes.
"All of the legal defense funds out there-- they're looking for people with court of appeals experience. Because court of appeals is where policy is made. And I know, I know this is on tape and I should never say that because we don't make law. [Laughs] I know. I know. [Laughter] I'm not promoting it, I'm not advocating it, I'm...y'know."
Check out that hand wave at the end. She walks it back, sure, but there's no question what she believes. She thinks she gets to make policy and she knows that she's not supposed to say that out loud. This is what Obama is looking for on the bench.
Yessir, it's going to be very interesting to see when the time comes where Evan Bayh stands on all of this.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
I've returned from a much-needed vacation.
And following on the heels of my experiment with live-tweeting my vacation via Twitter, I'm going to live-tweet tonight's Harrison County Council meeting. It starts at 7 pm.
The main topic will be whether to spend $15 million to renovate a hospital to create offices for future generations of county bureaucrats, and enrich, err, stimulate the business of some of the contributors to several of the county commissioners.
Follow along here.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Several Presidents of the United States have given commencement addresses at Notre Dame. In recent years, all of them have been pro-life (Bush and Reagan). Until now.
But the question I would like to see answered is a simple one.
How many protesters were arrested when Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush came to speak?
We've already seen twenty-one individuals arrested at Notre Dame before Obama's visit:
Former Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes, a Roman Catholic priest and 19 others were arrested yesterday after they marched onto the University of Notre Dame campus to protest President Barack Obama's commencement speech tomorrow.
"Notre Dame is arresting a priest," the Rev. Norman Weslin, founder of the Lambs of Christ abortion-protest group, said as Notre Dame security personnel put plastic restraints on his wrists. "Why are you arresting a priest for trying to stop the killing of a baby? You've got it all backward."
Weslin, 78, who has been arrested dozens of times at abortion-clinic blockades, was carried off on a stretcher. He and two others were charged with resisting law enforcement.
All 21 arrested were charged with trespassing. Keyes and five others were ordered held in the St. Joseph County Jail until Monday because it was their second time being arrested on a charge of trespassing at Notre Dame, said Sgt. Bill Redman, St. Joseph County Police Department spokesman. Bond was set at $250 for the others.
None of those arrested were students.
The arrests marked the third consecutive Friday that people were arrested as they protested the school's decision to give Obama, who supports abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research, an honorary degree and have him address graduates.
St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Michael Scopelitis issued an order Thursday changing how bond is set for a person charged with a crime while already out on bond on a pending charge.
Previously, such a person could have been released under a presumptive bond schedule. Now they must await a probable cause hearing, Scopelitis said.
The judge said county judges already were considering the change because of people being arrested multiple times and being released without appearing before a judge.
The fact there could be numerous arrests this weekend surrounding Notre Dame's commencement brought the issue "into focus," Scopelitis said.
Brought the issue into focus my rear end.
I somehow think that folks that protested Bush and Reagan weren't given the same sort of treatment that folks that are protesting Obama are getting. Certainly not from the Democrat-dominated power structure in St. Joseph County and South Bend.
It seems that when liberals protest it is a demonstration of free speech. When conservatives and pro-life individuals do it, they get arrested for trespassing and get thrown in jail.
Even at Notre Dame.
Side note: You can read Ronald Reagan's commencement remarks to Notre Dame here, via Power Line.
Or at least that's what Obama thinks:
President Barack Obama reached across the political divide Saturday and named Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a possible GOP White House contender and top John McCain supporter, to the sensitive diplomatic post of U.S. ambassador to China.
Fluent in Mandarin Chinese from his days as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan, the 49-year-old Huntsman is a popular two-term governor who served in both Bush administrations and was national co-chairman of Arizona Sen. McCain's campaign against Obama last year. Huntsman has made a name for himself advocating a moderate agenda in one of the nation's most conservative states.
Ace believes that Huntsman's appointment is actually a clever ploy by the Utah Governor to gain foreign policy credentials in preparation for a 2012 campaign. I would say that, generally, foreign policy cred in a presidential candidate won't be coming from implementing your opponent's foreign policy.
One of Ace's posters also notes this quote from Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, a few weeks back:
"I think the one person in that party who might be a potential presidential candidate is Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah."
Marc Ambinder, meanwhile, gushes about the appointment (as Ambinder tends to do in nauseating fashion with anything involving Obama):
It is a bit of a masterstroke. Huntsman was not yet in a "frontrunner" position for the 2012 nomination, but he would have certainly hastened an intra-party conflict that needs to happen in order for the GOP to recover. Now, a fairly orthodox 2012 Republican presidential primary is inevitable unless someone else drops in. The back story to this will be fascinating... Huntsman's political team is astonished.... as many in the White House are pleasantly surprised.
There are a couple of Republicans that occupy the same space on the political spectrum as Huntsman. Those would be individuals like Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani or even Charlie Crist. I would put Mitch Daniels (a fiscal conservative--with some exceptions--and a social moderate) in that same space.
And, while I've personally recently pooh-poohed Mitch's chances, his odds become better (assuming he wants to run) with Huntsman exiled to China. And Mitch continues to take a higher national profile (see his Wall Street Journal op-ed this week against cap-and-trade legislation), gaining the stature needed for a campaign. He has also gotten some beltway pundit buzz of late.
Huntsman's loss is very much Mitch's gain, should Mitch actually have White House aspirations.
In Friday's Wall Street Journal:
Indiana Says 'No Thanks' to Cap and Trade
No honest person thinks this will make a dent in climate change.
This week Congress is set to release the details of the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act, a bill that purports to combat global warming by setting strict limits on carbon emissions. I'm not a candidate for any office -- now or ever again -- and I've approached the "climate change" debate with an open-mind. But it's clear to me that the nation, and in particular Indiana, my home state, will be terribly disserved by this cap-and-trade policy on the verge of passage in the House.
The largest scientific and economic questions are being addressed by others, so I will confine myself to reporting about how all this looks from the receiving end of the taxes, restrictions and mandates Congress is now proposing.
Quite simply, it looks like imperialism. This bill would impose enormous taxes and restrictions on free commerce by wealthy but faltering powers -- California, Massachusetts and New York -- seeking to exploit politically weaker colonies in order to prop up their own decaying economies. Because proceeds from their new taxes, levied mostly on us, will be spent on their social programs while negatively impacting our economy, we Hoosiers decline to submit meekly.
The Waxman-Markey legislation would more than double electricity bills in Indiana. Years of reform in taxation, regulation and infrastructure-building would be largely erased at a stroke. In recent years, Indiana has led the nation in capturing international investment, repatriating dollars spent on foreign goods or oil and employing Americans with them. Waxman-Markey seems designed to reverse that flow. "Closed: Gone to China" signs would cover Indiana's stores and factories.
Our state's share of national income has been slipping for decades, but it is offset in part by living costs some 8% lower than the national average. Doubled utility bills for low-income Hoosiers would be an especially cruel consequence of the Waxman bill. Forgive us for not being impressed at danglings of welfare-like repayments to some of those still employed, with some fraction of the dollars extracted from our state.
And for what? No honest estimate pretends to suggest that a U.S. cap-and-trade regime will move the world's thermometer by so much as a tenth of a degree a half century from now. My fellow citizens are being ordered to accept impoverishment for a policy that won't save a single polar bear.
We are told that although China, India and others show no signs of joining in this dismal process, we will eventually induce their participation by "setting an example." Watching the impending indigence of the Midwest, and the flow of jobs from our shores to theirs, our friends in Asia and the Third World are far more likely to choose any other path but ours.
Politicians in Washington speak of a reawakened appreciation for manufacturing and American competitiveness. But under their policy, those who make real products will suffer. Already we observe the piranha swarm of green lobbyists wangling special exemptions, subsidies and side deals. The ordinary Hoosier was not invited to this party, and can expect at most only table scraps at the service entrance.
No one in Indiana is arguing for the status quo: Hoosiers have been eager to pursue a new energy future. We rocketed from nowhere to national leadership in biofuels production in the last four years. We were the No. 1 state in the growth of wind power in 2008. And we have embarked on an aggressive energy-conservation program, indubitably the most cost-effective means of limiting CO2.
Most importantly, we are out to be the world leader in making clean coal -- including the potential for carbon capture and sequestration. The world's first commercial-scale clean coal power plant is under construction in our state, and the first modern coal-to-natural gas plant is coming right behind it. We eagerly accept the responsibility to develop alternatives to the punitive, inequitable taxation of cap and trade.
Our president has commendably committed himself to "government that works." But his imperial climate-change policy is government that cannot work, and we humble colonials out here in the provinces have no choice but to petition for relief from the Crown's impositions.
I don't always agree with him, but when Mitch Daniels is right, he's right.
And he's right--and very well-spoken as well--in his opposition to cap-and-trade.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Newt says it all:
America, meet the Uighurs.
Seventeen of the 241 terrorist detainees currently being held at Guantanamo Bay are Chinese Muslims known as Uighurs. These Uighurs have been allied with and trained by al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups. The goal of the Uighurs is to establish a separate sharia state.
As part of their ongoing effort to close Guantanamo Bay, the Obama administration has had to figure out what to do with the Uighurs. Officials believe that if they’re sent back to China they will be persecuted, and no third country will take them.
So the Obama administration has decided to set the Uighurs loose in America. Most likely, the lucky community that will soon be hosting the Uighurs is a neighborhood near you: Fairfax Country Virginia, where there is already a sizable (non-terrorist) Uighur community.
But the Obama administration’s plan for the Uighurs doesn’t stop there. At Guantanamo Bay, the Uighurs are known for picking up television sets on which women with bared arms appear and hurling them across the room.
Perhaps understandably, the Obama administration believes the Uighurs will need help getting adjusted to northern Virginia society, in which women with bared arms have been known to appear.
So last month Obama Administration Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair indicated that terrorist detainees released into the United States would receive public assistance. “You can’t just put them on the street,” he said.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
I wish he'd vetoed this bad legislation like he vetoed the bad vote center legislation.
I've already said at considerable length why I thought this was a very bad idea, so I won't rehash that here.
The story from the Courier-Journal:
INDIANAPOLIS -- Gov. Mitch Daniels signed legislation yesterday that proponents hope will ultimately fix Indiana's bankrupt unemployment-insurance fund.
The bill passed by the General Assembly last month will raise unemployment taxes on employers but will not cut benefit payments. Proponents say it also will close loopholes in the system and make other changes to save money.
Daniels said earlier that the bill had flaws, including the fact that it won't reduce benefit-payment levels. He said raising employer taxes and reducing benefits would have been a balanced approach to shoring up a fund that has been paying out hundreds of millions of dollars more than it has been collecting in employer taxes.
"It doesn't fix the problem, but it's some progress and it begins to make a few reforms I think will be helpful," Daniels said on April 30, the day after the regular session adjourned.
Business groups, including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Manufacturers Association, have said the higher taxes would hurt employers and could cost jobs. They said businesses should not have to bear the brunt of a fix, and wanted lawmakers to tighten eligibility rules.
"We essentially ended up with taxes only," said Patrick Kiely, president of the Manufacturers Association. "There absolutely will be job losses."
The legislation that the Governor just signed will punish businesses that are struggling to stay alive. Businesses that had to cut their payrolls just to stay afloat.
One such business in Corydon, the home of your humble correspondent, just laid off 140 good people.
Citing the continuing struggles of General Motors Corp., a Corydon parts manufacturer said this week that it is permanently laying off 140 workers.
Icon Metal Forming LLC, at 2190 Landmark Avenue, notified the Indiana Department of Workforce Development on Monday that the company began the job cuts last week and expected to complete them by Wednesday.
The cuts affect about 80 employees represented by United Auto Workers Local 2289, as well as nonunion hourly and salaried employees.Executives at the plant did not return calls yesterday seeking comment.
Icon's parent company, Martinrea International Inc. of Toronto, Canada, bought the 215,000-square-foot factory from Oxford Automotive Inc. in early 2005 after Oxford filed for bankruptcy. The work force then was 370, and 2006 sales were forecast to exceed $50 million.
The latest cutbacks mean the Corydon area is losing its connection to the auto-parts industry. The larger of the area's two suppliers -- Tower Automotive, which assembled and painted sport utility vehicle frames for Ford Motor Co. in Louisville -- shut down nearly four years ago, idling nearly 800 workers.
Harrison County Commissioner James Goldman said he had not heard about Icon's layoffs, but "given the economy, I'm not surprised. I think it's regrettable. Anytime you have job losses, it affects a lot of people. I hope we see a turnaround soon."
Thanks to Mitch Daniels' new tax increase, how much harder is it going to be for this struggling business to stave off further layoffs or even keep from closing completely?
A new study ranks various sorts of freedom (economic, personal, etc) in each of the fifty states.
Indiana is described thus:
Indiana is one of the rare outposts of freedom in the northeastern quadrant of the country (#16 economic, #19 personal). Indiana is scored a bit oddly on government spending in 2006 because of a large highway privatization that was counted as a deduction from spending on our second measure. We doubt, however, that state spending declined in 2007 and 2008 after that revenue windfall passed, and thus we expect the state to decline a bit on fiscal freedom in our next index. Taxes are a little higher than average, with property taxes particularly standing out. We understand that the state government is attempting to remedy the effects of a property tax reform that hiked taxes substantially. Indiana has deregulated natural gas, telecom, and cable. The state has managed to construct a relatively humane marijuana sentencing regime, although decriminalization would be even better. Indiana has possibly the best education laws in the country, with very light regulation of home and private schools. The asset forfeiture regime is one of the most draconian in the country: The burden of proof is on the government, but they only have to prove that the property was used in a crime, not whether the owner knew or could have known about the crime. Indiana has very little campaign finance regulation, except for corporate contributions. There are smoking bans across the board, but they all have meaningful exceptions.
Our rankings in the various categories:
Overall - #13
Regulatory - #5
Fiscal - #24
Personal - #19
Economic - #16
Good News: Democrats to Tax Tobacco, Beer, Candy, Junk Food, Health Savings Accounts, & Health Care Benefits to Fund Government-Run Health Care
If you make big bucks — or enjoy alcohol, cigarettes and Coke — the government might hit you up to pay for fixing the nation’s health care system.
On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee peeked into vending machines and liquor stores, company payrolls and health savings accounts, looking for a mix of tax increases and spending cuts as a way to pay for a health overhaul — which could cost more than $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
Experts thought the big debate might be public plan vs. no public plan. But that may well pale in comparison to the difficulty of settling on a way to finance health care reform.
“I wish there were a number of painless options,” Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote in his prepared testimony. “There aren’t.”
There appeared to be a bubble of support among the experts for taxing bad behavior, including a $2 tax on a pack of cigarettes and a higher excise tax on alcohol.
But soda and sugary drinks found a friend Tuesday in Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member on the Finance Committee.
He categorically rejected the idea during a conference call with reporters.
Still, it’s easy to see why the bad-habits tax was so tempting: Taxing tobacco, junk foods and alcohol could raise $600 billion over 10 years.
Lots of other options will also get a look.
People who like the tax-free status of their company health benefits could be asked to ante up. Money in the pot: more than $700 billion over 10 years.
Treasure the tax benefits from your health savings account? Some experts say the accounts encourage “excess consumption” of health services — and committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) agreed they’re worth a look. Money in the pot: $60 billion over 10 years.
Baucus gave one of the clearest signals yet that limiting the tax-free status on employer-based insurance remains a serious option. Obama opposed it during the campaign and repeatedly went after Republican John McCain for making it the centerpiece of his health care plan. Labor unions are also against it.
Yet the idea is attractive because of the money it could generate: $250 billion annually if the deduction was lifted altogether. Baucus insisted a full repeal was not under consideration, but he said lawmakers must look at the deduction.
This Congress has already raised taxes on tobacco once already (Baron voted for it). Now they are looking at doing it again.
Plus raising new taxes on things like junk food (Baron Hill has said in the past that he supports taxes on beer and fast food), and taxing your health care benefits (something Obama ran negative smear ads in Indiana accusing John McCain of wanting to do, but now wants to do himself).
If he were to follow his own advice, that is...
You can take that road - and it may work for some of you. But at this difficult time, let me suggest that such an approach won't get you where you want to go; that in fact, the elevation of appearance over substance, celebrity over character, short-term gain over lasting achievement is precisely what your generation needs to help end.
From the Campaign Spot:
I keep hearing people talk about the deficit that Obama inherited, but it's nonsense. The accumulated deficit for the past three months amounts to 89 percent of the entire total for the last fiscal year. This includes April of this year, which is the month the government collects all those income-tax checks.
Even better, Obama's deficits are getting so big that the United States government is in danger for the first time of losing its top-line bond rating, which means that interest on the debt will go sky-high.
From Shella comes news of a clash of titans:
Republican Governor Mitch Daniels vetoed the bill to allow for more vote centers today. This is his veto message:“While this bill contains provisions that would make the act of voting more convenient, it does not contain sufficient safeguards against fraud and abuse and removes long-standing bipartisan checks and balances in the conduct of elections.”
Republican Secretary of State Todd Rokita upset. Here’s the statement he issued:“How ironic it is that the one local government reform that actually passes the legislature ends up getting vetoed. Vote Centers is perhaps the only local government reform that so far has been proven unequivocally to save taxpayers money. I would expect, given the serious fiscal condition of the state, that the concept is important enough to find its way into the budget bill so that all 92 counties be given the opportunity to realize the unquestionable taxpayer benefits and savings.”
I'm glad the Governor vetoed the legislation.
The problem with the legislation isn't that vote centers are bad. Far from it.
The problem with the legislation is that they rely upon the county election board make decisions about them.
The legislation about vote centers suffers from being tied to a much worse problem that nobody ever wants to address.
Indiana's laws for county election boards are flawed.
A county election board has three members: someone appointed by the Republican county chairman, someone appointed by the Democratic county chairman, and the county clerk. Because the county clerk got elected and is therefore almost always a member of one of the two parties, this means that one of the parties always has a majority on the election board.
The other party is, with the exception of certain measures requiring unanimous votes, essentially shut out. To even hold a meeting of the election board to look at an issue or a complaint requires two of the three members of the election board to be in agreement, which means that the minority party has few options available to it if the majority party decides that it wants to ride roughshod over them.
Compare the county election boards (with their three members, two from a given party) to the state election commission (with its four members, two from each party) and you see the difference clearly. A majority vote of the latter body is by definition bipartisan. If county election boards were structured like the state election commission, unanimity need not be required for vote centers to be implemented.
Anyway, if the Democrats in Lake County hadn't trampled all over the implementation of vote centers in that county to gain unfair partisan advantage in 2008, I think that Republicans like Mitch Daniels could perhaps be more trusting of allowing vote centers to be implemented more broadly and less stringently in other counties across the state in future years. Until then, no dice.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
From Pete Seat:
The Democratic National Committee released a cute little video this week mocking the Sunday show line-up of Republicans: Cheney, Gingrich and McCain. Democrats ask: Is this 1996 or 2009? See the video here.
The basic premise is lame considering Dick Cheney wasn’t even a public servant in 1996.
But the larger point is the Democrats of 2009 bear a striking resemblance to the Democrats of the mid-90s themselves.
Joe Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee (now VP), Hillary Clinton was first lady (now SecState), Rahm Emanuel was senior advisor to Bill Clinton (now Chief of Staff to Obama), Larry Summers was Secretary of Treasury (now Obama’s Director of NEC), Eric Holder was Deputy Attorney General (now Attorney General), Carol Browner was head of EPA (now Obama’s energy czar), and my favorite - Rob Klain was Chief of Staff to Vice President Al Gore (now he’s…wait for it…Chief of Staff to Vice President Joe Biden).
It’s the third part of the Clinton administration trilogy and you know what they say about the second and third installment…never as good as the original.
Hope and change...
As if campaigning for Specter in 2004, Chafee in 2006, and various others didn't convince them, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has decided--in its infinite wisdom--that Republican primary voters in Florida can't be trusted to pick the best candidate for that state's senate seat.
Washington should be trusted to pick the candidate for them.
So the NRSC is endorsing Florida's GOP Governor Charlie Crist for the seat currently held by Republican Mel Martinez (who is not seeking reelection in 2010). Crist--who just announced he is running a few days ago--is very much a moderate, and is facing a primary challenge from Florida's conservative House speaker.
Now, Charlie Crist may well be no Arlen Specter or Lincoln Chafee, though he's been plenty cozy with Obama lately. But that doesn't mean that meddling in primaries is a good idea. More often than not, when party committees (national or otherwise) get involved in local primaries, they get burned. It's better to have a fair and healthy process that leaves no one embittered or upset at how they were treated, even if they didn't like the outcome.
John Cornyn (who runs the NRSC) obviously hasn't learned that lesson yet; hopefully it won't take the GOP losing that Senate seat in Florida to teach it to him.
Geraghty puts it well:
I would only add the question, how many Republicans have ever said, "Thank goodness the NRSC intervened in that primary"?
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats on Tuesday stopped a Republican plan to force a campaign finance inquiry that likely would have investigated several influential Democrats. It was the eighth time since late February that the Republican move was halted.
One of the biggest recipients has been the chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee, Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania.
The vote was 215-182 to stop consideration of a GOP resolution to initiate a House ethics committee inquiry. It called for an investigation into campaign contributions to House lawmakers by recipients of pet project money and their lobbyists.
Democratic leaders spoke to some of their newer members privately last month, to stop them from voting for the Republican initiative. Tuesday's vote showed they made little headway.
Twenty-nine Democrats voted with the Republicans on Tuesday in an unsuccessful effort to keep the GOP initiative alive and allow the investigation to begin. The first time the resolution was considered, in late February, 17 Democrats supported it.
The ethics committee doesn't need a House resolution to start an investigation. The committee usually operates in secret in the early stages, so it could be looking at the donations. However, some of the members who could face an investigation have said they have not been contacted.
The Republican resolution focused on a lobbying firm, PMA, which was raided by the FBI last year. The company's political action committee records were carted off, along with files of some of its lobbyists.
In 2007 and 2008, Murtha, Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va. and Rep. Peter Visclosky. D-Ind., directed $137 million to defense contractors who were paying PMA to get them government business.
At the same time, the three lawmakers received huge amounts of political donations from PMA lobbyists and their clients. Murtha has collected $2.37 million from PMA's lobbyists and the companies it has represented since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money. Visclosky has collected $1.36 million; Moran, $997,348.
In the heady days after the Republican victory in 2004, House Republicans found it easy to ram through partisan measures to kill ethics probes into shady doings by members of their own party. It was a mistake.
Now, the Democrats are trying the same strategy; they will probably find it no more effective at hiding the rot in their own ranks.
The roll call of the vote is available here. For what it's worth, Baron Hill was one of the twenty-nine Democrats that crossed party lines to vote for the inquiry. But then, so was Pete Visclosky (who would be a likely target of the probe), so take that for what it's worth.
Monday, May 11, 2009
According to this handy little chart, nothing:
Below, see in blue Obama's own projections of unemployment -- what he predicted unemployment would be with the Spendulous, and the higher unemployment he predicted we'd have without the Spendulous.
[The only thing added to the chart] was the red triangles indicating real-world unemployment rates in March and April.
That's right -- the unemployment numbers track exactly with Obama's prediction of what would happen without his Spendulus.
So what has the Spendulus accomplished? According to Obama's own predictions, nothing.
Isn't that a comforting thought?
All of that spending (which we needed to hurry up and pass so that it wouldn't be spent anyway) has accomplished nothing.
But all things just keep getting better.
The budget deficit will be a whopping 50% bigger this year than originally anticipated.
National Review provides perspective:
The White House raised the 2009 budget deficit projection to a staggering $1.8 trillion today. For context, it took President Bush more than seven years to accumulate $1.8 trillion in debt. It also means that 45 cents of every dollar Washington spends this year will be borrowed.
President Obama continues to distance himself from this "inherited" budget deficit. But the day he was inaugurated, the 2009 deficit was forecast at $1.2 trillion — meaning $600 billion has already been added during his four-month presidency (an amount that, by itself, would exceed all 2001-07 annual budget deficits). And should the president really be allowed to distance himself from the $1.2 trillion "inherited" portion of the deficit, given that as a senator he supported nearly all policies and bailouts that created it?
The president also talks of cutting the deficit in half from this bloated level. But even after the recession ends and the troops return home, he'd still run $1 trillion deficits — compared to President Bush's $162 billion pre-recession deficit. In other words, the structural budget deficit (which excludes the impacts of booms/recessions) would more than quintuple.
Polls suggest the public tolerates these large deficits because they erroneously believe them to be temporary. Conservatives need to emphasize that the president's agenda would use a temporary recession to create a permanent restructuring of Washington, with historic tax increases and permanent budget deficits to follow.
But in order to regain their budget credibility, conservative lawmakers must first take responsibility for the runaway spending that created the Bush deficits. Then they should ask the electorate not to register their anger at $200-$300 billion GOP budget deficits by letting President Obama run $1-$2 trillion deficits.
It really is true what they say. You can't outspend a Democrat.
And Lord knows George W. Bush and six years of Republican Congresses tried hard.
But Barack Obama has outdone in four months what they couldn't do in those six years.
The GOP has work to do to regain its fiscal conservative cred, tis true. What probably wouldn't take much work is to convince the American people that they would spend less money than Obama and the Democrats; that seems very self evident at this point.
He's almost as gaffe-prone as Joe Biden.
He picked a needless and counterproductive fight with Rush Limbaugh.
He sat quietly and nodded while Republican voters were compared to Nazis.
He lost the special election in NY 20.
He seems to have no knack for energizing the base.
He says that abortion is an individual right.
And now he says that Mitt Romney lost the Republican primary in 2004 because Republican primary voters are bigots that didn't want to vote for a Mormon (there were plenty of reasons in that primary to oppose Mitt Romney; Mormonism was never one of them).
Enough is enough.
Michael Steele should resign and we should get a real chairman.
I nominate Norm Coleman; he's very well-spoken, is conservative, is a great fundraiser and organizer, has great relations with the base (thank you, Al Franken), and almost certainly is not going to be busy.
Two recent examples.
In light of President Obama’s returning home empty-handed after pleading with our European allies to boost their troop commitments to Afghanistan, it’s heartening to see that Poland has announced plans to increase its troop presence in the country by 20%. This is no small thing, considering that the primary threat to Poland is a revanchist Russia and that the diversion of troops and military material anywhere out of the country reduces its defenses against the expansionist power to its east. Poland has been one of America’s most steadfast allies since 9/11, a strong coalition partner in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a bedrock of NATO. It’s long past time that this nascent democracy got the respect it deserves.
Though he was much derided for it at the time, Donald Rumsfeld was onto something when, in response to complaints that “Europe” opposed the American-led war against Saddam Hussein’s regime, he spoke of people’s tendency to conflate the entire European continent with what was really just “Old Europe,” and even more specifically, was just France and Germany. The rest of the continent, he said, in particular the once-”captive nations” of the Cold War, are far more pro-American in their attitudes. What might have sounded provincial and simplistic six years ago to some, was in fact quite prescient.
And from the President of the United States himself:
Speaking to students during a town hall meeting in Turkey, President Obama used an interesting analogy to make the case that turning U.S. policy in a new direction would take time.
"States are like big tankers,” he said, “They're not like speedboats. You can't just whip them around and go in another direction.”
If that sounds familiar, it might be because you’ve heard it before — from Don Rumsfeld.
Testifying before Congress in 2001, Rumsfeld explained why turning the U.S. Department of Defense in a new direction would take time. “Change is difficult,” he said. “Changing the Defense Department is like turning a great aircraft carrier — it does not turn on a dime.” And in a Pentagon town hall meeting around the same time he said much the same thing: “You’re dealing with a great, big institution, and change is hard. It’s like turning a battleship. You don’t spin it like a speedboat.”
Doubtful the president realized he was channeling Don Rumsfeld.
Of course, I'm sure that--since Obama is so smart and all--that Obama wasn't channeling Rumsfeld, but rather Rumsfeld was channeling Obama.
Just while Obama was still in the Illinois state legislature.
From The Corner:
Re: Presidential Respect [Steve Hayward]
Well, Jay, you'll be happy to know there was one president who didn't campaign for Specter. I'm sure you can guess. He's the guy who wrote in his diaries, after Specter voted (along with GOP lib Mac Mathias) against a certain nominee for the Justice Department: "Well, there are two senators I won't have to help campaign." (The nominee was Brad Reynolds, nixed for the number three spot at Justice in 1985.)
And in 1987, after Specter's vote against Bork in 1987, Reagan wrote: "Sen. Specter has 2 candidates for Fed. judgeships — after his performance I'll not reward him for his no vote on Bork."
Specter's most preposterous claim is that he was a "Reagan Republican." He usually sided with the Democrats in blocking key initiatives, and not just appointees. Reagan notes this in his diary several places.
Arlen Specter has never been much of a Republican. He wasn't even a Reagan Republican. He's just a cynical and calculating opportunist devoid of any conviction whatsoever.
Hilarious: Obama Roars with Laughter as Political Opponent Called 20th Hijacker, Wished Dead, Accused of Treason, & Said to Need “Good Waterboarding”
Forgive me, I forgot to laugh.
From the Daily Telegraph (which will report on this, because nobody in the American media has an objective bone left in their supine bodies):
What was Wanda Sykes thinking? Perhaps more to the point, what was President Barack Obama thinking when he laughed and smiled as the comedienne wished Rush Limbaugh dead?
Although the Left is reporting her White House Correspondents' Dinner speech as "taking shots" at Limbaugh and mocking everyone, that's a gross misrepresentation of what turned into a hateful and disgusting diatribe.
I was at the dinner and I began by laughing at Sykes's gentle teases about the press loving Obama so much they never capture him on film smoking but often seem to get him on the beach.
It was amusing when she quipped that Obama trying so hard to be all things to all men that the next thing is he'll be seen mowing the White House lawn.
But the speech took a very ugly turn when she laid into Limbaugh.
This is what she said: "Rush Limbaugh said he hopes this administration fails, so you're saying, 'I hope America fails', you're, like, 'I dont care about people losing their homes, their jobs, our soldiers in Iraq'. He just wants the country to fail. To me, that's treason.
"He's not saying anything differently than what Osama bin Laden is saying. You know, you might want to look into this, sir, because I think Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker. But he was just so strung out on OxyContin he missed his flight."
She then concluded: "Rush Limbaugh, I hope the country fails, I hope his kidneys fail, how about that? He needs a good waterboarding, that's what he needs." Obama seemed to think this bit was pretty hilarious, grinning and chuckling and turning to share the "joke" with the person sitting on his right.
There's not much room for differing interpretations of what Sykes said. She called Limbaugh a terrorist and a traitor, suggested that he be tortured and wished him dead.
What was his crime? Hoping that Obama's policies - which he views as socialist - will fail.
That's way, way beyond reasoned debate or comedy and Obama's reaction to it was astonishing.
Imagine if a comedian "joked" that Obama was a terrorist who was guilty of treason and should be tortured and allowed to die. There would justifiably be an outcry.
But when the "joke" comes from a liberal, Obama-supporting comedienne and the target is a right-winger then the likes of Hilary Rosen and Donna Brazile are on CNN saying it's just comedy and Limbaugh is "fair game".
And Obama laughing when someone wishes Limbaugh dead? Hard to take from the man who promised a new era of civility and elevated debate in Washington.
Jim Treacher puts it well:
Nothing better than smug lefties saying I have no sense of humor over a joke they’d be SCREECHING about if it targeted one of their own.
And then there were the jokes about Sarah Palin:
“Gov. Palin, she’s not here tonight, she pulled out at the last minute. Somebody should tell her, that’s not really how you practice abstinence.”
Firedoglake thinks (hopes?) so:
Bayh's popularity continues to be strong in Indiana,. With a 74% approval rating and an $11 million war chest (much of it left over from his Presidential bid) the Republicans probably won't try to field anyone against him in 2010.
But Obama's Indiana victory indicates that Bayh and the state may moving in the opposite political direction. And I'll just note that although it's anecdotal, the kind of persistent local progressive discontent coming out of Indiana about Bayh is the kind of thing we look for when we're assessing whether a candidate would be vulnerable to a primary challenge.
Joe Lieberman had a 68% approval rating in Connecticut in August 2005. Obviously, that didn't tell the whole story.
I wouldn't say that Republicans aren't going to field anyone against Bayh (and Bayh is sure behaving as if he's in trouble; hiring campaign consultants, leaking polls, raising money, changing his political tune whichever way the wind blows).
Of the contenders, Dan Dumezich can raise a lot of money (he raised $2.4 million for Mitch Daniels in a week), Marlin Stutzman is a determined campaigner, and there are talk of other candidates (two of which are potentially self-financing).
But back to this delicious notion of Evan Bayh switching parties. It comes out of a rather unsubstantiated (or daydreaming) column by Ryan Nees (who has never liked Evan Bayh anyway). Woe is the Republican Party, says Nees! It's fallen so far and become so conservative and so reactionary that only an invertebrate squish like Evan Bayh could hope to ever find a home there.
It's probably a bit too much to expect Evan Bayh to switch parties, and there's a simple reason for that. Evan Bayh is the Indiana Democratic Party, and he'll never have that sort of power and authority here in Indiana if he were to switch in Washington.
Then again, I'll grant you that Evan Bayh doesn't spend much time back here in Indiana (with the exception of his stint in statewide office he has always lived inside the Beltway and claimed residency in Indiana via a post office box).
But we lowly Hoosiers are expected to do our part every six years and continue to send him back to Washington so that he can hope to grow up and become vice president or president someday.
It's a bit much for us to hope to be represented by an actual senator; we should know better by now than to expect that from Evan Bayh.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Frugal Hoosiers asks the question about 2012: "What should Sarah Palin do?"
I'm sure that their preferred answer has absolutely nothing to do with the poll present on their sidebar: "Should Mitch Daniels run for President?" They seem to have a decided opinion about the answer to that, and have been blogging it a lot lately.
Alas, Mitch Daniels will probably not be much of a candidate for President, should he even run. Superficially, he has a comb-over. More substantively, he'll have a hard time getting out of a Republican Primary after he raises business taxes by 150%.
Unlike some Republicans, I won't take Mitch Daniels at his word when he says he never intends to run for office again. Daniels is a savvy politician, and one of the most important things about running for office is that people have to want you to have the office more than you yourself want to have it.
Or at least it has to appear that way. You saw this in the Mitch operation in 2004, and I have no doubt that you'd see a similar astroturfing effort as a prelude to any Mitch for President campaign. Tell that to Mitt Romney in 2008, who wanted it far more than people wanted him. Then you have Fred Thompson at the far opposite extreme, whose supporters wanted him to have something that he apparently didn't want to have at all.
The Democrats, as a party, have developed a vicious policy of preemptively smearing any candidate that they view to be a threat in 2012. They have not ceased their attacks on Sarah Palin, and they wasted no time in tearing into Bobby Jindal when he gave the GOP response to Obama's first speech to Congress.
Now, part of those criticisms are deserved. Sarah Palin has given her opponents no shortage of ammunition. Bobby Jindal's delivery of that GOP response message was clearly lackluster. And there's a certain over-thinking involved in the assumption by some Republicans that, just because the Democrats attack a Republican that they fear a campaign by that Republican. Sometimes they attack just because they are given the opening. Other times, they deliberately dig in order to damage someone they view to be a genuine threat.
But I think it's safe to say that if Democrats genuinely believed that Mitch Daniels intended to run in 2012, or (just as importantly) they feared he would have a chance if he did, they would already be attacking him. We'd be seeing stories about the college drug arrest, about his time in the Bush administration, his background as a Syrian-American, or any number of other things where Democrats could conceivably make political hay.
There's a certain sinister and effective logic in the Democrats' program of preemptively smearing and kneecapping potential rising stars in the other party. Imagine, for a moment, what the 2008 election might have looked like had some of the more interesting aspects of Barack Obama's background (say, Jeremiah Wright or his ties to the Chicago machine) come out right after his much-touted convention speech in 2004.
The attack rottweilers of BC04 would have left virtually nothing left on Barack Obama's bones, and he certainly wouldn't have been considered by his own party to be a viable candidate for 2008. The Republican Party still has a lot to learn, in that respect.
But, at any rate, I suppose there's nothing wrong with dreaming and the folks at Frugal Hoosiers are welcome to keep on dreaming while they earn taxpayer dollars in their state government sinecures.
Whitley County's Talk of the Town has an article up about the Third District Democrats' annual dinner, and Baron Hill's speech to them (perhaps the first speech of his rumored gubernatorial campaign).
The part about Baron:
Hill spoke about his political career and how adversity and losing his bid for the Senate in 1990, made him a stronger candidate later in life.
“You learn something when you lose it and it will make you a victor later on,” Hill said.
Local Democrats noted that the dinner was the first one held in the annual event’s history – when Indiana was a blue state.
“Since 1964, we’ve been wandering in the wilderness,” Hill said of being a red state. “What a relief for (Barack Obama) to be in the White House after eight years of George Bush,” Hill said. “He’s making us believe again.”
And even British news magazines like The Economist have noticed:
The president is making his inaugural fundraising jaunt for Democratic candidates (the kind of thing you do after the bustling Hundred Days are over) in Indiana, with one notable schedule change: no appearance with Congressman Peter Visclosky. Why not?Peter Visclosky is asking the Federal Election Commission to allow him to use his campaign funds to pay legal costs stemming from the Justice Department’s investigation of the PMA Group.
And there you go, Barack Obama's first attempt to thread the needle and keep his majority by benignly neglecting the corrupt members. It's a difficult thing to do—George Bush certainly didn't escape the stink of Tom DeLay—and it gets tougher as the administration goes on.
The comments over at The Economist are hilarious:
I for one am inspired by the first brush-off of a corrupt party member by an African-American President.
I only wish I had Reverend Jesse Jackson's shoulder to cry on.
*Sniff* They grow up so fast....
Among coal-district Democrats like Hill, whose southeastern Indiana seat tilts conservative, reservations about a climate change bill are equally apparent.
“I just can’t support it with the way it’s being proposed,” said Hill, noting that 96 percent of Indiana is dependent on coal. “The bill in its current form is going to increase the rates for the people I represent.”
That's a money quote; let's see how Baron spins away his own words if he actually ends up yielding to pressure from Bloomington loonies and does vote for it.
$100 Million in 100 Days for George W. Bush's Presidential Library
So, former president George W. Bush is the most hated president of all time, astonishingly low approval ratings, blah blah blah . . .
Except that he's raised $100 million in roughly 100 days for his presidential library. In this economy.
Time notes it took Bill Clinton two years to raise $100 million, hindered by controversy over the Marc Rich pardon.
And he seems to get an awful lot of standing ovations when he does show his face in public.
It's very easy for certain people to blame the current state of affairs, with all of its problems and challenges, on the prior administration. Especially when their own shortcomings seem so manifestly unsuited to the task of addressing those problems and challenges.
That goes for Barack Obama and, I think, it should also go for certain people in the Republican Party that want to lay the blame for the present state of the party at the feet of George W. Bush.
Bush faced a lot of hard decisions and trying times as president; far harder decisions and far more trying times than any president in a long time. Those decisions were not easy to reach, and history will probably judge them far better than people on both sides of the aisle are doing now.
Just yestertoday, it came out that Obama has decided that Bush's idea of using military commissions to try Gitmo terrorists wasn't such a bad idea after all.
The money quotes (from the Washington Post and the New York Times, respectively):
“It looks a lot more difficult now than it did on Jan. 20,” said one government official.
“The more they look at it,” said one official, “the more commissions don’t look as bad as they did on Jan. 20.”
The surge of reinforcements into Iraq was so successful that Iraq is hardly in the news anymore, and Obama has decided that the surge he opposed was so successful that Afghanistan needs a similar surge, too.
It's easy to cast blame. It's harder to take responsibility.
George W. Bush took responsibility for eight years; Barack Obama still hasn't taken responsibility for anything.
Stu Rothenberg is catching on:
For somebody who wants to break the old political mold, Obama certainly continues to rely on some trite rhetoric.
Politicians always say they are battling the special interests, whom they invariably associate with their opponents.
Remember, this most recent dose of anti-special interest rhetoric comes from a president who is going to bring all of us together — unless of course, you are part of one of the powerful special interests with entrenched lobbyists.
Let’s see, who exactly does that special interest label include? The National Education Association? The National Endowment for the Arts? The AFL-CIO? Planned Parenthood? AARP? General Motors?
Obama is using the same bogeyman scare tactics that other politicians have used, dividing when it serves his purposes and talking about bringing Americans together when he thinks it will benefit him and his agenda.
The special interest argument is used so often by politicians and their press folks because it is effective. Many voters, after all, are easily manipulated. But it’s still demagoguery, and it should be called such — especially when it comes from a man, and an administration, that spends so much time talking about bringing all Americans together and changing the way things have been done.
Got to love Gary Varvel's cartoon; a little jar of red ink being taken from a big ocean being filled by a big gusher.
But it gets better (when doesn't it).
From Hot Air:
It’s as supreme an insult to the intelligence of average Americans as anything he’s said thus far as president, including reminding people to wash their hands to avoid swine flu. To put the cuts in perspective, imagine a family that’s already deeply in debt realizing they’re on pace to spend $50,000 this year — and “scaling back” by foregoing one $250 purchase. One half of one percent. That’s what we’re talking about.
Actually, here’s an even better perspective. Remember, Bush’s last budget deficit was less than one quarter the size of what this year’s will be under Obama. And yet:During his tenure, Mr. Bush also annually announced cuts. The list would carry over year after year as Congress, which zealously guards its spending powers, rejected most of the proposals.
Mr. Bush’s fiscal 2009 list included reducing or eliminating 151 discretionary spending programs, over which Congress has the most control, for a savings of $18 billion.
Bush cut more than Obama did.
But wait! It gets even better.
Jake Tapper at ABC News did some actual reporting, dug back into what Obama was saying during the campaign, and found that Obama spent an awful lot of time sneezing at John McCain wanting to cut spending by a similar amount by slashing earmarks:
Whether or not $17 billion is a lot of money in spending cuts depends, of course, on what one compares it to -- and who's doing the comparing.
During the campaign last year, then-Sen. Obama discussed how Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, railed against earmarks, and pointed out that the $18 billion in savings from eliminating earmarks paled in comparison to the $300 billion in tax breaks McCain proposed.
“Now, Senator McCain talks a lot about earmarks," Mr. Obama said during the third presidential debate in Hempstead, NY. "That's one of the centerpieces of his campaign. Earmarks account for 0.5 percent of the total federal budget. There's no doubt that the system needs reform and there are a lot of screwy things that we end up spending money on, and they need to be eliminated. But it's not going to solve the problem.”
It was a frequent Obama talking point, that $18 billion -- while not to be sneezed at -- is a trifle comparatively to the proposed McCain tax cuts, and to the budget in general.
“Earmarks account for $18 billion in last year's budget," Mr. Obama said on Fox News Sunday on September 28, 2008. "Senator McCain is proposing $300 billion in tax cuts. Now, $18 billion is important. $300 billion is really important.”
"The total amount of earmarks even broadly defined comes to about $18 billion," Mr. Obama said on the campaign trail in June in Wayne, Pennsylvania. "Now, I’m not a math whiz, but if you’re giving $300 billion in tax breaks, and lets say you eliminated all earmarks ... even assuming all $18 billion is delivered, you’ve still got to, let’s see my math, $282 billion short and he hasn’t specified where else he’d get the money. And what’s likely is that he’d get the money the same way that George Bush got the money, which is to take out a credit card from the bank of China in the name of our kids and add a few extra trillion dollars extra worth of national debt.”
I guess Obama's opinion of seventeen or eighteen billion dollars depends a lot on who has that credit card from the bank of China.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
I have to keep up my nerd cred, so I went to the movie theater this evening to see the new Star Trek movie on its opening night.
The creator of Lost (J.J. Abrams) meets Star Trek (the greatest of the sci-fi space television series). What might there be not to like?
The answer is that there's not much not to like.
It's a great movie. The pacing is good and the plot is understandable. It's fairly respectful of the old actors and generally true to the characters (Scotty can do without the sidekick, and I didn't care for how they depicted Chekov). Without giving away the plot, I can say that this is not a prequel but more of a time-travel-based reversion to the past to enable what amounts to a reboot for future movies.
The redesigned Enterprise is visually appealing externally (no more a bastardization or alteration of the 1960s design than, say, the change from the original series Enterprise to the movie refit Enterprise, when you really think about it), but the inside of it looks either like the inside of an oil refinery or the inside of an Apple store on steroids depending on the part of the ship they're in. The disconnect between the two is jarring and never really explained.
I didn't care for the often jerky and blurry cinematography and camera work, but the special effects were excellent. I also didn't care for the new take on the Romulans (bald Vulcans with tattoos flying some sort of dark fantasy tentacled monster as a ship? whatever).
Seeing as how the Romulans were always one of the more interesting and under-utilized of the adversary races that's disappointing; I guess it's a better take on them than that seen in Nemesis, the last Star Trek movie (which basically destroyed the image and continuity of them that had been cultivated from the start of the shows).
There's a goodly amount of technobabble in the film, but it's not prohibitive. Some of it is gratuitous and unnecessary. There are other sci-fi things in the show that the viewer tends to "just get" by virtue of how they characterize and play things (which makes one wonder why they needed any technobabble with the other stuff at all).
I am sure that continuity Nazis will tear and nitpick many technical and other aspects of the films to death. In terms of relative quality, it's not as good a "reboot" of an established story as Batman Begins or the Dark Knight, but it's better "prequel" than the Star Wars ones (particularly Episode I). I would rate it the best of the odd-numbered Star Trek movies but not as good as the the best of the even-numbered ones (The Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home, The Undiscovered Country).
Three and a half stars; just a tad shy of being four out of five stars (I hate Apple stores and I liked the old Romulans, Scotty, and Chekov).