AUSTIN - A Texas jury Wednesday found Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader and Texas political powerhouse, guilty in a money-laundering trial involving contributions to political campaigns.
Jurors deliberated for 19 hours before they came back with guilty verdicts against Mr. DeLay on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The verdict was the latest chapter in a long legal battle that forced Mr. DeLay to step down. The trial also opened a window on the world of campaign financing in Washington, as jurors heard testimony about large contributions flowing to Mr. DeLay from corporations seeking to influence him and junkets to posh resorts where the congressman would rub shoulders with lobbyists in return for donations.
Mr. DeLay faces up to life in prison on the money laundering charge.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
ATHENS, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore said support for corn-based ethanol in the United States was "not a good policy", weeks before tax credits are up for renewal.
U.S. blending tax breaks for ethanol make it profitable for refiners to use the fuel even when it is more expensive than gasoline. The credits are up for renewal on Dec. 31.
Total U.S. ethanol subsidies reached $7.7 billion last year according to the International Energy Industry, which said biofuels worldwide received more subsidies than any other form of renewable energy.
"It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for (U.S.) first generation ethanol," said Gore, speaking at a green energy business conference in Athens sponsored by Marfin Popular Bank.
"First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small.
"It's hard once such a programme is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going."
"One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president."
In other words, "I was too blinded by my own political ambition to objectively evaluate the science at hand." But hey, give Gore a little credit. At least he's admitting he's wrong. How many elected officials in Wisconsin, Republicans and Democrats alike, are whoring themselves out to the corn growers, the farm lobby, and the ethanol producers?
It’s widely recognized that in the marquee 2010 Senate race, Majority Leader Harry Reid ran a nearly flawless, textbook campaign, an operation so extraordinary that it enabled him to defy an almost certain political death.Flawed candidates can win if their races are managed well. One need look no further than south of the border for proof, where both Mark Kirk and Pat Quinn posted victories, largely in spite of their own best efforts to blow it.
It turns out he got some inadvertent inside help. Interviews with Nevada and Washington Republicans familiar with the campaign of Reid’s GOP opponent, Sharron Angle, describe a not-ready-for-prime-time effort that was equally astonishing — a model of dysfunction that was as bad as Reid’s campaign was good.
But a flawed candidate with bad management? That's a recipe for disaster, whether it was Sharron Angle, or Christine O'Donnell, or Joe Miller's train wreck of a campaign in Alaska (anyone who runs an ad this stupid deserves to lose).
Pandering occasionally to the teabagging right is one thing. Being fully born of them is another. The GOP would be wise to look at Ron Johnson's campaign as a model for how to successfully court the votes of conservatives without alienating everyone in the middle or making your candidate look insane. Then again, Johnson was also smart enough to surround himself with a lot of competent, experienced - dare I say, insiders. And that's why he'll be a senator and Sharron Angle won't be.
When asked, "Do you support or oppose the Madison-to-Milwaukee passenger rail project?" 52% of respondents said they oppose it, compared with 35% saying they support it. The rest either said they didn't know or refused to answer...
When respondents were asked which area of state spending they most wanted to protect from budget cuts, transportation came in last, at 7%. Conversely, when respondents were asked which area they least wanted to protect from spending cuts, transportation came in first, at 31%.
So while it's clear the feds won't let Wisconsin spend the high-speed rail money on improving roads, the real question Wisconsinites want Scott Walker to ask is whether the feds will allow Wisconsin to spend the money reverting its roads to gravel. The roadbuilders might hate that, but imagine the campaign checks the aggregate producers will write!
My team is four games out of the wild card hunt with six games to play. We're 1-3 in the division and 3-4 in the conference. We will lose virtually every tiebreaker in the books. Not only would we need to win six in a row to have a shot, we'd need a monumental collapse from nearly half a dozen teams.
I'm probably not coming back either. My owner was ready to fire me when I waived Randy Moss without telling him. Even though we almost got to the Super Bowl last year, fans are calling for my head.
What should I do? Should I bench the ancient warrior in favor of a guy who might still be on the roster next year? I would forever be remembered as the guy who broke the streak, but doing so might give my team a better chance of winning. Should I stick with the old guy and just ride out the rest of the season, even though he too got booed every time he came on and off the field in the second half and most Vikings fans have no faith in him either?
What should I do?
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Results from November's midterm elections have exposed a deepening political divide between cities on the coasts and the less-dense areas in the middle of the country.
The Republican Party's big gains in the House came largely from districts that were older, less diverse and less educated than the nation as a whole. Democrats kept their big majorities in the cities.
That's a contrast to the last GOP wave in 1994, when Republicans' share of the vote was consistent inside and outside metropolitan areas, according to a Washington Post analysis. That year, Republicans captured seats in a broader array of places.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she has the “overwhelming support” of fellow Democrats in her bid to become minority leader in the next Congress, and says she’s not to blame for the Democrats’ mid-term debacle.
“We didn’t lose the election because of me,” Ms. Pelosi told National Public Radio in an interview that aired Friday morning. “Our members do not accept that.”
Instead, the California Democrat attributes the loss of at least 60 seats to high unemployment and “$100 million of outside, unidentified funding.”
“Any party that cannot turn (9.5% unemployment) into political gains should hang up the gloves,” she said.
Yeah, and any party that spends a kajillion dollars in borrowed money as stimulus and can't convince anyone that it did a lick of good, that party should probably hang up the gloves too.
Pelosi showcases the same levels of abject denial and cluelessness that GOP leaders demonstrated in 2006 and 2008. She's practically reading off the same index cards that guys like Denny Hastert and Mike Huebsch used. For that alone, someone should send her to the back bench.
Pelosi's impending re-election to leadership does not bode well for Democrats.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Madison — Gov. Jim Doyle's administration has agreed to no-pay raise contracts with six unions covering thousands of state workers and is finishing more agreements at a time when Governor-elect Scott Walker is calling for those negotiations to stop.
The agreements still have to be approved by the Legislature and in most cases by rank-and-file union members, Department of Administration spokeswoman Emily Winecke said. The administration acknowledged the contract agreements Friday after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel independently confirmed them.
Workers have gone since July 1, 2009 - nearly a year and a half - without a new contract and the two-year period covered by the agreements is already mostly finished.
If this process were functioning properly, these contracts would've been put in place prior to the period they cover - which means they're about 17 months late as is. For Scott Walker to request the right to negotiate them himself is to ask for a type of retroactive governance that is wholly and completely inappropriate. By Walker's empty logic, he should also refrain from negotiating these contracts in the event there's a Democratic governor four years from now who'd like to do things differently.
If Doyle was trying to rush the 2011-13 contracts to the table before Walker takes office, my position would be completely different. As it is, finish all the 2009-11 agreements, bring the Legislature back for one day, take the votes, and put it to bed.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
MADISON, Wis. -- Gov.-elect Scott Walker wants to lure out-of-state retirees back home with tax cuts and parties, saying the state needs their investment dollars.
Speaking at a symposium of startup companies in Madison on Thursday, Walker said there's little reason for senior citizens to stay in Wisconsin besides grandchildren. But he feels they're a powerful investment force for startups in the state.
He hopes to coax them back by phasing out state taxes on retirement accounts and traveling to Sun Belt retirement enclaves in places like Naples, Fla., and Sedona, Ariz., to hold "welcome back" parties.
In case Walker can't figure out why seniors actually leave Wisconsin, retiree Sandy Lantz helps him out:
Sandy Lantz, 65, and her husband, James, 58, relocated nearly five years ago from Walworth in southern Wisconsin to Sun City Center, a Florida retirement community...
"I wouldn't return just because of the snow, and that's honest," she said. "It's wonderful (here). There's a community association here, they have a clubhouse, a swimming pool, clubs. We're really happy here and our lives have turned around."
Republicans love to believe that anytime anyone leaves Wisconsin, it's because of tax policy. The reality is that most people who leave Wisconsin are leaving because of quality of life issues. Educated, young workers leave for higher-paying jobs in cities with better cultural, recreational, and social opportunities. Old people leave because the weather in Wisconsin sucks for much of the year.
Handing a bunch of departed retirees some tax breaks (tax breaks you'll pay for in the form of reduced services or shifts in tax burden) won't do squat for Wisconsin.
In the meantime, I'll buy the streamers and the party hats.
Erskine Bowles, chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton, and retired Sen. Alan Simpson, (R-Wyo.) gave up trying to get the 16 other members of the presidential commission on the deficit they co-chair to compromise and reach a consensus by a Dec. 1 deadline.
So, without any warning, the two unveiled an ambitious plan of their own – one that would cut $200 billion in spending by 2015, raise taxes by $100 billion, and continue deficit cutting until 2020.
GOP members of the commission wanted bigger spending cuts and ruled out tax increases. Republican congressional leaders, treading carefully, called the proposal a start...
Reaction among Democrats largely mirrored that of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, occupied with rallying liberal support for her bid to remain her party’s leader in the House. Pointing to proposals that would hike payroll taxes, slash entitlement spending over time, adjust Medicaid payments for income and raise the retirement age to 69, Pelosi minced no words.
“This proposal is simply unacceptable,” she said. “Any final proposal from the Commission should do what is right for our children and grandchildren's economic security as well as for our nation's fiscal security, and it must do what is right for our seniors, who are counting on the bedrock promises of Social Security and Medicare. And it must strengthen America's middle class families — under siege for the last decade, and unable to withstand further encroachment on their economic security.”
Truly amazing how both parties act like a bunch of spoiled children when it comes to addressing problems with any kind of seriousness. Does any rational person doubt that if we simply took this plan and enacted it, we might have some new problems but on the whole would be on a remarkably better path to long-term deficit reduction and sustainability?
Of course, the real problem is that the general public is too stupid to know they're being worked by these partisan snake charmers.
U.S. Representative John Shimkus, possible future chairman of the Congressional committee that deals with energy and its attendant environmental concerns, believes that climate change should not concern us since God has already promised not to destroy the Earth.
Shimkus, an evangelical Christian and a Republican member of the House from Illinois, on Tuesday signalled his desire to become chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
On Tuesday, Shimkus sent a letter to his colleagues burnishing his credentials by saying he is “uniquely qualified among a group of talented contenders to lead the Energy and Commerce Committee.”
Yeah, uniquely qualified is one way to put it.
Madison — People suspected of crimes in Wisconsin would have to prove they were legally in the United States or be turned over to federal immigration authorities under a bill that will be introduced next year in the newly Republican state Legislature.So when Pridemore's colleagues are doing the difficult, unglamorous work of fixing the state's budget in 412 East, the media can busy themselves covering immigration protests in the rotunda. Brilliant.
"I want Wisconsin to be recognized as a state that will be on the side of Arizona," said bill author Rep. Don Pridemore (R-Hartford).
But he noted Wednesday that his bill is smaller in scope than the Arizona law that has drawn international attention and a lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice.
"This is minor in comparison of what could be done and should be done by the federal government," Pridemore said.
But at least someone in leadership gets it.
Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester), the incoming co-chairman of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, said Pridemore's idea has merit, but lawmakers must first focus on creating jobs and fixing the state budget. That could mean putting off the bill until fall 2011 or later.Methinks the engine needs to tell the caboose to stay on the tracks before the beginning of session is completely awash in non-economic distractions.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann dropped out of the race for House Republican Conference chair on Wednesday night, ensuring that the GOP’s leadership elections will go on without any serious competition.Perhaps Michele would have the confidence of more of her colleagues if she was capable of answering questions directly without deflecting to memorized responses, or didn't wear that same creepy, plastic expression on her face all the time.
In a statement sent to a handful of reporters Wednesday evening, the tea party favorite said that Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling has her “enthusiastic support for his candidacy” for the top messaging post in the GOP...
Bachmann was facing what appeared to be flagging support within the GOP caucus in her bid for the leadership position, even though she had touted support from the tea party movement.
Another day, another defeat for the Tea Party.
WEDNESDAY, Nov. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Vaccination rates for children insured by commercial plans dropped almost four percentage points between 2008 and 2009, even though the rate of children on Medicaid getting vaccinated is rising.
"Rates had been gradually improving in the commercial plans. This was the first time we'd seen a drop -- and it was a pretty big drop," said Sarah Thomas, vice president of public policy and communication for the National Committee for Quality Assurance, which recently released its annual State of Health Care Quality report.
Although vaccination rates last year were still mostly higher among children in private health plans rather than Medicaid, researchers and other experts suspect that a counterintuitive trend in American demographics is at work: Parents in a relatively high socio-economic bracket -- with more education and relatively high incomes -- forgoing vaccines because of fears about their safety, with poor individuals taking good advantage of their access to free or extremely low-cost care to have their children immunized.
Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who launched the GOP’s midterm insurgency with his special election win last January, just might be a dead man walking.
His polling numbers are still solid. There’s no Democratic war-horse candidate primed to take him on. Brown’s campaign coffers are full, and his celebrity lets him command a national following.
But virtually every result from last week’s elections in Massachusetts offered up grim omens for Brown’s future. His party failed to capture a single high-profile office in the state. Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, despite early signs of vulnerability, won reelection by a convincing 6-point margin over Charlie Baker, a health insurance executive viewed as a star by state and national Republicans.
Highly touted Republicans lost campaigns for state treasurer and auditor. The National Republican Congressional Committee spent money to contest the open 10th District House seat, but state Rep. Jeff Perry — a personal friend of Brown whom the senator campaigned for — came up short.
Even Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley won reelection by 26 points, not even a year after her defeat by Brown made her look hapless and flat-footed in running to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
"Right now I see no scenario where the taxpayers of Wisconsin aren't going to be on the hook for millions of dollars," Walker said. "And to me unless there was an ironclad agreement that showed me otherwise, I'm not interested."
To me, that sounds like an opening position in a negotiation and not a blanket refusal to consider the project. Phrases like "right now" plus "unless" equals "make me a better offer."
Tea party backed Senate candidates in several states significantly underperformed more establishment Republican candidates running on the same ballot last Tuesday, data that provides further evidence that the tea party movement may have cost the GOP seats.Chris Cillizza isn't concluding anything that many people haven't said for months. The anti-incumbent energy the Tea Party created among non-Tea Partiers was probably helpful to the GOP, but may not have won the GOP many races it wouldn't have won anyway. Meanwhile, candidates closely tied to or born of the Tea Party performed badly in many swing states, and cost the GOP seats it likely would have won with a more conventional candidate.
Ever since Republicans fell short of a Senate majority last week, tensions have been simmering beneath the surface about tea party candidates who upset the establishment in the primary and then fell short in the general election - candidates like Sharron Angle in Nevada, Ken Buck in Colorado and Christine O'Donnell in Delaware...
How then to judge whether tea party candidates underperformed a generic Republican? Compare them to other members of their party who were running downballot.
So The Fix looked at Angle, Buck, O'Donnell and two other faces of the tea party: New York governor candidate Carl Paladino and Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul.
The five of them, it turns out, ran behind the vast majority of other Republican candidates -- and sometimes by wide margins.
In almost every case, they ran behind more mainstream Republican candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and other statewide offices. And in no case did the tea party candidate run significantly ahead of another statewide Republican candidate.
The big question is whether Tea Party conservatives have enough self-awareness to recognize the limitations of their movement before they do something monumentally stupid, like hand the GOP a completely unpalatable presidential nominee in 2012. Thoughts?
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
There is an active effort underway among prominent Republican National Committee members to recruit a serious alternative to Chairman Michael Steele if and when he decides to stand for a second term early next year, according to a series of sources familiar with the conversations.
Henry Barbour, the nephew of Gov. Haley Barbour and a committeeman from Mississippi, has approached Reince Priebus, who served as the chairman of Steele's first run for chairman in 2009, about the possibility of challenging the incumbent early next year.
As chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, Priebus helped the GOP win the governorship, a Senate seat, two U.S. House seats and seize control of both the state House and Senate last Tuesday.
Priebus remains undecided on a challenge to Steele and those close to him insist he is not actively organizing for such a bid.
Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Petri of Fond du Lac said he supported Governor-elect Scott Walker's plan to seek to retain the money for highways if Walker rejects the federal money for the rail project. Walker has said he's concerned about state taxpayers picking up all or part of the operating costs for the line.
But Petri said that plan was unlikely to prevail in Congress because the money has already been set aside specifically for rail and there are other states requesting it for that purpose.
"Now this money, if Wisconsin decides not to use it, is still in that grant program and in the normal course of events would be rebid and (would go to) New York or California or one of the (other) states," Petri said. "For us to keep that money would require us to change the law and that would mean getting the votes of (states like) New York and California and Florida. It's conceivable but very unlikely."
Monday, November 08, 2010
(CNN) -- An assistant attorney general in Michigan has been fired, weeks after coming under fire for targeting an openly gay University of Michigan student online and in person, Attorney General Mike Cox said Monday.
Andrew Shirvell "repeatedly violated office policies, engaged in borderline stalking behavior and inappropriately used state resources," Cox said...
While Shirvell may not be charged criminally with stalking, Cox said that he behaved in a way that "was harassing, uninvited and showed a pattern that was, in the everyday sense, stalking." He cited numerous examples, including:
-- Calling the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, where Armstrong worked, "in an attempt to slander Armstrong" and get him fired.
-- Trying to "out" Armstrong's friends -- some of whom were not gay -- as homosexual.
-- Harassing Armstrong's friends while out socializing in Ann Arbor, the home of the University of Michigan.
Cox had originally defended Shirvell in part because he believed his blog was being done when he wasn't at work. But he said Monday that Shirvell had, in fact, posted online "attacks" on Armstrong and called Pelosi's office while he was on the job as an assistant attorney general.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Americans have paid off nearly $1 trillion in debt over the past two years, although the pace of repayment has slowed, according to a regional Federal Reserve report released Monday.
Total consumer debt was $11.6 trillion as of Sept. 30; down 7.4%, or $922 billion, from the peak reached in the third quarter of 2008, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Consumer indebtedness fell another 0.3% in the third quarter, after a 3.3% decline in the prior quarter.
Sunday, November 07, 2010
I am greatly humored by those who buy into Scott Suder's argument that he's actually a conservative. Those who have known Suder and followed his career over the years know that Suder is too crippled by a Napoleonic sense of self-interest to meaningfully proclaim any kind of ideological position. And now Suder wants to be majority leader.
So before you cast your vote for Suder for anything, you should ask him about the final day of session last year, when Suder abdicated his legislative responsibilities to take a vacation to Las Vegas. Is that principled, conservative leadership?
You should ask him about his vote for the 2007 budget, which not only raised taxes but also perpetrated an unconstitutional raid on the Patients Compensation Fund.
But I've got one other thing you absolutely need to ask Suder, and it requires a bit of a history lesson first. Allow me to give you a quick tour of 1999 Assembly Bill 495, which was quite possibly the biggest financial boondoggle ever perpetrated on the people of Wisconsin by their elected officials.
Back in 1999, when government was fat and happy and cutting people rebate checks from excess revenue, a bunch of politicians got together in the proverbial smoke-filled room and decided it would be *awesome* for them to improve their own pensions. The jist of the bill was as follows.
The Legislature authorized the "sweetening" of all state employee pensions by increasing the formula factor retroactively for years of service prior to 2000. This number, when multiplied by years of service and final average earnings, is what determines the size of a state employee's pension. In doing so, the Legislature increased pension credits for general employees by 10.31%, and for executive employees (like legislators) by 8.25%.
The bill also increased the limit on the formula benefit from 65% to 70% of an employee's final average earnings. That includes legislators too. So the bill increased legislator's pensions in two different ways. It made each year worth more, and it increased the maximum amount they could collect.
There's an excellent, detailed analysis of the fiscal ramifications that was published by WPRI in its Fall 2003 issue. You conservatives should read it, especially since I know how many of you think I couldn't possibly be on your side some of the time. There's also a more abbreviated summary of the bill's provisions on the UW System website.
The overall cost of this plan, as estimated by WPRI was $14 billion. That's right, billion. Lest you think Tom Ament was the only one helping himself to the wallets of taxpayers, there were a lot of legislators and a Republican governor in Madison that were happy to take you to the cleaners too.
The final vote on this bill in the Assembly was 79-20. A lot of leggies wanted more of your money, obviously. And they were in a hurry, too. AB 495 made its way through the legislature, from introduction to final passage, in five days.
There were 20 legislators in the Assembly who stood up to this financial travesty and voted no. In fact, it's most all of the conservative legislators that you guys on the right adore. Scott Walker. Glenn Grothman. Mark Gundrum. Steve Nass. Joe Leibham. Neal Kedzie. Frank Lasee. In the Senate, Scott Fitzgerald. Bob Welch. Mike Ellis. And let's be clear here. A no vote was the right vote. Said Walker, "Legislators had the benefit of reading [state actuary Scott Dennison's] report from the Joint Survey Committee that raised all kinds of red flags, and they still passed it overwhelmingly."
Where was Scott Suder? He was over there in the ayes. Suder voted to take $14 billion of your money and hand it out to public employees like himself.
So leggies, before you go into caucus and cast your vote for this guy for majority leader, at least one of you should stand up and ask Suder why he voted for this bill, and sided against the most solid conservatives in the Assembly at the time. $14 billion in increased (and largely unfunded) benefits for public employees, and Scott Suder thought that was a good idea.
That's conservative? No, that's self-serving. And don't buy any excuses either. Lots of people voted no on this. Suder wasn't in leadership, so there was no need for him to cast a vote according to anything other his conscience.
In 2003, then Racine County Executive Bill McReynolds said that "the alarming reality of increasing pension benefits across the board is that decision-makers who implemented the plan are not the ones who will be held accountable for paying for it." Yeah, that's true. But it doesn't mean that you can't demand a little accountability this week.
Anyone who's followed Suder's career know that self-serving is Suder's middle name. If he was in your district this fall, he was helping himself out first and helping you out second. You just might not have known it. His legislative record isn't one of a fiscal conservative - it's of a guy who's willing to cast his vote in whatever way is necessary for him to get ahead. He'll gladly vote for higher taxes if it helps him. He'll vote for pension giveaways if it helps him. He'll vote for unconstitutional raids of segregated funds if it helps him. He'll vote for giant ethanol subsidies if it helps him.
So if you want to vote for a guy who thought a $14 billion pension sweetener was a good idea, go right ahead. But when a Democrat stuffs this leadership vote down your throat in the next election cycle, don't say you weren't warned. A vote for Suder is a vote against everything you said in your campaign about accountability and fiscal responsibility.
Saturday, November 06, 2010
When you all are done pretending that you’ve matured, done repositioning yourselves as sane and moderate, and done denouncing the very person you sold America on when it served your purposes, you know you need to get out the dirt. You did it to John McCain, and he’s still sucking the mud off of your toes, so you know you can. You know you will.
It’s unclear what’s more reprehensible here, your use and abuse of Sarah Palin or your cynical exploitation of America. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Sarah fan. But unlike you all, I do have a heart. And you know she’s too ignorant and too narcissistic to see what’s coming. Your lack of compassion for her mental illness is disheartening.
But not as dismaying as your lack of care for this country.
You will never live down your attempt for two years to shove Sarah Palin down the throats of innocent Americans, using her to sell your extremist obstructionism and then tossing her aside when she outlasted her usefulness. It’s a disgusting game you play.
If she beats you, it will be a tragic moment for America but part of me will smile. After all, you deserve it.
I'm a big supporter of giving Palin the nomination in 2012. The Tea Party needs to see that, just as they fared terribly in statewide swing state elections last week (and please, stop taking credit for Marco Rubio), they will never be the primary impetus behind a presidential winner. Fiscal responsibility is fine, but as many of us predicted, so many pushers of divisive fringe issues (immigration, guns, abortion) have glommed onto the Tea Party movement that there's just no focus anymore.
The Tea Party is the equivalent of a lot of those anti-war rallies during the Bush administration - it's a bunch of unfocused, extremist hotheads blowing off steam. Sure, they helped the Democrats win some races, but look what it got the Democrats in the end. The GOP will await a similar fate if it doesn't learn from the past.
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Congratulations on your stunning win. Some hard work (and a lot of Democratic incompetence in governing) earned you majorities in both houses and control of the Governor's office. So it's time to hit you up for some predictions on the goodie basket that will ultimately await you once Governor Walker and your bosses put together the 2011-13 budget.
Given Scott Walker's history, we all know you're going to be handsomely rewarded for your months of hard work with a kick to the teeth and a steaming pile of crap left on your doorstep. What I want to know is, just how bad is it going to be?
Looking for predictions on four items:
1. Furloughs - How many unpaid days of leave will you be taking as a result of the 2011-13 budget?
2. Health insurance contributions - As non-represented employees, will your bosses and the governor increase your health insurance premiums and/or institute deductibles for all health insurance plans? If so, by how much?
3. Pension contributions - How much of your pension contributions will you end up swallowing?
4. Cost-of-living adjustment - What are the odds of you getting any COLA in the next budget? (And no, step increases don't count.)
All may participate of course, not just GOP staff. But I am particularly curious to know how much the staff of the incoming majority party thinks their own bosses are going to crap on them, since there's nothing quite like busting your ass, only to realize that you don't have any Democrats left to defend your wages or benefits.
Or are they just going to make you all independent contractors? Oops, I shouldn't give them any ideas!
Congrats and best of luck to the Governor-Elect. Seems reasonable - it doesn't do anyone any good to hope that an executive fails, regardless of their political persuasion. I can hear the stampede of lobbyists heading to the store to buy some pin collar shirts right now. Rrowr...
Overall, however, the Democrats outperformed their polls by 2.3 points in these 15 races (where Hispanic voters represent a sizable portion of the voting population). There’s enough state-to-state variance in the results that we can’t come to any firm conclusions about whether inadequate sampling of Latino voters was the cause. Still, if you look at the presidential polling in 2008, it also underestimated Democrats’ performance in states like Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, where they won by larger-than-expected margins.By many accounts, the Latino turnout was larger in Colorado than expected. And why would they be so interested in this election? Perhaps because America's original Latino basher, Tom Tancredo, had become the de facto Republican nominee for governor. Tancredo never had a shot of winning, but Ken Buck, the slightly off-kilter Tea Party candidate for Senate? Buck lost by less than a point. There's probably a fair or better chance that if Tancredo's not on the ballot, Buck wins.
So, we have at least the beginnings of a pattern — and considering how rapidly the Latino population is growing, it’s one that pollsters are going to need to address in states like Nevada, California and Texas if we’re going to be able to take their results at face value.
Looks like it's time for the pollsters to add another option: para español, oprima numero dos.
Monday, November 01, 2010
Let's start with the incumbent, Russ Feingold. Feingold's a bright guy who ran some amazing campaigns by portraying himself as a happy warrior, a la Paul Wellstone. But now that veneer is gone, and what's left is not very pretty. Feingold is a grumpy, frumpy crankypants with an odd affection for plaid shirts and sportcoats who seems ill-equipped to deal with a serious challenge.
Feingold's reputation is largely built around his specialization in boutique issues like campaign finance reform, issues that can make him appealing absent more pressing matters. But this cycle, Feingold is being forced to fight on uncomfortable turf, and it's showing. Nobody cares about your carefully crafted maverick reputation when they're out of work.
The problem here is that Feingold's opponent is Ron Johnson. Johnson may want you believe that he wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but what he conveniently omits is that he married into a family that had a whole drawer full of them. I'm not sure that my definition of self-made success would include running a company where my father-in-law was my biggest customer.
On top of that, Ron Johnson seems unfortunately awkward when it comes to having any kind of real plans or details for what he'd like to do when he's in Washington. Maybe he'd like to sightsee, or try to check out some Ayn Rand from the Library of Congress. Johnson likes to brag about not being a politician, but unfortunately he doesn't seem all that interested in becoming one either, let alone an effective one. The video that has been made available online of some of his editorial board interviews is compelling only in how disturbing it is. Aside from suggesting that Washington spends too much, he doesn't seem to have much to offer. But hey, he's not a Democrat. Isn't that good enough?
Nope. It's not.
And so my endorsement goes to an empty suit. We can hang it on a rack and put it at a vacant desk in the Senate chamber. I'm not sure who the empty suit should caucus with. We can figure that out later. What I do know is that the empty suit will save taxpayers over $200k a year in salary and benefits, and probably over a million dollars a year if we refuse an allocation for staff salaries for the empty suit.
If you insist upon voting for a major party candidate, I'd cast my lot with Feingold simply by virtue of political competence. Feingold will at least make some efforts to work in a bipartisan fashion. Ron Johnson isn't equipped to do anything other than be a lapdog for Republican leadership; that is, when he's not reading "The Fountainhead" underneath a cherry tree.
Wisconsin, you have an awful choice tomorrow for governor. I have said this for months and I will say it again. Your choices for governor absolutely suck.
One the one hand, you have a dumb but ambitious climber in Scott Walker. Walker's got a resume of accomplishment lighter than an Olsen twin doing the Master Cleanse. He made one promise as county executive - that he wouldn't raise the property tax levy. Of course, when you've got a county board that'll do all your dirty work, keeping that promise is pretty damn easy. It's like promising your daughter a pony and forcing your wife to lay down the law. Walker runs a county where everything seems to be falling apart, where you need a tetanus shot before you enter most park shelters, where no problem is too big to push off, especially if it requires spending money.
On the other hand, you have Tom Barrett, a guy who's smart but just doesn't seem to care whether he wins. Hey Democrats - when you lose this race tomorrow, probably by seven or eight points, you really need to ask yourselves why the hell you ran off Barb Lawton for this tiresome and uninspired bump on a log. Lawton had nothing to lose - she would've gone balls out against Scott Walker. It would've been bloody, but she would've fought like hell. Instead, you have Tom Barrett, who seems to understand quite well that if and when he loses this race, he'll have to make nice with Governor Walker as the Mayor of Milwaukee.
The electorate is in the middle of a self-indulgent rage, an emotional hissyfit of the highest order. And all Barrett's given us is "vote for me because I'm an adult." Yeah, that's brilliant strategy, guys. Barrett might be a fighter in the parking lot, but politically, he's a whiner on the order of Scott McCallum.
Given those awful, awful choices, you should vote for Scott Walker. For the first time ever, he might have to do so real lifting, which will be amazing to watch. If he doesn't, he better hope and pray that the Senate Democrats hold onto the majority and play bad cop to his good cop. Otherwise, we are going to have a Republican-on-Republican bloodbath that will be even hotter than watching Jim Doyle fight with legislative Democrats over the last two years. If history is a guide, Walker will force the Brothers Fitz to clean up a terrible, poorly-conceived budget proposal so that he can come up smelling like roses.
Walker's not smart enough to have any clear proposals or substantive ideas. But his people might be dumb enough to try, and that's enough to trump the warmed-over, tired pile of crap that a Barrett administration would give you.
Tomorrow, your vote should be for Scott Walker. In four years, Wisconsin will either be in remarkably better shape or remarkably worse shape. But if you end up going down, at least you'll have gone down swinging. Voting for Barrett is like voting to take a called third strike and hoping you can take first because the catcher lets the ball pass by him.
In 2006, you voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, largely (entirely) out of frustration at the Bush presidency and the struggles we were facing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Never mind that the Democrats had no constructive plan for anything - you voted for them because they were not Republicans. In 2006, you voted primarily out of anger and frustration.
In 2008, you went back to that emotional well. You swooned over an inexperienced politician from Illinois who had a knack for speaking articulately in such general abstractions that virtually anyone could have found something to like in him. He was two parts Tiger Woods, two parts Anthony Robbins, and one part Benny Hinn. He was, to quote Harry Reid, a "light-skinned" African-American with "no Negro dialect." He was the political equivalent of Michael Jordan - a black guy that white people could love because he didn't act too black. In 2008, you voted out of hope.
Now, in 2010, we're right back where we were in 2006. This time, you're not pissed off about the wars; you're pissed off about the economy. You're upset that Mr. HopeyChangey has really turned out to be Mr. Spendy. He's been a largely ineffective leader, one unable to reach across the aisle (not that the Republicans have extended a hand either), but also one that has largely failed to marshal the support of his own base. And so now, you're prepared to do to the Democrats what you did to the Republicans in 2006. You're going to give them a swift kick in the ass and send them mostly on their way.
The thing is, by voting emotionally, you are your own worst enemy. American politics is caught in this bottomless vortex of mindless extremism, and you, the average American, are the very reason it's happening. When you speak to pollsters, you are able to identify the problem quite clearly. You understand that your legislative bodies are largely dysfunctional, its members largely lacking in the kind of competence necessary to act in your best interest. You get that those inhabiting executive branches around the country are largely abdicating their responsibility to provide real solutions to real problems, budgetary or otherwise. And yet, time and again, you would rather indulge your own emotional irrationality instead of electing people who are actually capable of solving problems.
To be sure, this is a bipartisan condemnation. The Tea Party is a fine example of how power brokers can toy with and fuel the emotions of the electorate, but that's no different than what liberals have been doing to their base for years. Liberals have run some of America's biggest cities clear into the ground, but somehow still manage to convince their residents that conservatives would be far worse. The Tea Party is simply a clearer example because it so openly embraces its rage and its hatred, hatred of individuals and equally of facts.
In my own races for governor and House, I am voting for Democrats - not because I am particularly enamored with either of them, but because the Republicans have given me a pair of hideous choices - a nice man who is entirely an empty suit devoid of real plans, and a woman who is yet another Sarah Palin knockoff, a woman who doesn't see the contradiction between railing on federal spending and collecting giant piles of federal subsidies for her family farm. She is the living personification of "get your government hands off my Medicare."
In neither case is my ballot choice spurred by Democrat or Republican. In both cases, it is spurred by more competent versus less competent.
Does Harry Reid deserve to lose in Nevada? I think he does. But to Sharron Angle? Seriously? Is that honestly the best that the Nevada GOP can do? A woman who is batshit crazy? A woman who can't tell the difference between Asians and Hispanics? A woman who wants Scientologists to provide massage treatments to prisoners?
Take Rich Iott, the Tea Party candidate in Ohio's ninth Congressional district who thinks it's fun to spend the weekend pretending to be a member of the Nazi's 5th SS Wiking Panzer Division. Instead of repudiating him, John Boehner flies in to endorse him and defend his actions.
Take Renee Ellmers, a candidate in North Carolina who thinks that the words "Muslim" and "terrorist" are synonymous and that Muslims are the only ones who ever built religious structures in lands that they conquered; a woman who, through her ignorance, thinks that all Muslims are terrorists unless they can conclusively prove otherwise.
And then there's Christine O'Donnell, the woman who, at the end of the night, could quite possibly be the one that costs the GOP control of the U.S. Senate. So much has been said about another of her attention-seeking, rent-paying candidacies that I need not elaborate at length here.
On and on and on and on.
I'm all for intelligent conservatives in government. I don't always agree with Jim DeMint, but I think his presence is valuable. Same goes for guys like Paul Ryan, Dan Coats, Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, and many others. Lest anyone be confused, there are lots of Republicans I like and respect and would gladly vote for in a heartbeat.
So why is it that you can't find more of them? Why is it that when you have such an easy opportunity to beat folks like Harry Reid or Michael Bennet, you put forward a bunch of half-assed candidates like Sharron Angle and Ken Buck? Why can't you rise above the lowest common denominator, these mindless drones that go out there and fan the flames of ignorance and coddle those with fascist tendencies instead of calling them out on their crap?
So tomorrow night, I will commemorate my third general election in a row by drinking a lot and watching how badly you overly emotional twats keep f@%^ing up my country. If only America weren't so lazy. If only it took more time to understand basic principles of economics. If only it could understand that fascists and socialists are not only two different things but inhabit two entirely different ends of the left-right political spectrum. If only America cared more about having competent leaders instead of having leaders who indulge own worst impulses.
Then, maybe then, there'd be a little bit of real hope for the kind of change that needs to happen in America. Real health care reform. Real changes to our tax code that can lower tax rates by simply ensuring that everyone's paying their share - rich and poor alike. Real budget reform that will deficit spend only when a stimulative effect is absolutely necessary, but otherwise strives to run surpluses that will allow us to stop wasting nearly half a trillion dollars annually on interest on the national debt.
But that requires you to vote for leaders brave enough to solve problems, even if it means asking you to suck up a little more in taxes or a little less in services. It requires you to recognize that your own "have your cake and eat it too" attitude is the real reason America is such a mess.
You should demand better, and you don't. So have fun tomorrow. Indulge your irrationality again. I'll look forward to 2012, when you guys decide that once again, Republicans suck more and you vote for a bunch of Democrats who are probably even worse than these dregs of society that you're going to empower with your votes tomorrow.
I believe in American exceptionalism. I believe that, as a whole, you are exceptionally stupid, and you are getting dumber by the day.