Sunday, October 31, 2004

State legislative predictions. . .an incumbent parade

Here they are. Note that the farter south the district, the less insight I have and so the less confident I am about my predictive abilities.

Beth Coulson beats Michele Bromberg in the strongest against-the-tide race in the state.
Pam Althoff beats Patrick Ouimet.
Michael McCauliffe beats Ralph Caparelli.
Pat Welch beats Gary Dahl.
Ricca Slone beats Aaron Schock (thanks to Obamania).
Jack Franks beats Perry Moy (and I win my bet with the Tom Cross staffers)
Mike Boland beats the dude running against him (and gets an apology from the Trib for inventing the "Squish" nickname)
Bob Churchill beats Sharyn Elman
Naomi Jakobbson beats Deb Feinen (thanks to Obamania).
Coreen Gordon? The Supreme Court race? Bill Grunloh? Gary Forby? I don't know.

And by the way, I'm disappointed in the Democratic commercials I've seen that attack incumbent state legislators for backing an increase in the 3% income tax. That basically puts a stake in the heart of the progressive move to increase our 3% income tax to 5%. I understand it's really going on Downstate, but I saw one during Saturday Night Live that attacked Senator Althoff for making nice comments about raising the 3% income tax. And that is lame. There is nothing more insulting to voters' intelligence than "I'm for more money for education. . .by cutting wasteful spending."

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Steve Stone driven away. That's a shame.

You will be missed, Stoney. No one could predict the next pitch like you.

The 2004 Cubs left a bad taste. This is a real downer.

I hope Stoney becomes the D.C. Expos' GM.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Blogger Bowl II - my election predictions

Eric Zorn has launched Blogger Bowl II to test the predictive abilities of bloggers.

Last time, I underestimated the Obama vote, so I lost. Pretty big.

This time, I'm feeling the Audacity of Hope!

So here are my predictions.

1) Obama-Keyes spread.
That's right. 50 points will separate the Democratic nominee from the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. Unheard of! That would mean that all my younger Republican friends who tell me they will vote for Obama represent are part of a big, big movement. This is a fairly aggressive bet, since conventional wisdom holds that no major party candidate can sink below the 30% mark (and conversely, no candidate can break the 70% mark), but I'm feeling a surge for Barack. And that's without any get out the vote operation.

2) Electoral College spread. Kerry by 30.
I think there's a change surge coming over the next four days. I came up with my figures at this neat Electoral College calculator, that starts off with the Bush-Gore states adjusted for reapportionment. I think Kerry wins all the Gore states, and takes Ohio and New Hampshire as well. So Florida, Arizona and Colorado stays with Bush, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota stay with Kerry. New Hampshire is a bit of a long shot, but I think it joins up with the Northeast Deep Blue corridor and rejects the southern evangelicals that run the national GOP.

3) Tiebreaker: Keyes earns 23% of the vote. Obama earns 73% (wow), and Jerry Kohn and Al Franzen split the remaining 4% about evenly.

Now, I'll take the Blogger Bowl predictions one step further, and predict state legislative races. Maybe I'll run my own damn Blogger Bowl for those of us who participate in Illinois elections that are close. . . .

Yeah, that's a great idea. See if you can keep up with me, Zorn..

Sharon backslaps those nutty settlers in the best Israeli move in a long time

Ariel Sharon is mostly a right-wing hawk, but this week, he did a fantastic thing. He stood up to those crazy ultra-right-wing settlers who move into Palestinian land (or what ultimately should be Palestinian land). These settlers are Israel's version of the milita men. They are fueled by religious (in this case, Jewish) fundamentalism and stop at nothing to get their way, even if their hostile, aggressive actions incite widespread resentment among the Palestinians against the whole country of Israel. Their selfish settlements help to create the swamp where terrorism can fester -- no only against Israel but for the whole Al Queda movement. Sharon was a big backer of the settlers when they first moved in, but now, he has seen the light and is pulling them out.

And that wasn't easy. His conservative coalition went nuts. But somehow, he managed to force through the smart, sane policy of bulldozing those settlements.

I'm very critical of the Sharon government in Israel, but this is the best thing he's ever done. Times like this make me glad we're sending billions over there, because in a real way, getting rid of those settlements helps to make the U.S. safer too.

Hyde Park co-op closing 47th street store (with some useless DJW trivia)

Crain's Chicago Business reports here that the Hyde Park co-operative grocery store (see? The whole world doesn't have to be built around investor returns) is closing its 47th street grocery store, and mentions that the store draws "local luminaries like mystery-book author Sara Paretsky and Democratic Senate hopeful Barack Obama."

I remember one time in early 2000 I was shopping there at 10 at night and ran into Barack in the aisles. He was running against Bobby Rush at the time, and his comment struck a nerve. He said "Dan, I am bone tired. It's one event after another."

And that was the first time I realized how hard it is to run for office. Let alone *win*. It looks easy. But it is hard, hard work.

(Channeling Dennis Miller. .) If you'll let me go on a little rant here, can you imagine how hard it is to stay on message? All day, every day? I think I worked pretty hard on the Obama primary, but realistically, I had a job. So the most I put in (the *most*) was an hour or two a day. And by the last week of the campaign, I grew to hate talking about Barack. I said the same thing again, and again, and again. And even though it worked, it was mind-numbing to repeat the same thing and act like it was fresh. My line was "you know that guy Obama? He was my law teacher. Oh yeah! He's great. Very intelligent. And you know what? He's the only one who has been a senator. In Springfield. Yeah, a state senator. And he's been one of the best. None of the others have been legislators at all. But, you know, they all would make good Senators. But Barack. . .he will make a great U.S. Senator." It was a good pitch. Personal. Differentiated Barack from the rest of the field. But man: I almost ripped my tongue out by March 10th I was so bored of repeating it.

Now imagine you are Barack (or any major candidate, for that matter). And you know what lines work. You know what resonates. Because you say those lines every day. To three or five or eight different audiences. Every. Single. Day.

It's like that scene in The Candidate with Robert Redford that closes out the film, when he's in the backseat of the car, and he says his name (McKay, I think) and his slogan "A Better Way." And he says it again. And again. And then he sticks out his tongue and yells incoherently. Like. . .blagga blagga blah!

No real point to that rant. So, continue on. Nothing to see here.

But, as long as I'm incoherently ranting, did anyone else absolutely not care about the Obama-Keyes debate? I watched every presidential debate. But with a fifty point lead (meaning 3 million votes for Barack and 1 million votes for Keyes), what's the point? They should have included Jerry Kohn, the Libertarian Senate candidate. It's not like the debates will affect the race, so at least they would be interesting. It's a fiction to think of this as a two-person race. It's not a race at all. It's a coronation.

Oh, last one. My Obama 2020 prediction (meaning how high can the Ba-Rocket go by 2020).

Not President.

Not Vice-President.

Not Supreme Court Justice.

Instead: Senate Majority Leader.

If you haven't read Robert Caro's Master of the Senate on Lyndon Johnson's term as Majority Leader, then do it, and then see if you agree with me. One quality of Barack's that gets overlooked is how shrewd he is. He's a great framer of issues and also excellent at making others feel comfortable with him. Now that he doesn't have to deal with some the more (ahem) parochial elements of the Illinois Senate caucus, I think his legislative leadership skills will shine through (he wasn't in leadership with President Jones, remember). Starting in January (and really, already) he's going to be a major force in the U.S. Senate Democratic caucus and will rise quickly into a position of party leadership.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

John B. Anderson (a Florida Nader 2000 voter) on voting for Kerry and instant runoff voting

John B. Anderson, a friend and champion of democracy, has this column in today's Chicago Tribune. He explains why he is voting for John Kerry (largely due to the "demonstrated unfitness" of President Bush and the "tawdry tactics used in his re-election campaign"). John was a supporter of Ralph Nader in 2000 (as was I), because Nader's positions largely matched up with his own. Now, he is voting for his second choice candidate, John Kerry, because of our plurality election. John calls for smarter elections to improve our "impoverished democracy" where all groups and points of view can be heard, including the one-third of voters who are self-identified independents, by using instant runoff voting for presidential elections and multi-member districts instead of single-member districts for legislative elections (as we used to do in Illinois until 1982).

Disclosure: I work for the Center for Voting and Democracy, and John Anderson is the Chair of the Board of Directors.

Here is the column in its entirety:

Democrat for a day, a reformer for life

By John B. Anderson, a former presidential candidate and Republican congressman from Illinois, chairman of the Center for Voting and Democracy

Published October 27, 2004

Almost 50 years ago, Robert A. Dahl, one of the leading exponents of Democratic pluralism, wrote that the U.S. had developed a political system in which all the active and legitimate groups in the population can make themselves heard at some crucial state in the process of decision.

Later, Dahl would cite this system and its winner-take-all elections as a principal reason why such optimism was not only premature but had blinded him and his fellow champions of Democratic pluralism to the failure of our society to reach a nirvana where all groups would be heard and their opinions truly represented.

As an Independent candidate for president in 1980, I learned the bitter truth that a challenger to the two-party system is almost immediately branded a "spoiler." Independents represent almost a third of the American electorate. The number of voters who choose not to register as either Republican or Democrat is increasing, particularly among those 18 to 30 years old. However, notwithstanding these facts an Independent or third-party candidate has no chance in a presidential race of succeeding or even getting a hearing because of our first-past-the-post system where a plurality rather than a majority determines a winner.

As a registered Independent in a "swing state," I am confronted, therefore, with the necessity in 2004 of deciding between the two major-party candidates if I want my vote to be decisive. The issues in this election are too grave, and as I write, the race between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry is too close to permit me to vote for Ralph Nader, the Independent, or David Cobb, the Green Party candidate--this, despite the fact that their stands on the war in Iraq, the environment and a wide range of other economic and social issues are much more compatible with my own publicly declared positions. I shall vote for John Kerry in Florida because of the demonstrated unfitness of his Republican opponent in the conduct of his office as president and as a protest to the tawdry tactics used in his re-election campaign, which he has failed to disavow.

However, having made that decision, I am still confronted with and will continue to raise the following questions. Why in this extended and expensive campaign is neither candidate demonstrating the slightest awareness of the need for fundamental reform of our electoral process? Why such little talk of direct election of the president, public financing of elections and a national system of running elections?

Given the ongoing vitriol directed at Nader, why not propose eliminating the spoiler debate by encouraging states to institute an instant runoff where voters would indicate their first choice and also a second or runoff choice? In this well-tested, eminently sensible system, if no candidate has received a majority, the one with the fewest first choices is eliminated, but those ballots are recounted and recorded for each voter's second choice--a process for determining majority support easily handled by modern technology.

Following the suggestion of Dahl, multimember state legislative and congressional districts should be drawn and elected by proportional representation in place of our single-member districting that inescapably leads to gerrymandering, entrenched incumbents, distorted representation of our racial diversity, geographic polarization and denial of voter choice.

To cite just one example of our impoverished politics: Since 1996, incumbents did not even face token opponents in nearly 40 percent of contests for state legislature.This is just a starter for re-engaging an apathetic electorate by energizing our electoral process.

Yes, I will vote this year, even if I must compromise my status as an Independent. That compromise should not have to be so, and I don't expect it to be in the future. I plan to be part of a movement to support an Independent candidate in 2008, ready to carry an aggressive reform agenda to the American electorate.The major parties can either prepare for that effort by supporting reforms like instant runoff voting or wring their hands and complain about spoilers. But I assure you it is not Independent voters who are spoiling American democracy.

Is Melissa Bean Michael Patrick Flanagan 10 years later?

Remember Michael Patrick Flanagan? That triple Irish-named Republican candidate beat Chicago heavyweight and Democratic Congress-leader Dan Rostenkowski in November 1994 in a stunning upset. And in 1996, our governor Rod "The Bod" Blagojevich beat him to win back the seat for the Dems.

Now, the seat was a Democratic-majority seat. No question about it. But lots of Democratic voters switched over to the GOP to known about Rostenkowski.

Could Melissa Bean be the beneficiary of a similar anti-Phil Crane vote?

If she wins (and wouldn't it be crazy if one of the bluest of blue states retains a 10-9 Republican congressional delegation, like we have right now?), it would be really damn hard to retain the seat in 2006 against a younger, less out-of-touch GOP challenger. (And if Bean wins, that GOP challenger will almost certainly have to be a woman.)

I've been sticking to my mantra that the map matters most, but maybe Melissa Bean can ride the wave of anti-Crane sentiment all the way to D.C. Just like Michael Patrick Flanagan ten years ago.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Environmental legislators (the 2004 winners of the IEC voting record awards)

The Illinois Environmental Council released their rating of legislators' voting records last month. Finally, here are the people who earned a 100% rating.

The scorecard is here:

James Clayborne
Jacqueline Collins
Dan Cronin
John Cullerton
Susan Garrett
William Haine
Terry Link
Edward Maloney
Barack Obama
Carol Ronen
Pater Roskam
Jeffrey Schoenberg
Patrick Welch
Richard Winkel

Elizabeth Coulson
Barbara Flynn Currie
Monique Davis
William Davis
Sara Feigenholtz
Deborah Graham
Julie Hamos
Jay Hoffman
Naomi Jakobsson
Robin Kelly
Caroyln Krause
Rosemary Kurtz
Eileen Lyons
Karen May
Larry McKeon
Elaine Nekritz
Harry Osterman
Sandra Pihos
Kathleen Ryg
Ricca Slone
Cynthia Soto

This is the biggest list of 100% voting records ever. It's only on four bills (but they don't say which four). Hopefully in 2005 we can force the profitable utilities to invest in pollution control equipment for those filthy coal power plants and quit killing kids with asthma.

Interesting group of legislators: lots of blacks, lots of whites, no Latinos (except for Cynthia Soto). Good number of Republicans (about 25% or so). Also interesting: just about every one of these legislators is accessible. Hey: where's our favorite GOP commenter Paul Froehlich? What bill did you vote wrong on?

Cook County voters: vote no on retaining Judges Dorothy Jones (punch 226) and Susan Jeanine McDunn (punch 276).

One of the strangest duties that citizens of Cook County face is judging judges. We decide whether state judges have done a good enough job to warrant staying in office every six years. Since most of us are not attorneys, this is not an easy thing to do. Because really, how are we supposed to know which judges should be fired? I've only practiced in front of (at most) half a dozen of the judges up for retention, and every judge I'm been in front of has been a solid public official.

As it turns out, there are two judges that every bar association in the county (and there are 10 of them) have agreed should be fired. Their names are

Dorothy Jones


Susan Jeanine McDunn.

Please vote NO on whether to retain these two judges.

Unfortunately, the judges and most party organizations urge the electorate to vote YES on everyone, in a black-robe solidarity move that only protects the truly incompetent. It is really difficult to muster 40% of the vote to reject a judge (a judge must earn 60% of the vote in order to remain behind the bench).

Please spread the word about Cook County voters to reject these two judges.

Some links:

Monday, October 25, 2004

DuPage Election Commission leaves out Cegelis; we take it to the State Board

I picked up a new client in my election law practice, Dean Dozen Christine Cegelis. She is the victim of either gross negligence of intentional misconduct by employees of the DuPage Elections Commission, who left her off their notice of election (the 'sample ballot') published in dozens of papers in the Sixth Congressional District. The incumbent, Henry Hyde, is listed as running unopposed.

Archpundit, more technically savvy by far than I, was good enough to post the request to the State Board of Elections on his site here.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Know about public corruption? The feds want to talk

From the IllinoisLeader (a site with a mix of hard-nosed reporting and cultural fundamentalism), this choice paragraph:

Joe Ways, speaking for the FBI, asked those knowing about public corruption to call 312-786-2699, the public corruption hotline. He said there were now 20 FBI agents investigating public corruption in the Chicago area, up from 16.

If you know people pushed around by bribe-seeking operatives, call the feds. Corruption exists when the people tolerate it. Let's not tolerate it.

Great site on the draft

This site is awesome -- pass it around:

And Republicans, you tell me how we're going to find enough soldiers to invade Iran. Yes, Bush wants to pull troops out of Europe and Korea (and he deserves credit for that). But how can you expect someone who is still of draft age to trust Bush on anything related to telling the truth about wars?

Big fat pensions. . the great shark of public policy

It lurks under the surface. . .it's scary. . . .you can see something moving in the budget, and you know it can kill you. . . .but we don't really know much about it.

Pension obligations.

Public employees get ridiculously generous pensions.

While the world has moved away from defined-benefit pensions (here's your monthly check when you are retired until you die) to defined-contribution pensions (here's your monthly check to an investment fund while you are working), government sure has not.

And these pension obligations are huge. Just monstrous.

I've heard that the single biggest item in the city budget is. . .pension payments.

I don't know if it's true. But I do know one of the biggest reasons why the state is broke and every city is broke is because of pension obligations.

Hey Tribune! Write about this. Get your investigative team together.

I suspect that we should cut back on these fat pensions. Especially since all pension income is tax-free in Illinois. And lots of these old guys don't even live in Illinois or Chicago any more.

If anyone's got more information on public pensions, send it my way.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Latino caucus messed up. This has got to change.

When companies pony up between 3K and 10K to send state legislators (at no cost to themselves) to a posh resort, that's a bribe.

There's a lot of press on this B.S. junket that the Latino Caucus went on (paid for by. . .we don't know, since state law doesn't require disclosure from these would-be corporate bribers -- is briber a word?). I like Chicagoists's take on it here.

Most quoted people are going pretty easy on the caucus. Governor Blagojevich calls it a "perception problem" in today's Tribune, instead of a "corruption problem." I think most people believe (rightly) that no legislator would trade her vote for a campaign contribution (well, only a few of those old-timers left). But it's still not right to take that corporate money.

Too many Latino legislators voted for the SBC give-away bill, for example. I'm sure SBC kicked in for this trip, making it that more likely that a legislator would vote with SBC. The House vote on SB 885, the give-away bill, is here and the Senate vote is here. (Lots of the yes votes argued that since the unions were pushing for the bill, they'd back the union, but consumers were the ones who got ripped off, and I trust the Citizens Utility Board on any and everything having to do with utilities in Illinois. They campaigned hard against the bill.)

I'm sure that lots of other legislators and caucuses go on these junkets too, so I don't mean to suggest the Latino legislators are worse than average on ethical government. They just got all the press. That loophole in state law needs to get plugged. And really, the legislators shouldn't go on the junkets in the first place.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Boston is on the way to the Series

This is awesome.

The Red Sox are almost certainly going to win Game 7, beating the Yankees to get to the Series.

I hate to go overboard on this, but a Boston-Houston series will be a neat symbol of the presidential campaign (taking this idea from someone who commented on my blog). Kerry's Boston versus Bush's Houston (which is served by George Bush Airport, remember).

And in the series, Boston beats New York, as a nice symbol of Kerry beating in an upset the Park Avenue raised Howard Dean, who looked like he had all the money and momentum behind him.

And Houston beating St. Louis, as a symbol of the radical southern Republicans running the old moderate Midwestern Republicans from a position of power -- such that no one even ran against Bush in the primary.

Yeah, it's a stretch, but I'm in a good mood tonight with the Red Sox victory. With two former Cubs in the infield! Go Boston.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

I'm ready to call it. We're going to win. President Kerry.

I'm calling it now: President Kerry.

It's my hunch, but I think we Democrats are more motivated to vote than than Republicans, and that the still-undecideds will vote for change.

I'm on the record.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Dennis Byrne refuses to see the parasites in our health industry

Chicago Tribune former-columnist and now public-affairs-consultant Dennis Byrne has another government-is-bad piece in today's Trib.

The column (here) is about health, and wouldn't you know it, the parasitic for-profit insurance companies never merit a mention. Why are costs so high? Why, it's because we *use* so much health care. It's not because the middlemen for-profit insurance companies skim off billions. It's not because 60 cents on every dollar is spent on paperwork chasing after payment from the insurance companies. Nope. It's because of medical malpractice and defensive medicine, and because we want it all.

The good part of the column came at the end, when he makes the point that we should separate out catastrophic health insurance from regular maintenance. Why insurance has to cover every cost is beyond me. Just like car insurance doesn't cover the cost of tune-ups and oil changes (but does cover the cost of a crash), so too should health insurance not cover the cost of check-ups and physicals, but should cover the cost of cancer or a car crash.

The cheapest way to do that, however, is for the government to cover all of us with the same basic catastrophic insurance, which we would all pay for through a general tax (like the existing 1.5% payroll Medicare tax).

That's no good for Dennis Byrne, who has this to say about the role of government and saving money:

"We might even reduce costs by cutting back on the expensive research and development required to develop new medicines, procedures and technologies. We could do that by taking the profit motive out of that research, and handing those responsibilities and costs directly over to the government. (Please, let's not.)


Good comeback. Trouble is, the government *already* pays most of the costs of research. Unfortunately, the drug companies then get the benefit of that public research, develop a drug, get a ridiculously long patent for it (17 years, I understand, before generics can come to market), run those inane commercials for it (Xybran. . . .so you feel better. Ask your doctor about Xybran. It's a pill you take. . . .to feel better. Xybran!), charge crazy-high prices and then make a fortune.

Dennis Byrne doesn't recognize the crucial role government plays in bringing health care costs to an affordable level. That's a huge lapse in judgment from an often insightful writer, and I think he's got an ideological blind spot.

Higher gasoline tax (and lower tax on wages)

We should tax the things that do us harm and not tax the things that do us good.

Gasoline does us a lot of harm. It warms the atmosphere. It keeps us dependent on the Saudi royal family. It forces us, in part, to send more than 100,000 American soldiers to the Persian Gulf to keep that crude oil flowing.

We don't tax it enough.

This Sun-Times article has two climatologists at Urbana-Champaign making the case for a global gas tax.

The City of Chicago should raise the gas tax, as should all of the counties and the State of Illinois. That will make it easier for our neighboring states, counties and municipalities to balance their budgets by raising their gas taxes. Indiana and Wisconsin like the gas tax differential, but the higher we raise our gax tax, the easier it is for them to raise theirs and still enjoy a differential.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

What's up with the Zorn-Steinberg feud?

Tribune columnist and blogger Eric Zorn and Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg have been in a *feud* for months. The latest slap from Steinberg is in yesterday's paper, where he insults all bloggers as well. It's here:


Speaking of laughing at people. I'm not into writing as a hobby. I don't go home and jot down poems in green India ink and read them to a dozen hipsters at coffee houses. I like to get paid for my work, and I prefer a lot of readers. Scorn me if you like.

Thus I've never gotten into this whole "blog'' business -- the personal diaries of various self-appointed commentators who pour out the tortured musings of their hearts to dedicated handfuls, at least until they get tired and quit. I have tried to read a few of the more popular -- and some of the not-at-all popular -- and found that, in general, the lack of interesting material to be culled buried under huge expanses of vomitous verbiage makes the entire endeavor a waste of time.

Thus I can't answer a question that has been rolling around my mind, ever since a grinning pal at the Chicago Tribune mentioned something to me. Here's the question: If a guy writes a private blog, but it's actually vetted by two or three editors and lawyers within that guy's giant media conglomerate, is it still a blog? Isn't it then a corporate Web site masquerading as a blog? Kind of like those faux micro breweries -- the Old Hog's Head Beer Company -- that turn out to actually be divisions of Miller Beer? Doesn't that make the supposed blog something false and deceptive and shameful? Just wondering.

Neil, you insulted me a little bit.

So this puts me firmly in the Zorn camp (his best recent slap at Steinberg was when he noted that Steinberg used his column to essentially beg for some reader to send him opera tickets).

And clearly, he doesn't get it. A blog isn't a diary and more than a column is a love letter. A blog is meant to be read by others. There's no such thing as a private blog. And if Steinberg is trying to make fun of people writing about their personal lives in blogs, why does he spend so much of his columns writing about his wife, or his health club, or the endless Seinfeld-esque observations from his daily routine?

Friday, October 15, 2004

Your daughter's a lesbian! Nyah, nyah!

I can't believe that the Bush camp is trying to say it is a cheap shot to talk about Dick Cheney's daughter in the debates.

The implication is a little sad.

And to spell it out, the implication is that it is something to be ashamed of. And that's the only reason why Kerry and Edwards brought it up: to bring humiliation and scorn onto the Bush/Cheney ticket, and expose their deep, dark secret to the world.

A lesbian daughter.

The really sad part is that for some people, I'll bet that's true.

And so the really, really sad part is that if the Bush/Cheney camp is calling it a cheap shot and a tawdry political trick, it's because part of the GOP base is appalled that Dick Cheney's daugher is a lesbian.

Now that's *really* embarassing -- part of your base considers is so disgusting that your daughter is gay that if your opponent congratulates you on your accepting, tolerant fatherhood, it's a dirty trick.

I tell you, I'd rather have the liberal extremists than the conservative extremists in weeks like this.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Money in IL politics blog online now

Congratulations to Cindi Canary and the staff at the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. They've got a great blog up here at on up-to-the-minute disclosures.

I used to work in the office (and worked for the organization for a little bit), so I used to get this stuff at the water cooler. Now everyone can get it.

The internet is a pretty cool thing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Beautiful sentence on the nice part about Alan Keyes' campaign

Yes, Alan Keyes is not fit to be a United States Senator (especially as he has no legislative experience -- see Hull and Hynes supporters, I wasn't just picking on them at the time).

Yes, he did not spark the national dialogue on the definition of morality that I had hoped might occur (a little bit like Senator Kerry's talk on faith and the nation's need to love our brothers more that we do through government investments in people).

But I'm a bit of a softie on Alan Keyes. I think there's something kind of great about the campaign.

He's black.

I know -- the GOP State Central Committee's selection of Keyes had all the grace of a drowning man. He filled a quota of one.

But no matter how inelegant the selection, there's something satisfying about two black candidates each earning the major party nomination for a U.S. Senate campaign from a state with a black population of only 14%.

Eric Zorn put it better than I have, likely inspired from watching the radio debate in person:

And I suspect that if Abe Lincoln's ghost haunts the Old State Capitol where he made such a mark so long ago, it smiled tonight at the sight of two black men debating as the leading candidates for Senate in his beloved state of Illinois.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Tribune endorses Bean and a new congressional map for Illinois

Today's Tribune endorsed Melissa Bean over Phil Crane in a surprising editorial. The Tribune helped to found the Republican Party and it is not an easy thing for the paper to endorse a Democrat.

Sadly, that will probably not be enough to defeat Phil Crane, given the gerrymandered district. I could be wrong (and hope so), but I'm playing the pessimistic role in this debate.

Intriguingly, the Trib also wrote:

Thanks to a redistricting of congressional boundaries that was accomplished with one goal in mind -- protecting both Democratic and Republican incumbents -- few races in the state are seriously contested. Illinois should consider a better way to remap -- one that puts voters ahead of politicians. But that's for another day.


Not bad. Looks like someone (I'm guessing Bruce Dold or Steve Chapman) understand that power of the single-member districts to lock in results, but couldn't get the rest of the board to really back it, since they don't really get it yet. But that's progress.

We can do two things. One, we can redraw many of the white districts to make them roughly 50-50 between D and R voters (at least, we can do that with Mark Kirk's district, Jerry Weller's district, maybe Henry Hyde's district and in a stretch, Phil Crane's district). We can't really make the three black districts and the Latino district competitive, because there are too many D voters. This can be done with a partisan remap in Springfield (like what the Republicans did in Texas under Tom DeLay), but with the goal of creating more competitive districts instead of locked-in Democratic districts. Maybe that will be seen as OK by the Republicans, especially if the Trib provides some cover.

There was an attempt to do so this year in the General Assembly, led by the legislature's most prolific lawmaker John Cullerton. SB 2127 started the discussion, but Speaker Madigan nixed the plan. Maybe this editorial will help to change the Speaker's mind.

The second thing we can do is abolish single-member districts and use a type of proportional representation in multi-member districts. The most competitive system we could use would elect the 19 Members of Congress from Illinois statewide, where 1/19 of the vote elects one Member of Congress. That would avoid our current situation in Blue State Illinois, where Democrats always win, and we have 10 Republican Members of Congress and 9 Democrats. That's the power of the single-member district -- it distorts the votes.

Somewhere in between would be having three big districts -- one for Chicago with 5 Members, one for the collar counties and suburban Cook with 5 or 6 Members, one for Northern Illinois with 4 Members and one for Southern Illinois with 3 or 4 Members. That way, 1/5 of the vote in Chicago elects someone, 1/4 in Northern Illinois, etc. We could provide for cumulative voting rights, like we did in the Illinois House until 1982 in 3-seat districts, to create more competitive elections. And a great benefit would be representation from the political minority. Chicago Republicans should have representation. DuPage Democrats should have representation. Now they don't. That's not representative government. For more, see the Midwest Democracy Center.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Get health care costs off employers' backs with Medicare for all

This TIME magazine article lays out the case for government-funded health care, instead of for-profit insurance company funded health care, as 30 times more administrative efficient than the way we do it now.

Here's how they lead the article:

This is the picture of health care in America. We spend more money than anyone else in the world — and yet have less to show for it than other developed countries. That's one reason we don't live as long. We don't adequately cover half the population. We encourage hospitals and doctors to perform unnecessary medical procedures on people who don't need them, while denying procedures to those who do. We charge the poor far more for medical services than we do the rich. We force senior citizens with modest incomes to board buses to Canada to buy drugs they can't afford in America. We clog our emergency rooms with patients because they can't get in to see their doctors. We spend more money treating disease than preventing it. We are victims of rampant fraud and overbilling. We stand a good chance of dying from a mistake if we are admitted to a hospital, and we kill more people with prescription drugs than with street drugs like cocaine and heroin. We have an endless choice of health-care plans, but most people have few real choices. We are forced to hold bake sales, car washes and pancake breakfasts to pay the medical bills of family members and friends when a catastrophic illness strikes.

Americans tend to believe they have the best health care in the world, but in truth it is a second-rate system and destined to get a lot worse and much more expensive.

--- a quick description of the cheaper alternative, Medicare ---

We already have universal health care and a single-payer system for everybody age 65 and over: it's called Medicare. For years, researchers and health-care professionals have advocated a similar plan for the rest of the population, but no plan has ever got far in the legislative process because of fierce opposition by the health-care industry. To discredit the single-payer idea, insurers, HMOs, for-profit hospitals and other private interests play on Americans' long-standing fears of Big Government. In truth, it is the private market that has created a massive bureaucracy, one that dwarfs the size and costs of Medicare, the most efficiently run health-insurance program in the U.S. in terms of administrative costs. Medicare's overhead averages about 2% a year. In a 2002 study for the state of Maine, Mathematica Policy Research Inc. concluded that administrative costs of private insurers in the state ranged from 12% to more than 30%. That isn't surprising because unlike Medicare, which relies on economies of scale and standardized universal coverage, private insurance is built on bewildering layers of plans and providers that require a costly bureaucracy to administer, much of which is geared toward denying claims.

--- and my favorite snippet at the end ---

America's privately funded system puts U.S. companies at a disadvantage to their competitors in the industrialized world, where health care is funded by government. GM says the cost of providing health care to its workers and retirees totals $1,400 for each vehicle sold in the U.S., more than the cost of steel.


WOW! So in other words, without government-run health care, we shoot our manufacturing industry in the foot by putting ourselves at a competitive disadvantage to every other Western nation's manufacturing companies.

Can we get the Manufacturers' Associations on board the government-funded health care train, so that we don't saddle businesses that are competing in a global market with the cost of providing health care to their workers? If we can't, they should stop listening to the parasitic insurance companies.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Does "I have a plan" really work?

That's one of John Kerry's favorite lines. It must work if his campaign insists on using it all the time. "I have a plan."

And I like that he asked people to 'join me' in asking to roll back the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest top 2%.

Did George Bush just say "internets"?

Yeah, I think he did.

"I hear there's these rumors on the internets . . . about the draft."

I read that on the webs. Thanks, Mr. Presidents.

(Does that mean President Bush doesn't check the web at all?)

Did John Kerry just say "straight up"?

I think he did.

I think he just said "let me tell you straight up"

O.K., home dog. You tell me straight up. Word.

New report on waste and inefficiency of US health care system

Why do we spend so much money on health care with such rotten results in this country?

We spend more, per capita, than anyone else in the world. By far.

And yet by any measure, we are not a very healthy nation.

This report by Jobs with Justice blames waste.

We waste billions.

We waste billions through

(a) hundreds of different forms for doctors and hospitals to fill out to try to chase after their money from insurance companies that make money by not paying bills

(b) ridiculously generous patent monopolies to the drug companies that allow them to charge crazy-high prices to consumers for drugs

(c) direct subsidies to private insurance companies that take on Medicare patients, since the for-profit insurance companies are far less efficient than the public Medicare program which handles 90% of all seniors.

Unreal how much money we waste on the for-profit paper chase in health insurance.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Is Bush prompted by an earpiece during debates?

I love this stuff -- some left-wing bloggers think that President Bush might be wearing an earpiece like television anchors so that his team can send him prompts during debates and press conferences (the way that producers tell anchors about breaking news through their earpiece).

The main website is and scroll down to the photographs of Bush on the site.

Can you imagine?: his campaign team whispering in Bush's ear the right phrases to use after a moderator's question, like some high-tech puppeteer. Yes. I can imagine that happening with this ruthless Bush campaign.

Chicago corruption has *got* to go

This is a cancer on the Democratic Party.

The papers are full of stories about bribes, payoffs, idle city workers and contractors and taxpayer ripoffs. The feds are investigating, but this is no excuse for our civic failure to eliminate the corruption.

This quote from an FBI agent chilled me:

"I never cease to be amazed at the level of corruption in this city," said Thomas Kneir, the soon-to-retire boss of the FBI's Chicago office, after federal prosecutors unveiled criminal charges against two alleged bribe-taking city officials with a promise of many more defendants in the days ahead.

It's from this Mark Brown column in the Sun-Times.

Why can't we clean up our own house?

We've got a tenuous grip on majority status in Illinois, and if the Republicans are successful at painting 'Chicago Democratic control' of Illinois government as 'corruption and FBI investigations' we're going to have a hard time earning a majority of the vote in 2006.

It's crucial to the growth of the Democratic Party that we eliminate the cancer of old school corruption. How are we going to get taxpayers to spend more money on poor kids who need high-paid teachers if we don't trust the government to spend the money honestly? How are we going to convince the taxpayers to buy health insurance in one big, efficient pool for everyone without parasitic middlemen industries if we don't trust the government? How is the CTA going to get more state money if people don't trust the city government to stamp out featherbedding and patronage desk jobs? We're the victims of corruption. And we have got to stamp this out. We can no longer tolerate a culture of tolerance among Cook County Democrats for corruption.

I think people feel intimidated to crusade against Democratic corruption because of (a) a perception that the best vote-getters either condone or participate in corruption and (b) a perception that the best vote-getters will turn on candidates who campaign against corruption. Maybe (hopefully) I'm wrong. But we need to build up a force in the Cook County Democratic Party that will crusade against corruption -- and earn more votes in primaries for doing so.

Ideas are welcome.

Stern's anti-FCC (and anti-Bush) crusade a good thing

Howard Stern's jump away from government-regulated broadcast radio to non-regulated satellite radio is a great thing for the Kerry campaign.

Stern's 12 million daily listeners, most of whom probably are younger, whiter and less likely to read a newspaper than the average voter (in other words, more likely to be persuadable swing voters) have been hearing an anti-Bush crusade for months, if not years. The FCC's ridiculous 'crack-down' on indecency should have an anti-Bush backlash in November, and Howard Stern might be a significant part of that.

Yes, I know Kerry voted with the 99 other senators to authorize the FCC to levy higher fines against Viacom for allowing the nation to see Janet Jackson's nipple (oh, horrors! think of the children!), but it's Bush's FCC. He appointed Colin Powell's kid to run it.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Keep Steve Stone in the Cubs booth

After the Cubs implosion in the last week of baseball, the fate of Steve Stone is up in the air. Chip Caray is taking a walk to work with his father broadcasting the Braves games. I never liked Chip's persona, but I wish him well. Now that Steve Stone told the truth about the Cubs -- this team should have *easily* made the playoffs, and there is no justification for them coming up short -- the Tribune brass is apparently thinking about whether to keep him or not.

Keep Steve Stone!

He's the smartest broadcaster I've ever heard. Baseball is a complicated game, and Stoney teaches it well. I like Santo and Hughes on the radio, but Steve Stone is the best. So any Tribsters that are reading this blog: keep Steve Stone. And maybe get Mark Grace to do the play-by-play. Or Leon Durham. Or Rick Sutcliffe.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Good story on San Francisco's use of instant runoff voting

I was just in the land of instant runoff voting (isn't that what everyone calls San Francisco now?)

Here is a nice AP story on the upcoming November election where voters will get a first choice *and* a second choice for municipal elections in San Francisco.

Wouldn't that be nice in every election?

I've got a part-time job working on this stuff (and walked a lot of precincts in 2002 for this measure in San Francisco), so consider this my disclosure that I am interested party.

If you like instant runoff voting, then join the Midwest Democracy Center.

And speaking joining the Midwest Democracy Center, this Saturday at 6 pm we're having a house party in Chicago with former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic. He's turned into a progressive advocate in Washington State with a good website here and a new book out: Of Grunge and Government. At the house party, 20 bucks gets you a book and an introductory membership to the Midwest Democracy Center, so we can continue to lobby for smarter elections.

Email me at and I'll send you the address to the house party.

Kerry will be better than Clinton

Two reasons why President Kerry will be better than President Clinton.

1. He's already shown excellent judgment by picking Barack Obama as the keynote for the DNC. That was a bold move. At the time, Jim Edgar or Jim Thompson could have gotten in the race, and Barack might have lost. It was not the lock that it is now. And what a better pick that Clinton's keynotes: centrists like Evan Bayh. His choice of a real progressive is a great sign for his Administration.

2. His background as a legislator means that he's more likely to listen to others than the background of executives like Governor Clinton (who tend to make their decisions without a ton of input).

Friday, October 01, 2004

Want to see me live? I know, the line starts at the back

This Tuesday, October 5th at the Second City e.t.c. stage, I'll be a guest in Peter Grosz and T.J. Shanoff's production of "Talk Show." It's the format of a talk show, where Peter and TJ are the hosts, and when there's a panel discussion of guests to talk about what's going on (sort of like Politically Incorrect), I'll be one of those guys.

Here's a new release on it. Come on by.

Blago administration continues the asthma epidemic

What a lame move.

The Illinois EPA decided to keep the federal government's ridiculous grandfather clause for old coal power plants in place, instead of modernizing our state rules for air quality.

Why? Oh, it would be "irresponsible" for the state to set up better rules than the federal rules. The coal power plants, much of which are now owned by independent companies, might have to charge more if they installed pollution controls, instead of spewing cancer-causing filthy smoke into the air for people to inhale. That's the bottom line.

The report is here.

Well, those coal power plants *should* cost more to operate, because right now they are imposing a real cost on the rest of us. The kids with asthma bear real costs, but the electric companies and ratepayers don't pay for that. They should, to make the price of electricity accurate, and not subsidized by the sick (as they do now). Plus, the more the price of electricity reflects its real and true cost, the more competitive renewable energy like wind and solar become.

What a horrible recommendation by the Illinois EPA.

I hope the General Assembly rejects the findings and passes modern regulations on filthy, old coal power plants.

Waiting for the federal EPA to force these old coal power plants to upgrade is like waiting for the federal Department of Labor to force the worst employers to pay their workers a decent wage. We don't expect that to happen, so the state passes a higher minimum wage than the federal minimum wage, and the state passes our own set of overtime regulations to the Bush overtime take-away doesn't apply here.

(This does show how labor runs the show with Blagojevich far more than liberals do).

The other point from the EPA's report is that Illinois would still face pollution from neighboring states, and that some of the benefit from the cleaner coal would be enjoyed by people in other states downwind of the power plants.

So what?

Then those other states can improve their regulations too. Plus, modernizing state rules for air pollution will make it more likely that the feds will improve their regulations. The report calls on the Governor to "demand" the federal EPA pass tighter regulations. Yeah, good luck. If we really want stronger federal regulations, then we should go ahead and implement our own strong state regulations, and create a race to the top instead of a race to the bottom.

Best line in debate (which Kerry apparently won)

"Invading Iraq in response to 9/11 would be like Franklin Roosevelt invading Mexico in response to Pearl Harbor."