Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Novak writes that Arnold has a 65% popularity rating, and if he campaigned in California with President Bush, then maybe, just maybe, Bush could beat Kerry in California. And if that happened, then Bush gets re-elected no matter what happens in Ohio, Florida and/or Pennsylvania.
Man, I hope the Bush campaign takes the bait and wastes all that money and time campaigning in California. Because there's no way that a pro-life, pro-oil, pro-empire and pro-gun Texas president could come close to a majority of the vote in California, no matter how much Arnold pumps him up. There's no Maria Shriver to tell nervous California voters that Bush is OK (as she did for her husband in the recall election, which helped to seal the deal).
Novak writes that Karl Rove and the Bush campaign were criticized for investing in California in 2000 since the Dems dominated the race. I hope they do it again.
Also, on a technical note, I put up a google ad on the side. Now. . .I'll be rich!
And also, congratulations to frequent commenter Vasyl Markus for landing a Crain's op-ed on Keyes' domicile issues with his ballot status. The article is here, but you've got to be a subscriber to read it. (If you can afford it, it's a great paper and worth the buck-an-issue).
Monday, August 30, 2004
A friend mentioned to me yesterday that there was a buzz about John McCain being selected as Bush's vice president. This is starting to make more and more sense for team Bush. From McCain's point of view, he becomes heir apparent in 2008 as the incumbent VP. All while staying loyal to his party. From Bush's point of view, he gets rid of creepy, reclusive (in the pubic eye) Cheney, who they can then make out as a scape goat for all that's wrong with the administration. Though I think Cheney was an asset to Bush in 2000 as an intellectual balance, I think many now see him as a liability. With McCain on the ticket, the crucial swing voters who need only a small nudge in one direction or another would be drawn to his moderation and common sense. This could give legitimacy (to them) to another Bush administration. McCain could even further dip into the Kerry-voting-but-not-totally-sure demographic for people who don't like Bush and his administration, but are hesitant to change things during what they may see as an internationlly volatile time. Could it really happen? In spite of Bush having made his decision to stick with Cheney and being loathe to be portrayed as a flip-flopper himself, all that really needs to happen is for Cheney to be persuaded to drop out "for reasons of health." It just makes sense for the Republicans on many levels.
Saturday, August 28, 2004
As it turned out, the four Dem-appointed members thought the silence in state law should be interpreted as meaning the RSCC had no authority and the ballot ought not include Keyes while the four GOP-appointed members thought the explicit authority granted to the RSCC to fill almost every other vacancy should trump the silence on whether U.S. Senate vacancies may be filled by the RSCC.
But that vote doesn't mean that Dems are "playing politics" with the decision or that the Obama campaign or Speaker Madigan is trying to hurt the Keyes campaign. Far from it. Any rational political decision by the Democratic Party of Illinois or the Obama campaign is to let Keyes get on the ballot, state law ambiguity or not, as the state's electorate is firmly behind Obama to a degree unmatched by any other Senate campaign in memory.
If the four Dem-appointed members of the State Board of Elections had followed the smart political advice and ignored the real legal question here, then they would have been "playing politics." Instead, they did the right thing and had a real debate on the issue. Good for them.
The Trib article is here and the Sun-Times article is here. Dan Proft's spin that they are "playing games with the law" is totally wrong. So is the Obama aide for calling it "outrageously stupid." And the headline writers are wrong too. This isn't "wacky."
If there are any huffy editorials about this, any blame should be cast at the General Assembly for not clarifying this state law when everyone knew there was a problem. (Yeah, I'm a little bitter, since the omnibus bill that would have cleared this up included the 14-day grace period voter registration reform that I worked on to make it easier for people to register to vote).
Friday, August 27, 2004
Bush hid behind the privilege that was to eventually deposit him, blinking and amazed, into the White House.
The column is here.
Now, I don't like Neil Steinberg (never having met him, I say that I don't like 'him' when I talk about the voice of his columns. The voice of the columnist is a jerk. He, in 'real life', is probably a nice person). He is, however, a very clear writer, so I keep going back and reading these columns that I don't enjoy, because they are written so well.
Thursday, August 26, 2004
I suspect we liberals are going to have to focus on those aspects of the health insurance industry that seem like a waste of resources where a universal government program makes more sense -- and then be comfortable with letting the other parts of the industry remain private. For example, I think catastrophic health insurance (hit by a bus, rare disease) should be provided to every citizen by the government. These risks can't be controlled or mitigated (largely), and the costs of those who are *not* insured to everyone else are far greater than just insuring everyone in the first place. That's insuring against medical bankruptcy. And if we had some harder figures on the costs of a previously productive person going bankrupt, losing their job, etc. because of an insurable health condition, and all this calamity would not have occurred if the government had provided catastrophic health insurance, that would help make our case. Anyone care to do a research paper on the topic?
(Speaking of which, I'm trying to help get some good research papers done with ideas for topics. Check out that page on my site, and please contribute your papers or ideas for topics. It's here.)
Another health insurance program I think the government should run is birthing. Why should women or their employers have to pay extra to cover the cost of birthing insurance? That's discrimination.
But some areas where private, for-profit companies should run the market (both in services and in insurance) include cosmetic surgery and 'alternative' care. I'm not sure where the draw the line (based solely on pragmatic assessments of the greatest good for the greatest number). Should regular check-ups be covered by a government program or should we require people to buy their own insurance -- or pay out of pocket -- for those regular recurring expenses? That's one odd thing about health insurance for regular check-ups: you're not really insuring yourself against anything, since everyone is supposed to go and spend the money for a regular check-up anyway. So what's the point of playing games? If everyone is supposed to spend the $250 to see a doctor once a year, then maybe that should just be an out-of-pocket expense, and we shouldn't encourage people to pay for that $250 by paying some insurance company a monthly premium and then having the company pay the doctor. Seems like a waste of time. Insurance should be limited to those big items, like a hospital stay or chemotherapy. I guess there's an incentive to actually go for a check-up if 'it's free' since the insurance company is covering that cost, but that treats us like children who are incapable of going to the doctor for a check-up if we have to write a check instead of pretending that the only cost is the $20 co-pay. Paying for regular, recurring, reasonable expenses (like fees for check-ups) muddies the question as to the real value of health insurance, and gets people into the game of trying to see if the cost of the premiums is more or less than what their out-of-pocket expenses were for the year. I hope we learn a ton about the real costs of the industry from the Health Care Justice Act -- and that they get started soon.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Monday, August 23, 2004
I was appalled.
It is noble for a someone in the armed forces to tell their civilian commanders -- and that includes Congress who runs and funds the military -- what is really going on, so that the civilian commanders can make an informed decision whether to continue to wage war. Mr. Elder (and some other 'support the troops' people I've spoken with) believe that once a war begins, debating the policy only serves to hurt morale and is to be avoided at all costs. That's stifling dissent, under the guise of supporting the troops. (And what a condescending view of active duty servicemen and women! It's as if we can train young men and women to kill other people in horribly difficult conditions, but if they hear that there is a debate over whether the war is a bad idea or not, they just won't be able to continue to do their job. Give me a break. Troops can handle democracy.)
John Kerry's decision to actively work to end the Vietman War is what fuels the perceived 'betrayal' of these pro-war partisans, not any B.S. story about faking combat to get a metal. All that is just another ruthless lie from the win-at-all-costs national Republicans. (Why can't northern Republicans be running that party again?)
Saturday, August 21, 2004
Beyond the Beltway tomorrow; why conservatives like Keyes and why IL Dems should root out corruption
Thomas Roeser's column on Alan Keyes in the Sun-Times here helps explain to me why conservatives are happy to pick him. He is their Barry Goldwater. He is the one who can purge the state party of their corrupt machine ties and give conservatives (or fundamentalists) a happy home.
Roeser's a good writer, so here is a choice paragraph:
Then why am I an optimist? Because before victory comes, a party must change. Just as Barry Goldwater by losing changed the Republican Party from an eastern seaboard entity to a Southern party that got elected adhering to traditional values, Keyes can transform the moribund Republicrat party from boardrooms and country clubs into a vibrant entity: composed on one level of working class and entrepreneurs, ethnics and blue-collar suburbs, and churches -- tons of them: Catholic, Evangelical.
First, that's a really insightful comment on the change from Eisenhower Republicans to Reagan Republicans (and how Northern Republicans like the Chicago Tribune and, for that matter, pre-1980 John Anderson) have been pushed out of the party over the last few decades.
Second, transformations don't happen all that often, and it's interesting to see such wishful thinking infect a major party. Raising the living standards of regular people is the core definition of the Democratic Party. Republicans have to fight against that by framing government as the problem. That's easier to do with the federal government. The state government (which basically funds schools, health care, transportation and those too infirm or old to care for themselves and has a low tax burden) is a much more difficult target for Republicans to paint as the obstacle toward a higher living standard. Most people get that more money for education raises living standards. The state tax burden is rather light (especially the state income tax, which at 3% is too low). There isn't much of a bogeyman for Republicans to rally swing voters around, so I don't really see where a state GOP party purged of 'moderates' can't build a majority.
The only weak spot for Democrats is corruption. Governor Blagojevich seems to sense that weak spot, so he constantly calls himself a reformer to disassociate himself from the widespread perception of government tolerance for low-level corruption. That, I suspect, is the 'traditional value' that Roeser and John Kass and conservatives would like Republicans to crusade on, and they can't do it when Bob Kjellander and other deal-makers perceived to be as corrupt as anyone else are running the state GOP.
I think the lesson for Illinois Democrats is that it is in their interest to root out any tolerance of corruption. It's an intriguing puzzle why Mayor Daley hasn't led that charge. To their credit (though in real fits and starts), the Illinois Ethics Act of 2003 has cleaned up a lot of the state problems. And the fact that there isn't any money in the state budget means that there hasn't been much Democratic patronage for the Governor to control, which is also good.
It will be harder as the incumbent party in 2006 for Democrats to hold onto the mantle of the anti-corruption party -- and eliminate their biggest potential source of weakness from a 'clean sweep' GOP message -- if they aren't perceived to be cleaning up state government. There ought to be another push in 2005 for ethical government in Springfield, and some sacred cows (how do you spell O'Hare) really ought to get gored. That's in every Democrats' interest, including Mayor Daley's.
Thursday, August 19, 2004
They have a report out here on 2004 successes.
One great bill out of Massachusetts that I'll be trying to replicate in Illinois (from the Center's email):
Massachusetts Passes Corporate Accountability Legislation
The Massachusetts legislature last month became the first in the nation to require its state government to compile an annual list of which companies' employees and their dependents use state health benefits the most, and what it costs taxpayers. The requirement, included in the state budget, applies to employers with more than 50 workers.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
If you watch this show Sundays at 8 pm, and you get a chance to vote for Malia, please do so. I like her little phrase 'putting the diva in democracy.'
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Chapman sees the light on the Electoral College (Zorn, not so much). And Colorado might improve things.
Eric Zorn in this blog here lists both columns and pays Chapman some props for having the audacity to change his mind -- in print! Unfortunately, Eric suggests that he still likes the Electoral College, because. . . well, he doesn't really get into it.
I'll tell you why we should abolish the Electoral College: because it's dumb. It really is.
Any election that takes 35 states -- well over 75% of the country's population -- completely out of the equation is stupid. And that's what the Electoral College does. That's the single biggest reason to abolish it. My vote for President is meaningless, because I live in Illinois.
Just to make the point clear, here are the states where votes for President are completely meaningless, because the people in these states just *happen* to support one major party over the other at a fairly decisive rate (at least 55%), courtesy of www.electoral-vote.com:
District of Columbia (should be a state)
We all have no say in who the next President will be. (And this is a conservative list of 'safe' states). That' s not right. There is no good justification.
I mean, I am planning on taking a road trip to Michigan in order to walk a precinct for Kerry. I have to *road trip* in order to knock on the door of an American who gets an opportunity to vote for President. That is ridiculous.
It's the same reason why the way we run the Senate is dumb. Here in Illinois, 3 million of us might vote for Obama. We'll make up 65% of the vote. But does Obama get more voting power than someone from Rhode Island or Idaho that barely won with 250,000 votes? No. He gets one vote. And that means *we* only get one vote.
So the additional votes for Obama get us. . . nothing. That's not right.
We should use proportional representation, like almost every other modern democracy (you know, the elections we've installed in Afghanistan and Iraq). And I'm not just saying that because it's my part-time day job. (I'm employed by the Center for Voting and Democracy and have started the Midwest Democracy Center).
Anyway, there are good signs out of Colorado. The initiative to allocate the state's 9 Electoral votes proportionally (Amendment 36) has apparently qualified for the November ballot, according to this AP story. I hope it passes.
Dan Burke (D-Chicago) worked very hard on this bill, and there's something noble about legislation that literally saves lives. It should have passed in 2003; I'm glad it made it into law. Bills like this are why I like hanging around the General Assembly. It's the House of Justice, if we want it to be.
Sunday, August 15, 2004
But with all due respect to Dan Proft, this is getting dumber and dumber.
Alan Keyes went on CBS to sing Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
It must be seen. Please watch it.
And then say to yourself, as I said to myself, "what the hell is happening to the Illinois Republican Party?"
I think Barack Obama might carry DuPage County. And Kirk Dillard might vote for him.
The first person to see a Bush/Obama sign in Naperville wins.
Here is the story.
In 2005, it's time to outlaw these sharks.
The bad guy is the Carlyle Group (named Manchurian Financial in the movie). This private equity fund with top connected shareholders that gets no-bid Pentagon contracts for military contractors also has a touch of Halliburton. These are some bad people (war profiteers, etc.) and they ought to be more well-known than they are. If this movie helps, great. It might alienate a few swing voters away from the GOP. I also like the dig at Diebold's paperless touch screen voting (listen to the radio during a party). The spooky movie's plot is about a corporate coup. And if people think about stuff like that, they are unlikely to support the Party of Corporate Power.
One mistake: when Meryl Streep was pitching other party leaders during the convention in front of a national map that showed the electoral vote for each state, the map showed Illinois with 22 votes. That has not been true since 2001, when we lost our 20th Member of Congress, leaving us with only 19. And that gives us 21 electoral votes, not 22.
The other mistake: not casting Joan Allen in the part. Meryl Streep was sort of a weak link.
Friday, August 13, 2004
The funniest blog; the rise of Dan Proft; Abner Mikva and Sheila Simon's great quotes; 700,000 margin for Obama prediction
I've got to hand it to Dan Proft, a leader of IllinoisLeader.com, a GOP consultant and a movement conservative. Getting Alan Keyes is a triumph for him. That's why he moved to Calumet City -- because Dan Proft was the operative behind the successful GOP sweep of the city government in 2003. If you want to see how the Keyes campaign is going to be run, read up on Dan Proft's old columns. I've been on Beyond the Beltway with him and he's a good guy, so congratulations to Dan.
So last night the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (website here) had an event honoring the life of Paul Simon and celebrating passage of the 2003 Illinois Ethics Act. Two highlights for me. Abner Mikva's quote on Paul Simon (paraphrased): "Lots of people say that voters get the politicians they deserve. Well, Paul thought it worked the other way too, that politicians get the constituents they deserve." And Sheila Simon (Paul Simon's daughter, Carbondale City Council member and 2012 Member of Congress -- you heard it here first!): "I can imagine my granddaughter looking through old photo albums and seeing a picture of Dad and asking about it. We'd tell them that it was at a political fundraiser, and she'd ask "What's that?" And when we'd explain that a political fundraiser is when candidates ask the people who are able to vote for them to give them checks, she would burst out laughing at the idea."
It is kind of crazy that those candidates who don't want to raise private money for campaigns aren't eligible for public funds. No wonder the racetracks and the boats and the rest of the parasites have so much clout
Finally, here's my November prediction. 700,000 more people will vote for Barack Obama than Alan Keyes.
UPDATE: Vasyl showed me that my math is off. I think Obama will earn 65% of the vote. But if 4 million are expected to vote in a presidential year, that means I'm predicting 2.6 million for Obama and 1.4 million for everybody else. So my predicted margin is 1.2 million for Obama, not 700,000.(And that 1.2 million margin is more people than will vote altogether in most states).
UPDATE: Now that I've read the statute at 12:30 pm, I can see the loophole. 10 ILCS 5/25-7 says that there must be a special election to fill a congressional vacancy if it occurs more than 180 days before the next general election. That deadline was May 2nd, so the statute doesn't apply. It isn't clear to me that the congressional committee (made up of the ward and township committemen in the 3rd congressional district) has clear statutory authority to fill the vacancy, but that's probably in some other section of the Election Code. Oh well.
Thursday, August 12, 2004
(I particularly like their headline: "The Illinois Republican Party goes to extremes to find a Senate candidate" because now I can't stop singing that Billy Joel song (too high or too low, there ain't no in between, darling I don't know why I go to extremes)).
Monday, August 09, 2004
Keyes' religious fundamentalism is a golden opportunity for Obama to 'convert' the pious to the Democratic Party
The motivating policy is abortion, of course, and Keyes helps to show how millions of lower-income people (that's less than 75K annually) vote for the party of wealth (that's the GOP) over the party of work (that's the Democrats). Because they want to do the moral thing, and that trumps their pocketbook.
This is the golden opportunity for Barack Obama, and with all the national attention, his message now will resonate around the country. Can Barack Obama show people how Democratic economic policies (higher minimum wage, easier unionization, investment in people through education and health care) are *morally* superior to Republican economic policies (cutting taxes on the wealthy)?
Can he show how pious people who "worship an awesome God" are morally and ethically compelled to support Democratic economic policies? Because it is immoral to support policies that minimize the middle class, make the rich richer and the poor poorer. It is immoral to do that. And that is what federal Republican policies do.
If Barack Obama can talk about taxes and fiscal policies in the language of morality. . . we might reclaim those pious, less-educated, lower-income white families away from pro-life Republicans and bring them back into the Democratic Party coalition.
These debates are going to be great.
It actually mentions our work in Illinois (kind of) in this paragraph:
At the state and federal level, the method has been praised as a way to create space for third parties in a two-party system that has excluded them. But therein lies the rub: Attempts to pass instant runoff voting plans in New Mexico, Alaska and Illinois, among other places, have failed in recent years, largely because Democrats or Republicans opposed it.
Well, that's not actually true. In New Mexico, the Senate Democrats killed it while the House Democrats actively supported it. In Alaska, the Republicans were largely for it while the Democrats were not. But in Illinois, neither party has taken a 'party position' on instant runoff voting. Our future Senator Barack Obama introduced an instant runoff voting bill in 2002, but we haven't been able to pass one yet. Hopefully in 2005.
And the San Francisco Democratic Central Committee endorsed instant runoff voting in the March 2002 election when it was on the ballot (and without that endorsement from the Democratic Party, instant runoff voting would have not earned a majority of the vote).
Instant runoff voting should be more of a mainstream issue than it is, because the spoiler problem is not ever going away with plurality elections.
Thursday, August 05, 2004
The cost? Oh, $2.2 million.
The cost of a nice elementary school. Or 22 well-paid police officers.
Wal-Mart will kick in half a million (so nice of them), leaving the City of Champaign and the County of Champaign expected to pick up about 800 grand each.
Just so Wal-Mart can build another store to suck up more local money and send it to Arkansas.
That smells like bad public policy to me.
The Sun-Times has a lead story up on the site, but ends with an analysis of power-broker "Senator Dave Syverson of Hinsdale." Yeah. He lives in Rockford. Here's his bio.
And I can't believe that Syverson didn't get a firm commitment from Keyes to take the nomination if asked. Now there's a story for three days as Keyes thinks it over? It's like they are asking to get turned down again. At least the Draft Ditka and Edgar and Dave Duerson movements were all outside of the elected party leadership, so the perpetual rejections weren't really from the party. This time the party has asked someone to run officially without knowing that he'll do it beforehand. That's risky.
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
The bright side for progressives is that it gives Barack a chance to firmly frame government investment in people as the moral thing to do. Alan Keyes' pitch (at least one of them) is a moral awakening (when presumably all this talk about marriage rights for gays and birth control for women is the cause of our moral decline). If Barack Obama can reframe Alan Keyes language on morality in terms of raising the standard of living of people through government investment, then the campaign will have done the progressive movement a valuable service.
I hope they schedule a dozen debates. They're both crackling intelligent and can turn a phrase with the best of them.
There's a real question that Vasyl and my friend Ellen bring up. Is Alan Keyes a legal candidate for office?
He's not an Illinois registered voter, which is a requirement to be a candidate.
There is no residency requirement for a candidate for federal office (because the U.S. Constitution won't let a state impose an additional requirement on a federal candidate), so if Ambassador Keyes is eligible to be a candidate, he's eligible to be a U.S. Senator.
(He is not eligible to be an alderman, a state representative or any state or local office, because the state imposes a residency requirement).
Here's the part that I don't quite understand.
The question is one of intent. Ambassador Keyes needs to intend to make his Illinois residence permanent.
Who are we kidding?
If he doesn't get the nomination, then Keyes is not going to move to Illinois.
If he does get the nomination, then he'll move to Illinois, and then move back to Maryland after his loss in November.
But here's the tricky part. He won't move here for the three-month stretch unless and until he gets the nomination.
In order to get the nomination, he needs to file a declaration of candidacy and register to vote, which means that he swears under oath that he intends to make Illinois his permanent residence.
That's a fairly nasty Catch-22 that Maryland resident finds himself in.
I think his statement of candidacy would be subject to a challenge (since I'm in the middle of this quasi-litigation now on a different case, I'm a touch familiar with it).
Of course, in Erc Zorn's memorable phrase, the powers-that-be will likely engage in whatever 'hand-waving' they need to in order to sweep these potential violations of the Election Code under the rug and get on with having a GOP nominee.
But *anyone* can file a challenge to a candidate's nomination papers.
Plus, one could challenge the right of the Republican State Central Committee to fill the vacancy in the first place, since state law is rather ambiguous on this point.
Anyway, back to the analysis.
I think the party is making a mistake. Alan Keyes is an eloquent fundamentalist, and if Senator Dave Syverson really thinks that Keyes' uber-fundamentalist views are closer to the median Illinois voter than Senator Obama's, then I didn't realize how conservative Senator Syverson really is.
They should have found the money for Steve Rauschenburger (I heard he only wanted $3 million from the DC GOP, but Speaker Hastert would rather spend it on South Dakota or Oklahoma and wouldn't budge). Barring that, they should have convinced some other smart state senator like Dave Sullivan or Christine Radogno or Bill Brady to take one for the team and run an issues-based campaign that could have raised the profile of the legislator while essentially conceding the race to Obama.
But I must admit it is kind of neat to break a record and have both major party nominees for the U.S. Senate be black.
Here's another question: what is it about Illinois? How are we able to elect not one but two black U.S. Senators? How do we have statewide black elected officials every year since (I think) the late 80s? Are we significantly less racist than other states?
Maybe there's a really happy story about the maturity of Illinois voters here.
Sunday, August 01, 2004
I think it's good to have more power in the legislative branch, and I hope the new spirit means that the legislature will take more of an initiative in coming up with a better budget. When lots of people work hard on the budget, you get a better result than when only a few do.