Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Pentagon: They don't hate our freedoms. They hate our policies.

That's what the Pentagon believes. This article in the Christian Science Monitor lays out the details, but the big picture is easy to grasp. It's dumb to say that Al Queda and Muslim terrorists attack the U.S. because of our freedoms. They attack the U.S. because of what our government does to Muslim people.

I think it was Osama Bin Laden in his latest videotape that said something like "you might notice that we haven't been attacking Sweden." Sweden has just as many (if not more) freedoms than we do, but they aren't engaged in what many Muslims consider to be another Great Crusade against them.

So, whether our foreign policy is wise and humane or arrogant, oil-fueled, stupid and harmful is up for debate. But we should recognize that the foreign policy, and not 'our way of life' is what motivates those who try to attack and kill us every single day.

Framing progressive issues -- it takes a lot of work

The Austin Mayor has a good post here on how much work we need to invest in framing our issues in ways that resonate.

He's responding to a whiny critique of George Lakoff's book Don't Think Like An Elephant, by Kevin Drum here.

The basic idea is that instead of looking for answers from the book about how to resonate with people, we need to work on it. As Barack said in some interview, there's a lot of intellectual work to be done by Democrats. My personal addition to this discussion is that lots of the work ought to get done in blue states and blue localities, where we have the opportunity to talk about the investments we make, instead of in D.C. where we talk about the investments we would like to make but are not. So funders: quit throwing money at D.C.!

Monday, November 29, 2004

Chicago cops falling down on smart pot policy

Bad news from Chicago sergeants in today's Sun-Times here -- they are largely rejecting the move to fine possession of pot instead of the current system of arresting those who possess pot.

It is dumb to arrest someone for possession of marijuana.

Especially after another weekend of cancer-causing cigarette-smoke-filled bars in Chicago, I'd rather smell the pungent, non-cancer-causing aroma of weed than those nasty cigarettes.

Call your alderman and tell them to ticket possession of pot. Let's not let the police dominate this policy-making process.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Roeser: Wealth tolerates Chicago corruption because they fear the next mayor

Tom Roeser is a good columnist. His latest here is another 'tell it like it is' from the perspective of rich white men in the Chicago suburbs.

Roeser asks these men why they tolerate City Hall corruption which Mayor Daley certainly could stamp out if he wanted to. The only way that corruption exists is if the establishment permits it to exist, and in Chicago, the establishment shows very little concern about it.

In the column, the titans of wealth explain that they tolerate the corruption because they fear Mayor Luis Gutierrez or Mayor Jesse Jackson, Jr. would be unable to run the city nearly as well as Mayor Daley has (ignoring the wasted dollars burned up from corruption).

One major problem with the column: I doubt Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. is interested in running for Mayor of Chicago. His book, A More Perfect Union, lays out his political philosophy very well, and it is centered on amending the U.S. Constitution for all American people. I suspect Congressman Jackson, Jr. will want to remain in the House of Representatives for a very long time. The 'sources' that tell Roeser's unnamed lunch companions that Congressman Jackson, Jr. tells everyone in D.C. that he is interested in running are likely wrong (if not fictional).

But the basic premise of fear from the 'deluge' that would inevitably engulf the City if anyone new were to sit in the 5th floor office of City Hall apparently inculcates loyalty to Mayor Daley, no matter how negligent the management of corruption-stained city workers and contractors. That's a shame. And I hope the establishment will expect more from our Mayor, and finally put an end to the puzzle over why one of the nation's best mayors in so many ways still permits such intolerable embezzlement to occur on his watch.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Chicago-area transit policy laid out well by Julie Hamos

On her campaign website here, Representative Julie Hamos (D-Evanston) lays out the Metra/CTA/Pace debate very well. She is the Chair of the Special Committee on Mass Transit for Northeastern Illinois that will likely come up with a consensus solution on funding transit. My prediction: raising the 1/4% sales tax in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Will and Kane counties to something approaching the 1% levied on Cook County taxpayers will be part of the mix.

Jesse Ventura endorsed John Kerry -- maybe that helped turn Minnesota blue

In an un-advertised coup for the Kerry campaign, former Independent Governor Jesse Ventura endorsed Kerry in late October.

I'll bet that helped tilt Minnesota for Kerry.

Here's a clip from a TV station in Minnesota with a must-view shot of Ventura's new look.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Hynes pitches a great '06 strategy: stem cell research

The Illinois Leader broke this story: Comptroller Dan Hynes is pitching a 2006 referendum to fund stem cell research from a tax on elective surgeries.

At first, this looks like a great strategy for Democrats in the 2006 election (which is going to be a challenging year for Ds, due to alienation with Governor Blagojevich among lots of the base). If the stem cell referendum in California (Proposition 71) is any indication (which passed 59% to 41% two weeks ago), this one will pass big. And since it will be associated with the Democratic Party, it will help Democratic candidates who endorse it and hurt Republican candidates who oppose it.

This might not be true in the eight or nine counties far Downstate south of Springfield that supported Keyes over Obama, but in most of Illinois, I think that stem cell research is a winner.

It looks like Comptroller Hynes is working closely with the California people: if approved, an Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute will be formed (just like the California Regenerative Medicine Institute now formed from the passage of Proposition 71).

Of course, this would be great for our economy as well. And I'm just not convinced that life begins as an embryo. I think the culture of life means that we make life better. Curing diseases makes life better.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Don't move to Canada -- move to Iowa!

I love this column by David Swanson, a former staffer for the Dennis Kucinich campaign. He argues that we lost the election largely because John Kerry was a boring, uninspiring candidate (which, frankly, he was). He grew on me in the last month of two, but that's because I'm a zealot. His initial impression is fairly aloof and a touch too shrewd.

Who to blame for John Kerry? Iowa!

And how to ensure we don't nominate another Beltway-blessed 'electable' and 'respectable' candidate? Move to Iowa!

It's a good read.

Sales tax or property tax -- which is worse?

I'd say the sales tax is worse than the property tax.

And both are worse than having public employees foot some more of their health care costs.

The City of Chicago and the County of Cook are both facing deficit budgets.

Leaders are floating tax increases and avoiding layoffs.

The main source of tax revenue seems to be the sales tax -- already the highest in the nation (at least among the top three).

We have a 6.25% state sales tax (although 1% of that 6.25% gets kicked back to cities).
A 0.75% RTA (mass transit sales tax) in Cook County.
A 0.75% County of Cook sales tax.
A 1% City of Chicago sales tax.

Not to mention the 1% McPier (Navy Pier and McCormick Place convention center) sales tax on food in, basically, the 312 area code portion of Chicago.

That's a lot.

And all that money -- approaching 10% -- is not deductible from our federal returns (unless there was a recent change to the federal tax code).

The property tax is deductible.

I know that we rely too heavily on the property tax now to fund our governments in Illinois. We rely on the sales tax too heavily as well.

And we don't rely on the income tax enough. That rate is 3%.

The best answer, as well as ensuring that we fire the unneeded workers (and there are always some workers who should be fired), is to raise the state income tax and distribute that money to local governments.

And get out of these huge pension costs. New employees should be paid more in salary but be responsible for their own pension.

Feeling down? Get to work. Help elect a Dem in Louisiana before December 3rd

There are two elections in the House of Representatives that have not yet been decided, because Louisiana holds a runoff election. There were two open seats in Louisiana, and in neither case did a candidate earn a majority of the vote to avoid a runoff.

Billy Tauzin's kid is trying to take over his father's seat, running against Democratic candidate Charlie Melancon, for the Third District in southeastern Louisiana.

In the southwestern Louisiana Seventh District, Republican Charles Boustany, a retired heart surgeon, is running against Democratic state Senator Willie Mount.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is paying for food and lodging for anyone who would like to work on the Mount or Melancon campaign. Check out their website at www.dccc.org

If you can take a few days off to work in Louisiana, please do. And if you want to help kick in to the DCCC to pay for the food and lodging of someone, donate to them. Or, just sponsor someone you know who can take a long weekend and work in Louisiana.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

First negative editorial against voters in Bloomington-Normal Pantagraph

This editorial from the Pantagraph calls on Governor Blagojevich to veto SB 2133, because:

We have little sympathy for those who, according to supporters of the bill, don't get motivated and truly interested in voting until Election Day draws nearer.


The editorial also gets the facts wrong. Under the bill, citizens who register during the grace period will have to vote absentee, either in-person when the register or by mail, depending on how the local election authority wants to process those ballots. They will not have to vote at a special location (as the editorial writes), unless by 'special location' the paper means the downtown office of the election authority.

If you haven't written Governor Blagojevich and asked him to sign SB 2133, please do so here.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Bush plans for taxes: eliminate the middle class

This is some bad news, according to this Michelle Goldberg artilce in Salon.

What to do when the tax cuts for the wealthy have put the country in deep, deep debt?

More tax cuts for the wealthy!

And how to pay for them?

Tax work more!

Two big, bad ideas.

The first is to eliminate the federal deductibility of state and local income taxes from federal returns. That's bad news for Illinois, as it will suck more money from this state to send to D.C. Our palty 3% state income tax which generates about $9 billion ($8.1 billion in 2000, according to page 9 of this report) is deducted from the 5 or 6 million individual federal returns of Illinois taxpayers. And with an average federal tax rate of around 25%, that means the Bush proposal would suck more than $2 billion from Illinois into D.C.

Hey, Speaker Hastert. Remember how I thought it was a good thing that you're from Illinois. Prove it. Kill this idea.

The other bad idea is to eliminate the deductibility of the cost of health insurance. Now that group plan most people are on is tax-free: you don't pay taxes on the value of the health insurance and the company deducts the cost of the insurance from their taxable income. Under this floated Bush plan, that would end. And lots of companies would drop their insurance.

Ever try to buy individual health insurance? I have. It's expensive and a waste of administrative effort. Welcome to the future, if the Bush plan is implemented. Of course, more money for health insurance companies, even as the rest of us pay more for health care. Go parasitic middle-men!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Hastert, Durbin good combination for Illinois

I think we're the best-represented state among leadership in Congress.

The Speaker of the House and the Senate Minority Whip (Hastert and Durbin) are both clearly from Illinois. With the transportation bill stalled, maybe we can get some real money sent to Illinois to fund lots of good projects (like modern rail, for example?).

That's a good thing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

It passed!

Hey, good news! The bill passed!

The vote was 33-24-2. Every Democratic Senator except for Gary Forby and Bill Haine voted yes, while the two Republican Senators to break party ranks and vote yes were Dave Sullivan and Dan Cronin, earning our gratitude.

Senator James Meeks did an excellent job during the debate, and almost won over Senator Wendell Jones (a nice bulldog of an old-school Palatine Republican) by arguing that "if some voter catches a Wendell Jones commercial on television 14 days before the election, and is touched by the commercial, and says to himself 'that guy makes sense' he should be able to run down to the county clerks office and register to vote." I thought he had Jones with that one, but he voted no.

Senator Susan Garrett spoke eloquently on the bill as well, speaking as a former League of Women Voters leaders and a deputy registrar, and calling for making voter registration as convenient as possible.

Lots of Republican Senators spoke against the bill, and though I found the substance of their critique of the grace period lacking, they were all in good faith. Senator Wendell Jones was a little bit over the top, yelling that "we all know cemeteries vote in Chicago!"

Then Senator Rickey "Hollywood" Hendon spoke up and launched into a tirade, lambasting the Republicans for fighting a move to make it easier to vote, a precious freedom that we are in Afghanistan and Iraq to implement for their people. He called on the Republican Senators to stop attacking the premise and vote for the bill.

Then Senator Peter Roskam stood up and critiqued Senator Hendon for ironically trying to intimidate senators into submission in the name of better democracy. This provoked Senator Hendon to seek recognition, and Senator Miguel Del Valle, in the President's Chair, was very reluctant to recognize Hendon, because everyone know Senator Hendon would launch into another attack back at the Republicans.

"Since your name was not mentioned during debate. . ." Senator Del Valle began (because if your name was mentioned in debate, you have the privilege of speaking and the President has the duty to recognize you), which sparked applause from the Republicans. But then Del Valle chose to recognize Hendon who stood up and said "Sorry, Peter."

It was funny. Maybe because I was so ridiculously tense up in the galleries, but I thought it was hysterical.

And then we won the vote! Robin Kelly made it onto the floor to see the bill pass as well. It was a great night for democracy.

Now Governor Blagojevich needs to sign the bill. So please, email him and ask him to sign SB 2133. Click here on the state's website to submit your letter right now. Even better: send a letter. Mail it here: Office of the Governor, 207 State House, Springfield, IL 62706.

I'm telling you, I've never been more convinced that we progressives need to help our elected officials pass good policy to raise living standards. All that money spent on the presidential campaign -- we should spend some of it on helping Blue State leaders pass good policy.

I'm pumped.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Grace period voter registration passed the House! Senate vote Wed or Thurs

Good news from the state capitol. SB 2133 passed out of the House of Representatives on a mostly party-line vote. Thanks to Republicans Beth Coulson, Paul Froehlich, Rosemary Kurtz and Carolyn Krause for voting yes as well as every House Democrat except for Kevin Joyce and Kevin McCarthy. Feel free to call those four Republicans in Springfield and thank them for voting yes on SB 2133 (they would appreciate a couple of messages).

Now, Senator Meeks has filed a Motion to Concur with the House Amendment which has been referred to the Rules Committee. If we can get the Rules Committee to discharge the Motion straight to the floor instead of assigning it to a committee, then we could have a vote on this in the Senate tomorrow. Which would be vastly preferable to waiting until Thursday, when casino-mania and CTA funding might muddy the waters. (But I am hearing that the casino is not going to happen this week).

Here again is the status of the bill. Let's push this one to victory! Call your state senator (find the list here) tomorrow and ask them to co-sponsor SB 2133. Isn't lobbying fun? We've got to work with our electeds to make Illinois law the best in the nation. They need our help. Voting for good people is not enough.

More inclusive voter registration in Illinois this week -- we might pass a bill

Keep an eye on SB 2133 (the bill status is here), in the second week of veto session. Instead of making it illegal to register to vote for a full month before any election, this bill would replicate Washington State's 14-day grace period where voter registration is permitted for an extra two weeks (until 14-days before the election), if the citizen registers in-person at the office of the election authority and votes absentee.

I've been working on this bill for more than two years, and Representative Robin Kelly's tenacity might get this bill through both chambers in the next three days.

Rice as Secretary of State looks like social progress

A black woman as the nation's Secretary of State looks like social progress, so credit to President Bush. I sure hope it represents social progress, since the Supreme Court around 2007 if Sandra Day O'Connor or John Paul Stevens retires will likely outlaw affirmative action. (Remember Sandra Day O'Connor's 5-4 decision in 2003 narrowly upholding the University of Michigan's affirmative action program, saying that hopefully in 25 years the nation will have moved beyond race? If the Bush backers have their way, that estimate might be downgraded to four years when there is a new majority on the Court instead of 25 years. . . .

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Candor beats pander; Dean and Democratic candidates

Shortly after the 1998 election, I went to a conference in Minneapolis organized by the Center for Voting and Democracy and FairVote Minnesota on electoral reform. This was the year that Jesse Ventura won the gubernatorial election on the Reform Party ticket with 38% of the vote, and lots of people were wondering how it happened.

Former Congressman Tim Penny was a major adviser to Ventura, and he said that Ventura connected with people and earned their votes because he told the truth. He didn't try to sugar coat or avoid offense. He told the truth. His phrase was a memorable one: 'candor instead of pander'

Lots of people I spoke with in Eau Claire, Wisconsin who were going to vote for Bush said they were going to do so because Kerry was a little wishy-washy while Bush was straight. They would not have had that critique of Governor Dean. (They might have had some other critique, but who knows). I think our candidates should be straight-talking, here's-how-it-is types. I think we do better that way.

This article on Howard Dean's recent visit to Northwestern was really refreshing. I like that Dean says the truth about Justice Scalia: He is a rude, pompous person who shouldn't be a Justice of the Supreme Court. I like how he calls out the Bush campaign on their use of homophobia to energize voters with 11 gay marriage referenda. Independent voters especially value candor.

Clarence Page on Canadian health insurance

Clarence Page's latest column in the Tribune here riffs off of the United States of Canada - Jesusland picture below to remark how our balkanized, for-profit health insurance system is getting worse. Higher costs, less care, more uninsured -- a big mess. The best part:

Want to see President Bush's plan for insuring the uninsured? Hold up a blank sheet of paper.

Well, OK, it's not quite that bad, but it's close. He has offered tax-free health savings accounts for those who can afford to put money aside for their health-care costs. The business-oriented Bush seems never to have witnessed a social problem that cannot be solved with a tax break.

But what if you're a minimum-wage waitress with kids, and you can't afford to put money aside for health-care costs? Well, I guess there's always prayer.

Of course, no country's health-care system is perfect, and America does offer the best health care that money can buy, if you can afford it. The problems come when you can't afford it.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

WHAT?! 45% of the property tax goes to pensions!!

This is unbelievable.

Mark Brown's column in the Sun-Times yesterday details that almost all the property tax money that the city collects -- $713 million -- goes to pensions and repaying debt.

45 percent of the property taxes go to city employee pensions.

That's more than $300 million.

To pensions.

That's all.

Not services. Not things that benefit all of us. Pensions.

I'm stunned.

We could probably buy health insurance for everyone under the age of 30 in the City of Chicago for $300 million (which would bring in tons of jobs and entrepreneurs who could move to Chicago, start a business, and still be insured against medical bankruptcy).

We could fund after-school programs for every child in the CPS.

Instead, pensions.

And this pension income, by the way, is totally tax free from the state income tax.

Meanwhile, senior citizens who have to work after age 65 still pay the 3% state income tax after earning $2000.

And apparently, the Illinois Constitution forbids a city from cutting pension benefits retroactively.

This is such an incredible financial albatross on the city. We have got to do something about this cost.

Departures in legislatures quite poignant

Most of the time legislatures seem quite permanent. But the week after an election, it's clear just how transient they are.

Barack Obama came back to Springfield for a farewell tour on Monday, the first day of veto session. I've been unable to blog about it (Daddy needs a new wireless laptop. . .so get me that Chicago casino so I can win some money!) until I'm back in Chicago. It was a poignant day.

On Monday, he addresses the state senate where he spent six years working (as recently as late three and a half months ago). The General Assembly is a really human place, because there aren't that many people who engage in state government and everyone spends a lot of time together. It's like a small college in many ways. Anyway, Barack gave a speech and the thrust of it went something like this:

People are cynical about politics. And "Springfield" is often used as a synonym for something dirty or wrong. But I know how hard eacn and every one of you work, and that you are all here to try to make the State a better place for the next generation. And that's real public service, and I'm grateful for it. And that I've learned something from each of you, and that in a legislature, we all come with a narrow, parochial view of the world and by working together in civil discussion, we gain a broader understanding. And we take a piece of each other with us. I'll be taking a piece of each of you with me to Washington, and I hope to represent you well. And don't worry: I'll be back here in the state senate to hear from all of you.

Well, I'm not doing it justice, but it was a nice speech. Then Frank Watson, the GOP leader stood up and said a few things, along these lines:

You know, we had heard you were going to give the keynote in Boston to the Democrats, but at the time, we had heard there would be several keynotes, and didn't have any idea what it would become. And then you gave that speech. And I tell you what: you made us all proud. Because you weren't just representing Democrats up there, you were representing Illinois. And you made all of us proud, just by the manner in which you conducted yourself. And though we disagree on a lot of things, I appreciate how you reach out to us. Hell, I've got an appointment with you at 2:30! You just walked in my office and asked for an appointment. So while we'll continue to disagree on a wide range of issues, I just want to say that we are all proud of you.

And it was another nice moment. You could just feel the galleries and the press and the senators and the staff all sort of come together. Maybe that's some of the unity that the D.C. pundits are talking about. Because I could feel it on Monday in the Illinois Senate.

That night, President Jones had a farewell reception for Barack. This one was basically for Democrats. And it was a blast. But also sad. Terry Link, who is sort of an old, tough bull, gave one of the first speeches, and said something like "I knew this was going to hurt, because I will miss my friend who sat next to me on the floor. And it does hurt. But I will sleep better at night knowing that Barack is representing me in Washington."

Barack spoke about Senator Terry Link and Larry Walsh and Denny Jacobs who endorsed Barack early in the campaign, and he said that those endorsements really meant a lot, because it presented him as a broader candidate. And of course what it meant was that having white elected officials endorse a black candidate helped to ensure that he wouldn't defined as 'the black candidate' Which is really nice. But the opposite also holds true: lots of black electeds were early endorsers of Dan Hynes (obviously a white candidate). And I think that means that for whatever reason, the Illinois Democratic Party and it's 1.2 million or so primary voters are moving beyond race as a primary factor in voting decisions. And that's a very healthy thing.

And the next day on Tuesday, when Barack's office is already filled by the new senator, and it sunk in that one of the good guys won't be there anymore, it was sad.

And imagine those who were supporters of Pat Welch or Ricca Slone or Bill Grunloh or Frank Aguilar. Those four have to work in veto session with everyone else, and then they just go home.

Government is such an odd combination of ruthless, tough decisions with emotional, human drama. That's one reason it's so fun.

Texas Hold-Em in Springfield

Phil Kadner has this column in the casino battle in Springfield.

But there is another force that Senator John Cullerton represents in this article -- the revulsion towards the payoffs to private gambling interests that want a piece of the action, like the horse racing industry.

These parasites want even MORE state money, just because they offer gambling now, and if there's a casino in Chicago, then they would presumably get less. So they want 15% of the proceeds sent to their private pockets, instead of to schools or hospitals or highways that benefit all of us.


Call your state senator and tell him/her that all the money from the casinos should stay with the public. Not one dime to private companies and wealthy gambling gurus.

http://www.legis.state.il.us to find your senator. Call today.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Almost "Dewey Beats Truman" in today's Trib

So, now that I've calmed down, I'm calling out the Tribune Tempo section as a bunch of wussies.

They had a contest on "The World's Toughest Voting Day Quiz" on Election Day. Here are the results. 10 questions. And one of them is dead wrong.

Here's the question in question.

9. What states proportionally allocate electoral votes rather than using the winner-take-all method?

Answer: Maine and Nebraska. Colorado residents voted against switching to a proportional system in last week's election.

Yeah. That's totally wrong.

Maine and Nebraska do not proportionally allocate electoral votes. If they did, then Kerry would have won at least one of Nebraska's four electoral votes, since he earned more than 25% of the Nebraska vote, and Bush would have won at least one of Maine's four electoral votes, since he earned more than 25% of the vote in Maine.

That's what Colorado voters rejected on Election Day. For every 11% of the vote, a candidate earns 1 of 9 electoral votes. That's proportional.

Maine and Nebraska have a different winner-take-all system. The Maine State government site has a page here "Questions Students Frequently Ask" (in kid-friendly font) that should explain the difference to the Tempo editors who botched this one so badly.

There are three winner-take-all contests in Maine and Nebraska. One for two electoral college votes that the winner of the statewide vote gets. A second contest for one electoral college vote that the winner of the first congressional districts gets. And a final contest for one electoral college vote that the winner of the second congressional district gets.

So it is possible that the second-place candidate will win one of those contests and thus earn one electoral college vote, but unlikely. It hasn't happened in a long time.

And that is not proportional allocation. It is, instead, three winner-take-all allocations of the states' electoral college votes.

I'm waiting for a correction.

UPDATE AND DISCLOSURE: Oh yeah, I am bitter that I didn't win, since I did enter the contest and explained in my answer how the correct answer to the question is 'None' and did not get any response. Well, only a little bitter.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Relying on unsubsidized local taxes to run our governments is a bad idea

Our local governments run on subsidized and unsubsidized taxes and fees. Subsidized taxes and fees are those that the federal government pays a portion of -- unsubsidized taxes and fees are those that our region pays the full cost of. (Apologies for the split prepositions).

The property tax is partially subsidized. The sales tax is totally unsubsidized.

You can tell the difference by checking to see if the tax is deductible off of federal tax returns. If the tax is deductible, then for every dollar of the tax for our local government that a resident spends, the resident sends a few dimes less to D.C. (the same financial impact as if D.C. sent a check for a few dimes for every dollar spent to the city government).

The sales tax is very high in Chicago. 8 3/4 percent, counting the downtown tax for McPier. Mayor Daley has floated a sales tax increase of 1/4 percent -- unsubsidized -- to 9 percent, among the very highest in the nation.

That's bad policy, because the tax is unsubsidized.

Better would be a local income tax, as that would be subsidized by the federal government. Philadelphia and New York City both levy a local income tax of about 3% on incomes over (about) $90,000. That cost of local government is picked up by the federal government. So if the New York City local income tax raises $900 million from residents, the federal government kicks in $300 million in the form of federal taxes unpaid, leaving the city residents to pay only $600 million. That's a smart way to bring in federal dollars.

The challenge is making sure you don't set the income tax too high to cause the wealthiest residents to leave the city entirely, as well as ensuring that the money is wisely spent so residents feel OK about being taxed. That's one reason why progressives need to constantly push for more efficiency in government and not tolerate lazy public employees.

National Musem of the Middle Class opens

Wasn't it great when we had a middle class?

Luckily, there' s a new museum that's opened.

Read this article here.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

DeKalb County Board 12-12 D-R. Who is the chair?

Interesting bit from the Os-Blog: the 24-member DeKalb County Board elected 12 Democrats and 12 Republicans. The membership has to pick the Chair of the Board. There is no tie-breaker. I wonder how that will play out.

Obama replacement is Kwame Raoul, not Will Burns

In a surprising move, the Democratic ward committeemen (and women) from the 13th legislative district (led by 4th ward alderman Toni Preckwinkle and 5th ward alderman Leslie Hairston who together cast a majority of the votes) chose attorney Kwame Raoul over seven other candidates, including Will Burns, senior staffer to Senate President Emil Jones.

The news stories are here and here.

I thought Will would be the best candidate, as he is a policy-oriented guy, and the best service a state legislator can give to his or her constituents (in my view) is to pass progressive legislation that benefits everyone in the state. The aldermen were quoted in the papers as citing Raoul's ward organization work as the motivating factor for his selection, which is not the main benefit a state legislator can bring to his or her constituents. If that's the main factor driving their choice, that's a mistake. I hope Raoul will rise to the challenge and fill Obama's large shoes as much as possible. If we want Blue America to raise the standard of living for people, we need the very best legislators available to push the policy envelope.

Raoul is an attorney with the City Colleges of Chicago, so it's a good thing the strike was called off this weekend, as he has quit that job to be a full time state senator.

Some of the posters painted Raoul as sort of the 'people's choice' and Burns as part of 'President Jones' Empire', since President Jones endorsed Burns. I don't really get the hostility to President Jones, so if any of the posters could enlighten me as to what motivates those views, I'd appreciate it.

UPDATE (February 1, 2008): Fast forward four years or so. Senator Raoul has emerged as a progressive leader in the Senate, pushing forward policy proposals. Will Burns continued to work for the Senate, and now with the active encouragement of Senator Raoul, Will is a candidate for State Representative in the same district. The two rivals have joined together as policy-oriented progressives. With the third state representative as House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, the district would have the trifecta of some of the best legislators in the state.

Will's campaign website, for those looking, is here and Kwame Raoul's campaign website is here.

Governor Blagojevich and the filthy coal power plants -- an election day wrinkle

As regular readers know, the State of Illinois (not to mention the federal government) permits a few very profitable companies to run about a dozen coal-burning power plants without using modern pollution control equipment that every newly-constructed power plants must install. It's like letting old cars on the road that still use leaded gasoline.

On Election Day, the precinct where Governor Blagojevich votes had an advisory referendum asking whether the State should require modern pollution control equipment on all power plants, including those old, filthy coal power plants.

It passed with something like 90% of the vote.

I wonder how Governor Blagojevich voted on it? Will some mainstream reporter ask him?

Here is an account from Ira Shakman, a pollwatcher and petition circulator for the effort.

On November 2, one ballot booth in Governor Blagojevich’s precinct was missing an advisory referendum addressed to him. A more than sufficient number of his precinct neighbor’s signed a petition to have a vote on this question: “Shall Governor Blagojevich direct the State to establish safeguards that require the two aging metropolitan Chicago coal-burning power plants to reduce their dangerous emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury by at least 90 percent from 1999 levels by no later than 2009, in order for the region to meet the deadline for federal air quality standards?” If not for a poll watcher, his precinct's election judges may have led Governor Blagojevich to the booth with a deficient ballot and he would not have had to see it that day. Every other day the Governor certainly appears to be ignoring the two 'grandfathered' plants, the biggest industrial air polluters in Chicago, found in the Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods. In February, 2003, nearly 90% of the neighbors surrounding the plants voted for the city to impose mandatory emission caps on the plants by 2006. The city fathers have yet to act upon their request. When running for office, Governor Blagojevich promised to enact strict state-imposed safeguards on all of Illinois' 23 coal-fired power plants. He has yet to act upon his promise and the plants remain regulated under lax federal standards at the mercy of the Bush administration. On November 2, 2004, 91% of Governor Blagojevich’s precinct neighbors in Chicago, residing well out of sight from the hundreds of feet high smokestacks but, along with their kids, well within the range of the toxic emissions, voted for him to do what he promised and impose modern safeguards on the plants. The emissions from coal-fired power plants are proven to cause health problems for young and old, such as asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer and heart attacks, beside neurological damage from their completely unregulated mercury emissions. Chicago’s air fails to meet minimum federal standards. Kids and expectant mothers are warned against eating fish caught in Illinois' lakes and rivers because of the dangers of mercury poisoning. Ultimately, it does not much matter whether the Governor looked at his own neighbor's advisory referendum on Chicago's coal-fired power plants. What matters is whether he will turn the same blind eye toward the toxic emissions from Chicago’s grandfathered coal-fired power plants as have the city fathers for all of these years.

Anyone who wishes to be heard on the issue may call Governor Blagojevich at his Chicago office at (312)814-2121.

Ira Shakman

petition circulator and poll watcher

What to do now? Make Blue American a better place to live

With the bad guys running D.C., what are we supposed to do?

Head to Springfield.

And City Hall.

And the County Building.

Make our Blue Illinois and Blue Cook County and Blue Chicago a better place to live with higher living standards than Red places.

Tim McFeeley of the Center for Policy Alternatives has a good column here arguing that progressives should make invest in state governments much more.

The Center for Policy Alternatives has a conference in December in D.C. on cutting-edge state legislation. I've decided to go to get some good ideas for the 2005 session. Anyone else want to go?

I'm headed to Springfield tomorrow morning, and I hope more people will start calling their state legislators and (even better) trying to help them pass better legislation.

How about indexing our minimum wage?

How about 5,000 more slots in the state's higher education system?

How about buying catastrphic health insurance for everyone through the state?

How about forcing the companies making money off our filthy coal power plants that give the rest of us lung problems and kill some old people to install modern, efficient pollution control equipment?

How about hiring more and better teachers for the kids who need it most?

Our state and local governments can deliver on all of this. So let's put more energy into the rest of our governments and not focus exclusively on the federal government.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The Cross bloggers are trying to skip out on a bet. The shame.

Well, this is just unacceptable.

So back in September here, I bet the Tom Cross bloggers a dollar (if it's legal to do so) that Jack Franks would beat Perry Moy. Now, after Franks resounding victory, I see this nonsense on the Cross blog on Election Day:
Dems and Repubs both agree that GOP Rep. Beth Coulson had great turnout in her base of Northfield Township and Glenview.

This is a fight to the finish. My money's on Beth. Dan's money is on Bromberg.


Can you believe it? They try to pin me as betting on Bromberg beating Coulson instead of Franks beating Moy! Chris Rhodes, I'm going to out your real identity if you don't publish a correction and as punishment, force you to pay up that dollar by donating it to the DNC. Or better yet, Friends of Michael Madigan. Don't start to get a big head just because you won Blogger Bowl II. . . .

UPDATE: All is good in BlogLand. The King of Blogger Bowl II has retracted here on JoinCross. Thanks Chris.

Texas remap gave GOP the House gain

How did the GOP gain seats in the House?


That's all.

Today, the 32-member delegation from Texas is evenly split, 16 to 16.

In January, it will be move to a 21-11 split.

Wow. Some mandate. It's a new map!

Why hasn't Illinois redrawn our congressional map (currently 9-10 in favor of the Republicans, soon to be 10-9 for the Dems because of Melissa Bean)? If for no other reason than to goad the Supreme Court into striking down both our new map and the Texas remap to put us on neutral ground.
I'm sick of the South running our country. Maybe we should have just let those treasonous Confederate states secede.
 Posted by Hello

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Dick Durbin for Minority Leader

He'd be a lot better than Reid. Durbin's better at framing issues than Reid. We don't need some consensus builder. We don't need to move to the center. We need to stand for something that people can believe in.

Like Paul Simon. Or Barack Obama.

Dick Durbin is a solid progressive, who is very shrewd about how he communicates his positions. He makes non-newspaper-readers feel that a very liberal position is common sense and reasonable. That's the global test (ha ha) that Democratic spokespeople need to pass. It is not whether they can find common ground or seek consensus (which is what Daschle did). *Especially* when the Senate minority is the only thing standing in the way of the Wall Street looting of our public pension and all the rest (oh, so much more in the next very long two years).
We need a tough, smart, aggressive leader of the Loyal Opposition.

Reid isn't it. Durbin is.

But here's one bad thing: I understand that the current Senate caucus will pick the Minority Leader, and not the newly elected Senate Dem caucus. In other words, Barack doesn't get a vote. Can that be true? Someone, educate me.

UPDATE: Looks like this has been settled with Reid as Minority Leader (ugh) and Durbin as Whip (not as good, but good enough).

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The GOP built a majority the way Anton Cermak did in Chicago. A referendum.

Anton Cermak built the Chicago Democratic Organization -- a mix of rival ethnic groups still loyal to Republicans -- by putting referenda on the city ballot every mayoral election, asking voters if they supported a repeal of Prohibition. And the Irish, the Polish, the Czechs, the Italians, they all shared the same cultural background in resenting the Protestant imposition of Prohibition on their way of life. So they came out to vote in droves, often triggered by the referendum, and voted in the Democratic Mayor Cermak.

The Republicans did something similar this time with 11 (11!) statewide referenda on gay marriage and gay civil unions. And all 11 of them won (meaning they prohibited either marriage of civil unions for gays). And they all brought people out that almost certainly voted for Bush.

We liberals tried something similar, as we had two statewide referenda raising the minimum wage to $6 and change, and indexed those to inflation, on the Florida and Nevada ballots. They likely brought out some Democratic voters, but even better, they both passed. So a majority of voters in both Florida and Nevada decided they wanted to raise the minimum wage and they wanted Bush to serve another four years. A touch of cognitive dissonance.

There is no mandate for Bush's policies. 51% does not a mandate make.

It's ridiculous to even mention the word mandate with a squeaker (sp?) election like this. 51% does not mean a mandate. 70% or 80% means that the electorate is behind you, and thus you should vigorously pursue your agenda. 51% means that half the electorate rejected the agenda.

Maybe the fact that people even *consider* this narrow victory a mandate is a product of our winner-take-all political system, and a switch to proportional representation in multi-member districts for the legislature would introduce a more reasonable way of thinking.

What if Ohio and Nevada had same-day voter registration?

I wonder if we would have won.

New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Minnesota all allow same-day voter registration. Kerry won them all.

I wonder if there were an additional 130,000 people who would have voted for Kerry, and wanted to vote for Kerry, but didn't register at their current address in early October.

What is that -- 10 people per precinct?

Same thing with Nevada. 10 more people per precinct who would have voted for Kerry, but didn't register in time, and Kerry wins.

It's a stretch. But not impossible.

We've got to make voter registration easier -- and soon, make it universal so the government has the responsibility to prepare the voter rolls, not the individual finding the proper government agency. That's how most democracies operate. Putting the burden on the individual to register with the government in order to vote is fairly rare around the world.

Attempt at coherence after the liquor soothed the 269 Bush votes

First, let me say, that tonight I was something of an emotional basket case.

I went to the Obama rally (late, because my precinct took forever to close). We couldn't get a signal for the equipment to transmit the results. So by 9:00 I finally left, after Barack earned 81% of the vote. Then I went to Talk Show at the Second City, which was fun. So by the time I got to the Obama election night party, it was basically over. But here's the part where I got a little affected.

Barack was all over the media. National media. There were six or seven cameras up there, and Barack would go from one to the other, with tech guys changing his ear piece and changing the microphone in his pocket. And Barack was so good on television. He frames progressive issues in common sense ways. And I thought I could see his role changing again (or at least, it was clearer to me). He became more of a national figure, beaming across to millions of people (not just hundreds of thousands but millions) a reasonable, respectable, progressive message. It was one camera after another, and behind him on the big screen in the ballroom with confetti on the floor and a half-empty room with closed bars, his face projected on Fox News and CNN, speaking truth and changing minds. Most of the press had grown bored, but Barack was still working it, going camera to camera, sending out the message, continuing to *work*. And he's a pro. It made me proud.

It really made me proud.

And then afterwards, Bush earned 269. And it became like a bad novel. Like a bad science fiction novel where bad things happen. The Supreme Court eliminates affirmative action. Reproductive rights. Environmental regulation so permits pollution. Not to mention the Congress funding even more corporate welfare tax breaks and a bigger debt. And the invasion of Syria and/or Iran. It's bad.

The only bright spot is that we're not taking it lying down. We're not conceding. We're not conceding until every vote -- every provisional, every absentee -- is counted. I spent an extra 45 minutes in the precinct last night ensuring that those absentee ballots from the UK and Spain and a dozen other countries were counted. We're going to do the same in Ohio.

And Melissa Bean won! The map matters most, but it's not dispositive. Voters can trump the map. It's not easy, but it can be done. Maybe Phil Crane is a victim of making Mark Kirk's district more Republican, because those Palatine Township precincts got taken out of his district and put into Kirk's, leaving Crane with more black precincts near Zion.

But the Texas remap worked. That damn Tom DeLay. Time for Illinois to remap our congressional map. It's 10-9 now. It should be 12-7.

And really, it's time for the State of Illinois to step it up. With D.C. looking pretty bad for the next two years, we've got to step it up and be the beacon of manufacturing a middle class. We've got to invest in people, efficiently and prudently. We've got to put our policy expertise and wealth behind making Illinois the best State in the Union.

And Barack Obama had best learn how to filibuster, because when the Republicans try to ram something through, he's the guy who can lead the charge to stop it. Because he won't lose his backbone. That's why he won the primary, and now the general. He'll stand up to the worst elements of the national Republican Party -- and through his eloquence and tenacity and leadership, stop them from impoverishing most of us for the benefit of the few.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

80% for Obama in the 18th precinct of the 43rd ward

I just got out of the 18th precicnt (we spent a full hour trying to get a signal). Obama had more than 80% of the vote. And the two bad judges failed to earn a majority of the vote (which is nice).

It was actually a warm civic feeling to help close a precinct. And to see a dozen absentee ballots from all over the world sent into this precinct was something else -- likely a testimony to how important the presidential election is.

I still sense a Kerry victory, but with no evidence right now. Just a hunch.

MoveOn.org PAC is really fantastic -- last-minute calls needed

I've been calling through MoveOn.org's PAC into Florida today. It's a great tool, and a big step up from most traditional phone banks. If you want to make some phone calls tonight, sign up with them here: http://action.moveonpac.org/gotv/

Undecided between Bush and Kerry on the issues?

Here's why you should vote for Kerry.

If you were paid less than $100,000 last year, you will be better off with President Kerry than with President Bush. No question.

If you are under the age of 40, then you will be paying higher taxes in 20 years to pay off the huge debt that the government is running up now. That's a rip-off of our generation. Kerry will make the current generation pay for more of their expenses, by making the people earning more than $200,000 pay higher taxes (the same level they did under Clinton: 39.6%). That's fairer than what Bush has done (and will do), which is to cut taxes and run up a huge debt, leaving us to pay for it. In other words, President Bush means higher taxes for us in 20 years than President Kerry.

Bush has hired more soldiers and fewer teachers. That leaves our country a little bit dumber and a little bit meaner.

Plus, the Republicans are going to run the House of Representatives (and maybe the Senate). There's no way the Democrats are going to run the House. So if you believe that one party shouldn't run everything in Washington (like the Republicans do now), then President Kerry will be a balance against the Republican Congress. When the Republicans run everything, their extremists get too much power. Only a Democratic President can balance out the Republican Congress.

The glory of free elections in Afghanistan replacing the Taliban is outweighed by the disaster of invading Iraq. That's going to cost us a fortune, and when our military is stretched this thin, be careful about a draft. There aren't enough volunteers, and the government is forcing people to stay in Iraq much longer than they want to already.

Finally, Bush may be clear and strong-willed. But that's another word for stubborn. When the stakes are this high, I'd rather have someone willing to admit a mistake and change his mind in charge of the country than someone too stubborn to see when he is making a mistake.

There's something very wrong with our democracy.

Most of us have to drive to another part of the country in order to influence the presidential election.

That is so dumb.

In all seriousness, just consider that a few hours before the polls open, and here in Chicago, I might as well be in Caracas. I am away from the action.

I'll be calling Wisconsin voters all day tomorrow (today!) asking them to vote for Kerry.

Why can't I ask my neighbors? Why doesn't every vote matter equally?

If you still defend the Electoral College, then you have got to look in the mirror and accept that you are defending widespread disenfranchisement. You are defending unequal treatment.

Give me a break. Dragging one more person to the polls in Chicago should be just as important as dragging one more person to the polls in Milwaukee. But it's not. And that's indefensible.

Congressman Jackson Jr.'s bill, HJR 109, would amend the Constitution and abolish the Electoral College. This amendment should pass. The text is here. Get your Member of Congress on board as a co-sponsor during the lame duck session.