Thursday, June 30, 2005
The bad news is that I don't know where I'm going to find the time to blog! I mean, Rich Miller is a pro. He makes a *living* doing this stuff. Same with Zorn. And Jake Parillo (when he isn't muzzled. . .). Guys like Archpundit and AustinMayor and Jeff Berkowitz -- I don't know how they do it. Well, actually, I do have a sense, because I used to have a job where I'd have my own computer and didn't have a boss and could blog about anything I wanted whenever I wanted to. Now I've got all this work!
So, all that's to say, I'll probably be less frequently posting in the future than I have been. I'm still keeping the blog, and any opinions expressed (especially the dumb ones) are my own and not necessarily shared by anyone that I'm working for.
(It's kind of a funny relationship I have with you, the 'readers'. I've been surprised and kind of honored by how many people tell me that they read my blog. There's about 100 readers a day, according to the sitemeter report, which compared to any sort of media is miniscule, but to think of 100 actual people reading what I write every day is rather fulfilling. So thank you for reading.)
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Republicans are exceptionally prudish.
Quite a contrast to the Democrats at Pride Parade.
I think this is an angle that helps Dems win over more people. Republicans should be embarrassed that they covered up the breast of a statute.
UPDATE: I have to peel back my statement above: of course, not *all* Republicans, or even most Republicans are exceptionally prudish. Tom Cross' Jake Parillo nailed me on it here, along with commenters. It is true, though that some GOPers do back very prudish policies, and this might be an opportunity for Dems to identify with the larger and growing group of culturally tolerant.
Near the end, about six or seven people (protected by just as many Chicago Police Officers) were yelling about how homesexuals were going to hell. I quipped to someone standing next to me "looks like the Republican base has come out." And he replied: "you mean the majority" To which I replied "not in this state"
And that got me thinking quite a bit.
First, it presents the dilemna the Illinois Republican Party is in. Judy Baar Topinka was in the parade, and as the former ILGOP Chair, she helped to define the party as inclusive and tolerant. The base of the GOP (at least, one of the bases), finds Judy Baar Topinka and the Pride Parade morally and politicall repugnant, and blames (in part) that tolerance on the state's Republican Party status as the minority party. The Tribune editorial board best represents the voice of tolerance (as corporate America is largely tolerant of homosexuality), while the Illinois Leader represents those who are intolerant, along with those yelling at the parade.
The intolerant wing of the GOP has essentially won the national debate, while so far, the tolerant wing of the GOP has won the state debate.
But, that's their problem. They can figure that one out.
The interesting thing to me is how this burst of tolerance and, really, happiness about tolerance, strengthens the Democratic Party.
Just about every north side elected had their own contingent in the parade, as did some of the countywides. But interestingly, there was no Democratic Party float. There were the Jan Fans (and it was cool to see Jan Schakowsky dancing in the streets). Sara Feigenholtz had a contingent. So did John Fritchey. And Mike Quigley. And Forrest Claypool. Rod Blagojevich. And Debra Shore (running for Water Rec as the first GLBT Commissioner, by the way). You get the idea. And few of them had "Democrat"by their name.
Since the difference between the two parties are so stark on tolerance issues, that strikes me as sort of a loss opportunity to build up self-identification with the Democratic Party of those third-of-a-million shiny, happy people watching (and really, participating in) the parade.
It's a continuing challenge to build up that self-identification. I remember my days with the Green Party only a few years ago, when it seemed easier to build self-identification with the political party which had a very progressive platform. It was easy for me to react against a particular Democrat (I found President Clinton to be too corporate, especially on trade) and not appreciate the progressives in the Democratic Party and identify with them. It's trickier to build self-identification with a majority party that, by definition, represents a majority of the people who have different points of view.
I mean, the tolerance base of the Democratic Party is only one base. Another base, at least in Cook County, was probably best represented by the ridiculously efficient Streets and Sanitation Department that had the streets cleaned up and back to normal by 5 pm. Government services done well is a hallmark of the Cook County Democratic Party and is perhaps what Mayor Daley symbolizes (ignoring, for a moment, the recent hits on that front).
So one of our jobs as progressives and as Democrats is to ensure that government works well. If voters see that their taxes get them good services, then they'll be happy to buy more of them. Most people are happy to spend money on buying better futures for poor children, if they believe that the government will deliver. It's our job to make government deliver and not tolerate inefficiencies or wasteful spending.
Another one of our jobs is to convince more people who are culturally tolerant (those that might go to the Pride Parade, for example) to self-identify with the Democratic Party. I don't know how many of those third-million are registered, or vote, or send in a small check or wear a button, but I would guess it isn't as high as we would like it to be. Maybe we need to be more proactive about branding the Democratic Party, and not just Rod Blagojevich or Pat Quinn or Jesse White or John Fritchey, to the tolerant. Because (to try to tie it all together), the Democratic Party delivers cultural tolerance.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Illinois, the bluest state, again demonstrates national leadership, this time in divesting from Sudan
We are the first state in the nation to do so, and we are showing a different way of running things than the corporate rule of Washington, D.C.
The bill did pass unanimously in the Senate, and lost 23 Republican votes in the House (the vote is here), so most Republicans did come on board. But I happen to think Illinois Republicans are a far superior type of Republican than most others in the country, especially those that are running Washington, so let's not read too much into that.
It takes a Democratic - led government to bring justice to those that need it most. Congratulations to Senator Collins, the General Assembly and Governor Blagojevich.
(Come to think of it, we ought to divest all of our local pension funds as well -- counties, municipalities, school districts, etc. We ought to lobby to make that happen. If you know a local elected, see if s/he will divest from Sudan.)
Friday, June 24, 2005
If the candidate for president doesn't get more than 50% of the vote, then you hold a runoff between the top two.
Let's ask George "48.5%" Bush what he thinks about that.
Why is Iran more modern than the United States when it comes to presidential elections?
Thursday, June 23, 2005
This is the best part:
The America I believe in is better than the America on display in our overseas prisons. The America I believe in inspires rather than disgusts the international community.
If anything I said caused you to believe that I was equating American soldiers with Nazis or equating American leaders with Adolf Hitler or Pol Pot, then you are an idiot.
I said nothing of the kind.
I said that our mistreatment of wartime prisoners is of the sort you'd expect to see in a brutal, totalitarian dictatorship, not in a nation that has long congratulated itself on its exceptionally high standards of liberty and law.
And yes, that's what commentators and operatives and even our news media blindly parroted: "Durbin compared American soldiers to Nazis"
The Senator didn't say that!
But the right-wing machine rallied around the support the troops mantra, and Durbin apologized.
Well, do you support the troops if they torture?
And American troops have tortured.
A few of them are serving time for torturing in Abu Ghraib.
I don't support them.
Because if you don't condemn those American soliders who have tortured -- as Senator Durbin wisely did -- you are besmirching the 99.99% of our soldiers who are as digusted as Senator Durbin is by torture.
And if you let the Bush Administration off the hook for their tolerance of torture, then you are also besmirching the good name of this nation.
That's the real deal.
Sunday, June 19, 2005
I assume it's true. Why would someone make it all up?
This guy, Jeremy Lassen, heard about a visit to an art gallery by Secret Service agents. The art gallery had some anti-Bush pieces showing, so government agents showed up and intimidated the art gallery owners.
Then, this guy makes up some pictures of Bush and guns to show how thuggish the government is becoming, posts them onto his website and sends them around to other websites, and two months later, *he* gets a visit from Secret Service agents at his job!
After 45 minutes of an interview where they start out nicely but then say they want to interview his wife and his boss and they want to get a medical release form to see what medications he might be taking, and does he belong to any organizations, and how can he be an artist and suggest that he retract the pictures by taking them offline, they guy is so freaked out he takes down his websites.
Can you believe that?
Read the thing here.
Because if this is true (and why would someone just make the whole thing up?), then things are getting far too Big Brother around here.
This is a story that should get picked up by the corporate media. It is un-American.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
Their website is here.
The main objections seem to be based on union democracy or a sense of bottom-up investment in the internal functions of the labor union. Those arguments don't have a lot of resonance to me -- they seem a tad indulgent. Wages are falling. The middle class is shrinking. We need more unions so we can raise wages, as that will be great for our entire economy. And if we can more unions faster with a less 'democratic' structure for labor unions, I'll take that deal in a heartbeat.
I'll be the Democratic guest on Bruce DuMont's nationally-synidicated radio show, Beyond The Beltway, this Sunday from 6 pm to 8 pm on WLS, 890 am. Check out other stations around the country here.
I'll predict that the Big Brother indefinite-detention-with-no-oversight policy of the Bush Administration that puts all of us in greter danger and the gratitude that Senator Durbin deserves for reading an FBI memo on the Senate floor on this atrocity in America's name will be the topic of discussion, but we shall see.
On an unrelated matter, Batman Begins is an awesome movie. As a friend of mine (and former frequent poster) put it: Batman Begins make the other Batmans look like the Police Academy franchise. Plus, Gotham is in Chicago, and it's very cool to see Arkham Asylum on the Chicago River. The El is transformed into a Wayne Enterprises futuristic monorail. Great movie.
Friday, June 17, 2005
One other interesting part of Count II (the constitutional challenge): the Vallas camp is arguing that one provision of the state constitution (elections shall be free and equal) is inconsistent with another provision (governors shall be a resident of Illinois for three years). There is something to their argument, but who is to say that the first provision trumps the second provision? Why wouldn't it be the reverse, where the second provision trumps the first? They were both written at the same time (in the 1969 constitutional convention), so it is unlike an amendment to the federal constitution which should trump the original part of the constitution as it was written and ratified later.
And on a related point, plaintiffs often say the federal constitution trumps state statute or the state constitution, which is true. Here, however, the Vallas plaintiffs did not sue in federal court and do not argue that the federal constitution's First Amendment requires that the state constitutional provision of a three-year residency requirement be struck down. It's all state law.
Finally, has anyone else noticed how firmly in the Republican Party the Tribune editorial board seems to be? Their reaction to Durbin's apt comparison of torture techniques still being used by American soldiers to horrible regimes looks like it comes from the mouth of Ken Mehlman, the GOP Chair.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
The Bush Administration tortured people in Guantanamo Bay -- more precisely, under the Bush Administration's direction, U.S. servicemen and women tortured the enemy.
That's what bad countries do.
And Bush is a bad President.
And he has authorized some bad things.
So when Dick Durbin calls this out, what does the White House do?
They call for Durbin to apologize!
For telling the truth!
And call him "reprehensible!"
The people who won't permit photographs of American coffins coming back from the war, and the same Administration whose spokesman said shortly after 9/11 "people need to watch what they say" is now calling a United States Senator reprehensible for telling the truth!
They hide behind our troops. They hide their mistakes behind our troops.
These guys running the White House are appalling. They lie.
They lie about the war. They lie about the budget (remember, they threatened to fire a bureaurcrat for telling the truth about how much the Medicare prescription drug benefit will cost). They lie!
Here, as a reminder, are some of the lies about Iraq they told.
Push back, Dick Durbin. And Democrats ought to praise him and defend him for telling the truth and not let these liars try to bully him into silence.
Today, Paul Vallas sued for his right to run for Governor. The state Constitution imposes a three year residency requirement, and Vallas is the CEO of the Philadelphia School system, which is not in Illinois.
Thanks to Rich Miller, you can read the complaint here.
Essentially, Vallas is making two points.
The first is that he is and has always been a resident of Illinios, even though he's got a job in Pennsylvania. State law on defining residency focuses on the intent of the individual, and the complaint argues that Vallas' intent has been to remain an Illinois resident. On the one hand, he moved to take a job in Philadelphia. On the other hand, his doctor, dentist, lawyer, advisor remain in Illinois, he comes back to Illinois frequently for family visits, his wife's cell phone is still a 773 phone and he pays dues not to a Philadelphia Greek Orthodox Church but to a Chicago Greek Orthodox Church.
If the judge buys that, then the judge will declare that Paul Vallas is a legal resident of the State of Illinois and has been for the last three years, permitting him to run for Governor. That decision would be appealable, but that's a different story.
If the judge does not buy the argument that because Paul Vallas intended to remain an Illinois resident, notwithstanding his job in Philadelphia, then he's got a second argument.
The state Constitution also says that all elections "shall be free and equal." Not all offices have a constitutional residency requirement -- the state's attorneys, for instance. So it isn't 'free and equal' to have one office have a residency requirement and not them all.
There isn't a lot of state court litigation on the 'free and equal' provision of the state Constitution, so this decision will be interesting.
I hope he wins the second prong of his case to beef up the case law on the 'free and equal' provision of the state Constitution.
Plus, contested primaries are good.
Monday, June 13, 2005
This article contains the full text of a speech by Senator Barack Obama on social insurance and Social Darwinism, explaining that the Bush proposal to privatize Social Security is the ideological crusade of FDR's opponents who consider government checks a mild form of communism.
Remember that line in As Good As It Gets when Jack Nicholson, the bipolar diner, told Helen Hunt, the heart-of-gold waitress "you make me want to be a better man"?
Obama's speeches make me want to be a better writer.
Read it. It's just as good as his Knox College speech.
If you want to learn what it is like in the state legislature, or learn what a state representative does, read this column. He explains how good legislators like John Fritchey take opportunities where they arrive -- first, to bring together opponents and allies in an agreed bill to avoid a disaster, second, to assist a legislative ally over a few months in passing significant legislation, and third, to attack a bill in committee with relentless arguments until support for it withers away. I was at that Judiciary committee meeting, as it happens, and heard Fritchey and Lou Lang pound away (on the merits) against the bill. Convincing colleagues to go against a Speaker-supported bill based on the strength of policy arguments does not happen very often.
And the white knuckle pressure on big bills from one's closest allies and legislative leaders is also not often understood, but explained well in Miller's column.
If the Daily Southtown archive isn't working, google this first paragraph:
Rep. John Fritchey's spring legislative session was going extraordinarily well ... until he smacked into the past 10 days.
Sunday, June 12, 2005
Obama touched on the need for the Voting Rights Act reauthorization and then talked about a south suburban school that lets out their students at 1:30 pm. There is no money for any afterschool programs: no band, no sports, no music, no plays, nothing. And the children know that they are left behind and not really the object of anyone caring about their well-being. There's a state law that only requires five hours of school a day. And that is unacceptable, because the Chinese are going to school a lot more than five hours a day, and the Indians are going to school a lot more than five hours a day, and it's no surprise that they are graduating four times more Ph.D.'s in every field than we are in the U.S., and we simply can not sustain our standard of living without more education for our workers. The status quo is unacceptable. And he promised the students that that school would stay open until 3:30 pm the next time he saw them.
(Which means that the state law that only requires five hours of schooling a day ought to be a part of the coming Big Improvement in public education, in whatever form SB 750 emerges. It's not just more money. We need more hours of school)
The people, not the utility investors, are better off thanks to Illinois Democrats running the General Assembly
Current rates will remain in place for another two years, pending any action by the ICC to approve a reverse auction of rates. For details, check out (and join) the Citizens Utility Board. Ten bucks a year matters -- join them here.
This means that because Democrats are running the state government, the people will not have to pay more money for electricity and telephone service to enrich the owners of utility company stock.
Instead, thanks to Democrats in charge, the people will have more money to spend. This is wealth creation and economic development manifested through utility policy.
Speaker Michael Madigan, the state's most effective consumer advocate on utility issues, deserves thanks and the Democratic Party deserves bottom-line voter loyalty from those of us who do not own stock in the utility companies but do buy electricity or telephone service.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Well, Governor Dean is having a funder for the Democratic Party on Sunday in Chicago, and student tickets are $35. Regular tickets are $50.
That's cool. That's how the party of the people should be funded. Lots of people making contributions.
It's from 4 to 6 at the Hilton on Sunday.
If you want to come, click here.
And if you vote Democratic, you should come, especially since the corporate media are hammering Dean for speaking candidly about the base of the GOP.
If you're a little more policy-oriented, check out Rainbow/PUSH's annual convention which draws every heavy hitter in the Democratic Party to town. It's here, and some of the days are open to the public.
So another example of a broker system where employers are supposed to pay for health insurance is the big retailer, like Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is the largest company in the nation, in terms of market capitalization. And among the most profitable. It's the largest retailer on Earth.
And they don't buy health insurance for all their workers.
Even worse, people who work for Wal-Mart 30 or 35 or 40 hours a week, can qualify for Medicaid insurance (FamilyCare in Illinois), which the government picks up.
So we taxpayers subsidize Wal-Mart's bottom line.
We ought to do something about it.
Mary Flowers had a bill, HB 1044, which would have set up a list of the companies with employees that are on Medicaid. A little sunshine, you might say. Jack Franks jumped on it, and he's got a great populist sense on the insurance industry. So did Patrick Verschoore, Jack McGuire and Milton Patterson. Good combo: black and white, rural, city and suburban.
The bill lost on tax day (ironically enough -- the day when we all pay more so Wal-Mart can make more money), 41-62-1. Here's the vote.
But that didn't stop the indefatigable Mary Flowers. In the last few weeks of session (hat tip to Rich Miller here), she asked the Speaker to insert the provision into a larger bill. And Speaker Madigan did. The larger bill passed, it's now on Governor Blagojevich's desk, and his spokeswoman said he'll sign it.
Well, the Chamber doesn't like the bill. They say it's just a list of shame, in this well-written Sun-Times article by Ben Fischer. And let me just let Mary Flowers, as accurately quoted by Ben Fischer, respond to that. (You can hear her tone in these comments)
Shaming businesses isn't what the list is meant for, said Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago), but she doesn't particularly care if that's an offshoot.
"If they don't want to be embarrassed, they can do something about it," she said. "But you tell me, why is it that the taxpayers of the state of Illinois are funding the richest company in the nation?"
and then later
"It appears to me there's a new system that the taxpayers are not aware of . . . where businesses are passing their responsibilities on to us." she said.
Congratulations Representative Flowers!
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Here is the link to his blog that lays out an article on the four or five important labor laws that passed the General Assembly, led by the workers comp reform that passed without much fanfare (thanks, in part, to Senator Terry Link (D-Highwood) who spent a lot of time forging an agreement).
Sunday, June 05, 2005
Here is the full text of his graduation address at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois over the weekend.
Read it and remember how we are manufacturing a middle class through government policy -- or letting Social Darwinism (now called 'the Ownership Society') make the rich and lucky richer and luckier and the rest of us worse off.
The choice is ours.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
They've had a very open process over the last two years, including two separate two-day open-to-the-public demonstrations with all the possible vendors.
My past gig with the Center for Voting and Democracy (www.fairvote.org) led me to learn more about equipment vendors than I ever thought I'd care to know, and I think Sequoia has the best reputation.
Plus, they are one of the vendors that are open to actually conducting Irish-style ranked voting (where you enjoy a first-choice and a second-choice on the ballot), so that's a bonus.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
I'm surprised by how cheap it is to buy health insurance for working families, if these numbers are accurate. $7 million divided by 56,000 people is $125 per person. That's per year of health insurance.
If the cost of health insurance through FamilyCare is really $125 per person, then we should just expand Medicaid to everyone in the state in the name of economic development. Move your business to Illinois and your employees have health insurance!
UPDATE: Just got an email from a policy wonk lobster who shall remain nameless. The money (only $5.75 million out of GRF) doesn't kick in until 1/1/06, halfway through the fiscal year, so we're really only buying 6 months of coverage. And the federal match is actually 66-33, so the almost $6 million in state money buys $12 million in federal money.
So it's really a total of about $35 million to buy insurance for 56,000 people for a year. That's $625 per head. Still very cheap.
UPDATE AGAIN: A federal friend of mine reminded me that there's a drop-off rate, based on the percentage of eligible people who actually enroll. While the income eligibility will increase to 185 percent of the poverty line, lots of people who are eligible for the program just don't sign up. Who knows why. Figures are hard to come by, but perhaps 50% of people who could get it, don't. So the actual cost is doubled (if everyone signed up, costs would go up too). $70 million to buy insurance for 56,000 people is $1250. Still, much cheaper than private insurance.
Medicaid for all! How much would that cost?
The state's pension dollars are also pulled out of any terrorist-harboring nation identified by the feds (so Saudi Arabia gets a pass).
I think it's great when state leaders also take on global issues. Our lives are affected by events around the globe, and our local and state representatives are completely justified in working in their state-and-local-electedcapacities to solve problems in distant lands.
That's not how it works.
The budget didn't appear to the public until sometime this afternoon. Less than six hours later after first getting filed, the budget had passed both chambers.
That's a bad process.
That's not the way it works in Congress. In D.C., the budget bill moves slowly (sometimes far too slowly) through committees where members 'mark-up' the bill and change the budget in a fairly transparent, public setting. This takes about all year.
There should be some middle ground in Illinois government. There should be a submitted budget bill that is assigned to committee, debated and voted out in March or April. Negotiations between the Governor and the legislative leaders should occur in the public, not behind closed doors.
This isn't anything new in Illinois, but I hope the Democratic leaders might bring the budget process out into the open in 2006.
I really came to understand how closed-off the budget process is this year, as I attempted (quite unsuccessfully, as it turns out) to increase a line-item. Here's what the process seemed like. Imagine two people are playing chess and you're trying to give advice to one of them. They are on the other side of a high brick wall. So you write a note on a piece of paper, crumple it up and toss it over the wall. That's it. You don't know if they read it. You don't know if they are still playing chess. You don't know much of anything. That's the budget process -- for most legislators as well. It ought to be more open.
I don't think there's any policy justification for the mostly secret-negotiation process we use for state budgeting. And I think Governor Blagojevich was right to call for a change on that front. Didn't happen this year, but who knows? Maybe next year. I'm sure that if a majority of members of either caucus decided they wanted a transparent process, they would get one.