Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Destroy This Mad Cheating Brute


More Epic Photoshop Win™ from CharlieWeisAteMyBaby.com.

Court Overturns Ban on Statehouse Prayer

Good news (whether obtained by lack of standing, and thus legal technicality) or not.

From the Indy Star:

Court overturns ban on Statehouse prayer

All prayers, including those to Jesus, once again can be given from the podium of the Indiana House.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled today to overturn the decision of a U.S. district court judge who ruled that sectarian prayers could not be offered from the floor of the Indiana House.


The initial decision, rendered by U.S. District Judge David Hamilton in November 2005, ruled that opening prayers in the House could not mention Jesus nor endorse a particular religion. Then House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, appealed that decision and current Speaker B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, decided to continue it.

The lawsuit challenging the House prayers was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of four citizens.

In a 2-1 ruling today, the appeals court said those plaintiffs did not have the standing to sue because public tax dollars could not be linked to the practice of prayer.

Bauer applauded the decision this afternoon.

"While we do need more time with the Indiana Attorney General and the House staff counsel to examine all the ramifications of today's decision, I am delighted that the court has left alone a tradition that has been a part of House proceedings for nearly 190 years," Bauer said.

Bloomington Bans Bible, Welcomes Buddha

So much for secularism, the establishment clause, and all of that.

From the Bloomington Herald-Times:

Two limestone tablets engraved with the Ten Commandments were displayed Wednesday on a wooden folding table in City Hall next to an exhibition about Tibet.

But they won’t be staying around, said Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan.

“The Ten Commandments tablets and a table were dropped off and left in the atrium. That action followed no process and does not constitute a work of art. As such, the tablets and table will be returned to their owners,” he said in an e-mail.

However, the group who left the Ten Commandments say their Christian beliefs have just as much right to space in City Hall as do photographs and information about the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist leader set to visit Bloomington next week.

The city opened the door to all religious materials with the “Experience Peace” exhibition that includes photos of the Dalai Lama, said Amy Bernitt, who helped organize the lunch-hour event that included an opening and closing prayer.

Kruzan and Deputy Mayor James McNamara disagree, saying the temporary Tibetan display is about understanding cultural differences, and showcases art. McNamara said no city money was used in the display as part of “Be Peaceful Bloomington” month.

After an opening prayer, Jim Billingsley read a statement explaining the “historic moment” of displaying the Ten Commandments. Underneath his statement, a Bible with pink and orange sticky notes was in a gray zippered cover.

[The deputy mayor] said the city’s welcoming of the Dalai Lama is cultural rather than religious, pointing to the local Tibetan Cultural Center.

“The city clearly does not promote one religion over another or any religion at all,” he said.

Michael Douglas, a pastor at Pentecostal Faith Assembly, said he attended the event because he wants an equal voice, since the Dalai Lama is being recognized by the city.

Of the Dalai Lama, Douglas said: “He lost his voice in his country, (we) don’t want to lose our voice in our country.”

Hat tip: Hoosierpundit reader.

Poll Shows Voters Back Sales Tax Hike

From the Indy Star:

A majority of Indiana voters would support a sales tax increase to offset lost property tax revenue, according to a poll conducted by the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, a group of business and higher education interests.

The poll of 600 voters was conducted by phone Oct. 9-10.

About 70 percent of respondents said they'd support a constitutional amendment capping property taxes.

Sixty percent also said they supported a sales tax increase rather than raising property or income taxes.

Property taxes were listed as participants' biggest concern, with 27 percent of those responding naming them as the most important problem facing their families.

The vast majority, 89 percent, said they thought current property tax assessments were unfair and inaccurate.

Seventy-eight percent said they thought assessors should be professionals appointed at either the state or local level.

Eighty-three percent of respondents said they were concerned about too many levels of government.

The majority also supported local funding limits, with 70 percent agreeing that property taxes could not be controlled without strict state limits on local spending.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

It's an interesting coincidence that the governor's plan targets everything broadly supported by voters under this poll.

Dark Lord of the Sith to Visit Indianapolis

"I find your lack of faith disturbing."

From the Courier-Journal:

Cheney to visit Indianapolis on Thursday

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney is coming to Indianapolis on Thursday to speak to the American Legion, the vice president's office announced today.

Cheney will deliver his remarks at the Indiana War Memorial, according to his office.

The American Legion is headquartered in Indianapolis.

Cheney's last high-profile visit to Indiana was last October when he spoke to Indiana National Guardsmen at Camp Atterbury.

Halloween Fireworks

"Hallowishes", the Halloween fireworks show from the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

Probably one of the best themed fireworks shows I have ever seen (let alone themed for Halloween).

Using some of the songs from Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas is just classic.







Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Peyton Fights for FREEDOM


Epic Photoshop Win™ from CharlieWeisAteMyBaby.com.

Thoughts on the Daniels Tax Plan, Part II: Township Assessors on the Chopping Block

This is a goodly reduction in government at the local township level (eliminating an entire layer of government), despite the Governor saying that he will wait for the results of the Shepard-Kernan commission before pursuing the issue of local government reform.

Just how strongly will entrenched local political elites—large fish in tiny township ponds, if you will—(to say nothing of their county-level patrons and allies) react to the governor abolishing these positions with a single legislative stroke?

We already have some indication that they are going to fight tooth-and-nail to maintain their positions.

There are a lot of township assessors; they can make a lot of noise and exert a lot of pressure.

It would not surprise me if this portion of the plan became a bridge too far—regardless of what I think are its obvious and apparent merits—and either the Governor abandons it or the General Assembly omits it from the final version that is passed.

Prior posts in this series:
Part I, Appointed County Assessors

From Washington, Baron Denounces Daniels Property Tax Plan as "Unfair"

Congressman Baron HillI am sure that he's only voicing his opinion out of concern for Hoosier homeowners.

That and his secret longing to run for Governor (to say nothing of his personal animus for Mitch Daniels).

From his spiffy spintastic press release:

(Washington, DC) - Congressman Baron Hill has reviewed Governor Daniels property tax proposal and is concerned about many aspects of the plan.

“I have concerns about how the Governor’s plan will affect vital local services and small businesses. Delays on school construction could hurt fast-growing communities and create overcrowding, and an increase in the sales tax could hurt Hoosier businesses and the state’s economy,” Hill said. “In addition, taxing individuals at one rate and businesses at a higher rate is unfair to the thousands of small business owners in Southern Indiana. Although this is a state and local issue, I will push for my Property Tax Relief Act which would provide permanent relief to homeowners on the federal taxes.”

What's unfair, of course, is not doing something at the state level to fix the property tax system, and fix it in a reasonable and enduring fashion.

This is an alien concept to Baron; he spends most of his time just thinking about how to get reelected.

Democrats Shorten Congressional Work Week

Remember, this was going to be the hardest working Congress *evah*.

More evidence that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

From the New York Times:

Democrats Plan a Shorter Workweek

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 — Shortly after winning a majority last year, Democrats triumphantly declared that they would put Congress back to work, promising an “end to the two-day workweek.” And indeed, the House has clocked more time in Washington this year than in any other session since 1995, when Republicans, newly in control, sought to make a similar point.

But 10 months into the session, with their legislative agenda often in gridlock with the Bush administration and a big election year looming, the Democrats are now planning a lighter schedule when the 110th Congress begins its second year in mid-January.

The House majority leader, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, told fellow Democrats this week that the House would not be in session next year on Fridays, except in June for work on appropriations bills.

His comments drew snickers from Republicans, who are quite happy to share their view that the American people did not get much value for all the extra time lawmakers spent in Washington.

“Is this a reward for our accomplishments in 2007?” asked Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the Republican whip.

And on Friday, President Bush once again hammered Congressional Democrats, accusing them of failing to meet basic responsibilities like approving annual budget bills and confirming his nominee for attorney general, Michael B. Mukasey.

“This is not what Congressional leaders promised when they took control of Congress earlier this year,” Mr. Bush said. “Congress needs to keep their promise, to stop wasting time, and get essential work done on behalf of the American people.”

“Unlike Congress, the American people do not mistake motion for progress,” said Representative Thaddeus G. McCotter, Republican of Michigan. “They want results. And given the approval ratings, they are certainly convinced they aren’t getting them.”

Mr. McCotter said changing the schedule was an example of Democrats’ breaking promises. “They said ‘five-day weeks,’ ” he said. And he scoffed at the notion that Mr. Hoyer was also responding to Republicans who wanted more time in their home districts.

“I wish he had that much concern and was as responsive to Republicans’ calls for input on major legislation,” Mr. McCotter said.

Yet another promise made by the Democrats that has been flushed down the toilet in the name of their naked political ambition.

They're too busy trying to get reelected to do the business of the American people that they were elected to do in the first place.

Waiting for the Great Pumpkin



And the results from the debate poll I ran show as much.

Out of 46 votes cast:

Duncan Hunter 0 (0%)
Fred Thompson 11 (23%)
John McCain 3 (6%)
Mike Huckabee 13 (28%)
Mitt Romney 2 (4%)
Ron Paul 2 (4%)
Rudy Giuliani 8 (17%)
Tom Tancredo 1 (2%)
None of the Above 6 (13%)

Here are the numbers for the last debate poll I ran, for comparison.

Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, and John McCain did better.

Fred Thompson, Duncan Hunter, and Ron Paul did worse.

Hillary is Everywhere, Literally


Everywhere on everything, pretty much.

Four more years...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Thoughts on the Daniels Tax Plan, Part I: Appointed County Assessors

I've been reading over the details of the Governor's property tax plan.

After printing it out and scribbing notes in the margins, I figured that I'd try to make those observations, questions, and comments into a series of posts.

I don't know how many of these I will end up doing, but this is the first post of a series.



Appointed assessors are a very good idea, but I wonder how much of an impact it will really have on the overall quality of assessments; I suppose it can’t get worse.

One needs only to look at Aaron Haith, the incompetent partisan hack Council Attorney in Marion County, to question the judgment of some political appointments made by county councils.

For example, in just how many Indiana counties is the currently elected assessor of the same political party as the majority on the county council?

What is to prevent these councils from toeing the party line and simply appointing the currently-elected assessor under the new system?

As the saying goes: meet the old boss, same as the new boss.

Granted, the former assessor will have to gain some sort of training and certification to be eligible for appointment (just like it requires a law degree and a bar certification to be appointed as council attorney), but this only serves to make the qualifications set for certification all that much more critical.

I have yet to see these qualifications spelled out in detail.

Is there going to be a degree in property tax assessment?

Perhaps it can be available through Ivy Tech.

Pat Bauer could teach the class; it would be the first actual work he has done for them in ages.

More seriously, politics will still be involved in the assessment process under the governor’s new system of appointed assessors, but at least the assessors will be properly and professionally trained; this is not something that can be said under the current regime.

Assessors Denounce Daniels' Plan

Hmmm.

The often-incompetent elected officials that brought you this mess don't like the idea that the governor's plan to fix it might leave them unemployed.

From the Courier-Journal:

INDIANAPOLIS -- A group representing Indiana's township and county assessors has drafted an alternative to Gov. Mitch Daniels' property-tax plan, which the group says goes too far.

The Indiana Assessors Association said its property tax streamlining plan would replace Indiana's 92 elected county assessors with 10 appointed regional administrators.

Daniels' property-tax reform package would eliminate Indiana's 1,008 elected township and county assessors and appoint one assessor in each county. Those assessors would be named by city councils rather than elected by voters.

The governor's plan was prompted by flaws in assessments that led Daniels to order them redone in several counties this year.

While his plan would appoint one assessor in each county, the assessors association's plan would replace elected county assessors with a system headed by the 10 regional assessor supervisors, who would report to the state Department of Revenue. It would also replace elected township assessors with an experienced, certified assessor picked by the regional supervisor.

Daniels contends that Indiana has too many people involved in the assessment system, and that leads to assessments that, in terms of accuracy, are inconsistent from one jurisdiction to another. He also thinks too few of the people doing the work have the education and training they need and that the job is too political.

"It makes sense to place the responsibility for assessments in each county with a single appointed official of demonstrated professional skills and competence," Daniels said in a statement detailing his plan.

There are a lot of assessors (to say nothing of their families, local allies, et cetera), and they can exert a lot of pressure in opposition to the governor's plan.

Indy Star Strives for Mediocrity and Poor Government, Endorses Peterson Again

Why not settle for second-best?

After all, Greg Ballard won't give tax breaks to the wealthy and to big corporations while letting people lose their homes.

Such is the argument of the Indianapolis Star, the same newspaper that said that Julia Carson deserved another term in Congress.

Just How Conservative is Mike Huckabee?

An interesting and educational column by John Fund about the former Arkansas governor.

It seems that he's not as conservative--at least economically conservative--as he is socially conservative.

From the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page:

Mr. Huckabee's reluctance to surround himself with conservatives was evident as governor, when he kept many agency heads appointed by Bill Clinton. Zac Wright, a spokesman for incoming Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, was asked this year why 15 Huckabee agency heads had been retained. Most of them were "Clinton people," he replied, not "Huckabee people." Mr. Huckabee told me many of his agency heads had "apolitical" responsibilities.

Many Huckabee supporters have told me their man should be judged by what he's saying on the campaign trail today. Fair enough. Mr. Huckabee was the only GOP candidate to refuse to endorse President Bush's veto of the Democrats' bill to vastly expand the Schip health-care program. Only he and John McCain have endorsed the discredited cap-and-trade system to limit global-warming emissions that has proved a fiasco in Europe.

"It goes to the moral issue," he told an admiring group of environmentalists this month. Alan Greenspan blasts cap-and-trade in his new book as not feasible, noting that "jobs will be lost and real incomes of workers constrained." Mr. Huckabee defends his plan as an "innovative" way to attain complete energy independence from foreign oil by 2013.

During a visit to the Journal last spring, Mr. Huckabee joked that one of his biggest challenges is that "like Bill Clinton I hail from Hope, Arkansas, and not every Republican wants to take a chance like that again." But it's Mr. Huckabee who is creating the doubts. "He's just like Bill Clinton in that he practices management by news cycle," a former top Huckabee aide told me. "As with Clinton there was no long-term planning, just putting out fires on a daily basis. One thing I'll guarantee is that won't lead to competent conservative governance."

If you're thinking Huckabee, take five minutes and read the whole thing.

It might trouble you, it might not.

But if you're looking for the pure conservative on everything, Mr. Huckabee is as sure to disappoint you as Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, or John McCain.

Quit looking for another Reagan; the Almighty broke the mold after he made the Gipper.

The Looming Paralysis of the FEC

From Red State:

But [Stephen Colbert's presidential campaign] aside, there is real business going on at the FEC, which brings us back to the languishing nomination of Commissioner Hans von Spakovsky, last reported on here, currently under attack for being a Republican (Well, they don't actually say that, but that's the gist of the critique).

Senators Russ Feingold and Barack Obama have put a hold on von Spakovsky's nomination. As a result, Republicans have refused to allow the nomination of 3 other sitting FEC Commissioners awaiting confirmation to full terms to go forward - Republican Commissioner David Mason and Democratic Commissioners Bob Lenhard and Steve Walther. It's a game of chicken, and so far neither side is blinking.

What makes all this of more than passing interest is that von Spakovsky, Lenhard, and Walther are all serving on recess appointments that expire on December 31. Couple that with the fact that one Republican seat is already vacant (the President has yet to nominate anyone for that seat), and come January 1 the six member Commission could be down to just two Commissioners - Mason, and Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, both of whose terms expired some time ago, but who are serving as "acting" commissioners, a status that they can retain until either renominated and confirmed (as with Mason) or replaced. And this matters because under the statute governing the FEC, there must be 4 votes for the FEC to take any action.

Beyond the welcome possibility of an FEC shutdown (which would, by the way, make it impossible for the FEC to vote to release the federal tax dollars that Senator McCain is counting on to subsidize his cash-poor presidential campaign), this does have some repercussions.

For the GOP, it is a question of prerogative. Are they going to let the Democrats dictate appointments to seats reserved for the GOP? Presumably, Democrats, who tend to believe in speech regulation more than Republicans, will want a functioning FEC more than the Republicans will. So the White House has a big stick in the threat to let the FEC languish. Or it could give more recess appointments, but only to Republican Commissioners, leaving the Democratic seats vacant, so that the GOP would have a 3-1 advantage on the Commission. Finally, while the President can't give another recess appointment to von Spakovsky, if he were feeling ornery he could probably find a Republican to accept a recess appointment who is even more disliked by the left wing of the Democratic Party. So it's a strong hand.

Referendums?

Fire Proof

Friday, October 26, 2007

Poll: Peterson & Ballard, Neck-and-Neck

From the Indy Star:

The race between incumbent Mayor Bart Peterson and GOP challenger Greg Ballard appears to have tightened significantly, according to a new poll of 400 likely voters in Marion County.

The Indianapolis Star-WTHR (Channel 13) poll shows Peterson with a narrow lead over Ballard, 43 percent to 39 percent. Libertarian Fred Peterson received 5 percent of the vote in the poll and 13 percent of the poll respondents said they were either not sure or did not support any of the candidates.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

The shellshocked mutterings of Democratic spinners and apologists about this poll are hilarious.

In what was surely a Freudian slip, the Democratic Party's mouthpiece blog could only cry, "Can anyone figure out how this happened -- or what it means?"

Thomas Cook, over at Blue Indiana, glumly declared, "The numbers aren't pretty, but they aren't the end of the world."

Heck, Bart Peterson had to resort to that last, great refuge of a politician on whom the polls have turned: election day is "the only poll that matters."

Greg Ballard can win this thing.

He has gotten this close on a shoestring budget (particularly when compared to the want-for-nothing candidates the Republicans are fielding for the Indy City Council).

Whether you are from Indianapolis, or anywhere else in Indiana, send him a few bucks to help him out.

You can send him a contribution on his website, here.

I just did.



On a more analytical note, the results of the poll were initially reported as being even closer, but were revised by the Star to be slightly further apart:

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story and an accompanying list of poll questions reported different results. Those versions have been revised to present results that more closely reflect voter turnout based on 2004 election results in Indiana.

In the sidebar, you can see what those revisions were.

The Star tweaked the poll results to assume 2004 levels of turnout for African American voters in Marion County:

The poll is weighted to reflect an expected black participation rate of 20.5 percent, using Census voting participation data by race in 2004.

African Americans, particularly those living in urban areas, are usually a demographic that is understated in polling for a variety of reasons, so the weighting is well-justified in some respects.

But are African Americans going to turn out in Indianapolis in an off-year election like they did in 2004?

Will they vote so heavily for Peterson as they might have in the past?

On top of that, in a year with anti-incumbent sentiment running as hot as it is right now in Indianapolis, I think it is unlikely that the 12% that are self-declared undecideds are going to break for Bart Peterson on election day.

More on Baron Flip-Flopping

This time from Sue Barlow at the Point Taken blog at the Courier-Journal:

I could use this as an opportunity to complain about my congressman, Baron Von Flip-Flop Hill, because of his initial vote on the SCHIP bill, which was a disappointing "no," but it won't do any good.

I know, I know. He changed it to a "yes" the second time around, but it was too late to fight for it the way he should have the first time he had the chance.

Anyway, shame on Mr. Hill for disappointing so many Hoosiers (and kids) who voted for a Democrat last November.

It was so Mike Sodrel of him to vote against health care for children in favor of tobacco and its profits.

Sodrel, hoping three times will be a charm by opposing Hill again, is probably making a campaign commercial right now telling 3rd District voters in Indiana that Hill voted against families and children.

It works for me.

Granted, it is always interesting to see Baron under fire.

It's also nice to see that the lefties are already in full attack mode, denouncing Mike Sodrel without even knowing his position on an issue.

However, it is even more interesting to note that Ms. Barlow, despite having Baron Hill as her Congressman, doesn't seem to know which Congressional district it is that she lives in.

Geography is obviously not her strong suit; the 3rd District is quite far from the 9th District.

She would be very disappointed if she went to the polls and started looking on the ballot for the section for the United States Congressman representing the 3rd District of Indiana.

This being said, I am sure that whatever warmed-over liberal quack they get to run against Mark Souder would be more than happy to have her vote, if she could somehow get up there to vote instead.

Fun with News Aggregators, Part XI: Schellinger's Listening, Just Not Answering

From the Little General blog:

An email I sent to "No response Jim" and still no response.

Today's date 24 Oct. 07

21 Oct. 07

Mr. Schellinger, I have a few questions I would like to ask.

You claim, you are against out sourcing. Then why would you use a website firm from Oregon, and not from Indiana, Michigan, or Illinois?

Why would you want to be governor, with the small salary of 95,000, when you are CEO of a very successful firm? Would it have anything to do with the cut in school building funds, to the redirection to teachers salaries and quality of education.

Lastly, with health care, why are you not promoting union negotiations, not government funded. I agree with helping the poor, but not a family of four that make 40,000. If their company doesn’t offer health care or it is to costly. They should organize, not get into the tax paying peoples pocket. You, your-self sir are living proof. That we can make better for ourselves, if we want to.

I would appreciate a response.

Thank You,
"Little General"
Mike Ross

That's right, folks.

Jim Schellinger has been traveling the state of Indiana listening to people.

But when they talk to him (or, in this case, write to him), he doesn't seem to answer.

Maybe he's not liking what he's hearing or reading.

Mobsters Considered Offing Rudy Giuliani

From ABC News:

Rudy Giuliani was targeted by the bosses of New York's five mob families, who considered killing him in 1986, an informant told the FBI at the time, according to testimony given in the murder trial of retired FBI agent Lindley DeVechio.

Late Gambino family crime boss John Gotti, the flamboyant "Dapper Don," and the Colombo family boss Carmine Persico, suggested the idea of killing Giuliani, who as Manhattan U.S. attorney led the government's prosecution of the mob. But bosses for the other families -- Bonnano, Lucchese and Genovese -- disagreed and the idea was rejected, according to the informer.

The mob bosses had plenty of reasons to target Giuliani, considering his staff had prosecuted four of the five mob bosses. In October 1986, Persico, Lucchese boss Anthony Corallo and Genovese street boss Anthony Salerno were convicted during the Commission trial, so named for the "Commission," a loose affiliation of New York mob operations.

As an interesting aside, the mob also considered assassinating Thomas E. Dewey, who was then--like Giuliani later--a prosecutor in New York going after the mob.

They decided against it, much like with Giuliani, and Dewey went on to become governor of New York and be the Republican nominee for the presidency in 1944 (against Franklin Roosevelt) and 1948 (against Harry Truman, where the "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline photo became famous).

One Giant Leap...

Therapy for Internet Addiction

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Baron Hill Just "Present" in Stark Censure

Stark was the congressman that said that soldiers were fighting and dying in Iraq getting their "heads blown off for the president's amusement."

Unsurprisingly, his remarks didn't go over well, and the Republicans moved to censure him.

Baron Hill, meanwhile, was just merely "present" according to the roll call.

Perhaps this is a new strategy.

Whenever tough votes arise, Baron can just vote "present", and avoid having to actually make his position known on anything remotely controversial.

Iraq war funding? Present.

Health care for children? Present.

Wiretapping of terrorists? Present.

Tax increases? Present.

Tax dollars for abortions overseas? Present.

In this fashion, nobody in Bloomington or in the nutroots will ever get mad at him, nor will anybody here in southern Indiana (unless they actually want their Congressman do more than get a mark for being there and not actually voting one way or the other).

From the Washington Post:

House Bid to Censure Stark Falls Short

WASHINGTON -- Republicans failed in an effort Tuesday to have the House censure Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., who said in a congressional speech last week that U.S. troops are being sent to Iraq "to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."

Without debate, the House voted 196-173 to kill the proposal to censure Stark for "his despicable conduct." The vote was mostly along party lines, with all 168 Republicans on hand supporting the measure offered by Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. Five Democrats joined them.

Stark, 75, stirred cries of protest Thursday during a debate over President Bush's veto of a $35 billion increase to a children's health insurance program. "You don't have money to fund the war or children," Stark said on the House floor. "But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."

Stark initially refused to apologize despite condemnations from GOP lawmakers and others. Moments after Tuesday's vote, however, he addressed the House to apologize to his colleagues, "to the president and his family," and to U.S. troops offended by his remarks.

"I hope that with this apology I will become as insignificant as I should be" in the continuing debates over Iraq and health care, he said. Boehner was among those who applauded.

When asked about Stark's apology during her afternoon briefing with reporters, White House press secretary Dana Perino said: "This is the first I've heard of it. If it's true that he's apologized, I think that's appropriate."

Democrat Gubernatorial Candidates Oppose Marriage Amendment, Favor Abortion

From Advance Indiana:

In a surprising but bold move, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jill Long Thompson announced this afternoon during a joint appearance with her primary opponent, Jim Schellinger, she supports civil unions for same-sex couples. Like her opponent, the former U.S. representative said she opposed SJR-7, the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages and other similar rights for unmarried couples.

Schellinger told an audience of nearly 200 at today's HPR Forum he supports Indiana's current Defense of Marriage law defining marriage as between one man and one woman. He believes SJR-7 is unnecessary and sends a message of intolerance. Thompson's position sets her distinctly apart from Schellinger and Gov. Mitch Daniels, neither of whom supports civil unions.

The candidates also staked out their position on abortion today. Thompson unabashedly stated her support for the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Schellinger's position was it little less clear. He said his faith teaches him abortion is wrong and he is against it personally , but he believes our current laws should be enforced. It's a position which gives him some wiggle room.

Mitch Daniels won't campaign on the social issues, but you can bet that his surrogates will, as will House Republicans.

Violence in Iraq Drops Sharply

The willing suspension of disbelief, I suppose.

From Reuters:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Violence in Iraq has dropped by 70 percent since the end of June, when U.S. forces completed their build-up of 30,000 extra troops to stabilize the war-torn country, the Interior Ministry said on Monday.

The ministry released the new figures as bomb blasts in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul killed five people and six gunmen died in clashes with police in the holy Shi'ite city of Kerbala south of the Iraqi capital.

Washington began dispatching reinforcements to Iraq in February to try to buy Iraq's feuding political leaders time to reach a political accommodation to end violence between majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs that has killed tens of thousands and forced millions from their homes.

While the leaders have failed to agree on key laws aimed at reconciling the country's warring sects, the troop buildup has succeeded in quelling violence.

Under the plan, U.S. troops left their large bases and set up combat outposts in neighborhoods while launching a series of summer offensives against Sunni Islamist al Qaeda, other Sunni Arab militants and Shi'ite militias in the Baghdad beltway.

Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul-Karim Khalaf told reporters that there had been a 70 percent decrease in violence countrywide in the three months from July to September over the previous quarter.

In Baghdad, considered the epicenter of the violence because of its mix of Shi'ites and Sunni Arabs, car bombs had decreased by 67 percent and roadside bombs by 40 percent, he said. There had also been a 28 percent decline in the number of bodies found dumped in the capital's streets.

In Anbar, a former insurgent hotbed where Sunni Arab tribes have joined U.S. forces against al Qaeda, there has been an 82 percent drop in violent deaths.

"These figures show a gradual improvement in controlling the security situation," Khalaf said.

Internet Addiction

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Eric Miller & Other Property Tax Plan Musings

Warning: Lengthy post ahead.

Your humble correspondent intended to go to Indiana University Southeast last night to see the Jeffersonville mayoral candidates debate.

That was before Mitch Daniels decided to announce his property tax plan, and before I saw in the paper that property tax abolitionist (and social conservative activist) Eric Miller was going to be in New Albany at about the same time for a property tax rally.

It was a hard decision.

Listen to two politicians pontificate, or listen to one politician pontificate in the hopes of seeing him make statewide news by attacking Daniels' plan (or perhaps even disliking it so much that he might announce a primary challenge).

The sacrifices I make and the hardships I endure for the reader, let me tell you, but I digress.

Anyway, like I said, hard decision.

I went with the one politician and the hope that he might say something new and blog-worthy.

Eric Miller, however, had little new to say, despite me braving the rain to see him.

It was a dark and stormy night.

The Grand in New Albany was only about half full.

To be fair, it was set up auditorium-style, whereas it had been set up with tables when he was in town back in August for a prior rally, so there were probably more people there than at the last one.

Heck, Baron Hill sent two of his lackeys to scope out the scene.

Even an Evan Bayh minion was present.

Mike Sodrel was in the audience, as were a number of local and state-level elected officials and candidates for office (Democrat and Republican).

Eric Miller's presentation was not much different than the one he gave in the same hall in August; even the slides and handouts were basically the same.

Miller said precious little about the governor's property tax plan that had been proposed an hour and a half earlier.

He denounced it as "not enough" and as another "temporary" fix.

I am not exactly certain by what legal understanding Eric Miller's constitutional amendment banning property taxes is "permanent," but Mitch Daniels' constitutional amendment capping property taxes is "temporary."

Perhaps it can be explained to me sometime.

Surprisingly, Miller said little in criticism of the Governor.

He didn't like that Daniels hadn't called a special session, and he didn't like that Mitch wasn't supporting his amendment to abolish property taxes.

These were not new criticisms, however.

Miller said pretty much the same things about Daniels with the same emphasis, tone, and overall importance to his speech as he did back in August.

He did not say he was running for governor and gave no indication that he had changed his mind (though I suppose that could change).

One of Miller's people told me after the event that they had not yet seen Daniels' proposal or had a chance to examine its details, as they "could not get a feed down here."

I talked to two other individuals, who despite being primitive locals living in the feedless backwater of southern Indiana had, in fact, already heard about the plan and its contents.

One (a Republican activist that in my experience tends to talk straight) expected a viable plan to emerge from the details, and thought that the overall roll-out and timing were politically savvy (I didn't ask him about my concern about timing relative to local elections; he seemed concerned about the timing relative to the legislative session).

The second (someone involved in commercial real estate) seemed very concerned with provisions in the proposal that would cap residential taxes at 1% of the assessed value, but cap rental properties at 2% and businesses at 3%.

His concerns probably are not that dissimilar in reasoning to what caused the rather tepid reaction put forward by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce in response to the Governor's plan:

“We appreciate the governor’s comprehensive and thoughtful approach to tackling the state’s property tax dilemma. We are still examining the details of his plan and are looking forward to getting more numbers to see how the various elements would interact with each other and their impact not only on the business community but all Hoosiers.

“Going forward into the 2008 legislative session, what the Indiana Chamber will remain adamant about is that an increased tax burden cannot be unfairly put on one segment or segments of taxpayers. Our state constitution dictates uniform and equal property assessments and taxation.”

If you are a property tax abolitionist, like Eric Miller, you are not going to like Mitch Daniels' proposal to fix the property tax crisis.

If you are a business owner and you like the current system, where entire car dealerships in Indianapolis can be assessed for less than residential houses in Marion County, you are probably not going to like Mitch Daniels' proposal to fix the property tax crisis.

But if you are willing to settle for less than abolition while still demanding the old system be fixed forever, this is probably the best plan you're going to see (or at least the foundation for a very workable and viable compromise toward that end).

It's probably also good politics for Daniels and Republicans (though the devil will be in the details and the execution).

Ruth Holladay termed Daniels as "ahead of the game."

To that, Doug Masson quipped in response, "It took him 3 years to do squat about the property tax issue. Calling that 'ahead of the game' is ridiculous."

As I said in Doug's comment section, that's a disingenuous criticism; property taxes rather have to be an "issue" before you can criticize someone for doing squat about them.

That's like my house getting leveled by a tornado, but then saying that I did squat about the issue of high winds for the three years I owned it before it was flattened.

Gary at Advance Indiana doesn't seem to think that the Governor is going far enough in his proposal.

Frugal Hoosiers is all singing angels, raining flowers, and fanfare trumpets.

There would also be rainbows, but it's a Republican blog.

They also have a YouTube video for those of us in the feedless southern Indiana backwaters that got news about Kentucky instead of seeing the speech.



You can download the "source material" and specifics of the Governor's property tax proposal here.

It should make for interesting reading.

Bush to Ask for More War Funding

It will be interesting to see how Baron Hill votes on this.

From AFP:

President George W. Bush Monday demanded nearly 200 billion dollars from Congress to fund war operations next year, throwing down the gauntlet to opponents who want a swift exit from Iraq.

"Every member of Congress who wants to see both success in Iraq and our troops begin to come home should strongly support this bill," Bush said at the White House.

"I know some in Congress are against the war and are seeking ways to demonstrate that opposition," he said. "But they ought to make sure our troops have what it takes to succeed."

The request for 196.4 billion dollars would fund the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008, and adds more than 42 billion dollars to the administration's original estimate of its war costs for next year.

It includes 5.3 billion dollars for mine-resistant armored vehicles known as MRAPs, and 3.6 billion dollars for the State Department in part to fund what Bush called "crucial relief for Iraqi refugees."

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the case for the additional funding in congressional testimony on September 26, but Monday's action marked the formal request with the documentation to justify it.

If approved, the request would push US war costs to a whopping 757.4 billion dollars since Bush launched his "war on terror" following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Got to love Agence France-Presse and their use of loaded adjectives in factual reporting; "huge war funding demand", "Bush demanded", "whopping 757.4 billion", et cetera.

I wonder if any health care proposal made by Democrats will ever be considered "huge" or "whopping"; somehow I doubt it.

Family Portrait

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Daniels Proposes Permanent Property Tax Fix

The executive summary?

Professional assessors, capped taxes, cuts in current taxes, and a shift in the local-state spending mix.

His remarks:

Good evening.

For the last few months, no subject has been on my mind, or the mind of most Hoosiers, as much as property taxes. In almost every county, some homeowners were hit with huge increases; in some counties, it seemed almost everyone got a big jump. Assessments were inconsistent and often grossly unfair. It is not acceptable that any citizen cannot afford to keep the home they may have worked all their lives to buy. The status quo is not tolerable and we must act to fix it.

Several causes combined to produce this situation. Back in the ‘90s, courts ordered a change to assessments based on market prices. In 2002, the legislature repealed the inventory property tax on business, and switched from reassessment once a decade to once a year, or “trending”. And, the biggest factor of all, total local spending on schools, libraries, school construction, and other services has continued growing faster than taxpayers’ incomes. When that happens, property taxes can only go up.

We’ve been here before. Repeatedly over the last 35 years, state government has tried to help out. State taxes have been raised and the money used to subsidize local budgets and reduce property taxes. By now, 85% of school operating costs are paid for by our state taxes, not our property taxes. Half the sales tax, 3 cents out of 6, is sent back to support local government, or your property taxes would be far higher than they already are.

What we do next must learn from this history, because the old approach has not worked. In every case, a few years later our state taxes were higher and our property taxes were, too. It only took 5 years this time.

I have looked at every option for change. I have talked with Hoosiers all over the state. I have studied Indiana’s past approaches to this issue and the attempts of other states to deal with their own problems. When Indiana acts this time, and act we must, our steps must be fair, far-reaching, and final.

I have prepared and will recommend to the legislature a proposal to cut every homeowner’s property taxes sharply and cap them forever, at no more than one per cent of a home’s true value. This last provision must be added to the state’s constitution to ensure its permanence, and guarantee that no Hoosier ever again pays more than a penny on the dollar of their home’s value.

We can lower the average Hoosier property tax bill by more than a third by removing forever the rest of school operating costs, and the cost of protecting abused and neglected children, from the local to the state level. Immediate relief should be provided to every homeowner on the May ’08 bills, and the full 1% ceiling protection put in place by 2009.

We can fund this reform through a one-cent increase in the sales tax, and by using a small share of the surplus we have restored to the state budget these last three years.

Before settling on the cut and cap approach, I looked hard at the idea of totally eliminating property taxes in our state. Much as I would like to have taken that route, the risks to our schools, to small business, and to our economy generally, dissuaded me. In particular, I could not support the large increase in personal income taxes, paid by every Hoosier worker and most small businesses, which would be necessary for total elimination.

Any plan that makes a real difference in property taxation will have to go to its root cause, and that is excessive spending. Total local spending on school construction, libraries, fire departments, and all other local services simply cannot keep rising faster than Hoosier incomes.

To achieve better discipline while preserving local control, we must have single-point accountability for spending. Today, no one is responsible; each local taxing district sets its budget and sends you its part of the bill, which is only added up when it hits your mailbox. The County Tax Board in each county must accept the duty of reviewing the total of local spending plans and trimming those budgets as needed to keep our taxes down.

As further protection against overspending, we should strengthen taxpayers’ direct say in local decisions, especially the borrowing for new schools and other construction which has been the biggest driver of property tax increases. I will propose that any significant new capital project, or any spending in excess of the growth in local income, must be approved by voter referendum.

Next, we must protect other property taxpayers from being exploited. I will propose hard ceilings, with no exceptions and no loopholes, of 2% for rental properties and 3% for other businesses, also written into our constitution.

Finally, our unfair and unfixable assessment system must go. I will propose the elimination of all political assessors and the appointment by each County Council of a single, qualified and certified assessor to oversee trained professionals in conducting future appraisals.

Immediate relief for every homeowner; a one per cent permanent cap on every homeowner’s taxes; an end to unfair and inaccurate assessments; real limits on local spending. As bold as these changes would be, I am very optimistic of achieving them, especially if you will help.

In the last 3 years, we have already solved problems like the state government deficit and the state highway shortfall that people said would take years or were simply impossible. We can solve this one, too, and open a new era of opportunity in which Indiana is the nation’s leader in defending and promoting the American dream of home ownership.

Thank you and good night.

Now the fireworks can begin.

UPDATE: The Indy Star has the nitty gritty details, as does the Courier-Journal.

Daniels to Unveil Property Tax Proposal Tonight

From the Indy Star:

Gov. Mitch Daniels will suggest amending Indiana's constitution when he reveals his plan for property tax relief in a live TV broadcast Tuesday evening, his office said Monday.

The governor’s plan, his office said, will offer "fair, far-reaching and final property tax relief for Hoosier homeowners."

Daniels has in the past several months responded to the property tax problem by extending the deadline for counties to adopt a local option income tax, allowing homeowners to pay property taxes in installments and ordering reassessments in some counties, including Marion County.

He also created a Blue Ribbon Commission on Local Government Reform to look at and make recommendations about how to reform and restructure local government.

So much for my theory yesterday that the Governor would show a modest sense of good political timing and wait until after the municipal elections.

Trouble in Bloomington, Part 11: Baron Caught in Children's Health Catch-22

Even in flip-flopping to take their side on S-CHIP, Baron's Bloomington base continues to get increasingly angry at him.

On the one hand, it's hard for him to explain why he wants to vote against health care for American children.

On the other hand, it's hard for him to explain why he wants to strip an estimated quarter of a billion dollars in health care spending from Hoosier children.

Decisions, decisions.

From an HP reader comes this letter to the Bloomington Herald-Times:

Won’t vote for Hill

To the editor:

Well! Well! Well! Our noble U.S. Rep. Democrat Baron Hill has voted against expanding children’s health insurance, and now he considered supporting Bush’s veto before changing his mind. He at last has shown his true colors. Apparently behind all of this is the fear that he will lose monetary support from the tobacco growers (cancer killers) because additional tobacco tax will pay for the insurance.

He may be a Democrat, but he sure looks, acts, and quacks like a faithful Republican: No use for the public and working constantly to please those making money. Come on Hill, be honest. You don’t give a damn about children; you are just determined to feather your nest for the next election.

I voted for Hill in anticipation that change will come and that he will help us. Not so. Never again will I vote for this guy, and I hope many other thinking people will feel this way.

Hill, why don’t you become marginally honest and call yourself a Republican from now on? Then you can swagger like Bush and do stupid things like this.

-EDWIN RAMAGE, Bloomington

And now comes the growing index of Bloomington troubles plaguing Mr. Hill.

Prior posts in this series:
October 12, in which lefties use illegal robo-calls and the threat of sad-eyed children in newspaper ads to cause Baron to flip-flop on health care for American children, at the expense of Hoosier children.
September 18, in which Baron refuses to attend a peace rally in Bloomington with his supporters when he learns that cameras and members of the media will be present.
September 11, in which Baron is attacked in the Bloomington Herald-Times for voting to approve the FISA law.
August 29, in which lefty crazies in Bloomington get so angry with Baron for refusing to impeach the Cheney-Bush regime that they say "why not bring back Mike Sodrel?"
August 22, in which Baron tells his base in Bloomington that he supports taxing tobacco farmers, favors putting taxes on things like fast food, and won't impeach the Cheney-Bush regime; he also reaffirms his love for Bloomington "culture."
August 16 and August 20, in which the lefty crazies foam at the mouth because Baron voted for the new FISA bill to enable the NSA to listen in on phone calls by terrorists.
August 14, in which Greenpeace urges Baron Hill to take a stronger stand on fuel-economy standards and get out of the pocket of the auto companies and the automaker unions.
July 9, in which Baron tells a Bloomington anti-war lefty, "I'm not voting to give any more money to the President to continue this war."
June 25, in which Bloomington lefty Gretchen Clearwater indicates she will challenge Baron Hill in the Democratic primary because he is insufficiently anti-war.
June 21, in which Baron buys a luxury condo in gated golf and tennis community in Bloomington to be closer to his liberal supporters.
June 1, in which MoveOn.org pledges its support to fund primary challengers to certain Democrats such as Baron.
April 27, in which one of Baron's most notable supporters (a Bloomington law professor) denounces the Supreme Court for restricting partial birth abortions.
April 21, in which the IU student paper decries Baron's use of college students for PR gimmicks.
April 21, in which the IU student paper runs a cartoon mocking Baron for his many motives and positions.

Jeff Mayoral Candidates to Debate

From the News & Tribune:

Galligan, Snelling to square off in debate at IU Southeast

Thirteen months ago, Dan Rodden and Jamey Noel reminded Dr. Linda Gugin why candidate debates are important.

“That was one of the best debates I’ve ever seen,” said Gugin, a political scientist at IU Southeast and a faculty co-sponsor of the campus’ College Democrats.

In September 2006, IU Southeast’s Stem Auditorium was the place Noel, a Republican, and Rodden, the Democrat who was ultimately elected sheriff, went toe-to-toe for more than an hour, trading respectful jabs on issues ranging from budgets to recidivism among criminals.

Gugin said the candidates’ responses left her thinking that Clark County would elect a great sheriff no matter who won the election.

At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Stem Auditorium, Jeffersonville mayoral candidates Tom Galligan and Monty Snelling will try to duplicate the debate success Noel and Rodden had more than a year ago. IU Southeast’s College Democrats and College Republicans will co-host the event.

Snelling, a 55-year-old Republican, and Galligan, a 61-year-old Democrat, will take to the state two weeks before the city’s voters are asked to select one of them as Mayor Rob Waiz’s replacement.

Galligan served as Jeffersonville’s mayor from 1996 to 2003. Snelling has served as an at-large member of the Clark County Council since 2005.

Congressional Democrats Wary of Overconfidence

From the New York Times, not someplace known to be bearish on the political prospects of Democrats:

The political environment has been looking good for Congressional Democrats in recent weeks. So good, in fact, that party strategists are warning it is not that good.

Buoyed by Republican retirements, a significant financial edge over the opposition and their success at elevating children’s health insurance into a top-tier issue, some Democrats have been feeling downright smug, confident of not only holding their House and Senate majorities, but expanding them next year.

But November 2008 is not exactly right around the corner and the man responsible for overseeing the political fortunes of House Democrats is trying to recalibrate expectations. Not his, since Representative Christopher Van Hollen of Maryland says he is well aware of the difficulties ahead. But he wants others to put away any idea of a cakewalk.

“We need to be aware of irrational exuberance and take nothing for granted,” Mr. Van Hollen said. “It is early and a lot can happen in 13 months.”

As the majority party in an institution where everyone is up for re-election, Democrats automatically have more seats to defend. And as Republicans are fond of noting, 60 Democrats are in districts carried by President Bush the last time around while just 8 Republicans are in districts that went for Democrat John Kerry.

More worrisome to party strategists is the fact that so-called change elections such as 2006 can be followed by elections that change in the other direction. After the Republican revolution of 1994, House Democrats picked up eight seats in 1996, a fact well known to Mr. Van Hollen.

“After a big wave comes in, the wave often subsides,” he said. “We have to beat history to make gains.”

Republicans are also conversant with what might be known as political wave theory. After Democrat Niki Tsongas won a special election in Massachusetts last Tuesday by a 51-45 percent spread, the National Republican Congressional Committee heralded the result with this headline: “The Democratic Wave Breaks.”

Republicans contended that the single-digit victory by the widow of Paul Tsongas in ultra-Democratic Massachusetts showed that Democrats can be had in 2008.

“In a race that should have been won in a walk, Democrats were forced to funnel a massive amount of resources and dispatch an all-star cast of liberal icons at the 11th hour in order to ensure victory,” said Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, chairman of the Republican campaign group.

He and party strategists say the respectable showing by Republican Jim Ogonowski demonstrated the appeal of running an anti-Washington campaign at a time when Congress is held in low regard. The Republican view is that Democrats prevailed in 2006 on the premise they would bring change to Washington but voters are not seeing the results.

That MA 5 race is really something that Republican challengers should be studying.

Jim Ogonowski came very close in a +9 Democratic distict that should have been a cakewalk for Niki Tsongas, poor campaign or not.

His message carried the independents, something that is decisive in any competitive district (which MA 5 certainly was not), to say nothing of their impact in breaking for Republican challengers in lean-Republican or conservative districts (like the 60 Democrats in districts that Bush carried in 2004).

The Republicans have already been plotting a fall offensive; coming close in Massachusetts only helps them.

Romney, Huckabee Win Values Voter Poll

Well, technically just Mitt Romney won.

By a paltry thirty votes.

And if you just counted the people that were there, rather than online votes or votes by mail, Huckabee won by a huge margin.

I'd call it for Huckabee, given that consideration.

From CNN's Political Ticker:

Former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Massachusetts, won the FRCAction straw poll.

The announcement came Saturday during the Values Voter Summit. Romney garnered 1,595 votes and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee coming in a close second with 1,565 votes. A total of 5,775 votes were cast online, by mail, and at the event.

Only members of the political arm of the Family Research Council could vote. During the voting period, the organization saw an increase in membership from approximately 5,000 members to approximately 8,500 according to Tony Perkins, President of FRCAction.

When the announcement was made, there appeared to be loud audience support for Huckabee and less audience support for Romney.

The number of people who voted in person at the conference was far less than the number who voted online or by mail. Huckabee was the clear winner of the in person votes with 488 of the 952 votes. Romney received only 99 in person, on site votes.

The top four finishers were Mitt Romney with 1,595 total votes, Mike Huckabee with total 1,565 votes, Ron Paul with 865 total votes, and Fred Thompson with 564 total votes.

A Tale of Two Turkeys

Monday, October 22, 2007

Daniels Mulling Property Tax Package

Lesley Stedman's Sunday column this week muses about the governor's likely property tax reform plan, and what shape his package might take.

From the Courier-Journal:

INDIANAPOLIS -- Gov. Mitch Daniels is expected to unveil his plan for dealing with the property-tax situation as early as this week, although little has leaked out about what he might offer.

Daniels has said the plan likely will propose changing the Indiana Constitution, but whether he'll be looking to remove the requirement for property taxes completely, eliminate a layer of government or offer some other amendment is unclear.

Whatever his ideas, they will likely serve at least as a starting point for legislative action next year.

For a while, it seemed that the legislative Tax and Financing Policy Commission, headed by Sen. Luke Kenley, would provide the road map for property-tax changes.

But last week, Kenley, R-Noblesville, said that he doesn't expect his group to craft specific recommendations. Rather, members likely will try to agree on concepts and goals for the next session -- such as an overhaul of the property-assessment system.

Kenley said last week that he expects Daniels will put out a plan that is far more detailed than anything the commission produces. And even House Speaker Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, said that's OK.

None of this is to say that whatever the governor proposes will pass the General Assembly easily. In fact, there are so many ideas floating around there -- some offered by the Realtors, the Indiana Farm Bureau and individual legislators -- that whatever plan emerges (if a plan emerges) likely will be a mishmash of proposals.

But often it takes a governor to really get things rolling.

I don't expect the Governor to say anything about his property tax plan until after the municipal elections; it would probably be politically imprudent for him to make the plan public or make a speech before then.

Moreover, Daniels has historically announced his major policy initiatives for forthcoming legislative sessions--from Major Moves to his cigarette-tax-for-health-care plan--in November and December, after elections but before Christmas.

He has never waited to make such announcements during the State of the State speech, for example, nor has he done it earlier than the first week or so of November of the prior year (when elections tend to be held).

That doesn't mean that he won't announce it soon; Mitch Daniels has utterly no sense of political timing whatsoever.

This being said, the governor has been supposedly going to announce his property tax plan "next week" since around Labor Day.

Daniels' staff has been tight-lipped about his intentions thus far, and there have been few leaks (only often-contradictory rumors).

It's probably a safe bet, however, that the governor does not intend to push for anything close to the complete repeal of property taxes.

Eric Miller, and his Advance America network of social conservative activists, is pushing hard for a program to completely abolish property taxes.

Yet the governor has asked the social conservative Indiana Family Institute to evaluate his plan, probably as a play to get them on board (assuming Eric Miller decides to go against the governor's plan, whatever it is, IFI would be a very helpful ally).

The Hair: Birch's Boy Made Me Do It

Well, I guess this explains that.

From the Indy Star:

Bauer says Bayh request key factor in endorsing Clinton

Indiana House Speaker Patrick Bauer said Friday that he endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president at the request of Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh and because he believes it could lead to Bayh becoming the vice presidential nominee.

When asked if Bayh told him that Clinton's nomination would help him become her running mate, Bauer said, "I can't say he said that exactly, but I know that's the case."

When asked exactly what he did say, Bauer said, "I think he says she's going to win and that he is very close to her and they work well together and hope to work very well together in the future."

Bayh endorsed Clinton last month, saying she was a "seasoned, experienced leader who will be ready to lead this country on day one." But he dismissed speculation that part of his motivation for endorsing Clinton was to enhance his odds of being chosen running mate.

Bayh spokesman Jonathan Swain said it did not appear that Bauer, D-South Bend, was saying the senator mentioned anything about vice president. He said Bayh was not asking anyone to endorse Clinton by saying anything about vice presidential aspirations.

"He is certainly flattered that the Speaker and others would think this highly of him," Swain said. "A decision (for running mate) is far beyond his or anybody else's control. He's going to continue to do the best job he can for Hoosiers in the Senate."

Methinks Birch's boy is likely to be a tad disappointed when Hillary Clinton decides to pick her chief future scapegoat / fall-guy for anything that goes wrong.

Peterson in Dead Heat with Ballard

From Indy Undercover:

They show a near statistical tie between him and Greg Ballard. Peterson is hovering at about 50% while Ballard has moved up to 47%. The margin of error is about 4% so under one scenario Ballard wins this race. Bart's people are afraid to release this information, so Indyu will do it for them. This race ain't over folks! Ask not for whom the bell tolls, Bart. It tolls for thee!

Hillary Tossed Socks the Cat after Leaving the White House

Woe to the feline that dares to stand between a woman and her lifelong ambition, or (in this case) is no longer useful in obtaining it.

From the Times of London:

AS THE “first pet” of the Clinton era, Socks, the White House cat, allowed “chilly” Hillary Clinton to show a caring, maternal side as well as bringing joy to her daughter Chelsea. So where is Socks today?

Once the presidency was over, there was no room for Socks any more. After years of loyal service at the White House, the black and white cat was dumped on Betty Currie, Bill Clinton’s personal secretary, who also had an embarrassing clean-up role in the saga of his relationship with the intern Monica Lewinsky.

Some believe the abandoned pet could now come between Hillary Clinton and her ambition to return to the White House as America’s first woman president.

Clinton’s treatment of Socks cuts to the heart of the questions about her candidacy. Is she too cold and calculating to win the presidency? Or does it signify political invincibility by showing she is willing to deploy every weapon to get what she wants?

“In the annals of human evil, off-loading a pet is nowhere near the top of the list,” writes Caitlin Flanagan in the current issue of The Atlantic magazine. “But neither is it dead last, and it is especially galling when said pet has been deployed for years as an all-purpose character reference.”

Are you ready?

Can you hardly wait for Hillary Clinton to be in your face for four or even eight more years?

Hat tip: Advance Indiana.

Louisiana Elects Republican Governor

Behold the screwy politics of the Bayou state: an all-party primary held in October where a majority-winner doesn't even have to run in November.

From the AP:

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal easily defeated 11 opponents and became the state's first nonwhite governor since Reconstruction, decades after his parents moved to the state from India to pursue the American dream.

Jindal, a 36-year-old Republican, will be the nation's youngest governor. He had 53 percent with 625,036 votes with about 92 percent of the vote tallied. It was more than enough to win Saturday's election outright and avoid a Nov. 17 runoff.

"My mom and dad came to this country in pursuit of the American dream. And guess what happened. They found the American dream to be alive and well right here in Louisiana," he said to cheers and applause at his victory party.

The Dobson Decree

He Sure Deserved It...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Democrat Letter Attacking Rush Limbaugh Up to $2.1 Million in eBay Auction

Whoa.



How much you want to bet that the high bid falls through because the bidder has no money?

UPDATE: The bid was good (much to my surprise); the winner was a philanthropist and long-time Limbaugh listener.

Ragin' Cajun: Jeb! for the GOP in 2008

James Carville never ceases to leave me speechless, though not normally for saying things like this.

From CNN:

Carville: Jeb Bush will be GOP nominee

NEW YORK (CNN) — Democratic strategist and CNN analyst James Carville tossed out a provocative idea during a panel discussion on politics Tuesday.

At CNN's America Votes 2008 Breakfast, the chief architect of Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential run predicted that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will be the Republican nominee in 2008. Jeb is a younger brother of President Bush.

Carville bolstered his prediction, highlighting Jeb Bush's career: He was a successful governor of a large state, he enjoys the support of social conservatives, he speaks Spanish, and "he's somebody the party could rally around," Carville said.

"There is nobody in this field who can rally the Republican Party; he's the only person in America that can do it," he added.

But fellow CNN analyst and former Oklahoma GOP Congressman J.C. Watts disagreed with Carville, saying, "The conventional wisdom caucus, the establishment of the Party, pardon my English, but they ain't going to allow that to happen."

There has been high speculation that Jeb Bush might make a run at the White House in 2008, but then, late last year, he said he would not run.

He's off his rocker, that's for sure.

Maybe he got too much sun on that shiny cue ball of his.

TB-Tainted Mexican Crosses Border 76 Times

Just gives you that much more confidence in the ability of the Federal government to secure the nation's borders, no?

From the Washington Times:

A Mexican national infected with a highly contagious form of tuberculosis crossed the U.S. border 76 times and took multiple domestic flights in the last year, according to Customs and Border Protection interviews and documents obtained by The Washington Times.

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency was warned by health officials on April 16 that the frequent traveler was infected, but it took the Homeland Security officials more than six weeks to issue a May 31 alert to warn its own border inspectors, according to Homeland Security sources who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. Homeland Security took one more week to tell its own Transportation Security Agency.

Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR) is a highly contagious illness and also resistant to the two most commonly used drugs to treat TB. It is the same dangerous strain of tuberculosis that concerned health officials when Andrew Speaker, a 31-year-old Atlanta lawyer, slipped into the U.S. from Europe via a flight to Canada.

A physician with the CDC says that they usually only notify flights that are eight hours or longer that passengers could have potentially been infected. But other physicians say the disease can be transmitted within minutes — especially in persons with lowered immunity — and recommend anyone coming in contact with this contagious illness seek medical attention.

The infected man identified as Amado Isidro Armendariz Amaya made at least one more trip across the U.S. border on May 21, where he applied for an I-94 visa to extend his stay in the U.S.

Roger Maier, spokesman with El Paso CBP, says the delay for issuing a "be on the lookout" (BOLO) alert to stop the man at the border was caused by the traveler's use of an alias.

The Colbert Column

I don't agree with his politics, and don't find his show to be as funny as some, but his hijacking of Maureen Dowd's column in the New York Times was at least funny enough to get me to read Dowd (which is normally like pulling teeth with rusty pliers and no anaesthetic).

Colbert's attempt at writing a column is quite amusing.

From the NYT:

A Mock Columnist, Amok

I was in my office, writing a column on the injustice of relative marginal tax rates for hedge fund managers, when I saw Stephen Colbert on TV.

He was sneering that Times columns make good “kindling.” He was ranting that after you throw away the paper, “it takes over a hundred years for the lies to biodegrade.” He was observing, approvingly, that “Dick Cheney’s fondest pipe dream is driving a bulldozer into The New York Times while drinking crude oil out of Keith Olbermann’s skull.”

I called Colbert with a dare: if he thought it was so easy to be a Times Op-Ed pundit, he should try it. He came right over. In a moment of weakness, I had staged a coup d’moi. I just hope he leaves at some point. He’s typing and drinking and threatening to “shave Paul Krugman with a broken bottle.”

I Am an Op-Ed Columnist (And So Can You!)

By STEPHEN COLBERT

Surprised to see my byline here, aren’t you? I would be too, if I read The New York Times. But I don’t. So I’ll just have to take your word that this was published. Frankly, I prefer emoticons to the written word, and if you disagree :(

I’d like to thank Maureen Dowd for permitting/begging me to write her column today. As I type this, she’s watching from an overstuffed divan, petting her prize Abyssinian and sipping a Dirty Cosmotinijito. Which reminds me: Before I get started, I have to take care of one other bit of business:

Bad things are happening in countries you shouldn’t have to think about. It’s all George Bush’s fault, the vice president is Satan, and God is gay.

There. Now I’ve written Frank Rich’s column too.

So why I am writing Miss Dowd’s column today? Simple. Because I believe the 2008 election, unlike all previous elections, is important. And a lot of Americans feel confused about the current crop of presidential candidates.

For instance, Hillary Clinton. I can’t remember if I’m supposed to be scared of her so Democrats will think they should nominate her when she’s actually easy to beat, or if I’m supposed to be scared of her because she’s legitimately scary.

Or Rudy Giuliani. I can’t remember if I’m supposed to support him because he’s the one who can beat Hillary if she gets nominated, or if I’m supposed to support him because he’s legitimately scary.

And Fred Thompson. In my opinion “Law & Order” never sufficiently explained why the Manhattan D.A. had an accent like an Appalachian catfish wrestler.

Well, suddenly an option is looming on the horizon. And I don’t mean Al Gore (though he’s a world-class loomer). First of all, I don’t think Nobel Prizes should go to people I was seated next to at the Emmys. Second, winning the Nobel Prize does not automatically qualify you to be commander in chief. I think George Bush has proved definitively that to be president, you don’t need to care about science, literature or peace.

While my hat is not presently in the ring, I should also point out that it is not on my head. So where’s that hat? (Hint: John McCain was seen passing one at a gas station to fuel up the Straight Talk Express.)

Others point to my new bestseller, “I Am America (And So Can You!)” noting that many candidates test the waters with a book first. Just look at Barack Obama, John Edwards or O. J. Simpson.

Look at the moral guidance I offer. On faith: “After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up.” On gender: “The sooner we accept the basic differences between men and women, the sooner we can stop arguing about it and start having sex.” On race: “While skin and race are often synonymous, skin cleansing is good, race cleansing is bad.” On the elderly: “They look like lizards.”

Our nation is at a Fork in the Road. Some say we should go Left; some say go Right. I say, “Doesn’t this thing have a reverse gear?” Let’s back this country up to a time before there were forks in the road — or even roads. Or forks, for that matter. I want to return to a simpler America where we ate our meat off the end of a sharpened stick.

Let me regurgitate: I know why you want me to run, and I hear your clamor. I share Americans’ nostalgia for an era when you not only could tell a man by the cut of his jib, but the jib industry hadn’t yet fled to Guangdong. And I don’t intend to tease you for weeks the way Newt Gingrich did, saying that if his supporters raised $30 million, he would run for president. I would run for 15 million. Cash.

Nevertheless, I am not ready to announce yet — even though it’s clear that the voters are desperate for a white, male, middle-aged, Jesus-trumpeting alternative.

What do I offer? Hope for the common man. Because I am not the Anointed or the Inevitable. I am just an Average Joe like you — if you have a TV show.

CNN has a bit about his effort to run for president.

Yes, he's actually running for president, but only in South Carolina.

Shirts Earmarked by Democrat Injure Marines

From Green Eyeshade Blog:

According to the Oregonian, Rep. David Wu (D-OR) directed more than $ 2 million dollars in T-shirt contracts to InSport International, a clothing manufacturer in Mr. Wu’s district. Unfortunately, these shirts are prone to melting and burning in high heat, thus rendering them dangerous and useless to soldiers in combat.

According to Captain Lynn Welling, the head surgeon of the 1st Marine Logistic Group, the polyester in these “melting shirts” adheres to the skin in intense heat, essentially creating a second skin which leads to horrific disfiguring burns.

Rep. Wu earmarked the contract into the 2006 Defense Appropriations Bill. Due to the design flaw, the Marines shortly thereafter banned the use of polyester shirts for use in combat, or anywhere outside the protected “Green Zone” bases. However, because of Mr. Wu’s earmark the Marines were forced to buy 87,000 of the banned shirts.

While the idea of a more comfortable shirt for our troops is commendable, the flaws of the shirts’ design were left uninvestigated. This is the purpose for process of competitively bidding contracts… to get the best product possible.

By the way, shortly after his earmarks passed in the Defense Appropriations Bill, Rep. Wu received nearly $15,000 in campaign contributions from InSport executives.

It's not just the most ethical Congress *evah* but the most pro-troops Congress *evah* too.

NASCAR Cooties

Two Screen Fallout

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Show Me the Money: IN 4; Ackerson Campaign Filing Reveals Sordid Tale

As I noted in an earlier post, the much-touted campaign of Nels Ackerson in the 4th District is already on its second campaign treasurer.

The FEC filings for the Nels Ackerson for Congress campaign give the explanation for this sudden change; it has to do with violations of that most basic of FEC regulations, the limit on individual contributions.

Depending on your perspective, Ackerson's campaign was either so inexperienced as to not know that these limits existed or just so desperate to get the easy money that pours into a campaign in its first quarter that they took it anyway (at least at first).

Fourteen such limit memo corrections were necessary; no wonder Ackerson's campaign got a new treasurer.

The campaign filings also blow the "he did it all in two weeks" meme, so trumpeted by certain folks in the seats on the left, out of the water.

Ackerson's earliest donation on the filing was made on April 17; it was swiftly followed by $2,300 top-limit contributions on the 20th and the 25th of that month (with still more coming after those).

Enquiring minds, of course, might wonder why donations made in April, which is in Q2, somehow ended up being filed in Q3 instead.

Since Ackerson's filings include significant contributions from before the July 1 start of Q3, I am going to include Buyer's pre-Q3 numbers in these comparisons in parentheses.

"Winners" are in italics.

Starting Cash-on-Hand:
Nels Ackerson: $0.00
Steve Buyer: $403,835.83

Q3 Net Receipts (Contributions):
Nels Ackerson: $134,104.00
Steve Buyer: $74,982.56 ($167,338.23)

Q3 Individual Receipts:
Nels Ackerson: $134,104.00
Steve Buyer: $7,305.00 ($23,226.71)

Q3 Committee Receipts (from PACs and special interests):
Nels Ackerson: $0.00
Steve Buyer: $66,500.00 ($136,600.00)

Q3 Disbursements (Expenditures):
Nels Ackerson: $39,240.60
Steve Buyer: $35,352.68 ($152,058.56)

Ending Cash-on-Hand:
Nels Ackerson: $94,863.40
Steve Buyer: $443,465.71

The contributions themselves to Ackerson bear all of the indications of being the "easy money" that always flows into candidates early in their campaigns.

This is particularly true in districts like the 4th, drawn heavily for one party, where the affluent supporters of the minority party are always yearning for the slightest sliver of hope and are eager to be parted from their money.

Indeed, one third of Ackerson's contributions were of a thousand dollars or greater, and about half of those were top-line limit contributions (folks not likely to be able to repeat their donation due to limits).

It will take more than one rosy quarter to determine whether Ackerson has any real ability to fund a credible campaign, let alone be competitive.

He may well be like Michael Montagano in the 3rd District, raising a relatively impressive $105,707.04 in Q2, but less than half that ($50,010.00) for Q3.

I also wouldn't go so far as to say that Buyer and his people are asleep; asleep is Julia Carson raising $8,734.15.