Friday, November 30, 2007

doesn't it seem odd for Blue Indiana to...

label Mike Sodrel, "Millionaire Mike", while complaining about Sodrel's (past) negativity?

Is there an important distinction between mud-slinging and name-calling?

In any case, how is name-calling constructive?

Romney, Huckabee and Paul all gain significantly in SC

From Byron York of National Review, a summary and analysis of the most recent SC "Palmetto" poll (from Clemson U.) about the Republican presidential candidates.

Romney, Huckabee and Paul all gained 5-7%.
McCain and Thompson dropped 4%; Giuiliani dropped 9%.
Undecideds also jumped 8%.

As a result, the race is quite tight-- and wide open: Romney--17%, Thompson--15%, Huckabee--13%, McCain--11%, Giuiliani--9%, Paul-- 6%. Apparently, those who are choosing candidates are now more confident, but "undecideds" have increased to 28%.

Back in August, when callers working for Clemson University’s Palmetto Poll got in touch with South Carolina voters about the Republican primary, the responses they got were pretty relaxed. “They’d say, ‘Oh, I like McCain,’ or ‘I like Rudy,’ but it was kind of casual,” says David Woodard, the Clemson political science professor who directs the poll. Now, that has changed. The election is within sight — South Carolina Republicans will go to the polls January 19 — and people are being more careful with their answers. Fewer respondents are saying who they support, and the number of voters classified as undecided is climbing as the campaign goes on.

Among the Democrats, Obama and Edwards edged up. But the big news was Hillary dropping 7% into a virtual tie with Obama and only a few points up on Edwards.

Dick Morris defends Huckabee as a fiscal conservative

Someone providing testimony in favor of Huckabee's bona fides as more than merely a social conservative...

This after Bob Novak set him on fire earlier in the week...

I remain unimpressed-- although perhaps not as unimpressed as after reading Novak. At the end of the day, even by Morris' telling, Huckabee is still vastly inferior to Ron Paul and scarcely preferable to McCain, Thompson and Romney.

As Mike Huckabee rises in the polls, an inevitable process of vetting him for conservative credentials is under way in which people who know nothing of Arkansas or of the circumstances of his governorship weigh in knowingly about his record. As his political consultant in the early ’90s and one who has been following Arkansas politics for 30 years, let me clue you in: Mike Huckabee is a fiscal conservative....

In Arkansas, the income tax when he took office was 1 percent for the poorest taxpayers and 7 percent for the richest, exactly where it stood when he left the statehouse 11 years later. But, in the interim, he doubled the standard deduction and the child care credit, repealed capital gains taxes for home sales, lowered the capital gains rate, expanded the homestead exemption and set up tax-free savings accounts for medical care and college tuition.

Most impressively, when he had to pass an income tax surcharge amid the drop in revenues after Sept. 11, 2001, he repealed it three years later when he didn’t need it any longer.

He raised the sales tax one cent in 11 years and did that only after the courts ordered him to do so. (He also got voter approval for a one-eighth-of-one-cent hike for parks and recreation.)

He wants to repeal the income tax, abolish the IRS and institute a “fair tax” based on consumption, and opposes any tax increase for Social Security.

With his case complete, Morris turns to an analysis of the politics of Huckabee and the Republicans-- as well as a handful of potshots at Romney...

And he can win in Iowa.

When voters who have decided not to back Rudy Giuliani because of his social positions consider the contest between Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, they will have no difficulty choosing between a real social conservative and an ersatz one.

omney, who began as a pro-lifer and switched in order to win in Massachusetts, and then flipped back again, cannot compete with a lifelong pro-lifer, Huckabee.

Next we see where Morris and Huckabee are off the reservation. I don't find Huckabee's positions or Morris' assessment compelling at all.

But Huckabee’s strength is not just his orthodoxy on gay marriage, abortion, gun control and the usual litany. It is his opening of the religious right to a host of new issues. He speaks firmly for the right to life, but then notes that our responsibility for children does not end with childbirth. His answer to the rise of medical costs is novel and exciting. “Eighty percent of all medical spending,” he says, “is for chronic diseases.” So he urges an all-out attack on teen smoking and overeating and a push for exercise not as the policies of a big-government liberal but as the requisites of a fiscal conservative anxious to save tax money.

Back to political analysis and prognostication...

In any event, neither Hillary nor Giuliani will be knocked out by defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire. Their 50-state organizations, their national base and their massive war chests will permit them to fight it out all over the United States. Even if they lose the first two contests, they will remain in the race and could well come back to win.

So what happens if Huckabee wins in Iowa? With New Hampshire only five days later, his momentum will be formidable. The key may boil down to how Hillary does in Iowa. Hillary? Yes. If she loses in Iowa, most of the independents in New Hampshire will flock to the Democratic primary to vote for her or against her. That will move the Republican electorate to the right in New Hampshire — bad news for Rudy, good news for Huckabee. But if she wins in Iowa, there will be no point in voting in the Democratic primary and a goodly number will enter the GOP contest, giving Rudy a big boost.

And afterward? If Romney wins Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan and South Carolina, sweeping the early prim aries, Giuliani will have a very tough task to bring him down in Florida or on Super Tuesday. It can be done, but it’s tough. But if Romney loses in Iowa (likely to Huckabee) then Rudy can survive the loss of Iowa and even New Hampshire without surrendering irresistible momentum to Romney.

I doubt it (highly). But it is fun to speculate...

robbing Frankfort to pay Louisville-- and vice versa

The other day, I blogged on Ford and the labor union reps in Louisville putting their hands into the pockets of Kentucky taxpayers.

Then, in today's C-J, there was a cartoon emphasizing the flow of funds from Louisville to the rest of the state through Frankfort.

The Ford story aside, the cartoon is accurate. It's not that Louisville hasn't paid more than its fair share into the state's coffers. From research by my buddy Paul Coomes (reproduced in Business First):

Research by University of Louisville economist Paul Coomes shows that of the $1.4 billion Jefferson County residents pay in annual state taxes, only about $700 million ends up back in the county.

Even so, most of the redistribution-- from Louisville to Frankfort or vice versa-- is a bad idea...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ted Turner: land mogul

Nate Jenkins of AP in today's C-J...

[Ted] Turner has amassed 2 million acres over the past two decades to become the largest private landowner in the country. He owns large chunks of land in 11 states, with most of his holdings in New Mexico, Nebraska, Montana and South Dakota, and is restoring buffalo, cutthroat trout, wolves, black-footed ferrets and other flora and fauna that filled the Plains before the West was won.

His front men say their boss doesn't have a secret agenda - he just wants to be a rancher. But each big buy only heightens the anxiety and gives rise to conspiracy theories, the most ominous of which hold that the swashbuckling Atlanta executive is bent on putting Nebraska ranchers and farmers out of business....

Among the theories: Turner is trying to corner the land over the Ogallala Aquifer, the world's largest underground water system, to gain power in the water-starved West.

Or: He is scheming, perhaps with the United Nations, to create a vast wildlife refuge and turn it over to the federal government, removing the land from Nebraska's tax rolls. That could hurt Nebraska schools and other services, which are already starved for cash....

Mike Phillips, executive director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund, a Turner offshoot, insisted his boss is just a "doggone serious rancher," though one dedicated to preserving the environment.

But Phillips' very presence is making people wonder. He once worked with The Wildlands Project, an environmental group that wants to create a continent-wide network of nature preserves to save endangered species. The Turner Foundation, the charity arm of Turner's empire, has contributed money to it and gives millions to dozens of other environmental groups.

Turner's organizations also have been in discussions with the World Wildlife Fund and the World Conservation Union about conserving bison. The groups have expressed interest in developing a huge park where bison could once again roam the Great Plains.

Actually, Turner's spokesmen say, the driving force behind Turner's land purchases is the desire to make money. Turner's Vermejo Park Ranch in New Mexico, for example, offers weeklong elk hunting excursions at $12,000 a pop. He has also entered the restaurant business with gusto, opening more than 50 Ted's Montana Grill restaurants across the country that feature bison meat....

"Our agenda is not to create a vast wildlife preserve," Evans, vice president of Turner Enterprises, said in an e-mail. However, he said, Turner is concerned about preserving animal habitat while ranching. "We think we can do both."...

Turner owns the largest buffalo herd in the country, 45,000 strong, many of them on the 425,000 acres he owns in Nebraska.

The sturdy bison need less attention than cattle, requiring fewer ranch hands. That adds to people's worries here in Hooker County, where there is about one person for every 721 square miles, just 15 kids graduated from high school last year, and the population dropped 3.4 percent from 2000 to 2006.

Another persistent complaint is that Turner's extraordinary ability to outbid just about anyone is driving up land prices, making it tougher for longtime ranchers to expand and keep their operations afloat.

Over the past decade, ranch land in the Sandhills region of the state where Turner owns all his property has more than doubled in price to over $300 an acre....

No one likes competition for the things they sell. And people love competition within the things they buy, but they don't people to bid up the prices they pay for things.

Good for least this is voluntary, market-driven behavior.

I just wish he hadn't taken 100's of 1000's of $$ in farm subsidies!

Tiger Woods comedic birdie

From the AP...

On T-day, ESPN announcers were having a lengthy side discussion with Charles Barkley when Woods text-messaged Barkley the following: "Shut up so I can watch the game."!

comedy and sports don't mix?

From the AP newswire as published in the C-J...

Tulsa has filed a complaint with Conference USA regarding a halftime performance by the Rice marching ridiculing coach Todd Graham, who left Rice after one season to coach the Golden Hurricane.

The theme of the performance by the Marching Owl Band was a search for Graham through nine circles of hell based on Dante's "Divine Comedy.''

"I think anyone has an opinion and can express a view about people's behavior, but creating a production and presenting it to fans is entirely different than expressing an individual's view of behavior,'' Tulsa athletic director Bubba Cunningham said.

OK, Bubba...

The Rice band has a history of edgy performances dating back for several decades. Director of bands Chuck Throckmorton compared the band's approach to those at Ivy League schools and Stanford.

"I think that a lot of times those bands set out seeking to start a controversy and we set out seeking to be entertaining and the controversies end up being a bit of a surprise,'' Throckmorton said.

Throckmorton said the band was conveying the "general atmosphere of displeasure'' and betrayal that students felt when Graham signed a two-year contract extension to stay at Rice only days before he agreed to return to Tulsa....

The performance suggested that Graham's shredded contract was found in the fourth circle of hell with the greedy and the avaricious - also claiming that former Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione was in that circle - and the coach could be found beyond hell's greatest depths behind a door marked "Welcome To Tulsa.''...

Throckmorton said the band's intent is to entertain and not to cause harm, although he said it's also common for the band to receive letters criticizing its performances. He said the band expected Tulsa "to be a bit indignant.''

"The best reaction from an audience is laughter, which by the way we did (get),'' Throckmorton said. "I think the next best reaction is that they're shocked because they did not know which direction you were going with that.''

messing with the elderly?

A brief article in the C-J on the 54 worst nursing homes in the U.S.

I doubt that I would have bothered posting on this, but I've worked closely with my Grandma and her affairs for the last six years, including her lodging.

Somehow, Hillcrest Centre for Health and Rehab in Jeff was rated one of those 54 worst nursing homes in the U.S. Oddly, my Grandma stayed there at least once and I think twice-- once briefly and a longer stay that involved a rehab stint. My memory was that it was one of the nicer nursing homes with rehab as good as any she experienced! Either things got much worse recently or the government has slandered a good facility.

An update (12/3): More info on Hlilcrest from Friday's (Jeff/NA) News-Tribune...

a slow (good?) news day

The lead story in this morning's C-J?
The Indiana version of the headline was "AWOL crane rejoins flock"...
A slow news day-- or looking for a change of pace?

A young whooping crane that got separated from his human-led migration to Florida was spotted yesterday morning in Scottsburg, Ind., and captured early last night southwest of Fort Knox, Ky.

Thankfully, one caller to The Courier-Journal who thought she saw the endangered bird fly into the grille of an oncoming vehicle on I-65 in southern Indiana was wrong, as was another who wondered about a big pile of bird feathers in St. Matthews.

The crane went missing on Friday, northeast of Louisville, when it dropped out of the migration led by pilots in ultralight aircraft.

Designated "733," the bird was seen and photographed on the ground in Scott County yesterday by an Indiana wildlife official, said Liz Condie, a spokeswoman for Operation Migration, the group that oversees the human-assisted migration. It is one of only about 300 of its kind in the wild....

McCain confused-- or trying to confuse-- in attacking Paul

Of the Republican candidates not named Ron Paul, I like John McCain more than any other. Although I strongly dislike some of his positions, I respect him and the way he conducts himself.

That said, I didn't see last night's debate, but heard some follow-up, including Laura Ingraham's interview with John McCain. She played a clip from the debate where McCain accuses Paul of being an "isolationist". Not surprisingly, she didn't play Paul's reply. As Paul went on to clarify, he's a non-interventionist, not an isolationist-- a (somewhat?) subtle but vital distinction.

Apparently, Paul responded by clarifying and trumpeting a very interesting observation I had read earlier in Harpers: that he's #1 among the Republican candidates in receiving campaign contributions from those in the military.

Update: I just caught this moment on YouTube (see: question #9) and am further disappointed that the exchange came as a complete non sequitur after McCain had answered a question about the Fair Tax.

C'mon can do better!

Jason Whitlock on "the black KKK"

Jason Whitlock on with a provocative piece on the murder of football player, Jason Taylor (hat tip: Jim Rome)...

There's a reason I call them the Black KKK. The pain, the fear and the destruction are all the same.

Someone who loved Sean Taylor is crying right now. The life they knew has been destroyed, an 18-month-old baby lost her father, and, if you're a black man living in America, you've been reminded once again that your life is in constant jeopardy of violent death.

The Black KKK claimed another victim, a high-profile professional football player with a checkered past this time.

No, we don't know for certain the circumstances surrounding Taylor's death. I could very well be proven wrong for engaging in this sort of aggressive speculation. But it's no different than if you saw a fat man fall to the ground clutching his chest. You'd assume a heart attack, and you'd know, no matter the cause, the man needed to lose weight.

Well, when shots are fired and a black man hits the pavement, there's every statistical reason to believe another black man pulled the trigger. That's not some negative, unfair stereotype. It's a reality we've been living with, tolerating and rationalizing for far too long.

When the traditional, white KKK lynched, terrorized and intimidated black folks at a slower rate than its modern-day dark-skinned replacement, at least we had the good sense to be outraged and in no mood to contemplate rationalizations or be fooled by distractions.

Our new millennium strategy is to pray the Black KKK goes away or ignores us. How's that working?...

Let's cut through the bull(manure) and deal with reality. Black men are targets of black men. Period. Go check the coroner's office and talk with a police detective. These bullets aren't checking W-2s.

Rather than whine about white folks' insensitivity or reserve a special place of sorrow for rich athletes, we'd be better served mustering the kind of outrage and courage it took in the 1950s and 1960s to stop the white KKK from hanging black men from trees.

But we don't want to deal with ourselves. We take great joy in prescribing medicine to cure the hate in other people's hearts. Meanwhile, our self-hatred, on full display for the world to see, remains untreated, undiagnosed and unrepentant.

Our self-hatred has been set to music and reinforced by a pervasive culture that promotes a crab-in-barrel mentality.

You're damn straight I blame hip hop for playing a role in the genocide of American black men. When your leading causes of death and dysfunction are murder, ignorance and incarceration, there's no reason to give a free pass to a culture that celebrates murder, ignorance and incarceration.

Of course there are other catalysts, but until we recapture the minds of black youth, convince them that it's not OK to "super man dat ho" and end any and every dispute by "cocking on your bitch," nothing will change.

Does a Soulja Boy want an education?

HBO did a fascinating documentary on Little Rock Central High School, the Arkansas school that required the National Guard so that nine black kids could attend in the 1950s. Fifty years later, the school is one of the nation's best in terms of funding and educational opportunities. It's 60 percent black and located in a poor black community.

Watch the documentary and ask yourself why nine poor kids in the '50s risked their lives to get a good education and a thousand poor black kids today ignore the opportunity that is served to them on a platter.

Blame drugs, blame Ronald Reagan, blame George Bush, blame it on the rain or whatever. There's only one group of people who can change the rotten, anti-education, pro-violence culture our kids have adopted. We have to do it.

According to reports, Sean Taylor had difficulty breaking free from the unsavory characters he associated with during his youth.

The "keepin' it real" mantra of hip hop is in direct defiance to evolution. There's always someone ready to tell you you're selling out if you move away from the immature and dangerous activities you used to do, you're selling out if you speak proper English, embrace education, dress like a grown man, do anything mainstream.

The Black KKK is enforcing the same crippling standards as its parent organization. It wants to keep black men in their place — uneducated, outside the mainstream and six feet deep.

In all likelihood, the Black Klan and its mentality buried Sean Taylor, and any black man or boy reading this could be next.

info on the plants at last night's debate

No, not the greenery...the Democratic activists who infiltrated (or were allowed to infiltrate) the debate questions...

From Michelle Malkin (hat tip: Laura Ingraham)...

Two vocal supporters for Edwards, one for Obama and one for Hillary...

Like refereeing in sports, I'm not sure such things matters much-- if it's done consistently. I didn't see the debate, but seeing candidates sweat and answer questions on provocative topics certainly has value. It'd just be fun to see the Democratic candidates share in the experience.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

the una-bunyan?

From the AP..., the sad story of Paul Bunyan getting careless with his ax or losing his temper.

Babe the Blue Ox has lost his head. Ax-wielding Paul Bunyan is not a suspect. The head fell off the 35-foot-tall statue of giant lumberjack Bunyan's mythical sidekick Tuesday, landing snout down on the pavement in the northern California town of Klamath.

Jeff LaForest, manager of the gift shop where the statue stands, says water was seeping inside the statue. That weakened the wood inside the structure and caused the collapse.

My second-oldest son read Paul Bunyan this summer-- and thought it was hilarious. Just create a huge character and set him lose in the world-- and hijinks are sure to ensue!

from KY to FORD: more subsidies for corporations and interest groups

From Jere Downs in today's C-J...

$60 million in tax breaks OK'd for Ford truck plant

Deal aims to keep 4,000 jobs in city

State officials yesterday approved $60 million in tax incentives for Ford Motor Co. to invest $200 million in the Kentucky Truck Plant on Chamberlain Lane. And the automaker expects to seek more state aid to upgrade the Louisville Assembly Plant on Fern Valley Road.

Great! Giving selective subsidies to certain corporations and to support certain workers in labor unions, taking taxpayer money from people all around Kentucky and bringing it here to Louisville. And apparently, they're just getting started!

The tax breaks were a key factor in Ford's recent decision to invest in Kentucky Truck, company spokeswoman Gabby Bruno said.

Of course, Gabby has to say that-- but there's no credibility in the statement. What else could Gabby say: "It made no difference in our decision; we just wanted your money"? The fact is that we never know whether such subsidies are effective-- even in the short-term.

The incentives require Ford to substantially maintain its current work force of about 4,000 at Kentucky Truck. "Hopefully it will be enough to maintain the jobs here," Aubrey L. Hayden, the authority's vice president, said before the board unanimously approved the package. "There are so few high-paying manufacturing jobs left."

Now, the jobs angle. One reason they're high-paying is that they're being artificially inflated through the taxpayer subsidy!

The average family of four in Kentucky is having $60 taken from them to finance this subsidy. And from what I can tell in the article, the job assurances in Louisville from Ford-- attached to the subsidies-- extend through 2012.

As an example, let's look at potential labor cost savings as an alternative way for Ford to save the same amount of money. $60 million with 4,000 workers over 5 years: given 2,000 hours of work per year, that works out to $3,000 per worker per year-- or a drop in average wages and other labor costs by $1.50 per hour.

The article does not report average hourly compensation for Ford workers. I thought it was in the $60/hour range. But the first article I found on Ford's recent labor agreement indicates that current workers are compensated at $82/hour. So, their compensation could be reduced to $80.50/hour...or we can just take it from taxpayers.

The state has lured new investment and secured jobs before with large aid packages. To encourage the $1 billion expansion of the UPS Worldport air-cargo sorting hub at Louisville International Airport, Kentucky granted about $52 million in tax incentives last year, said Mandy Lambert, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Economic Development.

Again, "lured" in the first sentence is too strong-- we don't know that. The next sentence is fine-- the subsidies are certainly an incentive to stay.

a sad day in Gator-ade-land

The inventor of Gatorade, Dr. Robert Cade, passed away yesterday at the age of 80.
It's perhaps ironic that he died of kidney failure.

From Ron Word with the AP...

Dr. J. Robert Cade, who invented the sports drink Gatorade and launched a multibillion-dollar industry that the beverage continues to dominate, died Tuesday of kidney failure. He was 80.

His death was announced by the University of Florida, where he and other researchers created Gatorade in 1965 to help the school's football players replace carbohydrates and electrolytes lost through sweat while playing in swamp-like heat.

Now sold in 80 countries in dozens of flavors, Gatorade was born thanks to a question from former Gator Coach Dwayne Douglas, Cade said in a 2005 interview with The Associated Press.

He asked, "Doctor, why don't football players wee-wee after a game?"

"That question changed our lives," Cade said.

Cade's researchers determined that a football player could lose up to 18 pounds - 90 percent to 95 percent of it water - during the three hours it takes to play a game. Players sweated away sodium and chloride and lost plasma volume and blood volume.

Using their research, and about $43 in supplies, they concocted a brew for players to drink while playing football. The first batch was not exactly a hit.

"It sort of tasted like toilet bowl cleaner," said Dana Shires, one of the researchers.

"I guzzled it and I vomited," Cade said.

The researchers added some sugar and some lemon juice to improve the taste. It was first tested on freshmen because Coach Ray Graves didn't want to hurt the varsity team. Eventually, however, the use of the sports beverage spread to the Gators, who enjoyed a winning record and were known as a "second-half team" by outlasting opponents.

After the Gators beat Georgia Tech 27-12 in the Orange Bowl in 1967, Tech coach Bobby Dodd told reporters his team lost because, "We didn't have Gatorade ... that made the difference."

Stokely-Van Camp obtained the licensing rights for Gatorade and began marketing it as the "beverage of champions." Cade said Stokely-Van Camp hated the name "Gatorade," believing it was too parochial, but stuck with it after tests showed consumers liked the name.

PepsiCo Inc. now owns the brand, which has brought the university more than $150 million in royalties since 1973.

Gatorade held 81 percent of the $7.5 billion-a-year U.S. sports drink market in 2006, according to John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest.

Since its introduction, Cade said the formula changed very little. An artificial sweetener has replaced sugar.

Born James Robert Cade in San Antonio on Sept. 26, 1927, Cade, a Navy veteran, graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas.

Cade was appointed an assistant professor in internal medicine at UF in 1961. He worked until he was 76, retiring in November 2004 from the university, where he taught medicine, saw patients and conducted research.

In 1991, Cade was awarded the Lutheran Church's highest honor, the Wittenburg Award, for his service to the church and community.

Cade and his wife, Mary, had six children.

In 1991, Cade was awarded the Lutheran Church's highest honor, the Wittenburg Award, for his service to the church and community.

Cade and his wife, Mary, had six children.

10 ways to better utilize office hours

This is one of the funniest things I've ever read in the IUS student newspaper...

Interestingly, the piece opens with a warning. I'm not sure whether it's intended as a funny pseudo-warning or a satire on such warnings (or both).

Editor’s Note: “10 Ways to…” is a humor piece. If you don’t get it, ignore it.

1. Pretend your professor’s office is a lending library. Browse his books. Take a few down, flip through them, place them on any horizontal surface but don’t – don’t – place them back where you got them from just in case you forget where you pulled them out and screw up the cataloging system. When you find one you like, say, “Hey, can I borrow this?” He’ll approve, thinking you are truly interested in the same crap he is. Return the book only after repeated threats to your grade or life.

2. Use your professors as personal psychotherapists. Sure, only a few professors on campus actually have training in psychotherapy, but professors know everything, right? Right. So, unload on them any chance you get. They’ll understand. Why do you think most of them have Kleenex handy?

3. Play chess. All professors play chess. Just ask. They’ll pull out a chess set. It’s like going to a restaurant and asking for playing cards – they all have them. Oh, and they all try to do something called “castling.” Don’t allow it – it’s bullshit.

4. Take a nap. Most professors have someplace they sleep when someone isn’t banging on their doors: couches, bean bag chairs, cots, sleeping bags, whatever. It may not be as comfortable as the library, but it will be more private. Ask your professor about something you could care less about, and you’ll be catching some major Z’s in seconds.

5. Use the telephone. Does your significant other use caller ID to screen your calls? Well, they’ll pick up when the readout says, “IU Southeast.” Another professor avoiding you? Calls made from a campus phone to another campus phone have a different ring – one long ring as opposed to two short rings. The other professor will pick up. You can’t make long-distance calls, but you can use something called SUVON to call others in Indiana. Ask about it.

6. Drink some hooch.

7. Have a totally asinine argument. Find out what your professor cares passionately about: liberal politics, saving the environment, third-world countries, smoking, the Grateful Dead, Sylvia Plath, whatever. Take an opposing point of view and make ridiculous statements, like, “I think Rudy Guiliani will make an excellent president, especially if he picks Mitt Romney as his running mate.” When your professor starts to make a counter argument, roll your eyes or make “blah, blah, blah” gestures with your hand.

8. Sing on the top of your lungs. This may only apply to adjunct professors during their office hours. They seem to like jazz, crappy ’70s drug bands and something that sounds like a deer that got his testicles caught in a wood chipper. That may be the professor singing – I’m not sure.

9. Try to get the test answers out of the professor. Keep asking for hints. These are good questions to ask: “Do I need to know this?” “Is this on the test?” “What should I concentrate on when studying?” “Do you have a study sheet?” “Will you provide a word list? What will be on the word list?” “Is anything from the book on the test?” “Can I see the test?” This is the office hours equivalent of waterboarding. You’ll get answers, eventually.

10. Kill time. Have an hour before your next class? Drop by your professor’s office. Hang.

bored? how 'bout some board games?

As a family, we enjoy games a lot. We play cards. (My favorite, by far, is bridge; Tonia enjoys that well enough, but prefers Rummy.) And friends of ours have introduced us to so-called "German" board games. They are available as short or long games, games for 2 or for larger groups, games with varying degrees of difficulty and a variety of themes. What they have in common is that they have a relatively high degree of interaction. These are accessible to our 7 and 9-year olds. (They are competitive in most of them and enjoy all of them.)

For example, consider the game of Life. It's easy/light fun, involves a few very basic choices (career vs. higher education; go left or right at the fork in the road), and allows children to build some basic math and money skills. But within the game itself, there's no interaction (except the end of the game when you compare final totals). Aside from hanging out with your "competitors", you might as well play the game in a closet. With Monopoly, there is more interaction: you get a property, so I don't; you and I can trade properties; I pay you rent if I land on your property.

The "German" board games are distinct in that there is always a high degree of interaction. Everyone is involved in every round-- or if people take separate turns, then everyone is involved to a significant degree in others' turns.

It is relatively difficult to find these games in stores. You won't find many of these at Toys R Us, but a store like "Something to Do" will carry some. Of course, you can find them on-line-- and often, at a significant discount, through websites like ThoughtHammer and Tanga. Info about games, including appropriate age ranges, length of time, type of game, and reviews are easy to find at BoardGameGeek. (In lining up the links for this entry, I noticed that the Geek rates 4,000 games more highly than Monopoly and Life!)

Here are very brief reviews of the games we have acquired and played in the last six months. I can't do justice to the games through a (brief, written) description. So, you'll have to take it on faith that these are worth the bother of breaking out of the games orthodoxy.

The five favorites that we own:
-Settlers of Catan: a great, longer (2-hour) game to start with-- as 3-6 players obtain resources through production and trade in order to build roads, settlements and cities

-Robo-Rally: 3-8 players "program" robots and try to reach a set of flags before other players; robots get in each others' way and damage each other with lasers; "board elements" like walls, conveyor belts, gearwheels, and "pits of death" complicate the path; a great game with a lot of variability in terms of length and difficulty (depending on which of many board or board combinations you choose)

-For Sale: A terrific short (20 minutes), easy game in two phases-- buying and then selling properties; 3-6 players bid against each other to obtain houses and then compete against each other to sell them

-Incan Gold: A fun, easy, short game for 3-8 players focusing on risk and rate-of-return; players explore a temple and split the booty, trying to get out with as much as they can before they would be killed by various threats; as explorers get nervous and leave, there's more for those who risk and remain inside

-Double-or-Nothing: Similar to Incan Gold with its emphasis on risk and rate-of-return; in IG, players reveal their decisions simultaneously, but here, 3-6 players reveal their choices sequentially

Two games Tonia and I have enjoyed tremendously, but have not played with our kids or acquired yet:
-Ticket to Ride (Europe): a moderately easy/difficult, but longer game-- as people collect resources to fulfill train routes

-Power Grid: a longer and more complex game-- as people collect natural resources and acquire power plants, using all sorts of technology to provide energy to cities

Six games that we have and enjoy in our family, but not as much:
-Sunken City: a moderate-length (1 hour) game for 2-4 players; our kids really enjoy the theme-- hunting (quickly) for treasure before being sacked by Neptune

-Ark of the Covenant: a moderate-length game of some complexity for 2-5 players; people build cities and roads, protect sheep, and are affected by the prophet and the Ark

-Saga: a relatively short game for 2-4 players as players sack and protect kingdoms

-Dancing Dice: a relatively short, fun, easy, light Yahtzee-like game for 2-6 players (although I can't imagine it being as much fun for 2), based on the theme of dancing

-Jericho: a short game where 3-5 players build walls and use trumpets to knock down others' walls

-Moby Pick: a tough little memory game (you have to remember three characteristics of most cards); great for kids, but requires even more concentration than an average memory/matching game (if you're not careful, your kids will thump you!)

If you have any questions, recommended games, etc.-- please let me/us know!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

wanna hear somethin' gross?

We went to visit my brother's family in Alabama before Thanksgiving. Two days before the trip, our youngest got a 24-hour vomit bug. Then on the trip, we stopped at my brother-in-law's for a few hours-- and the other three kids puked. Two days later, Tonia had it. Two days later, at my brother's house, after a fine seafood dinner, as we were preparing to leave, I was outside and realized I was going to be unloading. I did so, resulting in a big pool next to the side of his house.

OK, so do you want to hear something gross? ;-)

I'm finishing up and apologizing to my brother for producing such a mess next to his house-- and he says to me, "Don't worry, it'll be gone in the morning." I ask him what he means. And he says, "The dogs will get it." When we came back the next morning, I found that he was right.


Casting Crowns rocks!

Casting Crowns is, easily, my favorite band at present...

I'm somewhat loathe to deliver the goods in this format. But the music is available conveniently from YouTube-- complete with (cheesy) homemade videos!

Here are my four favorite songs from their first two albums:

Praise you in the Storm, Who Am I, Lifesong, and Voice of Truth.

Huckabee takes a beating from a fellow Arkansan

Second, a blogger called Arkansas Journal isn't fond of Huckabee either...

Among other things, he has:

-YouTube video on Huckabee with commentary

-comments on his previous actions as governor on illegal immigration

-a link to Huckabee talking at length to the legislature about being fine with a wide range of taxes

Huckabee takes a beating from Novak

More unwanted attention for Mike Huckabee...Click here for my earlier summary post and here for Jonah Goldberg's recent article comparing him to Ron Paul.

First, Robert Novak blowing up Huckabee's conservative bona fides in a piece painfully labeled "the false conservative" on I was going to edit this down to excerpts, but couldn't figure out what to cut-- except for some stuff at the end!

Who would respond to criticism from the Club for Growth by calling the conservative, free-market campaign organization the "Club for Greed"? That sounds like Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich or John Edwards, all Democrats preaching the class struggle. In fact, the rejoinder comes from Mike Huckabee, who has broken out of the pack of second-tier Republican presidential candidates to become a serious contender -- definitely in Iowa and perhaps nationally.

Huckabee is campaigning as a conservative, but serious Republicans know that he is a high-tax, protectionist, big-government advocate of a strong hand in the Oval Office directing the lives of Americans. Until now, they did not bother to expose the former governor of Arkansas as a false conservative because he seemed an underfunded, unknown nuisance candidate. Now that he has pulled even with Mitt Romney for the Iowa caucuses with the possibility of more progress, the beleaguered Republican Party has a frightening problem on its hands.

The rise of evangelical Christians as the motive force that blasted the GOP out of minority status during the past generation always contained an inherent danger if these new Republican acolytes supported not merely a conventional conservative but one of their own. That has happened now with Huckabee, a former Baptist minister educated at Ouachita Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The danger is a serious contender for the nomination who passes the litmus test of social conservatives on abortion, gay marriage and gun control but is far removed from the conservative-libertarian model of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.

There is no doubt about Huckabee's record during a decade in Little Rock as governor. He was regarded by fellow Republican governors as a compulsive tax increaser and spender. He increased the Arkansas tax burden by 47 percent, boosting the levies on gasoline and cigarettes. When he decided to lose 100 pounds and pressed his new lifestyle on the American people, he was far from a Goldwater-Reagan libertarian.

As a presidential candidate, Huckabee has sought to counteract his reputation as a taxer by pressing for replacement of the income tax with a sales tax and has more recently signed the no-tax-increase pledge of Americans for Tax Reform. But Huckabee simply does not fit in normal boundaries of economic conservatism, as when he criticized President Bush's veto of a Democratic expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Calling global warming a "moral issue" mandating "a biblical duty" to prevent climate change, he has endorsed the cap-and-trade system that is anathema to the free market.

Huckabee clearly departs from the mainstream of the conservative movement in his confusion of "growth" with "greed." Such ad hominem attacks are part of his intuitive response to criticism from the Club for Growth and the libertarian Cato Institute for his record as governor. On Fox News Sunday Nov. 18, he called the "tactics" of the Club for Growth "some of the most despicable in politics today. It's why I love to call them the Club for Greed because they won't tell you who gave their money." In fact, all contributors to the organization's political action committee (which produces campaign ads) are publicly revealed, as are most donors financing issue ads.

Quin Hillyer, a former Arkansas journalist writing in the conservative American Spectator, called Huckabee "a guy with a thin skin, a nasty vindictive streak." Huckabee's retort was to attack Hillyer's journalistic procedures, fitting a mean-spirited image when he responds to conservative criticism.

Nevertheless, he is getting remarkably warm reviews in the news media as the most humorous, entertaining and interesting GOP presidential hopeful...

funny (if you know about Facebook)

from Dave Coverly's Speed Bump...

admitting the difficulty of nation-building and reducing our political goals in Iraq

From Steven Lee Myers and Alissa Rubin with the NY Times (hat tip: C-J), an article codifying some old news-- about our reduced political goals in Iraq (I blogged on this when it was "new"-- some time ago)...

With American military successes out-pacing political gains in Iraq, the Bush administration has lowered its expectation of quickly achieving major steps toward unifying the country, including passage of a long-stymied plan to share oil revenues and holding regional elections.

Instead, administration officials say they are focusing their immediate efforts on several more limited but achievable goals in the hope of convincing Iraqis, foreign governments and Americans that progress is being made toward the political breakthroughs that the military campaign of the past 10 months was supposed to promote.

The short-term American targets include passage of a $48 billion Iraqi budget, something the Iraqis say they are on their way to doing anyway; renewing the U.N. mandate that authorizes an American presence in the country, which the Iraqis have done repeatedly before; and passing legislation to allow thousands of Baath Party members from Saddam Hussein’s era to rejoin the government. A senior Bush administration official described that goal as largely symbolic since re-hirings have been quietly taking place already.

Bush administration officials have not abandoned their larger goals and emphasize the importance of reaching them eventually.

the 12 days of Christmas = $78,100 this year

From Sunday's C-J, a cute but informative article from the AP's Dan Nephin-- on the cost of the 12 days of Christmas...

While the origins of the Christmas carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas" may be a mystery, one thing is certain: It's getting more costly to buy your true love all the items mentioned.

It would cost $78,100 to buy the 364 items, from a single partridge in a pear tree to the 12 drummers drumming, repeatedly on each day as the song suggests, according to the annual PNC Christmas Price Index compiled by PNC Wealth Management. The cost is up 4 percent from $75,122 last year.

Buying each item in the song just once would cost $19,507, up 3.1 percent from last year's $18,921...Though a humorous look, PNC said the index mirrors actual economic trends. PNC has been calculating the cost of Christmas since 1984.

This will be a good example to use in class!

Helping push the cost up this year is the minimum wage hike, which bumped the cost of eight maids a-milking from about $41 to nearly $47.

"They have not had an increase since 1997," said Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investment for PNC Wealth Management. "The good news is, if you're a maids a-milking, they will also see an increase in 2008 and 2009."...

Uhhh....Jim is assuming that no milk-maids will lose their jobs when their wages are artificially increased by 40%!

As for the origins of the carol, which has been around for hundreds of years, some contend the song was a coded way to teach aspects of Catholicism. According to such claims, the six geese a-laying represent the six days of creation and the 10 lords a-leaping represent the 10 Commandments., an Internet urban legend-debunking Web site, says there's no substantive evidence that the carol was used to preserve tenets of Catholicism.

Steve Stemler-- State Rep's Stock Starbound

Sorry about all that alliteration...Anyway, in Sunday's C-J, Dale Moss had a nice article on Steve-- on his past, present, and prospective future.

"Right choice. Right time." That was Steve Stemler's slogan when he ran last year for state representative. The voters agreed.

They also wonder if it's time for Stemler, 47, to be the right choice for a bigger office. Stemler hears it, as I did at a recent reception the lawmaker held in Jeffersonville for House Speaker Pat Bauer.

"I think he's the next Lee Hamilton," said Clementine "Tiny" Barthold, a retired judge in Stemler's Clark County...

Stemler said he might be interested in doing more, especially now that his two children are older and his leadership role in expanding the firm is settling down. And opportunity often knocks unexpectedly. Stemler could be in the game in the big time, in a short time. [But] He insists he plans nothing specifically beyond doing his best for the 63,000 residents of House District 71.

"I can see how it (a rosy political future) could fall into place for me," Stemler said at his business headquarters a few days before the 2008 legislative session's day of organization. "But as far as plotting and planning, I haven't thought about it. I haven't even finished my first year in the legislature."

As they did Hamilton, their retired former congressman, people seem to like and believe Stemler. "It's his personality or something," said his proud father, Ralph Stemler. "He seems to draw people."...

From what I know about him, I'd say it's character and convictions-- more than his able personality.

I enjoyed many aspects of running for Congress. One pleasure was meeting some fine people and forming modest friendships. Steve was always warm, genuine, knowledgeable, and helpful. We bumped into each other quite a bit on the campaign trail and he asked to meet with me after he'd been in office for awhile. He is far more principled than political, a hard worker and a good thinker-- and Clark Co. is fortunate to have him representing us.

Bauer placed Stemler on the prestigious, powerful Ways and Means Committee right off the bat. Stemler is experienced in business, smart and articulate, Bauer told me. The appointment made sense, as does speculation that Stemler's political ascent just has begun. "If he chooses to take on additional responsibility, he's capable of doing it," Bauer said.

Stemler now chairs a Ways and Means subcommittee overseeing higher education, another cap feather typically awarded to a veteran lawmaker.

This is another sign of Stemler's strength, how his party spotlights him without him marching blindly to its beat. More conservative than liberal, he tests the bounds of political independence when he feels he must...

BK vs. McD's

An interesting article from Richard Gibson with Dow Jones Newswires in Sunday's C-J-- about an impending "burger war"...

Burger King Corp., in a move that could ignite a fast-food discounting war, plans to test a $1 double cheeseburger that would challenge one of McDonald's Corp.'s best-selling items.

"It is our belief that the dollar double cheeseburger is the most powerful weapon our competitor has to continue their growth and steal disproportionate share from the category," the company's chief marketing officer said in a note disclosing the upcoming test, which was e-mailed recently to Burger King employees and franchisees...

The most powerful weapon? That'd be a funny thing to read in an email about a burger!

The nation's No. 2 hamburger chain, Miami-based Burger King said it will feature a larger double cheeseburger than McDonald's at a heavily discounted rate in three unnamed U.S. markets early next year...Burger King restaurants now typically charge well over $2 for that sandwich.

It is a bigger and far better sandwich than the McD's version.

...cited market research revealing that Burger King's value menu accounts for about 12 percent of total sales while McDonald's dollar menu contributes 23 percent, and Wendy's super value menu brings in about 25 percent of its business.

Those are interesting numbers--both the size and the relative size of Wendy's excellent super value menu and McD's vs. BK's.

FYI: In looking for a link to that article, I found another effort by Mr. Gibson on the contentiousness caused by the McD's "dollar menu" among some of its franchisors...

Hamm shilling for Hill

In Sunday's (Jeff/NA) News-Tribune, Christopher Hamm of Sellersburg attacked Mike Sodrel after his recent op-ed piece on property taxes. While there are some legitimate critiques of Mr. Sodrel's essay, Mr. Hamm uses it as an opportunity to play campaign PR stiff. Perhaps Mr. Hamm works for Mr. Hill-- or he dislikes Mr. Sodrel and is an able student of (nasty) political rhetoric.

Here is Mr. Hamm's letter-- with my running commentary...

His campaign has only just begun, but it’s clear to see that Mike Sodrel learned absolutely nothing from his loss last year — he is still completely out of touch.

Huh? How so? Because he wrote an op-ed on the most important issue in Indiana politics? This is a spurious accusation-- and a reflexive criticism of politicians one doesn't like. Ironically, Mr. Hamm is out-of-touch with Mr. Sodrel's essay!

And, it’s actually offensive to me that he chooses to jumpstart his campaign by taking a purely political stance on such a critical issue — property taxes.

I covered the "jumpstart" part of this in my blog comments. As to "a purely political stance", is there any other when it comes to a deeply flawed public policy?

Even though I’m sure a millionaire like Mike doesn’t worry too much about trying to make ends meet, I guess he finally realized how skyrocketing property taxes are really affecting the voters.

A nice millionaire slam...classy. And he "finally realized"? Mr. Hamm is apparently a mind-reader too.

Yet, he chose not to say what he would do at the federal level to assist homeowners in this crisis.

Right, Sodrel said (correctly) that it's not a federal issue...

On the complete opposite side you have Congressman Baron Hill, who addressed this issue months ago by introducing legislation that provides taxpayers with real relief. Yes, Baron Hill knows that property tax assessments are a state government issue, but he doesn’t shirk responsibility like Sodrel suggests. Instead, Hill addressed this difficult issue head on.

OK, now it's a state issue. But Hill is to be praised for making it a federal issue? Sodrel only alludes to Hill-- and doesn't critique him for shirking, but for taking action when it's not appropriate.

As for me, I want our representatives at every level — local, state and federal — working on this issue.

Huh? Now there's a prescription for chaos!

Thank you Baron Hill for working to provide us with real property tax relief and for working with your colleagues in Congress to get property tax language added into the Temporary Tax Relief Act — instead of just trying to score useless political points like Sodrel. We can clearly see who tackles issues most important to the people of Southern Indiana and who wants to exploit them for political gain.

Mr. Hamm's political rhetoric reaches its climax here-- from the overly-sincere opening sentence to the use of "real", "useless", "tackles" and "exploit". Very nice! You may have a future in political spin...

provocative t-shirts

From Korri Kezar in the San Antonio Express-News (hat tip: C-J), an article on Politeeds-- a Dallas company producing t-shirts with policy questions..."If the shirts make anyone pause for even just a few moments, then I've accomplished what I wanted to accomplish."

When is a T-shirt not just a T-shirt? When it's Politeed, according to Sherry Henry, CEO of the Dallas company.

Politeed shirts blare questions asking onlookers to consider what side of an issue they're on. Some ask, "Are gay rights civil rights?" while others ask "Do illegal immigrants contribute to the prosperity of the United States?" The concept behind the clothing is to spark meaningful thought on political issues without revealing what side the wearer is on.

"Most people don't want to discuss politics as if it is a taboo to do so because someone might get angry at what you say," says Henry, one of the forces behind the T-shirts. "I believe the opposite, in that if you don't talk about the issues you will never break down the barriers and find a commonality.

"If the shirts make anyone pause for even just a few moments, then I've accomplished what I wanted to accomplish."

I doubt that a t-shirt will start very many conversations, but it might lead to a few more meaningful thoughts from passers-by...And it might spark some hostility!

Henry claims her shirts are neither right nor left wing. "A question is just that — a question. It is how you interpret the question and your experiences that make the question liberal or conservative," she says.

But some find the shirts inappropriate or abrasive. "In looking at the shirts, it's easy to find them offensive," says Devine High School junior Cody Asher. "Some of them are almost like accusations."

Yes and no to each of you. Questions are often useful. But some questions are leading-- and could be considered offensive. Beyond objective standards of what would be objective vs. leading questions, one can be sure that one's belief structures may encourage people to see innocuous questions as offensive. Ironically, two people with widely varying views might see the same question as equally offensive, inferring that it leads to something it does not.

In any case, this is surely an improvements over a fad that drove me crazy in grad school. In the late 1980s, it was popular to wear shirts saying "End Racism"-- with respect to South Africa. End racism? What a bold stand! Why bother? I asked a handful of people why they didn't get a shirt that said "Divest now" or proposed some other policy. I'll take a provocative (and even a leading) question over a self-righteous platitude any day!

In case you're interested in their products...

Shirts are available online at for $28.95...All items are made in Los Angeles...

Expensive-- and ironically, they're trying to be politically correct with "made in the USA"!

Monday, November 26, 2007

how bad are Governor Daniel's poll numbers?

From Mary Beth Schneider of the Indy Star as reprinted as the top front-page article in the Indiana version of Monday's C-J...

I don't know how the Indy Star titled it, but the editor at the C-J chose "Half disapprove of Daniels, poll says"...

Half of Hoosiers likely to vote in next year's election disapprove of Gov. Mitch Daniels' performance, and the two Democrats vying for Daniels' job have at least as much voter support as he does, according to a new Indianapolis Star-WTHR poll...

Certainly not good news for Daniels, but there's some interesting info in taking a closer look at his historical approval rates:

Daniels was elected in 2004, winning 53 percent of the vote over Democratic Gov. Joe Kernan. By March 2005, a poll taken for The Star showed 55 percent of voters approved of the job Daniels was doing.

But after a series of controversial issues -- including pushing for daylight-saving time and leasing the Toll Road -- those numbers plummeted. A poll taken for The Star in March 2006 showed that 37 percent approved of the job Daniels was doing.

J. Ann Selzer, whose Iowa-based public opinion research firm Selzer & Co. conducted the new poll between Nov. 13-16, called Daniels' current 40 percent approval rating "dismal," reflecting the "sour" mood of the state...

Rising property taxes, their personal finances, the lease of the Indiana Toll Road and the state's switch to daylight-saving time all contributed to Daniels' disapproval rate...

A number of things to say here:

On the numbers:
-Wow, thanks for that helpful survey, distinguishing between Daniels winning 53% of the vote and having a 55% approval rating two months into the job.

-While the current numbers are low-- and signal at least some (if not significant) trouble for Daniels-- they are an improvement from a year and a half ago. The damage to his reputation was done in the first year, not the 20 months that have followed.

On the politics of this: As usual, it's difficult to discern cause and effect...
-To what extent are his Democratic challengers looking relatively good-- because they aren't known for much of anything? In other words, are people pro-Schellinger and/or pro-Thompson or anti-Daniels?

-To what extent are his problems a dislike of Republicans or incumbents in general-- or a dislike of Daniels in particular?

-Looking to the future, I think Daniels' approach to property taxes will pay off-- both in terms of the reforms that will come from it and from the public perception that he has addressed the problem.

-The most interesting thing to me is the political economy of the Daniels' approach to governance. Although one can find areas in which to disagree with his policy prescriptions, he has been relatively non-political in crafting dangerous political positions. A pure politician would have avoided Major Moves, Daylight Savings Time, closing BMV branches, and talking about privatization so much. If Hoosiers vote him out, in essence, because he's leading, then we're likely to get-- and to deserve-- a passive and pandering governor.

passing along my answer to a question from a reader about the New Deal...

A SchansBlog reader wrote:

Have you by any chance read Amity Shlaes' The Forgotten Man? If you haven't, I would highly recommend the book.

It's a somewhat "revisionist" history of the Great Depression that looks at how a lot of the policies of the New Deal made the situation worse, and (by interesting extension) how some of the New Deal true believers came to realize this before Roosevelt even ran for reelection and became disillusioned, particularly as FDR created mechanisms like Social Security explicitly as a way to funnel money to constituencies he needed to buy to support his otherwise chancy reelection bid.

My reply...

I ordered that for the IUS library awhile back, but have not read it or picked it up. I'm already familiar with the general problems with and general politics of the New Deal-- but not so much with the more specific political variables behind it. It looks like a good read, but I probably won't get to it until at least 2009. I'll be pretty busy until at least then! ;-)

Understanding the failures and water-treading of the New Deal is a key argument within macroeconomics. If the Great Depression was caused by markets, then we must be wary of markets doing it again. To the extent that the Great Depression-- its length and depth-- was caused by govt policy, then one draws quite different conclusions. The quick summary of the latter is to point to the Smoot-Hawley protectionism, the Fed allowing the money supply to drop by 30% or so, four tax increases, wage and price floors, and legislation that strengthened unions.
As far as funneling money to constituencies, our political contemporaries in both parties have sadly continued to build on FDR's strategy.

Thanks! eric

Saturday, November 24, 2007

cartoonist skewers Hillary about those boys "picking on" her...

from Chris Britt, as reproduced in U.S. News and World Report...

second-hand Speed Bump

Dave Coverley strikes again with his cartoon, Speed Bump...

Democrats as the political party representing the rich

Despite the rhetoric, knowledgeable people know that many Democratic (and Republican) policies support the wealthy and especially, a variety of economic special interest groups.

From the rhetoric of "class warfare", one might expect this of Republicans, but seeing it in Democrats is deplorable for its hypocrisy. They are able to sell themselves as friends of the middle class and working poor, but their policy preferences cause tremendous damage to those they purport to represent.

Some of this is ignorance; some of it is a philosophical commitment to statism; some of it is bowing to political realities that make opposition to special interest groups a difficult proposition.

Now, from Donald Lambro in the Washington Times, we read about a study by Michael Franc of the Heritage Foundation about the districts represented by Democrats-- and find some surprising results...

Democrats like to define themselves as the party of poor and middle-income Americans, but a new study says they now represent the majority of the nation's wealthiest congressional districts.

In a state-by-state, district-by-district comparison of wealth concentrations based on Internal Revenue Service income data, Michael Franc, vice president of government relations at the Heritage Foundation, found that the majority of the nation's wealthiest congressional jurisdictions were represented by Democrats.

He also found that more than half of the wealthiest households were concentrated in the 18 states where Democrats hold both Senate seats.

"If you take the wealthiest one-third of the 435 congressional districts, we found that the Democrats represent about 58 percent of those jurisdictions," Mr. Franc said.

A key measure of each district's wealth was the number of single-filer taxpayers earning more than $100,000 a year and married couples filing jointly who earn more than $200,000 annually, he said.

But in a broader measurement, the study also showed that of the 167 House districts where the median annual income was higher than the national median of $48,201, a slight majority, 84 districts, were represented by Democrats. Median means that half of all income earners make more than that level and half make less.

Mr. Franc's study also showed that contrary to the Democrats' tendency to define Republicans as the party of the rich, "the vast majoritiy of unabashed conservative House members hail from profoundly middle-class districts."...

The shift in the number of wealthier Democratic districts got a significant bounce in the last election. "A fair number of these districts are represented by freshmen, a lot of the guys who got elected in 2006," he said...

A part of this is knowledge that Democrats don't typically represent the economic interests of the working poor and middle class. I suspect that most of it is an allegiance to cultural and defense/military issues that correlate with lower incomes-- where their positions are anathema to many Democratic politicians.

Some of this has discernible policy implications as well. Although getting rid of the AMT is a great idea, as Lambro notes, it's odd to see it pursued so avidly by Democrats.

In addition, the current Senate tax debate provides an example of how the Democrats' rich constituents are influencing their agenda and have divided House and Senate Democrats.

In the House, for example, Democrats have made elimination of the alternative minimum tax, known as the AMT, the centerpiece of a sweeping tax-revision plan crafted by Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. The AMT law was passed by the Democratic Congress in 1969 to make sure that wealthy taxpayers — some of whom were able to use tax breaks to avoid paying anything — paid at least some taxes.

Over the years, as many middle-class incomes rose, people were increasingly being pushed into higher tax brackets once reserved for only the richest Americans. The largest portion of these taxpayers live predominantly in Northeastern "blue" states dominated by Democrats, who, inundated by constituent complaints, soon began joining their Republican counterparts in pushing to eliminate the AMT.

But the strongest manifestation of the influence that the Democrats' wealthiest constituencies are wielding over party policy came earlier this month as Democratic leaders were considering a proposal to offset revenue losses from AMT repeal by raising taxes on hedge-fund managers, many of whom are major contributors to the Democratic Party.

A "stopgap" bill authored by Mr. Rangel to tax hedge-fund compensation at 35 percent as regular income rather than the current 15 percent capital-gains rate, which passed the House Nov. 9, appears to be going nowhere with Senate Democrats....

Some Democrats acknowledge that moneyed interests are exerting a strong influence on their party's agenda and legislation."The fact is that [the Democratic campaign committees] have had large contributions from these hedge-fund folks," said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal think tank."As far as the hedge funds and tax breaks go, the Democrats are clearly getting a lot of money from people who are affected by that, and they're responding," Mr. Baker said.

Mr. Franc thinks this turnabout by Democrats, whose campaign mantra has long been to tax the rich more, is only the beginning."Increasingly, we will see Democrats responding to the economic demands of this particular upper-income constituency," he said."What the data suggests is that there will be a natural limit to how far and how much the Democrats can sock it to the rich, because in doing so, it means they will have to sock it to their own constituents," Mr. Franc said.

This is a great opportunity for candidates of either major political party-- or for emerging political parties: to avoid monied interests and to be true advocates for the working poor and middle class.

kudos to Baron Hill and C-J on trade (but hisses to Yarmuth)

From the editorialists on this AM's C-J, a surprising ode to free trade...

Alpaca coats, anyone?

The House of Representatives took another step toward expanding free trade with Latin America last week with passage of the Peru Free Trade Agreement. But prodded by U.S. labor and other protectionist interests, 116 Democrats -- including Louisville's John Yarmuth and the 6th District's Ben Chandler -- voted against the measure. Southern Indiana's Baron Hill and another 108 Democrats joined 176 Republicans to pass the bill, which promises to expand the spirit of NAFTA.

For all his progressive ideas, trying to limit expansion of the global economy isn't in the best interests of Rep. Yarmuth's district, nor is it good for the Bluegrass region that Rep. Chandler serves. In addition to American farm products, Peru expects to import large quantities of manufactured goods and expand financial and communications links with the United States.

Big labor complains that American jobs are being lost as a result. But those squawks are drowned out by the cha-ching of the cash register for American goods and services.

what can brown do for you?

From this AM's C-J, a modest heart-warming story about a truck driver...

Behind the wheel of his tractor-trailer, lumbering south on Interstate 75 toward Louisville, Ron Sowder keeps it under 55. Grannies in Hondas and moms in minivans glide by him on a gray, cold morning. Big Dog doesn't care.

UPS pays him to deliver packages on time, but safely. And that's what Sowder, 68, of Springboro, Ohio, has been doing for 45 years, driving more than 3 million miles without an accident. Since January, he has held the all-time driving-safety record for UPS worldwide.

The article also delivered safe-driving tips practiced at UPS...

UPS drivers are taught to practice a safe-driving formula they remember as "All Good Kids Love Milk."
ALL: Aim high in steering. Look far down the road to see potential traffic hazards or problems.
GOOD: Get the big picture. Maintain proper following distance. Don't tailgate.
KIDS: Keep your eyes moving. Scan the road. Constantly shift eyes while driving.
LOVE: Leave yourself an out. Surround your vehicle with space in front and on at least one side.
MILK: Make sure they see you: Communicate in traffic with horn, lights and signals.

Friday, November 23, 2007

some big turkeys

Happy Thanksgiving from CNN and Sports Illustrated-- the year's 22 biggest "turkeys" in sports...

Bella comes to New Albany

Sorry for the delay in blogging about this movie.

It has had a limited release, including last weekend at Tinseltown and StonyBrook in Louisville-- and this weekend at Great Escape in New Albany.

Click here for Great Escape Theater's blurb on the movie.

I haven't seen the movie, but it has received some acclaim as the winner of the People's Choice Award at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival.

Click here for the movie's official website.

Three articles of interest to pass along:

1.) From Chuck Colson's "BreakPoint", a focus on the film's imagery and its character development (hat tip: Linda Christiansen)

2.) From Mark Moring in Christianity Today, an article on the life transformation of the movie's primary actor, Eduardo Verástegui (and less so, about director/writer, Alejandro Monteverde), entitled "Latin Lover No More" (hat tip: Chris Snider)

3.) An overview of the movie from Rebecca Hagelin at Heritage from

If you've seen it, please comment!

Baron Hill believes Social Security is "probably the best government program ever created"!!

David Mann in the Jeff/NA News-Tribune on Rep. Baron Hill's recent visit to New Washington Middle/High School...

Rep. Baron Hill fielded students’ questions about the environment, education, Social Security and other topics at New Washington Middle/High School on Monday afternoon. The question-and-answer session was part of several stops for Hill at area schools during the day...

First, a small side comment...

One student asked about what could be done to help noncollege-bound students who find the current educational standards too difficult. Hill responded by saying standards are necessary, even for those not going to college....

A great, spontaneous answer to a very sad question...I'm glad that Baron shot so straight with that student.

Now, to comment on Hill's comments about Social Security...

Social Security
One student asked Hill what could be done to ensure Social Security would be available to her generation — a question he called “loaded.”...

Uhhh, loaded? How so? Oh, loaded-- as in, great question...he must have meant that the student was loaded for bear!

Raising the age and raising the cap at which certain income levels have to pay into the system probably would be suggested.

I'm not sure what he meant here-- or maybe he was not paraphrased well. The standard modest reforms are: increase retirement age, increase taxes, and/or reduce benefits. Often, the desire for lower benefits or higher taxes are focused on the relatively wealthy. Among the problems with equity and efficiency introduced or extended by such proposals, this would take Social Security from a faux-retirement system to blatant income redistribution. But perhaps this is a net plus, since we could then quit pretending about the nature of SS.

He also would “build a wall around Social Security,” so that it could not be borrowed against.

Very interesting...Is Baron trying to bring back Al Gore's lockbox? This sounds like a nice idea, but it's incoherent. When Social Security has had short-term surpluses, where should they put the money: in a shoebox or into investments (in government bonds as has been the practice or elsewhere)?

“I believe Social Security is probably the best government program ever created,” Hill said, and spoke against some calls to privatize the system.

Wow...a staggering statement! "Probably the best government program ever"?! A few options here:

a.) Baron thinks all government programs are lame-- and SS looks good by comparison.
b.) Baron thinks SS is great by focusing on its high rates of return in the early years (its pre-"mature" phase), when people only paid in for a few years but received full benefits.
c.) Baron thinks SS is great as a contemporary and continuing policy-- for its lack of freedom and flexibility, its pathetic rate of return, or because it takes more money from African-Americans than it returns to them.
d.) Baron thinks SS is great as a political tool-- to scare senior citizens and to demagogue on an important policy issue where we're going to need substantive reform.
e.) B, C (with sarcasm), and D.