A New Can Of Worms
29 March 2003
Note to the Press: Don't Have Us Surrender Just Yet

Ralph Peters offers a realistic assessment of what is occuring on the ground in Iraq.
Ethics on Federal Boards and Commissions
This is an excellent example of how clean Washington is compared to Illinois. In Illinois it's controversy if we eliminate $80,000 per year salaries for part time work on a board or commission. The patronage mavens wail in Illinois. In Washington, it's getting to the point where if you say "hello" to your Congressman you have to file Federal disclosure forms.

But, Good government can go to far, as we see in the case of Richard Perle and his connection to Global Crossing.

Good government types only want people to serve in the public if they suffer financially. Of course they feel the same about foreign policy, too. Only go to war if it is not in our interests...It's the same twisted logic.

I guess this way it only ensures that they (good gov. liberal types) are the only ones left to run things...
Bureaucrats Now Run Health Care

In the 1990's the country revolted against HMO's over the idea that patients did not want business executives interfering with the doctor patient relationship to keep health care costs down. Now, the state government's are stepping in to do just that.

The Washington Post reports today that, "U.S. District Judge John D. Bates dismissed the claims of drug companies and mental health advocates, who said Michigan acted illegally by proceeding with its program without the full approval of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.

"The secretary did not act arbitrarily, capriciously, or otherwise not in accordance with the law in approving portions of the initiative," Bates wrote.

Bates said Congress has given states "broad room" to establish prior-authorization prescription drug programs, which require doctors to get state permission to use drugs not on the list. Bates also said drug manufacturers failed to show that Michigan was acting illegally when it demanded even lower rates than those generally given to states."

Nothing is more un-American than price caps. In the end, we will pay more for health care, it will be of less quality, and our lives will be shortened because we let the government get involved running health care. It is astounding to me!
Senate panel OKs bond proposal

One point about the Governor's plan to refinance the pension system is that the savings to be derived are front loaded. We are borrowing $10 Billion. Taking 2.something Billion off the top for General Revenue funds and investing the rest. The bet is that the $7.something Billion will grow as $10 Billion would.

This is the kind of thing corporate executives get indicted for...

Meteorites make for a rocky night

Well,...there's another excuse I can't use when I'm home hungover....

"A 5-pound fragment fell through the roof of Noe and Paulette Garza's house in the 400 block of Indiana Avenue in Park Forest and bounced about the room. It punched a softball-size hole in the roof and then crashed through the ceiling and shredded a set of venetian blinds. It ricocheted off a metal window sill, shot about 15 feet across the bedroom and shattered a floor-to-ceiling mirror before coming to rest on the floor.

Garza had been standing at the windowsill only minutes before the meteorite hit.

"I could have gotten hit in the head by that thing," said Noe Garza, 48, a steelworker.

A few hours later he called his supervisor to report that he couldn't come to work Thursday. "I told him what happened, and he laughed and said, `OK, but don't use that excuse again.'"

N.Y. Marines on mission of vengeance

In WWII the Marines and the Japanese had such a blood feud going that where the US Army would capture 1,000 Japanese soldiers, the Marines would bring back 10 or so. The same goes for the Japanese. There were very few Marine POW's.

I think that kind of behavior in this conflict is somewhere between remote and impossible. I think 9-11 is fresh in the minds of a lot of our warfighters, however. It motiviates.

I was in DC in on 9/11, I lived about a mile from the Pentagon as the crow flies. My rooftop at Courthouse Plaza overlooked the Pentagon. My old office, where the National Guard Bureau used to be located, was engulfed in a fireball. I think about that all the time.

While I haven't loaded a munition on A-10 since 1995, I can't be sure and I wouldn't presume to know what everyone is thinking, but I have the suspicion that 9-11 motivates our warfighters more than we think it does.

Lack of supplies slowing the fight

I'm beginning to wonder when the press will signal our surrender to Saddam Hussein.

Every 'minor annoyance' is being blown completely out of proportion. It isn't until paragraph 13 that Jay Williams tells us that this isn't a story.
28 March 2003
Donald Luskin on the Bush Tax-Cut Package

Donald Luskin offers us a "glass half full" argument on the Senate's treachery earlier this week cutting the Bush Tax Cut in half. He makes some good points.

First, the Senate has set the floor for the tax cuts. They can only go up as the two houses negotiate.

Second, if compromise is necessary, and here he cites Arthur Laffer, take the cuts that are most likely to stimulate economic growth and ditch those cuts that don't.

Is that strategy politically palatable? That's the key question. Some of the cuts that will do little to stimulate growth are politically popular. Others, such as eliminating the double taxation of dividends, are open to class warfare rhetoric. This will send Republican moderates scurrying into the shadows.
Buyout of tobacco funds proposed

Buying out the tobacco funds have been the bete noir of Sen. President Emil Jones in Illinois. This gives proof to the lie that the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement was about justice and punishing the tobacco industry for past wrongs.

This was regulation through litigation pure and simple. Let's demonize and then shake down an industry we don't like. What the left can't win at the ballot box, they'll take through their trial lawyer allies. The bottom line was that tobacco industry had money and the sycophants wanted it.

There's catch now, however. A Madison County Court has laid down a $10 Billion verdict against Philip Morris for calling Light cigarettes -- well...light cigarettes. Because people tended to inhale deeper, block the little air holes in the filter and all kinds of other silly tricks Philip Morris is guilty of civil fraud. Please. I think the business community needs to begin buying its own judges.

Looking at a $12 Billion appeal bond, Philip Morris may have to declare bankruptcy. Guess what happens to the MSA, then? It's killing the goose that laid the golden egg. And it's the left in Illinois that his holding bag caught between a fiscal crisis and their trial lawyer masters.

By the way, according to one liberal organization, Illinois went from 9th to 39th in smoking prevention initiatives paid for by the tobacco settlement. More proof of the Big Lie.
Words of Wisdom on the Gov. Blago's Budget Cure All

John Cox on why Governor Blagojevich's plan to refinance the State's pension fund may be a bad idea.

It is risky to take this on, right now, because we don't know the details. There are myriad ways to finance bonds. Some are risky, some are not. The State looked at this last year and declined, probably out of fear of the State's bond rating.

This will get worse before it gets better.

I think John, who will soon be joining the Institute's Board of Directors, is undoubtably correct, but he'll even agree that we need to see the details.
Starbucks coming to downtown

Oh, thank God!
27 March 2003
Is War a Generator of Expenses or an Economic Stimulus? asks Virginia Postrel.

More from Rep. Massey of GA...

Yesterday I posted an exchange with a member of the GA House of Representatives who has reneged on his pledge not to vote for new taxes in GA. Today he responded. Moreover, I won't comment on his integrity, I'll let anyone reading this make up their own minds.

-----Original Message-----
From: RepMassey@aol.com [mailto:RepMassey@aol.com]
Sent: Thursday, March 27, 2003 12:19 PM
To: gregblankenship@Ameritech.Net
Subject: Re: Massey Tax Vote

For the record, we have already cut 1 billion out of the budget. I/we offered an offsetting tax cut sunrising next year for income tax relief which was ruled non-germain by the democrat speaker leaving me with just the tobacco tax bill.

I withdrew my pledge last year and they apparently did not accept it. Have you never had to go to someone you made a promise to and said circumstances have changes so that I can no longer keep that pledge? Most of us have.

I vote my conscience and have never cast a vote based on its popularity in my voting district. I still believe I did the right thing. I stand by the vote and ATR emailed me back and are researching as we speak. I believe they agree that since the pledge is renewable every election, it is not an ongoing pledge.

Thanks for your comments. Have you ever run for or been elected to public office?

My response

-----Original Message-----
From: Greg Blankenship [mailto:gregblankenship@ameritech.net]
Sent: Thursday, March 27, 2003 2:36 PM
To: 'RepMassey@aol.com'
Subject: RE: Massey Tax Vote

Rep. Massey,

You can not just opt out of a written agreement at your whim. ATR has policies (that are well known) in place to get out of the pledge. Invite Grover out, call press conference and stand for re-election. It's that simple. The pledge binds you as long as you serve in that office. It's always been that way. To argue otherwise is not credible.

And I know for a fact, that ATR is not "...going back to research as we speak." They have requested you provide them with the name of the individual who claimed that you were not bound by the pledge. Don't try to snow me.

President George W. Bush, eight governors, Sen.Saxby Chambliss and seven members of Georgia’s congressional delegation, as well as 248 members of Congress, and 55 other Georgia state legislators are keeping their word. Why can't you? Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D-Chicago) is holding the line against taxes while facing a $5 Billion budget hole. The son-in-law of a Chicago ward boss is keeping his word. Why can't you?

And no, I have not gone back on my word on anything as solemn as a written pledge. As a matter fact, I've done so in instances that have caused me financial hardship. And while you and Bill Clinton may believe that, "Everyone does it." You are wrong, we don't. And yes, I did once stand for election -- not that it matters.

A pledge is meaningless if it does not bind us when times are troubled. Anyone can keep an easy promise; the measure of a person is when they keep their word when it is hard to so. It is a measure you are failed to meet.

I consider this matter closed.

Greg Blankenship

America: an Empire in Denial

Niall Ferguson in The Chronicle of Higher Education argues we shouldn't be afraid of empire in the US. A pretty balanced overview of the long running debate...
Rep. Feigenholtz has a Dr. Mengele Moment

"Stem cell research would be legal and encouraged in Illinois under legislation narrowly passed, 60-58, by the state House on Wednesday in a swipe at federal policy.

Such research isn't barred now, but the proposal is needed in light of President Bush's 2001 executive order restricting federal funding, said Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago). The state needs to show private groups that it favors using human embryos for research."

"[Doing research] has been very prohibitive for states because federal funding has dried up," said Feigenholtz, the bill's chief sponsor. "What [Bush] did has impeded financial opportunities and has put the burden on people who are involved in research."

I'm not totally convinced that this research is abhorrent, but I lean in the direction of caution. I realize stem cell research will not bear fruit until late in my lifetime. We have plenty of time and shouldn't rush. We're looking at -- at the very least -- thirty years before this research will pay off.

I think taking 2 or 3 years out of the 30 to work out the ethics is very reasonable. I also think, as we move into the realm of normal science on this front, that stringent guidelines will prove to be prudent and acceptable to most of the parties in this debate.

I'd like think that the Hon. Sara Feigenholtz didn't mean to sound that cold.
Top Madigan staffers given big pay raises

Not even Bill Clinton would try to get away with this:

"State budget cuts may be fine for everyone else, but House Speaker Michael Madigan has shrugged off Illinois' dire fiscal condition by giving senior members of his legislative staff double-digit pay increases this spring.

The dramatic salary hikes run as high as 15 percent and are drawing bipartisan criticism at a time when unpaid state bills total $1.8 billion and deep administrative cutbacks have been made throughout state government.

"How on earth can raises like this be taking place when we're nitpicking over every penny that's going to AIDS prevention and trying to save every dollar for education or health care?" said a Democratic state representative, who asked for anonymity for fear of retribution from the speaker. "We're all feeling this immense pressure, and then to hear of this, I just can't believe it."

The Real Axis

Did you ever notice that the only three groups who believe that Americans don't have the stomach to take casualties are dictators, academics and the press?

Did you ever notice that the three groups who hate America the most are dictators, academics and the press?

The Patriot Debate, Part Deux

Critics of the Patriot are once again emerging. By going overboard in praise of it's Gufl War I debut, advocates of missile defense and the Patriot set themselves up for a fall. Few things work that well in combat, and Patriot did operate as designed in the first Persian Gulf conflict.

The Center for Defense Information (CDI), who has a matter of religious ferver thinks SDI will never work is leading the charge against PAC III. If the PAC III turns out to work as well as currently believed, it will shatter their belief system. We'll be forced to institutionlize them. Good God! They'll need even more anti-depressants...

From my perspective, it sounds as if the Patriot missile seems to be working a little too well, right now.

Regardless, it looks as if we'll be re-hashing this one in the press for some time...
Saddam's Strategy and the Axis of Evil

It is amazing how much these Iraqi thugs remind me of the Somali Technicals.

In the aftermath of the Somali raid that became the 'Blackhawk Down' incident we found that Al Quaeda had played a role in training Muhammed Aidid's forces in these tactics. Here are the same tactics being used in Iraq.

Does that prove a link between OBL and Saddam? No. But it does prove how these groups are related and how they feed from one another. It also proves that the axis of evil does not need to have a treaty structure in order to exist. Treaties are an artifact of the International order -- an order that none of these groups acknowledge as legitmate. That is something we should keep in mind as we press forward against them.
26 March 2003
Lessons in Political Suicide from State Rep. Warren Massey (R-GA 24)

This afternoon I received an email with an attached press release from Damon Ansell of Americans For Tax Reform regarding State Rep. Warren Massey reneging on his signed pledge not to raise taxes on his constiuents. Later I received this from Massey:

-----Original Message-----
From: RepMassey@aol.com [mailto:RepMassey@aol.com]
Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2003 6:54 PM
To: gregblankenship@Ameritech.Net
Subject: Massey Tax Vote

This afternoon, Americans for Tax Reform sent you an email denouncing me for my stance on Governor Perdue's Tobacco Tax Bill. Unfortunately, this group who I once thought was a sincere and honest advocate for lower taxes has proven to me that it is an ingenuous organization for the following reasons:

1)They have put in writing what they purport to be a direct quotation from a pledge I signed in 1998. They are not concerned with accuracy in their quotation because they changed my district number from 86 to 24. In 1998, when I signed the pledge I was in district 86 and not in district 24. They will say that this is splitting hairs but I submit that if you quote someone and change the quotation to imply that he/she ran on this pledge last year when their district number was changed to 24, then this is a less than honest maneuver on their part and is relevant to our disagreement regarding the pledge. I signed the pledge in 1998 when Georgia was enjoying a Billion Dollar surplus in tax revenue. My opponent refused to sign the pledge and Americans for Tax Reform were nowhere to be seen in helping me to get elected against an opponent who would not sign their pledge. Where was their advocacy for the taxpayers in my race in 1998?

2) In 2002, during the last election, I declined to sign the pledge for this two year term because I foresaw the possibility that I would not be able to keep that pledge this year. When I refused to renew the pledge, Americans for Tax Reform threatened me in my reelection bid and told me their policy required renewal of the pledge each election cycle. If this were not their policy, then why would they have sent me a new pledge to sign when they obviously had a signed pledge from 1998?

Prior to supporting the Tobacco Tax Bill which I believe is the only rational solution to a 1 1/2 Billion Dollar deficit in Georgia, I contacted Americans for Tax Reform and asked them to confirm that I had not signed the pledge in 2002 according to their records. They verified that I was not a current signer and asked me if I wanted to renew the pledge now. I declined.

Now in their email attack, they are trying to mislead you into believing that the pledge was a continuing pledge. They claim I should have released myself from the pledge before running for reelection last year. I submit to you that by declining to sign a new pledge for the current election term ( which was their policy) did in fact release me from any obligations to Americans for Tax Reform and I did not run my election based upon any reference to their pledge therefore I did not deceive my voters. I ran solely on my own voting record which I will run on again next year which will include this vote. It will be up to the people in my district to decide whether I am still worthy of their vote not Mr. Norquist. After I verified with ART that I had not signed their new pledge form I considered myself to be released from the prior pledge.

As soon as I endorsed the Tax initiative, ATR ran a full page ad in the local paper regarding the 1998 pledge. I called and asked Mr. Norquist to return my call because of the obvious misunderstanding and to date have not received the courtesy of a return call because ATR is obviously not concerned with accuracy or fairness.

Thank you for your time and consideration regarding this matter.

Warren Massey
District 24

My Response to Rep. Massey:

-----Original Message-----
From: Greg Blankenship [mailto:gregblankenship@ameritech.net]
Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2003 9:24 PM
To: 'RepMassey@aol.com'
Subject: RE: Massey Tax Vote

Wow, I've never exchanged email with a political corpse before...

You signed a pledge. I don't see a term limit on it and renewing a pledge is not the same as taking one. It doesn't give you the right to opt out when the going gets tough. Don't believe me.... ask your wife.

ATR is very clear about their policies and the meaning of the pledge. For it to be meaningful, they keep it very straight forward. Behaving like Jaques Chirac is not going to get you out it.

You are picking a fight with an organization that has more resources and more credibility than you do. Politically it's stupid. Judging by the comments in your note, you probably don't realize that.

In your note you state, "I signed the pledge in 1998 when Georgia was enjoying a Billion Dollar surplus in tax revenue."
Making the pledge when it was easy -- to grab the credit when everything was roses -- and then reneging on your word at the first sign of trouble clearly demonstrates rank opportunism. To explicitly mass email that statement is unfathomable. It only reinforces ATR's point.

My humble suggestion would be to offer offsetting cuts in spending or tax cuts to save your hide. Otherwise you are just that, another hide on the wall at ATR.

Good luck, pal. If this is an example of your skills, you're gonna' need it.

Greg Blankenship

Technology and the Culture of War

Not perfect but an excellent piece in the Guardian on how high-tech is changing the culture of war.

I say not perfect, because the development of stand off weapons, the tomahawk featured here chief among them, wasn't really intended to be a more politically palatible weapon. It was intended to preserve life, which has been a concern of american generals for far longer than Vietnam. Respect of life, I think, goes hand-in-hand with our political culture. In a Democratic-republic you are combining the will of the people with the rule of the best.

Voters don't like to be sacrificed, and the burden of leadership means a responsibility to those you command. I think there is a difference between this ethos and the myth that Americans will not tolerate causulties post-Vietnam.
Neos vs. Paleo's

If I were Robert Novak I'd be upset about being lumped in with Pat Buchanan, too.

Do Fuel Cells Represent a Revolution or an Evolution

The Science of Hydrogen Fuel Cells by Lynne Kiesling of the Reason Public Policy Institute offers us a primer on hydrogen fuel cells. Interestingly, it is not the panacea we are led to believe.

It seems the hype is giving away to "normal science"
25 March 2003
Great News!

Many Federal Employees Consider Leaving Jobs, Survey Says

I think I can feel a tear forming...Really, I do....
Death Tax Politics

Virginia Governor Mark Warner Vetoes Repeal of the Death Tax. The measure passed with veto proof majorities in both houses in the Commonwealth. It doesn't look like Dems in the Virginia Senate have the cahones to override, however.

Death tax repeal is a popular item in Virginia and nationwide. Whatever happens here, it's win-win. If the veto is upheld, the center-right has the issue in the next election. If the Veto is overrided, the death tax is repealed. It's not a bad place to be.

The issue has real economic consequences. The death tax is inefficient, administrative costs actually run ahead of the receipts. The state actually loses money on the deal. All in the name of class warfare...
This is Unjust!

I'm jealous. Arkansas gets Starbucks
It's Going Wrong, Again

Images of captive, dead GIs spur glee according to the Trib, "The video images of five shaky American prisoners of war and the bloodied bodies of their dead comrades sparked outrage in the United States, but often inspired pride and satisfaction around the Arab world Monday."

And when they're defeated it will be: What went wrong?

We've seen this all before...It's a familiar pattern. I would note that the U.S. has committed blood and treasure for the Bosnian muslims, the Kosovar muslims, the Kuwaiti's and now we are liberating the Afghans and the Iraqis. It's more than bigotry at work, here on the part of many muslims. Bernard Lewis gets at it better than any other author I've read.

Surprise...., it's another Quagmire

A Story in search of news. The Chicago Tribune reports on critics contention that the Iraqi liberation support is too small and too stretched out.

In three days they've managed to get within 50 miles of Baghdad. The outcome of this effort is not in doubt, causalties are almost non-existant. The arm chair generals and CONUS based press are just itching to criticize. They are itching to bring up 'quagmire' and 'Vietnam.' It's cliche. It's pathetic journalism.
24 March 2003
Get Tough or Get Out

"Get tough or get out," says Middle East historian Bernard Lewis' is the way the West has to think about the Middle East. Robert Bartley of the Wall Street Journal argues the current hostilities are a direct result of not only being tough, but a lack of resolve, as well.
Have We Figured Out the UN, Yet?

Charles Krauthammer says, "The Security Council is nothing more than the victory coalition of 1945."

Krauthammer has become a must read for me. Here implores the President not to return to the UN to seek their approval of the US plan for rebuilding Iraq. He's right. The President shouldn't. However, I'm not as sure we, as a Nation, see the UN for what it is, yet.
23 March 2003
War Costs are a Speed Bump

$80 Billion is not even a rounding error in paying for the war. It's a 2.2 trillion federal budget. Opponents of the President's tax plan our grasping at some thin reeds, indeed.
News Flash from the Chicago Tribune: Old People are more Cautious

Where's the news here?

No one is more aware of their own mortality than the elderly. Of course they're anti-war. No one is going to be more attached to their cognitive belief systems than those of us who are older (I'm 35). Attachment to the UN (which I do believe serves a useful purpose) and alliances are going to be a staple of their thoughts, because these things have been with them most of their lives. There are better angles to cover than this.

Someone should do a story on the Delay-Daschle phenomena. Both of these party leaders have let their own dislike of the Commander-in-Chief color their judgement. This is why most Democrats oppose the war. This is why a lot of conservatives, who should've known better, opposed the Balkan interventions.

Party identification is the rose colored glasses that we view politics through. It largely determines are perspective on events. The Delay-Daschle phenomena is an extreme version of this perfectly natural world view. If President Bush observed that is was a Sunny Sunday afternoon, Tom Daschle would argue its storming at mid-night. It's become that bad. Hatred for the opposition is coloring too much of our thinking and it is extremely polarizing in a country where most people agree on most things. Speaker Hastert was right when he said Daschle's comments last week regarding failed diplomancy was close to aiding the enemy.
Once Again the Market is Foiling the Good Intentions of Central Planners Making Things Worse

This is a great piece in the Chicago Tribune today on how forced integration of Chicago's public schools is a failure.

Thanks to a 1980's consent agreement to integrate Chicago schools, and white flight from Chicago over the decades, there are not enough white students to go around. It seems what's left of the white population disproportionately attends magnet schools that were set up to attract the declining white population in the first place.

The market solves every issue one way or the other. By interfering with it, through forced consent agreements and racial quotas, we now see only the poorest minorities left in the Chicago Public School system. Only through real school choice, where we get at least some of these kids into better schools, will we begin to see a change for the better in Chicago. Regrettably, school choice is a dead letter in Illinois.

In the post below I link to Mark Steyn's article mentioning how the Arabs have always been better at killing their own than the enemy. Same goes for those running the Chicago public schools, they'd rather eat their own than give up their 6 figure administrative salaries.
Mark Steyn, Need I Say More

Reforming Iraq a gamble, but it's got to start somewhere writes Mark Steyn. He's right, again -- as ususal...
Ethics in Springfield is not taking Bribes on Sunday

Concern over ethics blooms in Springfield, but will it be sustained is the question. It's when the Feds turn off the heat in Illinois that concerns reformers. It's what you do when you know no one is watching. That isn't the case, right now.

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