A New Can Of Worms
14 November 2003
From Where Senator Durbin Receives His Marching Orders

It's not from the people of Illinois according to the WSJ (link requires subscription):

"As the Senate concludes its 30-hour talkathon on judicial filibusters, we thought readers might like to peer inside the filibustering Democratic mind, such as it is.

This plunge into the murky deep comes from staff strategy memos we've obtained from the days when Democrats ran the Senate Judiciary Committee from 2001-2002. Or, rather, appeared to run the committee. Their real bosses are the liberal interest groups that more or less tell the Senators when to sit, speak and roll over -- and which Bush judges to confirm or not. Here are some excerpts:

November 6, 2001/To: Senator Dick Durbin
'You are scheduled to meet with leaders of several civil rights organizations to discuss their serious concerns with the judicial nomination process. The leaders will likely include: Ralph Neas (People For the American Way), Kate Michelman (NARAL), Nan Aron (Alliance for Justice), Wade Henderson (Leadership Conference on Civil Rights), Leslie Proll (NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund), Nancy Zirkin (American Association of University Women), Marcia Greenberger (National Women's Law Center), and Judy Lichtman (National Partnership)....

'...The primary focus will be on identifying the most controversial and/or vulnerable judicial nominees. The groups would like to postpone action on these nominees until next year, when (presumably) the public will be more tolerant of partisan dissent.'

November 7, 2001/To: Senator Durbin
'The groups singled out three -- Jeffrey Sutton (6th Circuit); Priscilla Owen (5th Circuit); and Caroline [sic] Kuhl (9th Circuit) -- as a potential nominee for a contentious hearing early next year, with a [sic] eye to voting him or her down in Committee."

The Same Old Song to Be Played

Huge gap shown between poor kids, others in state reports the Sun-Times today.

Prediction: The usual suspects will claim this shows the need for massive tax increases to fund schools more "equitably." Few, and they'll be on the margins, will demand accountability and choice in education.
13 November 2003
Party ID and the Democratic Strategy for 2004

Byron York at NRO discusses some recent polling on party identification and how it is beginning to lean Republican in some key states:

"There's been a lot of talk about recent studies showing a decline in the percentage of American voters who identify themselves as Democrats.

Last summer, pollster Mark Penn found that just 32 percent of voters called themselves Democrats, which led Penn to conclude that, at least on the party-ID issue, 'the Democratic party is currently in its weakest position since the dawn of the New Deal.'

Now a new study by the Pew Research Center pegs the Democratic number at 31 percent, versus 30 percent who call themselves Republicans.

That's very bad news — if you're a Democrat — but what does it actually mean?

Just who are those voters who have switched party affiliation? And perhaps more important, where are they?

As it turns out, many are right where Democrats don't want them to be — in the swing states that could determine the winner of next year's presidential election."

Meanwhile the WSJ today looks at the Democratic 5 point plan(link requires subscription) which is to attack Bush's credibility, push that the glass is half empty on the economy, the War in Iraq, mobilize the base and get around new campaign finance laws.

If the polling is accurate on party ID mobilizing the base will be critical. The reason Al Gore did as well as he did during 2000 was attiributable to Donna Brazille's phenomenal efforts in states such as Illinois. If York is correct, it will take an even greater effort on the part of the Democrats.
Republicans To Cave on Medicare Competition?

According to this morning's Tribe:

"Struggling to salvage negotiations over a Medicare prescription drug benefit, Republican leaders have offered to scale back a requirement that private insurers be allowed to compete with the traditional Medicare program.

'We are very, very close' to a deal, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said Wednesday.

The competition issue is one of the biggest roadblocks to striking an agreement that can pass the House and the Senate.

In the House, conservative Republicans view competition as the key element to save money and preserve Medicare, the health insurance program for senior citizens. In the Senate, Democrats oppose introducing private insurers into the equation, saying it would kill a government program that has worked well for almost 40 years.

There was no official announcement Wednesday that a deal had been struck, and in fact, the new plan may not survive the scrutiny of key lawmakers in both chambers and parties. Still, the proposal was a sign that Republicans are considering significant concessions as they seek to avoid a politically damaging failure to reach a deal on a drug benefit for seniors."

House Appropriations Chairman Bill Thomas is upset about this -- he is upset about everything these days -- but I have a feeling the floated compromise won't move the ball down the field on bringing some choice and accountability to Medicare.

And, where are those words among Republicans. The Democrats charge that Republicans are ending Medicare as we know it. The comeback is that we are giving seniors more choices and better service, if that is ending Medicare as we know, then good.

The position that we are improving services and giving seniors more and better choices needs to be relentlessly repeated. Right now, that is not happening.
Rush is Back on Monday

Thank God. I've had about as much of Walter Williams as I can take...
12 November 2003
God Bless the British:

"An online survey in Britain found that the recent invention most admired is a little gadget that allows people to enjoy draft-type beer at home.

The ''widget,'' a small ball of nitrogen that gives cans of beer a proper, pub-style head of creamy foam, far outstripped the other candidates in an Internet survey that drew almost 9,000 responses.
Forty-eight percent of respondents said that the widget was the most impressive invention of the past 40 years. "

So Much for Ending Business as Usual...

The governor adds 12 workers as IDOT liaisons according to the Sun-Times today:

"While hammering for months on the need to slash the state payroll, Gov. Blagojevich has hired a dozen people, mostly Democratic campaign contributors, to act as community liaisons for the Transportation Department.

Seven of the new hires have given a combined $7,500 to Democrats, including $2,550 to Blagojevich, who took office in January facing a $5 billion budget deficit. At least one of them volunteered for the Blagojevich campaign last year."


From the SJ-R:

"More than half of Illinois' House delegation may wind up having no pet projects for their districts in a $138 billion education and health spending bill because none of them voted for an initial version of the measure.

Majority Republicans are taking the stance that any representative that voted against the bill when it passed the House 215-208 last summer should not be allowed to insert any projects for their districts in the final version now being negotiated with the Senate."

11 November 2003
Proof Positive that Brains and Wealth Don't Correlate

Soros's Deep Pockets vs. Bush reports the Washington Post:

"George Soros, one of the world's richest men, has given away nearly $5 billion to promote democracy in the former Soviet bloc, Africa and Asia. Now he has a new project: defeating President Bush.

'It is the central focus of my life,' Soros said, his blue eyes settled on an unseen target. The 2004 presidential race, he said in an interview, is 'a matter of life and death.'

Soros, who has financed efforts to promote open societies in more than 50 countries around the world, is bringing the fight home, he said. On Monday, he and a partner committed up to $5 million to MoveOn.org, a liberal activist group, bringing to $15.5 million the total of his personal contributions to oust Bush.

Overnight, Soros, 74, has become the major financial player of the left. He has elicited cries of foul play from the right. And with a tight nod, he pledged: 'If necessary, I would give more money.'
'America, under Bush, is a danger to the world,' Soros said. Then he smiled: 'And I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is.' Soros believes that a 'supremacist ideology' guides this White House. He hears echoes in its rhetoric of his childhood in occupied Hungary. 'When I hear Bush say, 'You're either with us or against us,' it reminds me of the Germans.' It conjures up memories, he said, of Nazi slogans on the walls, Der Feind Hort mit ('The enemy is listening'). 'My experiences under Nazi and Soviet rule have sensitized me,' he said in a soft Hungarian accent. "

Soros needs to get out of Europe more...
Alan Murray Blames the Victim

Alan Murray (link requires subscription) takes a shot at PhRMA and the state based think tanks:

"Less well-known are the ties that bind the pharmaceuticals industry to a network of conservative think tanks, both in Washington and in state capitals around the country. The main industry trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, is said to be spending about $2 million this year to fund such organizations, according to informed speculation -- although PhRMA officials won't discuss such funding with the media. Individual companies such as Pfizer and Eli Lilly are seeding the field as well. In October last year, for instance, the State Policy Network, a group that services conservative state think tanks, held a full day of meetings at Eli Lilly's corporate headquarters in Indianapolis, partially funded with Eli Lilly money.

What do the drug companies get in return for this largess? Well, last month a small think tank called the Galen Institute sponsored a lunch for 75 Senate staffers at which attendees heard from a panel of people opposed to allowing prescription-drug imports from Canada. Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, moderated the discussion. A week later, Ms. Turner was in Chicago, participating in another forum on drug importation, heavily stacked with opponents of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's plan to encourage drug imports."

One wonders if Alan will next tackle the question of who funds John Podesta's new left leaning think tank. They refuse to report who gives them money...

A couple of other points. First, $2 million is chicken feed for 30 or 40 state based think tanks, not to mention the national ones. This pales in comparison to gifts from the ideological foundations such as Sara Scaife Foundation or the Ford Foundation. Those facts didn't fit with Murray's argument so he neglects to point that out. Second, the "heavily stacked drug reimportation symposium invited both the Governor of Illinois and officials from his administration to participate. They declined. If that event was "heavily stacked" it was due to Hot Rod Blagojevich, not PHrMA. And finally, I don't know whether or not Galen reports who give to them, but the Heartland Institute does report the names of supporters. Again, none of this evidence fits Murray's conclusions so he ignores them.

Businesses get into the business of giving money to think tanks because government gets involved in business. Do you think Microsoft or Pfizer want to pour profits into think tanks? Of course not. They have to because of a certain ideological prediliction that sees someone making a buck for improving our lives as a threat to their ideology and prestige in society. Subsequently they move to shake these entities down in order to enrich themeselves financially and politically. They are aided and abetted by "their willing accomplices in the media" who not only agree with them, but can also enrich themselves and their own big news gathering organizations through demonization and fear of the people who are actually soing something to improve our lives.

... Sorry, had to get that off my chest...

For the record, my organization has neither solicited nor received funds from PHrMA or any pharmaceutical company.

Bone Harvest in Europe

85 years after WW I's end, soldiers' bones still surface in parts of Belgium and France reports today's Chicago Tribune:

"As the 85th anniversary of the end of World War I approaches, investigators still are finding remains of soldiers who perished in Flanders fields, site of some of the Great War's most intense fighting.

They uncovered the remains of a British soldier Friday, the seventh serviceman found since excavations began a year ago on Pilkem Ridge, where 12,000 men died in one day in 1917 at the start of the third Battle of Ypres.

In the surrounding area of southwest Belgium, remains of dozens of soldiers are found every year, mostly by farmers at plowing time.

'They call it the harvest of bones,' said Peter Francis of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Maidenhead, England."

Truly, World War I was our nastiest war, followed by the Civil War. In the Civil War we saw the first vestigages of 18th Century tactics with the beginnings of mass production. By World War I we were using 19th Century tactics in industrial societies that led to whole sale slaughter. This war's lessons, unlike Vietnam, shaped a Century. Whenever I here the spectre of Vietnam brought up I think something along the lines of better I be hunkered down in some rice pattty in South East Asia than a Frenchman at Verdun.
10 November 2003
Exelon Corp. buy out of IP in Doubt?


"Exelon Corp.’s plan to link its purchase of Illinois Power Co. to an electricity rate increase is out of juice in Springfield—and it will take major concessions to revive the legislation.

As it licks its wounds from a tough week in the state capital, the Chicago-based parent of Commonwealth Edison Co. will have to come back this week with a new proposal. The votes aren’t there to pass the bill in its current form, lawmakers and opposition lobbyists say."

Trucking Fee Impact

It may be me, but there seems to be a paucity of interesting Illinois stuff today. The Daily Herald does have a piece personalizing the impact of the trucking fees:

"The state calls it a 'commercial distribution fee.'

Whatever it's called, Stellman will have to pay an additional $14,000 on his fleet of 14 trucks.

Stellman's company hauls oversize and overweight items ranging from 80,000 to 254,000 pounds, including excavators, road building equipment and transformers.

Due to the new fee, he'll be paying $3,795 annually to license each truck rather than $2,790, which he said will seriously diminish already slim profit margins.

'In a good, flourishing economy it would be hard to recoup $14,000 in profits with 14 trucks,' Stellman said.

As with many of the dozens of fees that increased when the spring budget passed, there is now a movement afoot to repeal the truck fee."

The money exists in state coffers to roll all of these fees back. There is the federal aid to Illinois that was part of the jobs and growth package as well as $1 billion in new spending tucked in the budget.

All we here about from the press are the 'spending cuts.' The truth is that many of those cuts were shifting spending priorities. Internally, we robbed Peter to pay Paul. The governor emphasizes the cuts and the GOP refuses to speak up about where exactly the spending has been increased for fear of angering constuencies. Thus, the governor gets away with it.

09 November 2003
Reimportation Under Fire in Canada

The Chicago Tribune Reports today:

"It is also the unlikely headquarters for a battle that the scrappy, small-town pharmacist and other druggists are beginning to organize against Gov. Rod Blagojevich and other U.S. politicians who are pressing to lift import restrictions on cheap medications from Canada.

Dueck and others are threatening to head to Springfield this month to voice a growing sentiment among Canadian health-care providers: that their country is being turned into a bargain drug outlet for the U.S. at the expense of Canadians.

The reason is rooted in simple supply and demand economics. Canada has about one-ninth the population of the U.S.--and the more that Americans buy drugs up north, the greater likelihood there is that supplies for Canadians will get pinched and consumers will pay more despite price controls."

It seems the more the Governor turns up the heat, the hotter it gets for his position.

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