January 27, 2007

Ethics reform... exceptions as usual.

The following article is from the Journal Times website, it was written by a lobbyist about the new ethics reform bill, it is worthy of a read...

Ethics reform: The art of creating loopholes

By Paul A. Miller
Washington lobbyist

We have been led to believe the American people handed Congress a mandate for ethics reform with their votes last November. As someone who has just returned from a visit home in Wisconsin, the Number One issue people voted on was not ethics reform, but rather, the war in Iraq.

Unfortunately, that didn’t stop Congress using their newly-discovered ethics “mandate” to put in place a reform program that amazingly, goes against practically everything they say the American people wanted.

Reformers, for example, trumpeted the need for greater transparency. But the Senate passed ethics reform legislation without holding one public hearing this year. If greater transparency was a key element of the “mandate,” as “reformers” argued, where was the open public debate on this issue?

The Senate bill was crafted behind closed doors with no input from the public, lobbying reform advocates or lobbyists themselves. If we are going to truly live up to a reform “mandate,” doesn’t Congress at least owe it to the voters to hold open, public hearings on this issue before passing legislation that is loaded with loopholes?

As a voter, you tell me if Congress listened to your vote in November. Here is what ethics rules will now look like in the new Congress:

1) Congress voted to eliminate pensions for those members convicted of crimes. But this provision is not retroactive and will still allow those convicted as part of the current scandal to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in taxpayer money, even though they were found guilty of breaking the law.

2) Congress has mandated that members of Congress and staff be required to take ethics training. This may sound like a good idea in principle, but legally they cannot force a member of Congress to take such training. They can only recommend.

3) Congress voted to eliminate special privileges of former members of Congress who are registered lobbyists. Result: Former members of Congress will no longer have gym privileges. But they will still have access to the floor where they can visit with their colleagues before important votes. If this provision goes into effect, don’t be surprised if you see former members of Congress un-register to lobby and instead position themselves as “strategic advisors.” By doing so, they would prevent Congress and the American people from being able to track whom they represent; what issues they are “advising” on; or how much they are getting paid for such services. Again, this hardly seems like increased transparency to me.

4) Congress voted to eliminate gifts and meals (sort of). Under the current rules, a lobbyist can spend $49 on a member of Congress at one time or a total of $100 per year. Under the rules the Senate passed, however, lobbyists will have those limits increased. Simply by handing the member of Congress a check for their campaign, a lobbyist can have greater access to members, while at the same time spending a lot more for a meal. At a minimum, this has the appearance of a more corrupting process. Under the current rules, no one is being “bought” for a $49 meal. But under the proposed rules, the very real possibility exists that someone could be bought for what would be considered a campaign contribution.

5) Congress voted to ban trips sponsored or arranged by lobbyists. First, lobbyists are already prohibited from paying for such trips. Second, Congress carved out a nice little loophole for universities, which do employ lobbyists. Under the proposed rules, members could take still trips paid for by Universities, which are somehow viewed as more ethical than an organization like the Girl Scouts of America, for example, which under the proposed rules could not pay for a member’s travel!

These are just five of the loopholes in the so-called reform package. There are more, but I don’t have enough time to point out all the flaws. I can tell you, however, that in the rush to hold a press conference proclaiming to the American people that they have put an end to the so-called “culture of corruption” in Washington, ethics reformers actually have made the system worse.

The current system isn’t perfect, but it’s not broken either. Those who broke the law are going to prison. At last count, there were two former members of Congress in prison, five congressional staffers, one PR person, and one lobbyist. All were convicted under a set of rules we are now trying to change in the name of reform.

The vast majority of lobbyists are ethical practitioners of their profession and we have as much at stake in genuine reform as anyone. But the only way to strengthen the system is by starting with an open and honest debate about the current rules. Let’s not kid ourselves that we can legislate morality. At the end of the day, some people are going to break the rules no matter what they are.

Every profession has its bad apples and Congress and lobbyists are no exception. If Congress has a “mandate’ from the voters, they owe it to the voters to get it right. The bill the Senate passed should be scrapped and a new bill drafted — but only after a full and detailed review of the current Lobbying Disclosure Act. Until Congress can come up with a way of enforcing the current rules, nothing they do will have the impact they or the vast majority of professional lobbyists want.

As a lobbyist, I want a fair and honest system that works. Unfortunately, all we got was a new set of loopholes.

Dear God

Redneck Coffee Table.

Thought of the week...

What happens if you get scared half to death twice?

January 26, 2007

What do you know, there are two Americas....

Check out the Edwards estate.

From the Carolina Journal...

The main house is 10,400 square feet and has two garages. The recreation
building, a red, barn-like building containing 15,600 square feet, is connected
to the house by a closed-in and roofed structure of varying widths and
elevations that totals 2,200 square feet.

The main house is all on one level except for a 600-square-foot bedroom
and bath area above the guest garage.

The recreation building contains a basketball court, a squash court,
two stages, a bedroom, kitchen, bathrooms, swimming pool, a four-story tower,
and a room designated "John's Lounge."

Just how many trees were cleared to build this monstrosity of greed? So much for the environmental vote. Then again environmentalists don't care about liberal largesse

Why would anyone need two stages in their home? What if one stage is dirty you can use the other one? Staging Cats & Phantom at the same time?

No wonder attorney Edwards who made his money by suing everyone he could get a buck out of is not in favor of tort reform.

John's lounge... What, a barber chair and a whole wall to hold hair spray?

January 25, 2007

Let's Take the Politicians Out of the Classroom

The above was the headline in the January REA newsletter that made soda come out my nose.

Essentially what this piece written by...it doesn't have a by line...says is that NCLB is awful. It complains about testing, health care, curriculum and grading. While I agree that politicians know little about what happens in the classroom, they still are the ones who either set policy or are part of the process in appointing those who do. To the article's credit, it does not mention a political party or President Bush, so they must mean all politicians.

The blatant irony is that an organization that makes political contributions, endorsements, and has a political action committee, wants politicians to keep their nose out of education. Why?

A. Public education is a government entity, therefore elected officials (aka politicians) are the ones who determine the educational scope for the future. (i.e. school board members, state superintendent)

B. WEAC and the NEA are bashing President Bush and Republicans while slobbering over Democrats in virtually every newsletter, press release, and well, anytime a union boss opens his or her mouth.

While I agree with the premise that politics and education don't mix well, the REA, WEAC and NEA need to practice what they preach. If they claim to want politicians to keep their nose out of the classroom, quit funding any and all candidates and/or telling the teachers how they should vote.

Call it what it is

The headline on a front page story in today's RJT claims neighborhood schools equal segregation. I have gone down the road of how the opponents to neighborhood schools do not use the word segregation properly many times. Instead I would like to analyze their quoted arguments against neighborhood schools.

"I have not seen any valid research to support the value of neighborhood schools to achievement," said Nancy Neill, a former Racine Unified curriculum and instruction supervisor. "It is a concept that is sweet in theory, but sour in practice."

I counter with, show me the data that shows busing and artificially created diversity have a positive impact on academics. Busing has been happening within RUSD for decades. Yet the district also claims that the achievement of students is at low levels across the board. That would seem to demonstrate that busing has had no positive impact on achievement.

"I understand all the wonderful benefits neighborhood schools could have, (but) we know that only happens in certain communities," White said. "It only works for some, not all children."

The implications I glean from this statement are rather curious. Does Ms. White believe that minority children cannot learn properly unless they are in the presence of white children? Neighborhood schools must only work in communities that aren't diverse. Would that be an accurate reflection on Ms. White's statement? I think an expansion of her thoughts would show some rather telling aspects to her beliefs.

"Knowing what we know from 30 years ago, we do not want to go back to that. We do not want to go backwards," Hicks said Tuesday. "The only way to make progress is to move forward."

Ms. Hicks, how do you propose to go forward if you cannot get over what happened 30 years ago? You apparently believe that if neighborhood schools are implemented that we will return to "coloreds-only" restrooms.

My final question is, what is the academic value to busing? RUSD has huge financial issues before it. Their one and only focus needs to be educating the children, not appeasing race-baiting liberal groups such as the NAACP and Voces de la Frontera.

Proposed .5% Sales Tax Increase

The County Board has come out with an advisory referendum on the 4-03 ballot to add a .005% increase in the Racine County sales tax.

I have done something contrary to most aspiring politicians, I've actually come out with a position...

My full opinion at the Dooley for Alderman blog.

Best post on Global Warming I have ever seen.

Way to go Josh!

January 24, 2007

Thanks Denis.

Last night I attended an informal gathering of Racine bloggers & blog readers hosted by Denis Navratil of Free Racine.

It never ceases to amaze me how genuine and well informed people are who participate in this process.

Some of the people there had their own blogs, others participate on the Journal Times website, to all it was my pleasure to meet you.

Thanks Denis for putting this together.

The Potawatomi and every other tribe say thanks Governor Doyle.

In a stunning lack of common sense today. Jim Doyle is announcing that the proposed $1 a pack increase in cigarette taxes is not enough for him and he is endorsing a $1.25 a pack increase moving Wisconsin's tax per pack of cigarettes to $2.02. (God forbid we not be among the five highest taxed anything)

They are trying to use tax policy again to legislate behavior, same old liberal social engineering.

I ask you who are the benefactors of this tax increase?

Any businesses in neighboring states that sell cigarettes will see an increase in business as people cross borders to feed their habits.

But in addition the Indian tribes who have smoke shops in their casinos will see a huge influx of people going there to avoid the state tax the casinos are exempt from. Of course the casinos do not pass all the savings along, they mark their smokes up to a point where their profit is much higher than retailers who have to pay the taxes, but their prices are marginally lower.

This will be of huge benefit to the casinos that just dropped how many hundreds of thousands into the Governors re-election campaign? One thing is certain they will have to hire extra people to count all the windfall profits coming their was as a result of horrid tax policy.

Furthermore, when Jim Doyle was telling us how hard he worked to balance the budget, you remember the one they found the almost $2 billion hole in after Doyle won, why didn't he tell us about all the tax increases and fee increases he was in favor of?


This is only the beginning people. Hold onto your wallets, pick up those phones and call your legislators, fire up those keyboards and send those emails tell them Wisconsin taxes are high enough.

Tell the Governor to stop rewarding those who put him in office and start fighting for the people and lowering our ridiculous tax burden.

As if that is not bad enough Doyle is also planning to ban smoking in every workplace in the state including every restaurant and every tavern.

This is just plain wrong. Look if you own a business and you want to allow smoking in it, that is your concern, not the governors. Let the market work. There are places that allow smoking and ones that don't, there is a market for each.

Tell me how many people die by drunk driver every year? I don't see the Guv banning alcohol for everyone's greater good, or increasing taxes on alcoholic beverages by 162%.

January 23, 2007

Vos Press Release

Vos Supportive of New Attainment Zone Application

Encourages Doyle to Save Billions for Business by Moving Up Application Date

Madison…Representative Robin Vos (R-Caledonia) applauded Governor Doyle on his decision earlier this week to direct the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to submit an application to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for ozone attainment redesignation in 8 Eastern and Southeastern Counties. These counties include Racine, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington, Ozaukee, Manitowoc, and Kewaunee. This decision was the result of new information indicating that these counties are now meeting the 8-hour ozone standard under the Clean Air Act.

“This is great for the citizens and the economy of Eastern and Southeastern Wisconsin,” Vos said, “For years we have recognized that our air quality has often been diminished by air floating in from other states. But it is encouraging to see that our efforts to reach attainment by using reformulated gas and maintaining tough emissions standards have paid off. If the application is successful and the EPA officially recognizes this eight county zone as compliant with Clean Air Act standards, this will be great news for our businesses and ultimately our economy.”

While Vos is supportive of Governor Doyle’s decision, he did voice concern over one part of the Governor’s plan. The Governor’s statement on Monday indicated that he would direct the DNR to submit the application sometime this fall. Vos has learned that if the application is not submitted by June 15th, Wisconsin will be caught in the middle of possible red tape that could still end up hamstringing business and discouraging maximum economic growth.

Due to federal regulations, if the DNR submits the application after June 15th, the counties could be required to file periodic State Implementation Plan (SIP) Reports. These SIP reports will be required if a prediction is made that a county will not meet ozone attainment standards in the year 2010. The prediction is made by a computer in Chicago that uses statistical data such as number of cars and meteorological patterns. If this model is implemented in Southeastern Wisconsin, it could cost billions of dollars for the DNR to form new ozone attainment plans when the county is already meeting the air quality standard.

“The fact of the matter is that if these 8 counties are meeting air quality standards, they should not be punished because of a prediction made by a computer program. The result of this “prediction” will ultimately mean more regulation of business, bigger government, more red tape, a multi-billion dollar price tag and no increased business growth – all because the application was not submitted a few months earlier,” Vos said, “I want to see business in Racine County grow. Without it we cannot achieve the kind of economic growth and development that is so important to our growth and prosperity as a state.”

JT photo editing..

The Journal Times has this photo up in regards to a story on the price gas dipping below 2 bucks.

I looked at the picture and the first thing that came to mind was $1.99 for a gallon of coffee, what a deal!

Signs in...

What do you think?

I am so tired of excused racism.

Black Caucus: Whites Not Allowed

Freshman Rep. Stephen I. Cohen, D-Tenn., is not joining the Congressional
Black Caucus after several current and former members made it clear that a white lawmaker was not welcome.

"I think they're real happy I'm not going to join," said Cohen, who
succeeded Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., in a majority-black Memphis district. "It's
their caucus and they do things their way. You don't force your way in. You need
to be invited."

Okily dokily....

This is racism in play, do they have the right to do it...


Could you imagine a Congressional Caucasian Caucus? The same people excluding whites in this case would be screaming bloody murder.

If we are ever to get beyond race in this country we must stop allowing it and empowering it.

The time for the congressional black caucus has passed.

Over the next two weeks you will hear time and again about the two black coaches in the SuperBowl. This still bothers me. I respect Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith as class acts, and great coaches, I do not think of them as black coaches, nor should any of us in a truly color blind society.

I remember back to Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearings. I was impressed by the man. He put himself through school and was on the verge of gaining the pinnacle of his career. I thought this was exactly the kind of person that should be held up as a role model, someone who worked hard, did not make excuses and was a success in our society. The NAACP of all people came out against him because he was too conservative. What did being conservative have to do with being black? Everything to the NAACP apparently.

I grew up in the deep south in a time where racial tension was at its highest. My parents gave us the proper perspective on race and they were persecuted by the white community for doing that. I won't get into it, but it was bad folks.

We should stop condoning racism in all of its forms. The congressional black caucus is as good a place to start as any.

January 22, 2007

MRQ - The Blue Monday Edition

Blue Monday. Is it real or is it manufactured, like a Hallmark Holiday? Think about it. On Valentine's you have plenty of businesses going gangbusters with cards and chocolates and fruit baskets. And other things that shall remain unuttered here on this Family Show. I digress. If Blue Monday is manufactured, then by power of suggestion do we have millions of prescriptions being written as we speak? Read? Scratch?

Well blue or not, it's Monday. And it's time to laugh on this here Monday at the week that we've long forgotten about. Thanks to everyone who sent their suggestions - read on!

Where do you put 800 vehicles? I guess if you can afford them, you can put them anywhere ya damn well please. Kate

First step: Explore closet. Remove skeletons. Casper

Nose particles commonly known as “BOOGERS” Robert Miranda via Badger Blogger

You had a point? Owen

Owen, The only point he has is on his head. Covered by a Dunce Cap. Peter

I'm not sure which question I got wrong; possibly it was when I answered "no" to the "Do you read the Bible?" question. Jay

Ok, ok, you guys feel free to go shallow. I’m heading for the bottom. ;) Elliot

You Know You're a Geek When...you're talking to a woman who mentions PDA and the first thing that comes to mind are "Personal Digital Assistants". Nick

They're on Democrat Time. Jib

LET IT GO! You actually lost. Fred

Who left their catalytic converter on???? Chris

Any hydrologists in the audience? Huck Dumbell

And take Cindy Sheehan with you! Steve

Let’s talk about the real terrorists: people who post 24 spoilers without warning. Brian J.

These are the kinds of people who will make the upcoming nuclear apocalypse much less enjoyable for the rest of us. Aaron

Does anybody know whether Alterra uses fair trade, organically grown, dolphin free coffee? Wiggy

Nothing says love like birthing your child early so that your husband can go to the Bears/Saints game. Recess Supervisor

It's only a matter of time before a reporter at Media Day asks Tony Dungy, "so how long have you been black?" Dennis York

100 bucks says that Kagen's handlers make sure he never personally talks to reporter for the next 2 years. Jessica

I'd bet my tuna on it. Unreal.

Condi can tie even the shortest objects into a knot with her mind. Phel

Have fun and take your kids hunting!

Happy Birthday Amy!

January 21, 2007

New Poll

I have a new poll up, it is a straw poll of Democratic party candidates for President.

So vote for the person you would like to win, or the person you would like to run against.

Is there anything that sticks out to you on this list?

For instance, how long it is?!?

It is official....

Bears vs the Colts...

Congratulations to both teams.

On this occasion I would also like to congratulate the Colts on their upcoming SuperBowl victory.

Free Racine social night.

Denis Navratil of Free Racine is hosting a blog gathering this coming tuesday the 23rd at Java Vino on Main St in Racine at 7pm for Free Racine readers.

I'm sure he would not mind if a few Real Debate Wisconsin readers stopped by either...

See you there...

Calif. lawmaker seeks ban on spanking

She must not be from San Francisco...

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California parents could face jail and a fine for spanking their young children under legislation a state lawmaker has promised to introduce next week.

Democratic Assemblywoman Sally Lieber said such a law is needed because spanking victimizes helpless children and breeds violence in society.

"I think it's pretty hard to argue you need to beat a child," Lieber said. "Is it OK to whip a 1-year-old or a 6-month-old or a newborn?"

Lieber said her proposal would make spanking, hitting and slapping a child under 4 years old a misdemeanor. Adults could face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Look, no one is in favor of child abuse, this is ridiculous...

Thought of the week.

If Barbie is so popular why do you have to buy her friends?

Look in the mirror will ya?

I got this in the email yesterday.

Knowing of your righteous crusade against electoral imperfection, I thought it my duty to bring this to your attention so that you might,in turn, shout it from the hilltop of your blog for all to know.

The story referenced is of a Cuyahoga County Ohio trial where the prosecutor is charging that three election workers tried to rig the 2004 Presidential election by precounting ballot boxes that would be more favorable to their cause.

You can read the whole thing here.

I will not name the emailer but in public I will "shout it from the hilltop" that I resent your implication that somehow I would not publish this story.

I do not make excuses for conservatives who behave badly, when conservatives are found rightly to be guilty I do not rejoice in their bad behavior, it makes me glad that my party does not make excuses for those that behave in an unethical manner. We throw them out like the bad seeds that they are.

It is the left that seemingly rewards those who are willing to cross every ethical boundary while justifying the end result as being worthy of said unethical practices.

Right here in Racine we had accusations of shady deals and bid rigging regarding push bumpers and our County Executive Bill McReynolds. Investigations showed absolutely everything McReynolds did was above board, ethical and out in the public view (plus he lost his shirt on the venture). Yet his opponent tried to slime McReynolds with accusations of unethical behavior and referenced this case in every one of his printed campaign mailers while simultaneously complaining about negative campaign against him! Seriously, it was the height of hypocrisy complaining about negative campaigning while in the very act of practicing it. The negative campaigning against him was the somehow horrid act of highlighting his actual voting record. (gasp)

And John Lehman was rewarded with a seat in the state senate for his hypocrisy.

Look at our lovely state ethics board, they changed the rules applied them retroactively and then our governor actually got away with using that very political decision against Mark Green.

I'm sure this thread will degenerate into a shouting match of this example and that, but the fact is Conservatives are much less tolerant of their own who behave badly then liberals are. That is just a fact.

Ok, stop breathing hard and explain how William Jefferson and Ray Nagin got re-elected will you?

I have said it a million times, make that a million and one now, I want every legally cast vote counted once that's it, that is the standard, I have no tolerance for those who practice election fraud, none. If conservative are guilty of this find them guilty and punish them to the fullest extent of the law. The same should apply to liberals from liberals, but it does not.

All you have to do see this is to look at Florida 2000. Dems only wanted to count the three most populace counties in Florida. They also wanted to throw out absentee ballots cast by our military. If they wanted a fair recount they would have wanted to count the whole state, not just the areas they felt would have been most beneficial to them. I'll add that every recount done after the election went to Bush, yet many liberals still feel that election was stolen from them.

LET IT GO! You actually lost.

For the author of this email to somehow imply that I would not talk about this astounds me.

Again, my position is consistent. If they are guilty they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, and frankly I don't think we punish election fraud anywhere near harshly enough, or often enough.

No matter who commits it.