Friday, December 29, 2006

Jason Crowell and Future Crimes

Crowell has decided to go after sex offenders with eleven plus years clean. Seems that the 1995 Missouri law that requires offenders to stay registered only applies to offenders that were convicted after that time. Whatever; this blog entry isn't about sex offenders. It's how he proposes to do this.

Crowell decided that the best way to close this perceived loophole is to change the Missouri constitution to make it legal to go after ALL acts that later become crimes. So, if I want to, say, own a copy of the Koran and it later becomes illegal to purchase the book I could be convicted for breaking a law that didn't exist at the time. (Think this is a silly scenario? Try checking out a copy of this religious text at your local library and tell me that you don't once think that the FBI is filing that little bit of information away somewhere.) Actually, this is a pretty smart move on Crowell's part. As a politician he's got to worry about political opponents in the future. If he's having a particularly tough race he could simply create a law against something that his opponent has done and Voila! no opponent.

Let's hope that Missourians have enough sense to block this stupid amendment. If Crowell wants to go after aging sex offenders, he needs to find a better way to do it.

Is Kit Bond Quitting?

The rumor mill has Kit Bond quitting and Matt Blunt replacing him in the Senate. This could be interesting. I really don't know where Bond stands on stem cell research but I'd guess that he's against it. If this happens that'd be one more Republican stem cell vote.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Claire McCaskill Interview

Check out McCaskill's views on a few topics in this breif but interesting interview.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Even a Bridge to Nowhere Goes Somewhere

I agree with the central idea of this report from the Center for Public Integrity that any instance of political consultants playing a dual role of lobbyists should be carefully examined. As more and more power winds up in the hands of fewer and fewer people, certain hats shouldn't hang on the same players' hat-stand.

But in this particular article I think that writer Sandy Bergo missed the mark when she tried to pin this practice on Christopher Bond, at least in the example she chose. I wouldn't be surprised if Bond was found to be a part of such practice; I tend to be suspicious of anyone that's been in politics as long as Kit. I'm just saying that the case Bergo uses to illustrate her point seems to fail. You can read the article for yourself but briefly, here's what happened: Tony Feather, who had acted as one of Bond's reelection consultants had switched hats and was now lobbying for a bridge from St. Louis, MO to Illinois. He had one meeting with Bond where they discussed this and Bond later became a key senator in getting the thing pushed through. Fine, Feather probably should have stayed away from the meeting but Bond would have pushed for this bridge anyway. He's a Missouri Senator and that's what Senators and congressmen do - get money for their districts. Whether Feather had been involved or not, Bond would have latched onto this project and held on with both hands. Besides pork for his state, it was also pork for one of the two liberal strongholds in his state. He'd be a fool to turn down any good will that he could garner from voters that typically reject his positions.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Claire and the Big Fence

Claire McCaskill is promoting the border fence, according to the San Antonio Express-News. I'm amazed that this insane solution is still carries weight.

Of course, immigration creates problems - mostly only in the minds of the citizens. It always has and the country has always wound up accepting the immigrants and, in the end, benefitting from their contributions.

But building a fence or a wall will never work. Throughout history nations have tried and failed to build fences on their artificial borders. Fences work for cattle and other animals. They do not work for people. The immigrants are intelligent, ambitious people that want to come to the US to make better lives for themselves and their families. A fence won't stop them.

If you want to address illegal aliens, penalize their employers. It's just that simple. Enforce the existing laws and the jobs that beckon the immigrants and illegal immigration will dry up. Without this incentive of immediate cash, the immigrants will soon learn that the only way to come to this country will be via legal channels. Save the money on the building of this insane fence and use it on a more efficient immigration process. And, I'm betting that the jobs currently filled with illegal labor will be taken by the same population once they've passed through immigration putting an end to that jingo-redneck argument, "Them illegals is stealing my job!"

Fences only build anger and resentment. Whether you're trying to split a population as Isreal is currently doing or you're trying to enforce political boundaries as the communist countries of eastern Europe did, you're bound to fail. The anger builds pressure behind the wall until it pops like a champagne cork. It's impossible to predict how this will happen but it will. A border fence will only prove to be an expensive failure - expensive in the building, yes, but even more costly in the ramifications later.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Obsessing on Stem Cells

The stated purpose of this blog these days is to keep an eye on my legislators. But given how the last election put Missouri in the spot light regarding the stem cell issue and its generally assumed importance in the election of McCaskill, I hope that you'll forgive a bit of a digression in that direction.

The Right hasn't gone nuts just yet over reports of possible baby-harvesting in the Ukraine. Nothing's really certain yet but there's a chance that live babies are being used as sources of stem cells. I'm not sure what they're waiting for but I'm sure this story will soon enough be seized upon by the right as evidence of where this whole issue can go.

I certainly hope that it turns out that this truly horrible possibility isn't proven. On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised. While we debate about the ethics - a debate forced on us by the anti-abortion crowd - of stem cell research, nefarious elements are going to exploit our self paralysis. We must move forward with this. Let the scientist research embryonic stem-cells from fertility clinics that would be destroyed anyway when the owners conceive or give up.

The idea that this is going to get out of control and lead to whole human cloning is just silly. This argument could be applied to anything. If we allow the legal ownership of handguns won't this lead to a population at war with itself? We have our share of gun related homicides in the US but there's nothing that could suggest it's out of control. Government regulated stem-cell research would be the same.

And as far as baby harvesting, this also would never happen. If scientist were allowed access to the embryonic stems cells that are currently available, the black market for stem-cells harvested from live babies wouldn't exist.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Squeezing MOHELA

I'm really not sure what to think of this issue. I've been watching it since it was a glint in Gov. Blunt's eye. There seems to be some sense to it. Cash in some of the assets in MOHELA and use the money on state colleges. "Assets," as I understand them, are the loans held by MOHELA. They would be, and have been at this point, sold to other loan companies for less than their yield over time for a quick payoff now. Though the assurances haven't been made in this particular article, I've read in the past that the politicians have promised that the purchasing companies wouldn't raise the rates once they own the loans. And if a politician promises it...

So, Blunt took his idea, established a board and they put it into motion. Now it has generated $17 million and colleges around Missouri are eagerly awaiting their piece. But Clint Zweifel, D-Florissant, says this isn't right. MOHELA's money should be used for MOHELA stuff, specifically lowering rates or forgiving loans. Blunt and our own Nathan Cooper, whose constituency is very interested in seeing the promised improvements on Southeast Missouri State University, say nonsense.

Here's what I keep wondering. What was that money supposed to do in the original plan? So MOHELA sold some "assets" and has more money than usual right now but what about later when these assets were supposed to be paying off? Will MOHELA have the cash to cover students' loan needs in 10 or 20 years?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

B'bye Jim Talent

Here's the KC Star's report on Talent's farewell speach to the Senate. I agree with his position on health insurance for small businesses. But he can stick it on his attempts to blame any military shortfalls on Clinton, the obvious implication of his claim that changes "decisions over the last 15 years" have left the Army and Navy too small and outdated. We were doing fine until he backed Bush in an illegal invasion of Iraq.

But I won't spend too much time dwelling on Talent. He's out.

Here's an amusing look at this and other farewells.

Kit and the Founding Fathers

I'm sure you've heard that a federal appeals court recently declared the phrase "under god" in the pledge to be unconstitutional. This has seemed so obvious to me for so long, I had just numbed myself to the issue because I thought that fighting it was a pointless and unwinnable endeavour. Anyway, now it's been successfully challenged and that's a good thing.

So, what does Senator Bond have to say about this? He's turned to that tired Republican claim that they know the hearts of the founding fathers:

Our Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves. This is the worst kind of political correctness run amok. What's next? Will the courts now strip 'so help me God' from the pledge taken by new presidents?

We can only hope, Kit. I get really impatient with this kind of talk. Which founding father exactly are you referring to? Where's your proof that he wanted America to be a theocracy?

Here's a brief history of the pledge and some great opining from Callimachus at Donklephant.

Is the Army Denying Treatment For Soldiers with PTSD?

Christopher Bond has joined with Barbara Boxer and Barack Obama, both Democrats, to try to put some pressure on the Army to explain why soldiers stationed at Fort Carson, CO are apparently being denied treatment for post traumatic stress disorder. Good for you, Kit!

Why Do the Republicans Think That the Liberterian Vote Belongs To Them?

After a race so close in 2000 that the Supreme Court had to hand the victory, inexplicably, to Bush many Democrats began to look askance at Ralph Nader. His shaving off of the ultra-left fringes of the party, they assumed, accounted for enough lost votes on the Democrat's side to have caused this loss. This might be true and it's very likely that these voters, if forced to choose between Gore and Bush would have chosen Gore. But everyone forgets that 1) all left votes don't belong to anybody and 2) it's equally likely that these ultra-left voters would have stayed home as come out and vote for Gore. They knew that they were throwing their votes away with these symbolic votes for a candidate with no chance. Today third party voters in a presidential election know that.

Now, in looking for anyone to blame but themselves, Republican's are trying to similarly lay the blame at the feet of the Libertarians. I dismissed the first report of this that I saw assuming that it was just some lonely loon shouting in the wind but this claim seems to be gathering some momentum. One stat that they like to point to is that Claire McCaskill (D) beat Jim Talent (R) in Missouri by 41,000 votes and the Libertarians in this state cast 47,000 votes for their candidate. This is even sillier than the Dems blaming Nader for losing the election for Gore. Libertarians are a different breed than the ultra-left that Ralphie attracted. They are more likely to vote and are much more engaged in the whole political process. They are also, more importantly, much more centrist in their thinking. They are often described as economically conservative and socially liberal, a position shared by many voters that call themselves independent. Since neither party is economically conservative these days if a Libertarian is going to vote for one of the two parties it seems that they are going to have to choose a democrat. But, unlike the presidential election, third parties actually do have a bit of a chance in Senate and House races. It's slim but it's there. So these all of votes might not have been symbolic throw-aways. Some of them might have been sincere attempts on the voters' parts to put their guy in office.

I'm hoping that the absurdity of these claims is self evident within the reports themselves. For example, in the article that I sited, the writers imply early on that the Libertarians stole the Missourian election from Talent. But they contradict themselves only a few paragraphs down by admitting the stupidity in Iraq has been draining the Libertarian voters away from the Republican party and to the Democrats. In fact, they say, Kerry got 38% of the Libertarian vote in 2004. Plus, if you add to that the fact that because the Republicans have framed the debate over stem-cell research, an issue of major importance in the Missouri race, as an abortion issue they've made it a social question. And how do Libertarians lean socially?

The Republicans lost. They did it all on their own. They should stop looking for someone else to blame. All the Democrats had to do, thankfully, to win this one was show up and not be Republicans.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christopher "Kit" Bond Hates Planet Earth

Kit, predictably, is aligned with the global-warming-is-a-bunch-of-hooey crowd. No surprise, really. Besides, he argues, it would cost a lot to do anything about it. Well, the thirty foot dike on our coastlines that we'll have to build when Greenland melts might make a bit of a dent in the national budget, too.

We've managed to squeeze out more than a few pennies for Bush's Iraqi excursion. I haven't heard Bond complaining about that outrageous expense.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Setting the Stage

It's no surprise to hear that Kit Bond and his fellow Republicans are already preparing to block most of the Iraq study group's report. Of course they're not saying "Thanks but no thanks;" it wouldn't poll very well. But they're already rolling out their politician-speak to say just as much. Yesterday Kit said that any recommendations should be "subject to what happens on the ground. Iraq is a key element to the war on terror and we cannot afford to walk away." That's his get out of jail free card. Now in three months when he's blocking most parts of the proposal he can say, "Hey, I said from the beginning..."

Here's my prediction. Early next year the house and senate will tell us that they're going to do their part to take on the reports recommendations. They will go into committee and there will be a lot of bright and shiny talk about how things will get better. What will emerge from the committees will be unrecognizable when compared to the original report but there will still be lots of talk about it. At this point there won't be much speculation about the great changes it will bring but its name will be repeated over and over. What's its name going to be? Well your guess is as good as mine but it will be something superlative like "The Great and Beautiful Way Out of All International Messes Forever Bill." So, the name will get pounded into our heads over and over until we start to believe that it actually will get us out of this and all other internation problems forever and ever, amen. By now compromise after compromise with the fascist administration will have it such a toothless thing that all it will really accomplish will be to add a wing to a dairy museum in Nebraska. The president will be glad to sign it. Then we'll wait for the nightmare in Iraq to end. By the time we realize that it won't another year will have passed and we'll be in the 2008 election so who'll have time for Iraq?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The National Gaurd Empowerment Act

This seems like a pretty good idea. Here's the gist:

The proposal would expand the role of the Guard chief and give him or her a fourth star; give the Guard more influence in the Pentagon’s budget and create a separate budget for Guard training and equipment; elevate the role of the Guard when responding to domestic crises; and make the deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command a Guard officer.

Kit Bond is proposing this along with Sen. Pat Leahy, D. Vt. With the Gaurd's increasing importance to the overall military, especially in light of the mess in Iraq, a little autonomy might be a good thing.

I don't know how much this will help the individual soldiers that are on their third or fourth tour since joining the guard. Don't get me wrong, it irritates the hell out of me when somebody in the guard tries to resist actually serving a tour of duty for whatever reason. That's what they signed up for! But, these guys shouldn't have to fill a full time soldier's role because it's politically inconvenient to establish a draft. One long tour, maybe two but that should be it. After that, the president should have to look elsewhere and if the war that he started requires a draft, then so be it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Healthcare, Health Insurance for Small Business, and Social Security Tax Are Part of Crowell's Game Plan

From a Southeast Missourian article here's what Jason Crowel is planning to tackle next year:

Tops on Crowell's agenda is the I-Care Missouri health-care plan. The plan seeks to create individualized access to health care and allow people to be treated by a primary-care physician rather than emergency room doctors.

"Far too many of our population have a better relationship with their auto mechanic than they do with their physician," Crowell said.

The plan would allow small businesses to band together and form alliances for the sole purpose of buying health care. It would also, Crowell said, create a system that travels with the individual instead of depending on the employer.

"Every Missourian gets a primary-care physician. If you ask doctors if they could wave a magic wand what one thing could result in the biggest benefit to the state's health, it would be that," Crowell said. "It's the difference, for example, between treating diabetes with a nutrition diet as opposed to a hypoglycemic diet later on."

Crowell would also like to stop taxing Social Security benefits.

"Missouri is one of only 15 states in the U.S. that puts in place a state income tax on Social Security benefits," he said.

"Depending on the numbers, if we were to eliminate state income on Social Security benefits it would mean 80 to 100 million more dollars in the hands of retired seniors."

It's hard to comment on this without more information. I certainly like the idea of letting small businesses band together for health insurance. And doing away with a social security tax seems fair, too. I've always thought it curious that anyone receiving money from the government, whether it be through employment or benefits, should pay taxes. If the govt needs that money they could simply pay less and cut out a lot of bureaucracy.

I wonder, though, about the "individualized access to health-care." As with so many health care issues, the devil's in the details. How does he plan to implement this? How much annoying oversight will this subject the Doctors to? Are health care costs going to rise as compliance forces the doctors offices to hire more staff to keep up? This will be something to watch.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Kit MIGHT Be Listening

In November 2006 Missourians voted for stem cell research. Most of us realize it's time to stick a pin in the abortion debate which is completely irrelevant to the stem cell debate to anyone with brain wave activity, and move forward with research that hardly any of us understands but the scientists say they need to do. And Christopher Bond might actually be listening, at least according to the AP. Here's what reporter Laurie Kellman has to say:

Bond spokesman Rob Ostrander left open the prospect of the senator changing his vote from a no last year to a yes this year. Bond, Ostrander said Tuesday in a statement, "is reluctant to support an expansion of the president's stem cell policy that allows federal taxpayer dollars to be used for research in which human embryos are destroyed."

Now, to me that quote is too ambiguous to even indicate firm ambiguity but if Kellman's interpretation is correct then Kit might be switching positions so that he'll be more in line with the rest of Missouri. Or he might not.

This Again?

Not wanting to beat a dead horse but let's talk abortion. People should have the right to choose. It's very simple. There is obviously a division in the nation over this, one often exploited by political operatives. As long as such a large percentage of the population feels that this is right that should be protected it should be. Democracy, remember? Jason Crowell disagrees, apparently in all cases except those where health is an issue. Rape victims, though, should have to carry their little bundles of joy to term.

So, JC is trying to introduce legislation specifically designed to wind up in front of the Federal Supreme Court. I thought that the Republicans were opposed to legislating through the courts. I guess that only applies when their positions are being threatened.

Never Assume

I always thought that our journalists had the right to protect their sources. Well, apparently not so in Missouri. Jason Crowell, of Cape Girardeau, and Chuck Graham, of Columbia recently tried and failed to put such protections in place. That's a shame. Reporters should be able to talk to whomever they need without their informants fearing exposure and reprisal.

Some critics of this protection say that it will lead to employees and insiders with grudges being given carte blanche to say what they want and it would. But it doesn't require the reporter to print their lies. The responsible reporter will investigate and, if the claims are supported, then print it. And what about the irresponsible reporter? Well, if their editors print the story based on shoddy investigations, which I would hope they wouldn't, the lies will be exposed and the publication discredited. It's not a perfect system but it's better than the alternative - zero access for reporters and therefore no public oversight of government and big corporations. But the reporters that really bother me are those that simply do nothing. They read the headlines, regurgitate them, and call it news. Or worse, parrot the talking points in the memo from upstairs. That's the irresponsible reporting that's really hurting the citizenry's' right to be informed these days.

But I digress. Kudos to Crowell for supporting this important protection. Better luck next time!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Send in the bean counters!

It's going to take the annoying tenacity stereotypically assigned to accountant types to untangle all of the misdeads in Washington of the last six years. I'm glad to read that Claire McCaskill, former Missouri auditor, will be leading the charge.

She says she's making wasteful spending and governemt corruption personal crusades and she'll have the power to back up her investigations. Not only will she hit the ground running with a request for 20 audits performed over the last two years by the GAO, but she has also landed some pretty sweet committe assignments - Senate Armed Services, Commerce and Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

I hope that when we look back six years from now we see that she was the junior Senator that could.

Piping hot cup of giddy optimism anyone?

Attempting To Give This Blog a Point

I'm going to try something different from the aimless meandering that has defined this blog until now. It's hard to know whether I will stick to it or not but I'm going to give it a shot anyway. I'm going to focus on my legislators. I'm going to watch the news and comment on any of their goings on that strike me worth mentioning.

Here is who a majority of my fellow southeast Missourians have chosen to represent me:

- by the way, here's his CV.