Thursday, May 28, 2009

Smoking and Judges

Two things here.

First, Mike Hatty is the newest circut judge here in Livingston County. I don't really know him that well and only met him a couple of times. From what I do know, he's a nice guy and a much better pick by Granholm than the last pick. Best of luck to Hatty. There will probably be much less dissention on this pick than the last one.

The ban on private businesses to control their smoking decisions passed the state house with exceptions for Detroit Casinoes, a special interest in their own right. This big government and anti-freedom measure passed 73-31. The good news is that Cindy Denby and Bill Rogers sided with freedom in their votes. We'll see what the Senate does. I hope they kill this thing and concentrate on the important stuff like the budget.

Lastly, The Right is trying to rile up the grassroots against Sotomoyer. I'm not ready to fire off both barrels on this just yet. Call it pragmatism on my part. I'm waiting and seeing more before I comment. There's an old saying that is running through my head. Take what you can get. There's 59 democrat votes in the senate so whoever picked will likely get in. I remember the fights over the AG position with Clinton. His first pick was Zoe Baird. His 2nd pick was Kimba Wood. Now those two may have ended up as awful picks, but could have have been worse than the Butcher of Waco, Janet Reno? Don't forget than thanks to Reno, we were stuck with Jamie Gorelick and Eric Holder who both have done as much damage to this country as Reno did. Hindsight is 20/20, but I'd rather have taken my chances with Baird or especially Wood than Reno.

I'd rather take my chances with a Sotomayer than a nutter like William O Douglas. My gut feeling is that she's another David Souter or John Paul Stevens, not a Douglas, or a William Brennan (who I respect, although disagree on most things outside of Criminal Procedure). My concern is that she's another functionalist lightweight like Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy, Betty Weaver (I'd vote for Cavanaugh over Weaver even though he's more liberal.), or Warren Burger. Burger especially, who I consider the worst SCOTUS judge in the past 30 years. I'm not confusing Burger with Earl Warren either.

My advice to the right on Sotomayer. Don't fire off just yet, unless you are sure of the consequences. With 59 Democrat votes, this needs to go to an up or down vote. Save the fillibuster for someone like Cass Sunstein or a clone of William O Douglas. I'm not saying that Republican senators should vote for her, but they should wait and see until after the hearings, and they need to bring this to an up/down vote. The last thing I want to see is to trade off a Souter liberal for a Cass Sunstein or Erwin Chemerinsky radical, just as we were stuck with Janet Reno, Jamie Gorelick, and Eric Holder.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Obama picks Sotomayor for SCOTUS

I don't know a lot about her outside the fact that she's currently on the 2nd Circuit Appeals. At least she has a lot of judicial experience and has a record. With Obama, I can almost say for 100% certain we won't get a strict constructionist. I think this choice could have been worse based on what I've seen so far. Granholm. Sullivan. Sunstein.

From what I do know, this is probably intended as a save pick to save Obama a headache from court politics. The GOP can not afford to anger American voters of Latin American ancestry. Sotomayer has had judicial experience as well.

Right now, I'm holding my fire on whether this should be a fight the GOP picks. We should wait and see for now, and take a closer look at her record before getting the pitchforks out.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The latest

I haven't had any time to update this with the recent schedule, so I'll hit a couple of things.

1. Obama's SCOTUS pick - I'll reserve comment until the choice is made. I hope it's not Granholm, the Matt Millen of governors. She'll be Obama's Harriet Miers.

2. Obama's taking the game about deficits. If he cares about it, why is his budget . These "cuts" he proposes is a joke. There's a second 750 Billion bank bailout in this budget and a deficit well over a trillion dollars. Bush's worst budgets did not come close to this about, and Bush's fiscal rating as president was an F-, and I've complained about that long before he left office on this very site.

3. Jobs. I didn't know cutting 250,000+ jobs in the auto industry dealerships and other places was supposed to help the American auto worker. The new CAFE standards are going to hurt us even worse than before by including truck. The trucks are still the biggest sellers of US brands.

4. Something interesting in the Detroit mayor race. Dave Bing won the special election awhile back and is up for a full term in the fall. While I was watching old TIVO episondes of 24 and The Ultimate Fighter, I saw a mayor political ad for Ken Cockrel. I didn't have a real dog in that race but the ad was paid for by the 14th District Democratic Committee. That's the John Conyers district. Rick Blocker is the chair there. I don't have an opinion on this one way or the other as I don't live in Detroit, but I found it interesting that a congressional district committee openly got involved in the "nonpartisan" mayoral race. I don't have a problem with it whatsoever, and sometimes I wish the parties here did this more often.

5. Lastly smoking. Leave it to the Lansing elite to push bans on private businesses to control their own decisions when it comes to smoking. The only thing worst than bad ciggarette smoke are anti-freedom advocates who want to ban or tax everything "unhealthy". Right now it is smoking. Next it is beer, wine, and whiskey. Next it is salty foods. Then pop. Then everything else. The real question here is who knows best. Ray Basham in Lansing? Or the owners of the businesses here at home. If Ray Basham or Kevin the "communications guru" do not like smoke in a private restaurant they visit, there's the door. They can go somewhere else. There's plenty of nonsmoking choices out there.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The gas tax push is official

Here we go. The gas tax push was not a boy who cried wolf. The wolf is there, and it is a push of several bills. Peter Luke has the story. One correction to his story. The gas tax in Michigan is NOT 19 cents. I repeat. It is not 19 cents. It is about 31cents when you add sales tax.

From the Flint Journal

LANSING -- Lawmakers and road advocates began what will be a months-long push to raise $1.8 billion in higher gas tax and registration fees over the next half-decade that they say is required to keep Michigan roads in decent repair.

Under the 13-bill package partially introduced Thursday, the gas tax would effectively rise from 19 cents to a maximum of 34 cents per gallon over the next seven years. Registration fees for new cars would jump as much as 20 percent annually over the next five years. By 2014, the annual cost of registering a new $27,000 car purchased that year would be $265. The current fee is $136.

Higher-priced used car registrations would rise about 60 percent under the plan by 2014. The price of registering low-value used cars would remain about the same.

In a new local funding option, counties would be able to seek a voter-approved $25 annual fee on driver's licenses to pay for local road needs.

The package also includes legislation to encourage private transportation investment and authorizes the Michigan Department of Transportation to explore charging tolls in Michigan. It provides an additional $50 million annually for local public transportation.

The intent is to raise an additional $1.8 billion in new funding over time, but quickly generate enough cash to make sure Michigan doesn't forfeit some $2 billion in federal road funding through 2013, which the state currently lacks the money to match. Without that match, the $2 billion would fund road projects in other states.

Peter Varga, executive director of The Rapid transit system in Kent County, said that $2 billion has already been paid for, through federal fuel taxes paid by Michigan motorists. "Ironically, (that's) money that we already sent to Washington that would not be coming back. Think about that."

I posted on this issue several times in the past year, most recently on April 18 when Peter Luke was advocating for this. A lot of the numbers used from the budget were there.

These proposals for tax increases are even WORSE than the numbers I used, which was based on a nine cent increase on the gas tax. They want 15 cents increase per gallon. Of COURSE the sales tax isn't touched, and is ALWAYS ignored by the Lansing elite when they talk about the gas tax.

Keep in mind that this is all based on FALSE assumptions, that only gas taxes and resgistration taxes can pay for the roads.

One issue that isn't addressed is why Michigan roads suck compared to Indiana's? or Ohio's? I know the "freeze/thaws" are used as an excuse, but Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota all have freezes and thaws. All these states have storms and rains and snow.

Gas taxes for comparison, not counting the federal taxes.
Michigan - About 31 cents a gallon. ($2.40 gas)
Illinois - 32 cents a gallon
Indiana - 29 cents
Iowa - 22 cents
Minnesota - 26 cents
Ohio - 28 cents
Wisconsin - 33 cents

I haven't driven in Wisconsin, Iowa, or Minnesota, so I can't compare their roads. Ohio and Indiana roads are much better than Michigan's roads, despite slightly lower gas taxes. I don't know their registration fees, but it's a racket here.

The problem is that there is something shady in this state and I'd like to see the contractual agreements. Roads are built on the cheap around here. There's always repairs. There's always orange barrels out there. The roadbuilders are one of the more influential lobbyists out there. They want to build the roads on the cheap. If they do a good job, there's less work next year. Nothing needs to get fixed. So we use the cheap materials in Michigan, and turn this all into a makework project, the government can always run on fixing things, and their buddies get their government cheese. Instead of fixing that problem to begin with, it's the old "we need more taxes" which is the "only solution" even though we have one of the highest gas taxes in the country, currently over 30 cents a gallon.

Here's a newsflash to the Lansing elite. Most of the time, the so called "only" solution isn't the only one, and the "only" solution is even worse than doing nothing. Government screwed it up to begin with.

Build the roads right, and leave us alone. Any politician in this economy who supports a tax increase, especially on the worst one of them all, needs to get run out of town and out of politics forever.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Screw the NRSC, back individual candidates only

Real quickly.

The NRSC is at it again. They officially broke their longtime policy of getting involved in open primaries when they endorsed Charlie Crist, Florida's governor in the open Senate race which is held by Mel Martinez. Marco Rubio, the Florida Speaker of the house, is another candidate.

Crist is a centrist Republican on social issues and a liberal Republican on economic issues with his support of tax increases and Obama's pork bills. So far, he's real good on 2nd Amendment issues, and he is pro-life on the abortion issue. He's not my favorite, but I wouldn't consider him a RINO but a center-left Republican. There's a difference. A RINO is Lincoln Chafee, Bill Milliken, or Colin Powell. RINO's back democrats for President or Governor.

Rubio is a less government conservative from relatively blue Miami-Dade county.

I have a big problem with the NRSC's decision. The job of the NRSC is to defeat democrats, not get involved in the Republican primaries 15 months in advance. This trash is one of the reasons why the GOP is in a minority and the funds to the NRSC dry up. If I'm a donor whose goal is to take back the Senate, I don't want my money to be dried up in primary spending, and I damn well don't want it to be dried up in attack ads. These jokers are throwing good guys to the wolves in GENERAL elections, while backing their pets in the primaries. What the hell are they thinking?

What's the NRSC going to do in this primary? It is going to spend money on ads bashing Rubio like they did to Steve Laffey in Rhode Island (against real RINO Lincoln Chafee in 96....who lost re-election). The NRSC supported Arlen Specter until he switched parties. On the other hand, they couldn't find one person to run against Mark Pryor in Arkansas? On the NRCC side (House), they pushed in primaries for their pets and got beat in the primary AND general. Good job fools.

The NRSC also previously said they would stay out of the Florida primary.

FLASHBACK: Just last week, Cornyn told the Politico he would stay out of the race, saying, "I don't think it's the proper role of the NRSC or folks in Washington to try to tell Floridians who their nominee should be, so I think that will have to work its way out."

Nice switch, guys. Thanks a lot. The National Journal gives a warning.

Today's biggest news: The NRSC will back Crist, their goal being to dry up Rubio's money. Will it also rile up conservatives who want DC to stay out? Nothing helps an underdog like taking it to "the man." We're still waiting to see if the Club for Growth weighs in.

I'm all for sticking it to the DC establishment. I loved Rubio's response to the NRSC endorsement.

Rubio's spokesman Brian Seitchik had this to say about the NRSC's endorsement: "We knew that Governor Crist was going to have the establishment's support in Washington and Tallahassee. The NRSC endorsement is not a surprise. But this campaign is about more than Marco and Charlie Crist. This campaign is about the future of the Republican Party. Marco and Crist have fundamentally different approaches to solving problems, and this campaign will be about those differences."

This was followed by this youtube ad seen at Roll Call

“Some politicians support trillions in reckless spending, borrowed money from China and the Middle East, mountains of debt for our children, and a terrible threat to a fragile economy,” an announcer in the ad states over a visual of Crist and Obama together. “Today too many politicians embrace Washington’s same old broken ways but this time there is a leader who won’t. Let the debate begin.”

I think the DC establishment STILL has not learned their lesson, and will have to be defeated over and over until they get it. They know jack and squat, and jack left the building. They didn't get it with Laffey. They didn't get it with Specter. They don't get it here either. They lost something like 14 seats in 4 years and are doing the same crap they've done before.

If McConnell and Cornyn and the NRSC are backing Crist, then I'm leaning towards Rubio strictly by default. I don't know that much about him, outside of the Weekly standard piece and his website, but what I've heard sounds more good than bad. While I'd probably vote for Rubio over Crist based on fiscal issues, I wouldn't support the NRSC backing either candidate.

The NRSC endorsements bring up another can of worms. When do they endorse and when do they back off? There a major primary battle in Missouri between DC's establishment guy Roy Blunt and Missouri's statewide elected official Sarah Steelman. That's also an open seat. Steelman is attacking Blunt's ties to DC and K-street and fiscal responsibility. That's a valid attack after the job DC's done on fiscal issues the past eight years. Is the NRSC getting involved in one and not the other? That's a can of worms that should not have been open.

And it could have been prevented by the NRSC doing its job and winning general elections. This mismanagement and poor decisionmaking is why you will not see me give one dime to the NRSC. Only individual candidates deserve donations.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Chrysler, Specter's defection (good riddance), Pennsylvania grassroots v estabishment, Souter

A lot of major things have gone on the past week that I haven't posted about because of my time constraints.

First, Chrysler declared bankruptcy. Who knows what will happen. It's now in the hands of a judge. In Bankruptcy court, judges are a blind draw, and they drew Arthur Gonzalez (who was also the judge in Enron and Worldcom). At least they didn't draw a rookie. Judges have a lot of discretion in bankruptcy law, and there's a lot of speculation on what will happen, as well as a lot of people running their mouths. I have little to almost no knowledge of bankruptcy law, so I won't be making any predictions here. I'm not happy with some of the actions taken by the Obama foreign car loving task force, but that's no longer the big issue here with this filing.

Secondly, Arlen Specter took the path of less resistance for 2012 and switched parties.

A bunch of FOOLS are yapping about this being the social issues and the far right, yadda yadda yadda. Bullshit. The GOP establishment in DC supported him, and was going to do so against Toomey again. The RNC supported him. The NRSC supported him. Bush campaigned for him in the last election. So did the more conservative senator at the time Rick Santorum (at the cost of some of his base). The NRA endorsed him. Against Toomey. That would likely happen again. Most DC establishment will back the incumbent. Period. Most PACS will support an incumbent unless there's a bad history on those issues. That wasn't changing in 2010.

It is not new that Specter had some union support. It is not new that Specter was pro-abortion to a degree. It is not new that Specter was not a social conservative at all. That was not held against him here. He had a lot of Washington support, and would have had it from the Republican establishment, even from conservatives. He's actually been generally good on firearms issues for someone from Philly, so that's not been an issue with him. The NRA endorsed him - even against Toomey. This isn't new, and wasn't changing in 2010.

Specter did not switch parties because the Republican culture in Washington DC disliked him. They didn't and they supported him. Senator John Cornyn of Texas was one of his biggest backers, and he's the head of the NRSC. Specter switched parties because the primary voters in Pennsylvania had enough of his 30 years and Washington and are about to send him home. What was the straw that broke the back? It wasn't social issues. It was the big spending. We have had ENOUGH of the big spending. The grass roots has had enough. We had enough of the bridges to nowhere, the Bush spending, and the Obama spending that is 100 times worse than even the Bush spending. Specter is a big part of the problem. See ya. DO let the door hit you on your way out.

Now I'm not a big fan of purges. However, there needs to be a limit. Part of the major problem with the GOP the last eight years is that they acted like democrats on the fiscal issues outside of tax cuts. Tax cuts work great, but they need to be accompanied by spending cuts. The problem is credibility. Every single time the republicans try to run as democrat-lite, it KILLS us. There needs to be difference between the parties. Now I don't expect every Republican candidate to be a cookie cutter. The Mark Kirk distict in Illinois North Shore could not be won by an ideal Republican candidate in another somewhat democrat leaning district, Michigan's 1st (Stupak) They would get killed in each other's district. I understand that.

However, there needs to be a minimum standard for Republican candidates. Low taxes, lower spending and less government. Voters at the minimum, should be able to expect that from the Republicans. This is the worst aspect of Bush's presidency. We no longer are known for less government. That needs to change, and change fast.

Third, Pennsylvania's primary. Hotline said it best. STAY AWAY FROM MY (their) PRIMARY This is the one that's pissing me off. Right now, both the NRSC and DSCC is rumored to be playing games in this primary. First off Pat Toomey has won a democrat leaning house district three times. His seat voted for Gore and I believe Kerry at the same time it voted for Pat Toomey and Charlie Dent. Pat Toomey replaced a democrat, Paul McHale. He won that district by 10 points. Pat Toomey did not represent the Lancaster or York suburbs. He represented the Leigh Valley in Eastern PA. Allentown and Bethelem. He won that seat in 98, 2000, and 2002 - despite Gore and Ed Rendell. Pat Toomey is not a joke candidate, and he has won independent and democrat votes.

The NRSC is rumored to push one of their own candiates. I hope that backfires on them if they do so. This is a choice for Pennsylvanians. We have primaries in this country for a reason. We do not have coronations. After seeing the results of Washington based politics in the GOP over the last eight years, it's been a disaster. Time to step aside and let the experts take over. The voters in the primary election. You people in the NRSC were a DISASTER in 06 and 08 with your games. My advice to republicans reading this. Until they prove otherwise, don't donate a dime to NRSC/NRCC and only give to candidates.

Many democrats there are not happy that the Democrat leadership is supporting Specter in their primary. They don't trust him either. Specter is out for Specter. Period. He switched because the Republican voters in Pennsylvania had enough of him and were going to vote for Pat Toomey. They had enough of the spending. So he's going to take his chance in the democrat primary. We'll see how they like a candidate who was a major supporter of the war, the death penalty, the Patriot Act, and Clarence Thomas. Why should the democrats vote for Specter, when they can get a real democrat in the primary?

If both establishments run their people, I hope they both lose the primary, just to send a message. These fools still haven't gotten yet. It's the Peter principle in action.

Fourth - The retirement of Souter. Many on the right believe the sky is falling and some are posting ridiculous speculation that the pick will be Bill Ayers or someone like that. That's ridiculous. Won't happen.

This isn't the worse case scenario. On an ideological basis, he's probably the 2nd or 3rd most left wing (behind Breyer who is the Scalia of the left and MAYBE Stevens). Souter is also 69 years old, the youngest of the liberal wing. Souter could have possibly served another 10-20 years if he wanted with today's life spans. The one real bad thing of his retirement IMO is the 4th Amendment implications with the cases like Arizona v Gant possible going the other way. Souter was the swing vote on that issue.

On the Liberal side
Stevens is 89
Ginsburg is 76 (and fighting Pancreatic Cancer, good luck to her there)
Breyer is 70
And Souter is retiring at 69

On the Generally Conservative side
Scalia is 73
Thomas is 60
Roberts is 54
Alito is 59

And the swing vote, Kennedy, is 72

The worse case scenario Obama can do is put someone crazy on there in philosophy like Cass Sunstein, Erwin Chemerinsky, or Harold Koh and who is about 45 years old or so. The second worst case scenario is appointing Granholm who is about as qualified to be a SCOTUS justice as I currently am based on experience. More than likely Obama will be picking someone from the far left (difference than crazy far left like Sunstein) and between 50-55. I hope it's not one of Reno's crew (Eric Holder, Seth Waxman or Jamie Gorelick) or the Chermerinsky crowd. We'll see what happens.

Volokh has some good discussion about this