31 May 2007
It looks like he's really gonna do it. Fred Thompson is going to form an exploratory committee to run for president. Back on October 26 of last year, before anyone was talking about Fred, I was hoping that former Senator Thompson would run for president. Back then I wrote, "I'm almost tempted to register a domain name."
I wish I would have!
Kingmakers and stalking horses
Per my post yesterday:
perhaps [Sylvester] Turner is trying to headoff a primary challenge by declaring for speaker. After all, he can't possibly think he has a chance of winning the speakership, can he? Most of the Democrats wouldn't vote for him [I assume], and Republicans aren't going to vote for a Democrat.Paul Burka speculates:
Let's say he can get to 25-30 supporters. That gives him a chance to be kingmaker, but not king--and we know who he'll be kingmaker for. More likely, this is not a play for speaker at all. It is a play to protect the Craddick Ds from a primary challenge. Turner's candidacy gives the Craddick Ds the opportunity to pledge to a Democrat. This removes the main argument that can be used against the Craddick Ds in the primary.I guess we're both surprised by the oddity of this move, and trying to read the tea leaves in response. Great minds think alike.
Yet, the idea that Turner is a stalking horse for Tom Craddick seems like awfully quick calculation on Craddick/Turner's part. They decided in one day that it'd be best if Turner became a candidate? Hmm, maybe, but I'm not sure I'm persuaded. Turner certainly didn't sound like a candidate in the interviews he gave a day before where he didn't sound loyal to Craddick but was going to keep his options open.
Plus, it doesn't seem like Craddick would've wanted the news of one of his top lieutenants seemingly defecting. After all, on the face of it, having Turner declare for weakness seems bad for the Speaker.
But who knows? That's what makes politics fun!
30 May 2007
Trial lawyer money
Will he spend as much as Tony Sanchez?
Sylvester Turner running for speaker
Speaker Pro Tem Sylvester Turner has filed for speaker, according to Kronberg. He's been one of Craddick's top lieutenants for the past few sessions, so it would appear that Craddick would be unable to win re-election if the entire House were to return in 2009. Too many people smell blood and think they can be speaker.
However, the entire House won't return in 2009. Ay, there's the rub!
Sidenote: perhaps Turner is trying to headoff a primary challenge by declaring for speaker. After all, he can't possibly think he has a chance of winning the speakership, can he? Most of the Democrats wouldn't vote for him [I assume], and Republicans aren't going to vote for a Democrat.
A choked yellow dog?
The Hill reports that Nick Lampson and Henry Cuellar are two of 8 House Democrats trying to get accepted to the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate Democrats who only have 5 spots open.
Most of that group is freshmen or sophomores, so I'm not that familiar with them. Obviously, quite a few of those Democrats certainly want to join the group so that they can claim to be Blue Dogs during their next campaign.
Reps. Bart Gordon (Tenn.), Zack Space (Ohio), Chris Carney (Pa.), Harry Mitchell (Ariz.), Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.), Nancy Boyda (Kan.), Henry Cuellar (Texas) and Nick Lampson (Texas) are competing for the five remaining slots. The winners will be announced next week.
The Blue Dogs are a select group. They amended their bylaws earlier this year to limit membership to 47 lawmakers. Lawmakers need to have a sponsor who is already a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, write an essay, and interview before a panel of five lawmakers.
One would assume Cuellar would get in. Given what I know of the remainder, I'd give Lampson an outside shot.
It's beginning to look a lot like campaign season, dos
So, it occurs to me apropos my earlier post. If I were to rank Texas House races by most likely to change partisan control, should I divide them by Republicans and Democrats, or by pro-Craddicks and anti-Craddicks?
That sound you hear is me laughing
Glenn Smith brings the funny:
It is my view that the current Republican leadership in Austin and Washington is unalterably opposed to the diffusion of power. It is the concentration power and the wealth it brings them that they cherish most. [sic] Furthermore, this hunger for power has for too long been hidden in the sheep's clothing of "family values" or "government run like a business." Sometimes it's not even disguised. Conservative intellectuals like Judge Richard Posner argue against popular democracy and for elite rule. Posner even worries that increased political participation would distract citizens from their most important duty: buying things to support the consumer economy. (It's in his book, "Law, Pragmatism, and Democracy.")
Yup, Richard Posner is so directly influential on the Republican establishment. [/sarcasm]
Besides, methinks Mr. Smith ought read Judge Posner a bit less formalistically. [You're a law geek if you think that last sentence is funny.]
29 May 2007
The myth of the rational politician, dos
So, last night's post title "The myth of the rational politician" still amuses me. I hope it made the point that my unpublished post would have, as well as being a nod to Bryan Caplan's recent Myth of the Rational Voter (which I haven't read yet, but will soon.)
If Lampson were a rational actor, I'd assume he'd run for Senate. So, he's either not rational, or he's calculating that his running for CD22 increases the aggregated percentages for Democrats in the Senate and CD22 races. The latter would fit with what I've observed from Lampson, who's a pretty slick pragmatic politician.
It's beginning to look a lot like campaign season
I note that Charles Kuffner has a list of Texas House Republicans he'd like to see targeted. I'll probably put my own list up in the next week or so. On the other hand, I have a history of overpromising and underdelivering on this blog.
I guess that's what happens when I do something for free.
A Culture of Success
I read lots of books. Often, I intend to review them here, but never get around to it because I want to write more than a pithy comment.
Lisa Endlich's Goldman Sachs: The Culture of Success is not one of these. Endlich is a former vice president of Goldman, and she was clearly a happy employee. The book mostly reads as thinly disguised propaganda. She provides a rose-tinted chronicle of the firm's history, but that was about it.
On the other hand, perhaps the fact that a former employee would write a book extolling the firm's culture says more than her book itself. Clearly I need to work in a place like that.
28 May 2007
The myth of the rational politician
Selby says that (doesn't live in) Sugar Land Rep. Nick Lampson is running for re-election and not for Senate against John Cornyn.
Guess it's a good thing I didn't publish the post I wrote that predicted that Lampson was slightly more likely to run for Senate than for re-election.
26 May 2007
Tonight's the night
The long-simmering Texas House is apparently boiling over tonight. A bunch of Dems and anti-Craddick Republicans want to vacate the Speaker's chair, and the Speaker has replied that he is not obliged to recognize any such motion.
Here's the lede on Karen Brooks' developing story:
Speaker Tom Craddick threw the House into turmoil and caused the House parliamentarian to resign on Friday night when he told lawmakers he could shut down an attempt to overthrow him simply by refusing to recognize the request to do it.
He also said, during a series of conversations with critics on the House floor, that there was no way for the House to appeal his decision.
Mr. Craddick refused to explain his decision and abruptly recessing the House for two and a half hours – leaving the chamber, flanked by his closest allies, under raucous jeers and shouts from angry House members. One Craddick supporter, screamed back at them: "This is anarchy!"
25 May 2007
Simon on Bloomberg
Roger Simon puts the kibosh on Bloomberg running:
I had lunch with a strong Bloomberg supporter last November, and when I asked him how Bloomberg was going to get to 270 electoral votes, the supporter said, "We don't need to get to 270. We just need to keep the others from getting to 270."Many national pundits seem to think that Bloomberg would draw more from the left than the right. I strongly disagree; Bloomberg running would be a disaster for Republicans.
Wrong. If that happens, the race would be decided by the House of Representatives, which has a Democratic majority.
Charlie Cook, a very savvy political analyst, wrote recently: "The most interesting scenario would be if Bloomberg were to win a plurality of the electoral votes and siphon off enough votes from the left to push the Democratic nominee into third place. Could a Democratic House really pick a third-place finisher to be president, or might they opt for a politically compatible independent who finished first?"
The simple answer is: Yes, the Democratic House would vote for the third-place Democratic nominee over Bloomberg, because that is what party politics is all about.
And would a Democratic House pick a third place Democrat to be president? Yes -- unless maybe Bloomberg offered to switch back to being a Democrat -- and I don't think it would be that much of an issue. If I recall correctly, he used Democratic consultants in his first mayoral bid.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the article, however, was Simon's conclusion that Bloomberg is smart enough to realize that he can't win, and thus won't run. It remains to be seen if Simon is right, or if Bloomberg will listen to the political consultants whispering sweet nothings in his ear.
24 May 2007
Perennial adviser to the presidential losers (but Senate winners!) Bob Shrum is out hawking a book, per Michael Crowley in The New Republic:
Things should always be interpreted in context. Given what we know about John Edwards, this is pretty believable, albeit with a touch of Crowley's artfully put caveat:
Shrum went on advising Edwards for several years, including as Edwards was contemplating his vote on the fall 2002 Iraq war resolution. In the one passage of the book already widely leaked, Shrum recounts how he and other political advisers pushed Edwards into a vote for the resolution that Edwards--and, even more so, his wife, Elizabeth--didn't want to cast. The episode didn't make Shrum look great. But the real damage is to Edwards, who comes across as a cipher taking orders from his handlers. As Shrum puts it: "[H]e was the candidate and if he was really against the war it was up to him to stand his ground. He didn't."
(Edwards aides have said Shrum exaggerates the importance of this meeting and wasn't in other pivotal meetings where Edwards deliberated. But, as an aide to a rival campaign recently pointed out to me, in a moment that passed largely unnoticed, Edwards seemed to confirm the basic thrust of this story during the first Democratic presidential debate last month in South Carolina. "I was wrong to vote for this war," Edwards said. "And the lesson I learned from it is to put more faith in my own judgment." It does sound as though Edwards is admitting that he allowed handlers to overrule his conscience.)
It's hard to know for sure. Which is, after all, the essential quality of a tell-all Washington memoir--and especially one from a spinner as experienced as Bob Shrum.Perhaps they were looking 10 years previous to Bill Clinton? I ain't sayin', I'm just sayin'.
Shrum is still happy with Kerry -- who he picked over Edwards in 2003. At the time, I was quite surprised, because it looked like Shrum was signaling that he was going to go with Edwards.
I think that's probably true, but there was/is also a chance that Kerry would've been a colossal failure as commander-in-chief during a crisis.
"When his back was plainly against the wall ... Kerry was bold and decisive. At other times, he tended to second-guess, revise, fiddle, confer with anyone in sight, and try to placate everyone around him. For him, I think the easier days in the White House might have been harder. But in a crisis, I believe Kerry would have shown the right stuff as president."
But sometimes campaigns give us a certain sense for who people are, and perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that George W. Bush has occasionally accepted military plans too easily. That is, after all, how he campaigned for president. See, eg, post-New Hampshire/pre-South Carolina primary 2000.
Chris Cilizza reminds me of something I meant to comment on:
A recent poll for the New York Daily News asked city residents who was a better mayor -- Bloomberg or Rudy Giuliani. Fifty-six percent chose Bloomberg while just 29 percent opted for Giuliani. Bloomberg's job-approval ratings are similarly sky high -- often breaking 70 percent.Giuliani turned New York City around. Bloomberg has just been a technocrat who hasn't made any major immediate errors. Ok, slight exaggeration, but does anyone really think Bloomberg would've been able to do what Giuliani did? By most measures, Giuliani was a much better mayor.
Now, I know that part of the reason for the poll result is simply that NYC is in a boom and Giuliani hasn't been mayor for 6 years. But I think the poll does have a valid underlying point: Giuliani gets on people's nerves, and for good reason. He'd be a terrible president.
* Although I may not be a Yankee, I cleave to the etymology that Yankee comes from slang for the American Dutch, and thus I am fond of the word.
23 May 2007
la liga de los campeones
Kaka was brilliant as ever. A true marvel.
22 May 2007
Ross Ramsey at Texas Weekly "likes" the name:
The blog titled Rick Perry vs. The World (yeah, really)...
Hey, the governor himself had a pretty good sense of humor about the name.
Also, I tend to put an "ironic" exclamation point at the end of the blog name if I am ever forced to verbalize it.
All the "quotation marks" in this post were inspired by Marc Ambinder, who consistently produces quality journalism.
Whither Dan Patrick?
Paul Burka writes about Dan Patrick's electoral future:
Speculation is fun!
Even before Dan Patrick won his Senate seat, speculation around town was rampant that he would run for governor in 2010. I think it's wrong. He doesn't have the name identification or the money to make that race, and he would be up against a formidable array of political talent. But I think he will be a candidate for statewide office in '10 -- not for governor, but for lieutenant governor. And I think he has positioned himself very well for that race.
I think Burka is right that Patrick probably hasn't irrevocably decided to run for governor. However, I think he's definitely considering it depending on who gets in the race. Picture this: Kay Bailey Hutchison announces a run for governor.* Dewhurst also announces. AG Greg Abbott and Land Commish Jerry Patterson both announce for LG. Where does Patrick go? He runs for governor. Patrick has to think he's got a good chance of getting into a runoff against Hutchison and Dewhurst. Neither the Senator nor the Lieutenant Governor are particularly strong conservatives, in the view of GOP primary voters. Once he gets into a runoff, who knows? Besides, Patrick can run as the conservative outsider much more easily against Dewhurst and/or Hutchison than he can against Abbott and/or Patterson.
Anyway, the precise scenario I described of who enters the race has under a 50% chance of happening, but is probably more likely than any other scenario at this point.
* I know, it's tough to believe, given how many times KBH has flirted publically with running for governor. But she's really serious this time...right? Actually, I think she is. She realized that she had an uphill run against Perry in a GOP primary, and she decided to stay in the Senate. But now, you've got to think Hutchison starts most gubernatorial scenarios as the favorite.
Speaker fight; Perry's no caretaker; demographics is destiny
William McKenzie posits that the fight over Craddick is really a fight over the future of the Texas GOP:
Is it, really? It seems to me like it probably has more to do with how satisfied members are with Craddick's management and leadership.
As late as last night, the Texas House continued to rock back and forth on the consequential question of whether someone other than Tom Craddick should be its speaker. As if that weren't important enough, that wasn't even the real question. Dig a little, and you'll find a referendum on the GOP's direction.
Team Craddick would probably be much happier with the idea that this is a referendum on ideological future or partisan unity, because that's something he's likely to win -- grassroots Republicans don't want Democrats and the media taking down their speaker. And it certainly could become a fight about that, because when the Lege isn't in session it's less about the internal and more about the external. Which is why Paul Burka must be right when he says that Craddick's chances of remaining as speaker increase if he makes it through this session.
Eh, there's some short-term truth to this idea, but in the long term, demographics is destiny.
Not a first for Texas Republicans, but this uproar is one of those debates that will influence the party and Texas years down the road.
One of those down-the-road matters is how long Republicans will run Texas. If key players make the right moves now, they can extend the GOP's reach well into the next decade. Make the wrong moves, and the party will confirm what Democrats have been saying about Republicans being incapable of governing.
Three thoughts here:
Rick Perry got the message when he received only 39 percent of the vote in November's gubernatorial race. He pivoted and put out some futuristic ideas about health care and education.
1. While Perry may have only gotten 39%, it was a very comfortable victory. There was absolutely no point during the campaign where the outcome was in doubt, once KBH exited the race.
2. I see zero evidence that Gov. Perry or any of his advisers care one scintilla about how much of the vote he received. Publically and privately, the answer is the same: the governor is fully governor, whether elected with 25% or 75%.
3. Seems to me that Perry has always taken a visionary, long-term approach to governing. This is something that the Texas media has largely missed, perhaps because he doesn't seem to trumpet his vision. Agree or disagree with the Guv, he's not been a caretaker. Caretakers don't come up with a plan to completely redesign Texas' transportation.
Picking your spot
I admire Gallegos courage, but I'm not sure I understand why anyone would put their life on the line for -- despite the hyperbole on both sides -- a relatively inconsequential bill.
Sen. Mario Gallegos spent part of Monday resting in a hospital bed but was ready to spring into action if necessary to stop a controversial voter identification bill.
Gallegos said he faced the potential of his body rejecting the liver and came to Austin against his doctor's wishes. He said doctors have warned him that he's risking his health by staying in the Capitol instead of resting at home. Doctors in Houston took a biopsy of Gallegos' liver on Friday because of complications and elevated enzymes.
21 May 2007
The best laid plans of mice and men
The Texas left must be so disappointed with the immigration brouhaha. Their whole gameplan was to run a trial lawyer against John Cornyn who would spend his own millions to blanket the airwaves with ads alleging that Cornyn is Bush's rubberstamp.
But the fact that Senator Cornyn has consistently stood against the White House on immigration rather shreds that idea. Ouch.
Cornyn and Hutchison op-ed
John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison wrote an op-ed this weekend. The Senators argue for border enforcement first, and no amnesty:
In 1986, the Congress approved a similar compromise plan that, in return for amnesty for most immigrants here illegally, promised an end to porous borders and disregard for our laws. Those promises were not honored. The amnesty legislation instead actually encouraged further disrespect for our laws, and led directly to the situation we face today.
Personally, I'm leaning against the immigration bill -- although I generally support the approach of the bill -- because it's important to get it exactly right. Immigration is like free trade: it crosses ideological and partisan boundaries, thus making risk-averse politicians very nervous. They don't like voting on immigration (or free trade) bills. They largely wish the issue would go away*, and only deal with it when outside groups successfully push the issue to the forefront. Once an immigration bill is passed and becomes law, politicians will go back to avoiding the issue and burying bills.
So yeah, there's some good in the bill. But the history of immigration bills is that the bad often comes back to haunt us, because ramifications are always surprising. [Ideas have consequences, who knew? --ed. Crazy, that.]
Oh, and my overall take on immigration is very Michael Barone-ish.
* Remember how Chris Bell refused to discuss immigration at all, because it was a "Republican issue." How very statesman like from Mr. Bell, given the thousands of immigrants who have died in the desert trying to reach for a better life for themselves and their families.
Has anyone else noticed what a cold year we've had in Houston? It was the coldest winter I can remember in awhile, followed by drops to freezing in late March and early April. Now, it's still quite mild for late May.
Weird. I like my heat.
17 May 2007
Al Gore ycophants
Have you read the Time cover story on Al Gore?
Sycophantic would be an extreme understatement. I think Pravda might've had more balanced coverage. What an embarrassment for Time.
15 May 2007
"You might want to look into them."
Michael Moore sent Fred Thompson a letter questioning the Senator's apparent penchant for Cuban cigars, given that he's a critic of Castro.
Thompson's thirty second video reply is priceless.
Michael Moore should've known to pick on someone more his size.
Keffer to challenge Craddick
Keffer to announce for Speaker. Here's his press release:
State Representative Jim Keffer (R-Eastland) announced today that he has filed his candidacy paperwork for Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives for the 81st Regular Session which will begin in January, 2009.
Keffer said he will formerly announce his candidacy for Speaker at the Texas House Republican Caucus meeting scheduled for early this afternoon.
"During the past few days, a majority of the members of the Texas House have agreed that we need a new Speaker and most have stated that they would prefer the selection of a new Speaker upon adjournment of the Regular Session rather than by placing a call on the Speaker during the session."
Keffer also challenged incumbent Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick to publicly join with him in committing to a three-term Speaker limit.
Jay Root had this bit today:
Perhaps the lack of support by Dunnam/anti-Craddick Democrats is why Keffer is not challenging Tom Craddick now. Keffer would seem to have no chance now if he can't count on Dunnam.
But [Texas House Democratic Leader Jim] Dunnam said if Craddick falls in the next two weeks, which is all that's left of the 2007 session, it will be an internal matter for the majority party. Dunnam also vowed to oppose a move to take Craddick out unless he has some idea about who would replace the Midland Republican.
"I would want to know why, and what the alternatives were," Dunnam said. "I can't find a Democrat who knows anything other than the rumors."
I kinda like the term-limit idea for Speaker though, but I generally don't think these things should be done retroactively.
Perry's legislative liason, former conservative Democratic state senator from Victoria Ken Armbrister, gets a flattering profile from Christy Hoppe in the Dallas Morning News.
I've made money, why not give this politics thing a shot?
Ralph Hallow in the Washington Times:
Political consultants everywhere are salivating.
New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is prepared to spend an unprecedented $1 billion of his own $5.5 billion personal fortune for a third-party presidential campaign, personal friends of the mayor tell The Washington Times.
"He has set aside $1 billion to go for it," confided a long-time business adviser to the Republican mayor. "The thinking about where it will come from and do we have it is over, and the answer is yes, we can do it."
Another personal friend and fellow Republican said in recent days that Mr. Bloomberg, who is a social liberal and fiscal conservative, has "lowered the bar" and upped the ante for a final decision on making a run.
I loved Glenn Reynolds' reaction:
What will his slogan be? "More nannyish than both major parties put together?"
Or maybe: "Making America like Singapore, only more so?"
UPDATE: With Chuck Hagel as a running mate? What a ticket. Where will they put all the surplus charisma?
As I wrote a few weeks ago, "Bloomberg is a guy who thinks he should be president." No shortage of ego on that guy.
Bloomberg is listening to self-interested political consultants telling him he has a chance, a "historic opportunity," blah, blah, blah. He's loving what they're saying; he's loving the media attention. He's not realizing that they have visions of sugar plums dancing in their head. But fools are soon parted from their money.
If he gets in, he should poll pretty well, but the law of diminishing returns would kick in too soon for him to win. His ceiling is below the percentage required for a plurality. He'd hand the presidency to the Democrats...which, given that he's more of a Democrat than a Republican, he might not mind.
14 May 2007
With or without incentives
Amarillo financial advisor Jerry Stinson writes in that city's Globe-News:
The fundamental problem with our democracy these days is that most people feel dispossessed and ignored by elected officials, bureaucrats and employees of public institutions.Think of how inefficient big business sometimes is. Make it bigger. Then, add civil service provisions that preclude ever firing employees. Add to that little incentives for managers and you've got...government bureaucracy! Swell.
I called the Washington office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to briefly comment on a nominee for a federal commission. A young woman answered the phone. I introduced myself, explained my business and concluded my introduction by asking, "How are you today?"
"I'm very busy," she replied. "What do you want exactly?"
One conclusion might be that this young woman has never had the advantage of training in one of your better charm schools. The probable explanation for her insolent behavior is that she learned it from the senator and other "public servants" around her in the office.
Of course, I imagine that Senator Hutchison will take action to ensure that this doesn't happen. After all, she does have incentive to do so....that whole Governor's Mansion thing.
The rumor mill is buzzing over whether there will be a challenge of Tom Craddick as speaker of the Texas House.
Best place to follow is at Paul Burka's blog. Lots of fascinating comments.
Postcards just had a post saying that Gattis, Otto, Hughes and Elkins would not support vacating the chair. Now, Hughes and Elkins were two of the Republicans who voted for a secret ballot, a vote which was seen as a proxy vote for the speaker.Maybe so, but both Fred Hill and Warren Chisum are on record in the state's newspapers as saying that they expect a challenge to Craddick by the end of the session. That's a pretty big deal that will paralyze the House and jeopardize chances of getting things done without a special session.
If the Dems cannot get pro-secret abllot Republicans to back vacating the chair, I doubt they will have much luck.
And it'll give Perry plenty of political cover to call a special session.
11 May 2007
When it goes to your heart, it's important
National Review editorial
When Rudolph Giuliani announced his presidential run, we hoped that he could find common ground with pro-lifers. For that to happen, we suggested, he would have to follow the model of Kay Bailey Hutchison and the late Paul Coverdell, both pro-choice Republican senators who were allied with pro-lifers on the legislative issues of the day. Behind this advice was the assumption that Giuliani's desire to win some pro-life votes would move him to think seriously about the issue, or at least its political dimension. Judging from the knots in which he has tied himself since then, that thought has not taken place. Whether through conscious decision or inattention, he has not followed the Hutchison/Coverdell model.
The editorial was in response to reports that Rudy is going to come out strongly pro-choice
After months of conflicting signals on abortion, Rudolph W. Giuliani is planning to offer a forthright affirmation of his support for abortion rights in public forums, television appearances and interviews in the coming days, despite the potential for bad consequences among some conservative voters already wary of his views, aides said yesterday.
It's hardly perspicacious of me to point out the obvious, but I will anyway. Rudy is fighting an uphill battle as a pro-Roe candidate. However, that issue alone wouldn't have disqualified him from being the Republican nominee. But when he strongly comes out in favor of abortion weeks after repeatedly saying "I hate it," then he has damaged himself in the most important of ways.
Rudy's strength is that he's a leader who tells the truth. [The one thing he and Fred share? -- ed. Well, maybe not the one thing] When he tries to prevaricate and waffle on abortion, he lowers himself from hero to John Kerry-esque politician.
[Even worse, what does it say about the Giuliani campaign and Giuliani himself that they weren't prepared for this? Everyone has been speculating about how this would play out since 9/11, and they've picked the worst possible muddled message!]
Cornyn is pro-gym
Interesting Cornyn bill:
I'm not a huge fan of social engineering via tax code (think Al Gore, circa 2000), but given how much other stuff is exempted from taxes, this seems reasonable. In a world of second bests and such...
[T]he WHIP Act seeks to remove barriers to worker wellness
by making fitness center memberships tax-free for employees when provided
as an employee benefit. Current law requires workers to pay income tax on
such wellness benefits.
Introduced in April by Representatives Zach Wamp (R-TN), Mark Udall
(D-CO), Ron Kind (D-WI), and Jim Ramstad (R-MN) in the House, and by
Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) in the Senate, the WHIP
Act already enjoys strong bi-partisan support.
The WHIP Act allows for the balanced tax treatment for the cost of
fitness center memberships as a benefit for all employees, whether the
exercise facility is in-house or located off-site. The bill also affirms an
employer's existing right to deduct the cost of subsidizing or providing
fitness center benefits for its employees. This legislation excludes the
wellness benefit from being considered income for employees, making
employer contributions to the cost of fitness center fees exempt from an
employee's income tax.
Current tax law requires employees to pay income tax on any fitness
center fringe benefit an employer might provide unless the fitness center
is located at their work site.
To digress, I think "in a world of second bests" would make a great tombstone. But maybe that's just me.
10 May 2007
John Carreyou and Keith Winstein in the WSJ today (subs. req'd):
An editorial published in the New England Journal of Medicine raises questions about the overall effectiveness of Merck & Co.'s cervical-cancer vaccine, Gardasil, and advises policymakers, doctors and parents to adopt "a cautious approach" toward vaccination.The scientific consensus on this doesn't seem very settled.
The editorial accompanied a study published in the medical journal analyzing results of a clinical trial of the vaccine, which targets two types of the human papillomavirus thought to cause most cervical cancers and two other types that cause genital warts.
In their NEJM editorial, George F. Sawaya and Karen Smith-McCune, members of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote that "a cautious approach" toward vaccination "may be warranted in light of important unanswered questions about overall vaccine effectiveness, duration of protection, and adverse effects that may emerge over time."
The authors called the vaccine's overall efficacy against precancerous lesions of the cervix "modest" and theorized that one reason for this limited efficacy might be that other cancer-causing HPV types fill "the biological niche left behind after the elimination of HPV types 16 and 18." HPV has more than 100 different types, roughly 17 of which are thought to cause cancer.
Selby buries this in a historical piece:
RUMBLES: State Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, has been urged by Roger Staubach to run for the U.S. Senate if Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison tries for governor in 2010. And add Secretary of State Roger Williams to possible Senate hopefuls. "Certainly," Williams said. "I'm an athlete. I have my track shoes with me all the time."Seems to me like Shapiro would have a tough time getting through a statewide primary. Staubach, on the other hand, would have a much better chance.
Meanwhile, Roger Williams is waiting in line, as are quite a few other people.
09 May 2007
Vaunted and venerated only by its enemies
Given some of the editorialized reporting that you see out of the LATimes, it's nice to know they have one intriguing voice from the Right in Jonah Goldberg. His column today is pretty effective:
That was the thesis of Kos' and Armstrong's tendentiously boring book.
That's the upshot of an alternately brilliant and tendentious cover story in the latest New Republic, in which Jonathan Chait argues that the so-called netroots "are the most significant mass movement in U.S. politics since the rise of the Christian right." Chait persuasively argues that the netroots — Democratic activist blogs and other online communities — are transforming the Democratic Party by championing a new emphasis on partisan fervor and political unity.
Back to Goldberg:
This thought isn't particularly unique to Goldberg, but he synthesizes it well.
The conservative infrastructure that arouses so much envy among liberals today was an afterthought. It was created because the far more valuable real estate — universities, foundations, newspapers and TV networks — were held by liberals. Conservatives used their institutions to have serious arguments about what conservatives should believe.
The netroots crowd seems mostly determined to skip the serious argument part and to settle on the idea that liberals should simply all believe the same thing, first and foremost on the Iraq war. And as important as Iraq is right now, it is hardly a serious substitute for the intellectual catalyst of World War II and the Cold War. Netrooters may have a terrible shock in store for them when the war is over and their reason for existence is too.
If conservatism were nothing more than a noise machine, that would be a shame. (I don't buy it.) But even if the netrooters are right, what exactly has that noise machine bought? Not that much. Ronald Reagan won the presidency without benefit of Rush Limbaugh or Fox News, and Newt Gingrich took back Congress two years before Fox News was even launched. Folks like Limbaugh helped. But surely that had something to do with the substance of what Limbaugh had to say and not just his ability to say it. If merely having a radio show is all it takes, Al Franken would be a hugely successful radio host today. He isn't.
Hat tip to Kevin's sidebar link blog.
Perry Alliance Straw Poll
The Perry Alliance announced the winner of its online straw poll the other day. The winner? Fred Thompson with 36.3%. Rudy Giuliani was a distant second with 21%, and McCain was in third had 8.5%.
Full results here.
07 May 2007
Perry Bacon, Jr., compares Fred to McCain in the Washington Post:
Fred Thompson fervently backed the Iraq war, railed against an expanding federal government, took stands that occasionally annoyed his party and rarely spoke about his views on social issues during his tenure as a senator from Tennessee or in his writings and speeches since leaving office.
In short, the man some in the GOP are touting as a dream candidate has often sounded like the presidential hopeful many of them seem ready to dismiss: Sen. John McCain (Ariz.).
A relatively superficial analysis, seems to me. McCain and Thompson are good friends; in fact, that was the reason I originally didn't think Fred would run.
But a simple issue analysis doesn't reflect personality or how they would likely lead as president.
Anti-war trial lawyer guy
"I am incredibly worried about this war," Watts said last week. "I have no faith that John Cornyn is going to take one step to bring our men and women home."
Fascinating message, that one.
The national director of the Committee to Draft Michael Bloomberg is building a network of volunteers to complement what would undoubtedly be a well-financed campaign for the White House, should the mayor run for president.
Joseph Oddo, a freelance writer, consultant, and five-time candidate for public office, has signed up 100 volunteers in 20 states and hopes to eventually gather 1,000. The recruitment effort has been slow going, but gains momentum with each mention of Mr. Bloomberg as a potential presidential candidate in the press, he said.
Q&A with Brian McCall
DMN has a Q&A with Brian McCall.
In your recent Ph.D. dissertation on Texas governors, you reasoned that our governors have enough power. Why?The governor may not be as powerful in Texas in say, New Jersey, but I don't think he is nearly as weak as the stereotype.
It depends upon how realistically they assess the opportunities and how skillfully they exploit them. It was said of a recent weak governor that there were no benefits for being his friend and no consequences for being his enemy. Strong governors create those benefits and consequences.
But we're not a podunk state. How can a governor lead without even being able to appoint a Cabinet?
Our chief executive doesn't lack power. With the ability to appoint Texans to boards and commissions, Rick Perry has already filled every opening in state government. In addition, the governor appoints powerful agency heads, like the person running the Health and Human Services Commission, which has a budget greater than some nations. He also can line-item-veto the budget and stop any bill from becoming law.
04 May 2007
Whatever this says
Someone from Spring Branch ISD (in Houston; roughly outside 610 to Beltway 8 north of westside I-10) just visited my blog by searching for "who's the governor of Texas."
I hope regular visitors know the answer to this query.
03 May 2007
I like this game
Post's Reliable Source:
I leave it to readers to suss the reason for their dinner. Ok, just kidding. But do you think the words Unity '08 were spoken at this dinner?
Mike Bloomberg and Chuck Hagel dining together last night at the Palm. The New York mayor had a New York strip steak, the Nebraska senator had wild halibut, and each polished off a glass of merlot and mixed berries for dessert. They were deep in conversation for two hours; since both are mulling presidential bids, who was courting whom?
I'm in my zone.
She must be practicing to run for governor:
Mayor/marathon man Adrian Fenty ran the ACLI Capital Challenge three-miler pretty fast yesterday morning -- 18:47 -- but not fast enough to beat Rep. Bart Gordon's blistering 18:24, besting a field of 23 members of Congress. It was the 18th time the Tennessee Democrat has posted the best time among officeholders in the annual race, which benefits the D.C. Special Olympics. John Thune (R-S.D.) was the fastest of 12 senators. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) was the fastest female rep, while Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) was the fastest female senator -- which is to say she beat the other one in the race along the Anacostia riverfront, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).Our winning senator finished the 5K in 36:14. Her team was named...wait for it...Kaytorade.
Common sense prevails over Orwellian ideas
Lisa Sandberg, on the Chron blog:
The House voted unanimously last night to bar municipalities [HB922] from nabbing speeding drivers with automated devices.Dallas Republican John Carona is the Senate sponsor of the bill.
Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Southlake, said there's no conclusive evidence that automated devices such as cameras or radar result in fewer road crashes. Moreover, cameras could be used not just to crack down on speeders, but to go after motorists not wearing seat belts or motorists with expired inspection stickers. "At what point do you stop? What does it end?" she said.
According to Sandberg, the House almost attached a red-light camera prohibition to the bill as well, but did not because the House feared that then the bill wouldn't pass at all.
It's a shame the Texas Senate apparently doesn't have many civil libertarians.
On Tuesday, the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee passed HB 3186 out of committee by a vote of 6-2. Sponsored by San Antonio Democrat Jose Menendez, the bill would legalize poker -- under the regulation of the Texas Lottery Commission -- at horse tracks and four tables at non-horse tracks. So, Texans would be able to play Texas Hold'em again.
Chuck Blount of SAEN got Texas Poker PAC leader Mike Lavigne on the phone to talk about the bill's chances:
Lavigne says the move by the Texas House to move for a vote next week is good news.Is the Speaker one of the "no" votes?
"The bills typically don't make it out of the subcommittees and see the floor unless they have a good shot at getting passed," he said.
Lavigne reports that his organization has received word of 60-65 commitments from Texas lawmakers that favor the bill, with only 35 firm "no" votes. That leaves approximately 55 votes up in the air, with only 15-20 needed to get to the magic number of 76 needed to pass the bill.
"(The bill) is very much alive," Lavigne said.
Anyway, I thought of this because of today's front-page Wall Street Journal article.
Four-time poker champion Howard Lederer makes a plush living playing cards. His scholarly calm at the table has earned him the title "The Professor," along with $3.3 million in tournament prize money.In the short-run, poker results are often about luck (to varying degrees...different games have different mathematical mixes between luck and skill, in the short-term). In the long run, poker results are solely about skill.
Just don't call him lucky. To describe poker as anything but a game of skill, he says, "is just wrong."
Now poker fans in academe are jumping in to help prove that point, most recently with a daylong "strategy session" at the Harvard Faculty Club bringing together poker pros like Mr. Lederer, game theorists, statisticians, law students and gambling lobbyists.
The skill debate has been a preoccupation in poker circles since September, when Congress barred the use of credit cards for online wagers. Horse racing and stock trading were exempt, but otherwise the new law hit any "game predominantly subject to chance." Included among such games was poker, which is increasingly played on Internet sites hosting players from all over the world.
By making the case for poker as a skill, aficionados hope to roll back the law, and even win the game newfound freedoms in states where wagering on poker is currently banned.
01 May 2007
Plus, a Sosa quote
Ken Mehlman, in the Politico:
Also, this bit:
Last year, pollster David Winston asked registered voters to rate themselves on a 1 to 9 scale from very liberal to very conservative. He found that, overall, the country was center-right and Hispanic-Americans viewed themselves slightly to the right of the country as a whole.
Salsa outsells ketchup and tacos outsell hot dogs.Sometimes, change is good.
Go and brush your shoulder off
Can you imagine the shrieks of hysteria that would've accompanied this statement once upon a time? Now it's pretty mainstream.
Governor Rick Perry says he believes Texans should be allowed to carry their concealed handguns anywhere. That's the Republican's conclusion after pondering how to stop the kind of mass killing that left 33 dead at Virginia Tech.
Under current law, secured airport areas, hospitals, courthouses, bars, churches and schools are among the places where weapons can be banned. That's even if someone has a state license to carry a concealed handgun.
You might know him as Clark
Chron society column:
U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, looking particularly fit after last month's open heart surgery, lunching Thursday at La Griglia, which was packed with notables. The crowd included auto dealer and Metro Board member George DeMontrond, Fulbright & Jaworski partner Richard Huff, City Council candidate Melissa Noriega, Continental Airlines' Nene Foxhall and marketing specialist Cindy Clifford.Classy guy, that George Bush.
Former Houston Texans quarterback David Carr watching the Astros win at Minute Maid Park Saturday as guest of former President George Bush.
I'll leave it to readers to suss the purpose of Lampson's lunch. [Who do you think you are, Mark Halperin? -- ed.]
Ahead of the news cycle
Kevin noted on last night's Bloomberg post that I had just beaten the Wall Street Journal to the story. There's a story in today's WSJ (subscription required) or if you don't have the WSJ, there's an excerpt at their Washington Wire blog.
Not too surprising, they and I both made the Perot analogy and mentioned the heavily negative right track/wrong track numbers. But, being the WSJ, they got Frank Luntz and Ed Rollins (Perot's pollster and consultant, respectively) on the phone.
By the way, here's something I intended to mention last night, but didn't: if Bloomberg enters the race, the Democrats chance of winning the White House rises significantly. I don't think people appreciate the extent to which this is true.