Archive for July 24th, 2006


The Bush administration combats socialism by allowing rich people to cheat on their taxes.

Remember the open mic at the G-8 summit? A British TV station claims Russia’s Putin was responsible.

The American Bar Association criticizes the President’s signing statements: they “undermine separation of powers.” Those d*mn liberal extremists!

A White House press release endorses an Israel attack on Syria.

Ward Churchill and Alan Dershowitz have a lot in common, don’t they?

The Democrats decide to hold the Nevada caucus right after Iowa this next presidential election season. Intriguing. That might help display Western lawmakers and issues.

Connecticut bloggers take up the camera and ask Lieberman and Barbara Boxer some embarrassing questions. What’s really interesting about this is how the bloggers are muscling in on traditional media…

And just why is Bill Clinton stumping for Joe Lieberman? Firedoglake gives you a list of possible reasons.

A pair of teachers handcuffed and strip-searched for displaying a button and small sign reading “No More War” at a Bush function.

The Washington Monthly on global warming deniers

…such as Oklahoma’s Senator Jim Inhofe, who compares people who believe in global warming to Nazis. It was only a matter of time…

The Washington Post’s eight issues that will “shape” the 2006 mid-terms.

Check out my AP post on Wyoming’s House race. The Dems could take this seat.

Appelby’s quiz, “What’s your tribe?” allows you to see if you belong to the country’s red or blue tribe. I am very red, apparently.

High Country News has got the dirt on Montana’s initiative 1542 – which you’ll remember I called “anti-democratic.” Like blogger Hart Williams, HCN’s Ray Ring traced back the money backing the initiative through Americans for Limited Government to a single source: Howie Rich.

Americans for Limited Government has provided loans and expertise to the Montana initiative, plus $827,000 to the Arizona initiative, $200,000 to Washington initiative, and $107,000 to the one in Nevada, according to the Nevada initiative’s leader. Americans for Limited Government has also given $2.5 million to another libertarian group, America at its Best, based in the Washington, D.C., area, which has in turn funneled $100,000 to the Idaho initiative. One key figure is the chairman of the board of Americans for Limited Government, Howie Rich. A real estate mogul based in New York City, Rich is also on the board of the libertarian flagship Cato Institute in D.C., and heads his own Fund for Democracy….This year, Rich says he has funneled nearly $200,000 through a group called Montanans in Action to back the Montana initiative, along with two related initiatives aimed at setting state tax limits and making it easier to recall liberal judges. The head of Montanans in Action, Trevis Butcher, says he doesn’t know Rich, but he declines to say whether he is getting money from the Fund for Democracy; he won’t reveal any of his backers. Records in other states show that Rich has put $1.5 million into the California regulatory-takings initiative, $230,000 into the Idaho one, and $25,000 into the Arizona version.

Unlike Williams, Ring managed to track down Rich:

On the phone, Rich was confident of the rightness of his cause. “I believe in the American Dream. … I believe in free markets. I believe that … government has been growing at an excessive rate, at the federal level and in many states,” he said. “I’m happy to support local activists who are working to protect property rights in a whole bunch of states.”


In my talk with Howie Rich, I told him that, despite the campaign’s sales pitch, I believed these initiatives are about a lot more than eminent domain. Nationwide, eminent domain is invoked on behalf of developers only a few thousand times a year. But the proposed regulatory-takings initiatives are likely to affect millions of property owners, day in and day out, year after year. “I agree with you,” Rich said, “the implications … on the regulatory extent are very far-reaching, very important.” In fact, he said, the originator of the regulatory takings idea, University of Chicago economist Richard Epstein, e-mailed him a while ago, saying that “trillions” of regulations can be cast as takings.

And how is Oregon’s regulatory-takings initiative – the dimwit half-stepbrother of Montana’s CI 1542 – working out?

But now that Measure 37 is taking effect, many Oregonians — including thousands of neighbors who have written official comment letters on the claims — say the new law is a disaster. “It creates indecision and unpredictability for everybody in the state — whether you’re a homeowner, a business(person), a farmer, or an urban dweller, you no longer have a clue what’s going to happen next door, because now there is a free pass to violate laws,” said Elon Hasson, a lobbyist for the state’s leading pro-planning group, 1000 Friends of Oregon.The most poignant stories come from people who voted for Measure 37, and now see negative impacts on their own neighborhoods and property values. “I voted for the measure because I believe in property rights,” Rose Straher, who lives in tiny Brookings on the southern Oregon coast, told me. The owner of a nearby 10-acre lily farm filed a Measure 37 claim to turn it into a 40-space mobile-home park, and got the Curry County government to waive its regulations. Straher and 46 other neighbors signed a petition opposing it. Measure 37 “has absolutely no protection for the neighborhood,” Straher told me. “You’re giving superior rights to one particular owner. That is a big flaw.”

Really, I can’t do this story enough justice. Read it. Discuss.

This initiative has nothing to do with protecting individual property from eminent domain. In reality, it’s an attempt to handcuff government from imposing regulation on development.

If you like billboards, by all means, vote for CI 1542.

Today’s editorial in the Missoulian is amusing. It’s on teacher pay. Apparently the paper doesn’t like the way teachers are rewarded with pay raises based on experience and education.

I admit, teacher pay scale isn’t the best I’ve ever heard of. Then again, every system I’ve ever seen is patently unfair or causes problems. The Missoulian advocates a pay scale based on two other factors:

Instead of years of service and credits obtained, steps and lanes ought to be based on the number of students taught and the level of proficiency those students attain. These are easy-to-measure criteria that are generally well-measured through things like standardized testing.

Great. All we need is more incentive for teachers to teach around standardized tests. Isn’t it clear to everybody that standardized testing…well…sucks? I want my kids to learn how to think, not to learn the tidbits and tricks that make successful test takers.

(Based on some of these Missoulian editorials, it seems like these guys must be very good test takers.)

So what’s wrong with the current system anyway? The Missoulian:

The current system makes it possible for mediocre teachers to earn some of the highest salaries simply by sticking with the profession and pursuing continuing education. This is a system that rewards unsuccessful teachers as well or better than successful ones. For example, it denies extremely effective teachers the pay they deserve if they’re younger or haven’t racked up the extra credits.

Er…this sounds like the same way most performance is rewarded. Don’t people think government should be run more like business?

And isn’t “service” and “experience” how you get to write editorials in newspapers? It certainly ain’t talent…

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