Friday, January 29, 2010

Drunken Sailors, Republicans, and College Kids in Vegas

Joe Scarborough. Rome Wasn’t Burnt in a Day: The Real Deal on How Politicians, Bureaucrats, and Other Washington Barbarians are Bankrupting America. New York: Harper Paperbook, 2005.

The author warns that the growing Federal debt is creating long term threats to the national economy. He warns conservatives in Congress to stop protecting their own spending projects which only contribute towards the growing debt. There has been an increase in the use of rhetoric in Congress. The result is an increase in bitterness between opposing political parties in Congress resulting in only a few attempting to find solutions.

The Federal budget balanced in 1998 due to a number of factors, according to Scarborough. The 1993 tax increase brought in more revenues, the 1995 decreased spending reduced outflows, and the IRS aggressively collected trillion of more money. Thus, fraudulent business owners, especially in Internet and telecommunications businesses, paid their due taxes which helped balance the budget.

The Gingrich Revolution, the author states, ended when the Republican majority in Congress compromised and accepted President Clinton’s policies. Many Republican members of Congress fought for their budgetary pork spending programs. Instead of reforming Congress, Republicans began using political power to advance themselves rather than their reform agenda. Voters thus didn’t see much difference between the two political parties.

Scarborough is upset at how political and the media works. He recalls how he gave a reporter a story. After the reporter died, a political enemy spread a rumor the reporter got the story from a gay affair. Scarborough called to correct the rumor.

A problem that members of Congress face is their need for large amounts of funds for their reelection campaigns. It takes party leaders to raise the large amounts. The leaders then give these funds in return for loyalty to the leaders’ causes.

Scarborough argues that members of Congress and Congressional staffers should be banned from lobbying Congress for five years after leaving Congress. He also proposes that campaign contributions should be immediately disclosed.

Scarborough calls for pay as you go spending and for balanced budgets. He would place ½ of 1% of tax revenues aside for emergencies.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Thoughtful Republican--There Are Some Left

Joe Scarborough. The Last Best Hope: Restoring Conservatism and America’s Promise. New York: Crown Forum, 2009.

The author argues that conservatives should be grounded in realistic solutions which upholding their beliefs in restraining an overreaching government. He is sad to be conservatism as represented by increased militarization, Wall Street-ers without control, and those who insist upon placing ideological litmus tests on determining who is a supportable conservative. Scarborough instead believes conservatism should avoid rigid adherence to ideology and use its principles towards guiding modern issue policies.

Scarborough’s beliefs have libertarian roots on both economic and privacy issues. He urges for less spending on empire building and on government programs. He calls for more attention to economic soundness. He notes that conservatives need to accept Social Security and Medicare and need to concentrate, not on criticizing these programs, but on making these programs more fiscally sound.

Scarborough calls for a foreign policy designed to protect our strategic national interests. Force should be a last resort should when used it should be decisive and we should exit after victory, he argues. Military power should also be aware of our economic limits.

There were $2.1 trillion in mortgage and securities backed by mortgages owned by publicly supported Fannie Mac and Freddie Mac. This grew to $5 trillion by 2008, representing almost half all national mortgages. Meanwhile, banks were leveraging loans to assets at 40 to 1 rates. In 2008, the economy collapsed due to this excessive debt when much of it could not be repaid. Scarborough warns that using $12.8 trillion of Federal government funds to support failing companies only creates more debt.

Scarborough calls for making car batteries more energy efficient. We need to reduce our reliance on oil from governments that oppose our interests. We cannot continue using 25% of the oil worldwide while possessing 3% of proven oil reserves. The US spent $700 billion to import oil in 2008.

Federal government spending is approaching 40% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), an increase from 34.3% ten years ago. In Eurozone nations, national government spending is 48% of their GDP.

The author argues that tax increases slow down economic growth and delay economic recovery. The New Deal, he argues, originally failed to revive the economy as unemployment remained high, around 20%, seven years after it started. He does credit the New Deal for creating safety nets, such as unemployment compensation, Social Security, and deposit insurance, which helped people.

Scarborough notes that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mac executives contributed only to the political campaign of only one U.S. Senator more than they contributed to Senator Obama.

The Obama campaign raised $639 million to win the Presidency. McCain raised a quarter of a million dollars less. Obama spent $30 million more on negative ads than McCain did. 75% of Obama’s funds came from donors who gave $200 or more and almost half gave $1,000 or more. The author opposes limiting campaign spending as it would restrict free speech.

Scarborough warns there are $80 trillion in future entitlement obligations that have no tax credits dedicated towards paying these entitlements. This is six times greater than our entire national economy and 16 times larger than the Federal debt. Scarborough argues these programs are important part of social fabric and that conservative proposals to eliminate them are unrealistic. He argues there should be actions taken to make them economically more stable, such as increasing the age for eligibility, which makes sense since life spans have increased.

The author notes the Democratic Party has been victorious in enough states and DC in each of the last five Presidential elections to guarantee they can win 250 electoral votes and be 22 electoral votes away from winning. McCain lost each of these states and DC by over 10 percentage points.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A History of a Town Once Described as Having Only Rocks, Reptiles, and Republicans

Hiram P. Maxim, III. Lyme Heritage News: June 1995-August 2006. Deep River, Ct.: Valley Press and New Era Printing Co, 2007.

Lyme Plantation, named in 1667 following the 1665 settlement of a plantation across the river, Saybrook The first blacksmith, John Larobe, was hired in 1672. A militia from Lyme left in 1775 to fight the British at Lexington. Oysters in Lyme were popular and in 1823 were restricted to only Lyme residents. In 1823, Lyme residents were allowed a limit of six bushels of oysters weekly. Rev. Enoch Burr began preaching at Lyme’s First Congregational Church, where he would remain for 57 years. An alms house was created in 1864. A Free Public Library was created in 1913. Ah elementary school was created in 1933.

The hunting grounds for Mohegans ran from New London to Norwich to Lyme and to Middletown.

157 houses in Lyme, Ct. are presumed to have been standing since 1855.

In 1725, a congregation of church members that disagreed with the town’s Congregational Church created their own Separatist Church. A Separatist Church existed on Blood Street from 1760 to 1805, with Rev. Darvel Miner as it’s preacher from 1762 to 1799. The church’s membership dwindled after Rev. Miner’s death.

A ninny-noddy is used to win yarn in preparation for knitting or weaving.

A flax plant, upon reaching 36 inches, would be uprooted, saving the roots, dried, removed of seeds, soaked for five days, have its fibers cut off with a knife, and have its fiber cleaned. The flax is spun on a flax spinning wheel into thread or yarn.

A fulling mill, which made cloth, a corn mill, and a saw mill were established in Lyme circa 1709. Other businesses in Lyme included tanning hides into leather, shoemaking, and blacksmithing.

In 1787, eight fatherless children were indentured to families that could support them.

A smallpox epidemic hit America in 1776-7. It is believed a prisoner released from the poor conditions existing in a British prison was the first smallpox case and death in Lyme. The disease had a 30 percent mortality rate. There are several unmarked graves that are believed to have been people who died from smallpox. The epidemic probably caused the mills to close and people to move away. The Sterling City section of town did not return to the economic vitality that is previously had.

Overseers were established for people unable to handle their own home, family, business, and farm affairs. This happened by Selectmen order seven times in 1790. Two overseers were revoked in 1790 as the people overseen were determined to be capable of resuming handling their own affairs.

A feud developed where Samuel Beckwith attached furniture of a sawmill owned by Amos Latimer due to nonpayment of debt. Nathan and Hallam Latimer knocked down a fence and led 20 cattle to eat grass and herbs on property owned by Beckwith. Nathan Latimer was summoned for violently hitting and kicing Beckwith. Nathan Latimer was summoned a second time for threatening to violently beat Beckwith. Latimer than destroyed Beckwith’s adze.

Lyme was divided into five several room school districts in 1797. These were Bill Hill, Brockway, North Grassy Hill, Sterling City, Hadlyme, and South Grassy Hill (closed in 1909), and Pleasant Valley (closed in 1926). The remaining were closed in 1934.

William Sill, a user of opium and alcohol, in 1805, shot to death his father in law, Captain William Sterling.

A toll house existed along the Hamburg Turnpike. The toll was 24 cents for stagecoaches, 12 ½ cents for pleasant carriages with two wheels or ox wagons, 9 cents for a horse, 4 cents for a person riding a horse, and ½ cent per sheep and pig. There was no charge for travel between church attendance, town meeting attendance, funerals, military service, and personal farm use for four miles or less upon the road, and for travel to and from the gristmill. Once most of the costs of the road were collected in tolls, the Toll House was sold as a home to the toll gate keeper, Hosen Daniels, for $169.

The Harrisburg Manufacturing Company was created in 1839 when new owners purchased the McIntosh Mill. It produced textile materials and oakum.

The Blizzard of 1888 lasted in Lyme for three days and left up to four feet of snow. Fortunately, homes depended on wood stoves, Today, such a blizzard would likely strand people without electricity.

Granite quarrying began on Lord’s Island circa 1889. By 1891, it employed 115 with 75 living on company homes. The operations fell into debt and ceased circa 1898. The state government bought they island in 1943 and renamed it Selden Island.

Ray Harding purchased Ashlawn Farm from Kansas Nebraska Bill in 1909. It became mostly a dairy. Today it is a market place and coffee roastery.

In 1945, Lyme had over 30 farms. The rocky land and poor soil limited most farming to cattle, dairy, and sheep.

Reed’s Landing, used for commercial shipping, was created along the Eight Mile River in the early 19th century. The community known as New Hamburgh was built around this landing.

Hartman Park was a community of African Americans, Native Indians, and Whites that thrived on subsistence farming. It formerly was hunting grounds for the Nehantic Native Americans. The British established an Indian reservation in Niantic, Ct. and allowed Hartman Park to be their hunting grounds. Freed slaves entered there during the 18th century. There was intermarriage between the Native Americans and African Americans. In 1860, Hartman Park had 15 families. Some sold sheep, cows, pigs, and apple cider for income. The land was over-farmed by the middle of the 19th century. Many moved away although the Tiffany and Lee families moved to other parts of Lyme.

In 1780, several families left the Congregational Church and became Baptists, calling themselves “Dissenters”. They built a meetinghouse during 1800-1802 that was torn down in 1840. A new Baptist meetinghouse was built in 1861. It has 151 members in 1894. In 1932, the town bought the meetinghouse and made it the Lyme Town Hall. It remains today.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

History of Some Republican Office Holders Zimmerman and Dwyer

William Keisling and Richard Kearns. The Sins of Our Fathers: A Profile of Pennsylvania Attorney General LeRoy S. Zimmeran and a Historical Explanation of the Suicide of State Treasureur R. Budd Dwyer. (no publisher listed): Harrisburg, Pa.: 1988.

This is a look into two Pennsylvania statewide office holders, Attorney General LeRoy Zimmernan and State Treasurer. The book, using among its sources Judy Cohen, a secretary to Federal Prosecutor James West, claims the scope of an investigation involving kickbacks in awarding a state contract to CTA, a computer company, involved more people than those who were indicted. Robert Asher, Republican State Party Chairman, State Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer, and William Smith, were indicted and convicted of a scheme where CTA contributed $300,000 to the state Republican Party in return for obtaining a state contract. State Sen. John Shumaker of Dauphin County, a former President of Penn National Race Track, was typed onto indictments papers that were not used and the ones that were used deleted Shumaker’s name.

Shumaker was the sponsor of legislation that created the contract that was awarded to CTA. An attorney, William Smith, a former Dauphin County Republican Party Co-Chairman, testified that he told Shumaker he would divide in half the legal fees Smith would get on the CTA contract and give Shumaker half.

U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese allegedly interceded and inquired about this case which involved several Republican leaders. It is theorized that the prosecutors acted in respect of their superior’s wishes.

Former Harrisburg Police Chief Bruno Favasuli claimed many politicians took bribes from gambling interests. He believed that Pennsylvania Attorney General LeRoy Zimmerman actively seek to prosecute gamblers, including an uncle (or two) he alleged was involved in illegal gambling. Favasuli stressed he had no reason to believe Zimmeran ever helped these interests. Favasuli was indicted for allegedly taking money from gambling interests. He pled not guilty and the jury found him not guilty.

When Zimmerman was Dauphin County District Attorney, he dismissed a case and a warrant against one of his uncles, Johnny Magaro, on gambling charges, stating he did not believe it could be successfully prosecuted. Zimmerman was also his uncle’s guardian at the time, the authors claim.

Another Zimmerman relative, and also a relative of Favasuli’s wife, Aldo Magnelli was an alleged leader of organized crime in Harrisburg. He is listed as being on the state government payroll in the 1960s during the Scranton Administration although the Department of Labor and Industry, where he is listed as being employed, has no record of his working there. It is theorized he may have received compensation in return for doing no or little work. Magnelli was among the people arrested at a gathering of organized crime leaders in 1957 in Apalachin, N.Y., which was a famous recognition by the FBI that an organized crime system operated. The authors conclude that Zimmerman avoided interacting with Magnelli.

The authors were provided information about an FBI report that Zimmerman received money from gambling interests. The authors turned the report to the State Police. The Police didn’t want to accept it and offered it back. The authors insisted they take it.

Norman Bonneville, former Harrisburg Assistant Police Chief, told the authors that gambling used to be commonplace and that most police officers in the early 1950s knew it was going on but looked the other way while some police officers participated in the games. He told the authors the FBI had a tape of a Police Chief stating that Zimmmeran and State Sen. George Gekas allegedly intervened to prevent police raids where gambling took place. Bonneville pled guilty to receiving, from 1966, to 1977, $5,000 to $6,000 from gambling interests to not raid poker parties.

The authors claim when they interviewed Gekas, who then was a Member of Congress, told them, as the authors put it “people like himself and Roy Zimmerman are never investigated.”

The Citizens Alliance to Save Harrisburg (CASH), a coalition of neighborhood activities, some with training from social advocate Saul Alinsky, sought in the 1970s to remove nuisance bars and criminal activity from Harrisburg neighborhoods. District Attorney Zimmernan stated their claims of law police enforcement were hearsay.

The authors note that LeRoy Zimmerman, George Gekas, John Shumaker, and William Smith all attended Dickinson Law School and had known each other for many years.

William Brodhecker, a former Harrisburg police office in the Vice Squad, told the authors that, as the authors put it, “the politicians needed money, which the gamblers had, while the gamblers needed protection, which the gamblers had” and that Harrisburg had a “political system that was nine tenths corrupt.” He claimed District Attorney Martin Lock, under whom Zimmerman served as an Assistant District Attorney, also failed to prosecute gambling cases. Sam Orlowsky, a State Police Sergeant, confirmed to the authors that Dauphin County prosecutors had failed for some time to prosecute gamblers. Orlowski showed the authors a film of the Steelton Chief of Police taking money from an alleged criminal and stated he was upset that Zimmerman refused to prosecute the Police Chief.

The authors portray R. Budd Dwyer as a politician who accepted the status quo and did nothing to change it. Dwyer claims he only went along with the CTA scheme and that Zimmerman was more involved in it than he was. Dwyer is presented as the fall guy for the scandal.

The authors allege that Dwyer attempted to ask for a finder’s free in return for obtaining employment for someone, but that the deal fell through and no funds and hirings were exchanged. Zimmerman saw no need to prosecute this case.

John Torquato and William Smith of CTA sought to win a contract to obtain overpayments that state employees had made to Social Security. Payoffs allegedly were made to several bureaucrats. Dwyer at first resisted the scheme but finally gave in. Smith testified that Zimmerman called him to find out how much Dwyer was receiving, which was $300,000, and requested that Zimmerman’s political campaign committee should get half what Dwyer got and Smith agree. Smith denied this was a bribe.

The authors claim Dwyer was once proud he had awarded a state contract to someone who contributed $5,000 to the state Republican Party. People expressed surprise because some contracts led to much larger contributions, often into the millions of dollars. Dwyer’s acceptance of a $300,000 campaign contribution from CTA may have part of his learning that larger contributions were expected in return for state contracts.

Zimmerman’s opponent for Attorney General questioned whether Governor Richard Thornburgh was upset at Dwyer because Dwyer had questioned no-bid contracts awarded by the Governor. Dwyer stated he believed Zimmerman was involved in the CTA award bid. Dwyer committed suicide before he was sentenced.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Republicans Have Been Known to Thrive in California

William Muir, Jr. Legislature: California’s School for Politics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1982.

This book is based on interviews with 28 California legislators conducted in 1977-78. The author was a legislative committee staffer in 1975-76.

Lobbying who were knowledgeable were considered as being the best lobbyists. Legislators seek expert advice and most appreciate those lobbyists who could provide it.

Legislators who wished to oppose bills found their legislative peers expected them to state their objections. This is to give advocates a chance to clarify any misperceptions. Legislators who vote against other legislators consistently often found themselves ostracized by other legislators.

Many legislators propose bills that are specific to their district, such as buying property or closing down something. Many of these legislators seek to build coalitions with other legislators with their own “district” bills that will win approval for several district bills.

Legislators need to know how to handle conflicts. They also need to know how to use power appropriately in order to get their legislation passed.

People with specialized knowledge could go far in the legislative process. A legislator who understood the nuisances of a topic could win the respect of other legislators. Many might defer reaching their own opinions in respect to the opinions of the legislators who were specialists on particular topics.

Legislators face dilemmas when working harder can lead to gaining more enemies. The legislator who does less may engage in fewer conflicts and may keep more friends.

Legislators are expected to vote according to a norm that allows them to oppose a matter on its merits if they are familiar with the merits. Otherwise, the legislator is expected to vote in favor of a proposal, or to follow a leadership position on a proposal.

California established the Office of Legislative Analyst in 194. It had 44 technicians and a $1.5 million budget in 1975. The Governor’s office confidentially shares information on developing a budget proposal with this office so the legislative analysts could promptly provide detailed information of the Governor’s budget proposal, a document that was over 1,200 pages in the mid-1970s.

Legislators usually found their careers were advance by sharing their knowledge about issues to other legislators. Legislators also are less apt to move into developing specializations of knowledge about issues where others already have developed that expertise.

The author argues that knowledge about bills and the legislative process are the keys to legislators rising to the top of the legislative system. These legislators generally have the most proposals passed. Republicans were respected by the Democratic majority, as noted that 11 of the top 21 legislators in received the highest percentage of their bills passed were Republicans. Six of the top 24 legislators who got the most bills passed were first termers. It is noted some legislators who had low success rates in getting bills passed were specialists on controversial major bills that were narrowly defeated.

Most legislators felt a need to accomplish something. They learned the process to achieve goals and followed norms to fit into a system that advanced their ideals.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Republicans and Some Other Party Compose Most State Legislators

Peverill Squire and Gary Moncrief. State Legislatures Today: Politics Under the Domes. Boston” Longman, 2010.

State legislatures in 2009 faced budget deficits due to declining tax revenues from a poor economy’s lowered spending. State legislatures also faced several controversial issues, including how the death penalty, gay marriage, and energy issues. Numerous subjects were considered by state legislatures that received much public comment, including disallowing text messaging while driving (which passed in nine states), hate crimes (Maryland made attacking a homeless person a hate crime), puppy mills conditions, etc. Among the many topics legislators faced included, in the Arkansas legislature, a bill that proclaimed “Arkansas’s” as the correct possessive spelling.

Of the first 13 state legislatures, Pennsylvania and Georgia had unicamarel legislatures. Both became bicamarel upon both state’s second Constitutions, both in 1790. Vermont entered as the 14th state with a unicamarel legislature that remained unicamarel until 1836. Nebraska became a state with a unicamarel legislature in 1867 and has kept itself as such.

Legislative committees began emerging in the early 19th century.

The number of members in a legislative chamber goes from a low of 20 Alaska State Senators to a high of 400 New Hampshire House members.

From 1966 to 2009, there were an exact number of both Democrats and Republicans serving at the same time in 38 legislative chambers. This causes organizational difficulties in designating majority control of leadership and committees. Even having an odd number of members doesn’t avoid ties from happening, as Maine elected one independent Senator while also electing 17 Republican Senators and 17 Democratic Senators.

A poll found 51% support, with 32% against, to lower the Pennsylvania House by 53 members.

The Illinois legislature found more bills were introduced and its operating costs increased after it reduced its number of legislators. It is theorized that the size and political diversity of a state does more to determine how much work legislators do more so than the number of legislators it has.

The last state to enact term limits was Nebraska in 2000.

In 2006, a New Hampshire represented 3,287 constituents, the least number of constituents per legislator in the nation, compared to the most constituents per legislator being a California legislator with 455,719 constituents. The median number of constituents per lower chamber member was 40,232.

Campaigns for state legislature have reached over $2 million in the most expensive races.

A survey of 987 legislators found 46.6% had considered running for the legislature when another person convinced them to run, 32.1% decided to run of their own, and 21.3% were recruited to run. Men were more apt than women to decide to run on their won, by 36.5% for men and 16.1% for women. Women as a portion of legislators by state in 2009 were a low of 8.8% in South Carolina to a high of 38.3% in Vermont.

There were 20 states where Republicans controlled both legislative chambers, 29 where Democrats controlled both, and 10 were each party controlled a chamber in 2006. There is one non-partisan chamber in the unicamarel Nebraska. In 2007, there were 23 states where Democrats controlled both chambers, 16 states where Republican controlled both chambers, and 10 where each party controlled a chamber. The 2008 election produced the most numbers of states, since 1994, where one party was controlling both chambers where 20 states shifted to Democratic control.

Wyoming’s legislators have 40 days of session in off years and 20 days of session in even years, for which they are paid $4,500 per year plus $150 per diem for each session day attended. California legislators met full time with no restriction on the number of days of session for which they received $116,208 plus $173 per diems when attending sessions.

Professional legislatures have more session days and resources. A 2003 study declared California was the most professional legislature, Pennsylvania the 6th, and New Hampshire had the 50th most professional legislature.

In 2007, California legislatures had the highest annual salary at $116,308 (or an estimated $135,405 with per diems). Pennsylvania legislators had the fourth highest salary at $73,613 (or an estimated $83,380 with per diems). New Hampshire had the lowest salary at $100 and were provided with no per diems. Alaska had the 49th highest salary at $990, but they could receive $31,560 with per diems.

All legislators had professional and clerical staff for legislative committees. Some states don’t provide staff members to individual legislators and only a few states have staffed legislative district offices.

In 2009, 16 states had no Hispanic legislators. New Mexico had the highest portion of its legislators being Hispanic at 44%.

In 2009, there were 80 Native Americans legislators in 17 states. Maine law provided for non-voting legislators each from the Passamaquaddy and the Penabscot tribes.

Some legislative leaders have retaliated against legislative opponents in their own political party by removing them from leadership or committee positions, reducing their staff, moving their offices, ignoring their reelection efforts, etc.

In 2007, Speaker Tom Craddick was reelected Texas House Speaker after several fellow Republican legislators unsuccessfully tried to remove him. Craddick supported candidates in the Republican primaries who defeated some of those who opposed him.

Seniority rules in establishing committee appointments exist in Arkansas and South Carolina and partially in Texas and Mississippi. Other states use a caucus leader or a specific committee to choose who leads legislative committees.

Pennsylvania House members had a mean of 9.9 years of legislative service, with committee chairs having a mean of 21.6 years of service.

In 2005-2006, there were 214, 998 bills introduced with 38,805 or 18% passed. Pennsylvania had 8,201 bills introduced with 462 or 6% passed. There was, by state, a high of 33,081 bills introduced (in New York) and a low of 737 bills introduced (in Wyoming). There was a highest percent of bills introduced and passed, by state, of 66% in Colorado and a low of 3% in Minnesota.

Many state legislatures are required to produce a balance budget.

The incumbent reelection rates for legislators from 1990 to 2003 ranged from a high of 98.1% in New York to a low of 84.4% in Louisiana. Pennsylvania had the third highest incumbent reelection rate of 97.6%.

In 2009, 25 state legislative caucuses were on a social networking site (MySpace or Facebook), 23 had blogs, 20 were on Twitter, and 14 were on YouTube.