August 2007

Gone fishin’

Friday, August 31st, 2007

tice.jpgYour humble blogmaster, D.J. Tice, is taking a little time off. Posts may be a little spotty for the next week or so. Bear with us. A long year and a half of political Big Questions looms.

In the meantime, keep it steady, keep it ready, keep it civil and substantive.

Good and ungood in the economic report

Friday, August 31st, 2007

tice.jpgThe annual Census Bureau report on incomes, poverty and health insurance came out this week and as always it provides a wealth of evidence to prove nearly whatever case one is eager to make.

Our aim here at the Big Question is to see past our own predispositions. With that in mind let’smonopoly_guy.jpg consider a few main themes of the report, seeking both comparisons and statistical details that put an optimistic spin on the economy’s condition, and those that are not very encouraging.

Not a boom, but basically normal

Real median household income rose in 2006 for the second year in a row, following five consecutive years of decline. The uptick, seven-tenths of a percent, was slight, smaller than the 2004-05 boost of 1.1 percent.


Staff writer Mark Brunswick: Now, wouldn’t that be special?

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

Is there anything special about a special session? Minnesota’s governors called only three special sessions in the first half century of statehood, but have called 29 since 1959. ramsey.jpg

There have been three special sessions called to address major disasters: floods in 2002 and 1997 and the Sioux wars of 1862.

With the bridge on a major transportation artery collapsed and three counties in southern Minnesota under water, it would not be hard to consider this the kind “extraordinary occasion” upon which the state consitution allows the governor to call a special session. Negotiations on a special session agenda continue.

“Any special session should be confined to addressing immediate needs,” said Rep. Chris DeLaForest, R-Andover, expressing the concern of many Republicans. “Otherwise there’s a great risk of a chaotic free-for-all.”

Back in 1862, on the eve of a special session called to address concerns over the Dakota conflict, The Stillwater Messenger made the same observation after rumors circulated that the Legislature planned to elect Gov. Alexander Ramsey to the U.S. Senate:

“The critical state of our domestic affairs rendered this course by the Governor highly appropriate, and if the members will but go to work with energy and prudence and finish up the business of the session and adjourn at the earliest possible moment, the people will heartily acquiesce in their actions”

The Faribault Republican was even more pointed, warning:

“They better not do it (electing Ramsey); particularly the members of Southern Minnesota, and the Minnesota Valley; and if they do they should return with their coffins on their backs, for their constituents will have their political graves dug for them when they get home.”

Lawmakers met and the immediately began debating the first order of business: collecting per diem and mileage.

Here are some questions and answers concerning special sessions:


Minnesota becomes a super-duper state

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

This just in: The State DFL Central Committee has voted to move the party’s 2008 caucuses to Feb 5, following the state GOP’s move and putting Minnesota in with dozens of states that will choose delegates that day and quite possibly determine presidential nominees for both major parties.

Staff writer Bob von Sternberg on Republicans behaving badly (and, getting caught)

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

vonste.jpgAnother day, another Republican presidential campaign rocked by sordid and/or criminal charges against a prominent supporter.

When news broke Monday that Idaho Sen. Larry Craig had been busted for soliciting sex in a bathroom stall at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, he scrambled to resign his post as “co-Senate liason” for Mitt Romney’s campaign. A campaign spokesman for the former Massachusetts governor accepted the resignation in a flash.

It wasn’t the first time pecadillos have embarrassed a candidate (see President Clinton’s image meister Dick Morris, caught with a hooker during the 1996 Democratic convention). But the Craig incident is only the most recent to tar the campaigns of nearly half the Republican field.

In June, South Carolina Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, the state chairman for Rudy Giuliani’s campaign, was indicted on federal cocaine charges.

Then, in July, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., Giuliani’s southern regional campaign chairman, was linked to the so-called DC Madam’s escort service. Vitter called it “a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible.”

A few days later, the co-chairman of John McCain’s Florida campaign was arrested for allegedly offering an undercover police officer $20 for a sex act. Florida State Rep. Bob Allen was charged with solicitation for prostitution after he was arrested in a Titusville city park. Allen called it “a very gross mistake.”

What’s a supporter of the party of family values to make of all this?


The not so speedy Gonzales exit

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Let’s have an open thread on the departure of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez
Two simple but big questions occur: Why now? Why not before this?

Staff writer Bon von Sternberg on the continuing primary scramble

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

vonste.jpgJust when you thought it was safe to start writing next year’s 2008 primary calender in ink instead of pencil, well, forget it.

Michigan is on the verge of shaking things up big time. Forget Super Duper Tuesday, the day folks in two dozen states go to the polls. Even as Iowa and New Hampshire are scrambling to front-load the schedule closer and closer to New Year’s Day, Michigan’s legislature is in the process of moving the state’s primary date to Jan. 15.

It’s hard to be sure what exactly is the “latest” on this craziness, but here’s
a New York Post story on Michigan’s maneuver.


Staff writer Patricia Lopez on the mixed up GOP presidential race

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

lopez.jpgA House Republican fundraiser last Wednesday night netted an intriguing _ some might say baffling _ cross section of support for Republican presidential candidates, with Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., winning the straw poll as a write-in candidate with 21 percent.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was a close second at 20 percent.

But, then, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, came in a startling third, beating out Rudy Giuliani.

Paul has become the darling of some Republican activists for his anti-Iraq war and anti-immigration stands.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, the personal choice of Gov. Tim Pawlenty, came in a distant fifth, with 11 percent.

House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said that hundreds of Republican activists, legislators and campaign supporters showed up for the event at St. Paul River Centre. The results, he said, showed that “opinions of the Republican presidential candidates in Minnesota are mixed and up for grabs.”

Here’s the complete list:

    Fred Thompson (write-in), Former Tennessee Senator: 21%

    Mitt Romney, Former Massachusetts Governor: 20%

    Ron Paul, Texas Congressman: 16%

    Rudy Giuliani, Former Mayor of New York: 13%

    John McCain, U.S. Senator of Arizona: 11%

    Mike Huckabee, Former Arkansas Governor: 8%

    John Cox, Illinois businessman: 4%

    Duncan Hunter, California Congressman: 2%

    Tom Tancredo, Colorado Congressman: 2%

    Sam Brownback, U.S. Senator from Kansas: 2%

    Newt Gingrich (write-in), Former Speaker of the House from Georgia: 2%


The Vietnam analogy

Friday, August 24th, 2007

tice.jpgThe Vietnam War, a wounding controversy that unalterably shaped the political thinking of millions of ’60s generation Americans, is not the kind of historical memory thatviet_evac.jpg produces common understanding — for the simple reason that Vietnam has no settled meaning. Least of all do those who lived through the Vietnam era agree about what went wrong and why.

Yet President Bush provocatively included Vietnam in a list of past American conflicts that, he said in his speech Wednesday, show us why we must see through the conflict in Iraq. The horrific aftermath of America’s withdrawl in Southeast Asia, he said, will be re-enacted in Iraq if the U.S. abandons its mission there.

Don’t miss this thoughtful and measured analysis of the merits of Bush’s analogy by Thom Shanker of the New York Times.

A couple of thoughts and questions:


Another lapse in civility and substance

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

tice.jpgI have removed a number of profane and abusive comments from a recent thread.

Fair warning is hereby given that commenters who habitually misuse the privilege of participating on this blog can and will lose that privilege.

This is a place where open-minded critical thinkers of all political persuasions encounter information and arguments that both support and challenge their preconceptions. The goal is not to eliminate differences but to narrow and clarify them. We begin with a bedrock agreement that the search for insight and clarity is important, serious - and fun.

We ask commenters to be civil and substantive and, if possible, good humored. We reserve the right to delete comments that disregard this request.

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