November 4, 2006

The Latest of 57 Reasons to Reject the Ohio Learn & Earn Initiative (110406)

Filed under: News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:15 pm

There’s so much good stuff in these reasons that I’m forced to extract small bits from each to identify particularly objectionable points. That is, as before, NOT an excuse to not go to Writes Like She Talks to read the detail.

There will be a final post on the 57 reasons sometime on Monday, depending on when Jill gets to Reason 1 (“ahem” :–>).

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From Jill at Writes Like She Talks (original entry relating to Jill’s effort is here):

  • Reason 9 — (in this instance, I’m going off on my own, because I caught something a left-of-center non-financial type might not catch) Conservatives won’t believe this language is in the amendment:

“The amounts paid to the state pursuant to this section do not diminish the General Assembly’s constitutional obligations. The moneys expended hereunder on scholarships and grants shall supplement, not supplant, per-student state resources appropriated for post-secondary educational programs and purposes prior to or after the approval of this amendment.”

This is an incredible power takeaway that would prevent the General Assembly (GA) from reducing post-secondary spending, for any reason.

We can argue all day long about whether post-secondary education funding in the state is sufficient. That’s not the point; it’s our elected representatives’ decision to make. If we don’t like what they’re doing, we just have to elect new ones. This mandate not to cut post-secondary spending also makes the colleges and universities less accountable, as they know that no matter how lousy a job they do, by whatever the appropriate measurement criteria are, the state money will keep flowing. Sure it will get watered down year by year as inflation rolls along (or will it? — Maybe a court will decide that the Amendment means that spending won’t be cut after considering inflation), but it’s still ridiculous.

What’s more, the Amendment locks into place the current way post-secondary education is structured. In a rapidly changing world, that is not a good idea. Five, ten, or twenty years from now, with technology advances, who is to say that the brick and mortar 100% face to face model will be the best? What if potentially lower-cost distance learning continues to grow? What if teacher and/or student productivity tools enable more teaching and learning to occur in the same amount of time, or higher class loads without sacrificing quality? Who is anyone to say that this won’t take place? Why, if someday the same results can be achieved with less money, would we lock the state into spending the money anyway?

To the argument that this provision will prevent the General Assembly from doing what it did in response to the lottery by (supposedly) cutting education spending from general revenues on elementary and secondary education, I have two thing to say. First, that isn’t what happened; educaton costs have inexcusably been going up at about twice the rate of inflation for decades, and the worst complaint anyone can have is that the GA didn’t increase spending fast enough for their liking. Second, it’s the GA’s call, and if we don’t like it, we have to change who is in the GA.

  • Reason 8 — (this is one “tiny” part of a bigger objection) The $15 million license fee for each slots location is an unconsciounable giveaway to the corporate interests backing Issue 3.

Here is the key section from a Columbus Dispatch article on the topic:

“If you’re going to have slot machines, why don’t you let people bid for the right to operate them?” asked Howard P. Marvel, an Ohio State University professor of economics and law who has written extensively about government policy and economic competition.

That’s what government has done with everything from the cell-phone spectrum to takeoff and landing rights at airports, he said, adding that gambling should be no different.

“Why don’t you let people compete for the right to make money like bandits? ” Marvel asked.

Jeff Hooke, chairman of the Maryland Tax Education Foundation and an expert on gambling, said the value of a casino operator’s license is at least $200 million, based on prices for licenses recently sold in other states.

Under Hooke’s scenario, Ohio should be getting $2 billion up front from the racetrack and betting-parlor owners who would benefit.

“I’d say the terms of Issue 3 are just a total rip-off for taxpayers,” he said.

That’s two experts who support the contention that $15 million is a ripoff. There is no excuse for not having the licenses for the slots location subject to a competitive auction. If Issue 3 supporters think $15 million is fair and would be the auction result anyway, they shouldn’t be afraid of allowing one to occur. But Issue 3 will enable them to avoid that inconvenience.

  • Reason 7– The terms involved in describing how slot machines will work, accept payment, and network with each other have not been suffciently defined, and are vague to a fault.
  • Reason 6– The terms involved in describing how the racetracks permitted to have slots will operate contain industry-specfic terms which are also not defined in the Amendment.

One example is “racing meeting.” I intuitively have an idea of what it is, but there are no specifics in the amendment as to length of time, number of days, and number of races per day. As such, I don’t see anything preventing racetrack/slots location operators from twisting the vague language to their advantage. At the extreme (I wonder how extreme?), the tracks could easily decide to cut back their racing operations drastically in favor of the more lucrative slots. Horse breeders and others who think that Issue 3 will save their industry should be asking themselves “What beyond the reassuring smiles of current backers is there to prevent this?”

Also, don’t lose sight of the fact that the ridiculous level of detail that has to be discussed with each Reason continues to argue against including matters such as Issue 3 in Ohio’s Constitution.

  • Reason 5– This is a quick interpretation of what I see in the language about “gross revenue.” Gross revenue (which in the gambling industry is “the handle” or “the drop,” or total amount bet, minus payouts), excludes any profits from food and drink. It also appears that, even beyond increasing the size of horse racing purses, gross revenue from the slots is being used to fund other operations of the facilities that don’t involve gambling (e.g., site operations, salaries and benefits, payroll taxes), or to partially replace expenses that the facilities are already incurring (e.g., advertising, real estate taxes), before the taxpayers see a dime.

PLEASE grasp the significance of this. Unless someone convinces me otherwise, it seems pretty clear that the site operators wlll be using gambling to heavily cross-subsidize their other operations. Why is this necessary, if these sites are operating currently as racetracks and surviving?

One other thing: Notice how OL&E proponents have managed to avoid discussing “the handle.” If slot payouts are 95% of the handle (which I believe based on some quick Googling is pretty typical, if not a bit low; here’s one example, admittedly online, which shows an average of about 97%), patrons will have to dump almost $57 billion into the slot machines to generate that $2.842 billion. Assuming 6 million adults in Ohio, each and every one of them would have to “drop” over $9,000 every year for OL&E to generate the money it promises. You’re kidding, right?

Anyone from OL&E who wants to dispute my numbers is more than welcome to do so.

  • Reason 4– This one is at least a three-fer. First, this group, a virtual Who’s Who of statewide politics and major civic organizations from all over the ideological landscape are opposed to Issue 3 (they missed WLST and BizzyBlog — How did that happen? :–>). Second, because the 24-page Factbook at the opposition’s site does a great job of explaining why Issue 3 is a bad idea. And third, because the advertising and the robocalls (linked at WLST) are very misleading.

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I’m one post away from completing the 57 Reasons posts (or, more accurately, with one exception, glomming on to Jill’s 57 reasons and occasionally adding my two cents).

By now, it should be clear that Issue 3 has too many open questions, too much misplaced generosity to the racetrack/slot operators, and way too much vaguely-defined minutiae going into Ohio’s Constitution, to justify passage.

I genuinely fear that the intensity of the two-party fight for congressional and Senate control, the noise being generated in DeWine-Brown and Blackwell-Strickland, and the contentiousness of a great many local races have caused voters not to give much thought to Issue 3, making them vulnerable to the great-sounding but deceptive “for the children” rhetoric of Issue 3′s proponents.

Please vote no on Issue 3, and do all you can to convince others to do the same.

Weekend Question 2: So Now You Have a Ninth Reason to Be Against Unrestricted ‘Early Voting’?

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:32 pm

ANSWER: Absolutely.

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There are eight good reasons already. Here’s the story about the ninth:

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Dan Gaul ruled yesterday that all 88 counties can start scanning absentee ballots before Election Day, specifically at 7 a.m. Monday. Gaul granted a request by Cuyahoga County officials who wanted to start scanning absentee ballots early because of an expected crush created by a new law that allows anyone to vote absentee.

Gaul made the ruling after Michael Vu, director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, testified that it could take more than 22 hours for machines to scan the estimated 90,000 absentee ballots that he expects the county to receive.

OK, so I’m supposed to believe that poll workers won’t tabulate results of these scans and will therefore keep them secret until the polls close? That’s a real stretch.

Poll workers can assist the political parties in their Get Out The Vote strategies by letting party officials know how the absentee ballots are falling. If the vote is not going well for the party contacted, on-the-ground workers can redouble their efforts to find people they though would vote early but didn’t. If it is going very well, they can concentrate on people they expect to vote on Election Day. In either case, it enables the party contacted to reallocate its resources in response to something they had no right to learn. Note that either major party can do this, depending on how effective they have been at planting moles inside the Board of Elections.

This is unconscionable.

The fact that the resources aren’t there to count all the early votes is shows that either the equipment is inadequate (purchase decisions are made by the BOEs, NOT the Secretary of State, who may approve them on the perhaps-naive assumption that the BOEs know what they are doing), or that the idea of universal early voting so compromises the deliver of timely results that it should be abandoned.

I believe it’s the latter.

So now there are nine reasons why universal early voting (or as I prefer to call it, “no excuses absentee balloting”) should be abandoned:

  1. The political landscape can change after you’ve voted.
  2. Candidates reveal their rude, deceptive, or self-righteous or other less-than-desirable sides (in this case, all by one person, and there’s still a few days to go).
  3. Unpleasant or pleasant truths about candidates that should legitimately affect voter opinion can come in the final days. (Do you really want to tell me you wouldn’t care if a candidate’s previously unknown violent crime history was discovered after you voted for him or her but before Election Day?)
  4. Politicans can abuse it if they get into disputes over their residency or voter registration situation (the link is to a mythical conversation between two Ohio politicians who have done just that this year)
  5. There is no way to ensure the privacy of the secret ballot and protection against coerced voting.
  6. There is no way to verify that only duly registered voters cast ballots (i.e., someone using someone else’s ballot to vote).
  7. There is no way to absolutely safeguard ballots against loss or alteration.
  8. (as we have seen) There is no way to assure their prompt counting.
  9. (just shown above) in cases of heavy early voting and/or inadequate counting equipment, counting the ballots before the polls are closed opens up the possibility of inappropriate communications between Board of Elections workers and political parties or candidates.

There’s even a “corny” tenth reason, which is the feeling of camaraderie and of representative government in action you get when voting in person with your fellow citizens (hey, I said it was corny, but the Carter-Ford Commission cited it).

Absentee voting should be restricted to those who legtimately cannot be present on Election Day, and those who are truly physically unable to come to the polls, PERIOD.

Why are we allowing this to happen?

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UPDATE: Here’s a supplement to Reason 9, which concentrated on turnout-based communications — It is very possible that a Board of Elections worker could determine whether or not specific people have voted. Then they could alert the candidates or their favored party to that fact. The candidates or parties could then go out and either round up those individuals in time for the absentee deadline, or include them in the group targeted for roundup on Election Day. In extreme cases, this could be coercive — maybe a citizen didn’t want to vote, but gets found out, and the candidate or party, by learning something that is none of their business, uses some form of threat to get that person to the polls or to complete the last-minute absentee ballot.

I would like to know if the activities described in the original Reason 9 or this supplement are even considered illegal. I would guess not, because our legal system is not very good at anticipating future types of crimes (and I cannot see any reason why these types of communications would NOT be considered crimes — can you?).

UPDATE 2: The fact that “early voting” ballots can be brought to the Board of Elections as late as when the polls close on Election Day (here’s the law; I see no evidence that the person delivering the absentee ballot has to the be the voter himself/herself), in conjunction with Reason 9, could conceivably mean that those who are thinking about gaming the system could make a calculated decision as to whether it’s worth it based on the information they are getting from Board of Elections workers.

The ‘No WMD’ Lie: NY Times Adds More Icing to Already-Baked Cake

BizzyBlog readers know the argument over whether Saddam had weapons of mass destruction ended long ago (see Previous Posts list below).

Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the BizzyBlog post that got so many people riled up but that no one has been able to shoot down.

That Thursday evening also marked the day that yet another boomeranging “November Surprise” was unleashed, this time by the New York Times. It has backfired terribly on its supposed beneficiaries, because in the course of supposedly revealing that usable nuke secrets not available anywhere else were inadvertently disclosed at “Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal” web site (what Captain Ed refers to as “the FMSO documents”), the Times noted that:

Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein’s scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.

So not only did Iraq have WMDs, as documented extensively at this blog, but Iraq was close to building a nuke.

Money quote from Captain Ed (who also notes that doubts about the authenticity of the documents have been implicitly erased by the Times):

That appears to indicate that by invading in 2003, we followed the best intelligence of the UN inspectors to head off the development of an Iraqi nuke. This intelligence put Saddam far ahead of Iran in the nuclear pursuit, and made it much more urgent to take some definitive action against Saddam before he could build and deploy it. And bear in mind that this intelligence came from the UN, and not from the United States. The inspectors themselves developed it, and they meant to keep it secret.

Next thing you know, someone in the press is going to say that the threat was “imminent” (something neither George Bush nor anyone in his cabinet ever said, though it was often accused of it).

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UPDATE: I have to wonder what the “no weapons of mass destruction” crowd, including the hordes of duped politicians, will have to say about the Times flushing their precious 3-1/2 year-old meme down the tubes on the eve of the election. I have one word for them: Surprise!

UPDATE 2: Also can’t wait for someone to argue that a pre-emptive strike was wrong in the circumstances. I guess we should have waited until Saddam’s nukes were in the air, or until he had given some of them away to Al Qaeda. Zheesh.

UPDATE 3: Pete Hoekstra’s exclamation point (WSJ link requires subscription; also covered at this Michelle Malkin post):

“If the DNI (Director of National Intelligence) believes that the documents that were released were in the safe 40%, imagine what the 60% being withheld must contain,” Mr. Hoekstra says, adding that this latest twist “only reinforces the value of these documents in understanding the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime.”

UPDATE 4: If the Times (or “The Timestantic,” as Anchoress has taken to calliing it)is really worried about Iran’s acquisition of nuclear knowhow and technology, it ought to dig really deep into this.

UPDATE 5: Boring Made Dull points out that Joe “Plamegate” Wilson is a big, big loser in this. The cake that is already baked in the post title must be a “yellowcake” (haha).

UPDATE 6, Nov. 12: A couple of other choice comments –

  • Charles at LGF: “I’d just like to say ‘thank you’ to President Bush and to the men and women of the US military, who—by the New York Times’ own admission—took out a terror-sponsoring regime in Iraq that could have constructed a nuclear weapon within months, as soon as sanctions were lifted enough for them to obtain sufficient fissile material.”
  • Ted Rall, 2 years ago: “72 percent who cast votes for George W. Bush, according to a University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) and Knowledge Networks poll, believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or active WMD programs. 75 percent think that a Saddam-Al Qaeda link has been proven, and 20 percent say Saddam ordered 9/11. Of course, none of this was true.” Yo, Ted — I’ll give you the last one, but on the other two: How does it feel to be made a complete fool by the favorite newspaper of the Left?

Suddenly Sunday trackback participant.
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Previous Posts:

  • Aug. 14 — The “No WMD” Lie (with Linked Proof): The Sequel
  • July 31 — The Iraq “No WMD” Lie: Game, Set, Match
  • June 22 — MORE WMD Findings Revealed (Adding to Richard Miniter’s October 2005 List)
  • June 13 — The “No WMD” Lie: An Addendum
  • March 18 — Weekend Question 1: When Will We Hear the “Never Mind” on the “No WMD” Claim?
  • March 3 — Why Isn’t There a Groundswell of Media and Other Protest about This “Coverup”?
  • Feb. 15 — The Saddam Tapes, If They Prove WMDs, Will Be Icing on an Already-Baked Cake
  • Feb. 8, 2006 — The “No WMD” Lie (Yet Again) at Coretta Scott King’s Funeral — And a Challenge
  • Nov. 2, 2005 — The “No WMD” Lie (with LINKED Proof)
  • Oct. 27 — The “No WMD” Lie

Weekend Question 1: Did You Know That the Global Warming Debate Is Over?

ANSWER: It really isn’t.

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But earlier in the week, a 527 Media reporter for ABC, one Bill Blakemore, said it is:

(Blakemore) rejects ‘balance’ in order to justify excluding any skeptics of manmade catastrophic global warming from his reporting. He made his remarks at Friday’s panel discussion at the Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference in Burlington.

Blakemore lamented “the deep professional shame that I discovered two years ago,” regarding how he believes the media had been manipulated by skeptics of manmade catastrophic global warming.

“Of course [skeptics] play on the idea that we have to be ‘balanced,’” he noted.

“It was very lazy of us for 10 years when we were asked for balance from the [climate skeptic] spinners. We just gave up and said ‘Okay, okay – I will put the other side on, okay are you happy now?’” he said. “And it saves us from the trouble of having to check out the fact that these other sides were the proverbial flat earth society.”

What a sanctimonious jerk. This is a reporter covering news who has the gall to unilaterally claim that there is no debate.

Blakemore’s “proverbial flat earth research society” includes 17,000 signers of a 1998 petition that said, in part:

“there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”

Nothing has been discovered in the intervening eight years that would prove them wrong.

I could do a post a mile long with dozens of examples of links I’ve saved to stories about attempts to exclude global warming skeptics from committee meetings, forums, conferences, and the like, not because they don’t have science-based points to make, but because they disagree from the so-called orthodoxy. Contrary to the false bravado of the “global warming is settled science” crowd, the global alarmists do not have science on their side. It is way too coincidental that the “solutions” they and their enviro friends fervently desire involve a radical reordering of society and a reduction in worldwide living standards (just as conquering global proverty through capitalism appears to be in sight).

One sure sign that somone who thought they were in control of a debate is really starting to lose it is that they try to marginalize opponents and shut off the debate. As long as enough people stay reality-based and don’t let the argument-starved bullies win, 30 years from now, and you can write it down, we’ll know who the real flat-earth people were.

Positivity: Chuck Norris Is a Columnist

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:01 am

He recently started writing columns for WorldNetDaily. His second outing reveals much about him that I certainly didn’t know, as I suspect many others didn’t:

Movies, however, are not real life, but real heroes are still born in numbers of one.

It sounds kind of canned, but there truly is a hero in all of us. We all were designed by God to be a blessing to others – a hero to someone. As my mother has always told me, I pass on to you: God has a plan for your life.

The question is: will we recognize and offer the power of our one life?

Facing the Giants

Few readers have probably heard of Michael Catt or Alex and Stephen Kendrick, but I believe they are great examples of how each of us can affect our world.

Catt is the senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church and has a vision for his congregation to ”reach the world from Albany, Georgia.” Two of his pastoral staff (Alex and Stephen Kendrick) are materializing that vision through a lifelong dream to make films that reintroduce decency and faith back into the movie industry.

The Kendrick brothers created Sherwood Pictures, the church’s filmmaking ministry, and just produced their second film, ”Facing the Giants,” on a shoe-string budget and volunteer crew. This family-friendly and faith-filled motion picture is currently winning the hearts and minds of grassroots America. My wife, Gena, and I have seen it three times and taken others!

Even more, their work inspires me to do more faith-based movies in the future. This fresh infusion of biblical morals and values is desperately needed in our culture.

Recently Gena and I were talking about the fact that we don’t need to travel around the world to make a difference. We all can make a difference in our own backyard. These Georgian clergy prove the point, and set an example for all of us.

….. I’m still amazed as anybody when God uses my life to impact someone else in a special way. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life, and I sure don’t claim to know all the answers.

I am convinced, however, of a force of one. As the great preacher D.L. Moody put it, quoted recently by our rural Californian pastor, ”I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And that which I can do, by the grace of God, I will do.”