Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Thompson's In?

It appears that Fred Thompson has all but announced his intention to seek the GOP presidential nomination. He had indicated that an announcement was coming in June but this USAToday interview/story doesn't leave much doubt.

I've been pretty sure that he was coming in and I figured he needed to do it fairly soon if he wanted any chance to collect significant campaign funds. He's been a strong 3rd or 4th in many polls without actually announcing his candidacy. Interestingly, his entry may signal the death knell for the McCain campaign, which has been fading fast anyway.

As you know, I'm backing Rudy, but Fred is a guy I would strongly support if he should get the nomination over Rudy. What I'd really like, though, is a Rudy/Fred ticket.

Update: Prof. Bainbridge tells us why he likes Fred (and maybe why we should, too).
HT: Instapundit

Rudy's Appeal to Social Conservatives

Rudy Giuliani continues to confound pundits who were certain that he could not stay in the GOP nomination race because of his socially liberal views. Instead of being shunned by social conservatives, he is increasingly finding supporters in this group. It appears that Rudy has convinced many that perfect positions on gay marriage or abortion will matter little if we cannot be secure from terrorism.

Take a look at Rudy's leadership video posted on YouTube. He makes several good points about the fact that he is quite conservative on many fronts. So far, appeals like this one are working.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


A couple of brief political and personal notes from the Gates Memorial Day service.

First, our Town of Gates' Blogger Lee Strong must get some kudos for the power of his "pen" (mouse?). Lee chided County Legislator Steve Eckel for being a no-show at most Gates functions. Eckel made the Memorial Day event, courtesy of (it is to be assumed) Sue Swanton, who apparently relayed Lee's message.

Second, Lee bristles at claims that he has "Democrat cohorts". It could be, however, that this impression is derived from his regularly sitting with Sue Swanton and Democrat candidates and officials at most public events. If he wants to be bi-partisan, I'd be happy to sit with him. After all, I am a member (honorary) of the Friends of the Gates Library.

Finally, I was glad to have my son with me. He is 9 going on 10, and, like most kids his age, he has rather little idea of the underlying meaning of Memorial Day. He was a little reluctant to get up and go to the service, but I insisted. I explained that it was important to go and show our respect and gratitude for the sacrifice of those many soldiers and their families. I think he got it, at least, a little. I'll keep working on him. I consider it part of my responsibility to educate him in what it means to be a good citizen.

Render Unto Caesar

In church with my family this weekend, I was unhappy to find politics intruding into worship.

During our prayers for God's help, one of the requests was for Congress to have the wisdom to enact compassionate immigration reform. Rather than offer my "hear us, O Lord", I found myself issuing some rather un-christian mutterings.

I realize that the Council of Catholic Bishops has called for the passage of the Immigration Bill before Congress. Still, I disagree that this is an issue of social justice rather than law and politics. Social justice concerns require us to treat the illegal aliens in this country in a compassionate way, even as our laws require them to face deportation or other punishment for violating our nation's laws. It does not require us to ignore the fact that they did violate those laws, nor does it require us to give amnesty for their crimes.

George W. Bush expressed how social justice concerns required us to act towards illegals, when he was governor of Texas. In the face of a growing illegal immigrant incursion, California had just passed a law that would deny education, health care and social service assistance to illegals and their children. Texas was faced with a similar problem and Bush was asked if Texas ought not pass a similar law. He said that while it was appropriate to try to keep illegals out of the country, once an alien child was in Texas, Texas was going to feed, educate, and care for that child.

That properly expresses the balance that should be sought on immigration policy. We have a right to keep illegal aliens out of our country. The current group of illegals may ultimately be allowed to stay, but only after they take steps to show they want to become Americans, not just vacuum up some dollars to be sent "home" to Mexico. While here, these people and their children should be treated fairly (as they are, by and large).

Meanwhile, I am thinking of writing my pastor. I recently agreed to his plea for increased weekly donations. I want to let him know that when I disagree with politicians, my donations start to dry up.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day: Part 2

I attended the Memorial Day Service this morning with my son Joe.

He noticed that many of the veterans were very old. Some of them had a hard time standing up to accept our grateful applause. Carrying the flags and firing their rifles in the 21 gun salute have become difficult chores.

There was one Viet Nam veteran there, still able to wear his uniform from 35-40 years ago. It was stunning to realize how long ago that war was; and that war is still with us, having shifted from Southeast Asia to the Middle East.

Two veterans of the Iraq War spoke today. They are clearly from the modern era. They served willingly but not, perhaps, with the blind faith of those aging WWII vets. They discussed their frustrations with the War from too few troops to get the job done to a media whose agenda leads to slanted reporting. They were truly citizen soldiers, citizens who would speak their minds even as they were soldiers doing their duty. One hopes that bodes well for the future. Perhaps such citizen soldiers will become leaders who will understand that war must be a last resort, something to be avoided, if at all possible, but who also understand that there are some evils that must be confronted, even at the cost of American lives.

Finally, two posts from PowerLine that speak to the day far better than I can:

Memorial Day from Veteran's Perspectives

The sad reality of war

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day: "the last full measure of devotion"

Tomorrow, we will celebrate Memorial Day. I was reminded by a comment I received, that many, perhaps even some at our local newspaper, do not understand the true meaning of the day.

Unfortunately, for many of us, Memorial Day is little more than the beginning of summer and part of a three-day weekend. It's obviously supposed to have a very solemn meaning as a day of remembrance of our war dead.

Here's a brief essay regarding the true meaning.

Let's all take some time tomorrow, and remember that the reason we live in a country of such freedom and abundance is in no small part due to those who gave their lives for us all. Given that we have countrymen fighting in two wars for us as this is written, we can do no less.

Gates Residents: Don't forget the Town of Gates Memorial Day service will be held Monday, at 9:00 am, in front of the Town Hall.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

An Optimistic Note From Victor Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson wants us in America to cheer up a bit. Take a look at this upbeat piece in which he points out that things may not be quite as bad as they seem.

He reminds us that American exceptionalism has been the rule for over two centuries and that we should not necessarily assume that we won't overcome today's challenges as we have yesterday's:

"A better way to assess our chances at maintaining our preeminence is simply to ask the same questions that are the historical barometers of our nation's success or failure: Does any nation have a constitution comparable to ours? Does merit -- or religion, tribe or class -- mostly gauge success or failure in America? What nation is as free, stable and transparent as the U.S.?

Try becoming a fully accepted citizen of China or Japan if you were not born Chinese or Japanese. Try running for national office in India from the lower caste. Try writing a critical op-ed in Russia or hiring a brilliant female to run a mosque, university or hospital in most of the Middle East. Ask where MRI scans, Wal-Mart, iPods, the Internet or F-18s came from.

In the last 60 years, we have been warned in succession that new paradigms in racially pure Germany, the Soviet workers' paradise, Japan Inc. and now 24/7 China all were about to displace the United States. None did. All have had relative moments of amazing success -- but in the end none proved as resilient, flexible and adaptable as America."

I love the way Hanson supports his views with historical examples. It makes it much easier to accept his premises. Thanks for the lift, professor.

Monday, May 21, 2007

McCain Shoots From The Lips

Here's a great sidelight on the Immigration bill and the GOP nomination.

PowerLine has a post regarding McCain losing it during final negotiations on the bill. This story gives new weight to fears that McCain has a temper and ego too great for the White House.

I think McCain is nearly 100% wrong on immigration. He's wrong on most things except for the Iraq War. I truly respect his guts and character as shown during his POW experience. I just don't think he's the right guy for the Presidency.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Fred Thompson's Wit & Wisdom

Senator Fred Thompson has not formally announced that he's running for President, but its fair to say that most non-candidate ex-senators don't spend as much time as he does making policy speeches. I'm a Rudy fan, but Fred would be a more than acceptable nominee for the GOP.

Here are a couple examples of his wit and wisdom.

First is a post and video link from Iowans for Thomson. It is a bit in which Fred pokes fun at Michael Moore. The second is his reaction to the announcement of the immigration deal.

Fred has become the GOP's answer to Will Rogers. His ABC Radio commentaries are warm, funny, and genuine. He seems comfortable in a three-piece suit or in a pick-up truck. I'll bet he's even actually hunted!

I can imagine people being drawn to him. Time to get in though, or it may be too late.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bush,GOP Risk Immigration Waterloo

The news has broken that a deal on an immigration bill has been reached.

Given the fact that Senator Kennedy made the announcement, I'm not very encouraged that the "deal" is going to be one I can support. The President is committed to "comprehensive immigration reform", as is Senator John McCain. Comprehensive immigration reform includes a vast guest worker program and effective amnesty for the 12 million or so illegal aliens already in the country. The border fence which was approved last year will probably never be built. I'll be surprised if any of the "tough rules" on the "road to citizenship" will ever be enforced.

This is a colossal mistake. Our nation, our society, is based on the melting pot. Allowing guest workers and allowing amnesty for illegals will irrevocably change the country. We will become a balkanized, regionalized collection of groups squabbling over control of the country.

I cannot understand George W. Bush. He has steadfastly resisted calls for surrender in Iraq, but he acquiesces completely regarding surrender of our border. His chances for rehabilitation by future historians grows bleaker by the minute. Meanwhile, GOP members of Congress voting for this deal may as well start making tee times for January, 2009, because they are not likely to remain in office.

We need Rudy Giuliani as President more than ever. Rudy is committed to border security. He also believes we should welcome immigrants but that a guest worker program will create a disgruntled fifth column in our country.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Hevesi, Swanton Wrong on Gates Budget

You may recall that last year the New York State Comptroller's Office conducted a month's long audit of Gates town finances. The resulting report was critical and concluded that the increase in the Town's budget deficit was the result of poor fiscal management and failure to make "hard choices" (which as we know means raise taxes or cut services).

As a prequel to the Audit Report, the Comptroller also rushed out a critique of the proposed 2006 Town Budget. The analysis was that the budget was "flawed" and was off by about $1.1 million. Ms. Swanton, playing her usual Casandra role, immediately sought to gain political capital from the announcement, declaring at a Town Board meeting that based on the Controller's analysis, the Town would have a budget deficit of $4,000,000.00 by 2007.

Well, as we know, Alan Hevesi and Sue Swanton were wrong. Instead of losing another $1.1 million, the Town budget improved by about $600,000, leaving the deficit at about $2.2 million, not the $4 million Alan and Sue predicted.

Much has been made of the deficit and I can't really understand it. Obviously, in a perfect world, budgets are always "zeroed out" at the end of the budget year. We should never have surpluses or deficits. Reality leads to a different result.

Kodak's sale of the RTP property left us with a hole in our assessed valuation and our tax revenues. The Town Board considered its options. They rejected immediate service cuts or tax increases. They hoped that the new owners of the Tech Park could replace Kodak with new users and that the assessed value would make a comeback. To bridge the gap, the Board chose to use the surplus that had been built up prior to that time. It was akin to using your savings account to deal with the rainy day.

Unfortunately, the Tech Park did not come back fast enough. The surplus became a deficit and finally, the Board had no choice but to look for spending cuts and tax increases. You should note that the Town's employees bore the biggest burden of the cuts. Their pay was frozen and they began to pay an ever-increasing share of their health benefits. Their sacrifice allowed the Board to keep actual service cuts to a minimum. If you think Town employees are overpaid, you should think again; our Town employees are nowhere near the top in salary and benefits compared to other municipal employees.

Ms. Swanton and her Democrat colleagues keep complaining about the deficit and the "bad management" that allowed the deficit to arise. What they never do is tell us in a clear and straight-forward way what they would have done differently or what they would do differently now. Would they have raised taxes? Would they have cut services? Would they eliminate the Gates Police? Cut senior or youth recreation programs?

Oh, yeah, she would not accept the take home car and she would roll back Town Board salaries. That would save a few thousand dollars. Then what? Ms. Swanton once indicated that, if elected, she would serve without pay. To that I can only say, "you get what you pay for".

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Poll Watchers

Scott Ott at Scrappleface adds this to the discussion of the agenda behind the GOP member's courageous visit to the White House.

The Road Out of Baghdad

Anyone who knows much about the bible knows the story of St. Paul on the road to Damascus. He heard the voice of God and had his famous epiphany, changing him from a persecutor of Christians to perhaps the greatest Christian apostle.

I have previously written about one Congressman's personal epiphany; that being the revelation to Jim Walsh (brought on by his narrow re-election in 2006) that he should abandon any semblance of conservative principle so as to maintain his position. The last few days, however, have seen a number of Republican Congressmen make a pilgrimage to the White House to "speak truth to power" on the Iraq War, they apparently having had similar personal revelations. What "truth" were they speaking to the President, you ask? The fact that polls show that increasing public disenchantment with the war is endangering 2008 GOP electoral chances!

Ah, the courage is breathtaking, isn't it?

Fortunately, there are a few politicians who actually understand that the real goal of public service is public service not perpetuation of political careers. Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman are such politicians. Both of them criticised members of their own parties for their craven refusal to stand up and do what is right, even if it is unpopular. Bill Kristol, in this Weekly Standard editorial, quoted both of them and wrote quite pointedly about disgraceful behavior of most of our current politicians.

The New York Sun posted an editorial in the same vein. That piece recounted a story about Abe Lincoln's reaction to faint-heartedness of politicians and editorialists during dark days of the Civil War.

Read them both. I'm sure you will understand and agree with the premises of both editorials. Our politicians are failing us at an important hour in our history. It really is a question of whether or not we are in the beginning of the decline and fall of the West.

(Hat-tip to PowerLine).

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

D&C Agenda Discipline

The D&C has been very disciplined and consistent in maintaining its agenda for 2007. If you don't recall, that would be support of metro/regional government at the expense of local government (except for the City government) combined with criticism of Maggie Brooks and the County GOP.

The D&C editorial page ripping the planned Taxpayer Protection Act is another installment in that effort. The editorial criticises the plan as "political pablum", apparently because the editorial board does not think it's a meaningful effort. They can't come up with any problem caused by limiting spending to inflation; they just don't like it because it might be popular among voters who might then be "fooled" into voting for Republicans.

Instead of limiting County spending, the D&C restates its old argument that we really need a regional solution. They also threw in a gratuitous attack on Maggie's Sales Tax Plan. The D&C referred, once again, to a study that showed that government spending in Northern Virginia was lower than that of a part of Long Island that was deemed "similar".

I have a few questions about the differences. First, what services were provide to residents in each area? Did each have local police and fire? Did the VA residents pay for privatized services that are covered by government in NY? What part of the extra expense was attributable to State government expenses? In VA, for example, are some services provided by the State, provided locally here?

I would not be surprised to learn that some of the local governments in our region could be more cost effective. I do not accept the implied premise of the D&C agenda, however. Underlying their metro/regional theory is the idea that we would have "sufficient" service levels and "large" cost savings from consolidation and regionalization. I don't believe it. The metro police will not serve Gates the way the Gates Police do. Why should we believe that other regional services will be "sufficient" and "cost-effective"?

Barone Times Two

Michael Barone has written two articles within the past week which I think you'll find interesting and on the money. Barone is the senior political correspondent for the US News and World Report. He's a keen and pragmatic observer of the national political scene.

In Prioritizing our Problems, Barone writes about how politicians and pundits have it exactly backwards with regard to the relative importance and danger to the country of two major issues, Global Warming and Social Security. He points out that while we have very detailed actuarial information which allows us to predict with almost surgical certainty the date of the demise of Social Security, politicians have seized upon Global Warming as the critical problem of our age despite the highly speculative nature of the evidence regarding it.

"The politicians resist fixing Social Security because the short-term costs are well understood by voters and the long-term benefits, while clear to actuaries, are invisible to voters because no one is decrying them with religious intensity. The politicians sprint to address global warming because the short-term costs are unknown to voters and the long-term benefits, while unclear in the extreme to those who rely on science, are portrayed in apocalyptic terms by the prophet Al Gore. Democracy isn't perfect."

Meanwhile, Barone gives Republicans and Conservatives some reason to hope for better days ahead in his Wall Street Journal piece entitled the Realignment of America.

This is a fascinating analysis of demographic shifts (and Barone throws in some political commentary, as well). Its worth reading the whole thing but here are the concluding paragraphs:

"Twenty years ago political analysts grasped the implications of the vast movement from Rust Belt to Sun Belt, a tilting of the table on balance toward Republicans; but with California leaning heavily to Democrats, that paradigm seems obsolete. What's now in store is a shifting of political weight from a small Rust Belt which leans Democratic and from the much larger Coastal Megalopolises, where both secular top earners and immigrant low earners vote heavily Democratic, toward the Interior Megalopolises, where most voters are private-sector religious Republicans but where significant immigrant populations lean to the Democrats. House seats and electoral votes will shift from New York, New Jersey and Illinois to Texas, Florida, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada; within California, House seats will shift from the Democratic coast to the Republican Inland Empire and Central Valley.

Demography is destiny. When I was in kindergarten in 1950, Detroit was the nation's fifth largest metro area, with 3,170,000 people. Now it ranks 11th and is soon to be overtaken by Phoenix, which had 331,000 people in 1950. In the close 1960 election, in which electoral votes were based on the 1950 Census, Michigan cast 20 votes for John Kennedy and Arizona cast four votes for Richard Nixon; New York cast 45 votes for Kennedy and Florida cast 10 votes for Nixon. In 2012, Michigan will likely have 16 electoral votes and Arizona 12; New York will have 29 votes and Florida 29. That's the kind of political change demographics makes over the years."

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Global Warming May Reduce Blogging

I wonder if anybody has statistics on seasonal increases and decreases in blogging?

I've noticed fewer posts and comments from regular bloggers at some of my favorite sites. I wonder if nice weather has something to do with it? Maybe we all have better things to do than sit in front of a computer.

I played golf 4 times in the past 8 days. My kids soccer and baseball leagues are starting up. I had to cut the grass and the yard needs a lot of work.

I'm beginning to believe that winter is the blogger's season of "discontent". If Global Warming keeps marching on, bloggers may never get out of the garden, off the golf course, or away from the beach, save for a few miserable weeks in mid-February.

I am personally willing to give up my blog for three more months of golf. Go Warming Go!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Tech Park Sale Is Good News For Gates

The planned sale of the Rochester Technology Park was announced today in the D&C.

This should be very good news for Gates residents and taxpayers since the soon-to-be new owners are promising some quick and dramatic action towards bringing in new tenants. As the number of new occupants increases, the value of the property will rise. That will lead to growing tax revenues to the Town in future years.

As most local residents know, the Tech Park was formerly Eastman Kodak's Apparatus Division. Kodak's abrupt departure ripped a hole in the Town's assessed valuation and its tax revenues. The Town Board's initial optimism that the Tech Park would quickly be re-marketed, quickly met the reality of post-9/11 recessionary pressures.

We have good reason to believe that the new owners will be able to realize the potential that the RTP has to bring new business, jobs, and tax revenues into the Town.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Metro 24/7

I have been posting about the D&C's metro-government agenda (here and here), but I had no idea how thoroughly they inteded to go with it.

Today's editorial takes on Fire Districts. The usual statistical analysis is included. Our region has a tax rate that is 14% higher than average in the State. The reader is, of course, intended to "understand" that the reason for our extra burden are these unneeded district expenses. I wonder how much of that extra tax burden is attributable to "vital" City of Rochester services, like reopening Durand Beach (which the D&C loves)?

This was my response:

The D&C Editorial Board is so determined to push its metro-government agenda, that it has forgotten that the governed are the ones who are supposed to decide what type of government they have and what level of service it will provide.
You have written 5 or 6 article/editorial efforts to convince us that we are foolish if we want to keep our local governments. In your blogs, some of your members have used terms like "obvious", "everybody knows", etc., regarding the value of consolidation vs. local control. Mr. Tobin has opined that the Brighton Police are "somewhat redundant". Tell that to a crime victim waiting for an emergency response.
You and your allies at the Center For Governmental Research have analyzed how much service is enough for us. Who appointed you to that task? I could have sworn that was our (i.e., taxpayer/residents) decision. Can you explain why taxpayers who want more service and who are willing to pay for it, should not have it?
And please don't say its because we are overtaxed. We are certainly overtaxed, but the main reason we are overtaxed is because of our bloated and distant State Government. The State Government is so big and distant that we have virtually no power to change it. Yet you would have us give up our local governments, governments of people we know, who we can talk to, and who we can throw out of office if we like, for a bigger, more distant, and less controllable regional government.
Our local leaders already work together to share resources and consolidate activities that make government more efficient without sacrificing service. I trust them to balk at consolidation that is intended to shift resources away from us to fund metro or regional endeavors that we don't support. I certainly don't trust a commission whose agenda is one which Monroe County residents have clearly rejected.

Much of my response verges on ideas I have stated before. Since the D&C appears bent on repeated attacks on local government, I will keep recycling my defense thereof.