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Archive for January, 2013

Nats Unveil Latest Rip Off from the Brewers, the 5th Racing President

Of all the historical presidents to pick from, they went with Taft?

(Well, expect a lot of bathtub-related jokes during the first season.  [Know your history kids.])

After getting his first ever win in 2012, Teddy has some new competition in the Washington Nationals’ presidents’ race.

President William Howard Taft is the Nationals’ newest racing president, the team unveiled at a fan event Saturday.

Taft will now join Presidents Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt in the Nationals’ 4th inning presidents’ race.

Taft, the 27th president, had a real-life rivalry with Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th, as Roosevelt mounted a third-party challenge against Taft that led to defeat for both presidents.

Now they will battle it out racing around the Nationals outfield in the presidents’ race, where Teddy is already a fan favorite.

Teddy had famously never won a race until last year, leading to a website and Twitter account, “Let Teddy Win.” He broke the years-long losing streak in the Nationals final regular season game as they went to the playoffs for the first time.

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Illinois: Worst Credit Rating in the Nation

Believe the real news about this announcement is two things.

1) Illinois is about to issue $500 million in new bonds as part of the budget plans of Democratic Governor Pat Quinn — the lamest duck governor in the country.  This news will only effect the sale of them.

2) The Land of Lincoln barely dodged the bullet from dropping from an “A-level rated bond” to a “B-level rated bond.”

Illinois may have Chicago acting as a jobs magnet to puff up its numbers, but its relationship with its public employee unions is the dark mirror of what Wisconsin has done since the enactment of Act 10.  Its budget is in chaos and a live-action train wreck for all the world to see.

Illinois fell to the bottom of all 50 states in the rankings of a major credit ratings agency Friday following the failure of Gov. Pat Quinn and lawmakers to fix the state’s hemorrhaging pension system during this month’s lame-duck session.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Service downgraded Illinois in what is the latest fallout over the $96.8 billion debt to five state pension systems. The New York rating firm’s ranking signaled taxpayers may pay tens of millions of dollars more in interest when the state borrows money for roads and other projects.

“It’s absolutely bad news for taxpayers,” said Dan Rutherford, the Republican state treasurer.
Illinois received its bottom-of-the-pack ranking when it fell from an “A” rating to “A-minus.”

That’s the same rating as California, but California has a positive outlook. Illinois’ fragile overall financial status netted it a negative outlook, putting it behind California overall. The ratings came out now because Illinois plans to issue $500 million in bonds within days.

Exactly how much Illinois’ credit-rating slide ultimately will cost taxpayers is unknown until the demand for the state’s bonds is measured in the markets. But Rutherford estimated the state will pay $95 million more in interest than if Illinois had a AAA rating, which is much higher.

Even before the downgrade was revealed, Quinn said in Chicago the “pressure is higher than ever” to solve the pension problem because “credit rating agencies are screaming at the top of their voice” for final action.

[…]

One other ominous point in the Standard & Poor’s report is that inaction could lead to downgrading Illinois to “BBB,” an “unusual” low rating for any state. The agency noted a “lack of action on pension reform and upcoming budget challenges could result in further credit deterioration.”

“Most states will build reserves when the economy is performing well, and that typically provides a cushion when the revenues deteriorate,” said Robin Prunty, the S&P analyst who heads the agency’s state ratings group. “But Illinois has never really carried or accumulated any kind of budgetary reserves.”

Not surprisingly, they has been called to deal with pensions a multitude of times by both Democrats and Republicans in Illinois.  Also not surprisingly, the  state’s public employee unions have claimed any attempts to change the current pension system is unconstitutional and would be fought tooth and nail.

Illinois has created this hell, it is now time for them to burn in it.

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Harkin to Retire

Iowa’s about to get a lot more interesting before 2016.

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin says he will not seek re-election in 2014.

The 73-year-old Harkin tells The Associated Press in an interview, “It’s just time to step aside,” because by the time he would finish a sixth term, he would be 81.

Harkin said it would also allow a new generation of Democrats to seek higher office.

The announcement comes as a surprise, considering he had $2.7 million in his campaign war chest and was planning a fundraiser next month.

Harkin played a lead role in urging the Senate’s more liberal members to back the 2010 health care bill.

No Iowa Republicans have taken formal steps toward seeking the seat. Harkin’s decision eases the burden on the GOP, who have to gain six seats to win the majority.

The massive retirements of Democrats in the Senate is a very real possibility in the next few cycles.  What is it on average, a third or more of that caucus is in their 70s and 80s?

Yes, that might mean “no blood” in the coming years, but it also means that by hanging on this long, many of them were snuffing out their own farm teams in their home states.  Not every place is like Madison or Waukesha where you’re tripping over politicians trying to replace a long-time veteran.

Iowa’s a place where both parties are fairly strong, with two long-sitting incumbents in Harkin and Grassley.  Determining its next senator could be a fight for the ages in the Hawkeye State.

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Make Matt Fraction Pay!

…to help pay for Hurricane Sandy relief.

It’s two weeks overdue, but “Hawkeye #7” will hit stores on Wednesday with a Hurricane Sandy relief story with proceeds — actually the very royalties Marvel Comics will pay writer Matt Fraction — going to charity.

Fraction, along with artists Steve Lieber and Jesse Hamm will tell a two-part story about Clint Barton and his protege Kate Bishop’s efforts to help citizens following a disastrous storm in Brooklyn and New Jersey. As Fraction says in the above video, he tried to highlight the real-life bravery non-super-powered heroes showed during the storm by way of his fictional non-super-powered Avenger. “So many regular people did so much good, it felt like Hawkeye is an appropriate place to do a Sandy story.”

Speaking of real-life regular people doing good, Fraction has decided to donate his royalties for scripting “Hawkeye” #7 to the American Red Cross. So the more copies that you buy, the more money Matt will donate. It’s an incredibly generous gesture, one that Fraction admits, is risky, but worth it, “…it occured to me that if this is too successful that this could be the most painful check that I ever write…but c’mon, make it hurt!”

Let the hipster from Portlandia explain…

Get More:
MTV Shows

 The story is a one-shot, at a cost of $2.99.

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Cartoon of the Day

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DHS…Now Giving Winter Driving and Clothing Advice

Was never a fan of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, mostly because it’s a giant waste of space (Its offices are currently being constructed in Anacostia — yeah, government employees are gonna love that — and until then, it’s based out of an old Navy Annex near American University.) and money.

Frankly, a better-worded re-organization effort should have been done, but hey; whoever said government thinks best in a crisis?

So as the original mission of DHS is being shrunken by the Obama Administration, the agency is in look for a purpose it would seem.  So, this week, it laid out a series of agenda items and tips on how to handle the cold of winter.

Nope, not kidding there.  (H/T The Weekly Standard)

During Winter Storms and Extreme Cold

– Stay indoors during the storm.

– Walk carefully on snow, icy, walkways.

– Avoid overexterion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a hear attack–a major cause of death in the winter. If you must shovel snow, stretch before going outside.

– Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.

– Watch for signs of frostbite. These include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.

– Watch for signs of hypothermia. These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body first and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.

– Drive only if its absolutely necessary. If you must drive: travel in the day; don’t travel alone; keep others informed of your schedule; stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts.

– Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.

– If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold (or where the cold was most likely to penetrate).

– Maintain ventilation when using kerosene heaters to avoid build-up of toxic fumes. Refuel kerosene heaters outside and keep them at least three feet from flammable objects.

– Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping your residence cooler than normal. Temporarily close off heat to some rooms.

– If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower 55%.

No word yet if the major Cabinet agency formulated to deal with domestic terrorism will hand out a tip sheet during any sort of heat wave next summer.

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Cartoon of the Day

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Congress’ Worst Bosses

Kudos for the Washington Times for putting this together.

One of the things that interest folks out in DC, especially those who work, have worked and want to work on the Hill is who are the best Representatives and Senators to work for.  It effects where resumes flow to and how well constituents gets served back home.

Obviously, every staff has turnover.  Staffers come and go, leaving for better jobs in other offices as they get experience and grow out of their initial jobs.  Some head to a party committee like the DNC, RNC, or any of the other alphabet soups.  Some go onto law school and other graduate schools; and of course, some go onto K Street to lobby their former bosses and co-workers.

Anything in the high teens to mid-twenties would probably be seen as “normal” for Capitol Hill offices.  Anything higher would probably be seen as incredibly abnormal and a statement about the representative or senator’s people skills and or sanity.

At the top of the list, to pretty much no one’s surprise, is Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee.

Lee is pathologically insane to put it mildly.  She is well known for her temper tantrums, breaking down staffers psychologically to the point of tears, and even throwing things at them (and now being sued because of the medical damage inflicted by it).

The Times puts it this way:

Each year, an average of half of Mrs. Jackson Lee’s staff quits, and one year, all but six of 23 staffers left.

Mona Floyd, who served as the congresswoman’s legislative director, has monocular vision and has a lawsuit pending against Mrs. Jackson Lee, who was voted the “meanest member” of the House in a bipartisan survey of Hill staffers by Washingtonian magazine last year. Ms. Floyd said she was told by the representative, “I don’t care anything about your disability.”

Other incidents, including a series of racially charged diatribes, were documented by the Washington-based Daily Caller website after former aides were so taken aback by her behavior that they broke an unspoken Capitol Hill rule not to speak ill of former bosses.

The worst Republican boss?  Also to the shock of no one on the Hill, Minnesota’s Michelle Bachmann.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican who mounted a bid for the presidency, had an average annual staff turnover rate of 46 percent over four years. From 2007 to 2008, 10 of 15 staffers left, even though none of them had an alternate job lined up on the Hill.

To be sure, many of Mrs. Bachmann’s former campaign staffers, who are protected by fewer rules separating the personal from the professional than the taxpayer-funded congressional office workers, are not happy.

Peter Waldron said Mrs. Bachmann’s campaign has refused to pay him and other staffers after they spoke with law enforcement about a stolen list of voters, even though the campaign is flush with money.

“It’s probably not a coincidence that all the people who have not been paid are the very people who have either given depositions, given affidavits or have been interviewed extensively by the police,” he told The Hill newspaper.

Here’s the list of the Top Ten Worst Bosses in Congress from 2006 through 2011 and their average turnover in staff from one year to another. It does not include numbers for freshmen Congressmen and Senators who were elected in November 2010.

Long-time readers of this blog won’t be shocked to see a familiar name at No. 9.

Congress' Worst Bosses

Other average turnover rates from 2006 to 2011 for the Wisconsin delegation include:

26 Percent — Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner.

23 Percent — Rep. Paul Ryan  (This number is actually skewed by a 40 percent turnover in 2010-2011.  At the time, a number of his office staff moved over to the House Budget Committee full-time.)

20 Percent — Former Sen. Herb Kohl.

18 Percent — Rep. Gwen Moore.

17 Percent — Rep. (now Sen.) Tammy Baldwin.

17 Percent — Former Rep. Dave Obey.

17 Percent — Rep. Ron Kind.

16 Percent — Former Sen. Russ Feingold.

16 Percent — Rep. Tom Petri.

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