Monday, September 1, 2014

NPR On the "Political"Ricketts Family

From National Public Radio we have the following about the family of soon-to-be governor Pete Ricketts.   

A Political Family, Funding And Running On Both Sides Of The Aisle


Rich families sustain American politics. Some produce candidates; others supply money. And in rare instances, a family will do both.

Meet Nebraska billionaire Joe Ricketts, founder of Ending Spending, an independent political organization that's among the top 10 spenders this election cycle. Three of his four children are politically active, including one who's running for governor.

A Billionaire With Political Punch
The gubernatorial hopeful is Pete Ricketts, a conservative Republican. He spoke earlier this month at a forum of Nebraska chambers of commerce, at the Strategic Air and Space Museum near Omaha.
With chamber members sitting in front of a 1940s-vintage B-29 bomber named "Lucky Lady," Ricketts pledged to "unite Nebraska east and west, urban and rural."

Omaha is where Joe and Marlene Ricketts raised Pete, his sister Laura, and brothers Todd and Tom. It's also where Joe founded one of the first discount stock brokerage firms, now known as TD Ameritrade.

Joe Ricketts became a billionaire and a Republican. He started putting money into politics and along the way, he concluded that both Republicans and Democrats spend too much of the taxpayers' money.
"So I am now a registered independent, and will probably be that for the rest of my life," he said in a video made for his political action committee. The PAC was first called Taxpayers Against Earmarks. By the 2010 election, it had morphed into a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, Ending Spending, and a superPAC, the Ending Spending Action Fund.

Despite Joe's independent voter registration, Ending Spending has always backed Republicans. The superPAC's biggest donors are Joe and Marlene Ricketts; the 501(c)(4) isn't required to disclose its donors.

Joe Ricketts declined to comment for this story, as did the president of Ending Spending. Todd Ricketts, who succeeded Joe as CEO of Ending Spending, didn't respond to interview requests.
Neither did Laura Ricketts, who has taken her own path in politics.

A Family Spanning The Political Divide
Last spring, CBS' 60 Minutes Sports did a segment on the Ricketts family's ownership of the Chicago Cubs. (Tom Ricketts has run the ball club since the family bought it in 2009.)

In the TV segment, Laura Ricketts said of herself and her siblings, "We all had different perspectives on the world. I'm a woman, I live in Chicago, I'm gay."

While Joe and Todd are staunch conservatives, Laura Ricketts raised money for President Obama's reelection. She's on the board of the liberal group EMILY's List and she chairs LPAC, a political committee focused on issues important to lesbians.

Laura has given Pete's campaign $5,000 — a generous contribution, but Todd and Tom have given $27,000 each.

In the 60 Minutes segment, Laura said of the family, "We've had some very candid conversations and quite honestly, for me at times, painful."

In the same segment, Pete Ricketts said, "We disagree on the issues but we're still family. We love each other."

The siblings have an explanation for their political activism: their upbringing.

"Part of it comes back to how our parents raised us," Pete Ricketts says. "That we're all supposed to give back to our communities."

He reached back for a small example: "Helping out a gentleman down the street who was going to be elderly and had a lot of pine needles dropping on his driveway — so sweeping off the driveway without taking any pay for it, and that sort of thing."
'This Is New'

Even with so many well-heeled political players these days, the Ricketts family is unusual: A father and three children in politics; one liberal and three conservatives; one candidate and three activists heading up independent political organizations.

"This is new," says Robert Mutch, author of a recently published history of political money, Buying The Vote. From the Gilded Age of the late 1800s until the modern era of deregulation, he says, the political system didn't have a place for independent operators.

"The party provided the candidates, the party made the expenditures," Mutch says. "The people who had the money might give, they might raise money, but that's really all they did."

He says the Ricketts exemplify recent changes in the political money system.

"In some ways they're following in the tradition of rich families in the past. What's different is that they're not only raising money but they're spending it," he says.

LPAC is just getting off the ground this cycle, with less than a million dollars raised as of June 30. Of that, $315,000 came from Laura Ricketts.

Ending Spending has reported spending about $5.6 million. At least $1.6 million came from Joe, Marlene and Todd Ricketts."

Cartoon of the Day

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Blowing In the Wind

California, land of nuts and fruits, has just passed a bill to eliminate plastic bags like those you get at Wal-Mart or Hy-Vee.    Yes, the liberal environmentalists are at it.   We've discussed this issue before and you can bet that someone like liberal governor candidate Chuckie Hassebrook or the liberals on the Omaha City Council (Pete Festersen, the pathetic Ben Gray, Chris (I still think satellite dish taxes are the salvation of the city) Jerram and Garry Gernandt) will see California's action as a new opportunity for them.   Maybe they'll suggest an interim fee on the bags rather than total elimination (kind of like a bottle deposit) with funds going to environmental issues or to reduce property taxes, but be warned they are thinking about it.....

This from the Associated Press:

"SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers have approved a measure that would make the state the first to impose a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags.
SB270 cleared the Senate on a 22-15 vote Friday and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown. It was approved by the Assembly a day earlier.

Senators who had previously opposed the bill, including incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat, this time supported the measure after protections were added for plastic bag manufacturers.

The bill by Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles would prohibit single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and large pharmacies in 2015 and at convenience stores in 2016.

It includes $2 million in loans to help manufacturers shift to producing reusable bags and lets grocers charge 10 cents each for paper and reusable bags.

The bill had sparked one of the most contentious debates in the last weeks of the legislative session, with aggressive lobbying by environmentalists and bag manufacturers.

For years, a statewide plastic bag ban has been an elusive goal for lawmakers trying to reduce the buildup of plastic waste in oceans and waterways that costs millions of dollars to cleanup. About 100 local jurisdictions in California already have adopted similar bans, including Los Angeles and San Francisco."

Thought of the Day Extra

Thought of the Day

Cartoon of the Day

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Cartoon of the Day Extra

Thought of the Day

Needed - A President (Charles Krauthammer

If you haven't seen Charles Krauthammer's August 24 editorial, here it is.  

Lower corporate tax rates. Now

Charles Krauthammer

"The Obama administration is highly exercised about “inversion,” the practice by which an American corporation acquires a foreign company and moves its headquarters out of the United States to benefit from lower tax rates abroad.

Not fair, says Barack Obama. It’s taking advantage of an “unpatriotic tax loophole” that hardworking American families have to make up for by the sweat of their brow. His treasury secretary calls such behavior a violation of “economic patriotism.”

Charles Krauthammer writes a weekly political column that runs on Fridays.
Nice touch. Democrats used to wax indignant about having one’s patriotism questioned. Now they throw around the charge with abandon, tossing it at corporations that refuse to do the economically patriotic thing of paying the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world.

Odder still because Democrats routinely ridicule the very notion of corporations as persons. When Mitt Romney suggested that corporations were people in 2011, Democrats mocked him right through Election Day. In the Hobby Lobby case, they challenged the very idea that corporations can have religious convictions. Now, however, Democrats are demanding that corporations exercise a patriotic conscience. Which is it?

Moreover, corporations have an indisputable fiduciary responsibility to protect their shareholders’ interest. Surely Walgreens betrayed this responsibility when it caved to administration pressure and canceled its plans to move its headquarters to Switzerland. The inversion would’ve saved it billions of dollars. Its cancellation caused an instant 14 percent drop in Walgreens shares.
But the Democrats’ problem is deeper. Everyone knows why inversions are happening. America’s 35 percent corporate tax rate is absurdly uncompetitive. Companies are doing what they always do: try to legally lower their tax liabilities.

What is maddening is that the problem is so easily solved: tax reform that lowers the accursed corporate rate. Democrats and Republicans agree on this. After the announcement of the latest inversion, Burger King buying Tim Hortons and then moving to Canada, the president himself issued a statement conceding that corporate tax reform — lower the rates, eliminate loopholes — is the best solution to the inversion problem.

It’s also politically doable. Tax reform has unique bipartisan appeal. Conservatives like it because lowering rates stimulates the economy and eliminating loopholes curbs tax-driven economic decisions that grossly misallocate capital.

The appeal to liberals is economic fairness. By eliminating loopholes, tax reform levels the playing field. Today, the more powerful companies can afford the expensive lobbyists who create the loopholes and the expensive lawyers who exploit them. Which is why the nominal corporate tax rate is 35 percent but the effective rate for some of the largest corporations is about 13 percent.

So why not attack the inversion problem with its obvious solution: tax reform? Time is short, says Obama. He can’t wait. Instead, he wants legislation to outlaw inversion.

No time? Where has he been? He does nothing about tax reform for six years (during two of which Democrats fully controlled Congress), then claims now to be too impatient to attempt the real solution. Instead he wants to hurry through a punitive anti-inversion law to counterbalance the effects of our already punitive tax rates.

This is nuts. But amusing, given that a major financier of the inversion-célèbre of the day, the Whopper-to-Canada deal, is none other than Warren Buffett, Obama’s favorite plutocrat.
Buffett’s demand that the rich be required to pay more taxes made him a hero to the president. In 2012, Obama repeatedly held up Buffett as a champion of economic justice. What does Obama say today about his 2012 class-war comrade in arms — now become, by Obama’s own lights, an economic traitor?

And more such Benedict Arnolds are being minted every week. One of the reasons for the recent acceleration of inversions is that corporations want to move before Obama outlaws it, locking them into America’s anti-competitive corporate tax rate.

The Wall Street Journal cited a Buffett confidant as saying he likely wouldn’t have backed a deal like Burger King if it were purely for tax reasons. Indeed, there are other considerations that can always be invoked. Which makes some of the contemplated anti-inversion proposals even more absurd: They would outlaw only those mergers done for tax reasons. How do you prove motivation? Lie detectors?

A real political leader would abandon this sideshow and actually address corporate tax reform with a serious revenue-neutral proposal to Congress. There would be hearings, debate, compromises. We might end up with something like the historic bipartisan tax reform of 1986 that helped launch two decades of nearly uninterrupted economic growth.

But for that you need a president."

Cartoon of the Day

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cartoon of the Day Extra

Thought of the Day

Republican Governor's Association Takes On Hassebrook

In case you haven't seen it, the Republican Governor's Association is out with an ad, 'They'll Support It', that reveals the real liberal Chuckie Hassebrook and his support of Obamacare.   No doubt this is just one of many to come revealing this ultra-liberals belief that government can afford to address every issue with its financial largesse (your tax dollars).

OPS - A Bond Issue that May Not Pass And Might Not Deserve To

Well, the Omaha School Board has decided to give voters in its district an opportunity to raise their taxes.   Yes, a first shot of $421 million which we're told will be followed with a booster shot of $377 million in May of 2017.   The board passed the spending measure by a vote of 9-0.    Most of those folks owe their allegiance to the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce which helped elect many of them so the vote is no surprise.

We opined in the past that the disastrous state of the Omaha Public School system was the result of years of inattention by the business community so we weren't necessarily unhappy to see the organization involved in the 2013 school board races.  

Maybe, there is a realistic need for upgrades and new buildings in the district and there hasn't been a major OPS bond issue since the $254 million one in 1999 or thereabouts.

Given the size of the issue, we have real doubts about the timing of it.    At this point we'd predict that the issue will fail.    Somehow, it strikes us as incongruous that the mayor of the city has to fight for a 2% reduction in property taxes while the school district wants to spend that and a whole lot more.  

When so many candidates are running on plans to reduce property taxes, asking voters to raise them seems overly zealous.

And what about 2017 and another $377 million?   Planning on a May city council and mayoral election with its terribly low turnout may not make sense.   If you recall, there was an initial effort to put a $50 million bond issue for the Crossroads revitalization on this last May's primary ballot. That was pulled for several reasons but certainly those in the know knew it was going to have a difficult time passing given the demographics of those who turn out in primary elections.

Just as troubling is the potential that the voters will be told by this school board and its administrators that $377 million in 2017 won't be enough.  

We're told that the cost to the owner of a $150,000 home will pay only $90 a year more in property taxes and presumably that will be the same estimate come 2017.  We're told that this isn't an extravagant plan, that money will go to:
  • Technology upgrades including fire, security, central air and internet - $131 million
  • Replacing four older elementary schools, building additions for a couple of middle schools and renovations and repairs at others - $259 million
  • Purchasing land for two elementary schools and two high schools, plus closing a couple of elementary schools by moving students to other schools while 'repurposing' the two closed schools for 'alternative' programs -  $30 million
The Greater Omaha Chamber and the Omaha 'establishment' will do their best to pass this (these) bond issues.   But will the tax payers buy in?   We're not so sure and frankly we think turning this system lose with those kind of dollars and projects will bring lots of unexpected problems and consequences.

Pre Labor Day Election Analysis

The so-called political season begins with Labor Day although we'd assert that most citizens who vote don't start thinking about elections for another month.   With that said we thought we'd share with you Larry Sabato's (Crystal Ball) appraisal of what the battle ground looks like at this point.    We'd agree that if the Republicans don't take the U.S. Senate this time it is their own fault.

Our pre-Labor Day midterm assessment, and a handful of Senate, House, and gubernatorial rating changes
By Larry J. Sabato, Kyle Kondik, and Geoffrey Skelley
U.Va. Center for Politics

"The overall picture is this: A Republican Senate gain of four-to-eight seats, with a GOP Senate pickup of six-to-seven seats the likeliest outcome; a GOP gain of somewhere around a half-dozen seats in the House; and little net party change in the gubernatorial lineup even as a few incumbents lose. So what could shift these projections in a significant way, beyond candidate implosions that move individual races on and off the board?

For Democrats, the road to a better result than what we’ve sketched out is Republicans’ ideological disunity and their refusal to march together tactically and strategically. (The destructive sideshow over potentially impeaching President Obama is a prime example.) Last October, Democrats saw, briefly, how the government shutdown boosted their numbers. When Congress returns next month, Democrats hope Republicans will act foolishly just before the election, perhaps during consideration of a
short-term continuing resolution to fund the government that Speaker Boehner will have to get through the House.

For Republicans, a further curdling of President Obama’s approval ratings would be welcome. Foreign crises haven’t really moved the needle yet, but one wonders if the racial passions unleashed by the events in Ferguson, Missouri, combined with international strife, could have some cumulative effect. The president’s approval rating -- though low -- has remained fairly stable in 2014, ranging between about 41% and 44%. That could change as crises develop and partisan rhetoric escalates in the campaign’s concluding months.

For political junkies, the election season never ends. But Labor Day, the traditional starting point of the general election for most normal people, draws near. The state of many key races, including enough Senate seats to decide the majority, remains fluid, and it is the Senate that will define this midterm. Given electoral conditions and the red-leaning geography of the map, Republicans have few credible excuses if they don’t take Senate control in January. GOP hopes in the Senate have been dashed in the previous four elections; if there’s a fifth this November, Republicans will have only themselves to blame."

Cartoon of the Day

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cartoon of the Day Extra

Thought for the Day

Is Nebraska Football in a Death Spiral??? -- From the Bleachers

13 years ago or so, political football Genius and Guru Harvey Perlman decided that he wouldn't let Nebraska football fall into mediocrity.   So he hired a great new athletic director and a great new coach ushering in an accelerated decline, and worse, disregard for the program and the fans.    When Harvey's feared mediocrity-decline continued, his two hires were swept away (with considerable expense and embarrassment)  and a new coach, Saint Bo, re-appeared on the scene (after a several year hiatus)  to stop the downward spiral (death spiral?).   

But has the downward spiral stopped?  For many fans, the 9-win season that defined success in the past is still magic.   But winning 9 out of 10 or 11 games isn't the same as struggling to win 9 out of 12 or 13 games.   A performance-based company could easily make that conclusion and perhaps some fans are beginning to realize that as well.  Some might dare to suggest that the mediocrity decline continues.......

Apparently, Harvey and the new athletic director are happy with the direction of the program as Saint Bo continues in his seventh year after a not uneventful sixth.   In fact, the university has extended his contract for several more years based on its hope, expectations or happiness with his performance.   One might ask whether a high-performance company would do the same?

But, despite the team's performance decline, the stadium building boom has continued with more seats and luxury boxes and ever-increasing costs to purchase them along with a requirement that virtually all of them (excluding a paltry number) pay an additional 'donation' to the athletic fund for the honor of securing season tickets.

Now, 13 years later the university has a stadium that will seat 5% of the population of Nebraska and a team that, as it is every year, is hyped with new, the same optimistic
expectations for reversing the downward spiral that has left Nebraska football in the bottom of the top 25 or below in rankings for past years as well as anticipations for this year.  

A team/program in a downward spiral, not surprisingly, doesn't recruit the same caliber of players that a top 10 team does so despite the hype realistic expectations tell fans that shoveling out nearly $600 to get a base season ticket may not be the wisest investment of their time and money when they can simply turn on their television and see the game in the comfort of their man caves.

And surprise, not all of the 5% of Nebraskans who thronged to games in the past and offered their first-born for season tickets have stepped up to buy them.  In fact, there are still tickets for sale for Nebraska's first game on Saturday, threatening the long line of sell-outs--this after publicized attempts since April to sell un-renewed season tickets.... Of course the feared end to the sell-out record won't materialize this weekend because if the tickets aren't sold through normal channels, they will be picked up by some major business or donor to prevent the end of the longest sell-out record in college football and the resulting embarrassment.

A mediocre football program will not continue to fill the seats and egos of the university or satisfy fans who expect more.   It's hard to reverse a downward spiral.   Let's hope (pray) that Saint Bo can turn the program around into an upward trend this year and for years to come.   Otherwise, the death spiral into mediocrity will continue and once again Genius Harvey and associates will have to take action.....

Cartoon of the Day

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cartoon of the Day Extra

Thought for the Day

Hamas is attacking.  Israel is defending.
Russia is invading.
The Middle East is smoldering.
Boko Haram is massacring.
ISIS is marching.
Iran and N Korea are threatening.
American cities are crumbling.
Our southern border is dissolving.
Our debt is skyrocketing.
Americans are hurting.
Our enemies are laughing.

Obama is fundraising.

Cartoon of the Day

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cartoon of the Day Extra

Thought for the Day

The Obama-Dowd Version of the Gettysburg Adddress

We're not fans of columnist Maureen Dowd, but when a liberal like her takes on her president for his inattentiveness, we have to pass on to our readers.   Have fun with this one:
FORE! Score? And seven trillion rounds ago, our forecaddies brought forth on this continent a new playground, conceived by Robert Trent Jones, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal when it comes to spending as much time on the links as possible — even when it seems totally inappropriate, like moments after making a solemn statement condemning the grisly murder of a 40-year-old American journalist beheaded by ISIL.
I know reporters didn’t get a chance to ask questions, but I had to bounce. I had a 1 p.m. tee time at Vineyard Golf Club with Alonzo Mourning and a part-owner of the Boston Celtics. Hillary and I agreed when we partied with Vernon Jordan up here, hanging out with celebrities and rich folks is fun.
Now we are engaged in a great civil divide in Ferguson, which does not even have a golf course, and that’s why I had a “logistical” issue with going there. We are testing whether that community, or any community so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure when the nation’s leader wants nothing more than to sink a birdie putt.
We are met on a great field of that battle, not Augusta, not Pebble Beach, not Bethpage Black, not Burning Tree, but Farm Neck Golf Club in Martha’s Vineyard, which we can’t get enough of — me, Alonzo, Ray Allen and Marvin Nicholson, my trip director and favorite golfing partner who has played 134 rounds and counting with me.
We have to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for my presidency, if I keep swinging from behind.
Yet it is altogether fitting and proper that I should get to play as much golf as I want, despite all the lame jokes about how golf is turning into “a real handicap” for my presidency and how I have to “stay the course” with ISIL. I’ve heard all the carping that I should be in the Situation Room droning and plinking the bad folks. I know some people think I should go to Ferguson. Don’t they understand that I’ve delegated the Martin Luther King Jr. thing to Eric Holder? Plus, Valerie Jarrett and Al Sharpton have it under control.
I know it doesn’t look good to have pictures of me grinning in a golf cart juxtaposed with ones of James Foley’s parents crying, and a distraught David Cameron rushing back from his vacation after only one day, and the Pentagon news conference with Chuck Hagel and General Dempsey on the failed mission to rescue the hostages in Syria.
We’re stuck in the rough, going to war all over again in Iraq and maybe striking Syria, too. Every time Chuck says ISIL is “beyond anything we’ve ever seen,” I sprout seven more gray hairs. But my cool golf caps cover them. If only I could just play through the rest of my presidency.
ISIL brutally killing hostages because we won’t pay ransoms, rumbles of coups with our puppets in Iraq and Afghanistan, the racial caldron in Ferguson, the Ebola outbreak, the Putin freakout — there’s enough awful stuff going on to give anyone the yips.
So how can you blame me for wanting to unwind on the course or for five hours at dinner with my former assistant chef? He’s a great organic cook, and he’s got a gluten-free backyard putting green.
But, in a larger sense, we can dedicate, we can consecrate, we can hallow this ground where I can get away from my wife, my mother-in-law, Uncle Joe, Congress and all the other hazards in my life.
The brave foursomes, living and dead, who struggled here in the sand, in the trees, in the water, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or subtract a few strokes to improve our score. Bill Clinton was Mr. Mulligan, and he is twice at popular as I am.
The world will little note, nor long remember, what we shot here, or why I haven’t invited a bunch of tiresome congressmen to tee it up. I’m trying to relax, guys. So I’d much rather stay in the bunker with my usual bros.
Why don’t you play 18 with Mitch McConnell? And John Boehner is a lot better than me, so I don’t want to play with him.
It is for us, the duffers, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who played here have thus far so nobly advanced to get young folks to stop spurning a game they find slow and boring.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us of getting rid of our slice on the public’s dime — that from this honored green we take increased devotion to that cause for which Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy gave their last full measure of devotion — and divots.
We here highly resolve that these golfing greats shall not have competed in vain, especially poor Tiger, and that this nation, under par, shall have a new birth of freedom to play the game that I have become unnaturally obsessed with, and that golf of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
So help me Golf."

Cartoon of the Day

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Cartoon of the Day Extra

Thought for the Day: The Odds

The odds of winning the Florida lottery are 1 in 22,957,480. 

The odds of winning the Powerball is 1 in 175,223,510. 
The odds of winning Mega Millions is 1 in 258,890,850. 
The odds of a hard drive failing in any given month are roughly one in 36. The odds of two different hard drives failing in the same month are roughly one in 36 squared, or 1 in about 1,300. The odds of three hard drives failing in the same month is 36 cubed or 1 in 46,656. 
Now here is where you have to pay attention:
The odds of seven different hard drives failing in the same month (like what happened at the IRS when they received a letter asking about emails targeting conservative and pro Israeli groups) is 37 to the 7th power = 1 in 78,664,164,096. (that's over 78 Billion)
In other words, the odds are greater that you will win the Florida Lottery 342 times than having those seven IRS hard drives crashing in the same month.
Any more questions??? Kinda stretches the imagination doesn't it??

Cartoon of the Day

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cartoon of the Day Extra

Pathetic Ben Gray Wants To Spend Your Property Tax Cut When He Pays None

Yes, the pathetic tax-evader Councilman Ben Gray wants to eliminate the tax cut for Omaha property owners so he can spend it on projects like a North Omaha Black Museum.   Sadly, that idea is just pie-in-the-sky as there are not even any real plans for such a museum.   Of course, seed money could be spent creating a job for one of his cronies.

What is even more amazing is that this federal and state income tax evader is a renter and pays no property taxes directly himself.   No wonder it's so easy for him to deprive others, including his constituents, of a small tax reduction in their property taxes.  

Thought of the Day

Cartoon of the Day

Cartoon of the Day