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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Bye Bye 2006

So, another year goes down the drain, and some weird stuff happened, and some stuff didn't.

For instance, we were assured by Al Gore and the goofs at the Weather Service that most of the Southern US would be wiped off the map by the 16 named storms, 10 of them Hurricanes, and 4 major ones hitting land. Instead, we got hit by squat. CNN had to take to dispatching reporters to heavy rain anywhere south of the Mason Dixon line in hopes a hurricane would appear from no where.

The elections weren't suspended as some folks on the far left thought they would be so Bush could keep control of congress. (Why would he have wanted to??). Instead, Nancy Pelosi won the job as Speaker of the House, and immediately put her figurative foot in her mouth with the backing of Murtha for Majority Leader and tossing of her own states rep as head of the Intel committee for an impeached judge. Good sound leadership, that's what we elected.

Habeus Corpus wasn't suspended, in fact the laws passed for detainees specifically stated citizens arrested as enemy combatants will retain all their rights as citizens.... Even if they hate their country and want to destroy it, isn't that special.

Karl Rove never did the frog march in cuffs to a federal pen. There are still liberal rivers at the flood stage, full of tears of disappointment that he didn't get busted.

Saddam Hussein died, Osam didn't, which is too bad. Seeing video of Saddam hanging only makes me long for another one of Bin Laden riddled with bullet holes and laid in a grave with a pig.

North Korea's nuclear ambitions proved to be bigger than their abilities, as they couldn't even get a Nagasaki sized explosion after years of work. Worse for them, Kim is now having hissy fits since the world cut off his XBox game supply and caviar.

Now, for 2007, what will happen? Let me look into my crystal ball and see what it says....

1. Congress will continue the tradition of the last 5 years, and do nothing of consequence. Democrats are so worried about winning the White House in 2008 that they won't actually try and do anything legislatively before then, so they can't fail.

2. Bin Laden still won't be caught. The left will claim it's because the GOP is holding off on it until Oct. 2008. The truth is he's slippery, and has a lot of friends on the Pakistan border willing to hide him.

3. Barack Obama will continue to be the media darling by talking a big game, and actually doing nothing in the Senate. In 4 years he's sponsored exactly one bill, that number won't go up much in the next year.

4. Hillary Clinton will announce she's running, and immediatly go to work on removing the halo of St. Obama.

5. Iraq will calm down considerably, as enough of it's people realize that fighting each other isn't going to get them very far. There will still be violence, and deaths, but at a level much lower than 2005 and 2006.

6. Dick Cheney will end up with a serious enough medical problem that he resigns as VP. Contrary to popular belief, Condi Rice won't be offered the job. Instead a Pennsylvania or Ohio republican from the House will get the nod, to help solidify those states for the 2008 elections.

7. The Democrats will find out what the GOP did in the late 199o's; constant hearings in congress don't do much to win you public approval. Sure it helps the approval numbers with the base, but that really doesn't do much for your long term gains.

8. Barry Bonds will join Pete Rose on the scrap heap of baseball history after he's indicted by the feds for perjury, and the number of steroids he did comes out. He may "break" Hank Aaron's HR record, but it won't be recorded.

9. The housing market will continue to move along at the Oct-November '06 pace. Not spectacular, but steady. There won't be any huge bubble burst nationwide, confounding those who think it has to happen.

10. I won't win the lottery and move to some tropical island.

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Saturday, December 30, 2006


Saddam Hussein was executed this morning, just months after his conviction. One appeals court, and swift justice, that's a concept that sounds pretty nice considering how long we support convicted killers on death row here in the states.

Also notice the Iraqi government wasn't worried that hanging might be a painful way for a killer to die. No army of lawyers arguing over the cruelty of hanging a man, just a quick execution.

Maybe we do have more to learn from Iraq and the Middle East than we think.

The only problem is that now he won't be tried for all of his other crimes against his people. But I'm pretty sure than many of them are celebrating, knowing that even without a trial, they received their justice last night.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Uncomfortable Boxer Briefs

Yesterday I had to meet a co-worker to get some equipment from him, so we decided on a Target stores parking lot that's about half way for both of us as the location. Since I got there a little early I decided to go in an get a few things I needed while I waited.

First, the after Christmas return and sale rush wasn't too bad, though a few more checkers would have been nice, but hey, retail folks need a vacation, too.

One of the things I bought was a package of boxer briefs that were on sale. When I was a kid grandma's used to be great for getting you those for Christmas, now that I'm older, not so much. The gentleman who got in line behind me started tossing his cart full of stuff on the conveyor, and said "Oh, look we wear the same underwear!"..... CAN YOU SAY CREEEPY!!

I didn't really answer, because I was already grossed out. Then he finished unloading his cart, mostly party supplies cans of nuts, small paper plates, chips, dips etc. But what made me decide I didn't want an invite to his party, even if we do wear the same brand drawers, was that he had two large bottles of K-Y Jelly and 3 dozen condoms. EEEEWWWW!!!!

I checked out, hid my underwear, and ran.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Hope everyone who reads this has a wonderful Christmas today. Enjoy you family, have some decent food, get a kick out of the kids opening their gifts, and watch some football.

But don't forget to take time and think of the real reason for the season, the birth of Christ, and the hope for peace and joy around the world.

When you wish someone a Merry Christmas, that's really what you are doing, it wishing for them peace on earth, and good will towards all men. Even if you aren't christian, if you think of the greeting in that light you should be able to deal with it.

(Thanks to Joe Nicholson for sending me the picture)

So, Merry Christmas from Mr. and Mrs. Crazy Politico, both kids, all three cats and the dog!
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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Mom Was Right, Again!

Remember back when you were a kid, and Mom would always tell you not to play in the rain or you'd catch your death of a cold?

Well, it seems maybe Mom was right. I'm not quite dead, but not exactly well, either. A little infection in the chest and throat, not quite able to breath right, and jumping between chills that make me want to cry, and hot flashes that would make menopausal women jealous. And a cough that feels like it's going to separate a few ribs.

But it was all worth it. You see, I spent Thursday, a miserable, cold, rainy day, in outside in a tent, drinking beer, and something called "apple pie", that you should NEVER EVER drink if you know what's good for you. We played some dice game that cost me 5 bucks, ate brats and burgers, and generally had a great time. Nothing better than hanging with my brother, cousin and a friend at a tailgate party.

Then, we went into Lambeau Field to watch the Packers beat the Viking's in one of the uglier games I've seen in a while. The fact it was 35 degrees, and rained from the time we got to the stadium until after the game is probably why I feel so lousy.

So, unless you are going to see what could be a legends last home game, take Mom's advice, and don't play in the rain. If you are going to play in the rain, evidently the alcohol in beer and other things won't kill the germs that get you sick, so don't try that remedy.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Want Social Justice? Shop Wal-Mart!

How does the social justice crowd live with itself? On one hand they want policies in the US that would cost workers jobs, and freeze a lot of folks at lower wages (indexing the minimum wage).

Oh, they claim it's to help the current 1.5% of the workforce that paid that amount, but the truth is, it will end up hurting 5-10% of them as they lose their jobs. More above them will end up with their pay frozen, and pegged to the minimum wage as companies try and keep expenses for labor in line.

But even worse, the same group gets weepy eyed on TV, and crys about starving kids in Africa, south Asia, etc; then works behind the scenes to keep them starving. How? Protectionist policies supposedly designed to protect the American worker, at the expense of others in the world.

Take for example the steel tariffs that George Bush put in place to "save" 30,000 steelworker jobs in the US. Their union is still screaming for more protection, even though those same tariffs costs 225,000 machinists, metalstampers and other tradesmen their jobs due to higher steel costs.

When Motorola opened a Chinese facility, and shuttered one in Illinois many of the workers here, comparing apples to chickens, claimed the company was paying "slave wages" of $3.00 hour in China.

They don't tell you the Chinese lined up for the jobs because it was paying more per day than they could typically make in a month of farming.

William H. Overholt of RAND points out in today's Washington Post that the middle class being created in China may well be saving GM from bankrupcy by purchasing cars as fast as they are. In 20 years China will have more cars on the road than the US, but the majority made by US companies doing business there.

Other US companies are likely in the same boat, as exports to China have tripled in the last decade; meaning US jobs are provided by the expanding base Chinese consumers.

The Wal-Mart haters, another group of social justice folks, only look at once side of that issue, Wal-Mart's wages (ignoring they are in line with other retailers). They ignore the fact that their prices, when looked at through economic, not emotional terms increase the standard of living of their target audience by 5-10%.

If Wal-Mart acquiesced, and raised wages and benefits where the John Edwards of the world would like (unless he needs a PS3 or items for campaign work) the effect would either be a bunch of workers losing jobs, and probably moving to even lower wage employment; or raising prices that would lower the standard of living of the poor who shop there. Neither sounds like good policy for the poor.

So, you want social justice, and a higher standard of living for the world's poor? It's an easy thing to do, just shop at Wal-Mart, buy chinese goods, that creates a middle class there that is buying our goods.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I Wanna Get Hurt At Work

After reading this article from Yahoo News I've decided that I need an on the job injury. I'm sure the wife would disagree, but you'll have to read the article to find out when, then comment.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Light Week

It'll probably be a light week for posting around here. Today I'm off to Warsaw, Indiana (170 mile drive east) tomorrow Boscobel, Wi. (209 miles west). Wednesday have have a fairly local job, only 80 miles away. Thursday I'll be in Green Bay, Wi. for the Packers, Vikings game that evening, and Friday I'll be recovering from it.
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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Just Raise Taxes

Illinois' legislative bodies, and the Civic Committee of the Commerical Club of Chicago, along with writer Ralph Martire (in the Chicago Sun Times) of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability have all decided that there aren't enough spending cuts available in Illinois to fix our budget mess, that taxes have to go up to do it.

I don't necessarily disagree with that assumption, as (except for Cook County) Illinois has a fairly low income tax (3%) low business tax, and a reasonable sales tax. Property taxes aren't really accounted for by any of them, those taxes are astronomical.

The problem with their assumption is that because spending cuts alone can't fix the budget; especially when we keep adding social services to buy votes; all of the above have decided to abandon any hope of cutting back anywhere, and just decided that jacking taxes up to Wisconsin like levels is the solution.

Article IX of the Illinois Constitution makes the tax issue very complicated, which is good for tax attorneys, and bad for the rest of us. That article allows for only a single income tax rate in the state, and caps business tax rates at an 8 to 5 ratio compared to personal income taxes.

Martire, in his Sun Times editorial argues for raising the rate along the lines of HB 750's proposals, but then giving a number of credits and deductions so the lower 60% of tax payers should see no increase. And end around on the Constitituional requirement of a single tax rate.

Likewise, he and the HB 750 folks advocate new taxes on many services not currently covered by sales tax, as another revenue generator. Unfortunately, they fail to take into account the fact that those the protected with the above give-aways on the income tax would be affected just as harshly by the new services taxes.

The Civic Committee also came to similar conclusions, however their plan also called for reigned in spending at the state and local levels to reduce the amount of the increases, something HB 750 and Martires group have given up on.

The main focus in the Civic Committee report is trimming of the overly generous (compared to the real world) government retirement and benefits packages. Something sure to raise the ire of the public service unions. Never mind that Illinois has a public retirement package that would make UAW members jealous, the unions will fight tooth and nail to prevent any cuts in a program with a $40 billion dollar funding shortfall.

All of the above groups fail in their reports and reasoning to take into account the huge overhead of Illinois' layers of beaurocracy. As I mentioned in "Fixing Illinois" the reduction of the number of school districts by consolidation, and removal of the inefficient and antiquated Township governance would reduce a large amount of money currently being spent on overhead instead of actually providing services.

Don't look for consolidation to happen, though, the current government structure is something of a farm system for the larger political office. That's where big time pols look for good foot soldiers to move up through the ranks, and of course collect cash for them. On the school district side, the unions are solidly against any consolidation, because it would in most cases cause reorganization that would shake up the structure they've become accustomed to.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Something for Congress to Fix

There is something I'd like to see the Congress fix, or more appropriately, define, for the judges in our country. That something can be found in the 8th Amendment to the US Constitution.

You see, two states, Florida and California are currently halting all executions by lethal injection, wondering if they are using a method that is "cruel and unusual" as punishment.

Florida's ban came about because the person administering the needle missed the vein and put the drugs into the convicted killers flesh.

In California, a judge has declared that because it takes too long to die, and inflict unconstitutional amounts of pain, again on a convicted killer.

Congress, for well over 200 years, has been lax in it's job to define what "cruel and unusual punishment", as written in the 8th Amendment really is. Instead, they've left it up to each state to come up with it's own definition, or worse, allowed judges to divine what they think it is.

Specifically in the case of the death penalty, where the murderers probably didn't care that their method of killing violated the same standards the judges have been setting for executions. The rights of the victim aren't much of a concern to judges who think that it's mean to use a small needle and some drugs that might take a few minutes to kill you, after an anesthetic to knock you out.

I'm personally of the Attilla the Hun camp, and believe convicted murderers should be put to death in the same way they killed their victims. However, I am pragmatic enough to know that such a law would never pass muster.

We've seen whiny judges take away the electric chair, gas chamber, hanging, and now lethal injection, because someone who didn't give a rats ass about another human being might have to face some pain. Since they didn't seem to mind inflicting some, I'm still trying to see the problem with those methods. Yes, occassionally mistakes have happened, and guys heads have gone up in flames when the chair malfunctioned, but is that really that bad, he/she was a KILLER.

So, Congress, get off your asses, and pass a law defining cruel and unusual punishment, only wait until real conservatives have taken the chamber over, because I'm afraid of how a Pelosi, Reid congress would define it.

Scrappleface has the other part of the story.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

New Course For Education?

A report was released yesterday called "Tough Choices or Tough Times" that calls for a bottom up restructuring of the American education system. One of the authors offered this very on target quote:
"The United States has one of the highest costs of education but produces mediocre results," added Knapp, former president of the University of Georgia. "The recommendations are absolutely necessary if we want America to maintain its standard of living."
There are, of course, people opposed to the reports ideas of destroying the current school district, school board, and school administrator relationships, and many of the other recommendations by The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce . Both major teachers unions have already come out against most every idea in the report, except higher pay for teachers and universal preschool.

One outstanding option is allowing students to "test out" of high school after their sophmore year to either attend a trade school or community college in prep for a career or a four year college.

The proposal makes sense, it hits when the majority of dropouts occur, giving those students a path to a diploma; and it allows those who've decided they don't want to go to college, or aren't ready, to start learning a skill to make a living. Two more years of high school does nothing to prepare that student for the real workforce.

The teachers unions are, of course, against the idea. But that's probably because they'd lose students in those two grades, meaning they'd probably also have to shed union members.

The truth is the current system is like having two sizes of shoes availble to you. One says you go to college, the other size is for everyone else. If neither fits you, a life of discomfort awaits.

To boost starting pay for teachers, which is a good idea, the commission suggested moving them from defined benefits plans to 401(k) type retirment accounts, and using that savings to boost the salaries. The unions are, of course, opposed.

The retirement trough is where the educational pig has found the best feeding over the years. One large midwest state has a teachers pension fund that is underfunded in the 20-30 BILLION dollar range. Part of that underfunding is due to the fact that teachers can bank sick days for an entire career, then sell them back at the end (at the current pay scale, not when they were earned), and have it counted as salary causing a huge jump in their benefits. 401's are a lot harder to game in that manner.

The final straw for the unions though, is the idea of killing the school board and districts, and having schools run through charter programs, with corporations handling administration tasks and being held accountable for results. The administrative beaurocracy that has become the educational system in America serves no one well. But the unions appear to like it because it makes it so hard to get below it to hold anyone accountable.

Chester Finn Jr., who wrote the "Nation at Risk" report in 1983 that started a minor shake up in education had a great take on the report:

"There is something to offend everybody, and that approximates my own definition of consensus—a uniform level of pain felt by everybody"
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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Ghoul Watch

One of the serious downsides to our current political bar fight is the fact we forget politicians are people, and have families.

Case in point? Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota has a blood vessel rupture in his brain. After the news I knew more about the history of sick senators not giving up their seats than the actual disease (arteriovenous malformation, which affects 300,000 Americans) that caused his problems.

The folks that are salivating over the possibility he might die or resign, and give control of the Senate to the GOP need to get a real friggin' life. This is a person, with a wife and family who are concerned for his life, not his Senate seat.

Senator Johnson, while I disagree with your politics, I wish you a speedy recovery, and hope you are able to make your own decision about your Senate seat. To your family, my heart goes out to each of you, and I hope you don't have to deal with the newsie idiots out there who have turned your husband into a number in the Senate chamber, not a person.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Lousy Weekends

(Caution: Venting ahead)
I usually look forward to weekends. Lately though, they've been kind of lousy, this coming one will be worse that that.

Last weekend started out great, after working a 4 day, 45 hour week, I was looking forward to some rest and relaxation. Unfortunately, it didn't happen.

Friday night my son asked if I'd heard about the accident onboard USS Frank Cable, a submarine tender homeported in Guam. I had, 7 sailors had been listed as injured when a steam pipe burst during checks on the safety valves.

He then said he'd heard one of the injured was from Zion, and had died. I know a lot of the young men and women from Zion who've joined the Navy, since I've been involved with the high schools NJROTC program for a number of years, so it really bugged me, thinking I might know the guy. When he said the last name was Valentine, it gave me a shiver, I worked with a guy named Valentine, with kids at the school, who was retired Navy.

Then Saturday I got an e-mail from the guy who hired me for my first "real job" after retiring from the Navy. The young man who died was the son of my former supervisor, a guy I respected a lot when I worked with him.

I didn't know Jack, the young man who died, from the school, though I found out later saturday when I caught up with my daughter that he was a "lunch buddy" her freshman and sophmore years. She had recently reconnected with him through his sister's MySpace page, and so for a good part of Saturday we tried consoling her.

Military deaths are a lot easier to explain; especially in wartime; when a bomb, sniper, or some enemy takes a life. When it's an accident, doing routine maintenance, it's a lot harder to take, and explain.

That, though, wouldn't be enough, evidently my weekends are made for punishment not relaxation. Later Saturday I talked to my oldest brother, who's mother-in-law has been fighting a long battle with cancer, and found she's not well at all, and has been in the hospital for most of the week battling other ailments brought on by her weakened condition.

My brother and his wife are rocks. I know that I couldn't handle this nearly as well as they are, but I also know that it's draining, tiring, frustrating, and many other adjectives that I can't describe not being as close to the situation. I just hope that when he needs a shoulder, he realizes both of mine are available.

So now, instead of this coming weekend being something to look forward to, I'm dreading it. Sunday we have a visitation to attend for a young man who gave his life doing something he loved, but that doesn't make it easier, better, or more right. It still just makes him not here anymore, with a devastated family. I have no idea what to say to his father when I see him, my kids will both be there, probably looking to me for words that aren't there.

And every time my phone rings, I'll worry it's my brother with bad news from his family.

Can I just fast forward to some other day?

Donations in memory of MRFN Jack Valentine can be made to the USO or Camp Zion, at Christ Community Church in Zion, IL.
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Monday, December 11, 2006

Straw Poll

Forced To Switch?

I may be forced to switch to the new blogger to see if the glitch the GOP Straw Poll caused will go away.

You see, the current blogger doesn't allow embedded javascript in a post, normally. I found that if you edit the template, and put the script right under the date header, and republish you end up with a post with the straw poll. Kind of cool, I though. Then I realized it put it up for every day. So, I pulled the script, the post stayed, but now whenever you click a permalink you end up with the poll at the top of the post. I guess that'll teach me to try and outsmart blogger!

The other problem, and I don't know if it's on my end or GOPBloggers is that none of the results from here are posting anyway. Not sure why that is.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Nanny State Madness

New York City is fast on it's way to being a third parent for most of it's residents. The ban on trans fats, which will supposedly make food safer, is the latest on the list of things they are doing to protect residents from themselves.

Opinion Journal, the Wall Street Journal's online editorial page, does a great job of bashing Mayor Bloomberg and the city council for the ban. One of the interesting thing they point out is the same group, Center for Science in the Public Interest, that wants trans fat banned is largely responsible for their use. 30 years ago they claimed that hydrogenated oils posed no risk, and restaurants should replace palm oil with them. Now they want them banned, because they are supposedly bad for you. As the Journal asked, do they feel guilty about this?

I keep saying supposedly because there a lots of studies with small links between trans fat and heart disease, but none showing a direct correlation, unless you are drinking the stuff like water.

Most studies seem to show that the trans fat effect is negligible, at best, when weighed with other risk factors. But like the junk science of global warming, if you can get your junk science into the right hands, you can make huge changes with it.

So where does the nanny state go next? If you want to get a kill off the prowl, cars would be the logical choice. For people under the age of 50 they are the leading killer in the country, so shouldn't we be banning them, to keep people safe?

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Illinois, The Next New Jersey

Illinois, fresh on it's revelation of a $1.6 billion budget deficit, and a massive funding shortfall for pensions and other obligations has come up with a new way to spend $5 billion, PER YEAR, that it doesn't have.

The state has decided it's not fair that some of you have insurance, and some don't. So, they've decided, that for a measly $5 billion a year they can take care of the problem of 1.5 million uninsured residents.

The number will actually grow with their plan, as will the cost. You see, the plan is that if you provide jobs, you'll be forced to provide (a yet undisclosed amount) money either for coverage of your employees, or fines to the state to pay for insurance for others.

If you have private insurance, you'll get hit with a fee on it to help cover those who don't.

If you are an insurer, you'll be forced to write policies for everyone, and not be able to raise premiums, or cancel policies without the nod from a new state agency.

My advice for folks living in Illinois, buy property in Indiana, it's going to be a gold rush as businesses move out of Illinois to the tax friendlier confines of our neighbor. My other advice is if you have private insurance right now, see about paying ahead on your premiums for the next decade or so, because that company will probably stop writing new policies in Illinois shortly before a law of this type goes into effect.

If you think it's all scare hype, look to New Jersey's "Joint Underwriter Association" (JUA)problems of the 1980's, when half the auto insurance companies in the US refused to write policies in The Garden State. It's gotten slightly better since, then, but not much, and because of lack of choice, and mangled management by the state, all the laws designed to lower rates have NJ at the top of the rate ladder in the US.

I lived through the JUA for a time. When I bought a new pickup truck my insurance rates were higher than my truck payment, there is something fundamentally wrong with that idea. Especially when the reason the rates were so high was the government was lowering them for me!!!!??!?!?!?!

Health insurance companies are going to be no more likely than auto insurers; maybe less so; to enjoy the idea of having the state force them to write low cost policies to high risk people. In fact, the insurance game is built on the opposite strategy. Instead, what will happen is the state is going to end up letting fly by night companies write polices, at high prices, when every decent company flees the state.

One of the intersting things about the proposal is the caps, and where some of the coverage will come from. If you make up to 400% of the federal poverty level ($80,000/yr) for a family of four, you'll be eligible for subsidized insurance premiums. If you are single and under the poverty level ($9,800) Medicaid will give you full coverage, according to the plan.

Two problems there, the first, insurance purchasing becomes a disincentive to those who can afford it, when they can go to the state instead. And, Medicaid is perpetually underfunded by both the State and Federal entities that oversee it. Where is the extra cash for a couple hundred thousand more recipients going to come from?

The answer is of course, the business penalty. The state will come up with a number high enough to cause even businesses who provide decent coverage to be fined for not paying enough. Illinois can't just raise the business tax to come up with the cash, they are at the Constitutionally mandated cap on that already, so a new "fee" is coming. One that will have businesses going.

If this passes; and I urge everyone to contact there Representative or Senator in Springfield and urge them to just say no; we will see and exodus of business from the state on a scale that is hard to imagine. Let's face it when the government comes up with a plan that includes user fees, business fees, and a whole new department, it's going to be ugly.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

More of the Same

The Baker Hamilton Iraq Study was released yesterday, and contained, well, nothing that hasn't been suggested by others already.

If you were looking to it, as many of us were, for some bold initiative, it's not there. Instead, more troops for a while, don't leave immediately, and get the region involved are what it suggests.

Some methods may be slightly different than the JCS review, or Abizaid's, or Rumsfeld's suggestions from just before he was canned, but for the most part the commission gave us warmed over left over ideas.

Paul Harvey mentioned yesterday that it pointed to "more of the same". David Ignatius of the Washington Post says "The Iraq Study Group's report achieved the goal of any blue-ribbon commission: It stated the obvious, emphatically."

I haven't seen any commentary yet that derides the Baker Hamilton group for saying Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki means well, but he "has taken little meaningful action" against militias. Yet Steve Hadley was roasted on Sunday morning talk shows for suggesting the same thing in a memo to the president. Maybe he didn't say it in a bipartisan enough way.

Possibly the biggest laugher is the idea of getting Iran and Syria to help in Iraq. For some reason I'm reminded of foxes and hen houses every time that suggestion is made. The US has no stick to use with either country, and they evidently think our carrots are grown in Israel, because they generally shy away from them. Which means the greater world would have to threaten and cajole them to get any meaningful help from them in stopping the flow of weapons and fighters into Iraq. Something tells me that won't be happening anytime soon.

So, sorry folks, if you were looking to Baker Hamilton for the "Magic Bullet", it's not their, they admit it.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Criminal Rights

Lately there has been a lot of violent crime in my area. A lady in our city shot and killed an intruder (good marksmanship, Ma'am). I truly hope she recovers from the trauma she's suffering because of it. I've known a lot of cops in my life, and none who shot someone was ever the same.

There have been a ton of armed robberies here in town, seven I know of in the last few weeks. I know pretty much anytime a pizza delivery person or pizza restaurant gets hit. My son works for one, and the pepperoni telegraph is faster than the internet. All the different pizza joints call each other and let them know what happened, so everyone can be watching.

But the worst, and most frustrating was the strangulation of a Burger King manager by a robber that happened late last month.

It's now come out the the suspect being held in the killing was convicted, and sentenced to life in prison in a quadruple homicide in 1982. Unfortunately, our criminal justice system failed, and allowed him to walk after an appeals court decided that his consent for a search was gotten after too much questioning.

He was already in prison at the time, for another violent crime with a weapon, but got paroled. And was convicted again, and allowed to walk again.

One of the frustrations of our legal system is that only the accused has any appellate rights. After the conviction was overturned, by a court that agreed Mr. Early committed the crime, the prosecutor had no where to go but another jury trial without key evidence.

Why don't we have a system that allows the prosecutor to go to a higher court, and get their opinion on the evidence gathering procedure?

Sure, venue shopping probably would happen with prosecutors, it already does with guilty parties who try and find the judge most unfriendly to the police. The problem is the slanted system allows for the guilty to walk, and leave little if any recourse for the victims or the general public.

The major problem with the appeals process is time. Not how long it takes to get appeals through, but how long judges have to make decisions. Police in the field don't get the advantage of half a dozen clerks and a few months to study case law and read fine print before they take action. Judges, on the other hand, have no pressure on them to do things quickly. Maybe if we told them make a decision in 30 minutes or less, we'd have less criminals allowed to walk free.

Our system is screwed up, there's a family in Trevor, Wisconsin without a mother, because even though the judges knew a man was guilty, they let him walk. Even though he had a history of violent crimes, parole boards kept letting him out. Yeah, that's justice, we see how well he's rehabbed himself.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

We Need A Third Party

I had a great lunch time conversation today with Bruno of WKRS, 1220 AM, The Voice of Lake County (Il) who's on 10am-12pm weekdays, (Click here to listen live) .

Bruno also writes a good blog, Extreme Wisdom, where he discusses many of the same issues he hits on his radio show.

One of the points of our conversation today was the need for a third political party, that has a chance of winning seats in elections.

Sorry Greens and Libertarians, but that party doesn't belong to either of you. All one needs to do is read your party platforms to realize that you have a limited appeal, too limited to win elections.

Oh sure, the Libertarians are all gaga about being "king makers" in Missouri and Montana, by siphoning enough conservative votes to get Jon Tester and Claire McCaskill elected, but they still hold the same number of seats they did before the election, ZERO. The term they should be using is "spoiler", which is closer to the role they played this year.

I'll give the Green's this, at least in 2000 they realized that Nader ended up getting a guy much farther from their principles elected, the Libertarians don't even have that much common sense this year.

I believe a third party, from the center or slightly right of it is a very viable option in the near future. The party would have to stick to some principles, and ignore some things that neither the Democrats or Republicans are willing to, and IMHO, be willing to call BS on a lot of stuff that happens in this country.

Some of the principles?

Smaller government to start. Require a bottom up justification of every government position and direct support contract positions. Anyone who's worked in government knows that there are jobs that don't need to exist and only do because of patronage, or the influence of contractors and public sector unions. Those jobs need to be eliminated, using an outside source to grade the value of the positions is the first place to start.

Fiscal responsibility, which is something lacking at all levels of government. Require growth in ALL programs to be limited to inflation plus the growth of the population served.

Government Pension Reform. As a state issue it's become huge in Illinois, now that Bobbie Steele's pension has doubled due to four months on the job as Cook County Board President. In fact, she'll receive 80% of the salary of the President, $136,000 when she retires. I suggest a pension based on years of service and highest salary received for over 12 months, with a two term minimum time on the job before receiving anything.

The people of Illinois don't realize that Steele isn't the only person who gets to sweeten the pot on pensions. Teachers have been doing it for years by collecting bonus payments, and converting unused sick time to salary in the last year they work, having those numbers added to their pensions also. That needs to stop, also.

At a federal level, pensions need to be reformed for elected officials and political appointees, they should be put in the same retirement system as civil service employees, or use the retirement programs they've foisted on the military over the years. I can't see anyone in the Senate taking the Redux Plan for their retirement.

Education, the current system is failing, by any standard, and probably can't be fixed. The US education system needs to be revamped from the bottom up. A back to basics approach is necessary, with reading, writing and arithmatic as the basics for K-6, with diverging paths at the middle and high school levels. Both college prep work and vocational skills need to be offered and taught in high school. Whether some groups like to hear it or not, all students aren't cut out for college, or want to attend it. Our current high school model puts those students on the back of the educational bus, usually giving them no skills for their future, then wondering why they fail in life.

Some principles that might upset the folks on the far right and left?

Abortion, it's not going away anytime soon, and probably shouldn't be made illegal anyway. So why make a lot of political noise over it. Instead, leave the laws as they sit today, and find something more worthwhile to spend time arguing about.

Religion, we don't have an official one, and we don't outlaw any, that's as far as the government should be involved with it. Religious groups should be allowed to compete for government contracts to provide services, along with any other group. No contract should be open only to religious groups however.

Taxes, they should only be able to be raised with a three fifths majority vote of the body that wishes to raise them, at any government level. User fees, registration fees, etc, should be covered by this same law.

These are just a few of my (wandering) ideas on the types of issues a third party should be looking at when coming together. Post your ideas in the comments, though I'm likely to heckle some of them.

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Democrats Rejoicing!

Democrats throughout America rejoiced tonight, as their favorite leader, Hugo Chavez, won re-election in Venezuela.

The vote count with over 70% counted was 61 to 38%, so Hugo won't lose, which will keep Jimmy Carter, Cindy Sheehan, Jesse Jackson, and Danny Glover very happy.

Too bad for the people of Venezuela that they get six more years of Hugo destroying their economy. As the Christian Science Monitor and Rigzone (Oil Industry Rag) reported in May Venezuela's oil output; the lifeblood of their economy; has fallen by 50% since Hugo was first elected in 1999. In fact, Rigzone noted they were having to buy oil off the open market to meet their own contracts.

Considering Hugo's treatment of foreign investors, it's unlikely that the large multinational oil companies are going to rush in to shore up the infrastructure that he's destroying, or open the new fields his cronies haven't been trying to locate. Instead, they'll go elsewhere, and Venezuela will suffer.

Hugo's socialist model will probably work to get him through most of the next six years, but at some point the working class who are being squeezed out, and the investor class, who are leaving what used to be a profitable country will rise up, and toss him. When the large nationwide strikes start happening (and they will, bookmark this) because those who used to work find themselves peasants, Hugo will go away. Then what will Danny, Jesse, Cindy and the rest who've praised him for his anti-US sentiment have to say.

(Update at 7:15am CST) Hugo can, under current Venezuelan law serve only 3 terms as president, however he mentioned last night that a Constitutional change may be possible, considering the will of the people. See my note above, I don't think he'll need to make that change.

H/T to Marathon Pundit for the election results

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Fixing Illinois

A couple of folks I've talked to, from around election time to now have had the same question, "how do we fix Illinois?"

There isn't an easy answer to making the state fiscally healthy, but there is an easy starting point; reduce the number of government taxing bodies. In this article I'll only concentrate on local bodies, not those run by the State, that's another bag of worms for someone with much more research time than I have.

Such a review is underway in Springfield, but I'm pretty sure that with the Democrats pretty well controlling everything in the capital, it will be ignored. The number of taxing and government bodies in the state is amazing, frustrating, and horribly redundant.

For instance, if you live in Gurnee, Il, you have most the following taxing bodies showing up on your property tax bill, though only two of the school districts will (the High School and either district 50 or 56 for elementary and middle school):

Village of Gurnee, Lake County, Lake County Forest Preserve District, Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency, Warren Township, Warren Township Road and Bridge, Warren Gravel, School District 56, School District 50, High School District 121, Community College District 532, Gurnee Park District.

This is only what shows on a property tax bill. It doesn't include income taxes, sales taxes, special sales tax districts, etc.

As a comparison, I looked up my parents tax bill on line and it showed one school district (k-12), the community college district, the city and the county. That was it , a total of four taxing bodies instead of a dozen.

Looking at the tax bills for a similar house to my parents in Gurnee, Il the tax bill would be over $600 higher per year in Illinois vs. Wisconsin.

Part of that is because the two states fund education very differently. In Wisconsin, the State pays 66% (ish) of all K-12 costs, though the taxes it collects, while the local government pays the rest minus any federal aid. In Illinois the numbers are way different, with the state paying only 36%, and the locals covering everything but the federal aid amounts. This does account for a chunk of Wisconsin's higher income tax rates.

Back to the taxing bodies, though. Each of the groups above has it's own board of directors (or education), it's own chairman or superintendent, staff, etc. By reducing the number of taxing bodies just the duplicitive jobs could be reduced.

For instance, by unifying districts 50, 56 and High School District 121, and moving to 1 school board, 1 Superintendent and shared services for maintenance, bussing, food service, and administrative jobs. This alone would save a large amount of money.

Park disticts are another taxing body that shouldn't exist. Nearly everywhere else I've lived in the US (New Jersey, Virginia, Mississippi, Wisconsin and California) parks were handled by the city and/or County, not a special taxing body of it's own in each town.

Finally, the Township boards and bodies need to go away, they are antiquities from a bygone era that serve no real purpose anymore. All functions of those bodies, with their separate salary structures, boards and workers could be consolidated with either cities or counties, depending on their area. Most provide no tangable value to the resident anymore that couldn't be provided for less by one of the other existing bodies.

How would that new tax bill look if I had my way? For Gurnee it would be much simpler, the park district would become a responsibility of the Gurnee City Council, the 3 school districts would be unified, Warren Township, Warren Township roads and Bridges and Warren Township Gravel would become part of the County Board's responsibility, along with the Forest Preserve District. Because of strange multi-national water laws associated with the Great Lakes Basin the water board would have to remain intact.

So the new bill would be pretty simple:
City of Gurnee
Lake County
Gurnee Unified Schools
Community College District 532
Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency

I'm not sure how much the taxpayer would save in the short run, but by requiring a full review of all positions in each consolidated agency, removing the overlapping jobs, and setting salaries accordingly for those who end up demoted, it wouldn't be chump change.

Any other ideas on how to fix our screwed up state? John, the Marathon Pundit has some ideas.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006


What is the significance of the number four thousand four hundred thirty two? Is it how much I want to spend on Christmas gifts? No. Is it how much I ran up on my corporate credit card at strip joints? Definitely NO. Is it the cost of the new computer I'd like? Nope, not that either.

The significance of that number is it is how many text messages my daughter received or made from her cell phone last month. Think about it, that's 147.73 text messages per day, or one every 9 minutes 46 seconds! That is INSANE, at best. I'm wondering how much longer it will be until digits begin falling off of her hands from pushing those little buttons so often.

I asked how she has time to do anything else with all of those messages flying back and forth. I mean, she has a job, but how much work can she get done if her phone is buzzing and interrupting her every 9.76 minutes? She obviously doesn't sleep much, since she'd have to be getting twice as many during her waking hours.

I understand part of the number, though. Her and her new beau will be sitting next to each other on the couch and send each other messages. I guess that's the new conversation method for the 21st century.

You gotta wonder if Sprint will be looking at her account and re-thinking that $15 unlimited text message policy. I mean, I pay $5 for 100 text messages per month (and don't use half), she pays $15 and sends over 40 times that many.

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Protect Us, Some Other Way

I love privacy advocates, and others, who are once again up in arms that the Department of Homeland Security is trying to protect people, but has to gather data to do it.

Evidently the ACLU, EFF, and others want to be safe, but they'd like the Homeland Security to figure out how to keep us that way through osmosis.

You see, any time DHS comes up with a way to screen passengers based on available information, the EFF and ACLU end up screaming bloody murder, and stopping the program.

Now, I understand one of the issues with the current DHS program. Travelers who are detained based on the info should have some recourse to check it's accuracy. Other than that, I have no issue with the idea of my travel plans, payment modes, etc, used to profile me.

They'll find that I use either my corporate Amex or a Visa Check Card to pay for tickets, never fly one way, always get window seats, don't order special meals, and only check luggage if my stay is more than 5 days.

If they want to check what I eat based on those cards when I travel they'll find I'm a steak person, who likes a couple of bourbons with dinner and I have a sweet tooth for chocolate cake afterwards.

I'd say the DHS should probably suspend USING the information, but continue to gather it. Then, in a year or so when a flagged traveler commits some sort of crime against someone, give the victim (or their family) the information on the traveler. Let them sue the ACLU and the EFF for the injuries incurred based on the fact that the person would have been detained had they not stopped the program. Of course, that's just crass and cold me talking, the government would never actually do something that makes that much sense.

I'm not sure how the ACLU would like them to find persons who pose a risk, they don't want them screened based on travel history, country of origin, name, religious preference, or any other readily identifiable information. Yet they've also participated in lawsuits against the government for failing to protect us from the 9/11 attacks. Exactly how should they have done that, ACLU supporters feel free to speak up.

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Friday, December 01, 2006


My daily giggle comes from Motley Fool! Evidently the government in Norway has blacklisted my former employer, Lockheed Martin (often referred to here as MegaCorp) from their government pension investments.

I laughed because one of the groups of sailors that were educated at the facility I worked in were Norwegian. You see, they bought a bunch of anti-aircraft frigates, equipped with the Lockheed Martin built Aegis Weapon System. They've also blacklisted Northrop Grumman, and Boeing and Raytheon from such investments. These companies supply weapons systems or components of them to the same country who won't invest in them with their pensions. Raytheon designed the transmitter for the radar on their version of Aegis.

To me it shows the hypocrisy governments will go to for the appearance of social responsibility. While Norway has no problem buying weapons from Lockheed and the others on the list, which is of course an investment in the companies, they want to appear responsible? Why not just go all the way, refuse to buy from any company who makes a weapon you don't like.

That was rhetorical, of course, Norway has seen what happens to weak sisters in Europe over the decades. So instead of being truly socially responsible (by their definition) they'll instead try to appear so, when in fact they are just hypocrites.

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More Snow!

Maricopa Mark asked "What is this snow that you speak of?", so I thought I would give him a picture of my son enjoying the snow.... Well maybe not, since he was shoveling it.

As you can see by looking at the ground around his feet there is about 3-4 inches of the lovely white stuff there. That wouldn't be a bad snowfall for December 1st. The thing is, that's the third time the driveway has been shoveled since 5:30 am.

So far we are in the 8-10" range of accumulation, or at least that is my best guess. I've had 3 cars stuck on the street near me, including a 4x4 Chevy Tahoe that the police use to patrol on days like this.

Oddly, the mail carrier, in his little jeep thing made it up the street just fine before the plows came through. Guess he's a better bad weather driver than the cops.

So, Mark, if you wonder what snow is, come on up and visit, I've got plenty to show you.

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Now I remember why I liked Virginia, when they were scheduled to get 12-16 inches of snow everything closed, two weeks beforehand, and it normally melted within a few days. I also lived in an apartment, with a contract company who shoveled and plowed. Here, well, I'm the contract person, and I'll be shoveling, a lot.

So far it looks like 4-6 have fallen, it's hard to say because with the 40 mile an hour winds, and the fence in my yard, it makes for strange drifts..

I do know this much, I'm not going to be driving to Chicago for work today (sorry boss, if you are reading this). I'll just sit home, blog, play games, and generally chill out.

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