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Monday, February 26, 2007

Going Local

TonightI'll be posting a few things on the local election here in Zion, Illinois. Tuesday we have a primary election for the city commissioners, and Mayor's race along with a few others.

Specifically, the Mayor's race here is kind of important. The current Mayor, Lane Harrison, has been in office for a number of years, and has done some good things. At the same time, he's miss fired on a number of items, and doesn't seem to like being called on it.

Two of the issues in the election, a full time position for Mayor / City Administrator, and property taxes are two things the current mayor has taken a pass on. Crime is one where he's paid some lip service, but hasn't really addressed the issue.

When people mention that our taxes are the 5th highest per dollar of property value in the county he argues that the city only gets 14% of that amount, so it's not his fault. The truth is he, and the city council have done little to decrease the amount our city portion goes up. There is a ton of redundancy in the government in Zion, between a city and township that share common borders to a Park District with it's own budget that takes up 8% of my property tax money. In the six years I've lived in Zion the current mayor and the council have done NOTHING to eliminate the waste of all of those bodies.

The issue of a full time Mayor was actually made moot, to me, by Lane Harrison's last mailing to the electorate. While he spent an entire page making the case that he's provided a ton of progress as the (part time) Mayor, he asked why Dave Ratliff's big position on the issues is we don't need a full time Mayor. Dave has said we don't need one at either the original $100,000 or the currently reduced $75,000 salary the City Council has proposed. The truth is, Mr. Harrison, if as you say, we've been so successful since 1999 without a full time Mayor, why is one needed now?

Crime is an issue that the city likes to whitewash, and the current Mayor doesn't like being asked questions on. The truth is, there is plenty of crime in Zion, violent crime, drug crime, and property crime. You can't read the News Sun without at least a few crimes from Zion being in the police blotter on a daily basis.

In the last few months, just from the place my son works at least 3 people have been assaulted on the streets. At least weekly a pizza driver, or other delivery person gets robbed. And daily cars are broken into in peoples driveways. Yet the Mayor seems to think that crime shouldn't be considered a big issue. Maybe he should come park his car in my neighbors driveway, where they've had 3 break-ins of their vehicles in the last 7 months or so. Or park in the other neighbors drive, where he's had a few windshields broken in the last couple of years.

Dave Ratliff also has some things to answer, like where does the money for extra police patrols come from? While I agree with him that we need more cops, and more patrols in Zion, the truth is they aren't cheap, and with a promise of no more than 3% growth in the budget in any year he's in office, I'd like to know more about his plan on how to pay for things.

I'd like both candidates to let me know if they'd support a freeze on new residential construction unless an equal amount of commerical property is also built. The reason behind this is residential construction is a tax drain on the property owners, it requires more schools, teachers, police and fire services. Commercial development doesn't require new schools, and only a minimal amount of extra police and fire protection. Yet commerical development generates a good amount of property tax revenue, and reduces the burden on homeowners.

Secondly, I'd like both of them to address the issue of government consolidation in regards to the City and Township and the Park District. I've asked both about it, and Mr. Ratliff got back to me with some general answers, but Mayor Harrison never bothered to respond to my e-mail.

Even with the questions I have about Dave's plans, based on meeting him and talking to him, and reading what he has proposed, I think that it's time for some change for Zion, with a new direction in leadership.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Politics, Politics, Politics

The Democratic party is the gift that keeps on giving for guys like me. I mentioned that they were "fractured" a few days ago, and they keep on proving it, as usual.

Shoprat, a frequent reader and commenter gets it right when he says that having that many victims groups under the same umbrella makes it impossible to not be fractured.

While everyone expected the GOP to beat on John Murtha's proposal to basically abandon the troops in Iraq with no back ups, no spares, and no hope of winning, who'd have thought his own party would begin beating on him too.

Murtha's problem is while his plan keeps the anti-war activists in the base happy, the coalition of Blue Dog Democrats are balking. They remember that they promised during the election not to let a stunt like Murtha's happen if the Democrats controlled Congress.

The other fun part with the Democrats is the jousting in the run up to next years primary elections. After last weeks jabs from David Geffen the Hillary Clinton camp has let all of the contenders know that Bill's impeachment is subject not to be raised.

According to Hillary's new selective memory, January 1993-January 2001 were Camelot Redux, with only good things happening in government and America. And if you have the guts, as Geffen did, to remind people of the truth, expect the weight of the Clintonista machine to fall on you, quickly.

Geffen got it right, while the Clinton's may be able to bully their own party into amnesia about the problems the White House had in that administration, they'll have no such luck in a general election fight. The GOP will remind people, mercilessly, about guys like Vince Foster, $100,000 profits in one day of trading, and weird land deals that got friends put in jail.

The Democrats are better off defending Obama's lack of experience, than trying to rewrite the Clinton experience. All they need to do is ask John Kerry and Al Gore how well rewriting history works to get you elected.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

The NFL Banned It, But Not Politicians

I was watching CLTV this morning, a Chicago based all news station when they showed Barack Obama at his rally in Texas, and used the phrase "Barack and Roll" which I hadn't heard before. Then they showed the new "rock star" politician coming on stage to the the blasting of "Rock and Roll Part 2", by Gary Glitter.

While I understand the catchy phrase, I'm wondering if his campaign realizes that song; so popular for years at sporting events; has been banned by the NFL , since Gary Glitter was convicted of molesting children in Viet Nam!

Probably not the type of name association the presidential hopeful needs to move his campaign forward. Maybe he should think of a new song for his campaign to rock and roll too.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Fractured Democrats

Funny things are happening with the party in charge of Congress lately. The kumbaya moments from November's election victory are quickly dissipating as Iraq, and the next set of elections start taking center stage.

As I mentioned last night, Nancy Pelosi and John Murtha's position on Iraq has come under fire from Dick Cheney, who was on the news this morning not only standing by his comments, but increasing his attacks on Pelosi & Co.

Hillary and Barack Obama are fueding over who Hollywood should be supporting, and it's turning into an ugly throw down. Everyone expected Hillary to take off the gloves in the fight for the White House, it was a given. I don't think anyone expected haymakers to be thrown in the first round of the fight. Obama, to his credit, isn't doing a bob and weave, but instead firing body shots right back at the Senator from New York.

And finally, in what would be a huge blow to the party, Joe Lieberman has mentioned he could change his caucus vote to the GOP if the Democrats try to undermine funding for the war in Iraq.

A Lieberman switch would move Senate control back to the GOP, and lead to a bloodletting of the Democratic leadership in the Senate. Harry Reid has to know this and I'm wondering what he's going to do to both placate Lieberman, and the ultra liberal base that is running the party agenda.

Fun times in politics folks!

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

It's Your Plan, Not Your Patriotism

Memo To Nancy Pelosi and Jack Murtha: Dick Cheney didn't question your patriotism when he said:
"I think if we were to do what Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha are
suggesting, all we will do is validate the Al Qaeda strategy. The Al Qaeda strategy is to break the will of the American people, try to persuade us to throw in the towel and come home, and then they win because we quit."

No where in there does he call them anything resembling "unpatriotic"; he just stated what they are suggesting validates what Osam Bin Laden has said before, that when the going gets tough the US get's going.

Lest you forgot, here is what Osama had to say (thanks Black Five):
"After leaving Afghanistan, the Muslim fighters headed for Somalia and prepared for a long battle, thinking that the Americans were like the Russians," bin Laden said. "The youth were surprised at the low morale of the American soldiers and realized more than before that the American soldier was a paper tiger and after a few blows ran in defeat. And America forgot all the hoopla and media propaganda ... about being the world leader and the leader of the New World Order, and after a few blows they forgot about this title and left, dragging their corpses and their shameful defeat."

You see, Madam Speaker, what Dick Cheney said wasn't beneath the dignity of his office, or a questioning of your patriotism, it was a statement of fact that you seem to need to keep hidden under a rug.

Now, instead of your strawman arguement of questioning your patriotism, how about telling the American people how your strategy doesn't validate the above statement. Your constant grumbling about the (supposed) questioning of your patriotism is beneath the dignity of your office.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

This Week's Target Is....

The Washington Post is evidently holding a "Skewer Mitt Romney" week on it's Op/Ed page. For the second time in as many day's one of the lead editorials is on Romney's constant evolution of opinion on many subjects.

Today it's Ruth Marcus's turn to take on the former Mass. Governor, who has, like a good politicians, evolved his opinion on topics from gays in the military to abortion, to, well just about anything.

Yesterday it was Richard Cohen with "The Talented Mr. Romney" piece, which basically went over the same changes.

I'm not arguing the Post shouldn't go after Romney, quite contrary, when someone flips on issues as much as he has he should be torched by the press for it. My hope is that some time is spent on candidates on the other side of the 2008 Presidential election, as a few of them have had changes of heart on many issues, too.

In case Mitt hasn't figured it out, he's probably not going very far in this election cycle, even if he is the first guy buying TV ads. When the sharks in the press are finding this much blood this early, he doesn't have much of a chance. He'd probably be better off spending whatever he's taken in so far on issue ads that attack the entire democratic party than trying to build himself up.

While Romney, Obama and John Edwards all talk of "transformational leadership", the transformations that are apparent in Romney are the type that should make people question his leadership ability.

I didn't agree with many of Romney's previous stands on things like gays in the military, and abortion, but at least for most of his political career he seemed to be principled on those issues. Now he looks like your standard issue politician, switching his beliefs to suit the primary electorate.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

More Reindeer Games

Congress is getting ready, after their short hiatus, to start playing more reindeer games with Iraq.

Since they know that an actual vote to defund Iraq won't pass, guys like John Murtha are now looking instead towards ideas like setting training bars so high for military units that they can't be deployed anytime in the next couple of years.

Granted, the Constitution does give Congress the power to provide for the training of the military. However, when unqualified congresscritters not qualified military minds start micromanaging everything about running the military, you end up with a military that is incapable of doing it's job.

Were the leadership of Congress to have the actual cajones to propose a vote to defund the war I'd disagree with them, but I'd have some respect for them. The end runs and side steps show a Congress that is even more weak willed when it comes to polls than it does when it comes to the war itself.

Since appropriates bills aren't subject to Senate cloture vote rules (60 to get to the floor), I would suggest that the Congress put into the 2008 Defense budget a proviso to deny all military funding for any excursions outside the US until such time that US troops have left Iraq. Then bring it to a vote. That would give the President until October 1st to get the troops home.

I won't be holding my breath waiting for Congress to put such legislation into writing. Democrats are too worried about "not supporting the troops" to actually vote on what they believe is right. Instead we'll the type of junk Murtha and Pelosi are talking about, lest they tick off the pollsters.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Equal Treatment Under the Law

The Lovely Wife sent me an interesting proposed ballot measure for Washington State. The organizers are still trying to come up with the 224,000 signatures they need to get it on the ballot, and aren't given much chance of doing so, but his argument makes sense.

You see, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that one of the states interests in the Defense of Marriage Act is procreation, in other words families that can create new taxpayers for the state.

Some folks took a little umbrage to that idea, and are now the "Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance" is trying to amend the State's marriage code, to require that all legally married couples be able to procreate, or they lose their status as legally married.

Ballot Initiative 957 would require a sworn statement that both parties are, to the best of their knowledge, able to produce children, and that they will within 3 years of marriage.

Here is Wa-DOMA's statement on the issue:
The way we are challenging Andersen is unusual: using the initiative, we are working to put the Court’s ruling into law. We will do this through three initiatives. The first would make procreation a requirement for legal marriage. The second would prohibit divorce or legal separation when there are children. The third would make the act of having a child together the legal equivalent of a marriage ceremony.

I have to say that even though I don't particularly care for gay marriage, I can see Wa-DOMA's point on this issue, and where it has a chance. It is, even in their words, absurd to think this will pass, but if you base laws on fairness, it should.

The revised section one of the marriage code would say this:
On July 26, 2006, the Washington supreme court cited the "legitimate state interests" of procreation and child rearing as a basis for preserving the defense of marriage act. The people of Washington find it desirable to place part of this ruling into statutory form and make procreation a requirement for valid marriage in this state.

You see, if the courts are going to, on one hand, say procreation is a reason the state sanctions hetro marriages but not gay one's, then it should agree that hetro marriages that don't, or can't procreate shouldn't be recognized either.

It will be interesting to see what happens in Washington State on this issue.

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Crazy Lawsuits

Every once in a while it's funny to read what the lawyers are telling people to sue over. Today's example of lawsuits gone wild comes from Big Blue in White Plains New York, where a fired worker is suing for $5,000,000 because he was fired for using company computers and time to access adult chat rooms on the web.

His excuse? Viet Nam left him traumatized and a sex addict, and the invention of the interenet has made it so readily available he can't help himself. So, of course he should sue under the American's With Disabilities Act!

Sorry, but I don't see his case, the ADA doesn't recognize either his psychological disorder (PTSD) or sex addiction as covered disabilities for the act.

I don't see IBM having any responsibility for getting him treatment for PTSD, since he incurred it 38 years ago, but has only worked for IBM for 19. Evidently (until it was convenient for a lawsuit) it wasn't that a huge issue in his life, since he didn't seek any treatment prior to that.

While IBM does offer treatment to acoholics and drug addicts under it's HR programs, they have to come forward and let the company know they have a problem, not wait until they are caught drinking on the job to get help.

Now, if he wins, I'm surfin' porn on my company laptop!I've seen dead guys in combat, and hopefully that'll be enough to get me a big payday for wrongful dismissal.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Joe & Hugo

Joseph Kennedy is taking a lot of heat for an ad here in the Boston area, touting "our friends from Venezuela" for helping with low cost heating oil for Kennedy's Citizens Energy program.

Some of the criticism is unfair, in my mind, because the program has had contracts with Citgo since 1978, long before Hugo Chavez was thought of as a possible leader of the country. One the other hand, some of Joe's responses to his detractors are, well, typical Kennedy bullshit.

Connie Mack (R-Fla) has been the biggest opponent of Joe's ads, calling them propaganda for Chavez, a man who has sworn himself as an enemy of the US. Joe took umbrage to that and mad a few statements of his own (from the AP):

Kennedy fired back by saying that if Mack wants to create a moral litmus test for oil-exporting countries and other trade partners, the congressman should hold Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Russia and China to the same standard.

“Once we’ve followed the Mack Doctrine and refused oil from every country that fails to meet our disciplined moral standards, I’m sure you’ll enjoy your walks to Washington, because there certainly won’t be fuel to fly you there,” Kennedy wrote to Mack.

Unfortunately, for Joe, he's got a few problems with his thought line. While we, as a country, don't approve of some of the things that go on in the places he mentioned, the leaders of NONE of those countries has called our President "the Devil", or suggested they'd like to start a revolution here, or sworn that we should fall. Hugo, on the other hand, has. It's a fact Joe finds easy to ignore, but the rest of us shouldn't.

Speaking of Hugo, evidently he's having issues keeping folks at home. (According to the Wall Street Journal) The US Consulate in Caracas says that Visa applications are up over 40% in the last year, as Venezuelans try and get out of the country.

The oil company that Joe calls a friend is losing people left and right as it's nationalized. Hundreds have moved to Canada, Mexico and other oil producing states where they can still earn a buck, and not worried about being fired for not supporting "El Presidente".

The soon to be nationalized phone and power companies are having the same issue. Evidently workers who opposed Hugo in the last election have started to be purged. Those who don't support his new programs are trying to get out before they get the axe, too.

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Broder on Bush

David S. Broder, syndicated columnist, has an interesting piece on a possible "Bush Bounce" because of some tactic changes by him over the last month or so.

I'm not convinced Broder is totally right that Bush can make anything of a substantial comeback; he's beyond being damaged goods and closer to being a total wreck. However, Bush has done some things that are going to help him, and hamstring the Democrats in Congress, specifically on Iraq, and in a broader sense, moving into 2008's election season.

I agree with Broder that by softening his rhetoric on the non-binding resolutions in Congress, and calling them meaningful debate, it dulls that sword being aimed at him. He's actually allowing them to pay out enough rope to hang themselves later on with the Iraq issue, in fact.

If we all remember back to August through November of 2006, one of the centerpieces of the Democratic campaign was that the new congress was going to be inclusive; unlike it's predecessor, which didn't allow opposing debate on many issues. Yet the Iraq resolutions have proven that promise to be a falsehood, as no GOP members have been allowed in introduce any resolutions of their own.

Secondly, and this is where the left is getting it wrong, the debate over funding for Iraq will not be pretty, but they don't get which direction they need to go on it. The folks over at Talk Left and Atrios seem to think that by allowing funding the Democrats are going to hurt themselves, as usual not looking at the bigger picture of Iraq and the area as a whole.

The region as a whole is going on a weapons buying binge, good for your stocks if you hold the right ones, but not great for stability in the area. It's easy to deduce why, too, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and other relatively stable countries in the region are seriously worried about what happens to them if we abandon Iraq. As long as the whack jobs of the region are busy dealing with us in Iraq, they are relatively safe.

If, as the left would like, Congress votes to cut off money, and we pull our forces out of the region, they end up with a vacuum that will have to be filled. Unfortunately for our interests and those of most of the western world, the country in the region best equipped to fill that vacuum is Iran, and everyone else knows it. Hence the buying binge on new weapons by others.

The problem here is that the left, in their standard narrow vision of everything, don't see that as an issue, yet. They will if it hit's them upside the head with $100/bbl oil prices as suppliers start worrying about the safety of shipments from the region.

This, not funding the war, is what would cause the left the most grief. You see, that would be the problem they'd have to take ownership of, not continuing to try and provide security to Iraq. If they vote for funding, and their resolution, they can point to the fact they've opposed the president, and supported the troops with what they need. If they vote to cut off funding, they have to stand behind that, and whatever occurs in the region as being of their own doing.

Bush, and the folks in the GOP with the guts to stand with him would be able to (correctly) point to the fact that wider regional conflict wasn't due to us being in Iraq, but occurred when we left, and they'd be able to point a finger at exactly who the architects of that plan were.

And that is where he'll get the biggest bounce, not from being nice to the media, or playing well with Pelosi and Co. over a few domestic issues.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

But Think Of the Children! (again)

I'm so sick of the "but think of the children" mantra that has become the standard for pretty much anyone who wants anything to either be funded, or not passed by legislative bodies.

Today's example of using the children to defend criminals comes from the Woodbridge Workers Committee, in Woodbridge, Va.

The committee is upset that the Virginia legislature is looking at a bill (House Bill 2937) that would make it illegal to provide government assistance and services to illegal aliens. Evidently, though they haven't been gaining enough traction to get the bill thwarted, since they've now taken to the Op/Ed page of the Washington Post, and cried for the children.

Every cold hearted, calloused conservative like myself understands that the whiny Lefts answer to anything they don't like is that it will hurt children. This becomes especially true when it's something that might appeal to enough middle of the road folks to get a new law passed, such as HB2937.

I will admit that some children do get hurt due to such laws, but the solution isn't to allow illegal immigrants free reign over social services and other government programs "because of the children".

Instead, it's to make sure that their children don't become citizens only because they were born here. An end to birthright citizenship for the offspring of illegals would mean that their kids would be deported with them, instead of causing legal issues when mommy and daddy get caught being here without the proper documentation.

Unfortunately, that's not something that can be done by a state, instead, it has to done at the federal level. With politicians courting the hispanic vote it is likely they will do nothing, instead of changing our immigrantion and citizenship laws to both protect those who come here legally for work, and punish those who don't follow the law.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

North Korean Deal

So we've got another deal with North Korea to get them out of the nuclear club. Forgive me if I'm skeptical.

You see, we've heard this story before, in 1994 when the Clinton Administration (working unilaterally) convinced Kim Jong Il to dismantle his program in return for thousands of barrels of heavy fuel oil, tons of food, and the promise of less threatening reactors to provide electricity for his country.

As we all know, during the years the agreement was in place, Kim fed his army our food, fueled his army with our oil, and continued working on a nuclear program. All while millions of his citizens died, denied the aid we were sending.

So yes, I'm a skeptic about this round of talks and the agreement. It's a little more hopeful since China, South Korea, Russia and Japan are also involved, but at the same time, it's still Kim that we are talking about.

My guess is the four and a half years of stalling the talks have had more to do with building new, unknown facilities to carry on their work than it does any other reason. Forgive my cynicism, but but Kim inspires that in my.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Abortion And Politics

EJ Dionne of the Washington Post has an excellent piece up today on the mixing of abortion and politics.

He skewers a few politicians (Romney, Gore, Giuliani, Gephardt) for the evolving positions on the issue; but mostly he skewers us, for not allowing politicians to state the truth about the issue, it's not the most important thing in politics.

Oddly, I did a survey on politics for a large college yesterday, when it came to ranking issues, I checked the "doesn't matter" box for abortion as it's level of importance in my deciding on a candidate for the office of president.

Dionne makes a great point on why politicians rarely talk about their own true beliefs on abortion and politics.
"...politicians who acknowledged that abortion was not one of their driving concerns would be denounced, oddly enough, as unprincipled."

Dionne makes the point that truth be told, most politicians didn't enter political life with abortion as their driving goal. Sure, a few on both sides may have, but mostly they all had different ideas on what government should, or shouldn't be doing that they were much more concerned about.

Instead, interest groups on both sides of the aisle have turned abortion into an acid (it's not a litmus) test of suitability for office. So the Mitt Romney's of the world become pro-life when they run for president, and Al Gore becomes pro-choice, lest they tick off Planned Parenthood or Right To Life.

Worse, in my opinion, is the electorate that decides, based on the noise of those groups, that it should be an absolute test for a candidate of their party. Listening to the folks who won't vote (ever) for a Giuliani, or Romney because of abortion views causes me to laugh at them. When you ignore an entire body of work over one issue, you re doomed to get a crappy government.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Where's the Beef?

So, Barak Obama is running for President. Yahoo, really, Yahoo. One of the cornerstones of his candidacy is his thought of universal health care for America. He's mentioned it in a number of speeches, including yesterday's making his run officials. He tells us how important it is, but He's never given any specifics on how he's going to make it happen.

In fact, when you look at the issues section of his website, and click on the health care link, you find that there is no mention of this lofty goal. There is a lot of fluff, some of it recycled from George Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns (Medical Information Technology, Report Cards for hospitals and doctors). But no where is there a mention of universal health care, how it would work or where the money would come from.

I mentioned a couple of posts ago about some hurdles that have to be overcome to bring about universal health care, and Obama has, so far, addressed none of the issues with such a goal.

So, Senator Obama, I'll ask you that age old question "Where's the Beef?" when it comes to your desire for universal health care? How are you going to do this?

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Tax Hike Coming?

Neil Cavuto and Michael Reagan had an interesting discussion yesterday on Fox News about the possibility of Bush agreeing to a tax increase on Social Security this year.

As opposed to an across the board increase, though, what is supposedly being floated by the House leadership is raising the maximum wage that social security taxes are paid on. Currently that amount is $97,500, and does move up slightly every year.

What wasn't clear was whether or not that would also bring an increase to the upper wage groups maximum benefit, as it has whenever the wage ceiling was raised before. That amount is $2116 per month right now.

I'm not sure Bush would actually go along with the idea, he wouldn't be the first President to raise taxes when he's safely away from worrying about re-election. In fact both Reagan and Clinton raised them in their second terms.

If he is thinking of this, as Cavuto suggests, then the ONLY way it should happen is if the extra money collected is used to test the idea of investment of a portion of the trust fund.

I would suggest that if he's going to do this, raise the maximum taxable income to $22,500 above the current ceiling; making $120,000 the new threshhold. However, all taxes collected from that group be invested in the Thrift Savings Plan's (TSP) most conservative non-treasury option, the F Fund, which is a bond fund with a good historical earning (5.9% in the last 5 years).

Why pick a TSP fund? Well two reasons, the government already runs it, so it wouldn't incur a huge amount of extra beaurocrats to start the experiment. Secondly, if Democrats balk about it being too risky one could ask them why it's trusted with all the federal employee's retirement benefits.

If the amount was too much for just the "F" Fund, then a portion could be moved to other funds, except the G Fund, which is a fund of government issued bonds. The problem with the current Social Security ponzi scheme is that excess money is already tied up in government bonds. In other words the government shouldn't be buying bonds from itself, since then it has to repay them, with interest.

The term of the tax hike, like the current tax cuts, should be limited to 5 years, and then require reauthorization with full debate. Why? Because after five years, when it's seen that the invested portion of Social Security is actually making money, instead of incurring debt, and that the interest earned is moving the solvency date out from the current 2042, it will be hard to stop the idea of investing other excess Social Security funds.

Using the 5 year average of the F Fund (5.9%), if the government put $1 billion of that new tax into the fund this year, and added $1 billion per year until 2042 (when SS starts running deficits), they would have accrued over $127 billion, 92 billion of it in earnings. ( I used American Century Investments Time Value calculator to come up with the numbers)

Any deal that doesn't include investing at least a majority portion of the extra taxes raised should be ignored by the President.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

How Can This Be?

As I posted a few days ago, I'm in the Boston area for a few weeks for training. It's generally enjoyable, though being stuck in a hotel this long can make you slightly stir crazy.

There is one problem with the trip that was made evident on Super Bowl Sunday (when I arrived). I'm trying to reconcile in my mind how the state that is home to Ted Kennedy can have a rule that doesn't allow bars to have happy hour or serve doubles!

Listen, if I was in Utah, I'd understand, they've got a very religious history. But Massachusetts, the home of Ted and Tip O'Neill, (who had a serious case of the Jameson snoz), how can this place not allow doubles? It's like going to Milwaukee and being told that you can't have a kegger or ride a Harley.

Hope they still have slots in Vegas next time I go.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Affordable Health Care for All?

Wal-Mart and some of it's biggest union critics got together yesterday to "push the debate forward" on universal health care.

Like Barack Obama stating last week that by 2012 if he were President we would have universal coverage, Wal-Mart and the Service Employee's International Union gave no indication how such coverage would be paid for.

The truth is, even if a magic spigot of money was found to make universal health care affordable, it still wouldn't be available. We don't have enough general practice doctors, or nurses of any type, especially the advanced practice one's that would be necessary, to provide easily accessible health care for everyone. That problem can't be fixed in 4 years, it'll take at least 10, if they can find a way to get folks into the medical profession.

Getting people into that profession has become harder and hard over the last 3 decades due to the rising cost of malpractice insurance, and the low reimbursment rates for current government medical programs.

While Medicare provides a great stream of patients for doctors as the population ages, it doesn't pay enough to cover the expenses incurred. A universal system would have to have a higher reimbursment rate to cover those expenses, unless of course tort reform was also going to be part of the package. My guess is that the Democrats who control congress won't go for that very quickly.

Some advocate a Canadian style system, but it's probably as unaffordable as any other. In 2006 the Canadian government collected 42 billion Canadian Dollars (34.4 Billion US) to from their GST, which covers their national health care system for a populaltion of about 32 million.

Even if we could immediately duplicate their system, we'd need to find about 10 times that amount of money (340 billion) to pay for a universal system here, annually. Considering Medicare alone will spend more than that for FY 2007 ($395 billion) it's hard to see how we'd get a Canadian style cost overnight that would cover 320 million people, and not cost a trillion a year.

In fact, with 41 million people on Medicare, you can compare it's numbers to the Canadian numbers, and see our federal health insurance plan is spending 10 times the money per patient as theirs. Granted, Medicare is nearly all eldery people, who do have higher costs than the young to cover, but still, it's a good starting point to figure out costs.

So, how do we get to universal care, without going bankrupt?
  1. Well first you have to get the American population that currently has insurance (85% of us) to accept reduced services, and less choices in care
  2. You also have to get us to accept some sort of tax increase to pay for it. If you can't show the tax increase is less than what we'repaying for insurance, it's gonna be a tough sell.
  3. You have to get the medical establishment to agree to move more doctors and nurses out of specialties (which currently pay more) and move into general practice, where there would be a greater demand.
  4. Then you have to get them to accept lower payments for their services, which probably will be tougher than getting them to move to general practice.
  5. You also have to get lawyers, and the politicians beholden to them, to accept tort reform. Until malpractice insurance premiums come under control you won't see doctors accepting number 3. (An Ob-Gyn in the DC Metro area can expect to pay between 84,000 and 134,000 a year in malpractice premiums).
  6. Drug companies will have to accept lower payments for newer drugs. Considering the US is just about the last place in the world to recover R&D costs on medicines, expect new medications to show up much more slowly because of it. (Europe has seen it's share of the new drug market drop by over 50% since they instituted price controls).
  7. Congress will have to convince people that a government beaurocracy can control costs. History makes that one a pretty tough sell.

So what else can you add to my list of things that have to be sold to the population before "universal health care" can become a reality?

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Maybe He's Too Stupid....

.... To be in the Army. I'm speaking, of course, of Lt. Erhen Watada, who had a mistrial declared today at his courts martial.

Why do I think he's too stupid to be in the Army, or working anywhere but with K-Fed(see my last post)? It has to do with the reason for his mistrial. You see, the "good" Lieutenant's lawyer wanted the jury instructed to ignore the statement of fact that he signed in order to get two of the four counts of conduct unbecoming an officer dropped.

According to the lawyers, the college educated Watada, and his council, didn't understand that the document stated it was his duty to go to Iraq with his unit. He thought it was just saying he didn't go there.

There is one thing EVERYONE I met in the military knew very quickly after enlisting (or being commissioned) read EVERYTHING that gets put in front of you before you sign it. EVERYTHING, even minor paperwork, because you never knew when something strange might be in the document. Evidently the Lieutenant and his lawyers never figured that out. My guess is he figured he was getting two charges dropped, so it was a good deal to sign the papers, without fully reading them.

I've seen military "statements of fact" on a number of occasions. Next to each statement you normally initial, signifying you've read and understand that statement. Then, at the bottom, you sign the papers, under a paragraph that says you've read, and fully understand the document you are signing, and have had an opportunity to seek advice from and attorney before you signed.

Truly, though, I think that Watada and his lawyers figured out he was going to be found guilty, and that the statement of fact was going to be the nail in his coffin. He was scheduled to be on the stand today, but had to know that he'd be questioned on the statement of fact, and that he'd have to look at a perjury charge, or some other charge if he denied he'd read the document before signing it. So, to save themselves for another day, they decided to tell the judge he "misunderstood" what he had already signed.

One good thing, with the statement of fact out of the trial, the other two charges are going to be added back in for his retrial in March. That means he has the possibility of getting a few extra years making big rocks into little rocks in Kansas. Nothing would warm my heart more than to see him get the full term for his crimes.

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Commerical Lunacy

The perpetually offended crowd has found their new target, TV commericals. The Superbowl was kind of a super dud to me when it came to the ads this year, but a few got a lot of attention.

The K-Fed fryolator hulabaloo started before the game even aired, with folks saying that it was demeaning to fast food workers. Actually folks, it was FUNNY, and that was all. It wasn't directed as an insult, it was made to show how far the (supposedly) mighty can fall sometimes.

And besides, if you are Kevin Federlines age, and the best you can do is operating the fry machine, you should be laughed at.

The new uproar is over the Snickers commerical where two guys accidently touch lips while sharing a candy bar, and they decide they have to do something "manly" immediately, and rip hair from their chests.

A number of gay groups were outraged by the ad, calling it insulting to them. Get the hell over it, it was funny, and pretty damn realistic. Two straight guys generally react that way if the accidently touch hands, much less lips.

People, and I don't care if you make fries at McDonalds, or pack fudge at night, learn to laugh at yourselves, and quit your damn whining.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Sir, Your Cell is This Way

Lt. Erhen Watada is being tried by the US Army for refusing to deploy to Iraq, saying the order to go is illegal since, in his opinion, the war is illegal.

Unfortunately for the Lieutenant, the judge in charge of his trial has decided (rightfully) that the legality of the war isn't an issue for military courts to decide. He's stated a number of times in pretrial hearings that the legalities of war are issues for the President and Congress to decide.

Today Lt. Watada plead not guilty, again based on the legality of the war, and once again got spanked by the judge on that issue.

Honestly, I don't see how Mr. Watada can be found anything but guilty in this trial for two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and one count of missing movement for failing to deploy. The oath he took, and the document he signed when he accepted his commission are pretty clear, he follows the orders of those above him, and there is a proper channel for his type of grievance. Unfortunately (for him) he didn't follow the orders, or persue his grievances in the proper manner, and now he'll pay.

Even the San Fransisco Chronicle has a hard time being sympathetic to him. When the farthest left of the leftist news outlets won't give someone a break in a case like this, it's hard to figure where he thinks he'll get that break. Here's what the Chronicle said:
His arguments are appealing, but unconvincing. As an officer, he's in no position to refuse orders to go to Iraq. His change of mind and claims of conscience don't excuse him duty.

Watada, who did an earlier tour of duty in Korea, has offered to serve in Afghanistan. Yet no soldier can be allowed to pick and choose assignments, a notion that undercuts the necessary hierarchy of military order. He also faces charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for publicly denouncing President Bush, who is also commander in chief of the military.

The Chronicle gets it right, understanding that regardless of the public popularity of the war, or personal feelings of the volunteers in the military, military order is a requirement. Officers breaking down that order based on personal feelings on one mission aren't who we need leading a military.

Does that mean that an officer shouldn't question things? No, what it means is that the officer has protocol to follow to air those issues, and publicly through the press isn't how. Watada will find that out soon enough.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Reason To Watch The Big Game

I'm not a Colts fan, though I think Peyton Manning will eventually hold every NFL passing record there is. And I HATE the Chicago Bears, with pretty much every fiber of my being. Always have, always will.

So why watch the Super Bowl tonight? Well, like a lot of folks, for the commericals, of course.

Tonight, it will be even more interesting to see them. Chevy held a contest for college students to pitch an ad for the game, and the winner was a student of one of my blogrollees, Jessica McBride.

Katie Crabb, an 18 year old freshman was offered the assignment as part of McBride's media writing class, and ended up winning. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal has a very good article up about her win, and just how improbable it was.

So, even if you don't like the teams, watch the game just to check out the commericals.

Have a great Super Bowl Sunday, I'm off to the airport in a few hours and have to find a sports bar in Beantown to watch the game.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Beantown Bound

I'm leaving tomorrow for 18 days of training at our corporate headquarters in a suburb of Boston. I was originally scheduled for this trip in May, but an opening for the February session opened up, and I got asked to go now, instead of later.

I'd have preferred to go to the later class, lets face it the weather is more condusive to sight seeing in May than February, but because I'm a team player, I said I'd go.

One effect of the trip will probably be more posting here, since I'll be stuck in a hotel room every night without much to do.

Hopefully Cartoon Network doesn't have anymore advertising planned for the area, traffic is already bad enough in Boston :)

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Pissed At Blogger

You know, I really had not intention of switching to the "new improved" blogger, but was given no chance.

Instead, when I attempted to login to blogger I'd be redirected to a page to migrate my blog, with no choice but accept, or quit posting.

I've found nothing in Buzz, or anywhere else on blogger that the Google Nazi's were going to force a switch. No e-mail, notes, etc, about the move.

Not everyone is getting this treatment, so I'm assuming that they have developed some sort of system to force the migration eventually.

If it wasn't for the fact that I'm averaging 52 hours of work per week, and don't have time to post regularly I'd be buying a domain and moving off of the Google Nazi's site.

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