Thursday, December 31, 2009

Paying the State's bills

On the heels of Sen. Grothman's unfunded proposal to mandate how the Madison main streets are plowed comes news that the State is shorting cities where it owns property in the costs of services to those properties. No way! In the case of Madison it amounts to 4.4 million dollars. Wow that is a lot of plowing. Mayor Dave should cease providing services to those properties, like snowplowing and trash pickup. Maybe that will cause the good senator from West Bend to change his mind about unfunded mandates.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ironically challenged Republicans

I couldn't believe it when I heard that Sen. Glenn Grothman wants the State to take over plowing plans for Madison. This is a plan that would be dismissed as crazy if the supreme irony wasn't so apparent. Here is a pro local control anti government Republican advocating that a bigger government manage snow removal in Madison. Why only Madison? Because they are "LIBERAL". The beautiful part of this plan is there would be no money from the State to pay for doubling the amount of salt put on Madison streets creating an unfunded mandate which I thought all Republicans were against. Who is going to placate the fisherman when the fishing goes away due to a high salt content in the lakes. We'll have to have a legislative committee investigate this just like they are doing with the deer numbers. If Glenn really believes that we need a snow removal agency we should do it statewide because I for one have been on some pretty poor roads in the winter.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Coastie Song

I just heard about the coastie song and the controversy surrounding it. The lyrics aren't that bad in fact I was reminded of the 80's song Go Back to Chicago except not as funny. It is the video that is offensive. I don't know that they intended it to be anti Semitic but it sure comes across as such. There is plenty to make fun of the coasties who come to school here without resorting to this. Shameful!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Subsidies for roads

Very rarely does the opportunity arise where the massive subsidy to build roads is illustrated. You always here the argument that mass transit is too expensive, won't pay for itself, doesn't generate revenue,... This is a big topic in Dane County where the Mayor and the County Executive are for "trains" and many are for the status quo or maybe a few bigger roads. So, there is one of these roads, I'll admit it is screwed up, that needs up grading. The plan was just unveiled to build a little less than 2 miles of highway. The 17 year project will cost an estimated $343 million dollars. Gee the train we were talking about is only a couple of million. This is a road where in the middle of the day or on any weekend day there is not a traffic problem. $343 million to solve about a 5 hour problem. Has anyone looked at a cheaper alternative like routing the road across vacant land to the South? Or, how about eliminating the cross streets from county PD north to the beltline? Just the interchange at PD carries a $54 million price tag. Where are the teabag protesters on this one?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Jonah Goldberg

I was reading the Wisconsin State Journal the other day and they carry Jonah Goldberg's column. Once again I could only shake may head and say Jonah, Jonah, Jonah. He is postulating that the real party of business are the Democrats. He was serious. So, what big business and the wealthy are doing is pretending that they are against the Democrats and everything that they stand for while really being for them. Wow and I thought that the Democrats went in for conspiracy theories. This could explain why everything that starts out looking like it will help the middle class turns out to aid big business and the wealthy. Look at health care. For at least the last century big business has lined publicly up against the Democrats. You mean to tell me that this was an act? This is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Teabag movement and what it means

The teabag movement is interesting for several reasons. The first is that the movement is successful when you are asking people to protest the programs that largely benefit them. There have been no teabag protests of the trillions of dollars given to the financial institutions. But there have been countless protests against the $700 billion stimulus program. The vocal complain that the stimulus hasn't benefited them. How so? The money has gone to build roads, bridges, fund science research,... It was never a jobs program along the lines of the WPA but an investment in America's future. Maybe it should have been. Secondly there is the socialism argument. There have been far more socialist movements in that past and there weren't these types of protests. The big difference was that past movements were led by tougher leaders FDR, Eisenhower). Third that by taking over healthcare the government will control 1/3rd of the economy. This is true, but should healthcare be 1/3rd of the economy? I think not. Fourth that the Obama administration is unconstitutional. He is in fact doing the same thing Bush did as far as curtailing civil rights. He has the same number of offices of the President, those un-elected Czars, President Bush. The only difference is health reform. There was a video of a woman nearing retirement age reading the preamble to the constitution and after reading promote the general welfare of the people said that no where in the constitution does it say that everyone was entitled to healthcare. Most people would contend that promote the general welfare would apply to a healthy population. Using the teabag logic do you know what else is not in the constitution? Social security, interstate highways (roads were private at the country's founding), police, fire, large standing armies, medicare, unemployment, disaster relief,.... In other words most of what we expect a government to do.

US economy

The US economy is out of whack in case you have been under a rock for the last 20 years. Right now we are in recovery but it is a jobless recovery. The people working (not the top income brackets) are struggling to buy most things due to wage reductions and higher costs for things like healthcare, cars, and fuel. We do not produce many products that are affordable anymore. We still design and innovate (the media has that one right) but it is increasingly difficult to sell those innovative products to the US consumer. Henry Ford recognized that a situation like this could be bad for business. All of his employees could afford to buy a bottom end Ford. GM announced that the Volt will retail for $40,000, while at the same time economists are saying that the US worker needs to take a 20% salary reduction. Who will be able to afford the Volt? Think back to the election of Bill Clinton the first time. Ross Perot talked about the economy and how these free trade agreements would be bad for the country. He has been proven to be 100% correct with his prediction. If we hope to have a strong economy we have to create an environment where most things are made here. There needs to be some incentive to keep production here. Whether that is a big tax break or a hefty import fee or even a reduction of wages it needs to be done and it needs to be done fast.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

As much as I am always amazed by Republican hypocrisy I was stunned by this exchange between Sen. Hutchison and David Shuster. Yeah I know he works for gotcha media MSNBC, but come on she could have been prepared for a simple question about Afghanistan version 2008. She implies that the past is past and we shouldn't dwell on the fact that President Bush and Republicans in congress didn't act on a troop request in 2008 (although they were all about the troops and the generals) but instead we need to focus on how President Obama spent 3 months deciding how many troops to deploy and what they are going to do once they are in the country. Something that I would remind the Senator apparently they didn't have in the previous 8 years of the conflict. While I don't think that the President has gone far enough (Karzai is still president) I applaud that we have a plan of what we want to accomplish in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Edgewater Hotel

Irony is not lost on the opponents of mayor Dave. Here's a guy who is constantly criticized as anti business and doesn't give handouts (or enough handouts) who put together a deal to expand the Edgewater Hotel. If I lived in Madison I would be upset with the handing out of $16 million, but I think they are upset because Dave did it. They are for handouts. They are for low wage jobs which will be created. They are for the high wage short term construction jobs. This is a win, win, win. But not so fast, it was voted down by the city council.

More troops!

Well, the President delivered on what has been speculated for days now and is sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. The left is in a tizzy, "we didn't vote for this". Oh, but you did, go back to the debates and the campaign. The right is upset about timelines. Our own Paul Ryan is quoted that the troops are fine but a timeline sends the wrong message. Only a Republican or someone who didn't listen to the speech would believe that we are leaving in 18 months. What the President said was that in 2011 we would begin withdrawing the additional troops if conditions on the ground have improved. Sounds open ended to me. If the conditions improve we'll take 30,000 out leaving 48,000 in country (that is still a lot of soldiers). How long are the 48,000 staying? No answer for that one. Say that the Taliban lay low for 18 months, that could be enough time to allow changes to made (I hate to use this example) like what happened in Iraq (never mind that we aren't really withdrawing from there either). So there is a chance that it could work. I still believe that a re-occupation is the best solution. We as a nation need to recognize that both of these wars are imperial wars, the liberation talk is to make people feel good, and that we now have acquired 2 new states. A war of liberation works in a country that is educated and has a political tradition. Something that neither Iraq or Afghanistan has had for more than 1000 years.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Winning in Afghanistan

There is a lot of speculation, anger, and anxiety about what the President is going to say tomorrow on the war with Afghanistan. The anger is from both sides of the political spectrum. The left because they believed that he was going to get us out (the didn't pay attention during the campaign) and the right because he took too long to essentially agree with the generals that we could really use somewhere between 30 and 40,000 troops (reported to be 35,000). Unfortunately he is not going to say what I think he should say. I believe that the war is not lost yet. I would send the additional troops, maybe even more than 40,000 (Russia had at the height of their war 100,000 and that got them control of the cities). I would also publicly arrest President Karzai and all of the ministers and start over with an occupation government. Then we need to do what President Bush promised; rebuild the country, educate the population (men and women), bring rights to the women, and create an environment where a decent government can be established. I do not think that we should continue supporting a government that ranks #2 on the list of most corrupt governments. We probably shouldn't be supporting Iraq at #5 either (we are told that that war is winding down).

Friday, November 27, 2009

Global warming

Yeah the temperature fluctuate, precipitation amounts very, strength of storms go up and down, the number of hurricanes very, ... The critics of the theory contend that this disproves the theory. The proponents of global warming cite the theory is describing the weird weather events. What I know is that based on my study of the theory too many years ago to mention the weird weather fits the theory. Also, if you do winter sports you can't deny that something is going on. The winters have gotten shorter. They are not as cold. With the exception of the last 2 years there is less snow.

Deer population

Once again the hunters are angry with the DNR for lying about the deer population numbers. I want to ask these hunters if having a high deer population is worth the high car insurance premiums, the hassle of getting vehicles repaired, and the higher incidence of Lyme disease? I for one would like to see a lot less deer in the State for those reasons alone.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Health insurance reform?

I've been listening to Howard Dean the last couple of days. He like everyone else is talking about health care and the "historic" vote to allow debate on the Senate bill. He was detailing exactly what I feared would occur. The bill really does nothing to control costs. What it does do is require you to obtain insurance either private or the new public option (no details on what this is going to look like). This is important because another provision requires insurers to take patients with pre-existing conditions and allows them to charge up to 3 times the going rate for a policy. How does anyone think that this is ok? Former Governor Dean said that in Vermont they have the same rule but limit the extra charge to 20% more, which he says works well. Once again what Congress has done is codify the status quo. Most pre-existing conditions are currently covered, but it is really expensive. Maybe limiting to 3 times the going rate is cost containment. Maybe as Republicans say some of the uninsured choose to be uninsured. Yeah, they would probably be paying some number 3, 4, 5, 10 times the going rate and have elected not to sign up. If we want to do something and I think the majority does why don't we copy from another country like say Germany. Germany has had universal care since 1890. There has been 3 chances for the German people to get rid of the plan (WWI, WWII, reunification) and if it was terrible wouldn't they have gotten rid of it? The German system is single payer, privately rule (300+ companies), and heavily regulated. Drug prices are less than ours and they achieve better results for less nmoney than what people in the US spend.

Just a word on Congressional cost estimates. We are not talking cost increase to run a single payer it is estimated that we already spend enough money to cover everyone. If these monies were shifted from profits to coverage and if there were increased regulations we could get this done spending what we currently spend.


Ah, it's budget time in the Midwest and being that I live outside of Madison it is always interesting. What I find particularly interesting is how during the Madison budget debate the people who complain the loudest don't live in the city. I'm sure that it is the same way everywhere. For some reason people who work in the city feel compelled to say the city is wasting money on this program, city workers make too much money, they are spending on X when they should be building more roads,... Well it's not your money. Obviously the city council feels that this is how they should spend their money. The region feels that they should have input on the city's budget but if the city wants to do something and ask the county for money the attitude is whats in it for us, we don't live there, we won't use it,... Sure we could have a better transportation system to get to Madison and then to move around once we are there. But, I look at it as for the population that lives in the city the system is fine. It is us in the outlying regions who have a problem and then for maybe 4 hours a day. All that I can say is that if you want to worry about the city move there.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Obama destroys America

That is the phrase that I hear over and over from my conservative friends along with the incomparable I want my country back. The problem that I have and ask often about this is what has he done to destroy the country? The answers are always the same, "He's spending money that we don't have" or "He has created positions for people who aren't accountable (weren't elected)" Really, the previous administration transferred by some estimate $4 trillion dollars to financial institutions. At least Obama has put some strings on the new monies. Or how about the fact that President Obama has exactly one additional czar than President Bush and that is the pay czar (who is supposedly looking out for the taxpayer). I'll admit that I'm somewhat skeptical of all of the bailouts and buying companies (Bear Stearns (Bush), GM (Obama)). But, we were all told that the alternative was total collapse. The question is would it have collapsed. We'll never know. One thing is for certain that without the massive infusion of government money the country would look more like the 1930's than the 1970's. If you ask around there are a lot of people who haven't worked in months. In Wisconsin we lost our manufacturing base years ago, we are a State that relies on tourism. Well people are not travelling, not spending when they do, not building second homes when they can't afford the first one. The list goes on. I actually think that Obama has not done enough so I am mystified by the destroy America charge.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Unemployment compensation

I was reading about how the unemployment fund is bankrupt. Not a big surprise with all of the unemployed in the country with no end in sight. The article goes on the say that the unemployment premiums are going to go up to pay for the shortfall. So far makes sense, its an insurance policy with a loss problem so raise the premiums. The problem is not that the program failed, the problem is that the benefits keep getting extended by Congress. The program was not intended as a permanent solution. It was supposed to be a bridge to the next job or to general assistance. I say pull the benefit back to 12 weeks and let people seek out general assistance.