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Monday, November 30, 2009

Huckabee Found His Willie Horton Moment

Mike Huckabee's presidential aspirations may have come to a screeching halt as the story unfolds that he granted clemency nine years ago, to Maurice Clemmons, commuting his lengthy prison sentence over the protests of prosecutors. Clemmons is the man wanted for the cold-blooded murders of four police officers in a suburban Seattle coffee shop Sunday morning.
Kansas City Star Excerpt:
But, if Huckabee pardoned a man who went on to kill four cops, this will be a lot worse than the Willie Horton incident of the 1988 presidential campaign.

Parole Documents:
Clemmons said he came from "a very good Christian family" and "was raised much better than my actions speak (I'm still ashamed to this day for the shame my stupid involvement in these crimes brought to my family name.)," he wrote...Clemmons added that his mother had recently died without seeing him turn his life around and that he prayed Huckabee would show compassion by releasing him.
Little Green Footballs Excerpt:
Read the article linked above; this guy is seriously, obviously deranged. You have to wonder why Huckabee would grant clemency to someone like this, despite strenuous objections from prosecutors.
Fairly Unbalanced Excerpt:
Responding to his critics, Huckabee said, "Politics is the last thing on my mind. It should be the last thing on anybody's mind. To me it's repulsive that people are trying to bring something like that up in the midst of what ought to be a concern for these officer's families. "The criminal justice is far from perfect and in this case it failed miserably on all sides."
Lucky for Huckabee at the time, he was not a Wisconsin criminal defense attorney just doing his job - instead he was a governor who made a decision of choice.

Original Willie Horton Ad here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

1st Congressional District Dealing With Self-Inflicted Wound

It's been over a month since updated the budget numbers for Federal spending and assistance for fiscal year 2008. Although the numbers are partial (first two quarters of 2008 only), they are good enough to generate a base average to compare district spending with, and that's all I need to add 2008 to a running project of mine showing Rep. Paul Ryan has arbitrarily shortchanged his district billions of dollars in federal assistance.

IN 2005, Wisconsin congressional districts (excluding the 4th District) averaged $2.82 billion each in federal assistance. That year, Ryan's district captured only $1.54 billion in grants for a shortfall of $1.28 billion less than average. In 2006, the district average was $2.55 billion to Ryan’s $1.66 billion for an additional shortfall of $890 million. In 2007, the average funding was $1.98 billion to Ryan’s $1.04 billion for a shortfall of $940 million, bringing the three year total to $3.11 billion. Now, the numbers released for 2008 show the average Federal assistance around $1.630 billion. Ryan's district captured only $1.017 for a difference of $613 million. So, the unofficial total for the past four years is $3.723 billion less than average in federal assistance for economic development, infrastucture, schools and jobs in the 1st Congressional District of Wisconsin. A severe if not crushing dividend shortfall in return for our tax dollars.

Unfair analysis you say? Sure, I'm not taking in a multitude of variables or factors including wealth demographics, economic patterns, population density and trends, infrastructure needs, the number of assistance applications, inflation, etc., etc. But, neither did Congressman Ryan. My observation about the assistance shortfall to our district here would have less to stand on if Congressman Ryan himself did not deviate from the average and initiate the cuts beginning sometime in 2005. All the years before, (2004 through 2000) federal assistance for the 1st District held reasonably close to the average. That's key to this analysis. You can check those earlier numbers yourself if you don't take my word for it. So, Ryan went on a fiscal crusade against his district beginning in 2005 just as arbitrarily as I have presented the numbers. What are his reasons why his district averaged far less in Federal appropriations since 2004? A new found and strict adherence to conservative ideology? To create an appearance and record of fiscal prudence - to what end? For personal career enhancement? While his district bleeds?

Recently, Congressman Ryan and his media enablers have been making hay over the jobs and spending numbers misreported in the federal stimulus program. Ryan wrote...
Elusive Quest For Jobs:
The Administration claims to have spent $2.4 billion in the state of Wisconsin, resulting in 10,073 jobs "created or saved." In the Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, taxpayers spent roughly $1.5 million per job. More troubling, millions more of your money has apparently been spent in six congressional districts that don’t exist. Despite promises of unprecedented accountability, it is unclear what has happened to the $1.2 million earmarked for the non-existent 55th Congressional District of Wisconsin, as the Badger State only has eight congressional districts. These false jobs claims are not only embarrassing, but further erode the trust between Wisconsinites and their federal government.
The Congressman certainly has the right to regurgitate those "created or saved" numbers and refer to them as false claims if he so chooses. But no more the right than I have to present numbers to prove our district's shortfall is in the billions of dollars. Is it fair to say that the $3.72 billion assistance shortfall has resulted in the direct loss of 10,000 jobs at $50,000/annual with benefits for seven years in the first CD alone? Why not?

If not - is it possible that Ryan's deliberate cut-off of tax return capital to his district since 2005 led to the flight of GM out of Janesville and Chrysler out Kenosha? Why not, again? Factories of multi-national corporations are sensitive to cash flows in and around their local environment. Mercury Marine in fact is a solid case in point. Without huge capital promises from our cash poor state government, Mercury Marine was threatening to leave Wisconsin for Oklahoma. Did GM and Chrysler sense there was little capital and political support to keep those factories employed in Ryan's district. I would say don't rule it out. One way or another, our district has $3.7 billion less in capital potential - not including the loss of capital from GM and Chrysler payrolls. Simply put, we have a cash crisis. It's no secret that Ryan's district as a whole is among the worst hit congressional districts for unemployment in Wisconsin. Is it just a coincidence he's our congressman?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Janesville Teachers Ally With AFL-CIO

Here's some good news for a change and just in time for Thanksgiving. This collaborative effort should leverage collective strengths and resources to create meaningful long-terms impacts and help forge an outline to meet the educational system challenges of the future.

The new alliance also might be able to make up for some of the charitable voids left in the wake of GM, and should be granted equal access into Janesville schools for fund-raising activities.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Council Stiffs Homeowners - Tavern Sneaks Inn

After being rejected the first time around by a partial city council, a property developer and his business clients came back to try again when a pro-special interest member of the council was present.

Most folks watching knew it didn't look good the moment they noticed Councilman Bill Truman's absence at Monday's city council meeting. Not that his presence would have made a difference anyways when it came time to vote on introducing a tavern and volley ball court into the front side of a residential neighborhood in Janesville. It still would have been approved. The most telling part was watching city administration official Brad Cantrell set the stage and tone in favor of the business interests when he presented pictures that falsely isolated the nearby homeowners from the adverse effects of the proposed tavern.

But it might not have mattered. The neighborhood had much more than that working against them. After publishing several articles in favor of the tavern business including a community-dividing editorial on October 15th, the Janesville Gazette flexed their muscles just enough to change public opinion against the homeowners residing closest to the tavern project. It should be noted that during Monday's meeting, the developer and several people who spoke strongly in favor of the business are not residents of the subject neighborhood. However, taking in all the comments from the extended neighborhood but not including those from outside the general vicinity, the in-person comments ran 8 to 6 opposing the tavern introduction.

Folks can continue to ignore all this, that's their choice, but the media aspect is by far the most powerful weapon used against unsuspecting taxpayers and voters. The truth is, other than this blog, there is no other media source or commentary in Janesville offering an independent point of view or unwashed analysis. And put it this way, I'm not bragging.

And it doesn't help that there was no presentation from the city or a citizen action team on behalf of the nearby effected neighborhood. Yet, it shouldn't be ignored or come as a surprise that so-called neighborhood action teams have taken positions in the past that were largely pro-city administration. In this particular case, the citizens were left to shift for themselves while their taxes pay for an administration including the council and committees to work against them.

In the end, the Janesville City council sided with a deep-pocketed non-constituent special interest over the voices and concerns from long-time city residents. Council members Rashkin, Voskuil, Steeber and Perrotto sent the wrong message to their taxpaying and homeowning community by rejecting those concerns. There is no way to get around the anti-homeowner and special interest city council unless you vote them out. That is the only way.

Quote from homeowner at council meeting
"Them that have the gold...rules."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bush Advisory Panels Undermining Health Care Debate?

For the past several days, Republicans and their insurance industry allies have contended that new controversial breast cancer screening guidelines are an example of how Democrats will ration health care.
Yahoo Excerpt:
Republicans are seizing on this week's recommendations for fewer Pap smears and mammograms to fuel concern about government-rationed medical care - and try to chip away support by women for Predsident Barack Obama's proposed health care panel overhaul.
Think the timing or context of those reports was coincidental? On Sunday during Geraldo's Fox News Show, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said every one of the sixteen members on the panel for health care recommendations was appointed by the Bush Administration.

The AP article above was titled "GOP: This is how rationing begins," in Saturday's Janesville Gazette. They should know, they practically wrote it.

Additional reading: Wasserman Schultz said GOP is politicizing breast cancer.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Health Care Debate Passes Senate 60-39

Saturday's 60-39 vote cleared the way for a full-scale debate beginning after Thanksgiving on the legislation, which is designed to extend coverage to roughly 31 million who lack it, crack down on insurance company practices that deny or dilute benefits and curtail the growth of spending on medical care nationally.
Chicago Tribune Excerpt:
The Republican leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said the vote was anything but procedural — casting it as a referendum on the bill itself, which he said would raise taxes, cut Medicare and create a "massive and unsustainable debt."
Still fighting to deny coverage to roughly 31 million Americans and against those who want to crack down on heartless insurance company practices. Republicans, the Dr. No's of nothing.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

One Year Later: Ryan A Moderate?

About one year ago, I took note of Janesville's talk radio host Stan Milam's suggestion that Rep. Paul Ryan should or might join Obama's congressional team of cross party moderates.
JG Excerpt: (Nov. 7, 2008)
Milam, of WCLO AM radio's "The Stan Milam Show," said Ryan might not want to languish in a Democrat-dominated Congress. Obama's Election Night speech, in which he reached out to those who did not vote for him, signaled that Obama would recruit Republicans for his administration, Milam suggested. "I can't think of a better Republican to be a part of that than Paul Ryan, who has demonstrated moderation and leadership in areas of finance and in the budget. There ought be place for him on that team," Milam said.
RNR Excerpt: (Nov. 10, 2008)
Milam has a point. After spending most of his career kowtowing to the Bush Administration and becoming a dependable party-line rubber stamp among his colleagues, Ryan would now find himself reduced to nothing more than an obstacle to progress by opposing the Democratic-led majority in Congress. He would find himself opposing the Obama Administration by as much as 90% of the time if history is correct. And what good would that do for his career?
One year has passed since, and Ryan has clearly chosen to be nothing more than a teabagging obstacle to the President and the Democratic-led majority in Congress. I've never thought of Ryan as a moderate or a leader, but back then (Nov. 2008) I would have guessed Ryan's drive for a career opportunity outside of a leadership role would have displaced his ideological rigidity. I was wrong. History is correct.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Developer Makes Bizarre Statement On Investment Capital

After overhearing a short blurp on Wednesday's Neil Cavuto Show on Fox News Channel about a seemingly obsolete if not genuinely bizarre method a developer in Alabama is undertaking to fund his business venture, I googled country crossing gilley.
WTVY News Excerpt:
Gilley also explained how country crossing is the largest private investment in Alabama and he's not about to ask the government for any help. "We're not asking the taxpayers to pay for anything else, and we are certainly not asking our state or federal government for money they don't have."

"Build it and they will come. We are creating jobs."
The "not to ... pay for anything else" part is a little puzzling and I don't know how much truth there is to Gilley's claims about absolutely no government help or money. Still, it's the basic premise of his statement that struck me and how much of a big deal they were making out of it on Cavuto's Show. No taxpayer dollars used on a multi-million dollar private development? Imagine. That's unheard of around these parts. If something like that ever catches on, it might pose the greatest threat to capitalism as we know it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Paul Ryan - Scaremonger Squarepants

Ryan Press Excerpt:
WASHINGTON – Wisconsin’s First District Congressman Paul Ryan spoke out against efforts by the Obama Administration to welcome detained terrorists to the Midwest.
What sort of folks did our congressman think the supermax prison facility in Thomson, Illinois was supposed to house? Spongebob Squarepants and Elmo? Besides, isn’t it a little late to begin worrying about what kind of people will occupy a supermax prison after it was completed nearly eight years ago?

Ryan's statement including those from his fellow Republicans on this matter are typical of what is wrong with the right-wing perspective. Why does Ryan and his GOP cohorts continually think America can’t do anything right? Is it because we're not quite as smart as they are? To be polite to ourselves, we're just a bunch of socialist losers. But don't worry, Ryan is clutching "Atlas Shrugged," he'll set us straight.

To most of these folks, American cities weren’t even worthy to hold the Olympics. Our prisons can’t hold prisoners and our justice system will surely fail. Government is completely inept on all fronts. Yet, why is it that government can’t do anything right - a'hem, except partner with corporate interests of course. That little trick they seem to have whittled down to absolute perfection.

Seriously, he should be employed and working his confounding individualism for the folks he really represents in Congress - the corporate sector. Show me one private sector worker whose job is to undermine the chief executive officer of their company and to publicize the notion that his fellow workers are constantly on the wrong path - and I'll show you a fired worker. Granted, congressmen don't work for the President, but our congressman is the public sector equivalent proudly undermining the majority and the president.

No one can convince me that international terrorists or the so-called jihadists would rather target a prison facility housing their confederates instead of the Willis (Sears) Tower in Chicago, nuclear energy installations or even state capital buildings. Or to feel any different provocation because their friends are awaiting justice to be served on American soil. Those backward cave dwellers outsmarted us before when they attacked us on 9/11, certainly they'll outfox us again if we let them. So, we're supposed to cower in fear theorizing they'll attack us again. That's supposed to strike fear in our hearts? Oh please. Let’s put our tail between our legs and run off squealing looking for the nearest closet to hide in.

That's not the America I know. And as far as bringing the Gitmo prisoners, every bagged and shackled one of them, to as close as 50 miles from the Wisconsin border. I say “Bring 'em On.”
JG Excerpt:
The prison is the Thomson Correctional Center, a high-security “supermax” facility in Thomson, Ill., about 115 miles from Janesville.
It's too bad it's not closer to Janesville. We could use the jobs.

Republican Fight Song

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's Twilight Time For Wisconsin

JS Online Excerpts: (parsed)
He called his vetoes "surgical".... Walker did not have a revised figure for the total number of county jobs that would be eliminated as a result of the vetoes. His original budget called for paring nearly 400 jobs.
Milwaukee County Supervisor Excerpt:
Scott Walker and others are trying their best to misinform the public about what this legislation does. It is essential that the public be properly informed to stand up against this misinformation campaign.”

From Forward Thinking Blog -- Scott Walker, what a ...

Wisconsin Hemorrhaging And Refusing Aid?

You've got to check out the choropleth maps over at Flowing On this page, you can view unemployment trends for the past five years in one snapshot, or zoom in and around the country state-by-state. Very cool.

Yet, judging by these maps, Wisconsin is nowhere near the top ten bloodiest states for unemployment. Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan...ugh, are in a far worse state of affairs. The entire southeast including Florida, and California, Oregon, Arizona and Nevada all make Wisconsin look pretty in pink. Oddly, Texas appears to be closest to Wisconsin's coloration proportionally speaking.

Unfortunately, Rock County is one of only several counties in the state that has hemorrhaged jobs equal to that of some of worst counties in the country. It's not a pretty picture. View Wisconsin county by county here.

Also, according to News With Numbers, Wisconsin is ranked dead last in federal stimulus dollars! Why are we trying to compete in a world market by attempting to bankroll corporations like Mercury Marine or GM with meager state tax dollars when billions in federal funds remain untouched? Is this a problem emanating from Washington or are locals (cities and counties) or the state legislature dropping the ball? Or are we just slow starters?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Farmers Cap Their Future With Development

The following is an excerpt from a letter posted in Sunday's Janesville Messenger about the dire consequences cap and trade will have on Wisconsin farms.
Janesville Messenger Letter Excerpt:
Our farmers will be faced with making the choice of converting farmland into forests for greenhouse-gas reduction or providing food for this country and the world. This shift in land use will hurt consumers at the grocery store. Food costs could rise by up to an average of $33 billion annually by 2020 and up to $51 billion annually by 2030 as a result of this legislation. -- D.R.
The letter writer is the president of the Rock County Farm Bureau and I bring that up because I don't recall the county's farm bureau standing up against the city of Janesville's plan to convert 9,800 rural acres into private and commercial development.

Aside from a couple of real and honest-to-goodness farmers and our local environmentalist, I don't remember groups of farming organizations writing letters to the editor or explaining to the city council how converting farmland into concrete and rooftops would shrink the state's agricultural sector or hurt consumers at the grocery store. Maybe I just happened to have nodded out and missed their speeches, warnings and urgency. And I don't recall state or local farm bureaus showing any support for the land use tax reform in AB 75, a provision designed not only to restore legitimacy and fairness to the state's land-use zoning and tax assessments, but also slow down the conversion of precious farmland into blacktopped development. To the contrary, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau was the driving force opposing the reform saying it will push farmland out of production more quickly.

Perhaps Wisconsin's farm bureaus are really not against converting farmland into anything so long as it's not into forests. After all, who wants to buy a forest? The problem is - is what I've always feared it was - that many (not all) farmers are the developers. They're the ones selling.

So the question is - Are the state's farm bureaus nothing more than front houses for developers?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bopp Found A Loophole, What's Next For Gableman?

Audio text excerpt from Gableman's misleading campaign ad against Justice Louis Butler is as follows:
Gableman Decision Excerpt:
...Louis Butler worked to put criminals on the street. Like Reuben Lee Mitchell, who raped an 11-year-old girl with learning disabilities. Butler found a loophole. Mitchell went on to molest another child.

JS Online Excerpt:
Deininger wrote in his concurring opinion. "Justice Gableman's counsel virtually conceded at oral argument that the advertisement is misleading . . . " He quoted Gableman's attorney, James Bopp Jr., at length, noting that during oral arguments Bopp said, "Would you feel safe having somebody on the Supreme Court that is willing to find a loophole for a scum bag like Reuben Lee Mitchell?"
Gableman Decision Excerpt: (Page 19)
Accordingly, we have concluded that we must recommend that the Commission’s complaint against Justice Gableman be dismissed. It is more than a bit ironic that Justice Gableman has been represented in this matter by an able lawyer who, it might be argued, “found a loophole.”
CAW Excerpt:
Two of the judges found a way to split hairs -- finding the language technically true, but misleading. And then finding a judge can't be disciplined for misleading the public. It is unbelievable. As Judge Deininger said, "Justice Gableman...'found a loophole.'"
JG Excerpt:
Gableman attorney Jim Bopp called the ruling a complete vindication.
...a complete vindication for defense attorneys.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Can Janesville Overcome Community Divide For July Fourth?

Here we go again. Thursday’s news of the Odd Fellows dropping the July 4th community fireworks event in Janesville was not a surprise. Apparently, they could not attract enough "community" business donors (see Rock County advisory council 5.0) to sponsor the event. Again, no surprise. However, soon after that story broke in the Janesville Gazette, the Rock Aqua Jays announced they are forming an exploratory committee to consider taking on and hosting the Fourth of July festivities in Janesville.

I sincerely wish the Rock Aqua Jays all the luck and success in the world regarding this venture.

As a citizen who has been following the area's socio-political divide, there’s a lot to be said about the community spirit or lack of spirit here in Janesville. With that, I salute both the Jaycees and the Odd Fellows for stepping up to the plate for their efforts over the past years. They exemplify “when the going got tough – the tough got going” and gave it their solemn best despite shortfalls in money, manpower and community support. Folks should now be able to get a better understanding of what not only the Jaycees were up against, but what this entire “community” event is up against with or without a good economy. It’s brutal.

Just for instance. Looking over the past three years, the Jaycees had the full efforts of some local folks who think they own God, country, family and patriotism working diligently against them. The Janesville city council would reluctantly agree to offer park and police services for the event, but not until they thoroughly scolded the event spokesperson for not having their finances up to the council's standards. And our monopolized media played a huge part disseminating an anti-social if not totally weird campaign against the event while a religious organization believe it or not, cast stones at the Jaycees. After that, I felt right at home supporting the Jaycees if you know what I mean. But that’s what many of us call home here in Janesville. It’s an institutionalized “us against them” mentality. The Gazette, being a 165 year-old institution, obviously plays the leading role in this point of view. I can proudly say this 3½ year old blog is a direct result of that environment.

I now recall back in 2007 when someone identifying themselves as a member of the Jaycees emailed me the event schedule and asked if I would post it on my blog. I immediately obliged. With that small gesture of community spirit, I decided to go even further and created a small animated ad with exploding fireworks for the Jaycees and ran it free of charge in the blog’s sidebar for several weeks leading up to the event. Perhaps only a few hundred blog visitors had seen the ad at the time, but that wasn’t the point. It was the idea that someone in their group took the initiative to reach out regardless of their politics or religious point of view. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the Odd Fellows.

For whatever their reasons, I never received a communication or schedule of events from the Odd Fellows. No big deal. Not that that is a barometer of community outreach, but I do offer a free bulletin board for posting such events and activities. But I also remember checking out the Gazette’s Web Page for a schedule of events - and do you know what I found? The Gazette’s sidebar listing under “Most Emailed” did contain a link for the schedule of the Janesville July 4th events…except the schedule was from the year before! That didn't help, but they made an effort and that's what counts I suppose.

In slight contrast, it looks like the Rock Aqua Jays have the organizational skills to fund raise and plan the event, but can they overcome the media inflicted anti-social virus and built-in opposition that has ravaged the previous community organizers? If anything it’ll be interesting to watch and you can bet I'll be taking notes.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Expect Wider Class Divide

A report by the Pew Center placed Wisconsin among a list of states at risk of a deepening economic distress similar to that of California.
JG Excerpt:
Wisconsin On List Of Ailing States (Nov. 11, 2009)
A report released Wednesday by the Pew Center on the States says Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wisconsin also are at risk of fiscal calamity.
Google News Excerpt:
Wisconsin officials issued a statement late Wednesday saying the Pew report was inaccurate. Wisconsin Department of Administration Secretary Michael Morgan said the state has balanced its budget by cutting spending and raising revenue. It projects a $270 million budget surplus for the period ending July 1, 2011, Morgan said in his statement.
JG Excerpt: (April 9, 2008)
Rich Getting Rich Faster
Rich people in Wisconsin are getting richer faster than middle-income earners and the poor. A couple of reports released today shows the gap between the rich and poor isn't as wide in Wisconsin as in the rest of the country - but the gap is growing.
While the state struggles to balance the books, organized paymasters have the time and the means to extort tax cuts, credits and exemptions from government under the guise of "partnership" and job creation. Their continued success will mean home-owning wage-earners and the working poor should expect to pay a much larger share of the local tax burden.

Hurry! Pass this legislation before the fools catch on.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fatal Attraction Ends In Draw

The story of the buck and lawn ornament reminded me of the time (about 10 years ago) I saw a buck on Newville Rd. and RT. 59 ram a parked minivan a few times before finally taking off. The owner of the van (still inside) was terrified.

LaCrosse Tribune Excerpt:
Mark Brye, who owns Brye Plumbing in Viroqua, was still laughing about the suicidal buck he found near his elk statue last week.
Sure, the buck lost his life, but the story says both “combatants” were found down and out. I don't think of myself as being overly sensitive, yet for some reason I didn’t find anything in the story to cheer about.

Moral of the story: Never tangle with a real live buck in the rut. Unless you weigh over 600 lbs. You will lose.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

State Democrats Announce Jobs Program

I have to admit, Democrats came up with some very good ideas for job creation. Aside from increasing tax credits and caps to $8 million for those dirt poor angel investors, the rest of program however is loaded with creative ways to bootstrap the free market without heavy government interference. Particularly with the green retrofitting, education and micro loans sections.
CORE Jobs Act Excerpt:
Our number one priority is to rebuild Wisconsin’s economy, and put our men and women back to work. The Wisconsin C.O.R.E. Jobs Act is a comprehensive economic development package that builds on successful job creation programs and capitalizes on the strengths of our state. C.O.R.E. stands for Connecting Opportunity, Research, and Entrepreneurship; and that’s what the CORE Jobs Act will do.
It certainly beats the state GOP's wealth redistribution program of more tax cuts to the wealthy, deregulation and the basic surrender of government agency and treasury to old money venture capitalists.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Large Wastewater Rate Increase Expected In Janesville

I was holding back this post for a few days to see how the Janesville Gazette would report on the wastewater rate hike proposal as presented in the council agenda by the city administration. As it turns out the newspaper did not publish any report on the expected rate hike or agenda for Monday's city council meeting.
Agenda Excerpt:
As such, adjustments in the rates have occurred. This rate adjustment will generate an additional $2,125,200 in revenue in fiscal year 2010, or an overall increase in rates of 30.3%, effective January 1, residential 2010. The proposed rate adjustment will result in the average wastewater bill increasing by 29.3%, or $18.05 per quarter.
Let's back up a moment. For the past year, the Janesville water utility (with the help from the watchdog Gazette) repeatedly used the term "quarterly water bill" here and here rather loosely to help present a previous water rate increase. They pegged the average quarterly water bill at $40. For all practical purposes, Janesville residents do not receive a "wastewater bill" per se. Wastewater charges are included on the invoice most Janesville residents would call the "quarterly water bill."

Now that we're past that, it appears the city administration is making a slightly better effort to draw a distinction between the wastewater portion and the supply side on the "average quarterly water bill."From this we can assume the old average residential quarterly water bill was about $106 ($40 water supply + $61 wastewater and $5 fire department). After this latest increase including the one from earlier in the year, the new average "quarterly water bill" should be around $130.55

Well, we are still making assumptions. These figures may or may not include the fixed wastewater fee which the administration describes as rising disproportionately for different users. Got that? I would suppose that feature arose from the recently approved Clean Wisconsin agreement.

Still, the city administration appears to have made an effort this time and might begin to figure out what most people define as their water bill. Perhaps someday the term "quarterly water bill" in Janesville will mean just that - the total of all the charges from utilities that appear on our "quarterly water bill" and not just what administration officials want it to mean at any given time to fit their specific presentation or goal.

It's just as well the Gazette didn't run Monday's council agenda through their filter, at least now we see the information as it was intended - straight from the horse's mouth.

Revision: Only hours before the Janesville City council meeting, the Janesville Gazette posted a short blog entry? placing the projected "new" average quarterly water bill after the wastewater rate proposal at $120.40. This should be fairly accurate since the earlier water supply rate increase (mentioned in the above post) was replaced instead by Clean Wisconsin's progressive water rate policy.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Are Auto Insurance Companies Piling On Increases?

Bear with me on this story as most of it is strictly from the cobwebs crossing the hallows of my mind.

Due to a heightened sense of financial vulnerability in my personal situation during the 1990’s, I went to my auto insurance agent and requested to have higher liability coverages for more protection. I don’t recall exactly what the coverages were at the time but I thought they were ridiculously low considering the expensive cars on the road, the higher costs necessary to repair them, and the continuous ratcheting up of medical expenses. I do remember what some of the coverage numbers were changed to.

The agent recommended 100,000/300,000 liability which translated to $100,000 for uninsured motorists/per injury and $300,000 per accident. Property damage was set at $25,000. I also recall the agent explaining how these amounts were becoming more common as the new low standard for automobile insurance and would raise my premium only a few dollars per period because they don’t anticipate any sudden surge in costs or claims. I clearly remember that part because he said it while scrutinizing me with one eye. I reassured him I didn’t expect to post any sudden claims – with that, we had a good laugh.

However, when we got to the medical coverage part, he seemed to show some resistance and suggested anything higher than $10,000 would have a substantial impact on my premiums. So it was capped at $10,000. All in all, my yearly premium increased by a little more than 10%. Again, I remember the amount because I wrote a separate check in advance at the agent’s office. I don't recall receiving any shocking increases thereafter.

Over the years since, I’ve changed insurance companies, but kept the exact same coverages while making zero claims. It also now turns out that the coverage I’ve had for the past 15 years is nearly identical to the new increased coverages mandated by the Wisconsin legislature. And so, with the new mandatory requirement that all drivers must carry insurance and pay into the kitty, I felt I should see either little to no increase in my premium. Well, I figured wrong. I just received my usual 6-month premium notice which is due during the last week of November and according to my calculator, it has a 11.8% increase.

According to GOP partisans and their media enablers, I'm supposed to hold insurance companies blameless for this increase.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Moore's Love Story Is A Haunt

I finally got the chance to see Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story” over the Halloween weekend at the Rock Theatre (Wildwood) here in Janesville.

To my surprise, the documentary fittingly opens up with the tune “Louie, Louie” in the days of the class war cruelty that prevailed between the ruling elite and the peasants of the Roman Empire. From there, Moore takes off into the current American foreclosure crisis and weaves bits of historical facts, modern politics and human nature into a heart felt and personal cinematic experience.

Of course during the following two hours he tackles a multitude of the common misconceptions about capitalism. For instance, he accurately portrays how the practitioners of capitalism have successfully commercialized and glorified its worst attributes synonymously with personal success, God and country. He also paints establishment figures including police as nothing more than pawns and sycophants taking marching orders from the controlling big business elitists.

No doubt, Moore's enemies will label him as a irritable rabble-rouser and hypocrite simply because his documentary will likely turn a handsome profit. To the contrary, Moore gave me the impression that he loves capitalism, hence the title. He just has a problem with capitalism's single-minded and cold-blooded adherents and hi-jackers. And who could blame him?

However, he does tend to give socialism a little more credit than I think it deserves, yet at the same time he doesn’t completely take down the capital system. In a broad sense, his documentary makes a compelling argument against the perversions and greed obviously driving the money operators and other “get rich” wannabes to turn a profit.

I was disappointed in how short Congressman Paul Ryan’s role was in the film. But one thing was clear. Moore did a great job describing the importance the owners of America place on those who know how to steer the masses wrong. Ryan was one of the Wall Street pawn’s in Congress who did just that, yet was able to convince his supporters at home that he courageously voted against his principles to protect their risk. For this, his political party crowned him as a future rising star in the political arena. Ryan has slowly polished this personal gift into a quality that is highly regarded among the masters of the universe.

There is perhaps an interesting side note to the Wisconsin connection with Moore's film than just the fast talking and corporate-groomed Paul Ryan. Though Moore makes no mention of this at all, few people would connect the late billionaire Ken Hendricks of Beloit-based ABC Supply with Moore's love story. However, Hendricks was not only a heavy donor to Paul Ryan’s re-election campaigns but also was the primary sponsor of a movie parodizing Michael Moore as a modern day left-wing Ebenezer Scrooge in the forgettable dud "An American carol." This all may be just my own peculiar observation, but "Capitalism" was released one day short of exactly a year after the national debut of American Carol.

Nevertheless, Moore’s documentary is a must see for those who want to witness another confirming point of view of your worst suspicions about capitalism. It’s a respectful mixture of real life events backed up with historical evidence through the common sense eyes of the folksy idealist film maker. There certainly is a lot to chew on. I give it four stars.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Wealthy Community Organizers Have Inside Track

Way back in June of this year, after the Gazette published an article about our city and county government's efforts to market the area for potential new businesses and entrepreneurs, I had a few questions to ask. Actually, it's not so important that I had a few questions to ask back then as much as they offered up some rather unethical interactions and questionable information that deserved some answers.
JG Excerpt(s): (June 14, 2009)
The alliance taps a bigger war chest of talent and money....“If I’ve got a company considering Janesville, and I can just get them there, these guys will close the deal,” Schwartz said...Each week, the group is in either Milwaukee or Chicago making detailed presentations to potential brokers, developers and investors.
Afterwards, I raised a few questions here.
RNR Excerpt: (June 17, 2009)
How do individuals separate their governmental duties from their Alliance duties? The Alliance address is the Rock County Court House Building - under whose power and authority do they operate under? Do we assume the Rock County Board? If the Alliance is a multi-governmental body – who pays for what? Are local business owners involved? Who are its members? And what connection do they have in city, county and state government? What connection does the Alliance have to the local business elite? Where is the transparency?
Finally last week, the Gazette published a front page article titled,"We need to pull together" which did answer a couple questions regarding the once hidden chest of wealth and the local elite pulling the strings behind the curtain.
JG Excerpt: (Oct. 29, 2009)
The money will be budgeted over five years and will be used to develop software specific to Rock County's economic development efforts.

It also will offset travel and marketing materials for the alliance partners who have spent a significant number of days on the road selling Rock County, said James Otterstein, the county's economic development manager.
To be honest (not to imply I'm ever dishonest), I didn't expect any answers from these folks or the Gazette, so I have to give them some credit even though the transparency and publicity seems more of a matter of expediency than it does to provide a sense of selfless public service.

Still I don't feel any more comfortable knowing that any special interest group, regardless of their wealth or lack thereof, not only have an inside track into government but are also bankrolling extracurricular activities of high ranking government employees to apparently do their bidding.

Perhaps I'm the only person who thought the Gazette's article in June was just a little too sneaky from the start. After this newly released information, I don't feel much better than before.