Category Archives: government

>REACT: Thank God and John Walton for Wal-Mart.

>Wal-Mart just introduced the $199 computer. More about that below, but first a little preface …

The broad phalanx attack on Wal-Mart by the various battalions of liberal activists is typical of their hatred of the free market system, free trade and free just-about-anything-else — except lunch.

The unions grouse about Wal-Mart resisting representation – representation which would do nothing more than increase the costs of goods for the American consumer and make the fat cat leaders of labor a little fatter. They tell how Wal-Mart is paying wages in Asia that are a fraction of the American worker. They forget to mention that you can buy a bushel of corn in China for 12 cents. My tailor makes my pin-stripped power suits for under $100. I can leave KFC stuffed for about a buck and a half. I had $3000 worth of dental work (American dentist estimate) completed beautifully in China for $400. Also had a physical and the complete blood test cost me a Jefferson. (No, not a nickel. Geeez. A two dollar bill.)

In China, Wal-Mart is lifting tens of thousands of people out of poverty at every step of the supply chain. If Wal-Mart was such a damned awful employer, why is it when they open a store in China the job application line runs from Beijing to Shanghai? Unions also grouse about how poorly Wal-Mart treats its American workers. Same question. Why do they receive thousands of applications at every store?

Some of the alderman in my Chicago home town city council are fighting hard to keep Wal-Mart out of the Windy City – thus denying their constituents much-needed jobs and lower prices, and the city coffers some tax revenue. What is their motivation? Blind hatred with a dash of stupidity. Of course, that is only an opinion.

Then there is the crowd that complains that Wal-Mart’s lower prices are ruining the market. Pause and ponder here folks. These libs are so whacko that they think higher prices are good thing – competition is a bad thing. They say higher prices means more pay for the workers. Well, a lot of those wage gains will be eaten up by the higher prices…..duh. And the over-paid union leaders seem completely oblivious to the fact that a company also must serve its stockholders and the consuming public – and there are a lot more of them than workers. Wal-Mart has been a key player in bringing down the prices of tens of thousands of consumer products, even in the face of modest inflation. These are real dollar reductions, not the theoretical stuff we get from economists and accountants. Tee shirts that were once $14 are now $5.

One of my more liberal friends (and yes I DO have liberal friends – quite a few, in fact) criticized Wal-Mart for practically putting FAO Schwartz out of business. If you are not familiar with them, they are a trendy upscale toy store that catered to the rich and famous. It seems that nasty old Wal-Mart began selling a lot of the same toys for a fraction of the prices charged by FAO to the price-is-no-object crowd. (Since my friend’s heart is bleeding for FAO, the term “limousine liberal” suddenly jumped into my mind.)

This is how the free market and competition works. This is a good thing. I mean, yeah, I am sorry to see FAO become more like a Macy toy department. They were a fun store. However, price rules for most people – as it should.

Now … about those $199 computers. I can’t wait for the libs to figure out how to criticize this one.

The left pays a lot of attention to public education (which, in and of itself, serves as an example of the failure of their philosophy). They like to think that they are the vanguard of progressive and innovative education. Everyone agrees that getting computers in the hands of students at an early age is a good thing. The education industry has expressed that need for decades (ever since Al Gore invented the Internet).

The fear and reality is that the computer age created yet another gap between the “haves” and the “have nots.” Those financially-challenged kids trapped in the liberal-run city school systems are at the greatest disadvantage. The affluent parents are buying their kids thousands of dollars of cutting edge electronics to support education, while the kids in the inner city schools are getting the benefit of electronic metal detectors to eliminate cutting edges of a different sort.

There have been scores of programs to try to provide computers. The Holy Grail was always held out to be the $199 computer. Most programs fell far short of success because of the cost of the equipment. Now cometh that nasty old Wal-Mart again, this with the $199 computer. Suddenly, the dream of every kid having a laptop is inching toward reality.

Just think of the impact on our children when we can finally bring modern technology to the disadvantaged. (We do not call them disadvantaged for nothing, folks). There have been tons written on the enormous benefits of computers for kids, so you can only imagine the impact Wal-Mart pricing will have on education.

Next time you hear one of these liberal groups kicking about Wal-Mart, just remember those kids who are getting a better education – something the lip-service libs and the kids-last unions have failed to do for a generation or two.

The free market works. Alleluia!

>SPECIAL INVESTIGATIVE REPORT!! Skullduggery in Chicago Olympic bid.

>Rumors abound that not only is Chicago Mayor Richard Daley attempting to bamboozle the International Olympic Committee to award the 2016 games to Chicago to save his political posterior in the wake of the unending string of scandals, but he is secretly attempting to introduce new events to the IOC which are designed to ensure that Chicagoans and Illinoisans win a disproportionate share of gold, silver and bronze medals. Other Illinois officials have joined in the effort to lobby the IOC

They have secretly proposed the introduction of a series of Olympic “civic” events. Due to my dogged sleuthing (even out doing The Drudge Report), I am now able to reveal the details of this plot. Here are the events they have proposed.

Job Placement I (cronyism): This event is simply judged on the number of political pals placed on the public payroll. Contestants are judged on not only the number, but also the rank and pay scale of the placed employees. Yet to be settled is the inclusion or exclusion of lucrative contract holders. Some argue that this is already incorporated in the Public Trough Feeding event (see below). With its long and colorful history of raw politics, Chicago has obvious advantages over other contenders. Several of the strongest players were previous winners of the World Shakman Cup.

Job Placement II (nepotism): This event is similar to Job Placement I except it deals only with the number of family members placed on the public payroll. With major politicians claiming so many “cousins,” qualification verification is expected to be difficult. Cook County President Todd Stroger is already in training and could be a strong contender. However, he will be hard pressed to challenge the long established Irish politicos, who literally invented the sport. The Mayor is pushing to have his brothers judge this event.

Under the Table Kick-Back: Government employees, in performing their civil duties are judged on how much money they can secure from citizens in need of services, permits, etc. Volunteered bribery, while quite lucrative, is excluded from the competition. The stack-o-cash qualifying event requires participants to secure the greatest amount of cash in the shortest amount of time – and no bill more than $100.

Official Corruption Marathon: This is the big kahuna of the proposed new events, with all-star competitors. Winners will be judged on the number of scandals that occur directly under their administrative rule. Indictments and convictions will be especially useful. Mayor Daley, himself, would have been a run-away favorite for the gold in this category, but Governor Rod Blagojevich is making a serious effort for the top medal. Many thought this event would be a Democrat sweep. However, Republican jail-bound Governor George Ryan looks like a potential medal winner. The Nobel Prize nomination is not expected to hurt his chances for a corruption award. He is also the only contender actually convicted of corruption. This could put him in contention for a gold medal. However, it is no small irony that the gold medal in this event will not be won according to the rules, but will most likely be stolen by the person most adroit at breaking the rules.

The Featherbed Beer Run: Government workers are judged on the most unproductive hours on payroll. Extra points can be gained by being totally away from the work environment while being paid. Back room card games, sports events and motel trysts are among the more popular work day escapes. The event gets its name for the propensity of government to employ needless workers, and the ubiquitous beer guzzling that takes on shift. There is a major loss of points for being the subject of the semi annual newspaper expose on malingering public workers. Instead of the traditional Olympic medal, the winner of this event will receive a gold brick.

Education Dodge Ball: The winner of this event will be determined by the number of public school children who will go uneducated. While drop-out rates are significant, the big point gainer is actually graduating an uneducated student in the “social promotion.” Overall winners will have to do well in the “phony truant report” event. The medals in this event are almost certain to fall to the major American cities. Look for Chicago, once declared to be the worst school system in America, to be a top contender for the gold.

Public Trough Feeding Frenzy: This is one of the few proposed events where well-connected private citizens will compete. Contestants will be judged on both the number of contracts and the total cumulative value. Extra points will be given as part of the ‘Inferior Work Rip-Off” event. Inferior work resulting in permanent injury or death of innocent people can boost the point score significantly. Look for Tony Rezko and Bill Cellini to duke it out for the gold in this one, with Bill Kjellander picking up the bronze.

Airport Demolition Smack Down: This is likely to be a relatively exclusive event. Spectacular as it can be, there are very few contenders – especially if military bombings are eliminated from the event, as Mayor Daley demands. He is arguably the world’s leading civilian airport destroyer, and would mostly likely pick up the gold.

Taxpayer Raping: Always popular with the political contestants. Here public officials are judged not only on the sheer level of taxation, but on creativity as well. Hidden taxes, in the form of mandates, will garner extra points. Misuse of taxpayer money also can produce additional points. More points for tax increases which do not improve services, and even more if services are reduced in the face of the tax increase. Many consider higher taxes for fewer services to be the Holy Grail in this event. For those anticipating a salacious contest please be aware that the name is only symbolic.

Jailhouse Torture Tournament: In this event, contestants will be judged both on the number of people they can torture in the shortest time and the effective use of torture devices. Special emphasis is on creativity and effectiveness. Yet to be decided is whether contestants will be allowed to use any device, as an indication of creativity (the City Hall preference), or be limited to such devices as electric generators, billy clubs (a long Chicago sports tradition), rubber hoses, brass knuckles. Maximum pain with minimum physical evidence is important. There is some controversy over anal penetration events. It is more a matter of esthetics than effectiveness. John Burge is a local favorite for the gold, but some say there are many more currently unknown contenders.

Minority Profiling Relay: Another of the so-called “law enforcement events,” it will require contestants to carry innocent minority individuals through the judicial system – from driving tickets to false imprisonment. Special points are given for false arrests and advancing cases that have no merit whatsoever. Sub-events, such as “evidence planting” and “prosecutorial abuse,” will be key to victory. Contestants with racial profiling experience are expected to dominate this event.

Cops as Robbers on the Run: This law enforcement event is strictly for police officers. Winners are determined by the amount of cash and the cash value of merchandise stolen from the public. Additional points are given for pocketing evidence form the scene of a crime, and even more for stealing evidence out of the police lock up. While accepting bribes for not issuing tickets is included, such low level corruption will not take a medal.

Mafia Marksmanship: Though the Mob has been out of practice in recent years, it was felt that, with Chicago’s Capone reputation, there should be a least one event honoring so many great Chicago personalities. Only “made” mobsters, with funny nicknames, are eligible. There are two major events. The first requires the accumulation of “intimidation money.” Extra points for money extracted as a result of severe beatings, with permanent injury good for bonus points. However, killing the victim is a disqualifier. Rules forbid accidental killing, and planned killing falls into the second major Majia event – and will be much more exciting for the audience. It measures the number of hits. Wounding does not qualify. The Whack Job event is judged on the importance of the decedent, the method of extermination and creative body disposal. Team Hoffa could be real contenders. Flawless from hit to disposal. On the other hand, Team Spilotro lacks Olympic stature. Nice hit, but botched burial. Didn’t they know that every two-bit amateur killer buries the bodies in Indiana? The names of the judges in this event are being withheld since the first three named are now missing – perhaps to Olympic training.

Rejected Events: A number of City Hall’s recommended events did not make it past first review by the IOC. The proposed Friend Shedding event was to judge contestants by the number of friends cut off in the face of scandal. The rapidity of such excommunications was to be a major consideration. However, this event was vetoed by the Committee because it appeared to have been proposed solely to insure Mayor Daley a gold medal. The same fate befell the proposed Official Public Temper Tantrum event — for the same reason.

In a similar vein, the Nutty Official event, proposed by Governor Blagojevich, will not be considered due to his pre-emption of the field. The Governor tried to convince the Committee that being recognized as a gold medal nut would be good for his career. To draw a comparison, the Governor explained how having almost every member of the legislature vote against his tax package was his greatest legislative victory. However, the IOC determined that the very idea to be a bit nutty.

The IOC also rejected Todd Stoger’s suggestion of a medal for Not So Bright Offspring of Powerful Politicians. They did not feel it was a very bright idea. In fact, they were not ever sure what the event would be. On the same basis, the OIC summarily rejected former Governor Ryan’s proposal for an event designed for Nobel Prize Nominees Currently in Jail.

State and city officials are lobbying hard against the proposed Convicted Public Official event. In this event, contestants would be judged on the number of public officials they have indicted and convicted. More points for higher-ranking officials. Though his would undoubtedly bring the gold to Illinois, city and state official believe the competition would generate too much enthusiasm among prosecutors, and could deplete the state and local governments of most of the current public officials. Mayor Daley argues that this event would be a set up for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who, according to the Mayor, is not even his cousin.

Finally, the IOC rejected City Hall’s suggestion for a Snow Removal Race noting that this was the summer Olympics. The Mayor countered that he has several cousins with snow making equipment who would cover the course in several feet of snow. “Nobody knows how to do a snow job better then we do,” the Mayor argued.

>LMAO: College Young Republicans trump the “Toad”

>Have to admit. I thought the Tammany Toad Award my civic group gave Governor Rod Blagojevich was a bit “in your face.” Well, not as much as the College Young Republicans. They presented the floundering governor with a gift bearing a much more succinct message: “Blagojevich sucks.” I guess that says it all. I do not know the name of the young lad bearding the lion in his den in the photo, but given the governor’s propensity to punish political adversaries, I hope he is an out-of-state student.

>OBSERVATION: What’s wrong with the Right

>I recently wrote a friend about what appears to be the shattering of the old conservative coalition that dominated American politics for a generation – and the unique ineptitude of the Illinois conservative movement within the Republican Party. Like all coalitions, The “Reagan majority” relied on the obfuscation of fault lines between the component factions. Like a marriage, coalitions generally start out overlooking “minor differences.” Eventually, those differences become points of contention.

The Illinois conservative movement is unique in that the old Reagan coalition is not shattering, it was never formed. Reagan proffered the 11th Commandment, which forbade speaking ill of fellow Republicans. In Illinois, the GOP establishment and the largely GOP conservative wing maintains a state of constant warfare – and to make matters worse, the personality driven right-wing leaders have a penchant for tossing hand grenades into each other’s foxholes. The Reagan revolution that routed the old left never got a foothold in Illinois — his ancestral homeland.

To fully comprehend the sad state of the GOP in Illinois, just seek an answer to this question. How is it that the GOP continues to lose in the face of the unprecedented number and severity of corruption scandals besetting the Democrat machine?

The result of all the internecine warfare is that many solid conservatives — and I include myself in that description — are feed up with the strident right pontificating over all-or-nothing-at-all litmus test issues and self proclaimed moral righteousness.

I am pro-life. I believe that the protection of individual human life is a VERY conservative position. However, I think the flag burning amendment is the work of statists in defiance of conservative philosophy. I see no problem with civil unions for gay couples, since ALL marriages are civil union under the law. Let the churches be free to bless the unions or not with the ritual of “marriage”. I think we should bestow swift citizenship on the vast majority of the technically illegal immigrants by developing a system to quickly matriculate the good guys — and toss the crooks and gang bangers back across the border from a speeding car.

While it is obvious that the Illinois GOP continues in its long history of ineffectiveness, we cannot look to the conservative movement for help in Illinois. It is largely in the hands of egomaniacal miscreants. Nowhere in the nations, is the conservative movement so damaged by its own malignant leadership. They are political terrorists primarily engaged in tribal turf battles against the imagined ideological apostate within their own ranks.

The gross failure of the GOP and the in-house conservative movement to achieve relevancy for at least three decades has had enormous ramifications on the national scene. If either the GOP or the conservative establishment had been even modestly effective, we might have a Republican governor, Republican county board president, control of the legislature, and a couple U.S. Senators … and no Richard Durbin or Barak Obama. Obama has reached presidential ranking more to the folly of the GOP (remember Alan Keyes) than to the impressiveness of his resume or the power of his backers.

I would see myself as some sort of ideological malcontent if it were not for the fact that I have had the true pleasure in working with conservatives in other states. By comparison, one can only conclude that the Illinois conservative movement is some horrific political mutant. My criticism does not apply to all Illinois conservative leaders, by any means, but is focused on those who have earned it by their incompetence and malevolence. Add this to the Keystone Kop-like floundering of the GOP establishment and the pandemic corruption of the Democrat machine, and you can see why many see Illinois as one of the more putrid cesspools of American politics.

>Blagojevich and Jones share “Toad” award

>A civic group with which I am associated, the Public Policy Caucuses, recently presented one of you dubious honor awards to Governor Rod Blagojevich and Senate President Emil Jones. I thought I would share the press release with you incase you missed the extensive coverage in the press.

Tammany Toad Award to Governor Blagojevich and Senator Jones

The Public Policy Caucuses has presented its dubious honor recognition, the Tammany Toad Award, to Governor Rod Blagojevich and Illinois Senate President Emil Jones. According to PPC President Larry Horist, the award is presented to public officials “for extraordinary disservice to the American political system and the tax-paying public.”

Horist said Blagojevich earned the derision of the public for abusing the line-item veto to slash almost $500 million dollars from the state budget, passed by the legislature, in order to fund his unlegislated and unauthorized healthcare plans.

“His action will result in a needless, prolonged and expensive legal battle that will in all likelihood support the overwhelming opinion that the money grabbing veto is not only brazen and contemptible, but unconstitutional. The Governor demonstrates a total lack of appreciation for the legislative process and an arrogance of action that is usually reserved for despots,” Horist charged. In what Horist described as “particularly egregious political crassness,” the governor appeared to target pet projects of his political enemies. “He is using his public office to engage in political warfare,” Horist added.

Jones shares the award for his support of the Governor’s scheme, promising to prevent an override of the veto in the Illinois Senate even though he concedes that the re-appropriation of the funds is probably unconstitutional. Horist said that the award for Jones is based solely on this issue. However, he added, “it appears the Governor is on his way to a life time achievement award in this category.”

-30-

I feel very badly about this. So, I hereby apologize to all the pond-dwelling toads for any slander I may have committed by associating them with the recipients of this award.

>REACT: You can’t “fix” the CTA with money

>Governor Blagojevich has another “Dumbo” scheme to get money to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). I hate to tell Rod, but you cannot really affix wings to an elephant and make it fly.

The governor’s so-called $24 million “bailout” is supposed to prevent the CTA from making highly publicized (read that as politically harmful) cuts in service and increases in fares.

The problem is, it is not a bailout at all. The plan merely advances or loans money from next year’s budget subsidy from the Regional Transport Authority (RTA) to cover the current shortage. This means the fix is a borrowed-band-aid to cover a cancer.

It does not take a rocket scientist or a corporate accountant to figure out that the scheme will only create a $24 million problem for next year’s budget.

There is only one possible fix, but it is something for which government agencies have no talent. It requires cutting fat out of the budget and streamlining operations. It means using technology to reduce payroll. Increasing ridership. The system has to be made to run more efficiently. Yes, more service for less money. Not only is that possible, it is the ONLY way to solve the problem.

Financial “fixes” and “bailouts” are like narcotics. They alleviate the current pain with the foolish belief that some how the dependency and destructiveness will be miraculously resolved in the future In fact, the future problem will be worse.

The governor would believe that the laws of economics can be ignored like Disney’s elephant ignored the laws of physics. The only difference is that Dumbo is a cartoon, and Blago is a joke – a bad one.

>REACT: What’s next? An eleven-inch ruler

>If you do not believe government bureaucrats exist in a nether world of surrealism, then consider this.

The new contract between the Chicago public schools and the teachers’ union shortens the school year by approximately two weeks – essentially knocking off the June weeks.

At a time when America is losing the educational edge to the populous “backward” nations like China and India, the pressure is on to expand the school year. The most progressive education advocates talk of year-round schooling. Not only is this an educational advantage, but in today’s society, full time schooling conforms better to the career life of two-income families. The traditional school schedule is predicated on the anachronistic requirement to have the kids home for the summer farm chores.

Now cometh the Chicago Teachers’ Union and their cronies at the Board of Education. They have an explanation as to why less time at more money is better for the children – and the taxpayer.

This ought to get a really good belly laugh out of you.

By adding a marginal 15 minutes to each school day, the students will receive greater educational benefit than those two weeks on the eve of summer vacation. So, school administrator, Arne Duncan, suggests — with a straight face and I suspect crossed fingers – that the public school kids will get better quality time out of those few additional moments a day than two weeks of full time tutoring.

He proffers the idea that those two pesky weeks in June are really rather useless – not a lot of good quality education going on. After all, the kids are daydreaming of summer plans and the teachers are suffering from a form of “exit attitude.” Duncan does not explain why this same form of psychological meltdown would not occur in the last two weeks of May.

Also, the logic that a few minutes at the fudgey end of a school day can be equated with several full days of academic requirement is lost on me. How does that work? You add three minutes to each class? If you do the math, even those silly add-on minutes do not compensate for all the lost time.

(Hey, this gives me an idea. I am going to have my family add ten minutes to each meal, and then completely skip eating for a month or two.)

Furthermore, how professional are our Chicago teachers if they simply “lose it” when the weather warms up? My children were blessed with suburban public school educations or, in one case, a private school education. I do not recall a similar seasonal dysfunction in those institutions. Just this past June, we noted that our son’s teachers were pedal-to-the-metal within 24 hours of the close of the school year. It would appear the year-end malady is unique to Chicago public schools.

Basically, the new contact deal is grounded in the same philosophy that has produced all the old deals. It is very simple. The union fights for more money and less work – the children be damned.

Arguably, the group most responsible for the shameful and tragic decline of the Chicago school system is the union. With the complicity of weak or duplicitous administrators and cohort politicians, the union has been able to rape the public treasury of every well-intentioned new dollar the taxpayers coughed up. It is not about funding education. It is about funding union demands, and the political clout of billions of dollars in expenditures and pension investments – and those millions in campaign contributions.

As a person who was involved in several contract negotiations for both the Chicago and Detroit boards of education, I will tell without fear of refutation: I have never seen a time where the school unions placed the welfare of the student in the classroom above the narrow demands designed to strengthen the union. Never.

I like to remind people that the teachers’ union is not an educational institution. It is a private membership organization. Greater membership, more dues and growing pension funds are their objective. The public treasury is the means. Education is just the vehicle.

Once again, the school children of Chicago will be harmed for the sake of union peace – at any price.

>OBSERVATION: Labour Loves Lost

>

While I owe the title of this blog item to Shakespeare — well, at least a bastardization of his “Love’s Labour Lost” — the subject is quite different from the Bard’s.

The week following our Labor Day celebration, I am still reading stories about the importance of unions … the need for unions… the power of unions … etc.

The power of unions depends entirely on the definition. In terms of real political power, they are paper tigers often claiming victories that are more coincidental than contrived. On the other hand, it is fair to say that they do exercise more power than their numbers and place in society deserves.

At this writing, they represent less than 12 percent of the American work force – and they continue to lose ground in the private sector. The only place where there is true union growth and excessive power is in the public sector. The dangerously powerful American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees union is a threat to the democratic process. It is the vehicle that assures the continued growth and unaccountable power of the Fourth Branch of our government – the bureaucracy.

Many see unionism as a borderless expanse that covers both the private and public sectors. This is not the case. The issues that separate the public and private sectors on the business side generally apply at least as much to the union side.

Private sector unionism in America is a dying enterprise. This is due to the fact that American workers are treated pretty damn well, by world and historic standards. Credit trade unionism for the improvement, if you like. I will not counter the argument. But like the buggy whip, it has lost much of its purpose in modern society.

Only in the public sector, were “management” is the political Siamese twin of “labor,” is there growth. As special consultant to the Chicago and Detroit boards of education, I experienced the neutering effect of having union member sitting on the “management” board and public officials beholding to the raw power of union money and precinct workers. To this day, schools flounder under union dictate contract provisions and excessive union influence in policy and operations. It is no accident that the deterioration of the urban school systems tracks perfectly with the rise of union influence.

We need to look at unionism in two ways and with two responses. For the private sector, we should treat them to benign neglect. Despite the bellow of labor leaders, such as the ALF-CIO’s John Sweeney, they are more like the Wizard of Oz, attempting to enlarge their “roar” by public relations trickery.

Public sector unionism is a whole ‘nother game. The power of unions to shut down critical government services is a threat to the democracy. Because government is susceptible to acquiring of inordinate power, it is critical to prevent any all-powerful union to “control” our public sector.

If ever a group of workers did not need representation, it is government workers. Without union solidarity, they already created tenure, high wages, primo benefits and cushy retirement plans.

Personally, if I had my magic wand, I would make all public sector unions disappear – and outlaw strikes against the taxpaying public. A free society cannot endure the oppression of institutional power groups. Ronald Reagan was right. Air traffic controllers should not be afforded the right to shut down the world aviation system. There is not a teacher strike in America that EVER helped students. Police and firefighters, noble as is their profession, cannot be allowed to walk off the job.

The danger is not just to the obvious. Paper pushers in obscure bureaus can wreak havoc on individual lives by blocking the flow of their work through strikes and other “job actions.” A missed welfare check or a delay appointment at a public health clinic can be deadly.