Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What I am Thankful For!

Readers of this blog know that I try and put a humorous twist on the pressing events of the day, but that sometimes I can descend into downright indecency. So, in the spirit of the holidays, and especially Thanksgiving, I want to take a much healthier and affectionate view on things and share with you a those items that I am truly grateful for.

Family and Friends - Without whom I would be a crazy old hermit yelling out the wall without any family and friends. Instead of just being a crazy old hermit yelling at the wall.

Military Service Men and Woman - Without whom our history tombs would liken that of Poland's.

The Makers of Cheerios and Underpants - Without which my Saturday mornings would consist of oatmeal and copious amounts of couch disinfectant.

Google - For making me about 300% better at my job then what I would otherwise be.

The guy (or gal) who invented the little plastic things that go on the end of your shoelace - What are those called? How did we ever progress as a society without them?

Internet Meme's - For giving me something to look at on the internet that doesn't require me to empty my browsing history afterwards.

 Woman - They know why.

Timothy Zahn - For starting the expanded Star Wars novel universe, which has delighted me for hours and days on end since it began almost 20 years ago. (God rests it's soul now that Disney is making movies that will most likely destroy it's canon.)

Politics - For letting me use, as an intro, for when I have bad news to tell my wife. "Hey honey, I have to tell you something, you're not going to like it, but the good news is it has nothing to do with Politics."

On Hold Phone Music - Otherwise they could have just hung up. We'd never know.

Cheeseburgers - For keeping my self esteem in check all these years.

Half Priced Books - Especially when they have a 50% off sale!

Ice Cream - It knows why.

Electric Razors - How did the founding fathers all stay so clean shaven?

My Morning Commute - 20 minutes of time to come up with all the excuses I need to get me through the day.

My Afternoon Commute - 20 minutes of time to come up with all the excuses I need to get me through the evening.

Free water and plumbing at work - It gets taken for granted. It really does.

Shoes that you can just wedge your foot into rather then untie and then have to retie each time - It's easier then Velcro, without the embarrassing accusations of having the intelligence of a 4 year old.

Society's 80's Cartoon Nostalgia - Without which there is no Transformers live action movie, no ThunderCats Cartoon Network remakes, and no resale value in the box of toys buried in my parents basement.

That's it, I think everything else is fairly well compensated for it's role in my life. Except for maybe one more thing.

Blog Readers - sure you could get their information and entertainment from people who have studied their craft for years and hold themselves to a standard of quality and decency.... I thought I had somewhere I was going with this.... oh well...


Friday, November 22, 2013

Nuclear Empowered Senate

"In order to break down the separation of powers and ram through their appointees to the judicial branch, President Bush and the Republican leadership want to eliminate a 200-year-old American rule saying that every member of the Senate can rise to say their piece and speak on behalf of the people who sent them here." - Harry Reid, 2005

"As I said at the time, the nuclear option was the most important issue I've ever worked on in my entire career, because if that had gone forward it would have destroyed the Senate as we know it," - Harry Reid, 2009

“The Senate is a living thing, and to survive it must change, as it has over the history of this great country,” Harry Reid, 2013

Not since people trounced on President Bush's inability to enunciate like a proper N'eastener has Washington had so much buzz over a nucular nuclear issue.

The US Senate, under the leadership of democratic majority leader Harry Reid, just pushed the proverbial big red button and passed the so-called “nuclear option,” which makes executive branch and judicial nominees at all levels under the Supreme Court of the United States no longer subject to filibuster. The new rules only requiring a simple 51 person majority over the higher bar of 60 votes.

Like so many other laws and regulations that get passed in D.C. Nobody is actually coming forward and claiming that they wanted this new rule. Time is instead spent blaming others for forcing their hand to do something they didn't want to do. 

Harry Reid is blaming Republicans, calling them obstructionists. An accusation that hasn't been thrown out in the senate chambers since about 5 minutes beforehand. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is blaming people who don't want to listen to opposition, when asked to clarify, Sen. McConnell replied "What?" John McCain is blaming the babies of the senate, which by his interpretation is anyone born after 1918. President Obama is blaming insurance companies, then someone corrected him that this wasn't about Obamacare, then he blamed a few bad apples in the IRS, people again said he was mistaking this for the IRS targeting scandal, the President then said it was a program that began under Bush's Department of Justice with the name "Wide Receiver", when the same people in the room started to correct him again, the President became flustered and said "Whatever it was that just happened, I didn't know about it until I will read about it in the paper tomorrow." before storming off the stage.

What does this move mean for the American people? Well, it establishes that rules in the senate don't actually mean anything, so the next time a senator says "We can't do that, it's against the rules." You know it's hogwash, or 'malarchy' as Biden would say. They just need 51 people to want something bad enough to break the rules, by which of course I mean change the rules. Also, this could also usher in a new era of political appointees being held on a shorter leash, since the process of replacing them would be considerably easier. Finally, it's another step towards setting a precedent that minority parties have no real power in congress. Merge those two guiding principles together and you have a form of government that seems a far cry from a constitutional republic.

And if Democrats think it's a win-win to get their nominations through, I'd like to see how they react when people from both parties in either chamber attempt to sit down at the negotiating table next month to has out the next short term grand bargain to avoid another shut down. With the President vowing to veto pretty much anything the house passes and the senate saying today they have no more need for a minority party. The stage is set for cold shouldering that will make the last set of negotiations over a government shutdown seem like an epic battle between the Human Torch and barrel of napalm.

For a final thought, what are the guesses as to how quickly the same majority will vote to re-invoke the 60 person rule if the Democrats loose enough seats in next year's election to place Republicans back into the majority? My guess is that will make this new Appellate Court vetting process seem like a Baywatch beach running scene by comparison.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Palpatine and Politics: A Simile

Conservatism leads to Darth Sidious, Liberalism leads to Emperor Palpatine.

One of the quickest and surest ways to grab a geeks attention is to drop a Star Wars reference, for example, if I were to say, "Skimpier then a bronze slave outfit." An image of a young Carrie Fischer would pop into many minds, or if someone is budging in line at the DMV, they may get told "Hold on Greedo, I get to go first." The person would be obligated to get to the back of the line, less they try and argue the Special Edition movies are in some way superior in their telling of the Sci-Fi masterpieces.

But why is it that both political sides constantly try and use the image of Emperor Palpatine (a.k.a. Darth Sidious) to define their opposition. Either as a incredibly old, rich, corrupt, bitter, elitist, who is intent on forcing his views on everyone else Republican. Or a manipulative, scheming, lying, brooding, elitist, who is intent on forcing his views on everyone else Democrat. The common thread being the attempt at painting ones political opposition with a power crazed villain who's best friend suffers from a terrible case of asthma and is obsessed with obtaining a pair of giant death balls. I wish to contest that the visage of the Emperor actually has two parts, two sides of the same coin if you will, derived from the two sides of the Star Wars prequel conflict.

Let's go ahead and start breaking apart the analogy. Dismissing the obvious evil, power hungry, old white guy, because let's face it, that describes about 99% of politicians in either camp. Instead, we will compare the means, methodology, and ultimate goals of power attainment. Contrasting Republicans and Democrats with Emperor Palpatine, the duly elected Emperor of the Old Republic, and Darth Sidious, the invisible hand guiding the Seperatist army.

Before we begin, a nod to the concept of the Palpatine Character, a villain who, in the end, controlled both sides of a Civil War. Regardless of who won the war, Palpatine did. And in the end all major factions in the universe would be too exhausted to challenge his ultimate claim. Good thing that there is no supreme powers behind both political parties, simply making them play out their roles while this force wins out regardless of who wins any given political bout. Right? That would be terrible! Could you imagine?

In the Star Wars universe, we had a Darth Sidious before we had an Emperor Palpatine, so we will begin there. To my point, Darth Sidious used his power and manipulation to horde economic and manufacturing resources via the Trade Federation and other galaxy guilds. There were no votes for the masses to decide who was best suited to lead the movement, it was through private means and self determination that Sidious was able to provide the leadership through a series of independent deals, management, and eventual mass execution. He entreated and utilized planets like Geonosis for their manufacturing capability, but allowed them to remain self governed (though only a fool would abandon the cause and risk a Sith Lords wrath). He didn't discriminate or try to dictate or regulate the work conditions of those who worked for him, and gave little regard to the environmental impact of the worlds these factions worked on. The capacity to complete the work ordered was his driving cause, and allowed the 'self governed' aspects of these worlds to handle the impact of these arrangements on their people.
  • Capitalism
  • Deregulation
  • Market Based Compensation
  • 'States' Sovereignty
Then we have Palpatine, the soft spoken senator from Naboo who assended to Chancellor, then Emperor, thanks to the motion presented by one Senator Jar-Jar Binks. Palpatine mastered the rule of law as dictated by a strong central government to plot his route to ultimate power. Even in the face of his home planet being bullied into compliance, he believed the process of the Senate needed to be upheld, and saw too much risk in provoking the Trade Federation into a war. He pleaded with Princess Amidala to concede rule of Naboo until such a time that the central government would be mobilized to come and protect them. Stating that it wasn't safe for the Queen to take it upon herself to defend the people against the invading force. Also, once an all out war became unavoidable, then Chancellor Palpatine had zero qualms about utilizing an army that was cloned and raised specifically to be soldiers. A concept that in real life would make the 'moral' right sneer in disgust about playing God with genetics and cloning technologies.
  • The Rule of Law
  • Centralized Power
  • Gun Control
  • Science over Morality
Obviously both personas had a single goal, but starkly different methods of obtaining that goal, and in the end it was obvious only to an elite few that they where getting played all along and that the outcome would be the same until the politicians, I mean the Chancellor, was stopped and the power he had attained handed back over to the people. So the difference in the end isn't the end, it's the means by which to get there. Sidious used a more 'free markets' approach and found willing cohorts to establish his power, then through hard work and determination, and a little influence from the dark side of the force, created a structure in which he was at the top of an organization pyramid that obtained it's power through absorbing lesser powers into it. As he amassed this power under him, the top of the power structure changed very little, it simply was raised up as the base expanded (i.e. richer getting richer). Palpatine's rise came through an existing structure, in where he had to reach the top of that structure before he could enact changes that would expand the power base. Each step in power being accompanied by a rule or law that permitted the accession, never changing the rules, simply finding the opportune times in which to  (i.e. everything Hitler did was legal).  

Now apply these variables to the real world. If Bush and Obama had their shot at defending Naboo against the Trade Federation, which one do you see laying low and waiting for the Intergalactic Community to come and assist them, and who do you see building a coallition of the willing Gungans to fight the Droid Army threat. If these two Presidents had to build a Death Star, who would allow companies to hire Genosian immigrants at whatever wage they agreed to, and who would restrict the contracts to those that passed the Imperial background checks.

These are, in my mind, some of the core differences between the right and the left in today's political climate. The origination of the centralization of power. Though neither absolute is ideal, one uses the manipulation of people and the other the manipulation of law. Much like in the olden days of America when monopolies where not regulated, a larger company could put out a smaller company in a price war, where a larger company that can take a loss sets a price point so low that it forces the smaller company out of business, then jacks up the price, forcing people to accept it as competition has ceased. It is the same when too much power is amassed in one organization that is hindered by it's own complexity of laws, rules, and regulations. The word of law ceases to be simple and begins to benefit those that masters its convoluted language rather then those who are just in their cause.

Perhaps, though, in the end the real comparison is between the entirety of the Palpatine/Sidious character, and every politician ever. They all seem to be hiding something, they all think that they should be bowed to when they take a long distance call. They both seem to abandon their constituents when they're needed most. And, nobody ever admits to liking them, but they keep seeming to cower to them.

Perhaps all Palpatine had to do was continue to amass organizations like the Trade Federation, then just buy his influence in the Galactic Senate, he would be all powerful of a non-war torn galaxy, no one would know his name, and no blood would be shed.

Luckily, this is all just a work of fiction... Right?

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Obama Tense

Was the President manning up for the shortcomings and downright misses of Obama care yesterday, or was he trying to shift the blame for this debacle onto scapegoats and enemies of his signature legislation? Let's break apart his comments and see if we can shed some light as to who he holds accountable for this experiment, shall we?

"I think everybody understands that I’m not happy about the fact that the rollout has been, you know, wrought with a whole range of problems that I've been deeply concerned about."

Point for manning up, he admits that things aren't going right and states his concern over that. But note the lack of possessiveness in regard to the rollout. 

"The problems of the website have prevented too many Americans from completing the enrollment process, and that’s on us, not on them"

Ok, slight shifting of gears as 'I' has now become 'us', but he's still making a clear distinction that this is his, I mean their fault.

"So bottom line is in just one month, despite all the problems that we’ve seen with the website, more than 500,000 Americans could know the security of health care by January 1st."

Now he's trying to paint the numbers in a better light, despite the 7+ million Americans this is intended to help initially and the 4+ million who got hurt by the law, the fact that we have about 4% of them covered now is deserving of some praise. We could go off for hours about the expenses and misrepresenting of numbers this reflects, but for now let's just accept this as Obama's attempt at a silver lining.

"It’s gotten a lot better over the last few weeks than it was on the first day, but we’re working 24/7 to get it working for the vast majority of Americans in a smooth, consistent way."

Now it's we who are implementing the fixes, it's 'we' when it comes fixing things, but 'the' website is still without a possessor. Not 'my' website or 'our' website, just 'the' website. 

"The other problem that has received a lot of attention concerns Americans who’ve received letters from their insurers that they may be losing the plans they bought in the old individual market"

Again, the problem isn't 'his' or 'our' problem, just 'the' problem. But the letters cancelling plans came from the insurance companies. Avoids saying the insurance companies cancelled the plans, but be backdoors the blame by saying the letters are all on the insurance companies.

"Now, as I indicated earlier, I completely get how upsetting this can be for a lot of Americans, particularly after assurances they heard from me that if they had a plan that they liked they could keep it. And to those Americans, I hear you loud and clear. I said that I would do everything we can to fix this problem. And today I’m offering an idea that will help do it."

Ok, the switching from who is ensuring a fix, but then placating who's fix it is, back to who's idea the fix is with the changing of 'I' to 'we' back to 'I' is getting a little hard to follow. "I said that I would do everything we can"

"And today I’m offering an idea that will help do it... Today we’re going to extend that principle both to people whose plans have changed since the law too effect and to people who bought plans since the law took effect."

Let me be clear, this is my idea, you're welcome, but other people are going to have to make it happen, so if it doesn;t work, then I can blame them on implementing it, but if it does work in placating the people, it was totally my idea.

"State insurance commissioners still have the power to decide what plans can and can’t be sold in their states"

Blame the States if this doesn't work.

"Now, this fix won’t solve every problem for every person, but it’s going to help a lot of people. Doing more will require work with Congress."

Blame Congress if this doesn't work.

"We’re also requiring insurers to extend current plans to inform their customers"

Blame Insurers if this doesn't work.

"If your received one of these letters I’d encourage you to take a look at the marketplace. Even if the website isn’t working as smoothly as it should be for everybody..."

Ok, this line doesn't even make sense. He's trying to put blame on individuals themselves while acknowledging that it may not be possible for those individuals to do anything about it.

"It is important to understand, though, that the old individual market was not working well. And it’s important that we don’t pretend that somehow that’s a place worth going back to."

Call up Websters, the word 'well' is now defined to mean 'the way that Obama wants it to'.

"And that’s why I will not accept proposals that are just another brazen attempt to undermine or repeal the overall law and drag us back into a broken system."

He spent almost a whole day coming up with these fixes, and all you haters who've known for years that this is exactly what would happen don't appreciate the amount of thinking this great man put in to these new never debated laws and regulations that pretty much contradict several provisions that are in the law with the language that it was 'voted' on with. 

I could go on and on for a while, but the bottom line is that Obama's plan is to empower everyone else to try and fix this debacle of a law with not enough time for any of them to actually create and implement a fix is like Coach Obama telling his quarterback to win a game by throwing a 90 yard hail mary pass while only sending one wide receiver deep in a game that you are down by 9 points. You can make it look pretty dramatic, but in the end, there is no realistic way that you are going to fix this thing at this point. The American people are just going to have to keep doing what they always do, persevere despite all the attempts of this government to stop us.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tebow-ing versus Kapernick-ing

Tim Tebow. A young christian kid from Jacksonville. Guilty of doing little more then doing well in school and winning football games. For years, his personality and style of play made him a burning topic across sports outlets everywhere.

I'll admit it, I was a huge fan of Tebowmania. My wife is a huge Broncos fan and I hopped on the band wagon during the Plummer years, but I've always been irked as to why NFL pundits give so much derision to Tebow. Is it because he doesn’t exactly fit the mold of the ideal NFL quarterback? He’s not terribly accurate, he can’t throw the long ball and he doesn't read the field all that well. He’s never has, and probably never will go to a Pro Bowl. Nor has he, and probably never will, gone through a whole season as a starter.

His pinnacle of NFL success came a couple of years ago when he and the Denver Broncos had a magical year in which they won countless games by the skin of their teeth, almost all led by Tebow.

That brings us to this current season, when another quarterback has become the darling of the sports broadcast world, just this morning I happened upon the Mike and Mike show in which they went through their top 5 QB's under the age of 26. Making the list of the top 5 over successful QB's Newton and Dalton was a guy I'm personally very much on the fence about: Colin Kaepernick. Despite putting up less then stellar numbers this year, the Niners are winning at a good click and the endorsements, along with sports commentators adoration, are flowing freely.

It got me thinking about the hypocrisy of stating that all that matters is winning one moment, and then destroying a man for seemingly doing nothing but win the next. Let's compare some not so insignificant stats of Kaepernick, now 9 starts into his sophomore season, and Tebow, 9 games into his second season of 2011, or a couple losses after Denver's miracle run of 7 straight wins. Colin is 6-3, Tim was 7-2. Colin has 9 Passing TD's, along with his 3 Rushing TD's, got 12 total, to go with his 6 picks and 5 Fumble turnovers. Tim had 10 passing TD's plus 4 rushing for a total of 14 TD's to contrast his only 2 interceptions and 4 fumbles lost. And total passing plus rushing yards? Colin beats out Tim by a whopping 6 yards (1,985 to 1,979).

The biggest contrast is that Tebow threw for a paltry 49.3% completion rate at 9 games in, versus Kaepernick's more palatable 56.4%, but even then Colin is averaging less the 1 yard better in yards per attempt. (7.61 yards/attempt versus 6.73 yards/attempt). Many people would also quickly point to the post season, where Colin's 2-1 record would seemingly dwarf Tim's 1-1 lifetime record.

You could also just as easily point to their respective teams scenarios at the time of their succession. With Tebow on the bench, the Broncos were hurting at 5-16 (.238 winning percentage), where as the 49ers were sitting pretty at 21-5-1 (.796 percent) when Kaepernick was sitting idly by since 2011. I could go back and fourth for a while.

If you want to draw your own conclusions about why one is so obviously preferred over the other, then feel free to stop reading here, but if you want to ask me, the answer is simple. Tebow just doesn't give commentators anything to feed off of.

Colin is more apt to have that big pass play, is flashier with his Kaepernicking then Tim's humble Tebowing was ever meant to be, despite many attempts to turn it into something that it wasn't. Colin's success is easier to display on a highlight real with 2 or 3 big plays in a game, versus Tebows constant running and clock draining to keep a game low scoring and then pull off one big play at the end. It was too easy to point to a low completion percentage and say "He can't do it" then it was to try and explain week after week how he, in fact, did it. In a word, the sports world got lazy with Tebow, and dismissed him the instant that reality reflected their prejudice.

I'm not under any naive expectation that anything will change with this simple realization, Colin will be given years to either develop into the great quarterback that he could become or fade from the spotlight like so many others. While Tebow is sitting at home considering his options for the future outside the NFL. This post is little more then one last bitter sigh of how the wants of the sports entertainment industry has superseded the desire to learn more about the elements of the game that remain a mystery to many of us, and I feel the NFL is just a little more tarnished as a result.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Presidential Apology

Here it is, it has finally arrived! The thing that so many politicians, pundits, and people on the right have been pleading for for months. No, not a viable presidential candidate, an apology from the President.

"I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me. We've got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and that we're going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this." - Barrack Obama 11/7/13

Doesn't that just smooth everything over, giving you the feeling like you are trying to order an ice cream treat with your favorite mix in. After you receive the treat and try it, you realize it was made with Heath bar instead of your favorite Nestle Crunch bar. The employee insists there is nothing they can do for you, you ask for a manager, you explain to the manager of this restaurant that you ordered the Nestle Crunch ice cream treat but they made it incorrectly, you discuss the clear difference between the two treats and that you can see the container of the correct mix over on the counter and that if you would just try again everything could be peachy keen. To which the manager retorts with the line "I'm sorry you feel that way..."

It's not an apology. Not in the sense of a person being truly sympathetic and wanting to make amends. When the answer is so blatantly clear, but just seems an impossible fantasy to the one person with the power to enact it. The President's verbiage is selected because he thinks that it's what people want to hear, when in reality all they want is ice cream. a solution.

He's "sorry" Americans "find themselves in a tough position"? Excuse me Mr. President, who is driving this proverbial bus that went through the drive through at 'Salads and Stuff' when they thought they were going to McDonalds? Though to complete that analogy the bus would have to loose about 5 wheels and burst into flames before arriving at either location to more accurately describe the situation with HeathCare.gov. Folks aren't "finding" themselves anywhere except where you led them. And "the situation" they're in isn't "based on assurances they got from me." It's based on the law that you prefaced your entire legacy on.

The other aspect of this that scares me senseless is the continued downplay of who this all effects. He seems to be buffered by the fact that while 10+ million Americans are being effected by this, the vast majority of Americans have this sense that this just doesn't apply to them. The person in line behind you at the aforementioned restaurant is thinking "Sure, I can plainly see that you obviously ordered one thing and got another, but that won't apply to me because I'm ordering off the dinner menu, not the dessert menu.".

(Just so we are all clear, the dessert menu being the individual marketplace, and the dinner menu being the employer based markets. Got it? Good.)

It's the same stinking restaurant people! Your best bet is that between the time that I stomp away from the counter and you take that long stride up to try and fill your order, that somehow the staff feel the pressure of not wanting to screw up two orders in a row. Of course this requires the acknowledgement from the staff, and the manager, that the screw up was on their end to begin with.

Scroll up and watch the President's apology again. Who made the mistake? Are they going to make it right for you? Is it unacceptable behavior? Is he sorry he screwed up, or, is he sorry that you are mad about it?

I do believe there is a part of him that is sorry, he's sorry that people are loosing the argument to defend this bill. Premiums are not going down, people are not being grandfathered because they were content with their current coverage, and the website is still not functioning 5 weeks after it's launch. He's sorry that his supporters will have no answer for people currently covered being left behind after January 1st because the alternative plan that the ACA was supposed to present them won't be available. I think he is sorry that many people will start looking at him in a new light, that the luster of the celebrity in chief could be tarnished, and that his shortcomings as a leader may finally be realized. And that the blame will not be able to be placed on anyone other then himself. For this, he may truly be sorry.

Monday, November 4, 2013

How Will I Vote? City Council Edition

Tomorrow, the good people of Marion Iowa take to the polls to play their part in shaping the future of their fair town. And I, as a voter, am burdened once again with the need to discover for myself who is the best qualified and most inline with my vision of what our town should be so that I can be the most satisfied with my vote upon casting it.

This is not an easy feat in a local election, local sources of information about candidates and issues can be scarce and not terribly telling. At least in a mayoral election year some activities and debates get planned. There are some upsides to this, you don't get lost in a sea of sound bites and flashy promotional mantras. The solution to learning more about the individual candidates also reveals itself in this microcosm of society, if you want to know something about a candidates position or thoughts on an issue, ask them.

To this end I was able to use the counties election website to dig up a listing of email addresses for all the candidates on my ballot for tomorrow. I read up a little bit on the local issues that effect my community and determined several issues that I felt strongly about, devised several concise questions and simply asked them. I have been very pleased and humbled by the responses.

Of the total of 6 candidates for the the two council seats (5 on ballot and one incumbent running as a write in), I heard back from 5 of them, 4 of which answered all my questions and gave me a much clearer picture of who was running. Complete responses can be viewed here.

(Update: File sharing not working so hot, shoot me an email if you want a copy of my spreadsheet)

So now that I've prefaced this post to no end, lets get to the good stuff, how will I be voting tomorrow?

City Council At-Large: I am truly impressed with the group of candidates we have and can relate to each of them on some issue or another. There is a stark contrast between the challengers and the incumbent, Mr. Adamson, when it comes to how to address both traffic and development issues on 7th Avenue, but not nearly as clear of a difference between the challengers themselves. Mulling over the minor differences in the three challengers for some time I believe I am going to vote for Ron Swearingen. The specific item that helped sway me was his thoughts on the use of any local option sales tax coming through from this ballot that would be earmarked for community improvements. His response tells me he as an awareness of potential back door options that can arise with an abundance of funding even when public opinion is working against you.

Council Ward 2: A very large leap in the number of options. The incumbent Mr. Spinks appears to be in great opposition to me on most issues. He also responded to my first question be stating he would include another (4th) roundabout into the corridor plan, even though he was the sole 'no' vote for the original 2009 proposal on the very basis that he wasn't sold on roundabouts. Hard to vote for him, but what is the alternative? Chris Schumaker is on the ballot but did not respond to my emails, nor did he participate in the one and only debate/event for the election. I can find nothing about Mr. Schumacher. This is going to be a game time decision, but right now I'd have to give it to the person who appears to want it more.

And that Leads us to the issue of tax referendums:

Increasing the property tax levy for the Library: This is a bit of an odd question, given that the City just lowered the general property tax levy by more then the amount asked in the increase. Also considering that the Cedar Rapids library just reopened it's doors at it's new location that moves it about 4 miles closer to Marion. I support the wait and see approach of what impact this will have on our library before we commit a lot of new tax dollars to it.

Extending the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST): This is a tricky one. 70% of money raised is to be directed toward street repair sounds all well and good, so this vote is perhaps more a referendum on the level of trust that we have in our local government to stay within not only the letter of the law, but the spirit in which it was passed. I read a piece from the Cedar Rapids Activist Blog that Cedar Rapids spends more cleaning streets then they do fixing them. I checked the same stat for Marion, the closest 'gotch ya' I can come up with is that the City spends more on Salt/Sand then it does on wither concrete or asphalt (pg. 114). Either way, this is always marketed as a temporary tax for an item that will need to be maintained in perpetuity. A sales tax is the most regressive tax there is. And why are we trying to raise a regressive tax and lower a much more progressive tax (pg. 9 of budget)? For now, I'm voting against this.

There it is, some insight into the who and why of my ballot for tomorrow. For any of you undecided Marion voters who aren't satisfied with the candidates, fill in my name and see if KCRG will run it as part of their results. That would make my day, and isn't that what democracy is all about?

Friday, November 1, 2013

What Was She Thinking?

Great, that is just great...

So now on top of having restrictions on what kind of options you have for what level of coverage you can receive with your healthcare, and also yielding much of your choice in doctors, apparently now if your employer offers you a health insurance plan, you are required by law to accept it.

At least that is the way I interpret what Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelias said this week, under oath, to congress. When she says it's illegal for her to drop her healthcare and sign up for new coverage.

Of course I jest, because as a person with a and scrap of common sense, I know that there is no way the government can force you to accept compensation from your employer. Of course, had you asked me a year ago if the government can force you to purchase health insurance through a private company I would have told you the same thing, that you're nuts, so I guess anything is possible.

Let's make another rash assumption that Ms. Sebelius does in fact know that anyone can choose to not participate in an employers health care program and purchase insurance on their own, presumably through these exchanges. This should be considered a particularly short reaching assumption since anyone can load up the healthcare.gov site and see that there is nothing stopping you from switching so long as you acknowledge you forfeit any share of the premiums that your employer may be paying (pending being a legal citizen and not incarcerated, but let's not go there). The question then becomes what was she thinking when you dropped such a falsehood as "It's illegal."

Let's recall for a moment that she is the former governor of the great state of Kansas, making her a politician, and that politicians lie.

I'm sorry, you want a little more in depth analysis then that? Alright. She does get an offer of coverage from her employer, and, after turning 65 earlier this year, she also qualifies for Medicare Ms. Sebelius would not be eligible for any tax credits buying coverage. But given that she makes just shy of $200,000, chances are she earns too much for that to be a concern in the first place. Nobody enjoys spending money unnecessarily, but if you accept that as a reasonable reason to not sign up for Obamacare, you kind of shoot a brunt of the entire argument for Obamcare in the foot. That is making people spend more money then they would otherwise spend for health coverage they don't desire. Maybe she was frustrated by all of those trick questions like "How many people have signed up?" and "Why doesn't this $700,000,000.00 website work?". Perhaps she thought that, as a member of the executive branch, the ability to simply declare a law fell into her powers as well. We may never know the exact reason.

What does appear apparent is that signing up for healthcare that is not provided by your employer appears to be taking a seat in the 'things you love to do' list between waiting at the DMV and trying to get a straight answer from your congressman.