URBAN PHILOSOPHER
Conscience Laureate

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

THE CLOTH IS INVISIBLE!- Don't drink the Kool-Aid!




 Last year, I wrote about the giant eyeball sculpture  that was installed on Van Buren Street in downtown Chicago and paid for by the Chicago Loop Alliance.  Trying to be clever, I said, “Eye don’t think it is art” and wrote, “Because everyone’s taste is different, we all have our own definition of what art is.  We have dissimilar feelings about what we appreciate or respond to.”  I am now apologizing for that blog because the latest installation is really not art, it is just a billboard!

The “art” is described as a “bold six-story mural” by Art Daily, but it is a billboard!  Look at it!  If it had the Nike logo on it, it would be a billboard on the side of the Stevens Building on North State Street!  I feel like the little boy at the end of the story, “The Emperor‘s New Clothes,” who pointed out that the emperor was really naked.  Doesn’t everybody else see that the “art” in this instance is invisible? 

At the web site http://www.askart.com/, the artist Kay Rosen is described as, “ A word artist, she creates sign-like enamel paintings often having to do with gender politics and power. She enjoys playing with language as though it is art, and it is said that her work is always flashy and contentious."  If one uses the definition of “contentious” as “arguable,” then I argue that this is not art!
(another Kay Rosen piece of "art")

Art in America magazine calls her a “text-based conceptualist.” I agree the message, “Go Do Good,” is an excellent theory to communicate, but it is not art-- it is an expression of language.

Nike has used the slogan “Just Do It,” since 1988, and pays millions of dollars a year to advertise that phrase. The company has been telling the world to “do it,” for 23 years! But in Chicago, instead, we pay for “Go Do Good?”  The Chicago Loop Alliance could have gotten Nike to finance the “art” but just putting the famous “swoosh” on it.

The cloth of the emperor’s clothes was said to have a special capability of being invisible to anyone who was stupid, I guess this card-carrying Mensan is stupid, because the art is invisible to me.





Friday, May 27, 2011

I’M TOO SEXY FOR THIS BLOG




I better cross Utah off the list of places I can visit because they just outlawed the act of making sexy gestures. I modestly must say that the mere action of my smiling could be interrupted as sexy by some, so I better stay out of the state to be safe!


Previously, Utah had defined prostitution simply as a person agreeing to sex in exchange for money. (Sounds like marriage!)  The new law, according to the Associated Press, ”broadened the definition to include any person who indicates through lewd acts, such as exposing or touching themselves, that they intend (my italics) to exchange sex for money.”  Intend is a very tricky word because how can one clearly decide what constitutes intent?  Just because I look at a piece of chocolate cake does not mean I intend to eat it.

Escort services and strip clubs could find themselves in trouble because currently in Utah it is legal for private strippers to expose their genitals or touch themselves in a sexual manner. Two escort services have filed a lawsuit in federal court because the new law is practically identical to one struck down by a federal judge as being unconstitutional in 1988.  AP quoted Andrew McCullough, the attorney who represents the escort services, as saying,”the law is so broad that it could allow police to arrest licensed employees of sexually oriented businesses, such as escort services or strip club dancers, for doing their job.” He cited as an example the case of a semi-nude dancer at a strip club who could be arrested for “suggestively thrusting.”

The police say the new law will help them in undercover prostitution stings.  Previously women would ask potential Johns to expose or touch themselves to prove that they were not undercover policemen.  Now, Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank said that because making such requests are an antecedent to offering sex for money, which is illegal under the new law, police could arrest immediately at the time of the request.
That does not make sense!  Just because a woman asks a man to see his penis does not mean she wants him to pay her for sex!  She could be asking because she just wants to see his Willie.

As I was writing this blog, I received an e-mail from Victoria’s Secret offering their, “Sexiest Offer Ever!” I wonder if that would be legal in Utah?  The models on the ad looked very seductive!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

THE GASOLINE DICHOTOMY




HOW THE STATE OF WASHINGTON FEELS

While most people (not me) are concerned about the effects of carbon emission from gasoline, the legislature in the State of Washington just passed a bill  that penalizes drivers of electric vehicles because they are not buying gasoline!

Summary of Senate Bill 5251

Before accepting an application for a vehicle registration for
an electric vehicle that uses propulsion units powered solely by
electricity, the department, county auditor or other agent, or subagent
appointed by the director shall require the applicant to pay a one
hundred dollar fee in addition to any other fees and taxes required by
law. The one hundred dollar fee is due at the time of initial vehicle
registration and annual registration renewal.
(2) The fee under this section is imposed to provide funds to
mitigate the impact of vehicles on state roads and highways, and is
separate and distinct from other vehicle license fees. Proceeds from
the fee must be used for highway purposes, and must be deposited in the motor vehicle fund created in RCW 46.68.070.”

According to the Bellingham Herald, “The drive for the legislation was fueled by the growing unreliability of state gas tax revenues, which are used to maintain and build roads, bridges and ferries. Because owners of all-electric vehicles don’t pay the tax, the bill’s supporters said, Washington must find other ways to bring in transportation money.”

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, the bill’s primary sponsor, pointed out, “They’re going to drive on our highways, and this is a way for them to pay their fair share.”

How many of “them” are there?  About 1,316 plug-in vehicles were registered in Washington in 2010.  I could not find the number of gasoline-driven cars in the state, but the 2010 United States Census recorded the state's population at 6,724,540.  So even if only 20% of Washingtonians owned cars, that would be about 1,300,000 cars consuming gasoline.  That means the electric car population would represent only 1/10 of one percent of all cars.

How could such a small percentage of cars contribute to the “unreliability of state gas tax revenues?”  

The State of Washington is nicknamed, “The Evergreen State,” because of its immense tree population.  Where are the tree-huggers on this issue?  They obviously don’t sit on the legislature!

HOW THE CITY OF CHICAGO FEELS


 
At about the same time the State of Washington was voting to penalize drivers of electric cars, the City of Chicago launched a new program called the Green Taxi Incremental Cost Allowance Program. The Green Taxi Program will help the taxi industry purchase cost-effective hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles, help the City to move closer to reaching carbon emission goals as set out in the Chicago Climate Action Plan.

According to the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection,” The City of Chicago, through the Department of Environment, received a Clean Cities grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The Green Taxi Program will use $1 million in funding from this grant to reimburse up to a set amount of the cost of certain hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles. Hybrids can be reimbursed for $2,000, the maximum allowed by the federal government under this program. CNG or propane powered vehicles can be reimbursed for up to 100% of the implemental cost, which is between $9,000 and $14,000.”

So Chicago wants to increase the number of hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles to lower carbon emissions and the State of Washington wants to penalize drivers of electric cars because they are not buying gasoline!  Only in America could a dichotomy like this exist!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

NOW! OR LATER, GROUPON STILL A LOSER FOR BUSINESSES




Yesterday I wrote about the parody blog a doctor at the Center for Disease Control had posted that educated people in what to do if zombies attack.  Well, zombies did attack in the Loop last week when the Hari Krishna-like Groupon gorilla marketers accosted people on the street waving their giant green foam fingers to get pedestrians’ attention about the new Groupon Now! Unfortunately nothing in the CDC emergency preparedness plan protected me from the lunatic Groupon Now! plague.

Groupon Now! differs from regular Groupon in that the discounted deal is only good for a few hours on the one day that it is being offered.  To sweeten the deal, on Friday’s only, all Groupon Now! deals cost $1.00.  This is great for consumers and insane for businesses to participate in.
 
I have already written three blogs about how the Groupon coupon model cannot sustain itself indefinitely as businesses realize that the cost of capturing a customer in this manner is too expensive.

Last Friday when the first Groupon Now! deals were announced, I was astounded that one of the offers was for a $30 meal at Geja’s restaurant for $1.00.   I checked on-line for Geja’s menu  and the chicken four-course Premiere Fondue Dinner includes: cheese fondue appetizer,  salad, a mountain of assorted fresh vegetables, eight classic dipping sauces, flaming chocolate dessert fondue and freshly brewed coffee at a prix fixe of $32.95.

So for the $1 Groupon Now! Deal and an additional $2.95, one could eat better and cheaper than at McDonald’s.  How can Geja’s possibly recover from selling a $32.95 meal for $3.45?  (remember 50 cents of the dollar paid for the deal goes to Groupon) And remember that the deal is for a Friday night when a romantic restaurant like Geja’s should not have to be begging for customers.

The Chicago Tribune reported,“The Lincoln Park fondue restaurant has set aside a block of tables for Groupon Now users, who must make a reservation and come in from 5 to 10:30 p.m. Jeff Lawler, managing partner at Geja's Cafe, said 25 percent of his daily business comes from the surrounding neighborhood. ‘I might as well continue to market in my backyard, and this is one of those programs that will allow for it,’ Lawler said.”  He forgot to figure out whether people will return and pay $32.95 for something they had already received for only $3.95.

I spoke to several proprietors and managers of restaurants and asked them how the percentages broke down on revenue.  The amounts differed slightly depending on the level of dining but the consensus was that each dollar of revenue broke down approximately as follows:
 
25% -Food
25%-Staff
10%- Rent
30% -Leased equip. repairs, utilities, licenses, supplies, loan payments, etc.
10%-Profit (if lucky!)

If we use those same percentages and apply them to a Geja’s regularly priced chicken dinner, Lawler would show a profit of $3.29 per customer. That means it costs the restaurant $29.65 to bring the Groupon Now! customer to the table.  That same patron would have to come back 10 more times for Geja’s to just break even on the Groupon Now! deal.   How often does one go for fondue?  Not ten times a year; maybe ten times a lifetime!

So the final question is, will Geja’s go broke Now! or later?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

BRILLIANT MARKETING BY THE CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL





The Center for Disease Control (CDC) pulled off what I think is one of the most brilliant marketing ploys of the decade.  In an effort to educate people about what to do in a real emergency, Dr. Ali S. Kahn, author of the CDC Public Health Matters blog, wrote about what to do in case zombies attacked.  The hits on his post went from about 2,000/week to almost a million in five days!  The link of what to do in a real emergency was provided  and probably drew hundreds of thousands of eyeballs that would normally not visit the CDC web site.

The zombie blog reminded me when Saturday Night Live ran a parody of insurance advertisements and had Law & Order star Sam Waterson touting Old Glory insurance that had a policy to protect elderly people against robot attacks. The reason given for why robots went after older people was because they needed their medicine for energy.

I don’t normally excerpt other people’s blogs, but the CDC is encouraging other bloggers to post the zombie one.  I have extracted my favorite sections of the blog because they do contain information that is helpful for any emergency--zombie or otherwise!

Social Media: Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse

The following was originally posted on CDC Public Health Matters Blog on May 16th, 2011 by Ali S. Khan.
There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for. Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That’s right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.

Better Safe than Sorry
So what do you need to do before zombies…or hurricanes or pandemics for example, actually happen? First of all, you should have an emergency kit in your house. This includes things like water, food, and other supplies to get you through the first couple of days before you can locate a zombie-free refugee camp (or in the event of a natural disaster, it will buy you some time until you are able to make your way to an evacuation shelter or utility lines are restored). Below are a few items you should include in your kit, for a full list visit the CDC Emergency page
  • Water (1 gallon per person per day)
  • Food (stock up on non-perishable items that you eat regularly)
  • Medications (this includes prescription and non-prescription meds)
  • Tools and Supplies (utility knife, duct tape, battery powered radio, etc.)
  • Sanitation and Hygiene (household bleach, soap, towels, etc.)
  • Clothing and Bedding (a change of clothes for each family member and blankets)
  • Important documents (copies of your driver’s license, passport, and birth certificate to name a few)
  • First Aid supplies (although you’re a goner if a zombie bites you, you can use these supplies to treat basic cuts and lacerations that you might get during a tornado or hurricane)
Once you’ve made your emergency kit, you should sit down with your family and come up with an emergency. This includes where you would go and who you would call if zombies started appearing outside your door step. You can also implement this plan if there is a flood, earthquake, or other emergency.
  1. Identify the types of emergencies that are possible in your area. Besides a zombie apocalypse, this may include floods, tornadoes, or earthquakes. If you are unsure contact your local Red Cross chapter for more information. Family members meeting by their mailbox. You should pick two meeting places, one close to your home and one farther away
  2. Pick a meeting place for your family to regroup in case zombies invade your home…or your town evacuates because of a hurricane. Pick one place right outside your home for sudden emergencies and one place outside of your neighborhood in case you are unable to return home right away.
  3. Identify your emergency contacts. Make a list of local contacts like the police, fire department, and your local zombie response team. Also identify an out-of-state contact that you can call during an emergency to let the rest of your family know you are ok.
  4. Plan your evacuation route. When zombies are hungry they won’t stop until they get food (i.e., brains), which means you need to get out of town fast! Plan where you would go and multiple routes you would take ahead of time so that the flesh eaters don’t have a chance! This is also helpful when natural disasters strike and you have to take shelter fast.
Never Fear – CDC is Ready
If zombies did start roaming the streets, CDC would conduct an investigation much like any other disease outbreak. CDC would provide technical assistance to cities, states, or international partners dealing with a zombie infestation. This assistance might include consultation, lab testing and analysis, patient management and care, tracking of contacts, and infection control (including isolation and quarantine). It’s likely that an investigation of this scenario would seek to accomplish several goals: determine the cause of the illness, the source of the infection/virus/toxin, learn how it is transmitted and how readily it is spread, how to break the cycle of transmission and thus prevent further cases, and how patients can best be treated. Not only would scientists be working to identify the cause and cure of the zombie outbreak, but CDC and other federal agencies would send medical teams and first responders to help those in affected areas.


Monday, May 23, 2011

I DON’T CARE ABOUT BEING FAIR- Two stories



While I basically am a very charitable person; I have no problem saying that I am a very selfish person when it comes to what I care about. By that I mean—if something does not have an influence on my life, I don’t care about it! Poverty, education, homelessness, etc. have an effect on my life so I am concerned about those topics, but do I care about funding for county fairs or cage free eggs? Not!


Illinois County Fairs



Last week, both the Illinois House and Senate cut their budgets for the Illinois Department of Agriculture by about 10%, which will impact funding for county fairs. The House has earmarked $5.4 million and the Senate $4.5 million for county fairs, livestock premiums and 4-H clubs. Illinois has 104 county fairs even though the state only has 102 counties! That is too many fairs in my estimation and why should tax-payers fund the fairs that they are not even attending?


The major Illinois State Fair that is held in the capital of Springfield has been allotted $4.3 million and the DuQuoin State Fair in southern Illinois will get about half a million or so. So the state is wasting $5 million so people can see some cows? Drive to southern Illinois if you want to see a cow - you don’t have to go to a fair to see one.  Or go to the museum in Glenview that has cows—who wants to spend gas money driving to Springfield?

In a time of cutbacks for essential human services, who cares about fairs because they do not produce any revenue? They are red ink af”fairs” and I think should be totally eliminated. I laugh at the lawmakers who say that fairs bring people and money into the state because I doubt if other Midwesterners are leaving their own states (that  have their own county fairs) to come to the ones in Illinois. So who are the people who might be coming to Illinois and spending money attending a fair? Not! It is local people, not new money!


CAGE FREE EGGS 



McDonald’s, the fast food giant, announced at its annual meeting last week that it would start buying 1 million cage free eggs a month and buy another 1 million eggs per month from chickens that live in “enriched housing” habitats that provide more space and also include perching and nesting areas. General Mills made the same type announcement in April as part of their, “Corporate Social Responsibility” initiative. Everybody is jumping on the bed wagon of treating chickens fairly.

Sounds good? Not! According to Crain’s Chicago Business, “McDonald's spokespeople could not immediately say how many total eggs the fast-food chain uses a month.” To put the number of 24 million “happy” eggs a year in perspective, Hellman’s uses 350 millions eggs a year just to produce mayonnaise.

There are 31,000 McDonalds’ restaurants.  If they each sold only 100 Egg McMuffins a day,that would be more than 1,000,000,000 (1 billion) eggs a year consumed. Compare that to the number 24 million!

I really don’t care about McDonald’s going cage free on some eggs on two different levels. First, the number of cage free eggs they are using is a joke because the number is so small in scope as to be virtually meaningless. Second, let’s be honest here--in the end the poultry all become McNuggets--unless there is a two-headed chicken who goes on display at a county fair.

Friday, May 20, 2011

MORE GOVERNMENT FOR LESS?




When I read that the Illinois Senate had unanimously passed HB268 (Local Government Consolidation Commission) this week, the topic seemed so familiar I thought I had already written about the subject and was confused.  I did a search on my computer and discovered that I had started a blog on HB268 when it was passed by the Illinois House and had never finished it because I went into the hospital.  Now that the bill will become a law when Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signs it, it seems like a good time to finish my thoughts about HB268 when I started it a few months ago.

The legislation was authored by State Rep. Jack D. Franks (D-Woodstock) and creates a Local Government Consolidation Commission that would be charged with reviewing the effectiveness and impact of local units of government. The Commission would be responsible for formulating recommendations that: permit effective management of local affairs, reduce the multiplicity of local governmental units, eliminate overlapping and duplicative responsibilities, and increase the overall efficiency of local governments.

So basically, Franks has created another governmental body whose sole purpose is to eliminate other government units.  One more unit in hopes of a lot less.  “Illinois has more than 7,000 units of local government, thousands more than the next closest state,” Franks said. “As we find ways to reduce the size of state government, we can also save millions of dollars by identifying opportunities for collaboration and consolidation in local levels of government.”

The Commission will be charged with reviewing the effectiveness and impact of local units of government. They will also be responsible for formulating recommendations that: permit effective management of local affairs, reduce the multiplicity of local governmental units, eliminate overlapping and duplicative responsibilities, and increase the overall efficiency of local governments.

The Commission’s duties include:
  • 1.      Making a survey of the entire structure of local governments and their organization, powers, jurisdiction, and functions;
  • 2.      Studying all laws governing the organization, powers, jurisdiction and functions of local government;
  • 3.      Studying the inter-relationships of local governments to each other and to federal and State governments;
  • 4.      Formulating specific recommendations for legislation or constitutional amendments to (i) permit effective management of local affairs, (ii) encourage local policy decision making, (iii) reduce the multiplicity of local governments, (iv) eliminate overlapping and duplicating of unnecessary powers, (v) increase efficiency and economy in local governments, and (vi) allow optional forms of local governments and increase their authority for cooperation among the levels of government.

This seems like a lot of work and should cost a lot of money.  But no!   Section 20 of the bill addresses that issue, ” The members of the Commission shall serve without compensation.”   They will be reimbursed only for “actual traveling and other expenses incurred in the performance of the duties of the Commission.”

We just have to hope the Commissioners don’t decide to hold a meeting in Las Vegas because then it will cost us!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

DOES ANYONE KNOW HOW TO DO MATH?


Sometimes I think I am the only person in the State of Illinois who knows how to add, subtract and divide.  The accountants that work for The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and the group that administers the new Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax credit program that the Governor signed into law recently must be using an abacus because they obviously have no clue.  I must imagine that they think they are playing with Monopoly money and not the real money of the taxpayers in Illinois when it comes to the latest deal for Continental Tires the Americas (CTA).

 

Last October, I wrote that I was upset when Governor Quinn gave $3.5 million to Groupon as an incentive for hiring 250 new workers.  How naïve I was at the time when I said, “Divide the money by the number of employees and it figures out at about $14,500 per worker.  That is a nice incentive for any company!”

That amount then seemed small in comparison when I wrote last week about Motorola Mobility  and said, “If we divide the $100 million that Motorola is receiving that is about $34,750 for each of the 3,000 employees based in Libertyville. According to the Chicago Tribune, this is, ‘considerably more than the $15,000 to $20,000 per job that is more typical when the state awards tax credits to keep or attract more businesses.’ “

 

Now, last week Quinn announced that CTA would be receiving a $22 million incentive package because they were expanding and would be creating 444 new jobs over the next three years.

 

The press release issued from the Governor’s office said, “The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is administering the state’s $22 million business investment package. In addition to the EDGE tax credits, the package consists of Employer Training Investment Program (ETIP) job training funds that will help enhance the skills of the company’s workforce, and a Large Business Development Grant to assist Continental with capital expenses associated with this project. The company is also eligible for benefits from being located in an Enterprise Zone.”

Let’s take out our calculators.  We divide the $22 million that CTA received by the 444 jobs they are creating and we arrive at $49,549.54 per job.  So Groupon got $14,500 for each new job created, Motorola Mobility got $34,750 and CTA got $49,549.54!  Remember when the average was $15,000 to $20,000?  Now Quinn is giving more than double that.  Does he think money is like toilet paper and the roll will never run out?


Last week, I also wrote that I was going to move to Indiana  unless Quinn gave me some money to stay.  I have now changed my mind.  Instead, I am going to open a business, and create one new job for me.  I ask Quinn, “Where is my $49,548.54?  Should I stop by the Thompson Center to pick it up or will you mail me my check?”


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

TODAY I AM A MAN




Solipism is the philosophical idea that only one’s own mind exists.  It is the theory that knowledge outside of one’s own mind is unjustified.  It can serve as a skeptical hypothesis.  Transgenders wanting to alter their birth certificates to the gender they are now living, but without genital reformation (reassignment) surgery, is not a hypothetical situation, but I still am skeptical (unconvinced, not disbelieving) about the topic.

Definition of transgender might be necessary for some readers in helping to better understand the argument I will propose later. The term transgender is a general term defined by the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as, “of, relating to, or being a person (as a transsexual or transvestite) who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that differs from the one which corresponds to the person's sex at birth.”  The World English dictionary simply says, “of or relating to a person who wants to belong to the opposite sex.” 

The transgender topic was in the news in April and I wrote about the new guidelines that Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has instituted for the treatment of transgenders in jails.  I was skeptical then about housing inmates by the gender they identify with, rather than the gender their genitalia reflects.


The latest transgender news is that a class action lawsuit was filed last week by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU,) against Damon Arnold, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health because that office denied a request by a transgender who wants to change her (she was a he) gender on her birth certificate.  The person, Lauren Grey, has had breast augmentation and facial feminization surgeries, but not genital reformation surgery.  Reformation surgery is required by the state to change one’s sex on their birth certificates, but not for changes on driver’s licenses.


In the Chicago Tribune , Grey said, "I live as a female, I feel female and everybody treats me that way, but this document (her birth certificate) doesn’t reflect that. I know that's not me, but I can't do anything about it."


I am sympathetic to the feelings of people who feel they were born with the reproductive organs of one sex, but want to be the opposite sex, but since the only solid way of defining a man or a woman is by their genitalia, I don’t agree with altering the sex category on one’s birth certificate.  The birth certificate reflects one’s sex at the moment birth, not what sex one wants to live their life as 20 years later.


Maybe another type of certificate could be issued to handle the problem, but I don’t feel an original birth certificate should ever be altered.


This argument reminds me of a story 30 years ago when there was discussion if the United States would switch to the metric system.  I was explaining to a male friend that if the conversion occurred he would not be six feet tall, but would be 1.82 meters and his weight would change from 166 pounds to 12 stone.  He asked me what his age would become.  I laughed and said his age would not change.  He looked at me with disbelief and said, “You don’t know what you are talking abut.  If they change my height and weight, they would have to change my age also.”  He did not ask if “they” could change his sex!


In Judaism, when a boy reaches the age of 13, at his bar mitzvah ceremony he announces that, “today I am a man.”   That happens because under Jewish Law children are not obligated to observe the Ten Commandments.  The bar mitzvah ceremony formally makes it public that he is now of the age to observe the commandments and to take part in leading religious services and other adult responsibilities.


But is he really a “man"? In our society he would still be considered a child until he is 18 years of age.  His declaring so does not make it legal.


Declaring one is a man or a woman does not change one’s original gender.  It is a philosophical idea that exists outside my comprehension, so it is not justified.  According to René Descartes, “Cogito ergo sum.”  I think therefore I am does not make the new gender legal.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

WHO READ THE 71 PAGES? Part 2



Yesterday I wrote the background on the 71 page
transition report that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s team wrote before he took office.  I also satirized a few sections.  You need to read that posting before this one or this posting might not make sense!


STUPID IDEA #4:
Page 23 tells us about what will be accomplished in our communities and that part of the measure of that success will be: Basic human needs – housing, food, health, and safety – will be met for all Chicagoans.

I will deal here just with the issue of housing needs being met for all Chicagoans.

On June 14, 2010 the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) reopened the waiting list for public housing that had been closed since 1999.  At that time there were still 5,000 people on the waiting list.  The CHA was prepared to add 40,000 people to the list and in three days the list of applicants had already reached 125,000.   Applications were accepted for one month and while I could not find out what the exact total of applications were, they numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Applicants’ names were then entered into an electronic lottery and that is how the 40,000 that made the final wait list were chosen.
On the CHA web site of FAQ  we see the question: I received a rejection letter. Now what?”
 
The answer is:
“Unfortunately, you are not eligible to live in CHA's Family Housing at this time.”

Back in 2008, when CHA opened the waiting list for Section 8 housing (rent voucher subsidies) more than 232,000 people applied for 40,000 slots.

How many public housing units are there? CHA has almost 9,200 apartments in buildings designated for seniors and more than 8,600 units of family housing. It also oversees the administration of 36,900 Housing Choice Vouchers that allow low-income families to rent in the private market.”

So there are 17,800 units of public housing; 40,000 people on a wait list for those units and hundreds of thousands of people who did not make the list.  Do the math!

Once a sane person looks at the vast difference in the number of public housing units and the number of people who need public housing, one wonders how the Emanuel administration can fulfill the basic need of housing without billions of dollars to build more units.  If only 100,000 people needed housing and each unit in an apartment cost $50,000 to build that would be $5 billion!

Obviously the basic need of housing for all Chicagoans cannot be met.  Better take that off the list Rahm.


STUPID IDEA #5:
I have made my position clear about how I feel about people who ride bicycles in the City of Chicago.   In my most recent on March 24th, “It Does Not Matter Who Was Here First, Urban Roads Belong To Cars Now!, I reiterated the problems that exist when machine meets man.

Page 37 looks to, ”Create a world-class bike network and increase cycling.” The transition plan’s answer their own question of  “Why do this?” is “More than 60% of trips in Chicago are three miles or less, and bicycles are an increasingly popular mode of transportation, particularly on short commutes.”

First, where did they get the number that 60% of trips in Chicago are three miles or less?  I am guessing from taxi cabs statistics that put the average short trip at 2.8 miles.  So just because one takes a cab does not mean they want to substitute that mode of transportation for a bike!

Second, if people are ridding bikes that means they are not using public transportation.  The less people who utilize buses, the deeper in the hole The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) goes from uncollected fares.  Right now that system, according to the Chicago Tribune,  has almost $7 billion in unfunded capital needs and “ will reluctantly use capital funds meant for improvements to help balance the day-to-day 2011 operating budget and avoid reducing services again.”

The transition plan also says, “Chicago needs a bike lane network that allows every Chicagoan to feel safe on city streets. The administration will help Chicago become a pioneer in the creation and expansion of protected bike lanes, which are separated from traveling cars and sit between the sidewalk and a row of parked cars that shield cyclists from street traffic.”
This makes no sense.  It there is a protected lane created by erecting some sort of barrier between bicyclist and parked cars, how will delivery trucks be able to pull up to the curb to unload?  How will a passenger exiting an automobile curbside be able to open the door?

Also, For example, the City will dramatically increase the miles of bike lanes added each year, from 8 to 25 miles.”  Where is the money coming from to pay for increasing the number of bike lanes when Emanuel said in Stupd Idea #1 that he will freeze spending?

The transition plan  is Rahm’s “road map for building a better city “and sets targets for the first 100 days.  Chicago was founded in 1833, approximately 64,970 days ago, and Rahm wants to fix it in 100.  Good luck!


Monday, May 16, 2011

WHO READ THE 71 PAGES? Part 1



I read the 71 (media has reported 72 pages, but it is 71) page transition plan that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s team wrote, so you wouldn’t have to.  It is grandiose, verbose and lacks concrete ideas.  The 55 initiatives have much “sound,” but lack “fury.”  Today is Part 1 of my analysis, tomorrow will be Part 2.
 
We were told (I believe nothing until I see the invoices!) that the plan cost $200,000 to produce and was paid for by contributions from four of Chicago’s leading nonprofit foundations: The MacArthur, Joyce, McCormick and Spencer foundations.  That fact bothers me on so many levels, but this blog is not about that issue.

The report starts out by saying that the “transition committees met a total of 29 times in committee and subcommittee sessions to develop and submit recommendations for consideration in this transition plan. As part of their process, the committees met with key stakeholders in neighborhoods throughout the city and analyzed and considered more than 1,800 ideas, including 1,185 suggestions submitted via our public web site.” I would have loved to have seen some of the public’s suggestions to see if they included any expletives in describing how the City of Chicago is so underwater financially we might all soon be living in rowboats on Lake Michigan!

The rhetoric in the plan is flowery and the scribes seemed to like the words, “reinvented” and “reinvention” because that is the constant underlying theme.  The City Colleges embarked on their “reinvention” a number of months ago, long ago before the Transition Committee even existed. 

Part of the City Colleges “reinvention” is that they are changing the school colors of the various colleges.  None of the colleges have sports teams, so why are they doing that?  In fact at Harold Washington College the colors have gone from black and gold to orange and silver.  Black and gold were the colors Mayor Washington used for his campaigns, so why change them? Think of the amount of money being spent on changing all the colleges’ marketing materials to reflect the new colors.  If this is what reinvention is, I don’t think it is cost effective!  Sorry for the digression, but I thought it was important for people to know that so they could understand exactly what reinvention means to government officials.  Slapping on a new coat of paint does not reinvent something!

Now to my insights on a few sections of the plan:


STUPID IDEA #1:

Page 10 of the plan announces that Emmanuel will,Cut $75 million immediately.”... “How will we do this? First, the administration will freeze spending.”

Freezing spending does not cut anything out of a budget.  It just stops NEW expenditures, not OLD ones.  The OLD ones are still listed in a budget that is hundreds of millions of dollars in deficit.  How come nobody else seems to realize this?

For the mathematically challenged, here is a simple explanation.

If in one’s budget is $100 for monthly cell phone bill, and you freeze your spending, that means you won’t add extras on your cell bill like new aps or downloading music.  Your cell phone bill will still be $100/month.  Where have you cut any costs from your bill? 

Once again, freezing spending does not stop the current bills!

STUPID IDEA #2:

Page 19 tells us that, “From day one, the administration will hire professionals who are driven by performance.”

In the public sector, that kind of statement about hiring would make sense.  But in Chicago, 80% of city employees are covered by union collecting bargaining agreements and then there are those that are Shakman protected. It is almost impossible to fire anyone!   There are about 35,000 people employed by the City of Chicago and only about 1300 of them are Shakman exempt!  So less than 4% of the current workforce can be fired if they are not, “driven by performance.”

So even if 4% of the workforce is “driven by performance,” 96% don’t have to be because they can’t be fired!
 

STUPID IDEA #3:


Page 20 tells us: “Health care costs for city employees are growing far faster than the rate of inflation and outstripping growth of Chicago’s revenue. In 2011, taxpayers will spend nearly $500 million on health care costs for city employees, their families, and retirees. In Chicago, just 4% of government employees generate more than 60% of the City’s health care costs. “

Their solution? The Chicago health and wellness plan will be developed and rolled out.”

Will there be cameras placed in City Hall to monitor what food employees are eating like is being done to students in an elementary school in Texas?   If an employee is caught eating a doughnut on break will they get “written up” and sent to the Mayor’s office for discipline?

My solution?  If ”4% of government employees generate more than 60% of the City’s health care costs,” fire that 4%!  That’s about the same percentage of Shakman exempt employees!  And since we were told those employees eat-up 60% of the City’s health costs, (and that bill is $500 million) getting rid of them will cut $300 million from spending!  My savings are more than those in Stupid Idea #1!

Macbeth said in his soliloquy in act 5, scene 5 of the eponymous play, ”it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."   William Shakespeare might have written those lines 400 years ago, but it could have been today.




Friday, May 13, 2011

Pictures from WingMadness 2011!

WingMadness 2011 was fabulous! We raised a lot of money for the Easter Seals of Metro Chicago's music therapy program.  This is the last time I will write about it in 2011!  But when 2012 comes, you will be hearing about it again.

Both competitions were won by policemen form Chicago's 18th District. The spicy winner was Brendan McCormack and speed/quantity was Robert Markvart.  Thank you so much to major sponsors Dick's Last Resort, WCIU, "The U", Grand Mitsubishi of Bensenville/Elmhurst, Horseshoe Casino Hammond, Franks, Gerkin and McKenna, Scott Lee Cohen,  Robert Dowey Photography and Popular Community Bank.  Joey  Midnight and the Fleshtones played fabulous music, Dr. Charlie Menghini of VanderCook College of Music trumpeted the competitors to the gate, VASA Security Systems provided security and Laser Sounds created and ran the web site.  Todd Underwood designed the WM logo.  I am sure I forgot to thank someone, so I apologize for that! 

Enjoy the pictures below.  I am too lazy to photo caption all of them.




QUICK RESPONSE




It is well known that I have been as close to a Luddite as possible. My blog about my fear (of learning how to use an Android phone clearly related that. So it will certainly be a shock to learn that I have my own Quick Response (QR) code. (See code to your left.)

QR Code is a two-dimensional barcode, which has encoded in it a web address, text, or other information. It can be read by a QR code scanner ap on your phone.  Computer Gigolo Kevin Black created my personal QR code which I now have printed on the back of my business cards. (If you want your own code, e-mail me and I will put you in touch with Kevin.  He won’t charge much!)  One only has to scan the code and they are instantly directed to my web site and blog.  I feel like one of the cool kids in high school eating lunch at the “in” table!

Companies are using QR codes on pamphlets that are passed out in guerilla marketing because it gives them instant feedback and the ability to measure the response rate with an exacting degree of precision to how many people are responding to your code.

The Cook County Forest Preserve is planning on putting QR codes on signs that will guide people around the parks if there is nobody around to answer questions. The Cubs have put the codes on print ads in the Tribune and companies have used the codes on billboards and other marketing materials. All great marketing ideas, but I have some thoughts of my own for QR codes.

Create a free web site with your family’s contact information. Get a QR code that leads to that site and put it on a rubber stamp. Now, instead of pinning a note to a child’s hood with their name and telephone number, stamp your QR code in the neck-lining of shirts and jackets. Stamp it on their school books. Put the code on your dog’s collar. Anything one might lose and want to get back should have a QR code on it.

If I had a boyfriend, I would tattoo (not just stamp!) a QR code on his hand. That way, before a woman tried to hit on him, she could scan the code that would lead to a web site that would tell her that he is taken and she better back off.

One can put their QR code on stickers. Where to affix them? Now one has an easy way to replace the time-honored tradition of scribbling their phone number on bathroom walls; "For a good time call…” just slap your QR code in the stall. Or better yet, the QR code of your enemy!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

WING MADNESS IS UPON US!! Finally!

Molly the Royal Cat

Okay. I have bombarded you with WingMadness for the past two months and now the event is finally here! Please help support Easter Seals of Metro Chicago with your presence.  The party stars at 5:30 and tickets are only $25 each which includes food and non-alcoholic beverages.

WCIU, "The U," is the media sponsor and they have been wonderful in promoting the event. One of the fun promotions is that today, May 11, Molly, the cat of the Honorable Robert Chatterton Dickson, British Consul General, is featured on The U's web site.

Molly is participating in the daily Dog vs. Cat "beauty pageant" that WCIU runs. Molly's dad is a judge at WingMadness! It all ties in!
Please vote for Molly!

The live auction will give bidders a chance to bid on a role for their dog to star in a television commercial airing on The U. That will be very exciting to buy for someone who really loves their dog! 

WingMadness was featured on "U and Me This Morning," with Aly Bockler reporting. Here is the link for you to watch the footage.


If you have not bought your tickets at the WingMadness web site already, you will need to buy at the door.

There will be many activities going on at WingMadness besides the chicken wing eating (speed and spicy) competitions.

Raffle prizes (tickets only $5!) will be awarded. The grand prize is a summer lease on a 2011 (check year) Mitsubishi Spyder convertible provided by Grand Mitsubishi of Bensenville/Elmhurst. The car will be on display at Dick’s Last Resort (315 N. Dearborn) outside of the event. Other prizes available for viewing on the WingMadnesss web site.
 
A pick-a-prize) raffle and a silent auction will also be available. The prizes range from a weekend stay at the Elysian to tickets at the Venue at Horseshoe Casino. There are Tiffany pens, Concord watches, Shoreline cruise certificates, pie of the month club membership, etc.—high class stuff!

There will also be a band playing and dancing in the aisles. See you at Dicks!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gov. Quinn, “I am going to move to Indiana unless you give me money!”









 
Last week, the State of Illinois gave Motorola Mobility tax credits worth $100 million over the next 10 years not to move to another state.  To get this pot of money into Motorola’s coffers, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation that changed how the state’s Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax-credit program works.  The deal astounds me!

Normally EDGE provides tax-credits for companies that are used towards paying their state corporate income tax bill.  But what if your company is very clever, has great accountants, knows every loop hole and doesn’t pay any corporate income tax?  In 2009, Motorola Mobility had NO CORPORATE TAX liability!  Well, it would seem this program would not be for Motorola. Au contraire, my naïve blog friends.

What Quinn did was add an option to EDGE and allow Motorola to use the tax credits towards paying their employees’ personal state income tax withholding liability.  So not only are the taxpayers of Illinois now not getting the benefits of the personal state income tax of employees, the employees are funding the $100 million their company is pocketing.

What is also so incredible about this deal is that Quinn pushed hard to get the state personal income tax raised from 3% to 5% and is now using that money and giving it back 100% to a corporation instead of it going to the state treasury!!


The Chicago Tribune reported that, Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a nonprofit that researches economic development subsidies, called the diversion of personal income tax revenue “an insidious recent development. It is like companies grabbing into employees' pockets.”

Understandable example:

Employee weekly paycheck-- $1,000
Illinois State Income tax 5%- $50

Normally a company would have to send that $50 to the state as withholding.  But, in this case, it’s not.  Quinn is allowing Motorola Mobility to keep it!  So the employees are funding the company!

If we divide the $100 million that Motorola is receiving that is about $34,750 for each of the 3,000 employees based in Libertyville.  According to the Chicago Tribune, this is, “considerably more than the $15,000 to $20,000 per job that is more typical when the state awards tax credits to keep or attract businesses.”
The Tribune also reported that “This is not the first time a Motorola company has received government incentives. In 2003, Motorola Inc. closed a plant in Harvard that employed 5,000 people. The cell phone plant had been the recipient of $36 million in government incentives, mostly in the form of road and infrastructure upgrades to support the facility.”

What??  They received $36 million in incentives and then closed the plant?  Who wrote up that contract?  Why didn’t it say if they took the money, they had to stay?

I have decided to move to Indiana unless I receive some monetary incentive to stay.  I help raise hundred of thousands of dollars each year for Illinois not-for-profits.  If I did not raise that money, the state would have to provide more funding.  I want $34,750 (the same subsidy paid Motorola per employee) or I will be calling Allied Van Lines. Who else is with me?

By the way, did I mention that the Daily Herald says that Motorola Mobility Chief Executive Officer Sanjay Jha lives in San Diego, California?  Thought you would like to know.

Monday, May 9, 2011

SEX AT ANY WEIGHT



In 2004 The Duke University Diet and Fitness Center did a study on whether obese (obesity is defined by a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater) people enjoyed sex as much as “normal-weight” people.  The researchers found that, "Obese people were 25 times as likely to report dissatisfaction with sex as the normal-weight people.”  Now seven years later Duke did another study and found again that obesity may lower sexual satisfaction.  Of course one would expect that a DIET CENTER would report a lower sexual satisfaction or everyone would want to eat more pie!  If they found that obese people enjoyed sex more, who would want to lose weight?

The latest study reported on the findings from 91 obese men and 134 obese women, certainly not a large control group.  Before enrolling in a weight loss program, the participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire that addressed nine areas: interest, desire, arousal, orgasm, satisfaction, behavior, relationship, masturbation and sexual problems.
"We found that there was lower sexual satisfaction and lower sexual quality of life among women than men, and overall sexual quality of life was low among both groups," said Dr. Truls Ostbye, a professor in the department of community and family medicine in a Duke news release.
Ostbye also said, "Our findings contribute to a growing body of research that indicates obesity is associated with reduced sexual functioning and sexual quality of life among both men and women."
The researchers got their results by comparing the answers and scores of the obese people to the scores of a group of cancer survivors studied in 2006 and a general population group. Now I am not a researcher, but if I wanted to compare findings of two groups, I would not pit fat people against cancer survivors! Not meaning to be crass, the cancer survivors might be so happy that they did not die; any kind of sex would be pleasurable to them!
Let’s be analytical here for a moment.
 (1) The study concluded that fat people are less sexually satisfied than normal-weight people.
(2)  What makes one sexually satisfied is the ability of one’s partner. 
Obvious conclusion:  So it makes no difference what the person answering the questions weighs, the body weight of their partner is what should be measured!  That is who is doing the heavy-lifting!
My having an orgasm depends on if George Clooney stepped up to the plate, not what my health-o-meter reports.  Duke University really faked this one.