URBAN PHILOSOPHER
Conscience Laureate

Thursday, June 30, 2011

HOW COME?


Sometimes as I go though my day, I wonder, “How come?” about certain things.  I have listed my “How come?” questions below.





(1) THIS WILL ONE GET ME IN TROUBLE, BUT I HAVE TO ASK




How come there is no heterosexual pride parade?  I don’t understand why one feels proud by trumpeting the gender of the person they are having sex with.




(2) ATTRACTIVE PEOPLE


How come there are no attractive people leading political protests?  One never sees a supermodel waving a placard calling for the withdrawal of troops.

(3)  CHOICE



How come a woman can choose to abort a fetus, but cannot choose to sell her kidney or liver?  How come pro-choice does not cover every organ in the body?







(4) THINGS ARE IN THE SADDLE AND RIDE MANKIND 

This Ralph Waldo Emerson quote causes me to ask, “How come people who have less money think they are entitled to the wealth of others?   We don’t live in a world anymore of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” 





(5) SHARING THE ROADWAY

How come bicyclists in Chicago never get tickets for traffic violations and think they own the streets?   Both the former and current Mayor have given cyclists some special status where the rules of the road do not apply to them.




(6) SHARING THE SIDEWALKS

I have no problem with sidewalk cafes-- though why someone would want to eat in the heat is beyond me—but the proprietors are often selfish.  How come no one pays attention to how wheel-chair bound people cannot navigate when the restaurant tables are blocking a huge portion of the sidewalk?  Performing a serpentine walking pattern is hard enough for me navigating in my 6 inch heels.

(7) SPECIAL PARKING PRIVILEGES


How come cars parked in front of Gold Coast Rolls Royce on Rush Street in Chicago can park illegally all day?  Maybe I am jealous.  See question number four about jealousy of another’s wealth.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

DOES ANYBODY REALLY KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS?




Until I read an Associated Press story about the nation’s electric grid, I never knew that, “Since 1930, electric clocks have kept time based on the rate of the electrical current that powers them. If the current slips off its usual rate, clocks run a little fast or slow. Power companies now take steps to correct it and keep the frequency of the current — and the time — as precise as possible.”  So what if that changes?  What time will it really be?

 

AP  obtained a document of a presentation by The North American Electric Reliability Corpthe group that oversees the U.S. power grid, which said they are proposing an experiment that “… would allow more frequency variation than it does now without corrections.” What a minute or do I mean wait a second? If there are not corrections in the rate of the power current, electric clocks won’t be able to keep time accurately.

 

Cell phones, computers, GPS, atomic clocks, U.S. time or Internet time won’t be affected because their information comes from Coordinated Universal Time, the time standard by which the world regulates clocks, a time standard based on International Atomic Time. Basically, atoms not electricity.

 

But clocks that we have in our bedrooms to wake us up or clocks on the oven or coffeemaker could start flashing 12:00, 12:00, 12:00 if the power grid rate of delivery of electricity changes.

 

According to AP, the June 14th NAERC report said, “East Coast clocks may run as much as 20 minutes fast over a year, but West Coast clocks are only likely to be off by 8 minutes. In Texas, it’s only an expected speedup of 2 minutes.”

Do any of us non-scientists understand this?  No, but sometimes it is just fun to learn something. You never know when you will be at a dinner party and the President of ComEd is sitting next to you. A good ice breaker would be to lean over and ask him if he knows what time it is.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

ABORTION BY TELEPHONE




Until the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill banning the use of federal funds for “telemedicine” medical abortions, as an amendment to the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2012, HR 2112, I had never heard of that procedure.  The Act also states that, “none of the funds made available by this Act may be used for mifepristone, commonly known as RU-486, for any purpose.”  I am sure this will outrage the Pro-Choice crowd.
Before people make a final decision, please read some basic facts.


TELEMEDICINE ABORTION
(1) A telemed abortion is conducted by a woman ingesting the pill RU-486 that is prescribed via a teleconferencing system like “Skype” in an abortion clinic.  It has been determined that the patient is pregnant, but no medical doctor sees her or physically examines her.

(2) The patient interacts with the doctor over an internet connection.  Over the telephone, the doctor explains the procedure to the patient.  He gives her information about the pill he will prescribe to her, RU-486.  The pill is an abortifacient available for use during the first two months of pregnancy.

(3) After a brief discussion, the doctor verbally prescribes the drug to the patient.

(4)  The patient clicks a button on a computer screen that opens a box containing the drug.

(5) The drug is administered by a nurse or aide who may or may not be licensed.

(6)  The telephone doctor never meets the patient or sees her for follow up.

That does not sound too horrible, until one reads the correct procedure for administering RU-486 on the site of The National Abortion Federation , the professional association for abortion providers in North America.  This is, obviously, a pro-choice group, so the description of the procedure should be accepted by the pro-abortion crowd as not being biased.
(1)  At a Doctor’s office or clinic:

(a)  A medical history of the patient is obtained and a clinical exam and lab tests are performed.

(b) Counseling is given and informed consent is obtained.

(c) If the patient is eligible for a medical abortion, the woman swallows the mifepristone pill(s).

(2)   At the office/clinic or at home (depending on the treatment regimen)
 This step takes place within about 2 days of step one. 

(a)  Unless abortion has occurred and has been confirmed by the clinician, the woman takes an additional drug, misoprostol.

(3) At the office or clinic:

(a) This step takes place about 2 weeks after step two.

(b) The clinician evaluates the patient to confirm that the abortion was ‘successful’. It is absolutely essential for women to return to the office/clinic to confirm that the abortion is complete.

(c) If the pregnancy has not been successfully terminated, a traditional suction abortion must be provided.

(d) If the abortion was unsuccessful, the clinician will discuss possible treatment options with the patient. These options may include waiting and re-evaluating for traditional abortion within days.

It appears that  telemedicine abortion does not follow correct medical procedure because it leaves out some of the steps necessary in follow up.

A number of states (Kansas, Oklahoma and Arizona) have already banned the procedure out-right because it is so dangerous. In May of this year, the Nebraska legislature passed a bill that would make it a felony for abortionists to perform medical abortions via webcam.

RU-486 is a very powerful drug.  So whether one is pro-life or pro-choice, everyone should agree that the drug should not be administered unless the patient is under careful medical supervision.

So before all the women’s rights groups start calling their Congressmen to complain, know the independent facts!  Telemed abortions are dangerous to the life of the mother.  They are certainly fatal to the life of the baby.


Monday, June 27, 2011

SEARS IS VERY CRAFTY!




The Associated Press, through a Freedom of Information request, discovered that 107 companies in Illinois have tax-breaks that will expire in 2012, 2013 and 2014.  Sears is part of that group so they are talking to other states to see which states will give it money as an incentive to relocate.  Very crafty move from the seller of Craftsman products!

When you think about it, the wheeling and dealing of the business climate in Illinois resembles a giant game of Groupon.  Groupon offers the customer an incentive to come and try their product at a highly discounted price.  The theory is that once the consumer samples the product, they will come back and pay full price.  That is how the retailer will cover the loss of luring the customer in.  Illinois has lured companies to come to the state by offering tax incentives, but now that the “Illinois Tax Groupon” is expiring, the customer does not want to pay full price!  They have tasted the grape of reduced taxes and want Groupon to continue.

That is the major flaw with the Groupon model.  Why should the customer come back at full price once it has experienced the service at half price?  Illinois has dug an economic hole for itself that is so deep, there is no ladder tall enough to reach fertile ground.

Crain’s Chicago Business reported, “A state spokeswoman said there is no set way for the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to handle expiring tax incentive contracts. But she said the end of a deal isn't a guarantee of a new one.

“This is not an automatic ticket for a company to get additional incentives," Marcelyn Love said in an e-mail. “Our focus is on being responsive to companies so we can better assess their needs and make Illinois an attractive place to do business. If a company decides that they will be making additional investments and are interested in getting state assistance, then we would work with them.”

I wonder how long Love’s nose grew as she spouted those lies!  Illinois Governor Quinn has already said that he would work with Sears to try to keep them in the state.  Sears has not said it was planning to “[make] additional investments.”  It threatened to move to another sandbox if it did not continue to receive the same tax breaks.

Sears should move to another state and accept their “Groupon” tax benefits.  Then it should come back to Illinois in a few years for a giant payday.  The latest financial incentives Quinn has offered companies have been escalating as the months pass.  The tax breaks range from a per-job created low of $14,500 (Groupon in 2010) to $49,549 (Continental Tires the Americas) to the most recent JMC Steel Group Inc of $80,000 per job ($2 million for 25 jobs.) Now it is time to take out the calculator.

If Sears demands its incentive at the highest monetary amount that Quinn has doled out, then those 5,000 jobs the company has at its headquarters in Hoffman Estates are worth HALF A BILLION dollars to the company!  Even at the average per job incentive of $48,000 that still would reap Sears $240,000.000.

A smart corporation would move every few years to a new state and grab the best “Groupon Tax Incentive” it can get.  It is not fiscally wise to be a repeat customer when there is always another state that will offer a new “Deal of the Day.”

Friday, June 24, 2011

ECONOMIC JUSTICE FOR ILLINOIS



I have written multiple times about the financial incentives Governor Pat Quinn has given to Illinois corporations to persuade them to either stay in Illinois or to add more workers.  One would think that I am an econometrician!  (Bit of KP trivia: I actually was an econometrician with Merrill Lynch years ago!)   What a frustration it is to have to point out how the numbers don’t make sense!  Now I have been vindicated by State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo), the Chicago Tribune, and Crain’s Chicago Business in revealing the fine print in their contracts. 

There will be economic justice for the taxpayers of Illinois!

On May 10th, I wrote about the insanity of the $100 million that Quinn was giving Motorola Mobility over the next decade to stay in Illinois.  Motorola Mobility did not pay one penny in corporate income tax, so the incentive money partially came from allowing Motorola Mobility to keep their own employees’ income tax withholding-- instead of turning it over  to the state coffers. 

On Monday, the Tribune reported, “What was not disclosed at the time is that the agreement specifically requires Motorola Mobility to retain a workforce here of 2,500 workers. The company disclosed in the contract that it employs 3,290 people at its locations in Libertyville and Chicago, which therefore allows it to reduce the size of its workforce and still get the credits.”

As Judge Judy always points out, an oral contract cannot supersede a written one.  The fact that Quinn says the state has an "oral" agreement with Motorola Mobility to keep 3,000 jobs in Illinois is not worth the tongue it was spoken with. 

How can I be sure of that?  Because in 2003, Motorola, Inc.,(The original parent company to Motorola Mobility before that division was spun off in January 2011) took $36 million in financial incentives to upgrade their Harvard facility which employed 5,000 workers. After taking the money, they closed the plant.

Can you hear me now?  How can the state trust Motorola Mobility?


Rep. Franks called the Motorola Mobility deal “outrageous” and called for all future economic and financial deals to be made public before they are signed off by the Governor. “If citizens knew that (Motorola Mobility) could fire 790 people and still get the tax credits, I don't think anyone would stand for that," he continued.

Since corporations are crying poverty because the State of Illinois raised the corporate income tax (which did not affect free-loading Motorola Mobility) as Franks said, “There is no benefit (to increasing the tax rate) if the governor keeps giving it away."

Is Motorola Mobility the only tricky company involved in getting money for “retaining” jobs that they might not keep? Guess what?  According to Crain’s Chicago Business, “A $64.7-million state deal last September to keep Navistar International Corp. in Illinois lacks a guarantee that the truck and engine maker won’t cut jobs here.”

Crain’s also pointed out that, “In its application for state tax credits, Navistar said it employed 3,100 workers in four Chicago-area locations but planned to pare that number to 2,200, while hiring 400 more "over the next several years."
So if Navistar has 3,100 workers now and will have 2,600 later, why did they get money from Illinois to retain jobs?  They are announcing that they will have fewer jobs than they currently employ.

Franks’ reacted to discovering the Navistar details by responding, “I think it’s bad public policy to use state tax dollars to subsidize the termination of Illinois employees, and that’s what it is; there’s no way to sugarcoat it.”

“If the public knew that corporations receiving multi-million dollar financial incentive packages could reduce their workforce by 10-20%, but still collect full tax credits – I do not believe they would stand for it,” Franks continued. “Public policy that permits state tax dollars to subsidize the termination of Illinois employees is painfully flawed and in need of oversight.” 

Small corporations in Illinois who are actually paying the increased corporate tax rate have been victims of a financial injustice.  Maybe Franks will bring some order to financial law in Illinois.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

MEDICAL PAROLE, JUSTICE FOR WHOM?




California recently passed a new state law that allows inmates with dire health conditions to be released under “medical parole”.  The theory is that their disabilities are so debilitating that they are no longer a threat to society.  A Parole Board must approve release before any inmate is freed.   The law states that the prisoner must be “permanently medically incapacitated with a medical condition that renders him or her permanently unable to perform activities of basic daily living, and results in the prisoner requiring 24-hour care.”   

The legislation was not passed for compassionate reasons, but solely to save the state the tens of millions of dollars a year it costs to house these prisoners.  This law is an injustice to the victims who suffered because of the crimes these people committed against them.  I have no empathy for their health conditions.  Prison is not only meant to keep violent offenders out of society for safety’s sake, it is also designed to punish those who have committed such vile crimes.
 
One of the first prisoners to receive such a parole is Craig Lemke, who reportedly has brain tumors, needs feeding and breathing tubes and requires 24-hour care.  I could not find out how he came to be in this condition. He was healthy when he entered prison.

Lemke was a “three-strikes” inmate.  His criminal history goes back to 1981.  He resisted arrest.  He was found in possession of a sawed-off shotgun.  He drove under the influence.  He was convicted for petty theft.  He sold methamphetamine.  He committed burglary.  He stole a car.  On top of everything else, he repeatedly violated his parole.

He once even assaulted his own 77-year old grandmother and stole checks from her to pay for his heroin habit.  In 1994, he tied a man and his 15-year old son up at gunpoint, then ransacked their home and threatened them if they went to the police.  He was sentenced to seven years in prison for that particular crime.

Lemke’s criminal career became increasingly violent. In 2007, he was sentenced to 68 years to life in state prison for the home invasion robbery of an elderly couple that he knew!  He and his accomplice tied the couple up with electrical tape, destroyed their home, stole $2,000 of property and took six rifles.

His conviction was for two counts of first degree home invasion robbery, first degree burglary, three counts of elder abuse, grand theft of firearms, two on-bail enhancements.  That, combined with the previous two strikes gave him a minimum eligible parole date of July 1, 2071.  He would have died in prison and that is where he should die!

Lemke’s release is an example of “check-book” justice in reverse.  The state of California does not want to pay for this brutal man’s care so they released him.  Now, his 24-hour care will be paid for by some federal agency’s medical program.  In any scenario, taxpayers will be funding this man’s care.  At least if he remained in prison, maybe he would die sooner and save us all the $750,000 it takes to keep him alive every year.

Is it justice to release this brutal criminal?  Or is it injustice to the families who suffered because of his crimes?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

THE ULTIMATE GRAND SUPREME



The ultimate grand supreme can be a crown at a kiddie beauty pageant or a ruling of the United States Supreme Court.    Today is part three of my series, “Law and Order” week and it is time to examine the United States Supreme Court and some of the upcoming cases in the final two weeks of this session.

In my previous blogs, I carefully explained all the legalities; today’s posting will be my personal rulings without paying any attention to what the actual law might be.  I call it “Common Sense Court.”  (Which will also be the name of my “future” television show.)

Wal-Mart vs. Dukes


The case focuses on the issue of whether 1.6 million female Wal-Mart employees can sue for gender discrimination in a class action suit.  It is not a ruling on the merits of the case, just whether a class action can be certified.  I wrote about this case in March  when it was the five year anniversary of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas not having asked a single question during oral arguments.  I did not know how he could possibly keep quiet on this topic.

Before I had a chance to post this blog, the Supreme Court made its ruling and rejected the potential class-action suit, reasoning that the class would be too large!  That is insane!  The Court obviously must believe that merit for the lawsuit exists or they would not think the class would be too big.  If Wal-Mart had discriminated only against a few hundred women, then the suit could proceed?  Makes no sense in my Common Sense Court.

This Court would probably also rule that six million Jews were not killed in concentration camps because that number is too big.  Using the Court’s logic, how could the Nazis have gotten rid of so many bodies?


Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants Association


This case deals with limiting the sale of ultra-violent video games to minors.  Lower courts in many states have ruled against this on the grounds that it interferes with freedom of speech.  My ruling is that if stores can limit the sale of alcohol and tobacco, they can limit the sale of video games or anything else they want to.  The government is not attempting to forbid the sales of such materials altogether – it simply wants to keep it out of age groups too immature to handle them.  I realize that a broad statement like that could get me into trouble.  After all, it could be interpreted to justify a future ruling that would prevent obese people from buying candy at the grocery store because they are too “immature” to realize how many calories they are consuming.

McComish vs. Bennett


This case deals with public campaign funding.  It stems back to 1998 when Arizona voters approved the Clean Elections Act.  The Act provides for public financing of state wide elections if the candidate collected a specific number of $5 donations.  If an opposing candidate chooses not to participate in the public financing and had oodles of money, then the participating candidate would receive matching funds to keep the race competitive. 

There have been all sorts of suits on this issue. The Supreme Court ruled in 2008 on another election funding case known as the “Millionaire’s Amendment.”   The Court struck down the provision saying that the goal of ‘leveling’ electoral opportunities does not justify a campaign finance system in which “the vigorous exercise of the right to use personal funds to finance campaign speech produces fundraising advantages for opponents in the competitive context of electoral politics.”

My ruling is that if  political candidates are wealthy, they can spend as much of their own personal money as they want to in an attempt to win any race they want to.  If the opposing candidates are poor, let them eat cake. 

American Electric Power Co. vs. Conn.


This global warming case was described by David Savage in the Los Angeles Times as, “whether California, New York and four other states can sue the nation's five largest producers of the greenhouse gases that are widely blamed for causing climate change. The coal-fired power plants are concentrated in the Midwest and South. “

As I wrote in April 2009,“Global warming? It is snowing in April!! The “inconvenient truth” that there is no global warming was proved today when snow fell in April causing the cancellation of the White Sox opener. It has been 27 years since a White Sox opener was delayed. So how is the world “warming up”, if the temperature is falling? I planned on building a snowman in honor of Al Gore to prove the fallacy of the global warming myth, but in the city the snow goes away as soon as it falls.

My ruling is that global warming does not exist.  There is no merit to this lawsuit.  It should be thrown out.  Period.  End of story.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

JUSTICE OR INJUSTICE TWO CASES YOU DECIDE-- Part 2




Yesterday I wrote about my disagreement with an Illinois Supreme Court decision that allowed a convicted murderer to keep the wages he earned in prison, rather than require him to repay the state (and the taxpayers) for his own sustenance. Today I write about my disagreement with an Illinois Appellate Court decision against a policeman.  An important caveat:  I am NOT an attorney!  My analyses of these cases are based on common sense, not the law!  (Which is how cases should be decided anyway, in my own humble opinion…)

Case # 2

BACKGROUND OF HOW EARL FILSKOV WAS INJURED:

The information below is from the filing of the case:

On October 5, 2007, Officer Filskov was on duty and in uniform as a member of the City of Northlake police force. Officer Filskov was assigned to an unmarked police car along with two other officers. He testified that all three officers were at the Northlake Police Station either finishing up an arrest or a report. All three officers were assigned to the Neighborhood Enforcement Team (NET), which is a gang suppression unit. Officer Filskov testified that NET officers "are constantly on the street as much as possible looking for any active gang activity, any narcotic related activity" in addition to "all the other normal work that a uniform patrol officer would do." At approximately 10:30 p.m., Officer Filskov and the other two officers left the police station and walked to the squad car in the police station's parking lot to resume patrol.

They had yet to resume their patrol and were not acting in response to a call for service. As he was standing outside the open door of the squad car, the officer driving the car inadvertently put the car in drive and drove over Officer Filskov's foot. He described the incident, testifying that as he opened the backseat car door to get into the backseat, he noticed some items on the seat. While standing on the parking lot pavement he bent over to move the items when the car unexpectedly moved forward and a rear tire injured his foot.

The Pension Board found that Officer Filskov "is physically disabled and that his disability renders necessary his suspension or retirement from police service." The Board found "the performance of an act of duty" did not cause or contribute to Officer Filskov's disability under the Pension Code.

The Pension Board and all the courts agree that Filskov was injured and that the injury caused a permanent disability that forced him to retire.  The problem is in the interpretation of how the term “act of duty” is defined.  The Illinois Pension code defines it as “any act of police inherently involving special risk, not ordinarily assumed by a citizen in the ordinary walks of life, imposed on a policeman.”

Earl Filskov, a Northlake, Illinois police officer, while on duty and in uniform, was injured in 2007.  The Pension Board decided that "the performance of an act of duty" did not cause or contribute to Officer Filskov's disability under the Pension Code, so he would not be able to receive an “on-duty” disability pension.  Instead, he received a “not on duty” disability pension benefit.   There is a 25% difference in the amount of the benefits.

(a) “An active policeman who becomes disabled on or after the effective date as the result of injury incurred on or after such date in the performance of an act of duty, has a right to receive duty disability benefit during any period of such disability for which he does not have a right to receive salary, equal to 75% of his salary, as salary is defined in this Article, at the time the disability is allowed... (40 ILCS 5/5-154(a))”

(b) “Ordinary disability benefit shall be 50% of the policeman's salary, as salary is defined in this Article, at the time disability occurs. (40 ILCS 5/5-155)” 

Officer Filskov disagreed with the Board’s decision and filed a lawsuit with the Cook County Circuit Court. Judge Peter Flynn sided with Filskov, reversed the Pension Board’s decision and ruled in his favor.  Unsurprisingly, the Pension Board disagreed with Flynn’s ruling and appealed. This past April, three of the four Appellate Judges reversed the lower court’s decision and forced Filskov to take the lower pension.  Filskov filed a petition with the appellate court and asked them to rehear the case.  The appellate court denied the petition last week.  Justice Virginia Joy Cunningham was the only dissenting judge.


I disagree with the Appellate Court’s decision and agree with the dissenting opinion of Cunningham.  She wrote, “Filskov and his partners were required to drive to specific locations in the city in accordance with gang suppression activities. In my view, that puts it squarely within the categories of injuries for his line of duty disabilities are payable.  It cannot be rationally argued that Filskov was getting into that particular police vehicle in that particular location, at that particular time, for personal reasons unrelated to his specific work as a team member (of gang suppression unit). Filskov was not taking a casual car ride with friends.”

When I look at the code for the definition of “on-duty,” Filskov’s injury clearly fits.  I, as a citizen in my “ordinary walks of life,” would not be getting into a car and driving around looking for gang activity. Filskov’s desire to receive an “on duty” pension was not the result of a scheme.  He was not dreaming up a way to nail bucket number six in Bozo’s Grand Prize game.  He was injured in uniform while performing risky duties. The Pension Board and the Courts should have let the ball stay in the bucket.

Monday, June 20, 2011

JUSTICE OR INJUSTICE TWO CASES YOU DECIDE-- Part 1




Case #1




Since I am not an attorney, reading a 19 page Illinois Supreme Court decision was not an easy task, but I think I am presenting the facts here correctly. Sections might get a bit complicated for readers who enjoy my normally flippant writing style, but I beg you to stay and educate yourself about this important case and its implications.

The Illinois Supreme Court unanimously ruled last week
that Joliet prison inmate Kensley Hawkins is not required to turn over to the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) the $75 per month salary that he earned while participating in a prison work program.  In total, he managed to save over $11,000 that he put into a private bank account. 

BACKGROUND:
(1) Inmate Kensley Hawkins is serving time for the murder of one man and the attempted murder of two Chicago police officers in 1980.

(2) Under current Illinois law, prisoners are liable for the cost of their incarceration. In the Supreme Court ruling, written by Justice Garman, “The Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/1–1–1 et seq. (West 2008)) Section 3–7–6(a) of the Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/3–7–6(a) (West 2008)) establishes the responsibility of a ‘committed person’ for the costs of his or her incarceration.”

(3) IDOC collects 3% of inmates’ wages towards the payment of incarceration costs. The average annual cost per inmate at Stateville Prison is: $32,693.00. So if an inmate is earning $75/month, only $2.35 goes towards satisfying that debt.

(4) The IDOC usually go after inmates who have assets of more than $10,000.

(5) Once IDOC learned that Hawkins had saved $11,000 they tried to seize it, claiming that the State was entitled to $455,203.14 to cover the costs of his incarceration since July 1983.

(6) Hawkins lawyers argued to the Supreme Court that IDOC is only entitled to the 3% and cannot collect any more money from him.

(7) After 19 pages of mumbo-jumbo and citing many different sections of the Unified Code of Corrections, the court ruled that if inmates are encouraged to work and learn a skill, then they should be able to keep their wages. Justice Karmeier submitted a concurring opinion that agreed with the outcome of the decision, reasoning that “Once inmates [realize] that the extra work necessary to generate savings would benefit only the Department of Corrections, not them, they would quickly reevaluate the utility of prison employment.”

Well, I unanimously disagree with the Court.

First, they are wrong by saying that the money would benefit the Department of Corrections. The money would benefit the TAXPAYERS of Illinois who are paying the living expenses of $32,693/year for each inmate.

Second, the inmates are provided with room, board vocational training, recreation, education classes and substance abuse management if they need it. The average law-abiding American has to fork over between 35-45% of his income in federal taxes alone (not including state taxes).  And yet prisoners, who have proven themselves to be so dangerous that we cannot have them living among us in society, are going to be rewarded by only having to contribute 3% of their income?

Third, if an inmate has an attitude that that he does not want to perform extra work because the money would be applied toward his living expenses, let him sit and rot every day in his cell--with this three square meals a day.  If he wants out, then he can choose to work.

Finally, how many taxpayers in Illinois are working two or three jobs to pay their bills? How should they feel when they learn that the Supreme Court decides that prisoners shouldn’t have to do extra work to pay their own expenses?

This ruling is an injustice and it insults the citizens of Illinois who pay the costs of incarceration. The only prisoner I wouldn’t mind paying for is former Governor Rod Blagojevich. But maybe he will take the vocational classes and learn how to become a barber; he certainly knows how to style hair.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A FEW RANDOM THOUGHTS




THE TRIBUNE THINKS I AM FAT




A few weeks ago, the Chicago Tribune teased a story on the front page of the paper and on the Sunday magazine section with the phrase, “Your friend is fat.  What do you do?”  I thought the Tribune was my friend, so they must think I am fat.

The Tribune came out with their expanded new look on Wednesday.  The paper was so big; I thought it was a Sunday edition.  Thursday’s edition had lots of sections also that I did not care about or have the time to read on a work day.  Plus they are charging more money for the paper now.

I just want to tell the Tribune that now I think they are too fat.


DOES CPS BOARD KNOW HOW TO DO MATH?



The Chicago Public School (CPS) Board voted not to give teachers a 4% raise and they said that would save $100 million.  That number does not make sense.

There are 23,695 teachers and the average salary is $69,000.  So that would make the payroll $1,634,955,000.  Four percent of that payroll equals $65,398,200, not $100 million.  So by not giving a 4% raise the Board saves $65 million.

Let’s look at the math another way.  If the average salary is $69,000, then a 4% raise would amount to an average of $2760 per teacher.  Multiply that times 23,695 teachers and one gets $65,398,200.

No matter how you add, multiply or divide, the savings by not giving a raise is $65 million. It is still a lot of money, but why is everyone accepting the figure $100 million?




THE BIKERS KEEP COMING!




Starting at 1 a.m. Saturday night/Sunday morning July 9/10, 9,000 bicyclists will be riding on a 25 mile expedition through the city as a benefit for Friends of The Parks.  The web site for this debacle describes the route as, “Route highlights will include the South Loop, Chinatown, Greek Town, Chicago’s historic "Emerald Necklace" and much more!”

Friends of the Parks   is a wonderful organization but there has to be a better way to raise money then tying up city streets for hours ( even though it is late night early morning) and inconveniencing everybody else.

Inconvenience aside, how much is it costing the city for security and closing the streets for this event?  We know we won’t get a correct figure because nobody at City Hall knows how to do math!




Thursday, June 16, 2011

Billboard License Plates



A number of years ago I owned a blue F-355 Ferrari Spider convertible.  It was a very beautiful car that got a lot of attention-- whether being driven or just parked.  I came up with the idea to put the license plate “up for sale.”   A corporation could pay me to have their company name as a vanity plate on my car.  Crain’s Chicago wrote a story about my plan, including contact information for me.  Guess how many people contacted me?  Zero!  My car was a Ferrari, not a beat up clunker, and no ad agency or company cared to even find out what the cost would be.  An idea that failed.  Illinois State Sen. John Mulroe, D-Chicago, has an advertising license plate plan of his own, that I think will also be left at the gate.
This past February Mulroe proposed legislation to create corporate-sponsored license plates that motorists could buy at a discount.  He said his proposal would bring down the cost of the plate from about $99 to $84 because corporations would pay the $15 difference plus a fee to the state for the right to advertise on the plate.  Mulroe did not say what fee he thought that companies would pay.
Let’s put some advertising numbers in perspective:
(1)  Oakbrook, Illinois based McDonald’s Corporation is one of the world’s largest spenders on advertising with a world-wide advertising budget of about $2 billion.  The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that the world’s population on June 14th was 6,924,809,801.  That puts their ad spending at about 34 cents for every person on the planet.
(2) Illinois has a population of 12,830,632  so that means McDonald’s spends about $4,362,414.88 (34 cents a person) to advertise in Illinois.
(3) There are approximately 9 million motor vehicle license plates in Illinois.  Senator Mulroe thinks corporations would pay $15 plus a fee to advertise on plates.  I will pretend that the processing fee is $5.00 for a total charge of $20 per license plate.  That comes to a cost of $180,000,000 if McDonald’s wanted their logo on all plates in the state.
(4)  In conclusion, I understand that the corporate-sponsored license plates would be an “opt-in” by the consumer if they wanted to save money on their plate, so no corporation would be paying for all 9 million plates.  But at any number of plates, it makes no economic sense.
The state of Texas is selling corporate sponsored plates. How many have been bought by motorists since they launched the plan in November 2009?  Only 489!


There is also the problem of a state deciding if they are going to block certain categories of companies from having sponsored plates.  Would a liquor company be allowed?  The is also the negative PR that a company could receive if the media shoots footage of a fiery truck crash and a “Big Mac”  is clearly seen on the license plate.  Could a company say they only want their sponsored plates bought by people with pristine driving records?  Other states who have studied this revenue idea have voted against it.
 Illinois lawmakers passed a measure instructing the Illinois Secretary of State’s office to conduct a study to see if the plan would work and how much revenue could be generated.  The office has until January 1st to produce a report.
I think this blog might have just saved that office six months of busy work and a lot of money on consultants and accountants.  I will send a copy to Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and tell him to show my calculations to Senator Mulroe.  Then maybe lawmakers can work on legislation that will actually produce money for the state coffers. What a novel idea.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

THE ENDIVE CAN BE F***ING GOLDEN



Last week, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance, introduced by Alderman Brendan Reilly (D-42) in April, to allow Commercial Rooftop Farms in selected downtown areas.  I learned about this when Reilly announced the news during my interview with him on Political Forum, a TV show on CANTV.  My first thought (to paraphrase former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich), “the endive can be f***ing golden!”

I pointed out to Reilly that the Chicago City Hall building already has a flowering rooftop garden with 20,000 plants of more than 150 species, including shrubs, vines and two trees.  With this new ordinance, it could be turned into a commercial garden and the city could sell signature Mayor Rahm Emanuel vegetables.  There would basically be no transportation costs because the carrots and tomatoes could be sold at the city's weekly Farmer’s Market held at the Daley Center across the street from City Hall.  Media would cover the Mayor watering the garden and piling on the compost, so the public could see that his Honor was actually tending to the garden.  People always pay more money for “celebrity” food (think Bill Kurtis tallgrass beef), so Rahm Rutabaga or Emanuel Endive could bring much needed revenue to the city’s budget deficit.

Reilly said in a letter to his constituents, “Rooftop farming creates all of the environmental and social benefits of green roofing as well as increased revenue from food production, increased job creation from planting and harvesting tasks, development and support of local businesses, improved understanding of where food comes from, increased food security, and decreased emission of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.”  He continued with, “Commercial rooftop agriculture creates green jobs and revenue from otherwise un-used roof space.”

I just checked at http://www.peapod.com/ and curly endive is selling for $1.99 a bunch.  Slap the Emanuel name on that and we are probably looking at $2.99!  Since Chicago Budget Director, Alexandra Holt, served in the late 1990s as the city's deputy environment commissioner, she has the financial and gardening credentials to manage City Hall’s rooftop vegetable garden.  Now all we have to do is market 300 million bunches of endive and rutabaga and the city’s financial crisis is solved.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Timeline of Greed


2008-The CME Group, owner of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade shows a  $715 million profit.

2009-In September, CME asks for a $15 million Tax Increment Financing (TIF) subsidy to renovate the Chicago Board of Trade building. (TIF money is supposed to be used to help underserved neighborhoods and schools.  The Board of Trade is located in Chicago's prestigious financial district at 141 W. Jackson.)


2010-In November, the City of Chicago gives the $15 million to CME and CME pledges to add 638 to 900 jobs over the next 10 years.

2011-In the first quarter of the year, CME shows a profit of $457 million.

2011-Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) start throwing money at corporations under a new tax credit program called, Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE).

2011- I write a number of blogs saying every corporation in Illinois should threaten to move to another state because then Governor Quinn would give them money to stay.

2011- Early June, Terry Duffy, chairman of CME, said he, Chief Financial Officer James Parisi and the company's internal staff were evaluating a move to another state because the Illinois corporate tax rate was too high.


2011- On June 8th, the Sun-Times reports, "A spokesman for Governor Pat Quinn said the administration 'has an aggressive business agenda and is always open to meeting with business leaders' about their concerns and job creation."  And, "(CME) executives said any extra costs firms would face for moving the equipment would quickly be repaid by states eager to get the CME.  The company is believed to be looking at New York, New Jersey, Texas and Indiana."

2011- On June 13th, the Dow Jones wire reports, "CME Group Inc, said Monday it is looking to sell most of the Chicago Board of Trade building, putting one of Chicago's most iconic structures on the market. A CME spokesman said the sale of the Board of Trade building isn't connected to discussions over a potential move and declined to say whether it would make an exit easier."  CME spokesman Michael Shore also said there was NO connection between the remarks that CME Executive Chairman Terry Duffy made last week about the company leaving Illinois and the fact that CME was now putting the building up for sale.


2011-  I predict that by July 1st, Governor Quinn will announce a tax break for CME so they won't move and champagne will be flowing on the floor of the Board of Trade because Quinn blinked first.









Monday, June 13, 2011

ROLLING THE DICE ON REFORM




The Municipal Code of Chicago (Section 2-156-120) requires that the city’s Office of the Inspector General (IGO) file four reports a year on the activities of the office.  They are fascinating documents for two reasons: (1) sadly very few people actually read them, and (2) they basically always report the same findings of fraud and corruption.

The OIG’s latest report, issued last week,  is a one-year follow up of its May 2010 Review of the City’s Minority & Women Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) program.  The Office released a statement saying, “The follow-up notes that City leadership largely ignored the prior report’s findings. Specifically, the City has long inflated program accomplishments, seriously mismanaged the program, and disregarded a host of corrective recommendations made in the May 2010 review. The follow-up also reports that, despite the best efforts of Office of Compliance employees, the MWBE program is still afflicted with widespread fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. “

During the past year, the IGO has issued 16 summary reports of investigations of fraud, abuse and mismanagement in the MWBE program resulting in a number of proposed disbarments, decertifications and the City had to report downward revisions to its previously reported participation figures. There have been three new federal indictments that occurred from grand jury investigations in which the IGO has partnered with federal law enforcement agencies and the United States Attorney’s Office.

Even with all that success “catching the bad guys,” the Inspector General said the program is still fraught with “widespread fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.“ Inspector General Joe Ferguson reiterated that thought by saying, “Since the original report’s release, there was little positive change in either the MWBE program’s administration or performance.”

The report points out that because of all the fraud and abuse, legitimate firms are deprived, “of opportunity and it restricts competition by discouraging firms that do not participate in these schemes. Despite the IGO’s work and several high-profile scandals involving the program, the prior administration did not take action to effect real reform.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has an opportunity here to prove Inspector Freguson is wrong and that he will not be like the “prior administration” and he will take “action to effect real reform.”

Is anyone wiling to bet on the probability of that actually happening?  When a Chicago casino gets built, that’s when we will get the real odds.