Friday, October 8, 2010

Lower Case On Traffic Signs

So, the latest outrage is that the Feds are requiring that all municipal street signs have upper-case caps, and lower-case lettering, like all proper nouns in a book would be. Also, that higher reflectivity be applied to street signs. This means that all street signs will have to be replaced over the next several years costing municipalities and states tens of millions each. This, naturally, has tea-partiers all the more outraged against a federal government it sees as too intrusive enough.

What's my take on this? Immediately I began to suspect a rider -- that is, a clause in a bill which was included in another bill dealing with something else entirely. Riders are a common way to get concessions to secure enough votes for passage, and without them, very few bills would ever get passed. One wonders why this is necessarily such a bad thing, but that's how it goes. So I began researching if there was a rider that was pushed through by the Democrats over the last two years.

As it turns out, there wasn't. So what's the driving force behind these new and excessively costly federal regulations? When they say, "The Feds" are requiring this, what do they mean? Why, they mean something called the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, or MUTCD. All street signs must conform to it on penalty of fine, or suspension of federal programs. And who updates or alters the MUTCD? It's something called the FHWA, the Federal Highway Workers Association. Who the hell are they? They are a bureaucratic arm of the Department of Transportaion, or D.O.T., whom we're all familiar with. This, in turn, is controlled by cabinet post appointees, not Congressmen.

In other words, all the outrage that is being directed at the democrats over these new regulations is being misplaced. NOT ONE elected official is behind them!

The man in charge of the D.O.T. is one Mr. Ray La Hood. An Obama appointee, yes. But acting independently of Congress or the Office of the President. When the FHWA updates its rules on signs, it takes input from interested parties or certain jurisdictions, factors in any successful experimentation involved, and then approves or disapproves the change. It is they, the underlings of the cabinet appointees, who have enacted this costly change.

And they will NOT lose their jobs if the Democrats are voted out!

The very most Republicans can do is take the presidency in 2012, then appoint a new head of the DOT. That head, in turn, will likely not undo any of the changes already in place. It's all a tempest in a teacup.

Okay, conservatives have a good point about too much bureaucracy running people's lives. This is, in fact, a prime case example. However, this isn't the Democrats' fault (this time, anyway), and it is wrong to place the blame at their feet. It is therefore illogical to vote them out of office based on this travesty, which was never their doing. We may call for Ray LaHood to step down, and this seems reasonable to me.

But if I may ask, would you rather have government wasting money on street signs, or wasting even more money on a pointless war with Iran? Because that's what you'd be voting for by voting for Tea-Party Republicans.

Both sides waste money. I just happen to dislike the way Republicans waste money more than the other guys on the platform of fiscal responsibility. At least the D.O.T. provided a few extra jobs in all this nonsense.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Firefighters Getting Burned?!?!

Well, I was going to blog about the new findings I've had in my research regarding Ron Johnson's ill-advised testimony against an anti-pedophilia bill, but it seems that will have to wait. What everybody's talking about at the water cooler is a bombshell of a news story regarding Firefighters who recently allowed a man's home to burn down because he hadn't paid the $75 fee for fire protection from his municipality. The fire department finally did show up, but only because his neighbor's property began to burn, and that neighbor had paid the fee. When the man begged and pleaded, saying he'd pay any price for the firemen to put out the fire, he was told he was too late.

This has gotten all kinds of press from all kinds of, well, press. People are weighing in on it from all sides, and everybody's got an opinion. So how can I resist?

Seriously, firefighters not putting out fires? What next? Dogs not fighting with cats? Lawyers not chasing ambulances? Politicians not accepting bribes? Sheesh, next thing you know, Lindsey Lohan is going to stay off drugs!

What blows my mind about this story is this: some folks are actually defending this municipal rule, saying that because he didn't pay his meesley $75, he's S.O.L.

Okay, before I rip into this, let's settle a fundamental question: What is the purpose of a fire department? Seriously, why does a municipality even have firefighters? At it's very heart, the purpose of a firefighting unit is to contain the fire so that if, heaven forbid, a fire breaks out, it does not spread.

Here, in this instance, is a case where a municipal rule thwarted the very purpose of why we have firefighters at all: It allowed the fire to spread. And what happened? The man's neighbor paid the price. His property caught fire.

Seriously, this neighbor should sue! He has a legitimate gripe. The only reason his property burned at all is because the firefighters were derelict in their duty. In court, the municipality and the firehouse will both say that this rule barred them from action. In response, I hope the court gives an injunction ordering them to change this rule. Because that's the way it should be. This rule sucks. And, as many have pointed out, this rule is very similar to paying an insurance fee in order to get healthcare.

Now, there's a fundamental difference between doctors providing healthcare and firefighters putting out blazes. Namely, that firefighters don't have anything like a Hypocratic oath requiring them to act. (Why don't they, by the way?) But paying a fee to receive the service is the common thread. Many people have been pointing out that this man, by not paying his $75, was effectively mooching off his neighbors in hoping the fire department wouldn't actually be the pricks that the law required them to be. They therefore conclude that this guy got what he deserved. They also say that those who aren't willing to pay for their insurance coverage shouldn't be asking the government to do so, because that's every bit as unfair.

Hang on, WHAT?! After drawing the analogy between healthcare and this firefighting fiasco, do people really think that both systems are fair? Isn't it far more reasonable to conclude that both systems are patently unfair?

Of course it is. Government-mandated fire insurance is wrong. Dead wrong. Every bit as wrong as government mandated healthcare insurance. But that's the insanity we have. Viruses and bacteria, much like fire, will spread wherever they can, and they don't give a damn who's paid or not. So when you, much like the neighbor in the example above, get sick because the poor incubated the disease you got infected with, you will have every bit as similar a gripe as he does. And if you're unlucky enough to be too poor to buy the insurance your government has forced you to buy into (which is the same thing as a tax, by the way), and you suffer or die as a result (especially if you're unlucky enough to meet a doctor who's unethical enough to be dictated to by an insurance company), then just remember, WE wanted this. We, the silly, stupid people of the world, didn't want government running things because we're afraid of the government. And now we'll all suffer at the hands of the even more evil insurance companies going forward.

Maybe, instead of us being afraid of the government, the government should be afraid of us! Then we'll have few qualms about letting it run healthcare.


For Profit Colleges

Today's Journal Sentinel reports that the Art Institute, located in the Third Ward, is now beginning classes, providing another option for students who want a career in art or design. Interesting...

This is part of a general trend nationwide, to create colleges that cater to adults looking to improve their careers or reinvent their careers. University of Phoenix or Ottawa University are two excellent examples. It's a good idea: There are literally tons of adults who work from 9 to 5 who would like nothing more than to take their lives in a different direction. But who on earth can make the sacrifice to quit their job in order to go back to school? The for-profit college trend provides these people an option they wouldn't otherwise have, sometimes helping to re-forge happier lives, and other times landing well-intentioned people into heavy loads of debt. (And if you thought the credit card companies were bad, check out the hardball tactics of the financiers behind for-profit colleges!)

The answer to my earlier question on who can afford to make the sacrifice to go back to school is this: People like me, that's who! Yes, only individuals like myself can afford the seeming-luxury of quitting one's job and going back to school during the day. And that's only because I have no wife, no kids, and never advanced high enough in my career to think that dropping accounting as a profession was all that big a sacrifice. Yet even I feel it: The crushing blow of going from $40K per year down to $25K, the grinding course workload that leaves no options for a beer on the weekends, the insane prices one must shell out for parking unless you're willing to throw away an additional 45 minutes for a round-trip on a bus. It's insane. I don't blame people for wanting to go to night school for adults instead.

Yet, until recently, the only options for night school have been business majors. Sure, if you want to be an accountant, an actuary, or get your MBA, there are lots of options for you. Hell, you can't go out your front door without tripping on one. But what's out there for anything else? Well, it seems that now, one has the option for art. Yes, you can become a designer, or a draftsman, or perhaps even a cartoonist, if you're willing to go to school at night.

So my question is this: How goddamned long do we have to wait before we get a serious option for science majors? Sure, if you want the bare-bones basics for nursing school, that's available, but if you want a serious biology or physics degree, you're shit out of luck! But apparently, we value art above science, even though a lack of knowledge about art won't destroy us, and a lack of knowledge about science will.

Yes, I'm lashing out because I so wish I could go back to making $40K per year while continuing with school. Wouldn't anybody? But my point is still a valid one: Isn't there just as much money, if not more, in a night-school for the sciences as there is for a night-school for art?

Shit, I hope so.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Ron Johnson Defended Pedophiles?!

A few days ago, I saw Keith Olbermann air a news story on his evening television program, Countdown, which handed Russ Feingold a Senatorial campaign victory on a silver platter. What he aired was live footage of Ron Johnson, Feingold's opponent, testifying before a Green Bay legislative committee against something known as the Victims of Child Abuse Bill, which would have eliminated the statute of limitations of victims of child abuse. At issue at the time was one Father John Feeney, who was being sued by one of his abuse victims in Nevada. Green Bay wanted to make people like Feeney easier to sue by throwing out the statute of limitations which protects such ministers. Ron Johnson testified against such legislation while sitting on the Green Bay Finance council at that time.

Now, I understand fully well why statutes of limitations exist. We don't want people reinterpreting their memories years later and suing for events which never happened. However, in cases of rape or incest, advancements in DNA technology have made such protections less needed, because science has filled the human-memory-error gap. Especially in the cases of rape of children, I'm forced to agree with efforts to eliminate statutes of limitations, since children are often too scared to speak up within the statutory time limits. At the very least, the statute of limitations should be extended when children are involved. Ron Johnson, apparently, disagrees, and argued against making it easier to sue pedophile priests like Feeney.

Are you fucking kidding me?

Strike that, let me rephrase: Are you kiddie fucking me?

This is, without a doubt, the single biggest issue to surface in the Senate campaign in Wisconsin. It might be the biggest Senatorial scandal since Joe McCarthy's witch hunt! The fact that Ron Johnson, in effect, defended pedophile priests using some half-baked, poorly thought out rationales of unintended consequences to small businesses, is unbelievable! (And if you want to know what I'm referencing, see the news clip pasted below.)

But this isn't the biggest shock I've received. The biggest shock is: NOBODY ELSE IS REPORTING THIS!!! The single, biggest, and most devastating scandal to his this, or indeed any, Senatorial election in this state, and it doesn't even get a blurb?!?! Johnson defended pedophile priests! How big a scandal do you need?!?!

Even more baffling, is that the Feingold camp isn't running with this! Seriously, if Russ doesn't attack on this, of all things, then he deserves to lose!

We need to hear six words out of Ron Johnson: "I am sorry, I was wrong." And if we don't hear those six words, then as far as I'm concerned, he's out!

Okay, enough is enough! I'm not only going to write every news organization I can think of about this, but I'm urging everyone else I can to do the same. I refuse to let this story go away. If Johnson, who otherwise would be a pretty decent guy, is blinded enough by his Lutheranism to block legislation which would help victims of pedophiles in the ministry, then he's way too blind for any of us. Hell, why not just elect the pedophile priests themselves to the Senate! It would be equally as smart, and make just about as much sense!

Take up the charge! Write, write, write! Nobody who blocks victims of priestly pedophilia from getting their day in court should ever get the vote in Wisconsin!