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The Cook County soda tax has been placed on hold by a local judge. The next act in our morality play is now proceeding as usual, as the Cook County government is now issuing dire warnings about the draconian cuts that will be required if this relatively small in the whole budgetary scheme amount of money isn't available.

This includes, of course, a fifteen percent cut in personnel for the Cook County Police, because the first thing that they always threaten to cut is the police. I'm sure they'd threaten to cut the fire department too, except that Cook County doesn't seem to have a fire department to cut, based on my brief Google search. That's all controlled by various municipalities and townships. Well, you threaten where you can...

In any case, I am old enough to remember Tom Lehrer. For those of you who don't, here's the original. And the altered lyrics follow:
Read more... )
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Apparently, a judge has issued a temporary injunction against the Cook County soda tax, siding with the merchants who are still trying to figure out how they are supposed to collect this mess.

Meanwhile, Toni Preckwinkle had a letter to the editor in today's Chicago Tribune saying that Trib columnist Eric Zorn was incorrect when he said that the county would be charging a tax on the ice in a customer's soda. Of course, she did not explain how he was incorrect about this. I am willing to bet (an easy bet with the tax in temporary abeyance) that had I gone to McDonald's tomorrow and ordered a 32-ounce soda, I would have been charged 32 cents in Cook County soda tax, despite the presence of ice in the drink. That would seem to indicate that I am paying tax on ice.

If Preckwinkle can explain how that wouldn't be happening, I would be greatly entertained to hear that explanation.
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I was sitting at lunch today when yet another commercial from an Illinois Democratic Party front group came on the television there (there are just as many commercials from Illinois Republican Party front groups, just for the record) telling Governor Rauner to "pass a budget". The degree of political illiteracy required to say that is pretty remarkable, since the Executive Branch anywhere (outside of, perhaps, Venezuela) does not pass legislation; it signs or vetoes legislation. One might tell House Speaker Madigan to "pass a budget", since he is the head of one of our two Legislative Houses here in Illinois and controls the agenda in the House with an iron hand. But that would require a degree of political literacy that has apparently escaped the authors of this particular ad -- which I have heard. A lot.

In other news, Cook County continues to careen towards the imposition of the new penny per ounce soda tax on July 1st. I have, as you might expect, nothing favorable to say about this. I keep trying to buy more Caffeine-free Diet Pepsi at the local Jewel; they continue to be out of it. I may have to buy caffeinated soda, which is most likely not as good for my health as drinking the caffeine-free soda -- ironic, given that the stated objective of this is to improve health. Of course, they say that the objective of the red light cameras is to make our streets safer too, which would be why yellow light times were reduced so that they could issue more tickets in various places.

Thus, my Toni Preckwinkle litany:

  • Toni Preckwinkle doesn't care about global warming -- if she did, she wouldn't be causing her constituents to drive to other counties to buy soda.
  • Toni Preckwinkle doesn't care about your health -- because if she did, she would be taxing that Starbucks cup full of cream and sugar too. It sure as heck is worse for you than diet soda.
  • Toni Preckwinkle: Working hard to make Todd Stroger look good.

    I could go on, but I think I probably should go do some work...

    Y'all have a nice day! :)
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    I voted today. But that's not what I'm here to talk about.

    I'm here to talk about the secret ballot and what an absolutely wonderful thing that it is.

    In a country where we have established that it is perfectly acceptable to fire someone for having the "wrong" political opinion, the secret ballot gives you the privilege -- and a tremendous privilege it is! -- of voting your conscience. What you do in the voting booth is up to you, not to anyone else.

    And when you walk out of the voting booth -- or even before you vote, when talking to pollsters -- you have the right to lie. You can lie to signal virtue. You can lie to annoy. You can lie just because it keeps you safe.

    My usual position on lying is that it is a bad idea, if for no other reason than the truth is the lowest entropy state and the easiest to keep consistent. But for the sanctity of the secret ballot, I am willing to make an exception.

    This is, by the way, why states have laws against "ballot selfies". Ballot selfies are incredibly bad as a matter of public policy, because they allow you to prove how you voted. (To a lesser extent, this criticism also applies to the mail-in ballots that are gaining in popularity.) And if you can prove how you voted, you can be forced to prove how you voted, either to collect some illegal inducement or for your own safety.

    For those of you who still think that ballot selfies are a good idea, I'm going to ask you a question: Do you believe that there is one vile husband somewhere in America who will beat his wife if she votes the "wrong" way?

    One is too many.

    Our ancestors paid dearly to get us that secret ballot. Enjoy the privilege.

    And remember to vote.

    Or not. Because you have the right to do that too.

    It's a wonderful country.
    billroper: (Default)
    Well, I did one vaguely useful political thing today. I spent some time Googling, found the website for my Cook County Commissioner, and went to enter my opinion on their "Contact Us" form. Sadly, the "Contact Us" form did not work, so I called and got a nice man in the office. I let him know that the form didn't work and then proceeded to get increasingly agitated as I gave him my opinion of the massively idiotic soft drink tax that Tony Preckwinkle wants to impose on the county. He noted that my particular commissioner was against the tax and we proceeded to have a pleasant conversation on the subject. :)

    There is nothing like imposing a tax with an effective rate of 35% or higher to motivate me to drive to DuPage County to buy soda. And to drink water in restaurants in Cook County, which can't be good for the restaurants.

    Telling me it's "for my health" when I am always drinking sugar-free soda and predominantly drinking caffeine-free soda descends to the laughable category of political lies.

    But it's election season, so political lies are in order.
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    I saw yet another political post today on my Facebook feed. It was a large picture of the Illinois governor with the prominent caption, "Governor Rauner, Pass a Budget".

    I was moved. Mostly, I was moved to shake my head at the fact that whoever had originally generated the picture and whoever had posted it were neglecting the small matter that Governor Rauner is not the Illinois legislature and cannot pass any sort of bill. He could sign a bill. He can choose not to veto a bill.

    He cannot, however, assume legislative powers just because the legislature has not actually managed to pass a bill that has been either signed or not vetoed. Our system does not work that way.

    [Snarky remark elided. Some among you might actually figure out what it would be. :) ]

    *thud* *thud* *thud*
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    I admit it. I am more likely to tolerate bad behavior from a politician whose positions are better aligned with mine than I am from a politician whose positions are less well aligned with mine. Watching this election, I conclude that most of my friends are no better than I am, but that's ok -- it just means that we're all sinners in that sense.

    My news feed is full of horrible stories about both candidates that will convince no one of anything, except perhaps that it would be better to give up on social media until after this fiasco of an election. Some of these stories may even be true. (Many aren't.) And the stories that I have seen that I have been reasonably able to verify as being true have convinced me that both of the major party candidates for president are horrible, horrible people who I would not have as friends under any circumstances. I do not choose to repeat any of them here, because they would only annoy you; they would certainly not convince you of anything, because we are all pretty much long past convincing. You can do your own research, if you choose.

    I have only cast one vote in my life that I am ashamed of: I voted for George Ryan for Illinois governor at a time when I really should have known that he was a crook. I am trying hard not to do that again.

    My consolation is that I live in deep blue Illinois in districts that are so thoroughly gerrymandered that my vote is completely meaningless, save for the Senate race. (When the Democrats won the gubernatorial race in 2010 giving them total control over redistricting in Illinois, I -- like the poor groundhog -- predicted 10 more years of bad government in my state. Anyone care to argue with that prediction? You can find it on my LJ from the time... :) )

    In any case, you all are my friends.

    But, dear God, the echo chamber that is being provided for each of my ears is deafening.

    billroper: (Default)
    It's going to be a very long 100 days until the U.S. Presidential election.
    billroper: (Default)
    I must admit that I view the recent Presidential polls in much the same way that Ruby the Dog views a piece of Pupperoni that has been chucked into her kennel.

    "Go on, Republicans. See the nice polls. It's perfectly possible for you to win the election if you nominate Trump."

    And then once the convention is over, the door to the kennel is closed and the real polls are released.

    I note, by the way, that Ruby has once again followed the Pupperoni into the kennel...
    billroper: (Default)
    Or something like that.

    It's being that sort of day. Work is making me crazy, resulting in my getting dinner at around 9:30 PM.

    And then there's dealing with people who say things like "Just because Mr. X said that he supported a particular cause and took actions to support that cause, there's really no reason to believe that he actually supported that cause."

    Of course, I'm talking about how President Obama promised to make it so expensive to build a coal-fired power plant that we would never build another one in this country.

    Or something like that.

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    Today, I will go out and vote in the Illinois primary election, for what little difference it will make.

    There are a lot of things that I could say, most of which would just have the effect of ticking everyone off. So I'm just going to boil it down to three:

  • I am disgusted by the number of my friends who seem to think that it's just fine when people engage in behaviors that would enrage them if they were directed against themselves or candidates that they support. (If you aren't one of those people, this part of the message is not for you.)
  • Obstructionist legislatures are only a problem when they are obstructing what I want, where "I" for the purpose of this discussion is whoever is speaking. (For example, see the President's endorsement of Juliana Stratton; also the statements of Democrats and Republicans over the last 30 years or so about judicial confirmations depending on who is going to be doing the nominating.)
  • It is entirely possible for two apparently contradictory statements to both be true at the same time. Reality is not a true/false quiz.
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    The idea that you can silence a speaker by shouting him down is a poor one. Aside from the possibility of this leading to Mutual Assured Destruction, there's also the problem that you may well convey to the speaker's supporters -- and worse, those who may be thinking about supporting him -- that if his message is so threatening to the shouters, it might well be attractive to them.
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    This is not necessarily true of any given individual, but certainly seems true of groups as a whole:

    The farther you are to the left or the right, the more likely you are to believe any purported data point that confirms your biases, regardless of the actual truth of the situation.

    Corollary: maybe I should just stop reading Facebook.
    billroper: (Default)
    I don't post much about politics because -- well -- what's the point? But here are a few thoughts in the wake of the Iowa caucus results.

  • I think that Megyn Kelly should moderate all of the Republican debates.
  • Apparently, Bernie's crew lost all six of the coin flips that were required to settle the results in tied caucuses around Iowa. Roger Goodall should launch an immediate investigation -- that, or hire some of these folks to flip the coin for the Super Bowl.

    Yeah, I think that's enough for now. :)
  • Silliness

    Dec. 19th, 2015 10:34 pm
    billroper: (Default)
    Ted Cruz is by no means my favorite candidate for President. But he appears to be a big fan of The Princess Bride, to the point of quoting bits of the movie on the stump, complete with character voices. And he's running the ad that's linked below in Iowa tonight during Saturday Night Live, so it seems he's got something of a sense of humor.

    Thus: not my favorite candidate for President, but quite possibly the one who would be the most fun to have dinner with some time. :)

    billroper: (Default)
    Because data beats no data (in my opinion), here is a reasoned article by Eugene Volokh on the state of the law in the United States on the subject of religious accommodation with special attention to cases in the news recently.
    billroper: (Default)
    It strikes me that the Trump and Sanders movements are both fueled by the same sentiments, just manifesting themselves on different sides of the political spectrum:

  • The government is being run for the benefit of well-connected individuals.
  • The government is surely not being run for my benefit.
  • The other candidates have some severe flaws.
  • Dear God, not another Clinton or Bush!

    Personally, I agree with at least 3.5 of the statements above. (That would include all of the fourth one, just for reference.) I don't believe that either Trump or Sanders is the solution, but I certainly sympathize with people who have had quite enough of this, thank you very much...
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    Gretchen, watching the news with me, exclaimed "That explains it! Tom Brady destroyed his phone because it had Hillary Clinton's emails on it!"

    I have heard less plausible theories.
    billroper: (Default)
    Well, that's a fascinating result.

    They took a poll of Democrats and Republicans on education policy. They presented a "Republican" plan and a "Democratic" plan, giving a brief precis of each approach.

    The Republicans massively favored the Republican plan. The Democrats massively favored the Democratic plan.

    Which of the two plans was the Republican and Democratic plan was randomly selected for each participant in the poll. It wasn't the contents of the plan that determined whether someone favored it. It was just which party was supposed to have originated it.

    Fascinating, I say.
    billroper: (Default)
    I have a plot for a movie that is free to anyone who would like to adopt it.

    It's a comic farce along the lines of The Producers, except that the protagonists here, rather than being a small struggling outfit, are the executives of a big, big film studio. At some point, in a fit of stupidity, they green lighted a movie with a couple of frequently bankable comic leads that revolved around their bumbling attempts to assassinate the leader of a Third World (or -- as some might suggest -- Fourth World) country.

    Well, the time came to screen the movie and it was horrid. It made Ishtar look like an Oscar winner.

    The studio was going to lose a ton of money and a great deal of face. They could just choose not to release the film, but then they'd end up taking a total loss on it. They'd bought insurance that would pay out if the movie wasn't completed or if it couldn't be screened due to some outside force not under the studio's control, of course, but insurance wasn't going to pay out just because the film was a giant turkey that was scheduled to arrive a bit too late for Thanksgiving, but just in time for Christmas.

    And then someone got a brilliant idea. They could hire some mid-level hacker with just enough skill to obscure the true situation and let him release a huge chunk of files that he'd gotten from "hacking" into the movie studio's computer systems. There'd have to be some actually embarrassing info embedded in there, but nothing too terrible.

    "So which would you rather do? Spend some time apologizing for mildly off-color humor or lose millions of dollars?"

    "I'm thinking. I'm thinking."

    Then the fake hacker could threaten to bomb theaters showing the film -- just following orders, of course. Naturally, theater chains wouldn't want the liability risk, so they'd drop the film en masse. And the studio could regretfully pull the film from distribution.

    So there they are, sitting in the executive offices, drinking champagne as they're congratulating themselves for having pulled this off and gotten the insurance money.

    When everything falls apart -- because, of course, it has to.

    The fake hacker sees a YouTube video of the fans of the usually bankable comedy stars in tears over the fact that the film will never be released. And this touches him, so he drops all of the information about the hoax into the lap of the local U.S. attorney, the release timed for just after he has successfully fled with his share of the loot to a non-extradition country.

    And the studio execs are left holding the bag.

    So what do you think? Would some studio be interested in this? :)


    billroper: (Default)

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