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Posts tagged with Politics

Donation Meters

The City of Lawrence installed Donation Meters last year.


Donation Meter located on the East side of the 800 block of Massachusetts Street.

Donation Meter located on the East side of the 800 block of Massachusetts Street. by Benjamin Roberts


They seem to be working.


At least for this guy ...


Lawrence Donation Meters provide ambiance for a panhandler.

Lawrence Donation Meters provide ambiance for a panhandler. by Benjamin Roberts



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Undecided - Which Presidential Candidate?

Who should I vote for as the next President of the United States?

The campaign season has been so short. There have been very few advertisements explaining positions. The news outlets have barely covered the Presidential Campaign.

SNL's Undecided Voter

SNL's Undecided Voter by Benjamin Roberts

Romney

Obama



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Soda Jerk - Supersized Unintended Consequences

Soda Jerk: Noun. - someone who works at a soda fountain.

In most cases this definition would be ample and accurate. However, the term has now been bestowed upon the Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg. In Bloomberg's case the honorary title must be separated into its two components: Soda (a sweet drink consisting of soda water, flavoring, and often ice cream) and Jerk (an annoyingly stupid or foolish person).

Bloomberg has decided to combat obesity. His first major target is sugary drinks. His weapon of choice is government regulation of drink sizes. The mayor's website, MikeBloomberg.com, explains under its banner Combating Obesity, "The NYC Department of Health is continuing its efforts to combat this epidemic by seeking to prohibit the sale of sugary drinks in containers of more than 16 fluid ounces at restaurants and food carts."

It is tempting to address the overreaching hand of government, big brother, or the nanny state. However, those issues, and the relevant arguments of freedom and constitutional rights, will be ignored by Bloomberg. New York City will eventually adopt his proposal. For reasons incomprehensible to those outside of New York, New Yorkers appear to be willing participants of government intrusion. Ergo (a conjunction to replace "therefore" and sounds cool), the discussion will focus on the resulting catastrophes or unintended consequences of the pending legislation.

Unintended consequences are results of actions that were unexpected, undesired, and usually un-thought of by those proposing an action. They may be obvious to others, yet will be largely ignored by those seeking a particular action or outcome. Let's look at a few examples of unintended consequences.

San Francisco legislated the now all-too-well-known low-flush toilet. Hoping to conserve water, the city leaders missed an unintended consequence. Because of the lower water usage, there is now more sludge in their sewage plants. This has resulted in obnoxious odors and over $100 million in sewer upgrades.

Water districts throughout the nation have asked patrons to lower their usage. However, where conservation, or forced rationing, has been taken seriously there has been a significant unintended consequence: lower income for municipalities. Irate customers tend to be another unintended consequence of lower water usage because water districts simply raise rates to compensate for lower usage. Dam if you do; Dam if you don't. (A little water district humor there.)

Here are a few others before moving along:

  • Voluntary and mandated reductions in nicotine and tar have created greater health risks for those that choose to smoke.
  • A ban on the use of DDT has led to an increase in fatal malaria outbreaks.
  • Some believe that the use of corn to produce ethanol as an alternative fuel source has reduced the world's grain supply and increased the cost of food. The change in land use has also been credited with increasing greenhouse gases.
  • Georgia's new immigration law - written to decrease illiegal workers in Georgia - has created a shortage of agriculture workers.

Unintended Consequences of the Big Gulp Soda Jerk

First, there is no reason to believe that those wishing to drink massive quantities of sugary drinks will be hindered by Bloomberg's proposed ban. Many will likely double-down on the largest quantity available - the 16 ounce. In some cases, this will cause an increase in consumption for those currently buying 20 or 24 ounce drinks. Some will switch to diet soda which is now thought to create long term weight gain. The unintended consequence? The number of obese New York residents will continue to grow.

The ban will have the unintended consequence of negatively effecting the environment. As stated above, it is likely that some consumers will just buy two smaller sodas. The environmental impact of producing twice as many 16 ounce bottles, cups, and other containers will be significant. More paper (tree harvesting) and more plastics (increasing fossil fuel refining) will be required to meet the increased demand for smaller servings. Pollution from the increased need for transportation of raw materials, final product, and disposing of end product will be significant. Years down the road a study will measure this increase in tons of pollutants expelled into the air.

The increased usage of a slightly smaller container - a container that requires almost the same resources as its larger cousin to produce will have another unintended consequence. The ban will provide greater quantities of recyclable and disposable containers. This net effect of New York City increasing its trash output would be difficult to measure since they are kind enough to ship trash by several methods to multiple destinations. Virginia is just one of many destinations.

Of course there will be at least one positive unintended consequence. The cost of two or more smaller sugary drinks will exceed that of the supersize drink. This will increase the sales taxes collected by New York City and State.

That's all. Now go away - down below here - and talk amongst yourselves.



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DouGLASS County Land Deal

Douglas County Commissioners have made a tentative offer to purchase land from PDO Investors, an LLC led by Steve Glass. The county has offered $1,196,000; a whopping $35,176 per acre.

Glass will prove himself to be a businessman extraordinaire should this transaction be completed.

First, this land neighbors the parcel that Glass sold to Lawrence Public Schools two years ago. That 76 acres sold for $1.73 million ($22,763 per acre). During a down economy and a depressed real estate market where many are selling at a loss, Glass seems to have managed to increase the value of his unimproved land by 54%.

Second, Glass appears to be the only property owner who has cut a deal where the County is making an offer above and beyond the County's appraisal value. According to the letter of intent, "Douglas County will offer to purchase the two adjacent properties located in the Franklin Business Park at the 2011 county-appraised values..."

Jerry Taylor will be offered $572,720.

Printing Solutions will be offered $250,000.

Glass and PDO are being offered $1,196,00 for property that had an 2011 county-appraisal of $7,160.

Should the County decide to continue with this plan the commissioners would better serve their constituents by making Glass the same deal as the other property owners - offer the 2011 county-appraisal.

An offer by the county that is 54% higher than recent sales, an offer that shows special consideration that other owners did not receive - frankly - is not as transparent as glass. Or, is it?


Editing Note: The above images may be used as hyperlinks to the actual documents. The tax year will need to be chosen in order to view the document.



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Corrected Lawrence Public Library Rendering

Improved for Accuracy: The New Lawrence Public Library Rendering

Improved for Accuracy: The New Lawrence Public Library Rendering by Benjamin Roberts



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Osama Bin Laden Claims 72 Virgin…..

Osama Bin Laden finds his 72 Virginians

Osama Bin Laden finds his 72 Virginians by Benjamin Roberts



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Royal Blunder

DIST had full intentions of staying out of the Royal Wedding. However, this headline and byline grabbed even an uninterested bystander's attention. Just who married who here? Does this mean that Prince Harry may have to prove that he is the "Best Man?"



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An Ironic Board of Education Visualization

An ironic visualization was observed on the LJWorld online front page. It unwittingly declared the history and operational policy of USD 497.

First, postpone repairs on elementary schools.

Second, move forward repairs on secondary education facilities.

Third, close elementary schools



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Social Security - A Ponzi Scheme

The Lawrence Journal-World recently published an editorial, "National Divide," linked to President Obama's economy speech given at Georgetown University. The forum users at one point began a sidebar discussion of Social Security.

An astute user, Did_I_say_that, made the comparison of Social Security to a Ponzi Scheme. Is there a legitimate comparison of Social Security to a Ponzi scheme? Let's take a look at the Security and Exchange Commission's (SEC) definition and signs of a Ponzi scheme from their Ponzi Scheme - Frequently Asked Questions page.

What is a Ponzi scheme

A Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud that involves the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors. Ponzi scheme organizers often solicit new investors by promising to invest funds in opportunities claimed to generate high returns with little or no risk. In many Ponzi schemes, the fraudsters focus on attracting new money to make promised payments to earlier-stage investors and to use for personal expenses, instead of engaging in any legitimate investment activity.

With only minor changes the above description of a Ponzi scheme can be adapted as a description of Social Security.

"Social Security is an investment that involves the payment of returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors. The SSA solicits new investors by promising to invest funds in opportunities claimed to generate high returns with little or no risk. Social Security attracts new money to make promised payments to earlier-stage investors to use for personal expenses."

Why do Ponzi schemes collapse?

With little or no legitimate earnings, the schemes require a consistent flow of money from new investors to continue. Ponzi schemes tend to collapse when it becomes difficult to recruit new investors or when a large number of investors ask to cash out.

Although there is a continuous supply of new "investors" into Social Security, the second reason for collapse - "when a large number of investors ask to cash out" - is occurring now. Baby Boomers are now starting to draw Social Security and the raw number threatens to overwhelm an already strained system.

What are some Ponzi scheme “red flags”?

According to the SEC, "Many Ponzi schemes share common characteristics." Here are some of the warning signs:

High investment returns with little or no risk.

Every investment carries some degree of risk, and investments yielding higher returns typically involve more risk. Be highly suspicious of any “guaranteed” investment opportunity.

Some of the first "investors" in Social Security, those retiring in 1960 and having paid in for nearly 23 years, would have made life time contributions of $17,600 (single male, 2010 dollars). This same group experienced individual lifetime payouts of approximately $125,000. The differential has slowly been shrinking. A person retiring in 2010 may only collect $417,000 for his $345,000 contribution. Additional comparisons of individuals and couples may be found in the Urban Institute report, Social Security and Medicare Taxes and Benefits Over a Lifetime.

Overly consistent returns.

Investments tend to go up and down over time, especially those seeking high returns. Be suspect of an investment that continues to generate regular, positive returns regardless of overall market conditions.

Unlike private retirement programs and investments, Social Security has always provided consistent and typically increased benefits. Prior to 1950 this was accomplished irregularly via legislation. However, in 1950 Social Security recipients were given a 77% increase in benefits and have had a Cost Of Living Allowance (increase) every year since then, with the exception of 2009 and 2010.

Unregistered investments.

Ponzi schemes typically involve investments that have not been registered with the SEC or with state regulators. Registration is important because it provides investors with access to key information about the company’s management, products, services, and finances.

Funds collected from employees and employers for Social security are accounted for in the Social Security Trust Fund. Well, kind of, that is. Actually, anything over and above what is actually budgeted to be spent is put in the trust fund. The trust fund, not subject to SEC regulations, loans money to the Federal government at a conservative interest rate.

Unlicensed sellers.

Federal and state securities laws require investment professionals and their firms to be licensed or registered. Most Ponzi schemes involve unlicensed individuals or unregistered firms.

Needless to say (yet, I find the need to say it), the government always exempts itself from its own regulations. There is no license to "sell" Social Security ... unless it is a license to steal.

Secretive and/or complex strategies.

Avoiding investments you don’t understand or for which you can’t get complete information is a good rule of thumb.

Here is The Social Security Act of 1935. The list of Social Security Publications could, in and of itself, be considered complex.

Issues with paperwork.

Ignore excuses regarding why you can’t review information about an investment in writing, and always read an investment’s prospectus or disclosure statement carefully before you invest. Also, account statement errors may be a sign that funds are not being invested as promised.

Issues with paperwork? See above list of Social Security Publications.

Difficulty receiving payments.

Be suspicious if you don’t receive a payment or have difficulty cashing out your investment. Keep in mind that Ponzi scheme promoters sometimes encourage participants to “roll over” promised payments by offering even higher investment returns.

Although there are some examples of late payments, and a few times that all payments were delayed, Social Security has been consistent in its payments to recipients. However, as every senior citizen can tell you, Social Security is constantly held hostage by Congress and payments are continuously the subject of threats. Normally, the threat comes as a warning from the minority party, "They want to cut Social Security and starve grandma." Congress, regardless of party, should not have the power to threaten grandma.

Social Security promises a higher dollar payout for deferring (roll over) retirement.

The Last Word

So, is Social Security a Ponzi scheme that is doomed to crumble in upon itself and leave millions of Americans without promised benefits? A Ponzi scheme? The Social Security Administration states that it has "nothing in common with Ponzi schemes." Imagine that! Doomed to crumble in upon itself as it pays out more than it receives? You bet your sweet bippy!



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Obama and a Titcomb - Punchline Wanted!

Only in America. President Obama has a close friend from his native state (that means the state wherein he was born) of Hawaii. His friend's name is Robert (Bobby) ... wait for it ... Titcomb. That is correct: Robert Titcomb. But, it gets even better. Mr. Titcomb was just arrested in Honolulu for ... wait for it ... soliciting an undercover policewoman for sex. Yes, Mr. Titcomb was arrested for suspicion of soliciting a prostitute. Yes, the President's playmate was arrested during a sting to bust up a prostitution ring.

AOL News reports that, "The 49-year-old Titcomb attended Punahou School in Honolulu with Obama. The two often golf, play basketball, go to the beach and dine together when the president returns home to Hawaii for vacation."

This story is begging for a punchline. Let's hear your punchline to this story.



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