Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Father's Day

This is my first father's Day after the death of my own father. I could speak of my father in glowing terms to celebrate Father's Day, but that would not be my experience. So perhaps I should speak of other people's fathers in glowing terms, and there are some men, like my grandfather or my father-in -law who have provided exemplary examples of fatherhood for me. But that doesn't cover the true value of fatherhood either.

I have been impressed by the statistics showing the impact of the lack of a father's presence to his children that I first saw in the Patriot Post.

This bit particularly caught my attention:"Consider these sobering statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services and the Bureau of the Census: Children who live apart from their fathers will account for 40 percent of incarcerated adults, 63 percent of teen suicides, 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions, 71 percent of high-school dropouts, 75 percent of children in chemical-abuse centers, 80 percent of rapists, 85 percent of youths in prison, 85 percent of children who exhibit behavioral disorders, and 90 percent of homeless and runaway children."

When I reviewed my own life after reading those statistics, it hit me once again what a vital role fathers play in our families. They are the gatekeepers. Their very presence, whether they are good or bad at being fathers keeps their family safer than it would be without them. The knowledge that a girl has a father at home to whom he will be forced to answer for bad behavior can keep a young man polite on a date. The knowledge that a woman has a husband who will come looking for justification if the cost seems out of line will keep a repairperson from trying to bamboozle a woman who he thinks is unable to understand the technicalities of his/her work.

Even if a couple divorces, it is vitally important for the father to live close to and maintain a relationship with his children and his spouse. What woman will bring an abuser into her life if the father of her children is right there to contest the behavior? What child, having to live with the potential for their mother to bring home an abusive boyfriend doesn't thank God for having a caring father nearby to go to for help? What child doesn't benefit from having a second parental opinion available to them for any major decision?

But beyond those simple things are the more important aspects of fatherhood in society. A father shapes his children's view of God with all that entails. Young boys look to their fathers to provide an example of how they ought to behave to become men of good standing in the community. Young girls look to their fathers to provide an example of what qualities they want to look for in a husband.

My thanks to all those fathers who are doing their best to keep and raise their families in accordance with God's principles.

"If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" ~Luke 11:11-13

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Part 6 - In State Tuition or making it harder for legitimate citizens of WI to get into college while degrading their character.

Update: The House passed this monstrosity at around 5:00 am on Saturday. Apparently having a majority wasn't enough-they felt the need to vote without witnesses. One rather believes there would have been protesters had the time of the vote been made public. It's up to us now. Call your senators folks - particularly those who ran on the democratic ticket. I have no objection to paying my fair share for government services, but this is increasing where we should be cutting and adding where responsible people would subtract.

The Governor's budget proposal contains a provision to provide in-state tuition at the UW for the children of illegal aliens. This proposal made it through the Joint Finance committee. Yes, it does contain a condition that these children must have lived in the state for 3 years, graduate from Wisconsin high schools or earn equivalency degrees here and show proof of applying for citizenship, but so what?

That's just a way of saying, if we can't catch you in three years (after tying the hands of those who would be the most likely to find and report you), you will be rewarded by allowing your children to get a reduced rate for college. How do you like that WI parents? You've worked hard to get your child to the point of college and now the governor wants to increase competition for the available spots in the freshman classes at the UW-system. This will also serve to ensure a growing population of illegal aliens as well as a skyrocketing crime rate because other criminals will be drawn to those that they may exploit.

And to whom is he giving this financial boon? To the hard working, legal inhabitants of this state who will be paying huge tax and fee increases to cover the more than 6 billion dollar deficit in this budget, if it passes as is? To the people whose car insurance premiums will skyrocket? To the people who will be watching as the state raids any funds that are not currently in use, even though they may have been sensibly designated for the purpose of covering future costs? (another proposed item in this travesty.) People whose cars are being damaged by driving on poorly paved roads because the transportation fund has been raided to pay for the general budget yet again?

NO. The recipients of this largess will be illegal aliens. People who are breaking the law by being here. People who are unable to uphold the smaller duties of neighborliness or the greater duties of citizenship for fear of being discovered and deported. People who are so lacking in character that they will raise children in a community where those children may expect nothing but a life of crime, because they are criminals (by definition) who do not have and cannot legally obtain a social security number.

Rep. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) said: "This gives children hope,".
How nice of you. It gives which children hope? Which children? The children who are actually citizens and to whom you owe a duty of protection as a legislator of this state or the criminals who have been made into criminals by parents who don't have enough moral fiber to become citizens before dragging their families to a new country?

How do you think it will affect the character of our own children to watch those citizens (state employees) who should be helping to enforce the law being forced to turn a blind eye to the law? What message does that send to them? It says:" You are worth less in the eyes of the law, because if you break the law, you will be charged with a crime." It says: "Laws are subjective. Their enforcement is selective depending on who you are." How does that give any children hope? Might I suggest you review our Pledge of Allegiance, particularly the end, you might have heard this part before - it's the part that says, "...with liberty and justice for all." Liberty without justice is not liberty - it's license.

May I remind Ms. Schilling as well as our governor that their first duty is to the citizens of this state. If you want to be nice, take your OWN money and set up a citizenship assistance agency to aid foreign nationals in becoming citizens. You do not have my permission to spend the money of the taxpayers of this state to give tuition breaks to criminals because it will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

"Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly."~Prov. 16:22

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Part 5 - Prevailing Wage changes or Crippling the ability of volunteers to help their communities

In WI currently, there is a prevailing wage limit of $223,000.00 on government projects. That means that any project done to or by any business, person, or agency that receives government money must use union workers (or at least pay the same wage as union workers would receive) for any project costing $223,000.00 or more.
Our governor wanted to drop that limit to $2,000.00. The Joint Finance Committee bumped it back up to $25,000.00.

While a $2,000.00 limit would have prohibited volunteers from doing even small projects, a $25,000.00 limit will still discourage groups from doing many projects that would be to the benefit of their community. As an example, the Order of the Arrow (Scouting's national honor society) completed a massive project for our national parks system just last year. Under this limit, such an organization would not have been allowed to do that work in WI because the cost of the work done by those Arrowmen and women was significantly more than $25,000.00. I know that was a national project, done for the national parks system and not just WI, but I'm sure there are projects such an organization could do on a state level that would be equally beneficial to the people of this state that would cost more than the $25,000.00 limit and this change would prevent that.

When I asked him about the negative aspects of this change with regard to volunteerism, Mr. Leibham pointed out that only agencies which receive government money are affected by this. When I pointed out that the very college that was hosting his breakfast had just been the recipient of an Eagle Scout project, he conceded that such things would be nearly impossible under the $2,000.00 limit.
I would contend that the $25,000.00 limit is just as harmful. It limits volunteers from even envisioning helpful projects over that amount.

Why should the people of WI, or any state be bound by such a ridiculous provision? I'm sure the argument is that it would create jobs because more projects would require paid labor. The reality, if I'm understanding this correctly, would be that, either these projects will not get done or they will cost the taxpayers of this state, because we would be adding to the government payroll. While this may create jobs, it is creating government jobs. That means it is creating more debt and a larger deficit while simultaneously decreasing our quality of life and damaging the character of the people of Wisconsin.

Unions have a place in this country to assure safe working conditions. But when unions are preventing community members from volunteering to do projects that benefit the community, they have overstepped their bounds. I will grant that many projects require specialized knowledge, that safety and quality must be considered with such volunteer projects. But are we really so lacking as a people that we couldn't overcome such objections by having a union worker review the plans for such projects and leave it at that rather than force our communities to pay for union labor when we have perfectly capable volunteers willing to do the work? (Often the volunteers for such projects have the technical training or may be union members.)
I don't think we are and I would hope that the legislature would agree..

"There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God."~Ecc 2:24

Monday, June 8, 2009

Part 4-Domestic Partner Benefits or Denying the will of the people of Wisconsin

The ink is hardly even dry on this state's constitutional amendment which states: "Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state." This amendment went through a years long legislative process and passed with a 59% majority.

Mr. Doyle has included in his budget a plan to create a registry for domestic partnerships. This would be a registry where same sex partners could pay a fee to have their "domestic partnership" recognized by the state of Wisconsin. For the purpose of...?

One thinks it's for the purpose of offering health and other benefits to those "domestic partnerships" where one of the "partners" is a state employee. Yes, Wisconsin, Mr. Doyle wants to create "a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals" - at least for those individuals in the state's employ. At least for now. If we allow this to go unchallenged, how long do you think we will have until it will be used as a basis for establishing the legality of same sex marriage here?

Perhaps Mr. Doyle misunderstood the wording of that amendment. Perhaps he believes that with a majority in the senate and assembly he can do whatever he likes. That party majority does not negate the law. Not even for the governor. This does not belong in the state's budget.

"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;"~2Peter 2:11

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Part 3 - Driver's Cards or turning state employees into criminals.

Update: There is also a provision that bans police officers from using this driver's card as a reason to investigate the citizenship status of a driver who holds one. Making criminals out of our police officers cannot be a good thing for this state.

Mr. Doyle's budget proposal contains a provision for "driver's cards". These are cards that Mr. Doyle thinks should be issued by WI DMV offices to illegal aliens that will allow them to drive in the state of WI. Essentially a driver's license for illegal aliens.

Aren't citizens required to report illegal activities including being present in the country illegally? The last time I checked, DMV employees are citizens and agents of the state as well. Wouldn't they be legally(as well as morally and ethically) obliged to report these illegals and have them arrested as they apply for these cards?

We can't afford to keep all the DMV offices in the state open, but we can afford to increase the workload of those that will be left in order to make illegal aliens feel welcome?

This does not belong in the state budget Mr. Doyle.

"Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money."~Gen 31:15

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Breakfast with Sen. Liebham -part 2 To coerce people out of their cars.

Update #2: 6/24/09 - The joint and several liability provision has been dropped by both the Senate and the assembly, but the budget still contains a proposal to allow stacking of insurance policies and to require increased coverage minimums. The senate has added a proposal requiring drivers in WI to purchase auto liability insurance.
Update: The proposed liability for being held 100% financially liable for all damages in an accident has been reset to 20 % instead of 1%. I still find this to be entirely unacceptable. The results will be the same.

Two of the non-fiscal items in Gov. Doyle's budget should be of concern to every WI citizen who drives a vehicle.

The first one is the raising of mandatory levels of insurance coverage. The state cannot raise your auto insurance premiums, but they can (and have) determine what a reasonable level of insurance coverage is to allow an individual to legally drive on our roads. The proposed change would raise your insurance (if you currently have the minimum coverage) by about 40%. Picture that, 40%, that's going to be about $300 for most people.

First of all, I would like to remind Mr. Doyle that not everybody in WI lives in a metropolitan area where there is public transportation available. This will relegate those folks on fixed incomes in places like Presque Isle or Siren or any number of rural communities to walking or riding bicycles, if they want to be continue to be law abiding citizens. This is Wisconsin. Walking and bicycles are not options for the entire year here. (Especially in Presque Isle or Siren-or really, any place in WI) One hopes those folks have enough land to support a good horse.(No buggies though, because they would require insurance.)
One assumes this will lead to a call for the good taxpayers of our lovely state to provide affordable public transportation for those in rural communities through yet more taxes.

One assumes this will also lead to an increase in the number of people driving without insurance which will cause another hike in that insurance cost.

Unfortunately that 40% increase in your insurance premiums is only the tip of the iceberg. The second item I want to cover in this post has the potential to more than double that or worse.

This second proposal is to drop the percentage of responsibility required to impose financial liability. This is wrong. Ethically wrong, morally wrong and financially wrong. It's a bit tricky, but let me see if I can explain the ramifications in plain language. Currently, in order for a WI citizen to be considered financially liable for the damages of an accident, it must be determined that they have at least 51% responsibility for that accident. That means if you are determined, under WI law, to be more than 50% responsible for the accident, you can be held financially liable for 100% of the damages caused by that accident.

Mr. Doyle's budget proposes that this percentage be dropped to 1.

Here's a scenario under the new budget if it is approved.

Your car is sitting in your driveway. (You managed to pay the new premium-what choice did you have, your work is 20 miles from your place of residence.) A single mother and an hourly wage earner are driving to their respective jobs. Neither one has insurance but they couldn't sell their vehicles - the market is gone because so few people could afford the insurance increase. Besides, they need a vehicle to get to work too, so what choice do they have but to drive illegally? They are both late and speeding. They collide in front of your house. One of the vehicles does a few flips, takes out a mailbox and the light post in front of your house and comes to rest next to your vehicle. A piece of this vehicle flies off and scratches your vehicle, which was sitting in your driveway. The single mother has two broken arms and a back injury. The other driver has a head injury which will put him into a coma for the next two months. The scratch to your vehicle would cost less than your deductible to fix, but here's the rub. Because you are the only one with insurance, you are now de facto 100% financially responsible for all the damages caused by this accident. You have 1% liability for the accident just because your vehicle was where the accident occurred.

Do you understand that? You are 100% financially liable for any accident if you have insurance coverage. Yes, of course the two drivers will also be held responsible, but they have nothing, so they will lose nothing. You will have the potential of losing everything you own to satisfy the financial obligations incurred by this accident if your insurance coverage isn't enough to cover the entire bill. That means your coverage needs to pay for damage to both of the vehicles,(in addition to the scratch on yours) the community property (the light post and mailbox) and the hospital costs for both of those drivers. Will those drivers be able to sue you for ongoing medical expenses if they require them? Maybe.

This will have the affect of making auto insurance providers pay for 100% of the damages caused by all accidents in which there is the involvement of at least one insured vehicle. If I were an auto insurance provider, I would refuse to provide coverage for WI drivers or any vehicles operating in this state under those conditions. If auto insurers continue to write policies in WI, they will surely become the most expensive policies in the nation. What will this increase do to businesses who require fleet vehicles-cabs, trucking, even the buses used for public transportation in the big cities?

This alone has the potential to so change our state that we may never see it come back. Businesses faced with such liability and labor issues (How can they find a reliable workforce if it's too expensive to drive?) will surely relocate. Auto sales will drop like a rock. Auto insurers will surely go elsewhere. Who wants to be on the hook financially for every auto accident in an entire state? How will that impact our citizens? What subterfuges and stratagems will be employed to find someone with insurance upon whom to place the blame for any accident?

I'm sure Mr. Obama will be pleased with this innovative way to "coerce people out of their cars". I am not. Neither should any citizen of WI. The insurance coverage increase was bad enough given our current economic woes, but the 1% liability is beyond the pale. This will not save any money for the state and does not belong in WI law much less a budget proposal.

"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's."~Exodus 20:17

Monday, June 1, 2009

Breakfast with Sen. Liebham-Part 1

I had the opportunity to attend a breakfast with my state senator this morning. He was holding it to give some of his constituents a legislative update, okay, really a briefing on Mr. Doyle's proposed budget. A budget which contains an large number of non-fiscal items.

One of the more alarming things about this budget is that this governor, having a clear majority in both the assembly and the senate, still feels the need to include these items in the budget. It is my understanding that this practice (including non-fiscal items in the budget)is done in order to get legislation passed - or at least looked at - that would otherwise be difficult to pass. Let me say that again. Our governor, here in WI, a governor with a majority in the assembly and the senate, feels the need to include these non-fiscal items in the budget, ostensibly because even with a majority, they would be difficult to pass otherwise. There is good reason for concern on his part about passing these items. Some of them are nothing less than social engineering on a grand scale. Perhaps that is the payback for the bailout he went hat-in-hand to Washington to obtain. I hope to post a bit about the various items over the next few weeks, but for today, I want to look at leadership.

There was some concern about who will be running for office in the next election cycle. While there are a few looking at the governor's seat, there isn't anyone stepping up to challenge Mr. Feingold. This is something that interests me because I have been hearing variations of the "We need new people to run" concern across the net, but especially in the conservative camp. I find this interesting because one of the challenges I have seen in my own volunteer work of choice is getting people to step up and take leadership positions in the group for which I volunteer. These are small leadership positions and it's a real challenge to get people, so I can certainly understand the concerns I am reading and hearing about a leadership deficit in this country.

I am wondering right now if the same techniques that work to get those volunteer leaders would work to fill these larger roles. To some extent, I think they would. I think many are intimidated by the sheer unfamiliarity of the job along with the potential to make huge, horrible, public mistakes. The idea of campaigning for office is also repugnant to some.

First, I think we need to lay out the requirements for the job. That way, folks would have the same decision making process to approach a run for office as they would for any other job.

Lay out the requirements: travel; public speaking; communication skills; marketing(or the ability to recruit someone who will do that for you); fund-raising; reading and reading comprehension, familiarity with the legislative process and legalese(yes, I know that's not a word-just what grandpa and I used to call the peculiar language lawyers use to write contracts.) and etc. Then lay out the benefits in a similar manner. Is a degree required? I recognize that it may be difficult to get elected when one's opponent can point to your lack of a degree, but is it a requirement? Abraham Lincoln didn't have one.

What is the day-to-day schedule of a legislator like? It seems to me that that is something I would want to know before putting myself or my family into that life.

So, that's the first step, giving people the ability to envision their lives in that position.

The second step is finding someone who is upset enough at the current situation to be willing to work to change it, to take a personal role in changing it.

If the GOP is really sincere about finding new candidates, here's what they should do: Look at the people who are complaining the most at the current situation and wanting them to "do something". Find the ones who can articulate their concerns effectively and who can pass a background screening. Then look in that group for those who would be successful at maintaining their principles in the face of pressure and whose values reflect those of your constituency. I'm sure they can think of other qualifiers to narrow down the list if it's still too large.

Third step: Evaluate the fitness of those folks to serve. Do they have the capacity to do what's required? Can they learn on the job? Do they have the temperament?

I detest political parties, but they are good at supporting a candidate for office-they should be, isn't that what they are for? Stop whining about a dearth of leaders and go out and find some.

Fourth step: Damage control. Stop portraying candidates of the opposing parties as corrupt and evil. They may be corrupt and evil, but it's our duty, as an electorate, is to look at our legislators objectively and evaluate their performance and behavior and replace those who are corrupt and evil. It's a decision we can make for ourselves, given honest, objective reporting. Stop telling us how to think. Those of us who vote have been thinking and making decisions for at least 18 years. (I'll grant you not all of us will make good decisions, but that's the risk we take to be a free people.)

I'm not a big fan of Joseph Lieberman, but he wrote a book called "In Praise of Public Life" encouraging more people to get involved in government service. If we hold our legislators to high standards of behavior, perhaps public service will once again be viewed as service and not the fast track to corruption. Promoting the view that all government employees are corrupt does not encourage participation by those who value their good names. If you want those folks, you need to show that you are not willing to smear opposing candidates. (Presenting objective facts is okay, putting an editorial spin on those facts is not.) People of good character recognize that, what you are willing to do to someone else, you will do to them eventually and will have nothing to do with you if you are willing to engage in that sort of behavior.

"Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good." ~2 Sam 10:12