How to Make More ‘Makers’

Joey Hudy, a young “maker” from Phoenix went to the White House this week to show off his project, the “Extreme Marshmallow Cannon.” When President Obama saw it, he told Joey: “Let’s try it.” Joey set up the air cannon, which uses a bicycle pump to build up air pressure, and put a marshmallow down the barrel. When he pressed the trigger, a single marshmallow was shot out across the room to the delight of everyone, but especially the president.

via  CNN Blogs.

This is a great story about how we need more young people (kids?) to be able to think creatively, differently.  This is especially necessary in our inner city school which appear to have a more homogeneous population.

Over at Chicago News Report a bunch of hate-filled racists took over the comment section of an otherwise civil blog.  Among the filth was an observation:

Almost every black teen has the same carbon copy personality….  There’s almost no black goths, or nerds, no black metalheads, they quash any difference within their community and make them fall in line … or else they get beat down or even killed.

I don’t know if that’s true — but if so, it’s a problem.

We need to encourage all children to take things apart just to see if you can put them back together.

Fioretti: Not So Fast Rahm

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to have five financing giants bankroll $1.7 billion in Chicago infrastructure projects ran into opposition Monday from aldermen concerned about “hidden fees” and long-term leasing of city assets.

During closed-door briefings with aldermen, sources said Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott stuck to the script and talked only about the $225 million in energy retrofits to government buildings expected to generate $20 million in energy savings used to repay investors.

That wasn’t good enough for Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd). He’s demanding to know what other projects Emanuel wants to finance with the Infrastructure Trust, how those projects will be chosen and what, if any, user fees may be imposed to make certain that investors get their money back with interest.

via Chicago Sun-Times.

Two things about this little power play:

  1. Ald. Fioretti is exactly right.  I’ve written in the past about how no one at City Hall can calculate a ROI or time value of money.  Sad that not one elected official seems to every taken a single semester of economics or finance.
  2. Rahm brought this on himself.  Ald. Fioretti would have been pretty happy just being alderman of the 2nd Ward for some time.  But Rahm wasn’t happy about Bob wanting to run for Mayor and therefore had to be punished.  So if you take a look at the new ward maps, Fioretti’s house is placed all by itself in a ward the bulk of which is miles away.  It’s a joke.

The Machine is at it again.   Trying to grind it’s way into your pocket with back-room deals between the city and undisclosed entities.

We get exactly what we vote for.  We voted for this, we deserve it.

Illinois Teachers’ Pension Troubles

It’s important to note that this fund do NOT include CPS teachers.

Illinois public school teachers and retirees could have reason to worry about the kinds of pension checks they will be getting down the line.  …

The Springfield State-Journal register reported over the weekend that pension director Dick Ingram sent a memo to his board on Feb. 9, saying he was no longer confident that the state’s largest pension system will continue to pay it enough money to stay above water. The state owes Ingram’s fund $43 billion.  …

Ingram said pension funding is under severe threat from the state’s unpaid bills, soaring Medicaid costs and the $85 billion in overall unfunded pension liability, which is expected to rise.

“If that is the case, the only other option available that would significantly change the amount owed is to reduce past service costs for active members and retirees,” Ingram wrote in the memo.  …

Gov. Pat Quinn addressed the pension crisis shortly after releasing his budget plan in February.  …

“Everybody is going to get a haircut. No one will get scalped – that’s the basic concept,” the governor added.

via CBS Chicago.

Decades of the Machine running both Chicago and the state have led to every government entity in the state not being able to meet it’s obligations.

This is a wake-up call to not only teachers, but police officers, firefighters, and government workers of every sort.  The good ‘ole days are over.  The gravy train is ending.

Time to get real.

Chinese Driver’s Test — Really!

If you have ever thought of cruising on the freeways of Shanghai, think again. Beside being considered one of the deadliest countries for drivers, China also appears to have some of the strangest questions in the written test that people need to pass in order to have a driver’s license issued.Some of the questions in the test are so tricky, our Beijing correspondent Keith Richburg tells us, people have to take this test several times before they pass it

via Washington Post.

Go see for yourself.

Bogus Chicago-area Jobless Rate Dips

Lies… Damn Lies… and Statistics:

The February unemployment rate in the Chicago area dropped to 8.9 percent from 9.6 percent a year ago, according to preliminary data released Thursday by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

The Chicago area, which includes Joliet and Naperville added roughly 38,100 jobs  to the payrolls, according to the data, which was not seasonally adjusted.  …

The unemployment rate identifies individuals who are out of work but looking for work.

via Chicago Tribune.

What was that last line again?  Oh ya, the unemployment rate identifies individuals who are out of work but looking for work.  And it’s missing one very important fact, it also ONLY includes people who HAVE WORKED.  Recent grads are not eligible for unemployment, so they don’t count.

The “Chicago Area” as they call it consists of over 9.4 million people. Contrary to the facts of the story, there were no, zero, zilch job added to payrolls in February.  What really happened is that 38,000 or so folks removed themselves from the job market.

0.40% of the folks simply gave up looking for work OR have been on employment for so long that the benefits simply ran out.

If one took into account age, time on unemployment, underemployment and other factors we’d see that the real unemployment rate is far, FAR, higher.

Clout Boosts Ex-Police Chief $30k per Year

The Machine taking care of its own:

At first blush, a pension bill adopted by the General Assembly in 2007 seemed to have a laudable goal: extending retirement benefits to local police force employees’ widows after they remarried.

But buried within the legislation was something considerably less altruistic: a provision that enabled a member of one of Chicago’s better-known political families to boost his pension by more than $30,000 a year — while saddling unsuspecting taxpayers in Oak Brook with nearly $750,000 in funding liabilities, the Chicago Sun-Times and Better Government Association have learned.

The recipient of that larger pension, Thomas Sheahan, is a former police chief in Oak Brook, the current village manager in Lyons and a member of a Democratic clan that has helped rule Chicago’s Southwest Side for decades.

Sharp-tongued and unapologetic about benefitting from the provision that no one else has used, the 59-year-old Sheahan said of his pension: “I worked for 24 f—— years [in the public sector], I deserve every penny of it and I deserve a lot f—— more.”

Retiring from Oak Brook last spring, Sheahan now is drawing an annual payout of nearly $77,000. Although pension records show that’s about $32,000 more than he would have received had he retired at the same point without the legislation, Sheahan said it’s still a relatively modest sum. “I get about what a sergeant gets,” he said.

Sheahan — brother of former Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan and James “Skinny” Sheahan, a long-time aide to ex-Mayor Richard M. Daley — wouldn’t say if or how he was involved in the origin of the pension sweetener.

via Chicago Sun-Times.

When will the people rise up and say “Enough!”  A foul-mouth connected punk thinks he deserves more.  Go get a real job in the private sector and find out what you’re really worth.

But that’s not even the end of the story:

The main sponsor of the bill, then-state Rep. Bob Molaro (D-Chicago), told members of the Illinois House that the tweak to the state’s pension code was intended to help one person, according to a transcript that didn’t identify the person.  …

Molaro declined to be interviewed, but released a statement to the Sun-Times indicating he did not know Thomas Sheahan at the time the legislation was crafted, something Sheahan echoes. They came to know each other, however, after Molaro left the Legislature in late 2008 and, with a partner, became a $5,000-a-month lobbyist for Oak Brook.

Molaro said in the statement: “Any attempt to connect the sponsorship of this bill and my being part of the lobbying team for the village of Oak Brook is completely unfounded and absurd.”  …

Sheahan now is village manager in Lyons, where he said he’s paid roughly $65,000 a year for fewer than 20 hours a week.

So this political hack is now drawing $140,000 per year from the taxpayers.  Unbelievable.

And Molaro… the tool that he is, doesn’t even know who he’s working for.  He’s just doing what he’s told; nothing more than a warm body filling a seat collecting $80,000/year from the taxpayers to be Michael Madigan’s bag man.

Speaking of Madigan… Where’s Lisa Madigan in all this?  Shouldn’t the state’s highest law enforcement officer look into the matter to see if a crime’s been committed?

WI Billboard: Truth to Power on Teachers’ Unions

This is an idea I’ve discussed with CTU reps at a meeting one time.  CTU cannot represent “the children.”  The truth is that CTU, WEAC, and all other teacher’s unions have a fiduciary duty to the union members.  The union cannot do anything which would advance the interests of non-members (i.e. children) to the detriment of the members (i.e. teachers.)

Glad someone’s bring the truth forward.

A group purporting to advocate for education reform is putting up a billboard attacking the state teachers’ group, Wisconsin Education Association Council, or WEAC, as a tool of big labor uninterested in educating children.

Reforming Education And Demanding Excellent Results-Wisconsin, or READER-WI, is fronted by Jeff Waksman, spokesman for the Republican Party of Dane County, and David Blaska, former Isthmus blogger.

The group argues that public education is failing miserably and points to unions as the culprit: “Laws do not allow teachers to use children for partisan political advocacy, but that has not been the case, particularly in Wisconsin. Elementary school children have been forced to take part in anti-Scott Walker activities, even those young enough to not have any real grasp of the actual political issues facing the world. Big Labor has made the classroom much more political than it should be.”

via The Daily Page.

Did I mention that this is awesome!!

Chicago Business Round-Up

Cruising the local business section I found the following:

Caterpillar Opening Facility in Mexico
Peoria-based Caterpillar said Friday it is building a parts distribution center in Mexico that will employ up to 150 people.  …

The 500,000-square-foot facility will be in San Luis Potosi, and it’s expected to be operational in mid-2013. The new plant will be under the company’s logistics unit, which has also opened distribution centers in California, Ohio, Washington, Texas and Dubai

via Chicago Tribune.

Strike One!

Business in the Midwest Slips
Business activity in the Midwest decreased slightly in March due to a decline in new orders and employment, according to a monthly survey of members of the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago.

The Chicago Business Barometer fell to 62.2 in March from 64 in February. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the regional economy.  …

Businesses said they are being affected by high oil prices, which are increasing transportation costs and raising the price of commodities

via Chicago Tribune.

Strike Two!

R.R. Donnelley Closing Mendota Plant
R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co.will close its Mendota printing plant at the end of May in a move that will affect 207 employees.

The pending closure will be devastating for the city, Mayor David Boelk said Thursday. Boelk said the company’s announcement caught him off guard, adding that he learned about the closing on Wednesday when an employee called him in tears.  …

R.R. Donnelley is one of the largest employers in the city of 7,340 residents. As such, the closing will affect other businesses, including the local post office, which Boelk said was spared in the latest round of Postal Service closings because of the volume of mail generated by the plant. Boelk said he hopes to find a buyer for the plant that could rehire the workers.  …

R.R. Donnelley has sought to adapt itself to an increasingly digital world in the last eight years. As part of that reorganization, it laid off 2,899 workers in 2011.

via Chicago Tribune.

Strike Three!!

McCarthy (Rahm) Shakes-up Police Brass (Not Really)

This past week Rahm launched an ambitious plan to revitalize the city.  However in order to make that work, he must first prevent Chicago from becoming Gotham.  The post below talks about how the lack of enough police officers is causing a false reduction in the number of crimes being reported.  I personally think that Rahm and McCarthy know this. But while money’s so tight, they just have to make due until sunnier days come along.

Nevertheless, they have to maintain the appearance of doing something to stay on top of criminal element.

So along comes this story about McCarthy moving some top folks around at CPD:

With Chicago suffering a 35 percent spike in murders this year, police Supt. Garry McCarthy announced a reshuffling of his command staff Friday, replacing commanders in five of the city’s 23 districts.

McCarthy also promoted three supervisors to deputy chief positions. He said the changes were made to “strengthen the department’s ongoing efforts to reduce violence” and create a “more efficient departmental structure.”  …

A police spokeswoman said no district commanders were demoted to make way for the changes in those five districts. They replaced commanders who were promoted to other positions or retired, she said.  …

As of Thursday, there have been 114 murders this year in Chicago — up 35 percent compared with the same period last year.But department records also show that, through March 18, overall crime has dropped 10 percent throughout the city compared with the same period in 2011.

via Chicago Sun-Times.

This is not a shake-up.  A shake-up is where people are shown the door for poor performance.  People are held accountable.  …

Rahm and McCarthy know that it’s not really these folks fault.  Everyone knows that the real problem is that there’s not enough officers to go around.  This is just a PR stunt — feeding something, anything to the masses — to create the illusion that Rahm and McCarthy are taking this seriously.

Crime? What Crime?

Crime is out of control.  It’s not reported because in this town No Report = No Crime.  And because we have so few police — who are constantly running from call to call — a LOT of crime is going unreported.  Sometimes you can call 911 and wait 30-40 seconds before someone answers the phone.  But when it takes 40, or 50 minutes for CPD to arrive you get tired and get on with your life.  So many “petty” crimes simply go unreported.  e.g.

A gang member tags your garage and you just want to repaint and don’t report it… No Crime.

You get your wallet stolen on the Crime Red Line need to get to work and don’t report it… No Crime.

Your car has a smashed window and you get it fixed without reporting it… No Crime.

Dude gets stabbed and take himself to the hospital, says he cut himself shaving… No Crime.

Because of the No Report = No Crime policy of CPD, if there were no police officers there would be… No Crime.

But we know that crimes are being committed.  How?  Because we have record call volume at the 911 center.  So much so that it makes the news:

Overtime at Chicago’s 911 emergency center more than doubled during the first two months of this year, thanks to a 13.2 percent increase in call volume and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to reduce the ranks of police and fire dispatchers, records show.

Police dispatchers wracked up 10,024 hours of overtime in January and February, at a cost of $516,642, compared to 5,247 hours with a $247,662 price tag during the same period a year ago, records show.

via Chicago Sun-Times.

The wheels are falling off the bus.  Hopefully soon someone in the media will wake-up and begin really looking into this.  There’s a massive story here.