Senate Rejects United Nations Treaty, Will Do So Again

A United Nations treaty to ban discrimination against people with disabilities went down to defeat in the Senate on Tuesday in a 61-38 vote.

The treaty backed by President Obama and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kansas) fell 5 votes short of the two-thirds needed for confirmation as dozens of Senate Republicans objected that it would create new abortion rights and impede the ability of people to home-school disabled children.

via The Hill’s Global Affairs.

This is why any UN treaty restricting arms trade is doomed to fail.  The UN can pass whatever it likes.  But there is not way you’re going to get 66 votes in the Senate to ratify it.

Everyone at the NRA needs to take a deep breath.  ok?

Cops Want Your TXTs

Cops to Congress: We need logs of Americans’ text messages

State and local law enforcement groups want wireless providers to store detailed information about your SMS messages for at least two years — in case they’re needed for future criminal investigations.

via CNET News.

I find this rather troubling.

Cops addicted to power.  Congress too dumb to know better.  This bill has a fair chance of passing.

Of course it will not help fight crime at all.  Not in the least.  Criminals will simply use “burner phones” which are untraceable.  Pay cash at Wal-Mart and as the song sez, F#!^ the police.

Writing that I’m thinking something needs to be made clear:

Individual police officers are heroes; as are firemen.

Police departments are jack-booted thugs who actually believe that if you’re not doing anything wrong you have nothing to hide.

Your privacy is at stake here.  You may want to do something.

Pensioners Take Note, Municipal Bond Storm Coming

[B]ut California too is now starting to hand it to bondholders. Cities in California are now testing the limits of bankruptcy law, and not paying the debt nor the payments for retirees to the state system. Thus this article describes how the state retirement system (CALPERS) is suing to demand payment, and saying that retiree obligations come AHEAD of creditors (municipal bond holders) in the queue.

“The issue is, do Calpers obligations supersede unsecured bondholders?” Fabian said in a telephone interview. “There’s an awful lot of unsecured bondholders in California. If you put pension obligations to Calpers as secured and senior to unsecured debt, in effect those bonds have been downgraded.”

In the Stockton and San Bernardino cases, Calpers is arguing that pension contributions must be made ahead of payments to other creditors because they are so-called statutory liens, or debts that state law requires to be paid. Bondholders and other creditors that oppose Calpers argue that pension debt is a contractual obligation like any other.

You’d have to be nuts to buy California municipal debt if Calpers has precedence and employee retirement benefits can’t be cut, since this is the MAIN THING that is driving these cities into insolvency. In the future likely these municipalities would just contract out everything to third parties that wouldn’t pay their employees those giant benefits, but the cities have to jettison these liabilities to put their fiscal house in order today.

via Chicago Boyz.

In case this is a little tough to follow, in bankruptcy debts are paid according to a priority.  There’s a decent primer here.

The “Illinois” based pensions are probably ok. e.g. ITRS.  There is no statute permitting a state to file for bankruptcy protection.

However cities are corporations; they can (and do) file for bankruptcy protection.  CPS, CPD, CFD employees and retirees should watch these cases in California closely.  They may be getting a real haircut if they have to defer to the bond holders to get their money.

It’s all very very sad.


Chicago’s New Billboard Deal All But Signed

Kudos to Alderman Bob Fioretti:

A Chicago City Council committee signed off Monday on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s latest privatization deal—even though, after nearly five hours of testimony, aldermen still didn’t quite know how it added up for taxpayers, what its shortfalls might be, or exactly which companies were included in putting it together.

In more than a few places, they weren’t even sure what the contract said.

“As I tried to go through these documents over the weekend, I have to admit, I don’t really have the expertise to understand them,” said Ed Burke, who’s read a few contracts in more than four decades as an alderman and attorney.  …

As they explained, the deal involves renting out public space to a private billboard company in return for some of the proceeds. The firm, Interstate JCDecaux, will pay to put up digital billboards on 34 sites along expressways in Chicago. In return, the city will collect a guaranteed $155 million over the next twenty years, with an option to extend it for nine more.The city will also get a share of the advertising revenues—though there are pages of complex formulas and footnotes that determine the exact amount. For example, taxpayers will essentially pay back some of the millions they’re receiving up front, since over time Interstate JCDecaux will recoup the costs of building and maintaining the billboards before sharing proceeds with the city.  …

“Was there any independent financial analysis for this particular proposal?” asked 46th Ward alderman James Cappleman.”Not directly,” said Scott.  …

But the guaranteed payouts are far below that—the most per year is $15 million, in 2013.

And this is where the fun starts…

But Alderman Robert Fioretti (2nd) messed everything up by asking for a head count to see if they had a quorum.

This was a shocking development, as committee meetings regularly proceed without anything close to half their members present, which is technically what they’re supposed to have. But under the council rules it doesn’t matter unless a member of the committee raises a stink about it.

Such stink raising is not common.

In fact, Carrie Austin, chair of the budget committee, wasn’t deeply irked that such a disgraceful thing was happening on her watch. She tried to turn Fioretti to stone with an infuriated stare. “I find it awful strange that you would call a quorum now, after you know so many people have left.”

“I think it’s entirely appropriate,” Fioretti replied, plopping down in his seat as if to say, what are they going to do—map me out of my ward?

Austin recessed the committee and, along with mayoral aides, got on the phone to round up some more warm bodies.

A half hour later the roll was called again, and 23 aldermen were counted as present and more-or-less awake—one more than needed for a quorum, and plenty more than needed to sign off on the billboard deal. It passed 20-3, with only Fioretti, Waguespack, and Pawar opposing.

via Chicago Reader.

This is going to be the parking meter deal redux.  Just you wait.  We’re going to have digital advertising everywhere and the city is going to get a mere $15 million a year.  JCDecaux is going to make 4 or 5 times that.

This is a farce.  In a few years Rahm is going to ask JCDecaux for a “favor” and they’re going to do it.  It’s all connected, and corrupt.

New Faces Of Meth

Eight years ago, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office launched a campaign called “the Faces of Meth” to address Oregon’s methamphetamine problem. The images showed the jarring effects of meth on addicts’ faces through before-and-after pictures from their arrest records. recently followed suit with this infographic. Warning: these images are disturbing.

via Business Insider.


Plastic Bulb Promises Better Quality Light

The new light source is called field-induced polymer electroluminescent Fipel technology. It is made from three layers of white-emitting polymer that contain a small volume of nanomaterials that glow when electric current is passed through them.

The inventor of the device is Dr David Carroll, professor of physics at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. He says the new plastic lighting source can be made into any shape, and it produces a better quality of light than compact fluorescent bulbs which have become very popular in recent years.

Wake university researcher with light The new light source is said to be twice as efficient as fluorescent bulbs”They have a bluish, harsh tint to them, ” he told BBC News, “it is not really accommodating to the human eye; people complain of headaches and the reason is the spectral content of that light doesn’t match the Sun – our device can match the solar spectrum perfectly.

“I’m saying we are brighter than one of these curly cube bulbs and I can give you any tint to that white light that you want.”

via BBC News.

Sounds cool.

$55 Million Paid to Kids to Do Nothing

Records provided to CNN show that $54.5 million was spent on the NRI program, mostly through the governor’s discretionary fund, which doesn’t require legislative approval.

The only data on the program’s accomplishments come directly from the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority. The NRI states that it created more than 3,484 jobs, provided counseling for more than 3,100 children, and helped 1,175 ex-cons.  …

NRI participants were paid $8.75 an hour, first to receive mentoring from adults, and then go out to pitch positive messages and hand out fliers in their neighborhoods.  …

[S]tudents earned $8.75 an hour to visit the DuSable Museum of African American History and to the National Museum of Mexican Art.

What the ??

Why would taxpayers pay for kids to attend mentoring?  It would be like paying them to play basketball or video games or go to school.

$54.5 million / 3,484 jobs / $8.75 / hour = 1,787 hours & $15,642.94 per person.  This is nothing more than paying kids for doing the right thing.