On the eve of history

We are on the eve of an historical event. President-elect Barrack Obama will become the next President of the United States in less than 24 hours. The hope that he brings echoes the voice of the great civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life we celebrate today. It took 40 years for us as a nation to get to this point, all because of his work and his achievements. It is a momentous occasion to be a part of history.

This post is dedicated to Dr. King, President-elect Obama, and progress.

Obama our next President!

After a long and hard-fought campaign, Senator and now President-elect Barrack Obama is the 44th President of the United States of America. This was not a race about race, class, or stardom. The people voted for positive change, honesty, integrity, and loyalty; the nation chose the change it needed. The majority looked beyond the façades of the war hero, the hockey mom, and the mascot plumber. Not all people are easily swayed by the rhetoric, lies, and deception that the Republicans tried to push. Today, we look forward to being Americans again.

Congratulations to President-elect Barrack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden for winning the White House. The United States looks forward to positive and needed change and prosperity, and I have no doubt that this will be your legacy. This blog post is dedicated to the United States, and especially to you, Barrack Obama, Joe Biden, your families, and your friends.

Remembering Tim Russert

One of my guilty pleasures is watching Meet the Press on NBC. I enjoyed watching Tim Russert help viewers understand the world of American politics and get at the heart of what some of the experts, politicians, and other guests were really telling us. His death yesterday is a serious loss in the world of the political press. He was a true gentleman. He was a fine political analyst and a fantastic moderator. He was a genuine person. The world has lost a great man.

I dedicate this post to Tim Russert’s family, friends, coworkers, and fans. May his legacy live on.

Gas tax holiday wrong solution

According to the Appleton Post-Crescent, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and John McCain are suggesting suspending the federal gas tax to help drive fuel costs down so that Americans can continue to afford to drive.

Today’s prices are $3.69 per gallon in my city. With an 18.4-cent per gallon suspension, I’d still be spending over $3.50 per gallon. So instead of paying what was a record-high $3.25 last year, I’m still spending more after a suspension. Let’s do the math.

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NFL Network, video choice minor issues

I was reading through the Wheeler Report when I came across an interesting collection of letters to the Wausau Daily Herald. There are a multitude of issues that affect everyone in the state. But I zeroed in on the NFL Network and the “video choice” bill.

Even though Wausau is in a less-populated area of the state, I agree at what these citizens wrote. I especially like Mr. Duffy’s comment: “the royal screwing the NFL is giving its loyal fan base hardly calls for government intervention – although a fan boycott of the NFL Network would do wonders.” That should be the first step of those of us who love football. If the NFL was really here for the fans, it would not have become so greedy as to create a cable network and limit access to the real fans.

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Naming a new school

I’m typically not one to think about such frivolous matters such as naming a new school. But living nearby, I had to pipe in on this conversation.

A few months ago, the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) was prepared to name a new school after Hmong Freedom Fighter General Vang Pao. However, Pao was recently indicted in a failed coup attempt, and MMSD requested new names. I agree that the board should not name the school after such a controversial issue. After collecting suggested names, the board is now requesting comments.

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Local police sacrificed for war

I came across this Government Technology “Point of View” editorial today regarding the cost of the war in Iraq to civilians here at home. Many communities depend on federal funding to provide salaries for law enforcement officers and personnel, but the funding is being diverted to the war in Iraq.

The editorial references the Government Technology article, “Vanishing Act.” It’s an article about how funding is diverted from community policing to the war efforts and homeland security. As a result, crime is up (although, admittedly, there are other factors), and police departments are forced to revert to reactionary methods of policing versus the proactive benefits of community policing. Additionally, many police officers are also military soldiers and are now serving in the war.

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Opposing voter photo ID in state constitution

I’m not a big fan of government spending, especially when the ends do not necessarily justify the means. For example, there is a major push in Wisconsin to adopt a constitutional amendment that would require all voters to present a photo ID when they vote. Today, the technology is pretty common. But that could change within a couple of years.

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin explain in their press release that states that require a photo ID do not necessarily curb the problem of voter fraud. Furthermore, by requiring a photo ID at the polls, certain groups of people are less likely to vote. Although that is a cultural phenomenon, it is also a means of excluding people from a democratic process. It undermines exactly what our founding fathers fought for.

Thus, I oppose photo ID at the polls.

League of Women Voters of Wisconsin press release: Oppose Constitution Amendment for Photo ID

Taxing cigarettes

I don’t smoke, nor do I condone smoking. It’s a disgusting habit that I managed to completely quit  two years ago, and I don’t expect to ever start again. I also am not a big fan of taxing those that cannot otherwise seek meaningful treatments to quit smoking.

The Healthy Wisconsin Council, a council to address health care and other health issues, recently recommended increasing the state’s cigarette tax by $1 per pack to cover costs for increased health care costs, new health care programs, and anti-tobacco education.

Senator Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) opposes this, stating his press release:

“While a huge tax increase in cigarettes may pay off in the short run, over time as fewer and fewer people smoke, those revenues will taper off but the programs they support will continue to increase in cost.”

The senator is correct to a degree. But I urge all of the legislators out there to consider the goal of the tax. Is it to increase revenues for a new program? Is the program truly related to helping smokers quit, or are there other motivations behind increasing revenues? Or is it really to “encourage” smokers to quit?

The statistics indicate that when cigarettes cost more, less people smoke. Additionally, those that do smoke add greater costs to the health care cost burden because of the complications that are related to continuous bodily damage. But the statistics do not show the powerfully addictive nature of quitting smoking. I’ve heard from others that they found it easier to quit heroin or alcohol than to quit smoking.

Four years ago, the state used money from a tobacco lawsuit to plug a hole in its budget deficit. The money was intended to help people quit smoking. It certainly was not a self-sustaining fund, but it was large enough to help many fund programs that could help smokers kick the habit. Now that the money is gone, we need to know if the increased cigarette taxes will be used only for these purposes.

I liken this to what happened in the City of London when it imposed a toll for vehicles to enter. At £5 per vehicle per day, the city hoped to increase revenue while also decreasing motor vehicle traffic. Because the public was really upset with the cost, the city ended up only seeing traffic decrease; the last I read, the city did not raise the revenues it expected.

I agree with Senator Ellis’ point on increasing taxes for the sake of starting a new program. It’s irresponsible, and there is plenty of evidence that shows why it doesn’t work as a long-term solution. If it is used as a way to cover increased health care costs because of the burden of smoking, then we could be sending the wrong message to the health care companies: we are willing to pay increased costs. I don’t agree with that either. If we are using the funding to help smokers quit, then we are forcing them to subsidize their own programs, and I’m willing to accept that. Again, legislators need to seriously consider the true motivation for these increases before making their final decisions.

Ellis Blasts Call for Cigarette Tax Hike

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article: Cigarette tax increase has support in Senate

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial: Taxing what kills us