Echo Fox Three

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Thought For Today

"What is sad for women of my generation is that they weren't supposed to work if they had families. What were they going to do when the children are grown, watch the raindrops coming down the windowpane?" - Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

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Friday, May 20, 2011

The Thought For Today

"You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream -- the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order -- or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism." - Ronald Reagan

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Hard Truth From Orlando

Well, it’s official. Beginning July 1st, 2011, all Florida state employees have to kick in 3% of their salaries towards retirement, retirement funds that used to be entirely paid for by the State of Florida and part of the benefit package for remaining in the state public service at a significantly lower pay rate than the private employment sector. Of course, the old period of employment before you became vested in the retirement system and entitled to any of it was 10 years – but then Republican governor Jeb Bush was the one who approved reduction of the investment period to a mere six years. He also introduced the retirement option plan of state employees having their retirement funds put into the stock market or into the long-term retirement, with a guaranteed rate of pay upon reaching the retirement age – basically, a dividend that you could cash in when you left state service or a regular fixed check when you retired – one or the other, but not both.

Jeb Bush also hired the Arthur Andersen accounting firm to oversee the Florida Retirement Pension, considered then and now as one of the best in the nation. That made me flinch at the time because everyone knew that Arthur Andersen was responsible for the failure to audit and report the criminal Enron fraud, which made history as one of the largest corporate bankruptcies in American history. And “fiscally responsible” Republican Jeb handed over the pension plan of all of Florida ’s public servants to these criminally inept or just plain criminal guys to monitor.

I don’t know how many people since those changes have pulled their money out of the retirement system before they reached retirement age, but you know that had to cost the State. With only six years to be vested, this change encouraged transition of state employees, creating a constant drain of monetary resources when people pulled out their retirement funds as they left Florida ’s service. So Governor Scott is raising the years to vestment to 8 years, splitting the difference between 6 years (a ludicrous figure) and 10 years, and cutting retirement 3% COLA (Cost of Living Allowances) for retirees until further notice.

I believe that’s when the DROP program came into being as well, under Jeb Bush. This is the program we’ve seen everyone screaming about for some time, the legalized “double-dipping” where an employee could retire and come back in one month and collect a retirement check and another full paycheck while earning still a second retirement to be cashed in when they retire for keeps The DROP program is finally being dismantled, as well it should be – but it’s funny that this program largely benefited the guys making the most money, and particularly those working up in Tallahassee, rather than the little administrative folks at the bottom of the salary food chain.

There’re other changes as well, but those are some of the big ones – basically, a 3% pay cut across the board for State employees, plus the 3% which the State will no longer be paying into the retirement system because the employees are paying out of their salaries – so really a 6% pay cut for State employees.

Judicial assistants have to pay their portion of the medical benefits like everyone else. That’s about $80 a month for family coverage and $45 a month for individual (the State still covers the ridiculous 300 plus premium per family coverage or $100 plus for individual coverage). My question is, the judicial assistants, being the lowest on the totem pole of salaries – are the judges and all the Select Exempt Service guys and our state legislators and honorable governor paying their part of the premiums or do they still get their medical coverage completely free as they have for decades? I mean, if it’s fair for the folks with the lowest salary (but not lower hours or responsibilities) to pay their portion, what about the guys making the big bucks who can really afford that and not even flinch?

I’m just wondering – are our Governor’s retirement and benefits still free or does he (and the Republican Florida State Congress) have to set the example and kick in his fair share, too?




Florida Cracker

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

US-CERT Cyber Security Alert SA11-130A

Yup - it's Microslug again...

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Monday, May 09, 2011

Terry Pratchett's Troll Bridge

"Troll Bridge is an epic short film based on a fable written by Terry Pratchett. Set in the phenomenally successful Discworld series, Troll Bridge is about the world’s last Barbarian hero (now at the age of 87) embarking on a suicide mission to battle a bridge troll in mortal combat."

Yes folks, it's Cohen the Barbarian.

Via: http://wrongtown.org/Latest-Links

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/snowgumfilms/terry-pratchetts-troll-bridge

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Sunday, May 08, 2011

The Hard Truth From Orlando

Well, it’s official. Beginning July 1st, 2011, all Florida state employees have to kick in 3% of their salaries towards retirement, retirement funds that used to be entirely paid for by the State of Florida and part of the benefit package for remaining in the state public service at a significantly lower pay rate than the private employment sector. Of course, the old period of employment before you became vested in the retirement system and entitled to any of it was 10 years – but then Republican governor Jeb Bush was the one who approved reduction of the investment period to a mere six years. He also introduced the retirement option plan of state employees having their retirement funds put into the stock market or into the long-term retirement, with a guaranteed rate of pay upon reaching the retirement age – basically, a dividend that you could cash in when you left state service or a regular fixed check when you retired – one or the other, but not both.

Jeb Bush also hired the Arthur Andersen accounting firm to oversee the Florida Retirement Pension, considered then and now as one of the best in the nation. That made me flinch at the time because everyone knew that Arthur Andersen was responsible for the failure to audit and report the criminal Enron fraud, which made history as one of the largest corporate bankruptcies in American history. And “fiscally responsible” Republican Jeb handed over the pension plan of all of Florida ’s public servants to these criminally inept or just plain criminal guys to monitor.

I don’t know how many people since those changes have pulled their money out of the retirement system before they reached retirement age, but you know that had to cost the State. With only six years to be vested, this change encouraged transition of state employees, creating a constant drain of monetary resources when people pulled out their retirement funds as they left Florida ’s service. So Governor Scott is raising the years to vestment to 8 years, splitting the difference between 6 years (a ludicrous figure) and 10 years, and cutting retirement 3% COLA (Cost of Living Allowances) for retirees until further notice.

I believe that’s when the DROP program came into being as well, under Jeb Bush. This is the program we’ve seen everyone screaming about for some time, the legalized “double-dipping” where an employee could retire and come back in one month and collect a retirement check and another full paycheck while earning still a second retirement to be cashed in when they retire for keeps The DROP program is finally being dismantled, as well it should be – but it’s funny that this program largely benefited the guys making the most money, and particularly those working up in Tallahassee, rather than the little administrative folks at the bottom of the salary food chain.

There’re other changes as well, but those are some of the big ones – basically, a 3% pay cut across the board for State employees, plus the 3% which the State will no longer be paying into the retirement system because the employees are paying out of their salaries – so really a 6% pay cut for State employees.

Judicial assistants have to pay their portion of the medical benefits like everyone else. That’s about $80 a month for family coverage and $45 a month for individual (the State still covers the ridiculous 300 plus premium per family coverage or $100 plus for individual coverage). My question is, the judicial assistants, being the lowest on the totem pole of salaries – are the judges and all the Select Exempt Service guys and our state legislators and honorable governor paying their part of the premiums or do they still get their medical coverage completely free as they have for decades? I mean, if it’s fair for the folks with the lowest salary (but not lower hours or responsibilities) to pay their portion, what about the guys making the big bucks who can really afford that and not even flinch?

I’m just wondering – are our Governor’s retirement and benefits still free or does he (and the Republican Florida State Congress) have to set the example and kick in his fair share, too?








Florida Cracker

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Hard Truth From Orlando

You know, the word that Bin Laden is dead, I guess, a lot of people are celebrating. It just kind of makes me sad. What a waste of lives and talent all the way around. The Russians in Afghanistan to the US in Afghanistan ; it’s been an Army-devouring black hole on the planet forever. The only way to win is to subvert them all. Make the West look like the only place to be for their young people to be somebody, stop the Christian drum-beating silliness that puts their backs up, and start recruiting their best and spreading them across the American “melting pot” so that they become assimilated. I really believe the Communists were onto something by saying that there will be no religion. True, you can’t legislate belief, but you can reduce the antagonism created by these religious affiliations by making religious affiliation a negative for political and economic advancement. Religion should be about personal faith; not power over the masses.

I think – I hope – that one of the things we’re learning from this experience in finding and apprehending Bin Laden finally is that we have to think like other cultures think if we want to win. The Pakistani government and military are part and parcel of that regional tribal mentality. Like Vikings of old receiving tribute, you can bribe temporary compliance, but you can’t buy loyalty. The army and government officials put on the uniforms and have the high-tech tools, but it’s just window-dressing for a medieval society only recently introduced to the advantages of modern living. America has been just another source of revenue – not an ally, not a friend – just a means for padding ones pocket, paying lip service and smiling while stashing the cash paid for services never rendered.

There was not a person in the town and region where Bin Laden was living who did not know that Bin Laden was living there. It’s the nature of village living. Anyone who has lived in a “ Third World ” country knows that their biggest source of entertainment is watching and gossiping about what their neighbors are doing. They don’t have TV, in-home entertainment systems, air-conditioning – all designed to isolate inhabitants from their neighbors. The biggest source of entertainment in these less-technological societies is your neighbor. So until our intelligence leaders and political leaders realized that they had to exclude the Pakistani officials who played both ends against the middle, we had no hope of succeeding in finding Bin Laden. We have to be as cold-blooded and lethal as the Israeli commandos and know that for all of the handshaking and promises, America ultimately stands and falls alone.

The problem isn’t over because Bin Laden is dead. The insurgency against existing governments throughout the Muslim world is indicative of the kind of rebellion which we saw more conservatively in the 1960’s and 70’s here in the US, when the youth were tired of an establishment that saw citizens as disposable pawns of the corporate and government power games. We won a few things; we’ve lost a few others, and we keep having to remind the younger folks what freedoms and advancements were so hard-earned in those years, but I hope that we’re still making progress towards a more perfect and mutually successful future. The unrest in the Muslim world can work for or against America but it’s a case of America leading by example while restraining ourselves from the historical tendency to micromanage the development of emerging governments. We’ll win more by doing less.

Conflict will continue. Afghanistan will not be united any time soon. I hope the loss of my nephew Jason in Afghanistan was not a waste of his life. I hope that the loss of so many young men and women and the catastrophic injuries of thousands of others has not been a waste. I’m not optimistic that the world is a better place without Bin Laden – the end of only one self-idealized murderer in a world that has known so many. But I hope.


Florida Cracker

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Monday, May 02, 2011

The Thought For Today

"Wisdom is to know that rest is rust and that real life is in love, laughter, and work." - Elbert Hubbard

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