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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Your Income Tax Refund

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The first day of electronic filing will be, Wednesday January 30th 2013, and the Internal Revenue is assuring the taxpayers that they are prepared, except for those few who will require the forms that aren't quite ready. I'm wondering if the Internal Revenue will be able to handle all the returns at one time.  It used to start on about the 17th, and it would take 8 to 10 days to get your refund, but that two-week delay means millions will be filing on one day. The IRS computers have been logged jammed in the past with a lessor load.

This year the IRS is giving taxpayers EXPECTED REFUND dates;they are encouraging taxpayers to go to their website" Where is my Refund."  The web site will take you through a three stage process: (1) acknowledge that they received your return (2) tell you where the return is in process(3) tell you the exact day your refund should be at your bank or home.

I remember a couple of my friends who wouldn't listen to the amateur financiers and always over withheld by $7000-$9000,so they would get their refund back in late January or early February. Coworkers would tell them  that they were giving the IRS an interest-free loan, but those same people were envious when my friends said they were going on vacation once they got their refund. Sure they might have had a few more taxable interest dollars if they would have put  that money in the bank, but they were satisfied with their tax planning.

I also had friends who would purposely under withheld and got angry every year when they had to write that check to the IRS. Each year they would write those big checks, and some had penalties because they did not withhold at least 90% of what was due.

I had one friend whose greed led to his gullibility. He bought a tax protester kit for $75, which instructed him to list nine dependants on his Form W4, although he only had one child. Human Resources mailed his signed W4 directly to the IRS as they were supposed to do. One day he was told to go to Human Resource because an IRS agent was on the line. According to his story, Human Resources handed him a new W4 and some papers for his immediate dismissal if he did not.

The Internal Revenue has some egg on their face. They decided that all those who prepared tax returns for a fee had to take a test and become registered. They told the perspective preparers that they had to get a Preparer Tax Identification Number which cost $63(annual renewal) before they could take a  $116 test to become a registered tax preparer. Some candidates paid ~ $100 for on line courses to help them prepare for the tests that were held in per-determined larger cities. Starting this January the new registered preparers had to have 15 CPE credits, which would have amounted to about $400 for two  courses over the year. Three libertarian tax preparers thought the IRS overstepped their bounds and sued in federal court. Federal judge Boasberg agreed with them citing  that the text of the relevant statute does not support what the IRS claims as its authority to regulate tax preparers. The IRS said the preparers who passed the test can keep the title...:-)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

First Saturday Vent of 2013

I wish I didn’t have to listen to “What’s wrong with the GOP" every single day but unless I’m willing to bypass all the talk shows I’m stuck with it. I don’t really care what happens to the GOP because we will always have a two party system no matter how you brand it. I’m also tired of listening and reading all the nonsense that substitutes for an honest debate over the issues that we have to confront.  I’m reminded of an old song “ You can’t soar with eagles when you hang out with turkeys.”

I don’t have to go far to prove my point because I can usually find a letter in my local newspaper to prove my point. A couple of days ago,John Price of Victoria wrote a letter he titled “ What is being done about these problems?” The writer asks for accountability and I’m all for that. I would start with the fiasco in Iraq,an attorney general lying to both chambers of Congress (while under oath) outing a CIA agent and circumventing the constitution by torturing people. Right now, I would settle for the culprits of the 2008 financial crisis to be held accountable.

Mr. Price wants facts about “Fast & Furious” but all he has to do is fire up his computer bring up his favorite browser and he would find that The OIG investigation "revealed a series of misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgment and management failures that permeated ATF Headquarters and the Phoenix Field Division, as well as the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona and at the Headquarters of the Department of Justice."

The report also details serious mistakes in DOJ's response to congressional inquiries about "Fast and Furious."

The Inspector General's review has recommended 14 Justice Department and ATF officials for disciplinary and administrative review, including the head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer. “What more does John Price want?
As for Benghazi,I heard the president and Hillary Clinton take responsibility . People like John don’t listen to hearings because if he had he would have found out why the state employees were not fired

During Wednesday’s House hearing on Benghazi, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) pressed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to explain why the four State Department employees cited for leadership failures prior to the attack were only placed on administrative leave and not fired.

“First, all four individuals have been removed from their jobs,” Clinton began. “Secondly, they have been placed on administrative leave. Thirdly, Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen highlighted the reason why this has been so complicated. Under federal statute and regulations, unsatisfactory leadership is not grounds for finding a breach of duty.”

“Fourth, I have submitted legislation to this committee and to the Senate committee to fix this problem so future ARBs (Accountability Review Board) will not face this situation. Because I agree with you, there ought to be more leeway given to the ARBs.”

In John Price’s series of  right –wing talking points he calls for a flat tax (done in the GOP House & Ways and Means Committee) but he probably doesn’t know how unfair that system would be on poor and the working middle class who usually pay ~6.0% tax effective rate.He’s all about trying to get all he can from the poor thinking it means he might have to pay less.  What are we going to do if the poor can’t come up with the 5-10 percent? That would be $600-$1200 John, are we going to jail them?

Yes, the Senate should produce a budget, and the house should produce one that won’t send us into a double- dip recession, and be unbearable for the poor. The Senate is current working on a budget, and they leaked that revenues will part of their proposal. Immediately, Mitch McConnell told the press that revenues would not get Republican votes. Even if they could get the 51 votes (reconciliation) to pass;it would be dead-on- arrival when it reaches the house. That’s we’ve had the continuing resolutions to keep the government running.

I don’t think President Obama would stand in the way of reforming Social Security and Medicare, but if you look at Paul Ryan’s plan to balance the budget in 38 years, he doesn’t lay out any specific plans, and that’s what’s missing from all the GOP proposals. Paul Ryan plan would send Medicaid block grants to the states, leaving them to tell the poor that there’s no money to take care of them.

In winding down, I want to give a tip-of-the hat to those principled Republicans who publicly stated that it was wrong for some GOP controlled states to rig the electoral process in their state. President Obama handily won states like Michigan,Ohio,Florida,Virginia,Pennsylvania  and Wisconsin but because of gerrymandered districts, Republicans control the governing bodies. Republicans are not blind they see the new demographics, and they know the don’t stand a chance of ever winning another national election, unless they make some changes. Some want redraw their districts, which is legal. Let me give you an illustration.Let’s take our area where we could divide Victoria into four congressional districts divide Jackson and Gonzalez by two giving the GOP 8 electoral votes based on winning those districts. Democrats usually live in big cities like Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Antonio,Houston, and Dallas, so that gives them only 4 electoral votes. If we go to a system like this, we can no longer laugh when a ruthless dictator in a third-world country  gets 99% of the vote.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Truth About Labor Unions

I have to admit that I have never worked for a union so I don’t know a whole lot about them but I know J. C. Brown’s recent letter in our home town newspaper is full of bias misinformation.

I would be willing to bet Mr. Brown or any person would not turn down a $ 25 an hour job with full benefits ,that was worked out between a company and a union, in a mutually agreed upon collective-bargaining  agreement. I also believe that if a contract was about to be terminated or completed redone on a partisan political basis, push back is to be expected. Whenever a large angry crowd is assembled to protest ,it does get violent but Wisconsin, and Michigan were rather mild in comparison to the old union scrabbles. The public unions won the fights in Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan. I know in order to be a good right-wing Republican these days, you have to check off the boxes and being anti-union is one of them.

I’m going to be generous today and not challenge the statement about OSHA overseeing the worker conditions but is Mr. Brown saying regulations and the federal government is doing a good job?  I  also wonder whether their budget will be cut?

Mr. Brown thinks that decent wages and benefits leads to companies gouging customers. He also believes that exorbitant union wages drive up the price of consumer products out of the reach of poor people. For one thing when did the GOP care about the takers and number two;he's got that completely backwards. Stagnant low wages and high unemployment keep those unsold goods on the shelves.

Let’s talk about the public unions which were catered to by Republican and Democratic politicians in the past. California got hit hard by the 2008 financial crash, and that was not caused by the unions. States have to balance their budget, and I agree some state’s pensions were exorbitant but affordable when they were agreed to. Politicians did not want to lose the public employee union vote, so they never challenged the union contracts before the financial crisis hit them. I disagree that people are against unions because that was not the case when people overturned the efforts by the Ohio GOP to try to do what Wisconsin did.  You are way off on your numbers because of the 14.3 million union jobs, 35% of them are in the public sector, and 11.3% are in the private sector. Do you really want us to believe 14 million union jobs are the driving force behind consumer prices? Oh, by the way, I got my numbers form the 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I’ve lived in Victoria all my life, and I've. always heard that the good wages and benefits paid by our local plants are due to the threat of a union. Even if that’s not true we can forever thank the unions for the working conditions we have, a forty-hour  workweek  and the eight-hour workday  which was established by Wisconsin unions. You might want to read about Caterpillar’s union busting methods and why a Fortune 500 company like them doesn’t pay their employees accordingly.

I noticed that in J.C. Brown's  Mitt Romney- like praise for corporations, he failed to mention outsourcing. No ,workers are not trying to rob a bank;they just want to do something about income inequality that’s plagued us for the past thirty years. Go to the back of the bus and shut up is no longer a viable option.You see, some of us have noticed the booming stock market and we can see where the Fortune 500 corporation have ~ $2 .5 trillion in reserve,so those 14 million greedy union workers aren’t hurting them a bit.

Let me end by saying that President Obama never said, “ if you’re successful in the world, somebody else did it for you.”What he said is that before patting ourselves on the back, we should be grateful for the others who helped us, like  a teacher, business mentor or this wonderful country, which was made great by the contributions of others.  You don’t have to gloat because if you’re really that great others will notice.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Well Done Mr. President

I’ve been waiting a long time to hear another liberal inaugural address that drew the line on what separates liberals from conservatives. The president did not use the opportunity to extend another olive branch to the Republican Party but instead chose to lay down the foundation for a new tomorrow or as someone said,” to declare the end of Reaganism.

The talk of a need for collectivism and a need for a free market that is fair for all Americans had to be devastating for Libertarians to hear. 

The president did not draw- a- line in the sand, but he did lay down his marker, which is what we need to have an honest dialogue. He knows nothing will get done on climate change in the next four years, but that doesn’t mean he won’t continue to talk about more violent storms, frequent fires and drought that are caused by climate change. Fifteen years from now, the climate-change deniers will be saying, “ if we only have listened to President Obama, we would have had a fifteen-year head start."

The president talked of honoring the social contract we made with the elderly and the most vulnerable and the need to view all the options before cutting those programs. This was the first time in inaugural history, that the words, gay, Medicare, Medicaid and climate change were ever used.

The Republicans are out in full force telling everyone within earshot" see I told you he was a liberal” as if it was a social disease. I never knew how liberal or moderate the president was because of some of his previous appointments and stances. For instance, he never fully endorsed the public option and during the debates he bragged of all the drilling for oil we’ve done. He set deportation records and kept all the Bush methods of fighting terrorism except for the enhanced interrogation methods. After four years, he has become wiser and has learned that you won’t win many battles if you're always playing defense and on your opponent's home turf.

The voters want the parties to compromise to get something done but that can’t happen unless the lines of distinction are known by both parties. For example, it is highly unlikely that a grand bargain will be made because the president barely mentioned the deficit or the debt. The Democrats could be persuaded to raise the retirement age to age 66 for the elimination of the oil subsidies and the parties can continue working on things that can be passed with bipartisan support. Like anything else, bipartisanship can be habit forming.

The GOP is starting the new legislation session after a three- day retreat to strategize but their opponents did the same in a less informal way. The Democrats know that they are only 17 house seats away from taking over that legislative chamber. They think if they keep laying out mainstream positions, they will be bait the GOP to oppose; thereby keeping their extreme Tea Party at  9% approval. The GOP has a 26% approval, and Speaker Boehner has a 18% approval compared to Obama’s 52 % which gives them the confidence that their strategy is working. Things can change overnight but right now I don’t see the president moving one inch away from the stand he took yesterday. In his upcoming State of the Union speech in two-weeks, he will say what legislative accomplishments he thinks can be accomplished in his second term.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Happy Inaugural /MLK Day

President Obama will begin his second term running because there’s so much to do, and he has less than two years to complete his agenda. Once we get to the mid- terms, politicians are worried about getting reelected, and they aren’t aren’t as willing to step out on a plank for a lame-duck president.

Joe Scarborough, host of “ Morning Joe” is a daily critic of the president, but it’s his opinion and his show but he often lets his mouth get ahead of the facts. The president took his oath yesterday at a private ceremony. Joe Scarborough said he was upset that he heard the president tell his daughter “I did it” at the end of the ceremony. He said the president should have said, “we did it” but as usual, it was taken out of context. The president reminded Sasha that he successfully memorized his lines and didn’t  screw it up. Joe was corrected on air and then said he was glad it turned out that way.

I was relieved that I wasn’t the only one who thought  Senator Ted Cruz went way over the top on Meet the Press yesterday. The panel on this mornings "Morning Joe” condemned the Tea Party senator who was obviously playing to his base constituents. When the host, David Gregory, asked the freshman senator if he though the NRA went over the line by involving the president’s children in their ad, Mr. Cruz said that minutes after the shootings at Sandy Hook, the president started exploiting the incident to push a gun-control  agenda that's designed to appeal to partisans. Really? I saw a deeply concerned president who knew that this was the fourth mass shooting since he has been president. What was he supposed to tell the parents and loved ones of those who died that day;it’s an unpreventable tragedy?

Much of the talk yesterday was about President Obama’s demeanor and whether he would he reach out to Republicans. George Stephanopoulos asked a presidential spokesman why didn’t he at least reach out to Marco Rubio, who’s working on an immigration plan. Two things George, the president has reached out and was rejected time after time and besides it’s a two-way street. Second, Marco Rubio can’t even get a consensus within his own party because as George Will said, “ you can’t get X without Y,so piece meal is not going to get it.” The Democrats are on board with a way in dealing with the 11 million undocumented immigrants. Senator Rubio cannot get a majority of his party to support a pathway to citizenship, which is the X of the equation.

The house Republicans decided to punt on the debt ceiling for three months; instead deciding to force the Senate to come up with a budget or lose their pay. John Boehner has to convince the Tea Caucus, so it’s not a done deal. The House of Representatives  can pass anything they want because it only takes a simple majority;even if the voters reject it. I have to admit that’s it’s a pretty good plan because it will force the Senate to name the programs,that they are willing to cut.I wouldn’t bet against Harry Reid because he will probably insist on tax reform which cut some subsidies GOP donors enjoy.

I’ve been told that the chatter on Facebook in Victoria is not too favorable towards the president today because it means four more years of misery for them. That makes me glad I don’t have a Facebook account, or I would be taking my iPad to bed with me and getting in one last argument.…Smile

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Has Traditional Retirement Changed?

As my wife and I were entering a restaurant last night, an old friend and his wife were exiting. As we were exchanging pleasantries, he told me that he had retired three weeks ago. I ordered a table for four and invited them to tell me all about it. It was a story I’ve heard at least 20 times and it never gets boring for me. This story was a little bit different because he’s 5 years younger than I am and he retired from a different workplace.

My friend retired from Victoria County where he worked in maintenance for over 30 years. I’ve known him for over 15 years, but I didn’t know he was a marine combat veteran who served in Vietnam. As they were about to leave, his wife told him to tell me of the ruckus he got into with a fellow worker who was about 45 years-old. My friend was telling another worker that he was going to be OK because he had his county pension, Social Security and the VA for his medical benefits, and his wife was going to continue to work part time until she was eligible for Social Security. The coworker overheard the discussion and blurted out for all to hear “so now you’re going to become a ward of the state, and I’m going to have to pay the taxes to support you and your wife.” It wasn’t just the rudeness that angered my friend; it was because he knew the worker was putting him in with that same class of people on welfare he complains about every day. For one thing the 45 year-old never served in a military, so he can’t relate to being on call 24/7 for 4 years and that’s just a small part of it.

My wife and I talked up about the incident and the current environment that brought it on. I’ve told her that it used to be common for retirees to tease our fellow workers to keep working hard so there we could continue to benefit from their labor and not to do anything that would jeopardize our pension check. They knew they would be able to say that someday but perhaps today they are not as confident. Perhaps that traditional teasing wouldn’t be appropriate today. On the other hand, some may be trying to merge their politics to everything that surrounds them because my friend was talking to a coworker before he was rudely interrupted.

I then told my wife about an old tradition that soldiers had whenever they were going to get discharged or leave the country they were stationed in and head back home. The soldiers were called “short timers," and they flaunted it for 30 days. We had the calendars we would mark off and all of us would go and buy what was called a short timer’s stick (not to be confused with the one used by Vietnam short timers). It was just a varnished wooden stick, with a gold plated handle and tip which we shamelessly carried everywhere we went to process out. As we went to various parts of the base other soldiers would enviously nod at us and say, " don't bend over to tie your boots because I'll run into you because I only have (insert time left).” I wonder if they still do that because I always wondered why we didn’t do any work in those finally 30 days. Every day we were told to go to difference place to check out. For example, one day we would go to medical, another day to payroll and so forth, but I bet that has been computerized so today, it may just take one day to do all those activities.

My friend asked me for advice, which is natural but everyone will figure it out and fall into their own routine. Your old work friends will stop calling, and you will start living what I like to call the third and fourth phase of your life. The third phase is retirement, and the fourth phase is being a recipient of Social Security and Medicare. It’s different, and you will realize that when you get there but don’t fall for the trap believing that Social Security and Medicare won’t be there when you retire. . I heard that talk 30 years ago, but I took Social Security at age 62 with a 15% penalty and never looked back. Oh; you will have to learn about SSA part A, B & C, and if you’re like me, you will have to sit down every October and revaluate your part B portion. A word for the wise, get on Social Security as early as possible because business CEOs are trying to convince our legislators to move the retirement age and Medicare to age up to 70 (that’s three years more than what the GOP wants), so that those programs can be sustainable. Two points: CEOs normally work past the age 70 and don’t usually participant in those programs. (2) The CEOs that do will always balk when there’s talk of raising the caps…It’s OK to mention something about saving the program unless it involves them.

It used to be the retiree would get their watch and well wishes from the coworkers and life went on. I hope it continues to be that way and  my friend’s incident was the rare exception rather than the rule.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Hypocrites You say!

I think the word “hypocrite” is one of the most used words in the blogosphere. I used the word yesterday to describe some GOP legislators who voted against the Sandy disaster funds although all of them are from states that have been on the receiving end of those funds at one time or another.

The sun came up, so that must mean someone from the right wrote another letter-to-the editor. Keep them coming; it makes writing a blog that much easier. All they have to do is parrot what they read or hear on right-wing media and all I have to do is contradict their posting, paragraph by paragraph.I guess, I should be grateful that the writers haven’t posted  one of the  most ridiculous arguments for gun control that I’ve heard so far. A wing nut who calls himself a historian, David Barton, told Glenn Beck that "The great example, in the 1850s you have a school teacher who's teaching," the historian explained. "A guy, he's out in the West, this guy from New England wants to kill him and find him. So, he comes into the school with his gun to shoot the teacher, he decides not to shoot the teacher because all the kids pull their guns out and point it at him and say, 'You kill the teacher, you die.' He says, 'Okay.' The teacher lives. Real simple stuff."
Barton added: "There was no shooting because all the kids -- we're talking in elementary school -- all the kids pull their guns out and says, 'We like our teacher, you shoot our teacher, we'll kill you.'

"Kids did not shoot each other," Beck insisted. 

You’ve got to see the video it will give you a laugh to start your morning.

Carl Bankston of my home town of Victoria wrote a letter following the theme that was started by the NRA in support of their hideous ad they recently posted. Bankston stated that then Senator Obama voted for a gun control ban in his state and now he and his family are enjoying protection from the secrete service,  so naturally it’s hypocritical to be for gun control. looked at those allegations and came to the conclusion that the assertion was false. This is’s analysis :
The NRA bases this overheated claim on a vote Obama cast on March 24, 2004, in the Illinois state Senate. He was one of 20 who opposed SB 2165. That bill, which passed 38 – 20 and became law, did not make it a crime to use firearms for self-defense, however. Rather, it created a loophole for persons caught violating local gun registration laws.

It states that in any Illinois municipality where a gun ban is in effect, it shall be an "affirmative defense" if the person accused of violating the ban can show that the weapon was used "in an act of self-defense or defense of another … when on his or her land or in his or her abode or fixed place of business."

Letting the owner of a banned firearm escape a municipality's penalty is one thing, but it's another thing entirely to make it a crime to use any firearm – registered or not – in self-defense. The bill came about after Hale DeMar, of Wilmette, Ill., shot a burglar who had invaded his home. At the time, Wilmette had an ordinance that prohibited owning handguns.

Clarification: To avoid any confusion, we've modified this section to make clear the bill would have pertained to municipalities with local gun bans.

I have my disagreements with Mayor Bloomberg, but I think he’s more of a moderate but I understand your thinking “either you're a conservative or a stinking liberal.”New York state just passed the strictest gun control laws in the nation, so he’s very much in line with the people from that state, but I’ve never heard him talk of gun confiscation. I bet you can’t provide proof of that and no, wanting firearms to be registered is not the first step to confiscation. I guess state's rights don’t apply when it comes to gun control.

Mr. Bankston, I'm 67 years old, and I have never lived under anything  that even slightly reassembles a tyrannical government, and I grew up in the pre -civil rights era. Tyranny only comes up when a Democrat is president, and I guess you can double down  on that theory when a black democratic president is in office. Tyranny is basically a lack of trust in government especially if your party is not in control but you have a short trigger response if your first course of action is an armed rebellion.Thanks again for the material to write another contradictory blog.

Blog Material won’t be hard to come by because the Texas legislators are back in session. Picking some dribs and drabs whenever I turn on my truck’s AM radio it looks like it’s going to be another controversial session. The lawmakers are introducing more abortion bills, nullification bills, a state smoking ban, and another look for a way to allow more casinos in our state. I imagine the Lotto lobbyists outnumber the church organizers who are opposed to casinos. Our neighboring states would like to keep their Texas customers, so you know their lobbyists are wining and dining our legislators.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

There’s A Difference Between Boasting and Bragging

There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of Texas  pride, and I do but make sure that your statements are based, in fact, and can be verified. Otherwise, you will be characterized as being a political hack  like Governor Rick Perry was in the Republican presidential primaries.

I talking to you, Mack Simons, of Wharton, Texas because your recent letter- to- the -letter was loaded with inaccuracies either by intent or ignorance. I say ignorance because I’m assuming you researched the statements in your letter before you submitted it. It starts with the title “ Washington needs budget advice from Texas.” Are you kidding me? We had to address a $27 billion shortfall in the last budget. You may have liked the idea that taxes were not raised but education and health care were cut in our never-ending  race to the bottom in funding those programs.

I know Governor Perry made a big stink about not taking those evil government stimulus funds, but in reality our governor took those funds to help balance 97% of the 2010 shortfall and had billions left over for Texas’s rainy-day fund. You see we had a $6.6 billion shortfall in 2010, but that was paid for with the $6.4 billion Recovery Act funds.I won’t even mention all the military bases and NASA money, but you can read it for yourself here.

You stated that President Obama rewarded the union stooges when the administration continued the auto bailout started by President George W. Bush. As I the remember the story, no other American industry stepped up to help the auto industry, and our country was about to lose another million jobs from the auto companies and the industries connected to it. I also remember that the union workers took concessions  where eye coverage and dental coverage were lost, and their wages went from an average of $29 to $17 an hour. It only took me a couple of minutes to pull up that information from an old Washington Post article (reprinted by the Huffington Post)to refresh my memory but don’t take my word for it, read it for yourself here. It’s funny how free market conservatives have a problem with those making good union wages.

I’m not even going to try to contradict your concept that Governor Perry was a financial genius. In fact, I don’t understand  his ten-year plan of expanding our criminal-justice  system and then laying off the ones in the Texas Department of Criminal-Justice  Inmate Construction Group to make good a pledge of giving teachers a pay raise. I’ll have to look it up but based on the contents of your letter;I bet there’s more than meet –the- eye to your account of the facts. I guess you know that employed public employee's money consumes just as much as those in private industries. I understand the goal in your mind is zero public and union employees.

Recently only 49 Republicans voted for the  $50 billion relief for the victims of Sandy and 179 Republicans voted against it. The so-called fiscal hawks said there was too much pork in the bill and the others wanted off-sets. Hypocrites, disaster funds have always been bipartisan  but Sandy hit areas where the voters usually vote for Democrats ,so now it’s mostly pork, or it needs to be off-set. No;the fiscal cliff was not about pork, Mr. Simons;it was a bill that didn’t allow higher taxes on 99% of Americans but like Sandy relief, it took the Democrats to see to it that it passed. It’s pretty obvious that only one party is governing, and the other party is always protesting.

I agree that we need to get our fiscal house in order but let's bring all the proposals to the table. Let's not be fixated on ways to cut programs to the poor,Planned Parenthood, austerity measures only because I'm pretty sure conservatives don't think it's right that multi- millionaire hedge fund mangers get to pay their carried interest at capital gains rate of 15%. That's a start and we could go from there and most people agree where the three biggest items in our budget are. Concentrating on the little things like waste and handouts is like trying to balance the family budget by giving up coffee and beer but forgetting the mortgage and car payment or finding ways to work overtime.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Over the Top

The NRA's latest ad represents an organization that has lost its way and explains the reason that only 36% of Americans have a favorable view of them. They will tell you that their membership has increased by 250,000 and gun sales are out the roof since the Newtown shooting, and that's probably true but the Washington Post/ABC poll tells a different story.

In anticipation of President Obama's' new gun control proposals where some may be achieved through executive orders, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said, "   I think having a monarch is what we fought the American Revolution over and someone who wants to bypass the Constitution, bypass Congress — that’s someone who wants to act like a king or a monarch.” I wonder what Senator Paul thought of Ronald Reagan's 381 executive orders or the executive order President George H. W. Bush used to ban the importation of assault weapons. I wonder if the senator knows that the order the latter used halted the importation of some semi-automatic firearms after a mass school shooting Stockton, California." He based his executive order on the 1968 Gun Control Act and used it to ban the shipment of what could be considered “assault weapons” unless they were used for sporting purposes."

Yesterday, the state of New york passed the strictest gun laws in America even though the Senate in that state is controlled by the GOP and Maryland and Connecticut are strengthening their gun laws. After the  bill was signed the governor said, "Common sense can win."  "You can overpower the extremists with intelligence and with reason and with common sense." The common sense part didn't convince one Republican who voted against the bill. He said that he would have to break the law rather than leave his wife at home with their small children because she needed the high-capacity  ammo clip to protect their home in his absence... He cited a woman who shot an intruder four times to defend herself and her children in Georgia. He forgot to say that she had a six shot revolver. Second point, what kind of kind of neighbor does the legislator live in? If he's that concerned, he should resign and get a job closer to home. I know he was using his family as a prop to state his political point.

Gun control, mental illness illness and violence in our video games and movies will always be a sensitive subject because we are dealing with the second amendment, first amendment, and privacy issues. We don't have as much push back when we try to regulate the movie or video game industry as we do, when we even mention gun restrictions because even though they may be only 30% of our overall population, they are a well- funded loud 30%. This time it may be different because Mayor Bloomberg is putting his money behind common sense gun laws and the images of the 20 young children's bodies riddled with bullet holes is still fresh in our minds.. 

Right now, it doesn't seem like much will get through the GOP controlled house but the one that has the greatest chance of passing is the universal background checks.  

We need this debate, but we need to leave the president's family out of this. What would you do if you were the president and four mass murders happened while you were the chief executive?. You are going to be hit from both sides no matter what you decide to do.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

We have a sociability problem

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I was taken aback yesterday, when Jackie Calmes of the New York Times, asked the president if  he could achieve more if he could establish personal connections with Republicans. The president said that he was a friendly guy and liked to party as well as anyone, but both parties are as different as night and day when it comes to policy making.

There’s another side to that coin, the former governor of Florida, Charlie Christ, was railroaded out of the GOP when he dared to thank the president for the stimulus funds his state received.  I imagine that it’s embarrassing for the administration to reveal that they have extended John Boehner six invitations to state dinners and he refused all of them. Personal connections work both ways. You really can’t have a personal connection if Congress only meets three days a week.

It’s time for one of my boring stories to prove my point that diversification works. I remember a group that I hired on with used to think that Joe was lazy, and we were all amazed that he kept up his grades in the hiring school. We thought that because Joe didn’t hang out with anyone, nor did he ask any questions. It was only after we received our work assignments and got to work with Joe  that  we learned that he didn’t take breaks but instead used that time to learn more about his job. About 15 years later, a lot of  us called Joe “ boss.” 

It wasn’t that long ago, a lot of us were discussing a  blogger get- together but a lot has happened since then, so I doubt that it would be possible today. Since that time, the political discourse has become more heated than ever, and many have posted things that we cannot retract. The seed was planted, and it grew from there. We got caught up in the national conversation and drew our own line- in- the- sand; mentality and in the words we wrote. It’s ironic because I wouldn’t know 99% of the people I write about, if they rang my door bell.

My wife didn’t get political because she liked politics; it was because it was all around her. Look at the top ten movies up for an Oscar, so many many have a political tint to them. The other day while my wife was waiting for her car to be repaired, she overheard three Republicans discussing Obama and the democratic party, so she got up (in the new spacious Toyota waiting room) and moved. I hear politics in my barber shop (then it’s about the GOP) and two weeks ago I heard a couple of elders in my church discussing the gun issue and the liberals. It’s everywhere and seems to  be spreading like a plague. Politics and religion used to be a no-no in mixed company, but that is so 20th century.

I don’t see  a solution for our sociability  problem anytime soon and  it might be like our last civil war;only twice as long.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Lessons Learned

I went to see “Zero Dark Thirty”yesterday afternoon and found it amazing how the movie filled in so many blanks, that I was not aware of. I had read a couple of articles about the effort to get Osama Bin Laden, so I thought I knew how the raid went down. For example, it was a miracle that the mission was a successful, considering all the noise that was made  when on of the helicopters crashed  and the demolition it took to get through the locked steel doors at the  Bin Laden compound. The compound looked more like an old warehouse than a mansion the CIA described.

I took away an important lesson from the movie. I think we need to be more receptive in dealing with those who have a different opinion. In the movie, the main character, a CIA agent simply known as Maya, listened to every word one detainee said and compared it to what other detainees said and came to a conclusion that they all knew the importance of Osama’s mail courier. She found a  common behavior pattern among all the detainees who were asked the whereabouts of Osama’s mail courier.  I disagree with those who said the movie glorified torture because to me, it was more about the emphasis on patience,listening,cooperation,and belief from those in authority.

That doesn’t mean we have to always agree but we have to listen if we are ever going to come to a solution or even a plan.You have to know as much as possible about your opponents.

Politico is reporting that the GOP is planning to default and possibly shut down the government. I get and agree with their concerns about the amount of spending over the past decades but differ when it comes to solutions because I’m adamantly opposed to shutting down the government or disrupting the world financial markets with unnecessary draconian moves. At least we have heard their complaints and proposals.

I think the president needs to go on an education trip around the nation informing the public about our challenges and the severity of defaulting or austerity only solutions. He could start by informing the public that we have already started deficit reduction. He should be truthful and say if we do nothing we will be at 90% debt to GDP and are currently at 79% debt to GDP. If we followed the recommendations of Simpson-Bowles, we could be at 65% debt to GDP, but president can say that he has a balanced plan that could get us to 72% of debt to GDP. As I’ve said we will never reduce the debt to zero, but we can get an acceptable downward trajectory in outlining years.

People should know that 77% of Social Security goes to retirees and their defendants,19% goes to the disabled and the remaining 4% goes to minor children of deceased parents.  We have already made steep cuts in discretionary spending, and besides it’s only 6% of the budget, and more cuts in those programs will not make a dent in our overall problem. It’s still all about the big three;defense spending, Medicare and Medicaid. We know a voucher system will not pass but there are numerous ways of reducing costs of two of those programs, like means testing, bulk purchase of prescription drugs, age requirement, discussing the impact of chained CPI but a lot of it is implemented and adjust.

The most common complaint I get from those not wanting any additional gun laws is that they fear it will lead to gun confiscation. The president should refer them to the 2008 Supreme Court case “Heller” where Supreme Court Justice Scalia spelled out the reason a citizen's right to bear arms will never be taken away.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Get your act together

I'm tired of hearing what the GOP needs to do in order  to start winning national elections again.  I can't get away from it; all the cable channels are talking about it and the Sunday talk shows spend a lot of their time discussing the subject.  You would think that  would give the local yokels a hint.  Instead, they double down and use the most extreme elements in their party to make their case.

A good example of a letter filled with misinformation was printed in today’s letter to the editor that you can see right here. Mr. Allen J. Novosad of Edna is a local right winger who thinks he represents mainstream America. He titled his letter “Irrational voting has put country in trouble” which is based in the truth, but he should have pointed out that the Tea Party was the culprit.

The writer wants the readers to believe that of the 126 million people who voted,  the  65 million people who voted for President Obama were wrong.  You see there were voting for Obama because they were ill informed Democrats who wanted free stuff, and  had other personal reasons that had nothing to do with the betterment of our country because  everyone should know that the GOP are the rightful heirs to that distinction. Oh wait, the voters didn't think so in 2006,2008 and 2012.

Mr. Novosad  evidently thinks that voters have been schooled by the politicians and cannot think for themselves.  I can remember way back in 1974, looking through the Victoria Advocate Sunday Classifieds and noticing that almost all  companies were offering health care benefits.  The company I was working for the time offered healthcare benefits.  Today, you'll find companies  bragging that they will lay off employees before paying for their health Insurance.  One  national pizza chain owner said he would have to raise the price of his (nasty) pizza 15¢ if he had to provide insurance for his employees.  That same pizza owner will probably pay millions of dollars for a 3o second Super Bowl ad. You see Mr. Novosad, back in the seventies tax rates were in the 70% range, so companies reinvested in their employees, and made worthwhile contributions to their community rather than writing out a check to the government.  Wealth distribution in those days was not equated with socialism, and it kept income inequality in check.  A person like you, Allen Novosad, never wonders why the stock market is doing so well, Fortune 500 companies have two trillion dollars in reserve and several are making record profits but benefits to employees are being cut, and their wages have been stagnant for years.

The right wing has been predicting inflation since January 20, 2009.  The writer throws everything into his talking points stew, such as abortion, the rising cost of health insurance, regulations, the Federal Reserve and several other things that are beyond the scope of checks and balances.  It’s as if, the GOP controlled House of Representatives(HR) doesn't have a role to play as the opposition party. The HR makes the tax policies( House Ways & Means) and appropriates the money our government can spend.  When did public schools  stop teaching civics?

Fox News should send their pundits. to a basic economics' class.  Recently there's been a rumor that the treasury might mint a $1 trillion coin send it over to the Fed where they would credit it back to the Treasury in order to avoid the world financial problems that would come by not raising the debt limit.  This artificial notation at the Fed  would not put any new money into circulation; it's merely a trick to avert another trick where the GOP would hold raising the debt limit hostage to more spending cuts. Fox’s financial guru, Neil Cavuto, said the coin would have to weigh tons. No, it doesn’t, in that hypothetical, the platinum coin would not be backed up by the value of platinum.  It's an accounting trick, so we don't have a party jeopardizing the world economy.  Conservatives haven't figured out that money is nothing more than a shared illusion, when it comes the governments.

Perhaps you can take some friendly advice GOP. First, put your first string out there to deliver your message, people like Chris Christie and Jeb Bush instead of the bozos who are hijacking your once great party. According to the latest polls 47% of people identify with the Democrats and 42% with the Republicans, and if you stand a chance of getting any part of the 11% on a more regular basis;your principle should remain, but you need to modify your policies to the times and completely change your rhetoric. Right now, you are doubling down on stupidity like you did when the party denounced the words of Todd Akin, yet the RNC funded his campaign after saying they wouldn’t. Then out of the blue, GOP Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia said that Todd Akin was partly right because” I've delivered lots of babies, and I know about these things. It is true. We tell infertile couples all the time that are having trouble conceiving because of the woman not ovulating, "Just relax. Drink a glass of wine. And don't be so tense and uptight because all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate." So he was partially right wasn’t he? But the fact that a woman may have already ovulated 12 hours before she is raped, you’re not going to prevent a pregnancy there by a woman's body shutting anything down because the horse has already left the barn, so to speak. And yet the media took that and tore it apart.” I doubt the party leaders will publicly denounce his fund raising words, but they keep the flames of stupidity going. Finally, you need to see someone for your Obama derangement syndrome because being against everything the president wants to do without a plan of your own further discredits your purpose in governing.

Friday, January 11, 2013

It must be part of the aging process

It could be  I’m getting older, or maybe it's because I've been retired for ten years but everyday I see, hear or experience things that takes me back to yesteryear. My wife says I have too much idle time on my hands, but her time is coming.

Yesterday, I picked up my wife in my junk keep (as she calls it) pickup from the Toyota dealer, where she was having some recall work being done. A smile came across my face, as it must have come across my step- dad when he used to pick us up in his jalopy. We offered to buy him a new car, but he wouldn’t take us up on it but one the reason was that my sister left him the car when she died and we understood. One of  my kids gave me the truck when they bought a new car. We were going to become a one-car  family once I retired, but we never got to experience the pitfalls of that. Today is one of those days  when the truck will come in handy, as I haul off all the junk I’ve been hoarding for years.

In fact, as I was loading my truck this morning, the weather reminded me of when we touched down at LAX the very first time. The California summer is what I  I've always heard  about; a bright sun but a pleasant 72°.

The other day one of our daughters asked my wife to cook her some beans because she was working late. I reminded my wife of the times my mom would cook supper complete with ice tea for us, and my step-dad would  always delivery it knowing it would make our night a little easier. The aroma alone was better than eating takeout again. How did they know that a home-cooked meal was what we needed? I bet they were part of that continuing cycle that has been passed on for ages and taken for granted sometimes.

I love living in today’s world, and I’m keeping up in our age of technology, but I remember just tearing up the old receipts before putting them the trash can for pickup. Today, I ran them through our micro- cut paper shredder first because identity thieves can piece together information from paper that was shredded using a cross-cut  shredder.  Wouldn't that have sounded absurd   20 years ago?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

It doesn’t have to be a one-way street

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Just as soon as soon as the rumor hit the airways that Jack Lew, Obama's chief of staff for the past year and budget director before that, will be nominated for treasury secretary, the Republicans charged that he was too liberal.  The Republicans think that the Senate's role of “ advise and consent” means they get to pick the nominee.  What does too liberal mean? Jack Lew was Bill Clinton's budget director when the president, and the Republican Congress balanced the last three budgets. John Boehner’s staff said that Jack Lew was relentless and condescending and wouldn't give an inch on entitlements, but the truth is that they were over matched by Jack Lew. Mr. Lew was not just going to give away the farm (entitlements) without a fight.  It's the  negotiating skills of  Jack Lew that they don’t like. Remember how the media made Vice President Joe Biden and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell  the heroes of the fiscal cliff deal. Joe Biden only got his marching orders after the White House was assured that Nancy Pelosi could get her Democrats to vote yes,Harry Reid do the same in the senate. After that every proposal Joe Biden made had to have  stamp of approval from Jack Lew.

It’s not just the just the conservatives who were smitten by the president's first five cabinet choices; the liberals were equally angry because his small group of confidants are all white men except for Valarie Jarrett. The president’s first-term  picks were pretty diverse, and he's not through choosing his cabinet.  Sometimes the person that you put in as an assistant will give them the necessary experience to be a future leader.

The gun-control  issue is heating up again, especially after Joe Biden unannounced that the president might use his executive authority to strengthen some gun laws that are on the books.  Matt Drudge immediately posted images of Adolf Hitler and Joe Stalin to equate executive orders with gun confiscation.  That's where we are; the extremists are trying to take over the issue. A local man, Jason Hoover, is making it “ either you're with me or against me” issue and our local Academy needs to get with the program and start displaying the guns in question, even if if they don’t have any.  I like that the  administration will forgo any comprehensive legislation and instead do it by piecemeal.  For example, a bill to ban high-capacity  ammo clips might be hard to vote against. 

It doesn't have to be a one- way street, but sometimes you have to use those tactics to show your opponent what it feels like. The freshman Tea Party legislators remind me of trying to get a Brahman bull to do something he doesn’t want to do. I  am not a rancher but as a young Highway Dept. employee I had the pleasure of riding with a part-time rancher. One day as we patrolling the highways, the old timer pulled over to watch some ranch hands as they were penning some cattle. I thought that was going to be boring, but he pointed out the bull, who was a long way from the pen, and assured me that was when the fun was going to start. I saw the ranch hand use the cattle prod on him making him move a little, and once they got him close to the pen one of the hands busted a two by four over his head, which got the bull’s attention and they were able to persuade him enough to get him inside the pen. It was still a struggle inside the pen, but they accomplished their mission.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

No Facebook for me

Just about every time I get the itching to open up a Facebook account, I read a comment or two off our local online forum, breathe a sigh of relief and  assure myself that I made the right decision, especially since the local newspaper can’t control the content.  For example, a local arrest brought out the issues about the public housing, and the audacity of a tenant  playing on their Xbox in the middle of the afternoon. It's very common of an attitude that screams "you know people on public assistance are at our mercy and they should be treated that way. ." Every move they make should be scrutinized.   It took off from there -to someone being called a cyber stalker, creepy, and the other being unhinged.  If only that was the exception rather than the rule.

I would love to get back to commenting because I love to debate the issues,  but I draw the line when it comes to having a daily name- calling contest.  I would love to go in and correct the myth that going into Iraq was a bipartisan issue. The sole decision to go to Iraq always rests with the Commander in Chief and  besides less than 1/3 of the YES votes came from democrats.  There were only 374 legislators who voted YES to give the president the authority to use military force, but you would think on such an important decision; it should have been at least 450 yeses.  Only six senators had enough initiative to look at the contradicting evidence in the intelligence report that said  that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction.  After viewing the report they didn’t make a real effort to convince their colleagues.

The first myth that I would correct is that President Clinton caused the housing bubble.  Using that logic, the housing market is on the rise, should President Obama be given credit for that?  As I've said several times, the economy was booming and the president, treasury secretary, Congress, and Federal Chairman Alan Greenspan(conservative Republican) supported legislation not to make Wall Street be more transparent when dealing with derivatives. The repeal of Glass-Stegall did not by itself cause the 2008 financial crises.  It was a perfect storm of an ineffective SEC, a corrupt Wall Street, credit rating firms which stamped the junk mortgages with an AAA credit rating, and predatory lenders who lend to unworthy home buyers just so they could bundle the junk mortgages and resell them to naive investors.  The fed itself kept the interest rates' low feeding more fuel to the fire.  I could go on and on because it was not a one-factor  collapse.  I couldn't believe when I saw that  AIG, after being bailed out by the taxpayers, has the audacity to want to sue the government.

This is just the beginning of a never-ending  saga.  This morning I was watching an interview  with a freshman tea party representative from Arkansas, Tom Cotton.  The man has excellent credentials, so I thought he would be a breath of fresh air, but he's further to the right than most legislators.  He actually thinks the win in his district is equal to that of Present Obama and  Massachusetts senator, Elizabeth Warren.  He constantly uses the word “ liberal “in the pejorative, thinks Obama is the cause of all our ills and that he has been sent to Washington to cut spending and nothing else. People like him, thinks a compromise is for sissies, and they are tone death when a pundit tells them that polls results contradicts everything he believes.

I was told that we should be punishing our representatives by cutting their pay and benefits.  I can see making it a law that our representatives couldn't get government paid health care that was better than what most Americans get.  I believe then, they would take some steps to improve our health care but a majority of them are rich, so that's not much of an incentive for some.  There's a lot, to “ we get what we pay for” but I think the first thing we need to do is quit sending people to Washington, who will not compromise.  We need to do something about the gerrymandered districts and get to work on some serious campaign reform measures.

We used to have some serious discussions but that's long gone because the posters at the VA would rather spread their long- held myths than discuss topics such as, education reform, climate change, reasonable gun control measures, and things we can do to improve health care.
I’m waiting ,I’m a “never say never” person but for now Facebook is not for me.