Taxes

 
 07 Dec 2010 @ 8:31 AM 

Repeat after me: “Taxes are lower than ever before in this generation. We are NOT being overtaxed.”

It’s interesting that we’re shifting the tax burden to employment taxes rather than income taxes, and we’ve completely gutted the wealth taxes. But, we must ensure that the uberwealthy get an extra 100,000 dollars in tax relief, rather than the mere $4000 they would have without this capitulation. Remember, even without an extension of the tax cuts for income above $250,000 – everyone was set to have lower income taxes than before the “temporary” cuts of 2002. Marginal tax rates are not effective tax rates. Oh, and when Eric Cantor says half of all small business owners would have faced higher taxes (and therefore fired people obviously), that’s just a lie. The average small businees income is $40,000/year. That’s far below $250,000 for those who are bad at math (GOP – I’m looking at you). Now, here’s where it gets fun. Only 2.5% of business owners would have faced higher taxes, but those businesses account for 44% of the business income. So, if you want to claim that half the income from businesses would be taxed higher, you’re not far off. But, to claim that half of all small businesses would have been hit – that’s just bull. Also, there’s no solid definition of “small business” so maybe Cantor is thinking that Walmart and Best Buy are small. After all, Eric Cantor’s wife makes millions per year – wonder where his loyalties lie.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 07 Dec 2010 @ 08:55 AM

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 07 Dec 2010 @ 7:43 AM 

Hey, look, the President compromised again.*

* – Where “compromise” is read to mean “capitulate” of course.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 07 Dec 2010 @ 07:43 AM

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 08 Nov 2010 @ 7:20 AM 

Dubya’s autobiography is out this week, so he’s finally come out of hiding to discuss his legacy. I thought that was something he was going to let historians do, but he just couldn’t wait or something.  You’ll never guess what he considers the worst moment of his presidency.  Maybe when the towers fell? Nope. How about when the banking industry just about ate the economy? Not that either. When the entire world found out that Rumsfeld has been supervising torture of random foreigners? Not even close. Oh, how about when one of the oldest cities in the country was erased by a flood which could have been prevented by decent maintenance and the people were forced to stay in the city at gunpoint while mercenaries roamed the streets looting people of their own firearms? Not that either.

Amazingly, George W. Bush believes the worst moment in a presidency filled with bad moments is when Kanye said he didn’t care about black people. He’s not tormented in his post-President retirement by the things he might have done differently or the thousands of people who died while he was in nominal charge, but by the fact that someone said something mean about him on television. WTF?

MATT LAUER: You say you told Laura at the time it was the worst moment of your Presidency?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. My record was strong I felt when it came to race relations and giving people a chance. And — it was a disgusting moment.

What an infantile and self-centered view of the most powerful office in the world.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 08 Nov 2010 @ 09:43 AM

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 03 Nov 2010 @ 9:58 AM 

Because we will now have two years of nothing getting accomplished in DC and both sides able to blame the other for being obstructionist, politics is going to be pretty much on reruns for a while.

Since we’ve spent so long now disagreeing with each other about seeming everything, here’s a story I think everyone can agree is a feel-good piece of news. An 18-month old girl in France was playing by a window six stories up. She fell out the window (this is not the feel good part yet, wait for it). Against all odds, she bounced off the awning of the cafe on the ground floor, which slowed her fall to non-fatal levels (still not the end). Against more odds, she landed in the arms of a passing stranger. The stranger happened to be a doctor.

Doesn’t that make you feel good about the world? You’re welcome.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 03 Nov 2010 @ 10:00 AM

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Categories: News
 29 Oct 2010 @ 1:35 PM 

Halloween is this weekend, and with it come all the various modern changes to the traditional Trick or Treat. We have “Trunk or Treat” where kids wander a parking lot. We have “Safe Trick or Treat” where kids make a lethargic loop of the mall, behind a veritable conga-line of hundreds of other children. We have a bunch of sanctioned, known-safe haunted houses. We don’t have the near-universal Trick-or-Treat participation that most of us adults remember from our own childhoods, though. Although to watch any evening news broadcast would lead you to believe we live in a ridiculously dangerous time, the opposite is really true.

The rate of violent crimes is the lowest it has been since 1973, the rate of property crimes the lowest since 1968. Children are almost never kidnapped by anyone, and when they are it’s almost always by a non-custodial parent (about evenly split between women and men). The only time a child has been poisoned by Halloween candy, it was his own father who gave it to him to collect the life insurance money (father of the year was executed in 1984).

If you’re avoiding taking your rugrats out to beg for candy because you think your neighbors are going to try to kill them, don’t worry.  Have fun, try not to eat so much sugar in one sitting, and have a great weekend!

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 29 Oct 2010 @ 01:35 PM

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 27 Oct 2010 @ 9:19 AM 

I’m sure that none of our elected representatives are unduly influenced by the truly stupendous amount of money lavished on them by corporate contributors.  But just in case you’re curious about where that money comes from, how about a cool interactive political whore influence tracker?

Interestingly, here in Texas, the two US Senators have vastly different records on this issue: John Cornyn has received nearly 3 million dollars, while Kay Bailey Hutchison has only raked in 15 thousand. I disagree with Senator Hutchison on many (most?) issues of substance, but she does appear to keep above the money-grubbing fray.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 27 Oct 2010 @ 09:20 AM

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 18 Oct 2010 @ 8:28 AM 

Another in the list of strange things from Alaskan politics – Joe Miller’s security guards think they can arrest people. At a public event in a public school, private security guards handcuffed and detained a journalist because he had the audacity to ask the candidate questions. The Anchorage police were called, and told the security detail to uncuff the journalist (and hopefully to stop thinking they were cops). The guards even threatened to arrest other journalists for trespassing.  At a public school. During a “town hall” meeting. Open to the public.  WTF?

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 18 Oct 2010 @ 08:28 AM

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 06 Oct 2010 @ 12:15 PM 

Faisal Shahzad has been sentenced to life in prison this week by a federal judge in the United States.  Shahzad, if you don’t recall, was the Times Square Bomber back in May of this year. Total time from event to sentence in federal court: 5 months.

Omar Khadr remains in Guantanamo Prison, where he’s been since throwing a grenade at a U.S. soldier in 2002 (Khadr was 15 at the time). His trial started in August but was put on hold due to an ill attorney.  He has spent 8 years in prison, tortured and abused and threatened with gang rape by an interrogator, all waiting for his military tribunal for charges which were only levied after some ex post facto legislation was written four years after his detention began.

Which of these systems provides swift and efficient justice again?

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 06 Oct 2010 @ 12:16 PM

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 14 Sep 2010 @ 7:16 AM 

I found it disturbing when people would defend some of our mistakes in Iraq by claiming we were better than Saddam, as if our goal was merely to be somewhat less evil than an authoritarian dictator who gassed his own people and ran rape rooms in his torture prison.  It appears the Democrats are using a similar strategy going into November: at least we’re not as bad as the GOP, right?

When DNC chair Tim Kaine was on the Daily Show a week or two back, Jon Stewart rightly lambasted him for the absurdity of their “Don’t give them the keys” approach.  Kaine had no real retort other than the tired statements of GOP perfidy.  Sure, the GOP did a lot of stupid venal petty shit during their years in power.  So, Dems, what are you doing different? They don’t seem to have a very compelling argument in their favor.

I could list all the ways in which I’m disappointed in the current administration and the Democrats in Congress, but Glenn Greenwald has a great piece today which has many nice links and great points to make.  Unlike some of his articles, this one is not biased against the GOP.  Greenwald is very clearly documenting the failures of the Democratic party, and even if you’re happy to see the Dems fail, it’s interesting to see in one place all the many ways in which they are using fearmongering and low expectations to try to hold onto power (power they haven’t really taken advantage of while they had it).

Change you can…definitely not see.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 06 Dec 2010 @ 12:25 PM

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 10 Sep 2010 @ 6:54 AM 

In case there’s any doubt that the terrorists have “won” the war for hearts and minds, here we have a bomb squad blowing up a “suspicious” $300 toy pony.

Yep, we’ve given up and are now paranoid police state wackjobs.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 10 Sep 2010 @ 06:54 AM

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Categories: Civil Liberties, Video
 26 Aug 2010 @ 2:04 PM 

It turns out that the unenumerated rights that we have inherent to us as human beings don’t really exist.  If you don’t keep your car in a garage and you don’t live in a gated community, the Ninth Circuit has determined that you have no reasonable expectation that the police will stay off your property to put a covert GPS tracking device on your car.  Sure, it’s your driveway and they’re trespassing if they walk on it, but since the mailman walks on your driveway to deliver mail, it’s okay for the government to walk on your driveway to spy on your vehicular movements.

Amazingly, if you park in a garage or live behind a wall in a gated community, the court thinks you’ve still got some rights.  Is this going to be a selling point for new community developers?  “Live here, the Fourth Amendment still applies.”

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 26 Aug 2010 @ 02:07 PM

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 23 Aug 2010 @ 11:52 AM 

It’s a few weeks old, but I just noticed this story from the Associated Press (permalink via Wired), which sounds like something you’d have expected from the Bush administration:

Political Appointees Vetted FOIA Requests

Seriously, President Obama? This is what you consider change we can believe in? Yes we can?  We can filter FOIA requests through political advisers so they can keep track of the political party asking for the information? We can filter requests to keep track of whether the requester is a journalist?

When this president was just taking office, he said, “For a long time now, there’s been too much secrecy in this city.” He cited abuse of the Freedom of Information Act, in particular. And, to be fair, the administration has reduced the backlog of FOIA requests and there is no indication they’ve denied requests inappropriately. But, it’s actually rather obviously unethical to pass requests that are required to be handled expediently through a layer of bureaucracy which is unnecessary to the process.

Yay for Change™.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 06 Dec 2010 @ 12:24 PM

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 30 Jul 2010 @ 3:42 PM 

I think what the Oregon Tea Party has learned is “don’t steal slogans from vindictive anonymous geeks” but I may be mistaken.  I’ve seen precious little evidence that most Tea Party folks are capable of learning.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 30 Jul 2010 @ 03:42 PM

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 14 Jun 2010 @ 9:45 AM 

This photo essay provides an interesting look into the country Afghanistan was starting to become before the Soviets started the seemingly never-ending wars that have plagued the nation for forty years. Textile plants and women college students and cabinet meetings where the members actually had higher educations…sad to contrast that with today.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 14 Jun 2010 @ 09:45 AM

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 22 May 2010 @ 2:26 PM 

Senator Barack Obama, 2006:

Most of us have been willing to make some sacrifices because we know that, in the end, it helps to make us safer.  But restricting somebody’s right to challenge their imprisonment indefinitely is not going to make us safer. In fact, recent evidence shows it is probably making us less safe.

Of course, as President in 2010, Obama has now won the right (based on a DC Circuit Court of Appeals) to do just that. His administration has decided that detaining arbitrary people at Guantanamo was beyond the pale and not to be perpetuated, but detaining arbitrary people at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan is perfectly reasonable. And, the Circuit Court has said that, unlike the decision in Boumediene v. Bush (2008), no habeas appeals are needed for detainees in what any administration defines as a war zone. This ignores that Congress is the only organization allowed to declare war and they haven’t done so since 1941. So, war zones are arbitrarily defined by the executive branch, and any prison or detention facility they put there is out of the reach of all US justice, including the incredibly simple right to just have the judicial branch confirm that the executive branch has indeed detained someone with reason rather than without reason.

Change you can believe in.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 06 Dec 2010 @ 12:23 PM

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 19 May 2010 @ 10:11 AM 

According to an in-depth AP article today, the War on (some) Drugs is an abject failure. This should surprise just about nobody, although apparently there are some who remain shocked to find gambling at Rick’s Cafe as well.

The current Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, even admitted on record that “In the grand scheme, it has not been successful.” Naturally, his predecessor, John Walters, takes the opposite tack: “To say that all the things that have been done in the war on drugs haven’t made any difference is ridiculous. It destroys everything we’ve done. It’s saying all the people involved in law enforcment, treatment and prevention have been wasting their time. It’s saying all these people’s work is misguided.” Sorry to say, Mr. Walters, but you can’t change reality just by wishing it wasn’t just a giant waste of time and money.

One trillion dollars spent over forty years, in order to prove that Prohibition was not an anomaly? We’ve been inundated with “Just Say No” and DARE and other programs, yet high school kids have the same rate of drug use today as in 1970, when Nixon kicked this thing off. $450 billion has been spent to incarcerate drug offenders in federal prison (no mention of how much states spend in addition), where most data indicates incarceration leads to increased drug usage when released.

Portugal decriminalized drug use in 2001. Decriminalization is not legalization – it just means a user won’t go to jail for doing drugs; the drugs themselves remain illegal to deal. I know, strange but that’s the legal system for you. In the years since, HIV infections from dirty needles have dropped by 70%, and drug overdoses have dropped by 30%. Also, the rate of young people using drugs has dropped, and the number of people seeking drug treatment has doubled. 10% of Portuguese have used marijuana in their lifetimes; in the USA that number is close to 40%.

The United States has 5% of the world population but 25% of the world’s prisoners. We must be doing something wrong.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 19 May 2010 @ 10:12 AM

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 17 May 2010 @ 1:20 PM 

Anyone who has flown in the past 8 years or so has grown accustomed to the ever-increasing indignities inflicted on the airline passenger of today. We can’t have more than 3 oz of liquids, we have to remove our shoes, we can’t have a knife as dangerous as the ones they hand out in Business Class to spread butter with, etc.

There are a few things that most people don’t know but may cause you to wonder if the security apparatus is really intended to do anything other than look impressive, while failing utterly to be impressive once investigated more deeply. For example, airline pilots and crew must go through the exact same security screening to get on the plane as passengers. Some pilots and crew find this a bizarre and pointless ceremony, but at least there is consistency. In the inconsistent column, airport workers don’t have to go through the same screening as passengers and crew. They undergo background checks, and then are essentially given the keys to the back rooms of the airport. You’d think, if maniacally checking everyone that enters the plane and stays onboard is so important, checking the people who enter the plane and then get off again would be more important.

But, there’s a great story out today that is even more mind-boggling than inconsistent and simply silly security rules: a man piloted jumbo jets for thirteen years with no passenger pilot’s license.  Back in the 1960s, Frank Abagnale was able to bluff his way into such situations, but that was in the days before Google. To be fair, Thomas Salme did indeed have an expired commercial pilot’s license, but that’s for things like UPS planes. He racked up over 10,000 hours of accident-free passenger flights over his thirteen years, so I guess we could do worse.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 17 May 2010 @ 01:20 PM

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 11 May 2010 @ 10:13 AM 

Elena Kagan – uninspiring choice or “change” you can’t detect?

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 06 Dec 2010 @ 12:23 PM

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 04 May 2010 @ 1:16 PM 

Senator McCain, a man I once thought a decent and honorable human being, has become so enmeshed in the GOP machine he decried and rebelled against in previous decades, that he now says the law should be ignored when arresting American citizens for crimes in the USA. Astonishing.

Specifically, McCain says we should not inform suspects of their Constitutional rights if we think they’re guilty of terrorism. He says nothing about other crimes. What proves he’s engaging in simple “dog whistle” politics instead of actually saying anything of substance is that “Mirandizing” a suspect does not imbue them with any rights they didn’t already have. The only thing reading that list of Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights does is immunize the police from having confessional evidence thrown out in court. McCain must know these things, or he’s lost so much of his mental capacity the people of Arizona should remove him from office.

Let me state this very plainly for those who can’t remember their social studies and civics classes. The suspected incompetent NYC bomber, Faisal Shahzad, possesses certain rights from the mere fact of his being a legal resident and naturalized citizen of this country. Not telling him of those rights does not remove the rights. And, if he’s anything like the rest of us, he’s heard a version of the “Miranda Statement” a jillion times, besides being a naturalized citizen means he probably has actually studied the Constitution more than most natural-born citizens. But, and this is an important point, if the police fail to read him his rights and he then says something which could be considered incriminating, a judge may (not must, but may) disallow that statement from testimony. It all comes down to doing things the right way, so as to be more certain that a trial will bring about justice.

Meanwhile, Representative King (R-NY) says we should carefully consider where to place Mr. Shahzad before we indict him. I suppose that means the Congressman wants to leave open the possibility of sending Shahzad to a military detention facility and face a tribunal instead of a trial. Interestingly, those tribunals are incredibly inefficient, convicting only 3 people in nearly a decade – two of those people were later released during the Bush administration. During that same period, over 300 people were tried and convicted of terrorism charges in federal civilian courts. Sure seems to me, if you want to actually lock someone up for terrorism, you should try them in a federal court and lock them up in a federal super-maximum security prison when convicted. Nobody has ever escaped from a supermax prison. Ever.

Senator McCain would like to leave open the possibility that Shahzad will be released due to a piece of legal legerdemain, and Rep. King would like to lock Shahzad up in the most bizarre excuse for a legal system ever. Could the GOP come up with someone else to speak for them, please? It’s embarrassing, really.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 04 May 2010 @ 01:16 PM

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AZ

 
 01 May 2010 @ 10:07 PM 

Say you’re a Latino living in Arizona, who has a “contact” with the police.  They think you may be an illegal alien, and ask for your identification.  Turns out, there’s no law requiring any citizen to actually possess or carry identification with them.  What’s the next step for the police?

Oh, and by the way, police have always been allowed to check the immigration status of suspects, this just allows them to check the status of other people who have “contact” with the police.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 01 May 2010 @ 10:07 PM

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