Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Oh my

Senator Specter is a democrat.

There's no way Mr. Coleman is giving up now.

Not to diminish the importance of the current health crisis

The advice from the CDC regarding swine flu:
  • covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing,
  • washing your hands often with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub, and,
  • staying home when you are sick.
So, pretty much what we're supposed to do anyway?

Monday, April 20, 2009


Just for "fun", the kind of fun that makes your eyes bleed and brain feel stabby, I put in a couple of Google news searches with the keywords "socialism" and "socialist." I went through 4 days and a total of 8 emails linking me to news stories from all over the country. Then I deleted the search.

It was pretty much as I expected.

Some of my favorite headlines:
Socialism is taking hold of United States
Socialism is really cannibalism
Comparing Christ to a Socialist
Pol: Now ‘United Socialist States’

Most frightening:
Spencer Bachus and the '17 Socialists' in Congress
(Mr. Bachus might be trying out for a re-remake of "The Manchurian Candidate," or maybe he just wants to be Ms. Bachmann's campaign manager. I am not sure.)

And, less obviously amusing:
Hundreds express frustration at Johnstown's 'tea party'

Submitted for your approval, a general definition of "socialism:"
"a general term for the political and economic theory that advocates a system of collective or government ownership and management of the means of production and distribution of goods."

That is not what we have in America, nor is it what Mr. Obama is proposing. It's also not what they have in Europe. Oh, and socialism and communism are not the same thing.

According to a Rasmussen study, only 53 percent of Americans believe capitalism is better than socialism. Twenty percent said socialism is better, 27 percent don’t know which is better.

It's fear, misunderstanding, and name-calling, all balled up into a little ball of white hot ignorance.

Maybe all the people who think taxation is stealing and don't want the federal government all up in their business will also be happy to forgo clean water, electricity, public safety, parks and recreation, disaster clean up, and national security. Sure, that's an extreme point of view, but, fire with fire, since apparently, we are returning to the exact way Germany was just before Hitler took over.

The left does it, too (just without the racism)

So here's the thing. I believe that the protests on Tax Day were hysterical, not in a funny way, but in a stark-raving, beyond reason sort of way. I mean, come on: "American taxpayers are the Jews for Obama's ovens"? Really? That's wrong on so many levels, I don't know where to begin. It was a mob of people who, in my opinion, are mostly just threatened by Mr. Obama himself. Otherwise, they should have been out protesting sometime during the last 8 years when the seeds were sown, and those tax codes applied.

But it's easy to get people all riled up, as I said before.

Here's a neat example from the left. Pete just sent me a link to a facebook group against the ban on organic farming, going on about how Monsanto was behind legislation that was going to make organic farming NAY! even your pretty little backyard garden AGAINST THE LAW! Grandma will be taken away in chains, a few stray string beans dangling from her dirty gardening gloves. Even our First Lady will be led away to the delight of the White House Paparazzi.

You know, when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Likewise, if something sounds too bad to be true.

People need to get some sense about themselves, if only for my sake. I am PMS-ing, and I do not have time for this sort of nonsense.

While it does appear to be true that Big Ag had their panties in a bunch over Ms. Obama's organic garden and sent her a letter urging her to use "crop protection products" e.g. chemicals, in and on her White House Garden, and thereby on her children and Guests of State. It made them "shudder" that it was going to be organic.

Well, to be fair, it would have made me shudder were it NOT going to be organic, but I do not have millions of dollars in lobbying money in a hidden pocket in my trenchcoat, unless you count an ever-growing percentage share in many American financial institutions.

My first reaction to the facebook group was "That sounds like bunk to me." I mean, I would not put it past BigAg; I have a healthy mistrust of mega-corporations, but still. It sounded hysterical. And I have to apply the same amount of scrutiny to all ideas for my opinions to be legitimate.

Granted, I did not troll around for hours on the internet, but it does, indeed, sound like a bit of hysteria. Snopes has a page, and you can read the actual text of the actual bill (always a good idea. If I ever have a minute, I'll get back to my whole Fannie&Freddie thing.). It's a hundred and seventeen pages long, if you have a minute (summary here). The bill has been introduced and referred to committee, and just as a note: all 41 co-sponsors are democrats. One of them might be yours.

Here's my take: people need to calm down and put their energy toward the real problem. The bill itself does not appear to do what they are saying it will, and it's probably coming from the right place, e.g. ensuring the safety of our food. Sure, call your congressperson and express concern over some of the wording in the text that, when broadly interpreted, could possibly be applied by not-so-well-meaning persons in limited circumstances to hurt small and organic farmers, but while you are at it, lobby for things that might actually help, like regulations on feed lots and large scale food producers, as well as testing on imports. Advocate for help that goes directly to small, local, and organic farmers because from what I understand, localizing will do a lot to make our food safer and healthier. Our whole food system needs to be overhauled, and acting like a bunch of hysterical tea-baggers is not going to help anything.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

This is the captain speaking

I am not a big fan of flying. It makes me rather nervous; more nervous, the older I get. When I was younger, I did not think about it much. I think it's related to having more to lose, and my anxiety increased after I met and fell in love with Pete, and now that we have Finn, I can only imagine that flying will continue to freak me out a little bit.

Thank goodness I was not on this plane:

Associated Press: MELBOURNE, Australia - Four baby pythons escaped from a container aboard a passenger plane in Australia, leading to a search that forced the cancellation of two flights, the airline said Thursday.

Not that I am especially afraid of snakes. I'd rather hold a boa than fly on a plane, I think, but baby snakes, loose on a plane? Yeah, that might be alarming were it to squiggle across your foot.

I don't know much about herpetology, but I think that I would be pretty careful when securing my package-o-baby-snakes.


I am enjoying my morning tea. It's a traditional medicinals brew meant to increase milk flow. Do you need to know that? Not really. I have just been thinking about tea. Does it work? Maybe, maybe not, but it's not something that can hurt me or the boy, so I'll go ahead and give it a try.

Oh, I did my taxes. In February. I always have them done by mid month or so. That way, they are off my mind, all finished, and any refund I get has already been applied to my savings account or my home equity line of credit.

I was not sipping tea as I watched coverage of the "tea parties" yesterday. The beverage of choice was Guinness. I was chuckling to myself, however, as well as rather appalled at some of the lovely signage people made for themselves.

Americans have a long history of protests. Americans also have a long history of not understanding history. Oh, and a long history of knee-jerk reactions to broad and complicated concepts.

Yesterday was no exception.

Getting people all up in a tizzy over taxes is not new, and it's not difficult. Part of the motivation for what has been called "The Boston Tea Party" was taxation, after all. People think that the government is stealing from them by collecting taxes. People think that President Obama is a socialist. People think that "card check" is a denial of worker rights. People think that the plural of "party" is "party's."

As crazy-making as a lot of these ideas are to me, none of this is new. America has always been like this, it's just that now there are more of us, and we all have to look at it and hear it because it's all on television and the internet. The interesting thing about this particular time in America is all the talk about "revolution," and the hearkening back to the founders. It's funny because the only thing that happened was: they lost.

You lost. Sorry, take your lumps.

Massachusetts and Minnesota did not hint at secession in 2000. Or 2004.

It just so happens that they lost in the middle of terrible economic times, when our global economy is going through a Great Correction. People are rightly upset, and the easiest thing to do is get mad at the government: get mad at the government that has been in office for three months.

It seems like if you are upset at the government, and you are conservative, you are more American, whereas if you are upset at the government, and you are liberal, you are anti-American. Some of these protesters are so American, that they think they should not be part of America anymore.

I don't understand this idea of patriotism.

But the best part of these protests yesterday is this:

"[They] were promoted by FreedomWorks, a conservative nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington and led by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas, who is now a lobbyist."

All of these people were out on the streets, fired up by wealthy interests. Once again, the brilliance of it all is that the right manages to get middle class and working class Americans protesting their own economic security.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Former Senator Coleman

It would be easier for me to believe that Mr. Coleman is really concerned with justice and due process if this appeal he has been threatening for weeks was filed promptly.

Delaying for the allowed ten days is petty and unnecessary.

A well-conducted election, open recount, and fair trial with bipartisan judges have given us a result, and the people of Minnesota deserve two senators. Mr. Franken should be seated, and time will tell whether or not he is up to the task. Trying times are not the moment for small-minded, obstructionist politicking.

Piracy is our only option...

I had the weirdest Amerrrican reaction to the whole "pirates have my captain hostage" thing last week. It was all "We're America, and we have our big ships, and don't we have a few snipers who can just take these bastards out?" I just wanted them laid waste. It was such an odd feeling. Every time I heard a story about it on the news, I would get mad all over again.

Never mind that Somalia is a mess, and we have been no help, and their government is struggling... PIRATES?! Screw you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


One of my newsfeeds for my work blog uses the keyword “charity,” which means I have to wade through stories about Taylor Swift auctioning off her prom dress for charity, and Nicole Richie donating baby clothes to charity, and Michael Jordan’s locker being auctioned for charity, and I was thinking “Sheesh, can’t these people think of anything more useful to do?”

I mean, it’s not very hard to use something, say they touched it, and then give it to someone to auction.

Then I ran across this news item, in which former astronaut Senator John Glenn is auctioning off lunch with himself to benefit engineering and science scholarships.

If I had a million dollars…

Of course, I would spend the entire allotted time blubbering about how I used to live on “Friendship Drive,” in New Concord, Ohio, and that’s the same street he lived on, and I would rattle on about the early days of the space program, while my heart was about to explode from nervousness.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Give until it hurts

I just got back from maternity leave. A long maternity leave. While I was out, we elected a new president, bought an 80% share in AIG, and the national unemployment rate increased from 6.2% in August of 2008 to 8.5% in March of 2009.

I am easing back into the particulars of my job, one of which includes contributing to our blog. I set up a few Google news searches, and I comb through about seven emails a day, linking me to news stories from all over the world that relate to issues we consider important at my center.

Apparently, the world is going to come to an end due to a “cap” being placed on charitable giving.

I guess this “cap” would make rich people give less to make up for the hit on their tax bill, thus taking money out of the coffers of charities. Nonprofits that provide essential services will collapse. Charities will suffer. Those in need will continue to fall by the wayside.

It all seemed a little alarmist to me, so I spent some time doing some reading, from Colorado Springs to Kansas City, Louisiana to West Virginia, it’s a bustling topic.

First of all, I wondered, “What’s really happening?”

Donors making over 250 thousand dollars (adjusted) who have been enjoying a 35 percent tax deduction will see that deduction reduced to 28 percent, starting in 2011, returning them to the rate they paid when Ronald Reagan was president. The revenue generated from this deduction reduction would be used to form the basis of a health care reform reserve.

A couple of notes: this affects taxable income, which is lower than total income, and taxpayers at higher incomes have access to more deductions, exemptions, and breaks. This budget includes limits to values on all itemized deductions for the top two tax brackets; it’s not “picking on charitable giving.”

As with almost anything, you can find data to support every side of an argument, sometimes from the same institution. Furthermore, you can manipulate language, making a situation sound like doom reeking from the mouth of hell or a bed of roses, depending upon your desired result.

This is what I found most interesting in my reading: how the debate is shaped in the political arena, and how citizens and organizations respond. Information is at our fingertips, but does that mean that we seek it out? Or do we operate in an echo chamber, only searching out that which supports what we want to believe?

I see this as a tax debate, not a human services debate. The fact that the GOP is framing it as a human services debate is one thing that led me to this conclusion. They have spun what they perceive as a tax increase on the wealthy into a social welfare issue, couching their arguments in terms of human need. It’s also about who provides services, nonprofits or the federal government. If anything, this debate emphasizes, again, how rhetoric is used to shape public opinion, and how easy that is to do when it comes to tax and class issues in America. It's "class warfare" when we want to "raise taxes" on the rich (Their rate was 50% under Mr. Reagan, by the way. The "trickle" seems to have defied gravity), but it's not class warfare to cut benefits to the poor. Robin Hood is only a hero in the collective subconscious.

It's great. By using just a few of the facts and leaving out a host of other relevant information, you can really get people riled up.

Statements like “putting a cap on charitable giving” and “penalizes charitable giving” or “Charitable giving could be under attack by the federal government” turn the issue on its ear and drive public opinion.

This is not a new concept.

If what is being said is true, it presents a cynical view of what causes people to give to charitable causes. It also skews some of the data on where all this money actually comes from. Statistics show that a large share of charitable donations do not show up in tax bills, and aside from that, donors in lower tax brackets account for over half of the donations that are deducted. These people would not be affected by these tax changes.

You can find numbers that forecast a reduction in giving of 1 billion a year, to 7 billion a year. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates a 1.3 percent decline. The Indiana University Center on Philanthropy estimates that, if these proposals had been in place in 2006, “total itemized charitable giving by households would have dropped by 2.1 percent." Patrick M. Rooney, Ph.D., interim executive director, went on to say that “changes in personal income and wealth, both of which have declined in the past year, have a greater impact on charitable giving than do tax rate changes." In other words, how much you already have, not what you can write off in April, dictates how much you give.

You can go on and on about how President Obama clearly hates the rich, and does not believe in all he said about the importance of charities, but he must be suffering from self-loathing as well, because he’s “raising taxes” on himself. Everyone is not hurting in this crisis. The rich, who have gotten richer in the past few decades, are still rich. I suppose it's all relative, like when Ken Lay had to sell a few of his homes.

What I want to know is, will we see a flurry of giving in 2009 and 2010 while the wealthy can still take advantage of the existing rate?


Yay Vermont!

p.s. It seems like so many states are doing so many interesting things. Here in Minnesota, I would just like to have my senator now.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Guns don't kill people.

People with guns kill people.


Yay Iowa!