Friday, December 28, 2007

Is it Time for a Tea Party Yet?

The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) was created into law in the late 60's to keep the wily tax-dodging rich from getting away without paying a dime. It was a good idea (although far too lenient).

But the AMT hasn't kept pace with inflation. Now middle and upper-middle income families are falling prey to this tax. Ok, let's not cry too loud. We're not talking about the poor. But this is on the heels of Bush's tax breaks for the rich, furthering the divide between the payers and the payers not.

Much ado is currently being made about how folks will need to be filing late becasue the IRS had to rewrite five forms related to the AMT. Why? Because Congress was trying to fix this tax. Now seriously, the tax needs more than the yearly patchwork to minimize its impact on the middle class. It needs a complete overhaul with its original intent reinstated. But at least Congress was trying.

The problem that faced Congress was the $50 billion shortfall that would result from the fix. And true to form, Bush growled and snarled and clashed his teeth when Congress mentioned raising taxes on the rich to make up the shortfall. So Congress caved and let the shortfall stand as a shortfall. Just more money to borrow from China.

Why do working class conservatives continue to believe this tyrant has their interests at heart. We are all (excepting you uber rich out there of course) being robbed blind. This is the biggest heist in American history and the law is just telling the gangsters to help themselves. And if they get bored not arresting the real criminals, they just round up patriotic citizens and arrest them instead.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Peace on Earth, Good Will toward Men, #2

Priests brawl at Jesus' birthplace

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) -- Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests attacked each other with brooms and stones inside the Church of the Nativity as long-standing rivalries erupted in violence during holiday cleaning on Thursday.

The basilica, built over the grotto in Bethlehem where Christians believe Jesus was born, is administered jointly by Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic authorities.
Any perceived encroachment on one group's turf can touch off vicious feuds.

On Thursday, dozens of priests and cleaners were scrubbing the church ahead of the Armenian and Orthodox Christmas, celebrated in early January. Thousands of tourists visited the church this week for Christmas celebrations.

But the clean-up turned ugly after some of the Orthodox faithful stepped inside the Armenian church's section, touching off a scuffle between about 50 Greek Orthodox and 30 Armenians.

Palestinian police, armed with batons and shields, quickly formed a human cordon to separate the two sides so the cleaning could continue, then ordered an Associated Press photographer out of the church.

Four people, some with blood running from their faces, were slightly wounded.

Goodbye Benazir

I'll readily admit that I don't know much about Benazir Bhutto. Until this past October when she returned to Pakistan out of exile (a self-imposed exile to escape corruption charges), I think I had heard her name, but nothing more. Or perhaps I only think I found her name familiar as it has become familiar since. It's all together possible I didn't even know of her at all until two and a half months ago.

But she seemed to embody something that was about the people instead of being about power and wealth. And maybe this also was spun out of whole cloth. And maybe not.

Ms. Bhutto defied a power-hungry friend of George Bush who, also like King George some fear, opposed free elections and fancied dictatorship as his due. She returned to Pakistan in hopes of building a coalition government with Musharraf. Instead he declared her an outlaw. He fired the Pakistani Supreme Court and declared marshal law. And now he takes no blame for her assassination.

George Bush sits and points his finger at "international terrorism." He probably ordered her death at Musharraf's behest.

I didn't know even a smidgeon of what could have been know about this probably very brave woman. But I find myself deeply saddened and disturbed at what was done to her today in a land that we call an ally.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Hello Big Brother

FBI Prepares Vast Database Of Biometrics
$1 Billion Project to Include Images of Irises and Faces

By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 22, 2007; Page A01

CLARKSBURG, W. Va. -- The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad.

Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowing into FBI systems in a climate-controlled, secure basement here. Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists. The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law.

"Bigger. Faster. Better. That's the bottom line," said Thomas E. Bush III, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which operates the database from its headquarters in the Appalachian foothills.

Read More ...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Peace on Earth, Good Will toward those who can afford it

I go back and forth with regard to my feelings regarding the criminality of the Bush Administration and what we the people should do about it. Sometimes I want to rant and rave with my utter frustration (and sometimes I do). Sometimes I want to merely despair and leave this country forever. Sometimes I want to take up arms (I do not own guns, and I am wont to interpret the 2nd Amendment as being about a well-ordered Militia, not about gun ownership).

Sometimes I listen to reason. I hear my brother who believes stability is paramount, not patriotism; not our Constitution. I hear seasoned scholarly activists cautioning us not to be too hasty; not to despair; not to consider this our worst hour. I hear my daughter speak of her ideology (which is more or less in alignment with mine), but I also hear her speak of friends antithetical to that ideology, as it that makes perfect sense.

I am truly torn. One part of me remembers the sage Taoist advice, "this too shall pass." Another side reminds me that our founders quelled such rhetoric as a form of giving succor to the Tories. And I don't know what to think.

The company I now work for employs the marvelous services of Cigna Insurance. Now I know these bastards are not the only ones who routinely allow, and even encourage, teenage kids to die in the interest of feathering their stockholders' nests, but I'm picking on them because this latest story
comes close to home for me since these bastards could do it to me and the ones I most love too now. What enrages me is the complicity of our government in this obscenely evil corporate greed.

So do we seek the forcible overthrow of these criminals? Do we continue to hope our elected officials grow a pair and in turn use constitutional means to oust and incarcerate the defilers of our democracy? Do we take to the streets and hope the corporate media airs a second or two of our ire before doing a fade to a Wal-Mart ad? Do we try to work from within; do we give the benefit of the doubt to the spineless, co-opted politicians who sit figuratively opposite our opponents in Congress?

I am too angry to make a rational argument for constrained compromise; for patience; for belief in the sure and certain inner workings of a democratic framework. Our world's history is too replete with stories of corruption, and too impoverished in stories of the success of liberty, for me to place much hope in the inevitability of the triumph of the democratic system. Another Boston Tea Party seems to me to be the only course. Destruction to the traitors to our liberty!

Or is it just Merry Christmas?

It's snowing outside as I write this. Falling snow has a way of bringing serenity to dark moods. I'll try to find that serenity. But there should be no Merry Christmas for Bush and Cheney. They need to rot in the polluted coal and oil that has ever been the only lining to their stockings. I won't say more because these traitors have usurped our land and redefined treason. One day though...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Wrong Test

AP story reads "Obama Describes Faith Amid False Rumors." It goes on to tell of how Barack Obama dispelled rumors that he is "Muslim and poses a threat to the security of the United States."

I'm not necessarily an Obama supporter. Nor am I a Clinton or Dodd or Biden supporter (I do lean a little friendly toward Kucinich and Edwards, but that is neither here nor there). But this really pisses me off.

Just about the very last line of the pre-amendment US Constitution says that "there shall be no religious test" for public office. That is fundamental folks. This constant barrage of religious bullshit is getting on my nerves. And to be honest, if should be making all of us extremely uneasy.

No religious test means precisely that. Religion is not, cannot be, must never be, a criterion for electing our representatives or leaders. The very fact that Barack felt it necessary to repudiate the rumors of Islam as his faith of choice is way beyond disconcerting. We should be up in arms as a people decrying both the people who are creating such false issues, and the politicians who stoop to denying the "charges," whether or not they have any merit.

Personally I would love to see a candidate who comes out as a flaming gay, atheist, mixed-heritage, professional wrestling fan. Or any other group of things that bear not a whit on her or his credentials. This current trend in American politics is not just stupid (although it is very stupid); it is un-American, it is dangerous, it is unconstitutional.

I will not place my vote based on such false attributes. And while I really could relate very strongly to an Atheist candidate, I would not ever vote for one based on that conviction. I would do so only at the expense of our democracy.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What comes around...

Call me an idiot, but wasn't it the Emergency over California's Budget that Arnie used to launch his bid to overthrow Gray Davis a few years back? If Davis was fiscally irresponsible then, and therefore subject to recall, why isn't the Governator now?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Bumper Crop

Bonnie and I saw a bumper sticker today that made us laugh, so I went searching for it on "the internets." Here's the sticker:

Of course I found the sticker.
Stamp and Shout dot Com has a bunch of good stickers. Here a a few that made me chuckle:

Of course to be fair, and one should be, Ann Coulter is not the Chancelor of our country. Do you think maybe she wants to be?

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Today is my older sister’s birthday. She turns 52. I need to remember to send her a greeting. I’ll email it; we’ve all pretty much settled down to the ultra-last-minute email for birthday greetings in my family these days.

And really, who wants birthday cards hanging around? If you’re anything like me, you read them (when they arrive at all) with a swift mental “thanks for remembering;” you note to yourself that the card’s canned joke (or worse, “sentiment”) is either Dixie®-Cup camp or saccharine. If it’s from older generation family you shake it open upon first inspection, and look for any cash that might fall out. You toss the card on your current pile of things you know you should file or read or give money for, or something. The card gets buried a few levels down and you notice it one day, re-read it and smile. And then you toss it in the trash.

Emails are much more efficient and don’t add to land fills (I’m sure moldering birthday cards must account for something on the order of 0.002 percent of the annual American refuse output). I’m doing my small part. Each card not sent, may add one one-hundredth of a second to humankind’s longevity.

Or some such.

But there are cards worth getting. I have one on the fridge that my aunt sent years ago. It shows a ponderous, but none too bright, cowboy on horseback with the sky as backdrop. He’s saying to himself (and to the sky), “But what if everybody does Wang Chung tonight? Who’s gonna look after the herd then?” On the back of the card my aunt wrote, “What in the world is Wang Chung?”

And there’s a card Bonnie got from her sister several years back. I’ve seen it on her dresser ever since. It’s of a young girl, maybe seven, with red shorts, sitting on steps of a house. It makes me think of how Bonnie would have looked at that age. I think it does for her as well, and I think that’s why she keeps it; her sister connected with her when she gave her that card.

And these cards, now that I think of it, are the exceptions that prove the rule. They will forever be enshrined, on a refrigerator, on a dresser top, or even in a drawer. They will find their way to a landfill only once mankind has learned balance. One hopes.

Happy Birthday, Mary.