Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

A Rainy Sunday

January 28, 2018

Every Sunday I get the one copy that the local Walmart has of the New York Times, make myself a latte, and try to read the whole thing, as it’s gotten quite expensive (although I am saving four dollars a day by making my own lattes) and I’m trying to get my money’s worth.  I even read the Sports and the Business sections.

In this week’s Business section was a  interview with Bill Gates and Steven Pinker (mind-meld-bill-gates-steven-pinker).  As I often do, I get distracted, and when Gates said that, “If you’ve never seen Eddie [Izzard] perform his stand-up routine… you’re missing out,”  I had to watch a few videos of Eddie Izzard.  Enjoyed Stonehenge, but was really Laughing Out Loud at Eddie Izzard – Learning French.

Gentrification

Then went out for my Sunday lunch of bagels and lox, taking the Magazine.  It started pouring before I left,  so had to stay and read another article, this on gentrification, when-gentrification-isnt-about-housing.  In Tucson I was aware of the gentrification of the barrios, guacamole, and burritos, even kale and pho, but had just heard of the trending raw water  (unfiltered, collected from the natural environment).

Exercise

I’ve been missing my daily hour of exercise class at the Y.  This hotel has a workout room next to the laundry, so I do some fast walking uphill, lift weights (the smallest is five pounds and I hadn’t done that with my right arm since my last shoulder injury, but I’ve just got a very sore neck), and use the elliptical trainer, good for the arms and legs.  However, it’s boring by myself, so I asked a friend at work what she does and she says that she swims lap around the Spring Garden pond on weekends at the De Leon Springs State Park.

The outstanding feature of the 625 acre park is the spring, overlooking beautiful Spring Garden Run, producing 19 million gallons of water a day at 72 degrees year-round…  swimming nine laps around the pool would be about a mile.

She says there’s a fence around it, so there aren’t any alligators (!), and it’s a bit chilly, so she always wears  a wetsuit.  Brrr – I prefer an 80° pool, or the Caribbean. 

Surf Expo

Because I have a kitchenette in my hotel room, I usualy fix my own dinner, as restaurant meals are usually too large for me.  But Friday nights I often go out,  and if there’s a wait for seating, I eat at the bar.  The Bonefish Grill bar area has a length of bar-height tables, and there was one seat vacant at the end so I asked the good-looking young guy on the next stool over if anyone was sitting there and he answered, Yes, you.  (!)  Started to chat and he said he was here for the Surf Expo, www.surfexpo.com, selling T-shirts.  Then the old guy (my age) across from me piped up that he was here for the Expo selling T-shirts too.  Funny.  I got an earful about merchandising and how much Amazon has cut into it.

Politics

I really don’t want to comment on Trump today, and no, I am not going to read Fire and Fury, but I enjoyed Trevor Noah being interviewed by Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, turning Trump’s words into a bad reggae song (and I do appreciate reggae, having lived in Jamaica for two years in the Bob Marley era): Trevor Noah’s reggae.

Future Disasters

Had a meeting with our Fluor rep the other day.  This is what I was recruited for last June, before all of the hurricanes hit and the Feds postponed the decision.  The country has henceforth been divided in thirds, so one contractor gets the West, with fires, floods, and mudslides; another gets the Midwest with tornadoes and ice storms; and third, we get the East, with hurricanes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded three companies positions on a potential five-year, $610 million contract for advisory and assistance services to support FEMA’s emergency response and disaster recovery missions.
Fluor Corp., Serco Group’s North American subsidiary and CH2M Hill will perform technical assistance and infrastructure support work the agency has divided into three geographic zones for each individual awardee.
Fluor was selected for the Zone 1 portion that covers 19 states primarily along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Serco Inc. was chosen for Zone 2 that covers 17 states primarily across the Midwest. CH2M Hill was picked for Zone 3 that covers the remaining 14 states including those along the Pacific Coast.
fema-response-contract

Never a Dull Moment

January 21, 2018

What a roller coaster ride this last year.  Never boring.  Just this last week, Hawaii thought it would get nuked, it was reported that Trump “entertained” a porn star four months after Melania had Barron, for which his lawyer paid $130,000 hush money just before the election, he was also quoted as calling African nations, Haiti, and El Salvador “shitholes”, and the Federal government has just shut down.

Well, I and my compatriots happen to work for the Feds.  “FEMA is ordered to execute an orderly shutdown and we will furlough non-exempted employees,” emailed our Director, Brock Long.  Luckily, our group is exempt, so we shan’t have to leave our hotel rooms and move into our office spaces.  Hah!

Speaking of Brock (who signs his emails to us with just his first name, no title or anything else), he visited us last week.  He gave a talk on the seventh floor, broadcast to us on floors four through six.  The video onto a sheet.  With such tiny speakers we could only hear a fraction of what he said.  Embarrassing.  But he did come downstairs and shake hands with all of us, thanking us for our work.  Quite a personable guy, and one one of the few of Trump’s appointees who is actually qualified for the job (as opposed to Betsy DeVos), and doesn’t think that his department should be gutted (as Rick Perry, who said he wanted to abolish the Energy Department, and Scott Pruitt, who heads the Environmental Protection Agency but is a known climate change denier and coal industry supporter).  This from FEMA:

Mr. Long has more than 16 years of experience assisting and supporting local, state, and Federal Governments with building robust emergency management and public health preparedness programs…

From 2008-2011, Mr. Long served as Director of Alabama’s Emergency Management Agency (AEMA)… and served as the State Coordinating Officer for 14 disasters, including eight presidentially-declared events. Mr. Long also served as an on-scene State Incident Commander for the Alabama Unified Command during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Women’s March Orlando Anniversary

The weather is still up and down – Thursday morning it was 28°, and now it’s 78°.  That doesn’t seem to be helping my cough.  But I take meds, go to work, and vegetate on the weekend.  Didn’t feel up to joining the Women’s March Orlando Anniversary yesterday. (Photo by Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)  It was reported that thousands gathered.

A Glimpse of Beauty

Was driving “home” Friday, following Google Maps suggestions of shortcuts around backed-up streets, grimacing at some of the worst “architecture”, if you can even use that word, and then there was a four-and-a-half foot sandhill crane, standing in the grass on one leg, glancing at the traffic.  With a red head and dove-grey wing feathers, blending into its white neck.  Wow – so elegant!  Obviously couldn’t take a photo of it at 40mph, but Dannie Polley gave me permission to use his photo from the Web that looks just like it.

Immigrants

Practically everybody I know is a descendants of immigrants.  (I have worked with a few Navajos, who also migrated to North America, but about 3,000 BC+, so we call them Native Americans.)  Anyway, this from Nicholas Kristof’s column in the Times last week:

In 1885, a poor, uneducated 16-year-old boy arrived in our country from Germany at a time when immigrants were often looked down on by affluent Americans.

This boy was ambitious and entrepreneurial, and, despite language problems, he earned some money and then traveled up to the Klondike during the gold rush to operate a hotel that became notorious for prostitution.  He prospered, and today his grandson is President Trump.

Please read the whole column: Mr. Trump, Meet a Hero You Maligned

SeaWorld

January 16, 2018

With a title like that, guess I ought to see it, but I’m just living across the street.  We had the day off for MLK Day, so I went to Disney Springs this afternoon; it’s a large shopping mall with numerous themed stores – T-shirts or hoodies or pajamas with Mickey or Minnie, with Star Wars characters, with Marvel superheros, with various princeses. And numerous themed restaurants,  most serving french fries (except for the Japanese one).  Went to the Raglan Road Irish Pub for dinner; had a bad cold for the past two days (not the flu that’s killing babies and those over 65 – I’ve had my flu shot) and, as moving got me coughing, had spent a day and a half in bed with a box of tissue, cough drops, and a NY Times, so figured some comfort food would be nice – shepherd’s pie.  And stout, reminiscent of my month working in Dublin, where we drank Guiness every evening.  The Irish singers and dancers were fun.  (Their photo. I didn’t take any.)

But the cold is biting.  Thursday it hit 82° here.  Then another cold front rolled in and yesterday morning it was 39°.

Moved to a Residence Inn closer to the new office.  That hour in stop-and-go traffic on I-4 was wearing; to think that my father did it each way every day for 30 years in Detroit.  Spent Saturday packing, doing laundry, driving, then unpacking and grocery shopping.  The room is similar but I have a large window next to the bed that looks out, from the third floor, to a scraped lot, which shall no doubt be another high-rise in a few years. Within a few miles of my digs are at least 62 other hotel and apartment buildings which all look about the same.   I looked for places to eat and stopped counting at 110.  (See red dots on map.)  Grocery stores near here?  Zero.

Alt Right

There was an article in last week’s Times about how many white supremacist men marry Asian women (alt-right-asian-fetish).  Kinda typecasting.  Then I thought of Doonesbury.  Not alt-right, but geek.  Guess times have changed.

Fire and Fury

At least one friend is reading Fire and Fury, but it was depressing enough to just to listen to Michael Wolff’s interviews on NPR, and with Stephen Colbert, as well as commentary by “Melania Trump” on the Late Show.  (Well, Laura Benanti’s not depressing, she’s hilarious: Melania.)

Korea

Despite the false alarm in Hawaii (and another in Japan two days later!), Kim Jong-un won’t be pushing the “nuclear button” anytime soon, as North Korea shall be joining South Korea in the Winter Olympics.   Who would have thought that Trump could bring those two countries together?

FEMA Flexible

December 10, 2017

At my fourth desk in three weeks.  First in a “corral” with our entire group from EMI.  Then we were assigned team leaders (TFLs) and two of us were moved across the hall.  But that TFL had too many of us (12 when 6 were the norm), so when a new crop of leaders joined us, five of us (PDMGs – Project Delivery Managers) moved to a different section of desks.  Then a guy who had been working Harvey in Texas joined us and, with our leader, the seven of us moved into a middle manager’s office (which was meant for one.)  But I have a window!  Attached is a photo from “my” window.

This from management:

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria impacted roughly 25.8 million people, nearly twelve percent of the U.S. population. The devastation affected individuals, families, and businesses, and more than 4.7 million disaster survivors registered for federal assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). That number is larger than all who registered for Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma, and Sandy combined.

Driving

The lanes are narrower here – the body of the truck in front of me hovered over the double yellow on one side the edge white on the other. Parking places are narrower too – and I’m driving a bug! Plus we got this from management when we arrived:

Snow

A cold front rolled through here Friday, but only brought us rain, and 37° (feels like 33°).  The rest of the South, to Texas, got a blanket of snow.  The wife of our TFL sent him a photo of their house in Baton Rouge. An inch-and-a-half of snow and all of the schools closed.  (Photo of Baton Rouge from Reading Eagle).  It took three feet of snow overnight in 1967 to close Michigan State for a day.

Flora and Fauna

Because the squirrels have no natural predators here, they get their adrenalin rushes by racing across roads.  Other “wildlife” consists of small lizards darting about the tiny (maybe 6′ x 8′) laundry room here at the R.I.

I looked up this plant, at our Residence – Hawaiian ti.  There are also birds of paradise, a hedge of holly, another of ferns (why trimmed rectangular?), fan palms, short and tall, rhaphiolepis, privet.

Electronics

Maybe because I grew up in a time when phones were attached to the wall in the kitchen by a chord, but I am getting a kick out of my phones.  With my personal android I can slide my finger about the screen instead of trying to type with my thumbs, the new handwriting.  (But predictive text sometimes does not understand me.)  My FEMA iphone needs to read my thumbprint before letting me in; I think that’s so cool, rad, or whatever is said today.  Need to insert my FEMA badge into the laptop to turn it on.  Gee, when I studied computer science, we used punch cards.

Politics

I can’t listen to the news or even the news filtered through Seth Meyers, John Oliver, Trevor Noah, or SNL.  Or through my friends on Facebook.  This cartoon says enough:

Orlando

December 3, 2017

Haven’t been to Disney World since I took my kids there about 25 years ago, but did remember enjoying Epcot Center and the Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios).  Today it’s Walt Disney World Resort, covering 27,258 acres, featuring four theme parks, two water parks, twenty-seven themed resort hotels, nine non–Disney hotels, several golf courses, a camping resort, and other entertainment venues, including the outdoor shopping centre Disney Springs… the most visited vacation resort in the world, with an average annual attendance of over 52 million.  (This info from Wikipedia, which keeps asking me for money.)

When I was a kid growing up in Detroit, we could afford to visit my maternal grandmother in Los Angeles each four years, during summer break, in the days before AC in cars – a hot drive.  We were there in 1956, the year after Disneyland opened.  There was a ride in conestoga wagons through the “painted desert” (much more colorful than the real thing, but Disney was into fantasy).  Imagine kids liking anything so slow (or hot under the canvas)!  Postcard above.  The ride was discontinued – not fast enough throughput.  Now they have rides like Splash Mountain, just quick fun.  But Tom Sawyer’s island is still there, which is a walk, not a ride.  I remember the suspension bridge and the pontoon bridge, and the rocks which were spray-painted in primary colors with what looked like the screen and toothbrush method.

We also would go to Marineland, best known for its performing killer whales (before we knew how bad that was), which was open from 1954 until 1987, when SeaWorld San Diego bought it and moved the orcas as well as dolphins, sea lions, harbor seals, sharks, and a variety of other related sea creatures to San Diego.

There is a SeaWorld Orlando, a theme park and marine zoological park, including Discovery Cove and Aquatica, and many neighboring hotels.  Also in Orlando is Universal Orlando, the second-largest resort here after Walt Disney World Resort.

Friday night got out of work late (meeting), so skipped dinner for a 45-minute drive on I-4 for Christmas with the Basilica Choir ($25) in the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe.  Three of my four applicants are PNPs (Public Non-Profits), Catholic schools, so I thought it would be nice to see the basilica.  The small orchestra was marvelous with or without the choir (as in the Sleigh Ride).  Especially liked the choir – seven men and eight women – when they sang a cappella.  During half-time they called out the raffle winners.  First prize was champagne and truffles. (Christ might be turning over in his grave.)  Fourth prize was a Santa pillow and some other like stuff.  The second half had a singalong, which I was looking forward to, but started (after the Sleigh Ride) with the choir singing Hark! the Herald Angles Sing.  I wanted to sing along!  So I envisioned myself singing awesomely at my seat.  The choir would hear me and peter out.  I would be ushered from my row to the front where I would be given a microphone to finish the first verse to much applause.  I would be, of course, a famous opera singer such as Kiri Te Kanawa, who I heard sing when I was in Taiwan.  (My brother should get a kick out of that, because he knows that I have been the only dreadful singer in the family.)

Altamonte Springs

The Residence Inn where I’m staying is in Altamonte Springs, one of the northern suburbs of Orlando.  Altamonte means high mountain.  We’re 85′ above sea level – go figure.

There’s a baseball tournament this weekend, ages 7-18, the Winter Bat Freeze, and the Residence Inn is full of families, many of them speaking Spanish.  The pool has been full of young boys, as the basketball half-court has been, and last night they were playing soccer in the parking lot.

There is a huge building under construction right next to I-4.   (My photo from down the street from my abode.)  I looked it up; according to the Orlando Sentinel:

Altamonte tower entering year 16 of construction may be completed this year

…the owners of the 18-story office tower… would like to finish the structure this year. The iconic structure stands as the tallest between Orlando and Jacksonville.

For years, SuperChannel 55 President Claud Bowers has said he plans to complete the self-funded, pay-as-you-go project within a year to 18 months.  On Friday, he said the city asked for a best-case timeline to complete the work and Bowers said he told them a year. He added that he needs to raise about $10 million to finish the project.

“The patience of the community and city officials is just amazing and appreciated,” said Bowers, who next year will be a 40-year veteran of Christian television programming.  In the past, he has raised funds on his Christian television station and also got a settlement from the state for some land in the path of the I-4 expansion.  altamonte-tower

$$$$$

I’m almost in tears.  How could our Arizona senators, Flake and McCain, vote for this tax bill?

JOHN MCCAIN CLAIMED HE CARES ABOUT “HONOR” IN THE SENATE. HIS TAX VOTE SHOWS HE LIED.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN of Arizona joined 50 fellow Republicans on Friday night in voting yes on a Senate bill that slashes taxes on corporations and billionaires, while enacting the largest tax increase in history on many poorer Americans.

…the tax bill… directly benefits McCain and his family in obvious ways. His wife Cindy McCain’s estimated $100 million fortune is largely based in her ownership of liquor distributor Hensley Beverage, which would gain from the bill’s cut to alcohol taxes. It also will allow the McCain children to inherit $22 million tax free, doubled from the $11 million exemption under current law.

Jon Schwarz, The Intercept

But maybe his children will take their $22 million and provide full college scholarships ($120K total for four years at a state university) for 183 students in need…  And that’s only their tax free inheritance.

In the $$$$$ category: I was almost out of gas after the Christmas concert, so I stopped at the nearest gas station.  $5.99 a gallon – took $77 to fill the bug.  I had to laugh, it was like I was in another dimension.  I figured out that prices are high there because it is next to the airport.

Miscellaneous

Garrison Keillor?!

Plastics

November 2, 2017

Many of you are old enough to have seen the movie, The Graduate, with Dustin Hoffman.  One of the famous lines was: I want to say one word to you. Just one word… Plastics.

Many years ago, when the kids were young, I took them on a trip to Costa Rica.  We saw the green turtles nesting, among other things, such as a tour of a banana plantation.  (Have you ever wondered why we have 47 varieties of apples in the supermarket and only one kind of banana?  Even though there are over 1,000 banana types, the only one we eat is the Cavendish, which can survive weeks in a ship’s hold, unlike most varieties. Yes, this is going somewhere.)  The plantation (think it was Del Monte) decided that the bananas that can be grown in Costa Rican weather weren’t as good as Cavendish, which needed more heat.  So they put plastic bags around each growing hand of bananas.  But some of the bags get blown off and washed downstream to the Caribbean, where they look like jellyfish, the food of green turtles, who eat them, which causes blockages within their digestive system and eventual death.  So – bad plastic bags!  (These photos are just two of many on this website – plastic-pollution – check it out.)

Well, one of Arizona’s most forward-thinking cities, Bisbee (!), banned the use of plastic bags.  I can go with that; I hate to see them caught on our cacti (I had a photo in one blog), and estimates for the time it takes them to decompose ranging from 20 to 1000 years1.  But our progressive state government (= Republican) said that they could not. As I mentioned in a previous blog (water), last year our legislature passed:

House Bill 2131 restricts Arizona localities from imposing prohibitions and restriction on plastic grocery bags. Retailers, grocery stores and other business interests pushed the measure after the city of Tempe looked to restrict the use of plastic grocery bags.2

So Tempe didn’t do it, but Bisbee banned them; however, last month:

Bisbee’s ban on plastic grocery bags violates state law and must be repealed, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office has concluded.
The decision leaves that city’s leaders with a precarious choice: Undo the 2012 ordinance or risk losing vital state-shared revenues that pay for public services.3

Well, the country of Rwanda is more enlightened than Arizona.  In the New York Times last Sunday was an article,  Public Shaming and Even Prison for Plastic Bag Use in Rwanda:

Here in Rwanda, it is illegal to import, produce, use or sell plastic bags and plastic packaging except within specific industries like hospitals and pharmaceuticals. The nation is one of more than 40 around the world that have banned, restricted or taxed the use of plastic bags, including China, France and Italy…

Last month, Kenya put in place a rule that will punish anyone making, selling or importing plastic bags with as much as four years in jail or a $19,000 fine

Rwanda is probably Africa’s cleanest nation and among the most pristine in the world…  Children here are taught in schools… to cherish the environment. Smugglers are often held in detention centers or forced to write confessions in newspapers or broadcast them on the radio. Supermarkets caught selling food in plastic packaging are shut down until they pay a fine and write an apology.4

What’s Wrong with this Picture

On October 1, a white guy killed 59 people and injured another 527. Police recovered 23 guns from his Las Vegas hotel room and another 19 guns from Paddock’s home… [which] were purchased legally.In addition to the 42 guns, he also had bump stocks, which made his semiautomatic weapons fire like automatic weapons.  These also are legal.  This was over a month ago

Has our Congress done anything to make the bump stocks illegal?  Has anyone said that no one should own 42 guns?  Maybe one to shoot deer, but get real!

Turn the page – an immigrant from Uzbekistan plowed a rented pickup down a bicycle path near the World Trade Center, in the name of ISIS, killing 8 and injuring 11, two days ago, and our President tweeted that he…

SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!

While the White House deemed it unseemly to have a policy debate on gun control immediately after the massacre in Las Vegas last month, Mr. Trump was eager on Wednesday to have a policy debate on immigration. He pressed Congress to cancel a visa lottery program that allowed the driver into the country, attributing it to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, and called Democrats “obstructionists” who “don’t want to do what’s right for our country.”6

 Hello!  Is anyone listening?  This from the Brady Campaign (remember – 30 years ago a person attempting to  assassinate President Reagan shot Jim Brady in the head, which left him partially paralyzed for life, hence the Brady Bill):

In One Year on Average

114,994 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides & suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, or by police intervention.  33,880 people die from gun violence…  81,114 people survive gun injuries…7

We’re not going to ban pickups, but we should ban bump stocks and put a limit on guns!

Virga

I took a picture of the virga Monday night.  That’s a cloud trying to rain, but the moisture evaporates before it hits the ground.  However, after the sun went down, in the middle of the night, we got a drenching, with thunder and lightening.  Quite an event for the end of October.

1http://www.abc.net.au/science/features/bags/
2https://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/news/2016/03/14/arizona-legislature-approves-ban-on-plastic-bag.html
3http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/arizona/2017/10/24/bisbee-must-repeal-plastic-grocery-bag-ban-lose-funding-arizona-ag-says/795970001/
4https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/28/world/africa/rwanda-plastic-bags-banned.html
5http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/02/us/las-vegas-shooter/index.html
6https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/01/us/politics/trump-new-york-attack-schumer-visa.html
6https://www.bradycampaign.org/key-gun-violence-statistics

TMA

October 21, 2017

 

Tucson Museum of Art

After a summer of renovation and expansion, TMA reopened to members Friday night, with new galleries, new feature exhibitions, and new selections from the museum’s permanent collection.  And the public are free this weekend!  Because I hadn’t taken my camera Friday night, I went back for two tours today, one, Dress Matters: Clothing as Metaphor, by our curator, Julie Sasse, another, Desert Dweller, by the CEO, Jeremy Mikolajczak, and a guest curator whose name I didn’t get (both shown at left).

The museum looks totally awesome!  You must go.  Here are a few of the pieces I liked.

Wikipedia says that Nick Cave is a… fabric sculptor, dancer, and performance artist… best known for his Soundsuits: wearable fabric sculptures that are bright, whimsical, and other-worldly. He also trained as a dancer with Alvin Ailey.  Can’t imagine him dancing in this Soundsuit – made from fabric, fiberglass and metal, and covered in sequins, it looks very heavy.

A painting of a ballgown, Unfinished Conversations, by Laura Schiff Bean.

 

Bob Carey is the photographer and subject of the “Tutu Project.” This series of stunningly silly videos and still self-portraits was originally launched to cheer up his wife, Linda, after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and later went viral. 5

This lithograph, Untitled (Joseph), by Robert Longo [who, according to Wikipedia] became a rising star in the 1980s for his “Men in the Cities” series, which depicted sharply dressed men and women writhing in contorted emotion.  (Unfortunately, I caught glare and/or reflections on most of these photos.)

Barbara Penn, a professor at the University of Arizona, came in to talk of her sculpture, On a Columnar Self, which she had originally done in 1994, but recreated for the show, and how memorials are being much discussed today (as in the Civil War memorials).  Her mother’s wedding dress on the plinth.  She said the eggs represent creativity to her, but could also be (obviously) fertility.

Angela Ellsworthwas raised as a Mormon; some of her work relates to that upbringing, such as the Seer Bonnet XIX24,182 pearl corsage pins, fabric, steel, and wood.  This series of pioneer bonnets represents the wives of Joseph Smith – this one is ascribed to Flora Ann.

Had to add this photo of Julie talking as I loved the outfit of the woman in pink lavender.

This gorgeous video by Sama Alshaibi – Wasl (Union) deals with climate change and is part of Silsila, a multi-media project depicting Alshaibi’s seven-year cyclic journey through the significant deserts and endangered water sources of the Middle East and North African… Silsila

WordPress has started limiting the amount and size of photos that I put in my blogs (it is free…), so I have to stop here and add more TMA photos to another blog.  On to other topics:

Republicans

First, Arizona’s governor, Doug Ducey, gives his staff outrageous raises:

Ducey’s PR guy, Daniel Scarpinato… has scored 14 percent in pay raises since Ducey took office in 2015, bringing his salary to $162,000.
…Registrar of Contractors Director Jeff Fleetham, a campaign contributor… snagged a nearly 13 percent raise to $115,000.
…Department of Child Safety Director Greg McKay, whose 33 percent raise has boosted his pay to $215,250. Or Corrections Director Charles Ryan, whose 10 percent raise brought him to $185,000.
[and] …a long-time pal he promoted from assistant director to deputy director of the Department of Administration… Kevin Donnellan scored a 41 percent pay raise, boosting his salary to $161,200. That’s not counting bonuses of $4,836 over the past two years.1

Then he gives teachers only  1%:

…he proposed a four-tenths of 1 percent pay raise for teachers – though ultimately he was pressured to boost the raise to 1 percent.1

When they protested…

Ducey’s office… stated that those receiving raises had assumed additional responsibilities, and the governor has shrunk state government by shedding 978 employees…  The Republic found at least 1,700 state workers had been fired since Ducey took office, with the largest number from DES.

The majority of those fired across the state were over age 40. Older employees are more expensive to the state payroll because they typically have higher wages, cost more to insure, and their pension contributions are higher. Numerous fired workers told The Republic that Ducey appointees also targeted women, minorities, those with disabilities, gays and lesbians.2

The Church

This was on the news the other day:

ROME – A Vatican trial over $500,000 in donations to the pope’s pediatric hospital that were diverted to renovate a cardinal’s penthouse is reaching its conclusion, with neither the cardinal who benefited nor the contractor who was apparently paid twice for the work facing trial.

Instead, the former president of the Bambino Gesu children’s hospital and his ex-treasurer are accused of misappropriating 422,000 euros from the hospital’s fundraising foundation to overhaul the retirement home of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State. vatican/2017/10/14/

So I wondered if the guys in charge of Wells Fargo’s misfeasance went to jail.  But I didn’t even know about their bank fraud ring:

An Inglewood man convicted of running a bank fraud ring that pilfered more than half a million dollars from Wells Fargo bank and its customers was sentenced to more than seven years in federal prison Thursday.3

Okay – steal $500,000, get seven years in prison.  So shouldn’t that happen to the cardinal and the contractor (who maybe should get 14 years, as he was paid twice)?  But no, I was thinking of the Wells Fargo employees who secretly opened 565,443 credit card accounts without their customers’ knowledge or consent.  Nope, nobody went to jail.  Not only that, but:

…it does not appear that Wells Fargo is requiring its former consumer banking chief Carrie Tolstedt…[who] was in charge of the unit where Wells Fargo employees opened more than 2 million largely unauthorized customer accounts… to give back any of her nine-figure pay… $124.6 million.

Wells Fargo… agreed to pay $185 million… to settle claims that that it defrauded its customers… The bank also said it had fired 5,300 employees over five years related to the bad behavior.4

More pleasant predators

The roadrunner has taken over my yard, and peered at me eating lunch.  And I caught a photo of the Cooper’s hawk at the birdbath.

1http://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/laurieroberts/2017/10/17/ducey-tosses-peanuts-teachers-while-throwing-banquet-his-staff/773475001/
2http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/2017/10/20/teachers-union-fight-20-percent-raises-just-like-gov-ducey-gave-staff-friends/782488001/
3http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-wells-fraud-sentencing-20170112-story.html
4 http://fortune.com/2016/09/12/wells-fargo-cfpb-carrie-tolstedt/
5Tutu Project

Tucson, Mid-July

July 10, 2017

It’s 110° and the clouds are building up over the mountains for our anticipated monsoons, but the humidity is only 9%, so guess it won’t rain tonight.  Yesterday evening had eight drops of rain on my kitchen window!

For the Fourth of July we had BBQ with another family (also with a grandmother included).  The family room had an enormous television on the entire time with a miscellaneous movie.  Some of the kids watched it for ten minutes or so.  The living room was taken up by a jumping castle, kinda like this one.  Six kids, from three to eleven, make an incredible din!

Dinner.  It was much too hot to eat outside so we adults got the dining room, the kids the breakfast room.  The father smokes his own pork, and the pulled pork was incredible delicious. (I didn’t try the ribs.)  My daughter made sangria and marvelous hors d’oeuvres (prosciutto spread with boursin, wrapped around asparagus), I brought watermelon with a cute sculpture on top (which I copied from an internet video, but it’s no longer there!) all of which the kids devoured, and there was coleslaw and a potato salad and a red-white-and-blue cake which I didn’t even taste, I was so full.

Then fireworks in the street.  (In Arizona you’re only allowed fireworks that stay on the ground, so sparklers and smoke bombs are popular.)  After which we drove to a school parking lot above Naranja Park, so we didn’t have to battle for parking, and watched the fireworks with about a dozen other clever families, all with camp chairs.

The coyote wandered by my fence yesterday afternoon, which is no doubt why the ground squirrels are not agilely climbing over my fence today to dine on the wandering jew, with mint for dessert.  (Oops – until just now!)

There was a cactus  longhorn beetle at my door yesterday.  Then are very large, and eat chollas and prickly pear cacti.

Had the grandsons (six and eight) over Friday afternoon, as the rental agency had a guy fixing the leak in the drip system. (! I thought I’d have to do it, so spent two days digging a hole to the PVC pipe in this hard hard dirt.)  The boys got into my games cabinet and I taught them pente, mastermind, and backgammon.  The youngest wants to play monopoly all of the time, but I’ve gotten tired of it.  We played battleship, jenga, and Jamaican-style dominoes at their house the other day.  (You can only spend so much time in the pool!)

Reading

To get my mind off politics, and instead of streaming any more TV series in the evening (except for binging on Anne With an E, and the movie Okja), had read a few scifi.  Got an audio book from the library, an oldie, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein (used to read a lot of his novels), about a lunar colony’s revolt against rule from Earth.  Interesting look at the future.  The guy who does the reading does the many accents very well.  I usually fell asleep to it, then had to figure where I left off.

Next read The Mote in God’s Eye, by Niven and Pournelle, about the first contact between humanity and an alien species.  Creative take on aliens (not limited to two arms and two legs, as the aliens in the “gateway drug”, Star Trek, which were restricted due to budget – except for the tribbles).  Heinlein described the story as “possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read.”

Then I finally got A Man Called Ove,  an international bestseller, recently translated from Swedish, from the library as CD’s, as I enjoy someone reading to me at night.  Loved it!  Laughed and cried (numerous tissues).  Highly recommend it.  It’s now a movie, nominated for two Academy Awards, streaming on Netflix.  Wonder if I’d like that as much as the book…

The New York Times had an article, Summer Reading Books: The Ties That Bind Colleges (college-summer-reading), last Sunday.  Shall put a number of the recommended books (Just Mercy, Hillbilly Elegy, and possibly Silence, which is now a movie, as well as others) on my request list at the library after I get back from my next trip, visiting cousins in Colorado.

Politics

Speaking of which, also in the Times, was a commentary, The Problem With Participatory Democracy Is the Participants.  I was insulted.  You may wish to read it and comment: participatory-democracy

Back in The Heat

June 28, 2017

Seen Today

A quail with two young’uns crossing the road.  A ground squirrel climbing up the welded wire into my yard to break off pieces of my purple wandering jew; would have thought that it was poisonous. A pair of pyrrhuloxias on the fence.  (Photo of the ground squirrel on the other side of the fence with branch, and a pyrrhuloxia on the purple sweet potato vine.)

A gila woodpecker at the birdbath.  A dove on the barrel cactus eating the fruit.  A coyote behind my  yard chasing (unsuccessfully) the ground squirrels.  (Sorry – bad photo; he was moving fast.)  This hot (106° today) desert is home to many.  But the neighbor’s mesquite has rained seed pods all over; where are the javelina and deer who should be eating them?

My housesitter found a baby snake in the house (how did it get in?), said it refused to be caught, so she had to kill it and save its body for me.  It appears to be a baby kingsnake.

Missed so much last week!  Oro Valley police beat said that one woman was ticketed for illegally making a U-turn, and three teenagers were caught with a bong.

And hadn’t been watching the national news either.  Never heard of Kim Kardashian’s blackface controversy.  Nor of Randy Rainbow’s “Covfefe: The Broadway Medley.”  (He’s A Bit Much, but he has a nice voice, and you can google it.) Or that Jared Kushner finally speaks: Jared Kushner Speaks.

But yes, I do know that Bill Cosby got off, and that the Congressional Budget Office said of the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 that The Senate bill would increase the number of people who are uninsured by 22 million in 2026 relative to the number under current law.

(Have time to catch up on my blogs ’cause my daughter’s family is escaping the heat with another family in the White Mountains for a few days.)

In the Pink

April 21, 2017

Palo verdes are still flowering, but the desert ironwood (top) that I pass every day on my way to work or the Y is in gorgeous bloom.  And the almost-dead desert willow in my side yard, which I severely trimmed, with the help of my son-in-law and his chainsaw, is in bloom, although not as dramatic.

Critters

I love the view from my computer.

A common kingsnake just glided along my fence, on the inside.  Don’t know how it got in, but it kept testing the welded wire along the fence, so I figured it wanted to get out.  Opened the gate and edged it along with a rake handle.  It then slithered away into the desert in those S-shaped curves.  By the 4½ inches  between the posts, it appeared to be three feet long.

Yesterday it was a bobcat, a wriggling quail in its mouth, which stopped at my fence to peer in.  I did not go outside to take these photos, as it would have disappeared.  (The snake just became stationary.)  I had thought a couple of quail had nested under a huge Texas ranger in the side yard a week ago, as whenever I went out the gate, in a rapid flurry, one flew out.  But the next day it didn’t happen, and there were a few feathers about.  I couldn’t figure what had gotten the bird until I saw the bobcat.  It could have easily jumped the fence.

Taxes

I got some money back on my taxes – enough to pay the accountant!

But let’s consider tax reform.  How about if we had no deductions? (This list mostly from Five Tax Deductions that Favor the Rich1.)  No charitable-giving deduction.  If you want to give your Picasso to the art museum, do it, just don’t deduct it.  Same goes for your church, or UNICEF, or your kid’s school.  If you believe in it, donate to it.  (Bill and Melinda Gates do, although they have gotten a small tax break, they could probably do find without it.  From 1994 to 2006, Bill and Melinda gave the foundation more than $26 billion. Those donations resulted in a tax savings of less than 8.3 percent of the contributions they made over that time.2) Long-term capital gains, which derive from the sale of investments such as stocks and bonds held for more than a year, are taxed at 15 percent.  They should be taxed as part of your income.  Eliminate the mortgage interest deduction, which encourages people to scrape more of our biome (a large naturally occurring community of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat) to build large houses, thus making our earth less habitable.  No deductions for children.  If people want to have children, they should pay for them.  The government already provides schools.  No deduction for yourself or whomever you care for, as head of household.

No

  • State sales taxes. …
  • Reinvested dividends. …
  • Out-of-pocket charitable contributions. …
  • Student loan interest paid by Mom and Dad. …
  • Moving expense to take first job. …
  • Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. …
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) …
  • State tax you paid last spring. …
  • Refinancing mortgage points. …
  • Jury pay paid to employer. …3

(I don’t consider tax-deferred retirement plans a deduction, as you end up having to pay tax on the money when you take it out.)

Then everyone who makes at least $31,200 (52 weeks of 40 hours at a logical minimum age of $15/ hr, married or not, old or young, dependents or not) pays 20%.

So for Trump’s 2005 return where

According to the Form 1040, Mr. Trump paid $36.6 million in federal income taxes on $152.7 million in reported income in 2005, or 24 percent…  Significantly helping matters back in 2005 was the fact he reported a $103.2 million loss that year…4

Without his deduction of losses, he’d pay on $152.7M + $103.2M = $255.9M, of which 20% is $51.18M.

Sure, that would hurt me.  I’d be paying almost 4 times what I paid, as an old person with deductions.  (But I wouldn’t have to pay an accountant.)  However, if that happened to everyone, we could take a bite out of the national debt, which is presently $20.1 trillion5.  Kay Bell in 8 tax breaks that cost Uncle Sam big money says that there’s a $4 trillion giveaway in tax breaks.6

I have a feeling that most of my friends will disagree with this proposal…

1http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2011/12/07/five-tax-deductions-that-favor-rich.html
2http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Who-We-Are/General-Information/Foundation-FAQ
3https://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/tax-tips/Tax-Deductions-and-Credits/The-10-Most-Overlooked-Tax-Deductions/INF12062.html
4http://www.cbsnews.com/news/trumps-tax-return-leaked-rachel-maddow-what-accountants-think-alternative-minimum-tax/
5https://www.google.com/search?q=national+debt+today.&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8
6http://www.bankrate.com/finance/taxes/8-tax-breaks-cost-uncle-sam-big-money-1.aspx#ixzz4eqKyTARS