Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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.

We were just given a phone list of our compatriots here. 488 on the list.  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, raphiolepsis, 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

Weeds

March 18, 2017

My grandson was helping me pull weeds.  But Grandma, these have yellow flowers.  Why do we have to pull them?  The line between weeds and wildflowers is a wavy one, or maybe a dashed one.  Had to kill all of the weeds at my last house, then move into another rental house, 4.7 miles away, only to get a note from the HOA that we have to have all of our weeds pulled by April 1.  No fooling.


But speaking of wildflowers – while the east coast is covered in snow there is a spectacular wildflower display here in the desert wherever the housing developments haven’t scraped the ground and replaced the natural desert with a few trees, cacti, bushes trimmed into tight balls, and lots of gravel.  This photo from the Web of the flowers at Picacho Peak, where my daughter and family are camping for the weekend with the Boy Scouts, there to see the wildflowers and the reenactment of the Civil War battle at Picacho Peak.  (http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/picachopeak.html)  Unfortunately, the hot weather (it’s 92° right now, at 5pm) has also brought out the rattlesnakes, so she texted me that they’re leaving after the roasting of the marshmallows tonight.

Backstory

My life has gotten just a tad busier the beginning of February.

Did dislike the last rental.  January’s gas bill was $148!!!  The insulation was terrible, and, in the winter, it was cold downstairs, with drafts, and hot upstairs.  But good news – hah!  So many things had gone wrong with it (such as the heat going out four times in one year!) that they decided to sell.

My lease was up end of January,  then was on month-to-month, but four families had looked at it in the first week, so I figured I better find another rental as my son-in-law won’t finish his training (to be a hospital CFO) for another year, and when the hospital chain assigns him to a hospital somewhere, if it’s a nifty place, I may move there too, to be near the grandkids.  Another move!  Much harder than finding a place to buy, as rental agents “own” their own properties.  Thank goodness for the internet!

Online, looked at 50 (!) houses near here (which means near my daughter and my grandkids), and chose five.  One zapped me for having a cat, so I looked at four.  Found a smaller, less expensive rental (but with a view of the desert and mountains) west of the last house.  The people were moving out the middle of February, so I started packing, yet again.

Here’s a photo from my bedroom window, after I got all of the windows cleaned.  (Not as good as the professional photo above, but it is 5pm, with its long shadows.)


Was chest high in boxes on that first weekend and I was sore to the bone, double-popping ibuprofen.  In order to get my security deposit back, had to have the empty house clean, including the tops of the fans (ten feet up in the living room), the outdoor lights, garage, you name it.  And no weeds.  (This all in the lease that I had signed.)  Of course, we had had our winter rain, and then the temperatures soared into the 80’s.  Never saw so many weeds.  Too many too small to pull, even with my grandson’s small hands, so I had to resort to the dreaded poison.  (Sorry Mitch!  It was that v. $2200.)  My daughter, having never read Silent Spring, had a poison sprayer canister, which I borrowed.

Final inspection.  A woman came to spend an hour taking photos of everything with cabinets open, lights on. Then she gave the set to the rental agent (the fourth one I’ve had, and never met) and he would decide how much of the security deposit to return in two+ weeks (per contract).  The photographer called me the next day and said that they had just put a check in the mail for the entire security deposit.  Guess I overdid it!

Speaking of rental agents- I mentioned to my present one that the garbage disposal was backing up and she said she’d get back to me. Four days later and no return call to my message left, so I tried it when the dishwasher had filled up the sink, and it magically fixed itself. What a way to get things done…  (There’s an apocryphal story that Napoleon opened his mail about once a month. Why? Because if it was still important after a month, he attended to it; if not, one of his minions had dealt with it, or it was just junk mail.)

Too Much to Protest, Too Little Time

As I was packing, moving, unpacking, etc I was feeling very guilty about not having enough time to protest!  Sure, I had emailed my senators regarding Trump’s appointments, especially of Scott Pruitt and Betsy DeVos.  (See my blog from January: https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/trumps-appointees/)  As if Flake and McCain care about my opinion.  But my rep is Tom O’Halleran, and he’s a Democrat, so no prob.  Next was the protest against Monsanto, which is building a huge greenhouse near here.  https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/monsanto/

Then I sent off an email to my governor because he…

 …defended state laws that let parents use public funds to send children to private and parochial schools.  But he sidestepped questions of whether he would sign legislation to open up that possibility to all 1.1 million public school students statewide.
http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2017/01/27/ducey-depends-using-public-funds-for-private-schools/

Unfortunately,

Republican lawmakers in the Arizona Legislature are attempting to fast-track a plan to eventually offer vouchers to every public-school student and, in separate legislation, privatize oversight of the public money given to parents to pay private-school tuition and other expenses.

The Legislature is training its sights on the plan to broaden eligibility for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, a school-choice program created six years ago for disabled children. Under the legislation, all of Arizona’s 1.1 million students would be eligible for the program by 2020.

Sen. Debbie Lesko, of Peoria, and Rep. John Allen, of Scottsdale, have introduced identical bills to expand the program in their chambers, a move intended to expedite passage. ESAs allow families to use public-school dollars on private-school tuition and other educational expenses.

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/arizona-education/2017/02/08/republicans-fast-track-school-voucher-bill-arizona-legislature/97572798/

As I had pointed out to my governor, private schools, including Catholic or Christian, are segregated – either by economic inequality (with shades of race discrimination) or by religion.  As Wikipedia points out,

Separation of church and state is a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson and others expressing an understanding of the intent and function of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Consequently, I believe that it is in our constitution that our taxes should not be used to fund private and parochial schools, and that includes the school tax credit, which comes out of our taxes.  But Arizona is a red state, so it’ll no doubt pass.

Zero to 1.34 Million

You must read Nicholas Kristof’s column from Sunday’s New York Times from a month ago, regarding Trump’s original travel ban:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/11/opinion/sunday/husbands-are-deadlier-than-terrorists.html

People’s Climate Movement April 29th

This was in my Sierra Club magazine:

Michael Brune on the People’s Climate Mobilization, Feb 24 2017

Two years ago, the first People’s Climate March took place on a crisp, blue-sky September day in Manhattan. An estimated 400,000 people, representing the full display of American diversity, were united in the same righteous purpose: to demand that our leaders act fast to address the climate crisis.

The day was filled with promise, and in the following years our enthusiasm was reciprocated with progress. The Paris Agreement. The Clean Power Plan. The rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. We could say that, powered by a movement of millions, the United States was truly leading on climate.

Now the political landscape is different. Donald Trump’s election will upend U.S. climate policy. I doubt that many citizens voted for Trump because they were enthusiastic about his views on climate change, but that’s beside the point.

The Trump-Pence administration has no mandate to roll back environmental progress. Polling before the election showed that seven in 10 Americans agreed the government should do something about global warming. Polling after the election showed that 86 percent of voters—including three out of four of those who voted for Trump—support “action to accelerate the development and use of clean energy.”

… we can’t afford to underestimate the Trump administration. Unchecked, Donald Trump and Mike Pence are a threat to our climate and the civil rights and liberties guaranteed by our Constitution. This is a dangerous moment in U.S. history.

…If the Trump-Pence administration attempts to roll back the progress we’ve made in the past 50 years, we do not have to stand for it. Instead, we will stand up against it. We will march, organize, and keep marching—and we will not give up.

The Tucson march:


https://www.evensi.us/tucson-peoples-climate-march-el-presidio-plaza-park/202310124

LOL

February 10, 2017

dogWhen I think something’s funny, I don’t say LOL, I actually laugh out loud!  Here are a commercial (especially the horse watching porn and this family scene)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Kj-4F8pWfk
and an article from the New Yorker that had me laughing (especially the bathing suit):  Shouts & Murmurs, New Yorker February 6, 2017 Issue
Melania’s Diary 1/21/2017, by Paul Rudnick

…Then [Kellyanne] brought up the Tiffany gift box that I’d given Michelle Obama on Inauguration Day. “What was in that box?” Kellyanne demanded. I smiled in my alluringly mysterious way, which makes people wonder if I have wads of cash duct-taped to my body at all times, in case I need to flee the country.
“It was just a gracious parting gift,” I said. I will never reveal the box’s true contents, except in the pages of this secret diary: it was a framed photo of me modelling swimwear in a JCPenney catalogue, on which I’d written my cell-phone number and the words “Please come to visit. And never leave.”  http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/06/melanias-diary-1-21-2017

Just a Grimace

Yesterday it was 86° here in Tucson.  Today 87°,  20° above normal.  Must be the overheated political climate.

trump-vacationTrump’s Mar-a-Lago getaway could cost taxpayers more than $3 million
The president regularly hassled Obama for his travel. Now Trump is about to get a taste of his own medicine.
by Matthew Nussbaum 02/03/17

Trump’s multimillion-dollar trip, which comes just two weeks into his presidency, shows that Trump is not shy about engaging in the same type of jet-setting that he and other Republicans heavily criticized Obama for throughout his presidency…
“The habitual vacationer, @BarackObama, is now in Hawaii. This vacation is costing taxpayers $4 milion +++ while there is 20% unemployment,” Trump wrote on Twitter in December 2011 (when the unemployment rate was actually 8.5 percent).
“President @BarackObama’s vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars——Unbelievable!” Trump opined again on Twitter a few days later.
http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/trump-mar-lago-taxpayers-234562

hidden_figuresFriends and I went to see a movie, Hidden Figures, the true story of the women who crunched the numbers for NASA. It was great!

Much better than La La Land, which we saw last weekend, and which has 14 Academy Award nominations.  A friend commented:  “…Why not get actors who can sing and dance?  It’s not like there aren’t plenty of them in LA…”  But hey, they have to keep the “Oscars so white”.

tom-bradyThis on Sunday, instead of watching the Super Bowl.  There were the controversies of Tom Brady having a Trump Make America Great Again baseball cap in his locker, and spending his four-month suspension sunbathing nude in Italy, but he was back, and the New England Patriots won, so who cares?  (Or as the Washington Post said, Tom Brady won this Super Bowl…)

Laugh, and the world laughs with you…

January 28, 2017

President Trump Orders the Execution of Five Turkeys Pardoned by Obama
2017-01-24 by R. Hobbus J.D.

turkey
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In another sweeping move aimed at undoing the perceived damage done by the Obama administration, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday directing the Department of Justice to revoke all sixteen Thanksgiving Day turkey pardons issued by the former president during his eight years in office.

…Of the sixteen turkeys pardoned by Obama, all but five are deceased. “These birds, despite their deaths, will have their pardons revoked posthumously during a ceremony in the Rose Garden,” Secretary Spicer explained. The remaining birds – Tater, Tot, Abe, Honest, and Cheese – are scheduled to be remanded into federal custody on Friday before they are turned over to officials from the Federal Bureau of Prisons who are under orders to execute the turkeys by firing squad…

http://realnewsrightnow.com/2017/01/president-trump-orders-execution-five-turkeys-pardoned-obama/

Somebody Edited the Invertebrate Wikipedia Page to Include Paul Ryan
by Madison Malone Kircher

paul-ryanSure, Wikipedia is good for easy-to-digest information about any topic your heart desires, but it’s also good for pranks against public figures. This week’s victim was Paul Ryan, by way of the Wikipedia page for invertebrates. As per the page’s definition, “invertebrates are animals that neither possess nor develop a vertebral column (commonly known as a backbone or spine),” and for a brief period of time on Thursday, this included Ryan. Estimated members of described species: One.

http://nymag.com/selectall/2017/01/wikipedia-invertebrate-page-edited-to-include-paul-ryan.html

That’s all of the humor I could find today.  But a touch of the serious: Please write a postcard to Paul Ryan asking him to say no to defunding Planned Parenthood, no to repealing the Affordable Care Act, and no to privatizing Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security!  (He has blocked his office phones and fax numbers, and is turning away people who show up to deliver petitions; time to change tactics.)

Representative Paul Ryan
U.S. House of Representatives
1233 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-0001