Saturday, October 15, 2005

Would Congress Approve This Candidate For the Supreme Court?

Served a short stint in the military.

Attended law school for a while but didn't graduate. Passed the bar exam and set up a successful law practice practicing consumer law -- defending clients against creditors.

Served in a state legislature, but refused to serve as attorney general and also refused a position on the Supreme Court and a nomination to be Secretary of War.

Ran for House of Representatives and won but served a very short time.

Can you imagine Congress approving this nomination for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court? I doubt it. The media would complain about "inexperience." Congress would poke and probe into motivations and declarations made years ago.

But his name was John Marshall and his impact on American constitutional law is peerless. He served for more than 34 years and participated in more than 1000 decisions. He authored over 500 opinions.

Today he is recognized as the single most important figure on constitutional law. Marshall's legacy resounds through the great issues of contemporary America.

Some of the best justices who have served on the Supreme Court were not judges before their appointments. Justice Renquist was one, and there were at least 10 others.

Other Presidents have been allowed to select justices and most have been approved without the kind of childish wrangling we've seen the past few years. It's all political grandstanding for the gullible media. And the nation is denied some exceptional legal minds (and public servants) because of it.

Shamelessly stolen from Sunnye
What Is the Definition of Poor?

According to the Heritage Foundation, you might be surprised.

If poverty means lacking nutritious food, adequate warm housing, and clothing for a family, relatively few of the 35 million people identified as being "in poverty" by the Census Bureau could be characterized as poor. While material hardship does exist in the United States, it is quite restricted in scope and severity.

The average "poor" person, as defined by the government, has a living standard far higher than the public imagines. The following are facts about persons defined as "poor" by the Census Bureau, taken from various government reports:

*Forty-six percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.

note: I own (well, my Other Half and the bank and I) a condo which has two bed-rooms, 2 baths, a small patio, and no garage. I wonder if by housing I fall into the "poor" category since my condo is smaller in bedrooms (and probably footage), (no yard), and no garage than the example above.

*Seventy-six percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, 30 years ago, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

*Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.

*The typical poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)

*Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 30 percent own two or more cars.

*Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.

*Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.

*Seventy-three percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a third have an automatic dishwasher.

Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry, and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family's essential needs. While this individual's life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians.

Of course, the living conditions of the average poor American should not be taken as representing all of the nation's poor: There is a wide range of living conditions among the poor. In contrast to the 25 percent of "poor" households that have cell phones and telephone answering machines, ap-proximately one-tenth of families in poverty have no phone at all. While the majority of poor households do not experience significant material problems, roughly a third do experience at least one problem such as overcrowding, temporary hunger, or difficulty getting medical care.

The good news is that the poverty that does exist in the United States can readily be reduced, particularly among children. There are two main reasons that American children are poor: Their parents don't work much, and their fathers are absent from the home.

In both good and bad economic environments, the typical American poor family with children is supported by only 800 hours of work during a year--the equivalent of 16 hours of work per week. If work in each family were raised to 2,000 hours per year--the equivalent of one adult working 40 hours per week throughout the year--nearly 75 percent of poor children would be lifted out of official poverty.

As noted above, father absence is another major cause of child poverty. Nearly two-thirds of poor children reside in single-parent homes; each year, an additional 1.3 million children are born out of wedlock. If poor mothers married the fathers of their children, nearly three-quarters of the nation's impoverished youth would immediately be lifted out of poverty.

Yet, although work and marriage are reliable ladders out of poverty, the welfare system perversely remains hostile to both. Major programs such as food stamps, public housing, and Medicaid continue to reward idleness and penalize marriage. If welfare could be turned around to encourage work and marriage, the nation's remaining poverty would quickly be reduced. This is, perhaps, the best news about poverty in the United States.

Robert E. Rector is Senior Research Fellow in Domestic Policy Studies and Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D., is Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Fellow in Statistical Welfare Research in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation.

Thanks to No Speed Bumps for the link
Fry It and They Will Come

I think I've heard of everything now. Fried strawberries?

From the North Carolina state fair.
Hidden Taxes

Okay, I'm gonna do the math for you. There's about 22% in hidden taxes in every item you buy. That's because as the manufacturer purchases the materials to make an item, (s)he has to pay tax on it. When the manufacturer sells to the retailer, those taxes are in the cost. When the retailer sells to you, you are the manufacturer's cost (which includes all the costs of manufacturing the item including any taxes paid) and the tax when the retailer bought from the manufacturer. Business always passes its costs on to the buyer. That's on every item you buy, including, but not limited to a loaf of bread, to a Bic pen, to the car you drive, the house you live in, concert tickets, CD's, iPods, the computer you are reading this on, down to and including your unmentionables.

Here we go:

Let's say an item costs $100 (I've rounded up for the sake of convenience in math, but one penny or five won't make a difference in this lesson). Under the FairTax bill, price will drop (maybe not right away, but very quickly. Trust me, competition will bring prices down) about 22%. No taxes, remember?

$100 x 22% = $22
$100 -$22 = $78

Now we add in the consumption tax. Yes, it will be about 30%. Don't get excited! Bear with me, you'll see that the price won't be that much different from what you are paying now.

$78 x 30% = $23
$78+23 = $101

If you live in a state with a state sales tax like Florida, you will have to pay the state sales tax. You know that can vary depending on the county, but here we pay 6.5%. Here's the math:

Currently: $100 + $6.50 = $106.50
After: $78 + $23 +$6.50 = $107.50

Okay, so you pay $1 more. I don't especially like it either, but that was to show you that prices won't change drastically, and yes, could actually go down further than 22%.

Now, how do you benefit? Go get your last pay stub. Go ahead, I'll wait. ::twiddling fingers:: hum, hum, hum, da,dee, da, dad, dadde, de..... Oh, you're back...

Okay, look at your paystub. There are three lines we're interested in. FICA regular (Social Security), FICA Medicare, and withholding (what the government uses to run the government). Add those figures up. Got the number? That's how much your pay will go up every paycheck when the FairTax is passed.

Nope. I'm not kidding. It's true. And, I've got another surprise for you. Because Uncle Sam will be getting so much money in revenue from a national sales tax, he'll be able to give you a prebate check each and every month. This will equal the amount your family is expected to pay in sales tax up to the poverty level every month. This amount is based on a formula used by the Feds. It's based on the number of people in your household, not on your income, so if you have another bundle of joy, you'll get more money. This is the only tax reform plan that completely untaxes the poor.

Guess what? can use that money any way you want. Yep. You can pay off credit car bills, the mortgage, send the kids to college, take that vacation you've been promising your Better Half, invest in the stock market (instead of the food market like you used to have to do), buy a car, or just put it in the bank.

And there's something else you need to know. I mentioned buying a car. If you buy a used pay no sales tax! Same with a previously lived in house or any other "used" product. If you choose to buy new, yes, you will pay a sales tax. But, shoot, I personally prefer used cars because the problems have been worked out, and they are already cheaper than new. Here's a hint for you about cars: most people can't tell the difference between a current year's model and a car that's a year or two old anyway. So unless you tell people you've bought a used car, they probably won't know.

I've gotten off tract a bit from my original premise: showing you about hidden taxes in everything we buy. I can't say it any clearer. It's seldom that prices go down. When prices do go down, it's because the technology is in place to build things cheaper. But sooner or later, the bottom will be hit and there is no place for prices to go but up. Taxes go up, prices go up. My mortgage goes up every year because my property taxes go up. Property taxes go up because the county has to pay more for everything. When the county has to pay out more, the county commissioners have to find the money somewhere, that usually means property taxes go up.

The FairTax will make it much easier to see the hidden taxes. When you buy an item, say a jacket, the price of the jacket will be on the price tag along with the amount of sales tax. Let's say the jacket costs $75. The price tag will say something like $75 and $23 sales tax total $98. When you go to the register, you will pay $98 plus any state sales tax.

So, the hidden taxes will no longer be hidden. You will see what you are paying and for what.

A couple of weeks ago I asked: What do Americans use "loving trees" for?

Also known as the philodendron, it's used as a decorative house plant.

The philodendron is one of any various climbing tropical American plants often cultivated as house plants. Tthe word comes from the Greek word philodendros which means "loving trees."

More Trivia

With the baseball season drawing to a close, it seemed natural to ask this question:

Who was the first man to pitch to Babe Ruth in the major leagues?
Shocked and Amazed

I shouldn't be, but I am. Word started leaking out that the President's Tax Reform Panel will offer suggestions that merely tinker with the current code. More of the same.

I'm shocked because the Panel didn't do what the President specifically asked them to do:

1. The proposal should simplify the Federal tax code so as to reduce the costs of tax compliance.

2. The proposal should promote home ownership and charitable giving.

3. The proposal should promote economic growth, job creation and encourage individual saving and investment while strengthening the competitiveness of the US in the global economy.

And I'm amazed that I actually expected that they would follow Bush's mandates. What was I thinking?

The Panel has not addressed any of these mandates. Not one. Basically the Panel suggeses "business and usual" with just a few minor adjustments. I shouldn't be surprised because the co-chairs are current or former Congressment. I'm so disappointed and annoyed, that I won't even name them. And that one is a Floridian is just downright infuriating.

Neal Boortz, in his TownHall column, has boiled down what the Panel will propose:

1. A tax increase for the owners of more expensive homes. Right now home owners are allowed to deduct the interest on the principal balance of home loans up to one million dollars. The panel apparently will recommend that this deduction limit be lowered, perhaps to $350,000. This would mean that taxpayers with loans on more expensive homes will be hit with a tax increase. Admittedly, this reform proposal will resonate with a good many Americans who wallow in wealth envy, so we’ll give the panel some credit for carrying the banner of class warfare.

I have no problem with taxing another group of people. I'm a middle American in the middle tax bracket. We pay what the upper brackets (who pays far more than anyone else) and the lower brackets (who generally pay little or nothing) don't. What is wrong with everyone paying the exact same rate in taxes?

2. To require businesses to pay taxes on a portion of the cost of any health insurance or health care benefits provided to employees. Right now employer can deduct those costs. The panel wants to put a limit on what can be deducted. Result? A tax increase for businesses.

And who pays taxes? Not businesses. If you think that, you go to the back of the class. All business expenses are passed on to the consumer. You pay it in the form of higher prices.

3. The panel proposes to spend the tax money gained from these two tax increases to cover the cost of eliminating the hated Alternative Minimum Tax.

I have no problem with getting rid of the AMT. The main reason? I don't benefit from it and I pay higher taxes because of the millions who do. Joe Sixpack doesn't make enough money to get a refund, but through the generousity of Uncle Sam, he gets to use the AMT and voila! he gets a tax refund. My other half used to benefit from this prior to meeting and marrying me. Because we file jointly, he no longer qualified.

Did you know that the costs of complying with the current Tax Code costs somewhere between $300-500 billion each year? That's just to comply with the Code, let alone paying "your fair share".

Did you know there is a way to eliminate the costs of compliance? Did you know there is a way to completely eliminate the tax burden on the poor? Did you know that you currently pay about 22% in hidden taxes? Did you know there is a bill in Congress right now that will eliminate the income tax, give you back in every paycheck what you now pay in FICA and withholding taxes? Did you know under this bill everyone will pay the same tax rate? Did you know that under this bill you will not have to file a tax return every year?

This bill was introduced into Congress as HR25 and S25. It's known as The FairTax bill and it will work. However, it doesn't stand much chance of making it through Congress because it would give you, the American citizen something that Congress doesn't want you to have: Freedom of Choice.

Even more than giving you Freedom of Choice, it would take away from Congress the ability to take money from you. You see, right now, Congress can pass a bill to raise taxes. It may sound as if the "evil" rich or "big bad" business will have to pay more in taxes than you or me. But, who really pays those taxes? As I said before, businesses don't pay taxes, their tax liability is passed on to their consumers. That's why you pay higher prices for gasoline, food, medicine, housing, clothing, electronic devices, cars, electricity, power, lights, phone services, and cable just to name a few. There is nothing that I can think of that the price isn't effected by taxes. And who do you think owns thoses businesses? Well, it aint the poor. Do you think the "evil" rich will pay those taxes? Hell, no! They pass it off to you and me in the form of higher prices.

Congress wants to keep all of us virtual slaves to taxes. The only way to stop this is to pass HR25 S25. This bill is actually scheduled to be voted on sometime during the spring of 2006. That means that in 2007 we will no longer have FICA and Withholding taken from our paychecks. We will never again have to file an income tax refund after 2007 (yeah, I understand, we will have to file on income received in 2006, but that would be the last time.

Everyone I talk to says, this is a great idea! Why can't it pass? Well, as I said, Congress doesn't want to give up the power the ability to take you money and spend it the way they want to. So you have to become an activist and let your congressman or woman know that you want your money! That you are their boss and that unless they do as you want, your vote will go to someone else. You have to let them know, time and time again that your vote is for sale, or that you are their boss and you are interviewing for a replacement. Do they want to continue in their current position or do they have another position in mind?

It's up to you, my fellow Americans. Will we succeed in the Second American Revolution?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

What A Sign!

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I got this in email. I hope it works!
If My Body Were a Car

If my body were a car, this is the time I would be thinking about trading it in for a newer model.

I've got bumps and dents and scratches in my finish and my paint job is getting a little dull, but that's not the worst of it. My fenders are too wide to be considered stylish. They were once as sleek as a little MG; now they look more like an old Buick.

My seat cushions have split open at the seams. My seats are sagging. Seat belts? I gave up all belts when Krispy Cremes opened a shop in my neighborhood!

Air bag's? Forget it. The only bags I have these days are under my eyes. Not counting the saddlebags, of course.

I have soooooo many miles on my odometer. Sure, I've been many places and seen many things, but when's the last time an appraiser factored life experiences against depreciation?

My headlights are out of focus and it's especially hard to see things up close.

My traction is not as graceful as it once was. I slip and slide and skid and bump into things even in the best of weather. My whitewalls are stained with varicose veins. It takes me hours to reach my maximum speed. My fuel rate burns inefficiently. But here's the worst of it -

Almost every time I sneeze, cough or sputter.....

either my radiator leaks or my exhaust backfires!!

- Received from my father-in-law in email. Thanks!
In Today's News

Pakistani Earthquake: Let's keep Pakistan in our thoughts and prayers. As you probably know, there was a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that hit that area Saturday morning. Let's keep the survivors in our hearts and prayers. Donations can be made to the International Red Cross and Red Crecent throught the American Red Cross.

I'm sure that the US and European nations will be there to give support. Fox reports that the US will send helicopters to aid in the effort.

Fox is reporting that Usama bin-Laden is believe to be hiding in that area. While I usually refuse to wish harm on any other person, I'll take the chance of bad karma coming back to bite me when I say it is to be hoped that he and his minions are among the 20-30,000 possible victims. More than 43,000 are reported injured. More than 2.5 are homeless. The Peace Bridge linking India and Pakistan has collapsed.

California earthquake: And another earthquake hits California in the San Simeon area.

Hurricane Stan: Death and destruction left in Guatelmala; more than 500 are known dead and 300 are missing. A village of up to 1,400 has been buried by a mudslide and may be declared a mass grave by the Guatelmalan government.

Subway terrorist plots: And finally, today is reportedly the date that terrorist were planning to attack the New York subway system. The information came from two terrorists arrested last week. Law enforcement presence, undercover and in uniform, has been stepped up. Searches are being made of bags and baby strollers (said by the arrested terrorists to be a tool in placing bomb devices).

The Yankees/Angels game will go on tonight, but don't plan on taking bags into the stadium. All bags will be searched, both on the subway and at the stadium. If you're going to the game, go early, get searched, and don't complain. Searching of bags may save your life.

There is question as to whether New York City should have released the information about possible subway threats. This because Homeland Security is stating that there is no reason to expect that these threats are credible. My opinion is that NY did the right thing by alerting the public to the possibility of attacks on the subways. I think this gives people the option of taking different methods of transportation (if they have the option), or staying home (again, if they have the option. At the very least, it puts that many more eyes out there. I'm sorry, but the cops cannot do it all. I don't want the public panic-striken, but it makes more sense to me to allow the public the chance to make their own decisions, and to help keep an eye out for suspicious behavior, or seeing something that just doesn't look right. It gives them ownership of their safety and their city. We've come to rely on the government to "take care" of us and our safety that we've become complacent.

Hurricane Vince: It seems to be heading in the general direction of Portugal and Spain, but the National Hurricane Center seems to think it will be pulled more northward by a cold front and will dissapate prior to landfall. Yes, we're down to the "V's". Wima is the last name available. Tanya of a few years ago is the farest in my memory we've named. And most of the storms that late in the seaon weren't much to worry about as I recall.

There are about seven weeks left in the hurricane season, but in my opinion we've seen the last of the hurricanes for this year. If by chance we go beyond Wilma, the Hurricane Center will start using the Greek alphabet to designate storms: Alpha, Beta, Ceta, Delpha, Epislon. God help us if we get that far.

New Orleans Cop Abuse Taped: A TV crew taped NO officers using apparent excessive force. The crew was out taping NO nightlife and got more than they planned. I saw the tape and without knowing more about what happened prior to the beginning of the tape, it does look as if the officers are in a heap of trouble. While something occuring prior to tape may not excuse this apparent use of excessive force, it may explain it. The tape showed the arrestee being hit in the head and then wrestled to the ground. The arrestee was obviously resisting arrest, but even so, I can't say that hitting the man in the head was justified. The officers involved have been placed on administrative leave pending investigation.

The tape also showed police trying to intimidate the crew into stopping tape. The cops knew if tape was running there is a good chance that what they did was on tape. What I saw on the tape was intimidation and those officers need to be investigated. I've got a feeling that these officers will use residual trauma from Hurricane Katrina and it's aftermath (post trumactic stress disorder) as a defence. And perhaps it should. I don't know. That's what investigations are for.
A Choice of Hamburger Over Filet Mignon

Finally, someone put their finger on what I was feeling. I knew I wasn't articulating what I wanted to say. And there are probably lots of others who said it, but Chuck Muth is the first one I read who said just what I was feeling in a way that I was able to say, "That's It!". Here's the text of an email sent in Muth's Truths:

Misunderestimating the Furor Over Hurricane Harriet

The White House's spinmeisters are either ignorantly misreading or intentionally mischaracterizing the general conservative opposition to Harriet Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court. They continue "misunderestimating" the furor at their own peril.

It's not that conservatives think she's "unqualified." We accept the fact that one need not have been a judge to sit on the Supreme Court. We accept the fact that many a fine Justice had no judicial experience before joining SCOTUS. On the other hand, a lot of really lousy former Justices had no judicial experience either.

We also accept the fact that Miers is an accomplished lawyer who won't "legislate from the bench." And we're fairly comfortable that she won't "go Souter" on us.

And it's not that she isn't "conservative." Conservatives not only accept that she's a conservative, but is most assuredly a social conservative, as well. We also accept that she's probably a very nice, but tough, lady who "has a good heart" (whatever the heck that means to one's ability to interpret the Constitution).

And it has nothing to do with the fact that she didn't come from an Ivy League school. Most of the other individuals on the short-list of nominees who would have been warmly embraced by grassroots conservative activists and leaders didn't come from Ivy League schools either. In fact, NOT coming from an Ivy League school is probably more in her FAVOR among rank-and-file conservatives who are not exactly enamored with Harvard and Yale ivory-tower liberalism.

And it's not that we don't "trust" the president - although after McCain-Feingold, Teddy Kennedy's No Child Left Behind program, LBJ's prescription drug bill, that pork-filled highway bill, his federal Marshall Plan for New Orleans, losing his veto pen, amnesty for illegal aliens, etc., etc., etc., perhaps that trust SHOULD come into serious question.

And it's not that Ms. Miers is a close, personal friend to the president. Although the charge of "cronyism" is, indeed, a legitimate point, that really isn't what all the hubbub is about.

(And here is the meat of it all - ed.)

No. This is about Republicans never blowing an opportunity to blow an opportunity.

The visceral objections to Harriet Miers have more to do with the fact that many conservative activists have been toiling in the political trenches for MANY YEARS to elect a Republican president and a Republican Senate for the expressed purpose of being able to seat individuals on the nation's highest court who have the conservative judicial and intellectual star-power and brain-power we were denied by the Left when they "borked" Robert Bork. The fact is, with Republican kiesters warming 55 of the Senate's 100 seats, a superior Bork-like nominee COULD HAVE BEEN CONFIRMED to join Justice Thomas and Justice Scalia and Chief Justice Roberts on the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

Instead, we get...Harriet Miers?

We could have had filet mignon. Instead we got hamburger. We could have had Dom Perignon. Instead we got Pabst Blue Ribbon. We could have thrown a touchdown. Instead we ran it up the middle for a two-yard gain. And then to rub salt in this open wound, the president insulted the nation's collective intelligence by claiming, laughably, that he "picked the best person (he) could find." Perhaps he should have extended his search beyond arm's length.

It's not so much that Harriet Miers is "bad," but that we had an opportunity to do SO MUCH better.There are only nine seats on the Supreme Court. Vacancies don't occur very often. Why settle for a second? or third-stringer when there were so many experienced, bona fide super-stars sitting on the bench waiting to get into the game? With the World Series on the line, why send an untested, inexperienced rookie to the mound when you have the likes of Roger Clemens or Randy Johnson at your disposal? This nomination is the sort of decision which would get a major league manager fired on the spot.

Nevertheless, there are still some GOP partisan loyalists out there who are blindly accepting the president's nomination on faith and disparaging anyone else who dares voice objection as not being a "team player" or a "true conservative." These Bushophiles need to wake up and smell the coffee. For the record, here's just a PARTIAL list of prominent, bona fide, card-carrying conservatives who have expressed reservations, if not open hostility, to the Miers nomination over the past week: Former Judge Robert Bork, American Conservative Union chairman David Keene, columnist Charles Krauthammer, talk show host Rush Limbaugh, columnist George Will, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), Roger Pilon of the Cato Institute, Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard, columnist Thomas Sowell, columnist Mona Charen, former ACU executive director Richard Lessner, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), columnist Robert Novak, columnist Bruce Fein, columnist Peggy Noonan, former Bush speechwriter David Frum, columnist Terrence Jeffrey, columnist Michelle Malkin, the Wall Street Journal, Manny Miranda of the Third Branch Coalition, the Federalist Patriot, columnist David Limbaugh, Gary Bauer of American Values, Alan Keyes of Renew America, columnist Pat Buchanan and Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation.

All of these people are wrong and the president is right? All of these people aren't "true conservatives"? All of these people aren't "team players"? Come on.

George W is not the Pope. He is not infallible. He made a mistake. But it's a mistake which can and should be rectified. The nation need not settle for second or third best with this lifetime appointment. President Bush should take a "mulligan," withdraw this nomination and appoint someone such as Judge Janice Rogers Brown instead. Absent that, Ms. Miers should take herself out of the game - for the good of the conservative movement and for the good of the nation.

Chuck, I knew there was more than to it than what she wasn't or even what she is. It's not even about Ms. Miers or even who it could have been. It's about what could have been. Miers might be a good choice, but the choice could be so much better.

I'm hoping that this is a ploy. That the Miers nomination will be withdrawn and a better choice put in. Here's how John Hawkins at Right Wing News sees how a withdrawal scenario might go.

We can hope.