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Of Politics, Sports and Sex

OK, so there won't be a LOT on here about sex, but tell the truth, that's most of the reason you entered this site, right? So, I'll slip some things in from time to time just to keep you coming...back.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

I was again thinking about the phrase I've heard so many times over the years about marriage, about how hard you have to work at it to make it a success, and again wondered what exactly that means, since I don't feel like I have to work all that hard at it.

It came to mind one evening as I was scrubbing a sink full of crusty baking pots and pans and it made me wonder if one definition or example of that hard work required is whenever you do something like I was doing just then, or doing anything that you wouldn't normally want to do if you were single - the things you do just for your partner, because he or she wants it that way, when you couldn't care less. For me, that includes a lot of little stuff like making the bed in the morning, keeping the bathroom counter clear, putting away shoes so they aren't all out on the floor near the side door and more than anything, swallowing some of my thoughts when they might lead to an argument because I know the argument just isn't that important.

I mentioned all that to Cheryl and she said, "Well, yeah, it might mean those things, but I think it just means not taking your partner for granted."


Unless he only used it to play Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)

If you were looking for a room to rent, and this ad intrigued you, I seriously think you need to reevaluate where your life has taken you:

Hello, I am looking for a lodger in my house. I have had a long and interesting life and have now chosen Brighton as a location for my retirement. Among the many things I have done in my life is to spend three years alone on St. Lawrence Island. These were perhaps the most intense and fascinating years of my life, and I was kept in companionship with a walrus whom I named Gregory. Never have I had such a fulfilling friendship with anyone, human or otherwise, and upon leaving the island I was heartbroken for months. I now find myself in a large house over looking Queens Park and am keen to get a lodger. This is a position I am prepared to offer for free (eg: no rent payable) on the fulfillment of some conditions. I have, over the last few months, been constructing a realistic walrus costume, which should fit most people of average proportions, and allow for full and easy movement in character. To take on the position as my lodger you must be prepared to wear the walrus suit for approximately two hours each day (in practice, this is not two hours every day - I merely state it here so you are able to have a clear idea of the workload). Whilst in the walrus costume you must be a walrus - there must be no speaking in a human voice, and any communication must entail making utterances in the voice of a walrus - I believe there aer recordings available on the web - to me, the voice is the most natural thing I have ever heard. Other duties will involve catching and eating the fish and crabs that I will occasionally throw to you whilst you are being the walrus. With the exception of this, you will be free to do whatever you choose, and will have a spacious double room, complete run of the house (with the exception of my bedroom and my workshop), and use of all facilities within. I am a considerate person to share a house with, and other than playing the accordion my tastes are easy to accommodate.

Due to the nature of this position I will need to audition all applicants before agreeing to take the chosen candidate on as a lodger. Please contact me if you have any questions.

I mean, seriously, who the hell could live on a day-to-day basis with someone who likes such a thing?

Well, unless he promised never to play the accordion while you were in the apartment. Then maybe we could talk.

Friday, June 7, 2013

My last political post for the day. This one is about the faux "scandal" involving the IRS, which has the usual right-wing media in a froth. Here's what you won't hear about on any major network since they seem to take most of their talking points from Fox:

An analysis of a list of groups approved for tax exempt status, released by the Internal Revenue Service in the wake of its admission to targeting conservative groups for heightened scrutiny, determined that of the groups approved, more than two-thirds were conservative.
The analysis, by Martin A. Sullivan of Tax Analysts, examined a list of 176 advocacy organizations that were ultimately approved for tax exempt status by the IRS during the period when the service admits to having targeted certain conservative groups with inappropriate criteria.
According to Sullivan's analysis, 122 of the groups were conservative, 48 were liberal or non-conservative and 6 remain of unidentified ideology.
The IRS released the list on May 15, after senior official Lois Lerner announced that the IRS had been inappropriately targeting conservative groups in its review of groups seeking tax exempt status for political activity.
The inappropriate targeting included the appearance of keywords like "tea party," "patriot" and "9/12" to sweep up groups for further review. Among the approved groups, 46 had names that include those words, according to Sullivan.
Sullivan's analysis, however, does not illuminate much about the targeting scandal. It shows that conservative groups were reviewed and approved more often than liberal groups, but it does not state the total number of conservative and liberal groups that applied for tax exempt status during that period. The analysis also does not identify the ideological breakdown of groups that applied and have not been approved, since the IRS is prevented by law from providing the names of groups still being processed by the service. All of these caveats are noted in the analysis.
At least one error was readily identifiable in the Tax Analysts' analysis. A group named U.S. Health Freedom Coalition is listed as a liberal or non-conservative group, when it was in fact created by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity as the principal funding mechanism for ballot initiatives opposing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Arizona and Ohio. The group is run by Eric Novack, a former Americans for Prosperity fellow and known conservative activist.

Again, if it weren't so serious, we in the Land Trust Community would be laughing over all this, since we've been targeting to the expense of millions of dollars by the IRS, but again, you won't see that reported in the mainstream right-wing media. In fact, it was a series done in the supposedly liberal Washington Post that started the IRS witch hunt.

Not exciting stuff, but pretty frustrating

And more on Food Stamps, which I first referenced in the article below this one. This time from Paul Krugman:

Estimates from the consulting firm Moody’s Analytics suggest that each dollar spent on food stamps in a depressed economy raises G.D.P. by about $1.70 — which means, by the way, that much of the money laid out to help families in need actually comes right back to the government in the form of higher revenue.
Wait, we’re not done yet. Food stamps greatly reduce food insecurity among low-income children, which, in turn, greatly enhances their chances of doing well in school and growing up to be successful, productive adults. So food stamps are in a very real sense an investment in the nation’s future — an investment that in the long run almost surely reduces the budget deficit, because tomorrow’s adults will also be tomorrow’s taxpayers.
So what do Republicans want to do with this paragon of programs? First, shrink it; then, effectively kill it.
The shrinking part comes from the latest farm bill ...which...would push about two million people off the program. You should bear in mind, by the way, that one effect of the sequester has been to pose a serious threat to a different but related program that provides nutritional aid to millions of pregnant mothers, infants, and children. Ensuring that the next generation grows up nutritionally deprived — now that’s what I call forward thinking.
And why must food stamps be cut? We can’t afford it, say politicians like Representative Stephen Fincher, a Republican of Tennessee, who backed his position with biblical quotations — and who also, it turns out, has personally received millions in farm subsidies over the years.
Look, I understand the supposed rationale: We’re becoming a nation of takers, and doing stuff like feeding poor children and giving them adequate health care are just creating a culture of dependency — and that culture of dependency, not runaway bankers, somehow caused our economic crisis.
But I wonder whether even Republicans really believe that story — or at least are confident enough in their diagnosis to justify policies that more or less literally take food from the mouths of hungry children. As I said, there are times when cynicism just doesn’t cut it; this is a time to get really, really angry.

Have they No Shame, part 2 million

There is generally no bill that moves through Congress other than the annual Defense budget bill that get me as upset as the Farm Bill. Seems like an innocuous sort of thing - Save the Farmers and all that. But this article in the NYT summarizes a little of my frustration with it, which usually has to do with the corporate welfare given to mega-agribusiness monstrosities like Monsanto and Archer-Daniels-Midland. Now the Rs aren't content just to do that, now they want to take food out of the mouths of the working poor at the same time:

The current versions of the Farm Bill in the Senate (as usual, not as horrible as the House) and the House (as usual, terrifying) could hardly be more frustrating. The House is proposing $20 billion in cuts to SNAP — equivalent, says Beckmann, to “almost half of all the charitable food assistance that food banks and food charities provide to people in need.” [2]

Deficit reduction is the sacred excuse for such cruelty, but the first could be achieved without the second. Two of the most expensive programs are food stamps, the cost of which has justifiably soared since the beginning of the Great Recession [3] , and direct subsidy payments.
This pits the ability of poor people to eat — not well, but sort of enough — against the production of agricultural commodities. That would be a difficult choice if the subsidies were going to farmers who could be crushed by failure, but in reality most direct payments go to those who need them least.
Among them is Congressman Stephen Fincher, Republican of Tennessee, who justifies SNAP cuts by quoting 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.”
Even if this quote were not taken out of context — whoever wrote 2 Thessalonians was chastising not the poor but those who’d stopped working in anticipation of the second coming — Fincher ignores the fact that Congress is a secular body that supposedly doesn’t base policy on an ancient religious text that contradicts itself more often than not. Not that one needs to break a sweat countering his “argument,” but 45 percent of food stamp recipients are children, and in 2010, the U.S.D.A. reported that as many as 41 percent are working poor.
This would be just another amusing/depressing example of an elected official ignoring a huge part of his constituency (about one in seven Americans rely on food stamps, though it’s one in five in Tennessee, the second highest rate in the South), were not Fincher himself a hypocrite.
For the God-fearing Fincher is one of the largest recipients of U.S.D.A. farm subsidies in Tennessee history; he raked in $3.48 million in taxpayer cash from 1999 to 2012, $70,574 last year alone. The average SNAP recipient in Tennessee gets $132.20 in food aid a month; Fincher received $193 a day. (You can eat pretty well on that.) [4]
Fincher is not alone in disgrace, even among his Congressional colleagues, but he makes a lovely poster boy for a policy that steals taxpayer money from the poor and so-called middle class to pay the rich, while propping up a form of agriculture that’s unsustainable and poisonous.

We are so used to welfare for the wealthy that most of us, sadly, shrug it off. But a Farm Bill extension does give an opportunity to end direct subsidy payments, rein in crop insurance, and protect the programs that are critical to our national identity and benefit those who deserve it.
It’s a simple solution, says Cox: “The legislators could decide not to reauthorize direct payments and invest some of the savings in good programs while still hitting budget reduction targets.” The Congressional Budget Office reports that this action would save about $5 billion per year, far more than the proposed potential savings of cutting SNAP and other beneficial programs while enhancing crop insurance. (The Senate proposes saving less than $2 billion annually, the House just over $3 billion.)
In other words, without hurting conservation or poor people or foreign aid or progressive and traditional farming, you could achieve targeted savings simply by letting direct payments go away and refusing to boost the crop insurance scam.
Boosters of crop insurance on steroids simply want a government guarantee of farm revenue. Maybe you don’t want to scream “communism!” but it’s the type of guarantee that no other industry in this country would dare to dream of.
Avoid fatalism: Call your representative (or at least support those agencies that are doing so) and insist that payments to people like Fincher be ended without replacing them with other subsidies to big ag. Let’s at least try to protect the poor, the environment and our national health.
The alternative is to wait for the second coming.