Coffee heat rising

The State of the…Whatever-We’ve-Got-Here…

Today’s Quora post:

What are your thoughts on Dr. Fauci telling reporters that America might still be battling smallpox and polio if today’s kind of misinformation existed back then?

Merry Christmas…i guess

Christmas treeWelp, Merry Christmas one and all. Think some spiritual thoughts…that will take Herculean effort. (So we invoke one ancient culture’s religion when we see our own, as interpreted by its fundamentalists, has failed). Personally, I find it a shade difficult to choke up much merriness, given that we’re watching our country crash in flames.

Thank God I’m too old myself to be called into active military duty, or to have a kid young enough for that. The mess the Trumpites are making in the Middle East sooner or later will come back to bite in a big way, and at that time a mere force of mercenaries will not suffice. Expect to see your sons and daughters — or grandsons and grand-daughters — called up for active duty within the next decade. To say this bunch has plunged the country into chaos is, my friends, an understatement.

Or maybe we ourselves will want to join up, if the military will take us. God knows, we’ll need the money.

Watching what appears to be the start of the Bush Crash redux, I have exactly zero confidence that a collapse of this magnitude is going to do me any good in my enforced retirement. What I do feel confident of is that it will leave me with nothing like enough in savings and investments to support me through my dotage. It is almost certain, thanks to the lunatics who put a seditious fool in the White House and inflicted their set of wackshit discredited economic theories on us all, that I will not have enough to live on for the rest of my life.

During the 1970s, I watched my father’s savings — an amount he thought would support him comfortably through a lengthy retirement — melt away under an inflationary blowtorch. Now we get to watch my generation’s retirement savings disappear, too.


Oh well. There’s not a thing we can do about it. If you haven’t hunkered down yet, financially speaking, it’s too late now.

Remember what I told you, some time back: Politics is economy; economy, politics.

In one last gasp of optimism, tonight I’m singing with the choir for the evening service and then for the midnight service. That will be fun. The church tends to overflow on these big religious holidays. Though it’s not exactly empty the rest of the time, on Christmas and Easter people flow into the parking lots.

We — the women’s chant choir — sang for Compline last night. It’s a very short but very lovely service. The entire thing is sung, much of it in chant. It’s  relaxing and soothing, something that’s much needed these days.

In between the two Christmas Eve services, we have a potluck dinner. That should be fun. I’m hoping SDXB will show up for that and for the late service. Connie the Long-Haul Trucker is in Moab, headed toward the Valley as fast as she can fly for as far as the gummint will let her drive in any one 24-hour period: expects to reach the truckyard about 10 a.m. tomorrow. So she will miss the Xmas festivities, but will be here to see her family on Christmas day. That’s something. I guess.

Cassie the Corgi continues to have her ups and downs. Yesterday was a definite up. Today she seems to have crashed, along with the Trump economy. {sigh} Not only can she barely hobble around but (to continue the endlessly amusing simile) she seems confused. It’s like she’s not sure where she is. She’ll get outside and look around, appearing utterly flummoxed, like she’s wondering Where am I? What is this place and what am I supposed to be doing here? Eventually she’ll pee on the ground and then stumble back in the house, evidently only slightly enlightened.

That’s today. Yesterday she was downright peppy and for a moment was actually running around the backyard (very, very briefly) after Ruby.

So one is led on a merry psychological chase, in which one moment you think gosh! maybe she COULD recover somehow and the next you’re figuring where to dig her grave.

The neighborhood is brightly decorated. One street is completely lined with luminarias. Young people love to gussy up their places for Christmas, which is a delight. I personally am too lazy to feel inclined to climb on a ladder to hang up lights, then climb up again to take them down and then make myself crazy wrapping them back up and putting them away. Never have been much for conspicuous decoration, myself. But that doesn’t keep me from enjoying other people’s displays.

Luminarias line a garden path as part of Hispanic celebration of Christmas



We Need a Party of Common Sense!

Hmmm…interesting election results. It looks like Americans are just about evenly divided on political issues, doesn’t it? Apparently Trump et al. have succeeded in annoying some folks enough to turn against the Republicans, but it’s far from a serious majority.

What worries me (among many things…) is that these results and the original Trumpite victory are just not getting the message across to Democrats. We have two parties who think God (in whatever form She chooses to take) is on their side — each party thinks it has the moral high ground. And neither side seems to be registering that they need to rein in their most extreme impulses and drive in the middle lane. So…I don’t see things getting any better. All that will result from salting the House with Democrats is that nothing will get done in any direction.

To celebrate the possibility that now the Democrats are in control of the House, they could indeed do in the Orange-Haired One, is to crow in mistaken triumph. Yes, he’s a bad fellow. No, he should never have been allowed to set foot in the White House. But impeaching a President of the United States is not, never has been, and never will be a good thing. No matter how incompetent or crooked the man (or woman) may be, removing a sitting President will guarantee resentment, rage, and chaos.

Let’s imagine the House finds, grâce à Mr. Mueller’s excellent work, that Mr. Trump is the creep, crook, and tyrant some of us think he is. Let us go so far as to imagine they not only prove this amazing revelation, they use it to remove the man from office. Then what?

Then we end up with Mike Pence as President. The man who cannot trust himself to go to a business dinner at a restaurant without taking his wife along to act as chaperone.

In the meantime, the hateful rhetoric continues unabated. Faux Gnus is probably right: nothing much will get done from here on out. Meanwhile, The New Yorker rants ecstatically that the elections were a “rebuke” to Trump…gimme a break. Daily life is a rebuke to Trump…BFD. The man is still in power, he will continue so for at least two and quite probably six more years, and he and his Russian pals will have two to six more years in which to foment hate. The Democrats, imagining that they’ve triumphed, will continue on their own benighted way, enraging everyone who stands to the right of, say, Harry Truman. Whaddayabet they install Nancy Pelosi as speaker?

We need a third party: the Party of Common Sense. So far, it doesn’t look like we’re about to get one of those.

Decoding the Tax Code

CBS Marketwatch reports that New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg and Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden are proposing a new attempt to simplify the tax code. For the average Jane and Joe on the street, it will mean a briefer and clearer one-page tax return form. Our present six tax brackets would be reduced to three—15 percent, 25 percent, and 35 percent. And the corporate tax rate would drop from 35 percent to 24 percent.

It won’t pass, of course, because it eliminates a bunch of lucrative tax breaks for corporations (to say nothing of putting an entire cohort of tax accountants out of work). But at least it’s an effort to make a step in the right direction.

That so many ordinary Americans have to hire a tax accountant to figure out their taxes—often paying more for tax preparation than is owed on taxes!—is just outrageous. This year I paid my tax lawyer $460 to prepare the tax return for the S-corporation, which owed no taxes at all. I paid a like amount to discover that I owed the feds $770 in federal taxes and to extract a $1,000 refund from the state. I have to do that because the absurdly complicated tax rules are utterly incomprehensible to me. There’s no way to understand them, because they make no sense and because they’re couched in cryptic language—only an expert can figure out what they mean and how to apply them, and even the experts regularly make mistakes.

What’s refreshing is to see a “Bipartisan Tax Fairness and Simplification Act.” It’s long past time Republicans and Democrats of good will set aside the pig-headed partisanship and started to work together on the things that matter to the American people.

If people of good will do not step forward to overcome the corrosive divisiveness this country has seen, we will, I believe, be at risk of civil war within another generation—possibly sooner. When political leaders descend into demagoguery and talk about putting those who don’t agree with them “in the crosshairs” so that their followers start to rage about doing violence to elected officials, even the President of the United States, it’s inevitable that violence will follow.

On both sides, the leadership of this country needs to cut off the shackles of partisanship and extremism and come together to lead. Gregg and Wyden’s proposal is at least a tiny sparkle of light from that direction.

Sky still in place

The turquoise-blue Arizona sky hasn’t fallen yet, though we wait for the occasional asteroid to hit the ground. The governor has called the legislature back into a special session, in hopes of getting something more like her way in the fight over the budget. Meanwhile, most state agencies (what remains of them) were open for business today.

An Arizona Republic reporter passes along something amazing, however. If the state fails to pay our salaries tomorrow, we’ll get a nice bonus:

A shutdown would harm the state’s credit rating, making it more expensive for Arizona to borrow money in the future, [State Treasurer Dean] Martin said. And if the state can’t make its $85 million biweekly payroll Thursday, federal law says the state could have to pay triple the amount, up to $255 million, to state workers as a penalty.

Well, in the case of university employees, nonpayment is unlikely to come to pass. Our college’s business manager says this week’s payroll has already been processed. If direct deposit is automated, as it almost certainly is, we should see our paychecks sometime tomorrow.

Besides, if the legislature (and governor) stink like dead fish now, just imagine the effect they’ll have on taxpayers when the state has to shell out $170 million dollars more than is actually owed to its workers! It won’t just be state employees and July 4 vacationers turned out of campgrounds who’ll be trying to vote the rascals out of office. Although the parks reopened this morning, most campers were rousted out yesterday afternoon.

It’s quite an Independence Day spectacle. More fireworks are on the way.


Economy Is Politics: Arizona’s politico-economic disaster

Bet you thought I was exaggerating when I described the shenanigans going on down at the state house. Truth to tell, though, that post was barely the half of it: a lazy job of reporting, indeed.

To date, budget shortfalls have gutted higher education in Arizona, trashed K-12 education, closed down state parks, and shut down important segments of the state government. Tens of thousands of state workers and employees of companies that contract to the state have been thrown out of work. Far from showing any concern about these disasters, our legislators persist in a demented campaign to balance the budget on the backs of our children, of our most vulnerable citizens, and of every other resident.

What they are proposing to do is cut state income tax revenues by a half-billion dollars, repeal the $250 million state equalization tax, and inflict a further 5.2 percent cut on our already devastated education system. Health care for low-income children would be cut. Child Protective Services, never the nation’s finest agency of its kind, will be further reduced. Food banks will be cut.

To silence opponents, the legislature’s plan proposes to put the governor’s desired temporary 1 percent sales tax increase to the voters; in the unlikely event that they approve it, the 5 percent education cut will be erased.

The 3 percent flat tax legislators are straining to push through in this budget proposal will cut state revenues by $450 million just as a three-year sales tax hike phases out.

As a clue about what kind of people these are, Arizona Senator Jack Harper has described teachers as “feeding at the public trough,” and he made himself the subject of an ethics complaint when, acting as chairman of the committee of the whole, he “accidentally” shut off all the microphones in the room and then cut off an ongoing debate.

Meanwhile, these nut cases are legalizing dangerous fireworks, banned in Arizona for years because of the horrific risk they pose to the children to whom they are marketed (good idea: the more of the little darlings we can maim and kill, the less we’ll have to pay to educate them!), ending the hard-won domestic partner benefits for state employees, and planning to allow Arizonans to carry concealed weapons without a permit and to carry guns into public buildings and schools. They want to close the Arizona Historical Society (shutting a half-dozen museums and effectively discarding their holdings) and they have withheld $18 million in research funding promised to the Science Foundation Arizona. However, overcoming their distaste for “socialism,” these worthies are applying for $1 million in federal funding to save the state’s debunked, intellectually bankrupt abstinence-only program.

A  million bucks for abstinence-only…these are the same folks who tell us that if you’re poor and your sick child needs expensive medical care, you’re out of luck. See? If you had just abstained, you wouldn’t have had that weakling brat!

Jon Talton, an observer who calls the gang in power the Kookocracy, suggests we allow the fools to have their way. The disastrous result, he thinks, will demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt what extreme right-wing dogma means to the individual citizen’s pocketbook, jobs, and quality of life. That’s what it will take—the collapse of the state’s government and economy—to persuade Arizona voters to put the wackos out of office, once and for all.

Maybe so. In the interim, the disaster that will ensue—that is ensuing—will make this state a terrible place to live for a long time to come. Friends are talking about retiring to northern New Mexico. Not a bad idea: once I’m out of work this winter, thanks to the dismantling of higher education, I won’t really have to stay here. I may follow them to Los Alamos, joining the brain drain that’s already under way.