Entries Tagged as 'History'

Tax Land Mines

There’s all this talk about how the Republican Party crafted a tax land mine when they put in place the Bush tax cuts with a ten year expiration — that they knew that the laws would force action by the Democratic party (you mean the Republican’s knew that after George W Bush there wouldn’t be another Republican in White House, nor would they be in control of either branch of the legislature?

Hmm… I don’t but it, but if it’s true that’s cause for major concern.

So the rational goes:

  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose not to renew the tax cuts; they are seen raising taxes.
  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose to renew the tax cuts for only those making less than a quarter million dollars; they are seen as raising taxes.
  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose to renew the tax cuts as they are now, the Republican’s get what they want, and they are seen taking no action to address the growing deficit.

I don’t know what alternate Republican reality these analysis came from, but I certainly don’t understand why the Democrats can’t take the reigns and turn this into a political hot potato for the Republicans.

Elections are about votes; and most American’s earn far less than a quarter million dollars per year, so they aren’t effected by renewing the tax cuts for only those who earn less than that (the current strategy favored by the Obama administration)… so leverage that, show how (once again) the Republican’s want to benefit those who are wealthy, and are only providing lip service as to trying to control the deficit (it is, after all, Republican policies of the Bush administration that created the deficit we have now — remember when Bush took office there was the so called budget “surplus”).

Regardless of your political affiliation, the only real way to take control of the deficit is spend less than you take in — it’s not a revolutionary concept, and in the end it’s likely we’re going to have to both increase taxes on at least some American’s, cut waste, and likely reduce spending.

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Originally posted 2010-10-02 02:00:45.

Bill of Rights – Amendment I

The past week has made me question if it’s not just the financial future for the United States that is in serious question, but the very founding principles which established this republic.

The framers of the Constitution of the United States were compelled to add the first ten amendments to that document before ratification. Known as the Bill of Rights the first of these amendments (Amendment I) contains precept son which much of the expansion of this country has been based (though this is not the first time it’s principle has been tarnished).

On 17 September 1787 the current United States Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and ratified by each US state in the name of “The People”.

The United States Constitution is the oldest written (single document) constitution still in use by any nation on our planet, and had for over two hundred years defined law in the United States.

On 25 September 1789 the following was added to the United States Constitution, and enacted in full force on 15 December 1791.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The “eviction” of peaceful protestors in a number of cities across the nation was alarming in itself; but the use of pepper spray to clear out a group of peaceful protesters at the University of California Davis, in Davis, California is a travesty.  This incident, caught on video and seen within 24-hours of it happening by over half a million people is truly alarming.

I do agree with University of California Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi that an independent investigation be conducted; but I believe that several investigations need to be conducted, including one by the Justice Department under the direction of the US Attorney General.

While I do not feel Linda Katehi needs to step down; I do believe both her and the commander of the police force, as well as any officer acting outside the bounds of the orders issued, need to be put on administrative leave immediately; and their actions would need to be fully investigated before allowing them to return to their positions of authority.

Points of law, and the legality of actions are determined by the judiciary; but it is the responsibility of the executive branch to insure that potential violations of law (and civil rights) are arraigned.

The Arab Spring was seen as a great movement forward to allowing people to be free(r) and allow them to have a (larger) stake in deciding their future; but now, perhaps the United States needs to request international observers to insure that our government doesn’t continue down this road to infringe on the rights that “we the people” have given so much to secure.


Originally posted 2011-11-21 02:00:40.

Comparison of Canadian and American health care systems

There are a number of comparisons between the Canadian and US health care systems; and like with any complex issue you can make the comparison show almost anything you want depending on the metrics chosen for the comparison and the facts included (or omitted).

Often the Canadian and American systems are compared since until the 1960s they were extremely similar, and Canadian and Americans share a large common history and to some extent culture.

This comparison on Wikipedia appears to be an honest attempt to compare and contrast the two systems, it includes a number of citations.  I recommend reading it, and considering what it has to say in light of the the current state health care in the US.

Comparison of Canadian and American health care systems

Originally posted 2010-03-16 13:03:11.

Gettysburg

Thursday 19 November 1863, then President Abraham Lincoln was part of a ceremony to dedicated part of the battlefield on which the battle considered the turning point of the American Civil War took place from 1-3 July 1863 (significant because it was the first battle Confederate General Robert E Lee lost).

On that date President Abraham Lincoln (scheduled to be but a minor speaker) delivered by far his best remember speech, and possibly one of the best speeches ever delivered – The Gettysburg Address.

The Gettysburg Address was Lincoln’s attempt to explain why the American Civil War was important, and why preserving one nation was essential.  Lincoln; however, when much further in his short speech and attempt to clarify (or some say re-define) the precepts of the Declaration of Independence and promote a society where all men are equal (he likely didn’t include women in that view, that expansion of equality would have to wait several more decades).

Today most respect and revere Lincoln as one of the greatest leaders the United State has every had.

Just keep in mind; that the party of Lincoln no longer represents Lincoln’s beliefs.

Originally posted 2010-11-19 02:00:35.

Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell

Repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is inevitable
By Christopher Wolf, CNN
22 September 2010

Senate Republicans successful in blocking the repeal Tuesday of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the military’s discriminatory policy on gays and lesbians in the military, obviously did not read or simply chose to ignore a California federal judge’s ruling several weeks ago that the policy violates fundamental constitutional rights.

Given the opportunity to undo the bigotry that was written into law 17 years ago, the senators chose not to follow the lead of the House of Representatives, which voted in May to repeal the law. Instead the Senate opted to pander to socially conservative voters. For now, at least, the law remains on the books.

But the march to repeal or invalidation must and will resume. The unfairness and wastefulness of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has been demonstrated repeatedly.

Twelve years ago I handled a case that by itself showed the absurdity and mean-spirited nature of the law. In 1998, I represented a highly decorated 17-year veteran of the United States Navy who had served honorably and continuously since he was 19 years old.

Out of the blue, the Navy decided to kick him out of the service because he was gay, and not based on anything he did as a sailor. (I was called into the case the night before the discharge was to take effect.)

At the time of the Navy’s decision to discharge him, he was the senior-most enlisted man aboard the United States nuclear submarine USS Chicago, the sole source of income for his mother and nearing retirement eligibility.

The “offense” triggering the Navy’s witch hunt was an e-mail the sailor had sent from his AOL account seeking donations of toys for the children of his shipmates at Christmas. (His AOL username made the Navy officials suspect the sailor might be gay, but nothing in the contents of the e-mail or anything else in the sailor’s behavior in the service justified what the Navy did.)

The Navy decided to go on a “search and destroy” mission against the service member (those are the words of the judge hearing the case), when it asked AOL to get information about the sailor to confirm he was gay.

Then-Judge Stanley Sporkin–formerly general counsel of the SEC and CIA, so no bleeding heart liberal — found that the Navy had violated federal electronic privacy law by demanding information from AOL to make its case against the sailor, and that it had violated the strictures of the “don’t ask” part of the military policy on gay and lesbian service members. He stopped the Navy from throwing out a distinguished service member in light of its illegal activity.

The case made news at the time. The decision was a courageous one and against the conventional wisdom that Congress had accommodated gays and lesbians just fine with “don’t ask, don’t tell” and it was not up to civilians to tell the military how to operate.

Sporkin wrote in his opinion that “It is self-evident that a person’s sexual orientation does not affect that individual’s performance in the workplace. At this point in history, our society should not be deprived of the many accomplishments provided by the people who happen to be gay.”

He said the court “cannot understand why the Navy would seek to discharge an officer who has served his country in a distinguished manner just because he might be gay” and that the case “vividly underscores the folly of a policy that systematically excludes a whole class of persons who have served this country proudly and in the highest tradition of excellence.”

He acknowledged that the case specifically did not reach any of the constitutional issues underscoring the “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” policy, but he felt compelled to note that “the defenses mounted against gays in the military have been tried before in our nation’s history — against blacks and women.” Sporkin concluded: “Surely, it is time to move beyond this vestige of discrimination and misconception of gay men and women.”

Twelve years later, a successor of Sporkin’s on the federal bench in California decided just that — that it is time to eliminate discrimination, as a matter of constitutional law. In the meantime, scores of qualified and committed service members have been ousted based solely on a policy whose foundation is unconstitutional bigotry.

They did not have a Sporkin to take up their cause of justice. They will never get their careers back, or purge the trauma of being labeled second-class citizens, and neither will our country be able to recover their valuable lost service.

Although the Senate stopped repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in its tracks yesterday, the California ruling will work its way through the appellate process. In the end, this will turn around and the day will come when gay and lesbian service members and their allies can say we were right all along, and just as in the days of segregation, the country was wrong.

Repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is inevitable on CNN

Originally posted 2010-09-25 02:00:31.

Northwest Passage

There have been a number of articles recently on the effect of global climate change on the arctic ice pack, and I guess you could say one of the “good” things that is happening is that a (Summer) shipping route North of the Arctic Circle may be a reality within the next few years.

While the melting of the ice pack might be good news for shipping and oil/gas exploration, it might not be a good thing for the world as a whole.

Remember, a large portion of the world’s population lives in coastal regions, not far above sea level — when the ice pack melts, that water goes somewhere — and, of course, that’s fresh water, so not only does the level of the oceans rise, but the salinity of the oceans goes down.

No one can really predict what these changes will have on the habitability of this planet long term, but along with the receding glaciers we have more evidence of rather dramatic climate change.  Whether these changes are a natural event, a natural even being accelerated by emissions, or purely cause by emissions may still be debatable, but whether or not it’s happening… that’s fairly well documented.

Of course, as I always say — many love to do the back-stroke in de-nile; or as other like to day, de-nile isn’t just a river in Egypt…

Originally posted 2011-08-18 02:00:18.

Warner Brothers

On 6 October 1927, just two years before the depression; Harry (Hirsz), Albert (Aaron), Sam (Szmul) and Jack (Itzhak) – the Warner (Eichelbaum) brothers – released The Jazz Singer in New York City, NY, US.

Sam Warner urged his brothers to invest in talking motion pictures (The Jazz Singer cost only $500,000 to produce and made over $3 million); and is regarded as the “father of talking pictures” but sadly was to pass away before his dream was realized.

Warner Brothers produced twelve “talkies” in 1928 and in 1928 the newly formed Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences recognized them for “revolutionizing the industry with sound”.

The Warner principle was “to educate, entertain, and enlighten”.

Today Warner Brothers is part of Time-Warner, one of the largest media outlets in the world… but perhaps Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Road Runner, and the Tasmanian Devil are the images people of my generation hold closest to heart.

Originally posted 2010-10-06 02:00:59.

Brink’s Pill Heist

On the 17th of March in what could well become the basis of the next Hollywood crime caper movie, $75 million worth of pharmaceuticals was stolen from a warehouse in Enfield, MA from Eli Lilly & Co.

The thieves disabled the alarm system, scaled an exterior brick wall, cut a hold in the roof, rappelled inside, loaded pallets of merchandise onto an awaiting vehicle, and left with a semi-truck full of stolen goods.

Prozac, Cymbalta, Zyprexa according to Eli Lilly no narcotics or painkillers were stored in this ware house.

Why worry about drugs from abroad when it seems the drug trade is very much alive right in our own back yard.

Originally posted 2010-03-19 02:00:13.

Bye-bye, tax breaks?

By Jeanne Sahadi, senior writer CNN
October 26, 2010: 2:05 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Who says there’s no bipartisanship? Democrats and Republicans running for Congress are finding every way possible to assure voters they will keep Americans’ taxes low forever.

But those will be hard promises to keep after the economy recovers. Tax experts almost uniformly say the next Congress should rethink the more than 200 tax breaks in the federal code that cost more than $1 trillion a year. And, yes, that includes even the really, really popular ones.

Lawmakers may be presented with the idea as early as December, when President Obama’s fiscal commission issues its report. There is a possibility the commission may recommend curtailing or eliminating some tax breaks.

Commission co-chairman Erskine Bowles has publicly expressed support for the idea. So has commission member Alice Rivlin, former White House budget director. Another member, Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, who coauthored a bipartisan plan for tax reform, supports curtailing some breaks but only to lower marginal tax rates in the context of broader reform.

The $1 trillion-plus in forgone revenue is close to the amount allocated for defense and discretionary spending in 2010, or the equivalent of nearly a third of the latest federal budget.

Cutting back on tax breaks can be a more efficient way to bring in revenue than raising income tax rates because it would subject more work and business income to taxation. If done right, it also promises to make the tax code fairer and simpler.

For years, leading tax experts and economists from the left and the right have contended that tax breaks are, in reality, a form of spending. The cost of tax breaks is mostly invisible, since there’s no formal accounting of them on Uncle Sam’s books. And once passed into law, they are rarely scrutinized.

“[Tax breaks] are styled as tax savings, but really function as replacements for explicit government spending. Some make sense, but a great many are poorly targeted and would never pass Congress if presented as an outright spending proposal,” tax expert Edward Kleinbard wrote in an article this summer called, “Sacred Cows: It’s Them or Us.”
Popular tax breaks: Dogfight ahead

A disproportionate amount of the lost revenue from tax breaks comes from just five of them.

Not surprisingly, those five are also among the most popular:

  • mortgage interest deduction;
  • tax-free income workers get from employers to pay for health insurance;
  • deduction for state and local taxes;
  • deduction for charitable contributions;
  • and myriad tax breaks for retirement savings.

Many of those breaks are only available to the roughly one-third of taxpayers who itemize deductions on their returns.

There have been a number of proposals over the years for how the biggest breaks might be modified.

Most recently, the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget put out a paper highlighting many possibilities that combined could raise $1.7 trillion in additional revenue over a decade.
Think you’re smart about deficits? Try this

For instance, consider the money that workers receive when their employers contribute to their health insurance costs. That subsidy is currently treated as tax-free income to the worker and is unlimited.

The subsidy could instead be converted to a credit, which is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of one’s tax bill. The credit would be phased out for higher income taxpayers and it would be refundable for low-income workers who don’t make enough income to owe any federal income tax.

“This strategy would reduce the incentive for employers to offer ‘gold-plated’ insurance plans,” the budget watchdog group wrote.

The mortgage interest deduction — currently available on up to $1.1 million of borrowing — could be gradually reduced so that it only applies to loans on up to $500,000. And the option tax filers get to deduct interest on their second homes could be eliminated.

“[Today’s] policy is regressive (providing larger tax breaks to those well off enough to purchase more expensive homes), promotes homeownership over other productive investments and costs the government roughly $100 billion a year in lost revenues,” the committee noted in its paper.

Since everyone in Congress can identify and vilify what they see as “tax breaks for special interests,” curbing tax breaks has a lot of bipartisan support. The problem, of course, is that there’s less agreement on just which tax breaks deserve the ax or at least a haircut.

And, of course, since politicians much prefer to hand out tax breaks to voters and financial backers, it may be hard for them to muster the mettle required to reverse gears.

How hard? Bowles put it plainly at the fiscal commission’s public meeting in September.

“It’s not going to be easy,” he said. “It’s not going to be fun, and in many cases, it’s also not going to be popular. It is going to require sacrifice on the part of all Americans to get there.”

Original Article on CNN.com

Originally posted 2010-11-06 02:00:55.

Historical Tid-Bit

Where was the first European settlement in what is now the United States?

  • 1493 Christopher Columbus (of Italy, sailing under the Spanish flag) lands in Puerto Rico;
  • 1513 Juan Ponce de León (of Spain) sites Santa Rosa Island, explores Florida;
  • 1516 Don Diego Miruelo (of Spain) explores Santa Rosa Island and sails into Pensacola Bay (Poloza or Ochuse);
  • 1538 Pánfilo de Narváez (of Spain) explores Northwest Florida.
  • 1539 Hernando de Soto explores Northwest Florida.
  • 1559 (15 August) Tristan de Luna (of Spain) founded a settlement on Santa Rosa Island and christens Pensacola Bay as Bahía Santa María de Filipina (the settlement is abandoned in 1561 due to severe storms, famines, and conflicts with natives);
  • 1564 (22 June) Jean Ribault (of France) founded Fort Caroline (Jacksonville, Florida).
  • 1565 (28 August) Pedro Menendez de Aviles (of Spain) founded St Augustine (Florida) and obliterated Fort Caroline (and replaced it with a Spanish fort);
  • 1607 the British found Jamestown (Virgina);
  • 1624 the Dutch found New Amsterdam (New York City, New York);
  • 1638 the Swedes found New Sweden (along the Delaware River, south of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania);
  • 1686 (February) Juan Enríquez Barroto (of France) and Antonio Romero (of France) survey the entire northern Gulf coast from San Marcos de Apalache westward looking for the French “lost colony” naming Pensacola “Panzacola” after the Panzacola Indians.
  • 1693 (April) General Andrés de Pez (of Mexico/Spain) and Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora (of Spain) explores the north Gulf coast from Pensacola Bay to the mouth of the Mississippi River and re-christen Pensacola Bay as Bahía Santa María de Galve as well as discovering the East River and Blackwater River.
  • 1695 Andrés de Arriola (of Spain) inspects the mouth of the Mississippi River and Pensacola Bay (his reports of the Pensacola don’t portrait it as a paradise as did those of Pez-Sigüenza).
  • 1696 Spanish found Pensacola (Florida); destroyed and abandoned.
  • 1698 Spanish re-settle Pensacola (Florida) under the direction of the first governor Andrés de Arriola;
  • 1719 (14 May) Governor of French Louisiana, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, took Pensacola in the name of France.
  • 1722 the French retreat and burn the Pensacola; the Spanish rebuild;
  • 1733 Spanish found Saint Marks (San Marcos de Apalache; Wakulla county Florida);
  • 1752 a hurricane destroys Pensacola, the Spanish rebuild;
  • 1761 a hurricane destroys Pensacola, the Spanish rebuild;
  • 1757 King Ferdinand VI (of Spain) issues a royal order establishing the name of the area as “Panzacola”.
  • 1763 the British take control of Penscola under the terms of the Treaty or Paris; Pensacola is made the capital of British West Florida and the town was laid out in its current form around the Seville Square district (by surveyor and engineer Elias Durnford);
  • 1781 the Spanish recapture Pensacola;
  • 1813 General Andrew Jackson (of US) invades Pensacola;
  • 1814 General Andrew Jackson (of US) invades Pensacola;
  • 1818 General Andrew Jackson (of US) invades Pensacola;
  • 1821 the Adams-Onis Tready cedes all of Spanish Florida to the United State;
  • 1825 Pensacola Navy Yard founded and a lighthouse constructed;
  • 1861 (10 January) Florida secedes from the Union and Pensacola becomes part of the Confederate States of America;
  • 1865 (25 June) Florida is readmitted to the Union after the ravages of war and Reconstruction;

So the answer would be — Santa Rosa Island, Florida… and if you want the site of the first continuously occupied European settlement that would be St Augustine, Florida.

However, keep in mind that the US (and both North American and South America) was “discovered” over 15,000 years ago.  The first residents crossed Beringia into Alaska, and there’s some archaeological evidence that suggests there may have been residents here even before that.

Originally posted 2010-03-21 15:48:22.