Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hello 2000teens!

As we leave the first decade of the 2000's and enter into the second, its important to look back at the significant events of the last 10 years (no particular order). Feel free to continue the list for any items I missed. Happy New Year (and decade)! - HB

1. Y2k bug and the end of the world didn't happen.
2. Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter changing the way we communicate
3. Amazon changing the way we shop
4. MP3's and Napster changing the way we listen and share music
5. Google and Wikipedia changing the way we find and share information (not to mention helping lead to the death of the encyclopedia and phone book)
6. Blogs, blogs, and more blogs
7. GPS devices becoming commonplace and replacing maps
8. Cell phones becoming the norm (and landlines becoming old-fashioned)
9. iPhones revolutionizing cell phones
10. iPods/iTunes revolutionizing the way we listen, store, and purchase music
11. Wii revolutionizing gaming
12. 9/11 attacks and fall of the World Trade Center Towers
13. Lots of new airline rules including everything liquid in the little baggie rule
14. Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans
15. Pluto downgraded, no longer a planet
16. Invention of hybrid cars
17. Discovery of water on Mars
18. Global warming
19. Saddam Hussein captured and executed
20. Celebrity deaths: Paul Newman, Charlton Heston, Steve Irwin, Christopher Reeve, Brittany Murphy, Heath Ledger, Bill Mays, John Ritter, Anna Nicole Smith, Ronald Regan, Michael Jackson
21. Martha Stewart arrested, convicted, and sent to prison for insider trading
22. Election of first African American president, Barack Obama

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Government inefficiencies...Brett brought it up

I just got a letter from the IRS, below are the contents:

1. Letter from the IRS telling me that I need to submit form 941X, which the letter says is enclosed. (its an addendum form to report additional income earned after you've filed taxes, its a long boring story and will probably involve me getting angry while retelling it so I'll spare you)

2. A pink notice that says "We're listening to you! You've told us that you don't need us to mail forms and publications to you because they are available from other sources and because it wastes tax dollars."

3. The same notice as above, but in Spanish.

4. A letter about disaster relief with a hotline number to call if you can't pay your taxes. The reverse side is in Spanish.

5. A blank voucher, just in case I want to mail in any money. None is owed, and nothing is mentioned in the letter about any outstanding taxes/interest, but you never know when you might want to mail in money to the IRS.

6. A return envelope (no postage of course).

7. See #1. That's right, a duplicate copy.

So obviously I have a few comments about this, which I will letter to avoid confusion.

a. This letter is coming 6 months after I have already paid some additional taxes, interest on those late taxes, and already talked back and forth with the IRS. I have a letter from the IRS that says everything is resolved, dated 6 months ago. Perhaps the 941X is a handled by a different department....

b. If they aren't putting the forms in with the letters then why does the letter still refer to an enclosed form and list the same form on the list of enclosures? Or is it a different department that is responsible for updating the generic letters about submitting forms and you know, they just don't have the funding right now to have someone go through and update their letters with the correct information. Confused yet? Imagine how people who work at the IRS must feel.

c. I'm glad the IRS is so eager to pat themselves on the back about listening to taxpayers, but I'm pretty sure that when taxpayers told the IRS "stop mailing me so much crap", they didn't just mean the IRS forms. I mean did they really get feedback from people who said "I really enjoy exchanging correspondence with you through the US Postal Service, but arggghhh, stop mailing me all these forms, I just want the letters, blank return envelope with no postage, and a couple of unrelated notices in multiple languages, please."

d. Which brings me to my next point, I really appreciate how the IRS has saved so much taxpayer money by not including the IRS forms with the letter. Luckily this was perfect timing, because in a different department the "multiple notices in multiple languages on pink paper about not sending forms with the letters" campaign is really ramping up and they need all of the tax dollars they can get their hands on to pay for this great informational campaign.

e. Why is the notice pink? And how much extra do you think that cost us?

f. Which brings me to my next point, why does the IRS even reference "saving taxpayer money?" Are you telling me that at the end of the year the IRS is going to come out with an announcement and say "Due to a huge savings by not including forms with out letters, we have saved 3.6 billion dollars, which we are going to refund to the taxpayers!!! Of course keep in mind that you will need to report this as additional income and pay taxes on it, but don't worry, we'll mail you a letter concerning it."

g. Needless to say, I may have a few other suggestions for how to "save taxpayer money."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Guest Post: 'Crazy People'

Guest Post by Sarah: "Crazy People"

I am so tired of hearing stories about crazy parents. For example, the mother who drown her children by pushing her car into a lake while the kids are strapped in the car seat, the parents who sold their 5 year girl to a prostitution ring, the mother that killed her baby and at its fingers and toes, and the latest, the parents that put 42 two inches nails into their 2 year olds body. Stories like these go on and on. Not only do I get upset with the parents for being bonkers, but I get really upset with our justice system.

All of these parents are arrested, put on trial, and usually plea insanity, drug abuse, or just guilty. Then they receive a sentence of life in prison or something, but rarely death. WHY?! Why do we waste our tax dollars and prison cells for these people?! They are a waste and I don’t understand why we feel we should be keeping then around. If they are indeed crazy, what good are they? Our country and planet is, or is becoming, over populated as it is. What is one less crazy in the world?

I understand that some people feel this is uncaring or inhumane to just say “get rid of them”/”. But I am sorry; there comes a point where enough is enough. They harmed a child that cannot defend themselves, and even worse they were their own children. I can even somewhat understand the post partum argument by the mother that drown three of her children and beat the other one to death with a rock to the head. I think post partum is a real issue and one that mothers and fathers need to be very aware of. But if a doctor sits you down and tells you and your husband that you have severe post partum after your third child and having a fourth child would be very dangerous maybe you shouldn’t have that fourth child.

For the record, I am not against crazy people or wish harm on them. I am just against crazy people that cause harm to children and/or people. For example, there is a homeless man that walks around downtown and talks to signs. I have no problem with him, and he seems to really enjoy his life. That is great! But if he tries to kill me or someone else over a sign or something I will have issues.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Scare Tactics

So Obama did an interview with Gibson on ABC and below is what he "guaranteed" would happen if Congress doesn't pass the health care bill:

- Your premiums will go up
- Your employers are going to load up more cost on you
- Potentially your employers are going to drop you from coverage because they can't afford a 25-30% increase in health care costs
- The federal government will go bankrupt if nothing is done to fix Medicare and Medicaid

Incredible. This is the same guy who has been accusing the Republicans of using scare tactics and fear mongering. Am I missing something? Has this guy listened to himself lately? The federal government will go bankrupt? Everyone is going to get dropped from their health care plans, costs are going to sky rocket, and everyone is going to die? Yeah, those aren't scare tactics, he is just trying to get the truth out there about his health care bill and if you disagree, I'm sure the White House truth commission will be happy to clear it up for you.

I think the President is confusing the results of what will happen if we do pass this health care bill. Why are costs and premiums going to skyrocket over night if we don't pass this? Why are all of these employers going to suddenly be unable to afford to cover their employees because we didn't pass this bill? If we don't pass this piece of garbage then nothing changes, everything stays as it is now. Which I give you, is not perfect, but it seems a lot better the way it is now than how they are proposing it.

I have a better question. If Medicare and Medicaid suck so bad and are on the verge of collapse, then why are Congress and the White House proposing a massive expansion of these programs to the uninsured? Aren't they just magnifying the problem and making it worse? Or is throwing lots of new enrollees and money at the problem going to fix all of the MediScare problems?

Once again, I am forced to look like a jerk and say what most people are thinking. I like my health care. Sure, I think there are things that can be improved, but lets tackle them one by one and if they make sense to everyone then they will pass. I personally would like to see a single-payer system that isn't tied to where you work. They say generation Y people will change jobs at least 7 times during their career. Our generations doesn't work for the same company our whole life like our parents did so why does it make sense for our health insurance to be tied to our employer? I, like most people, would rather be paid more and then choose my own plan through whatever provider I want in the free market, but thats just the silly capitalist in me. Or how about doing something about all of the frivolous lawsuits that drive up doctors' malpractice insurance...oh that's right, most politicians are also lawyers so of course we can't do anything about that. Or what about doing something about the corruption and under-the-table deals in the pharmaceutical industry...oh that's right, they contribute a lot of dollars to politicians' fundraising war chests through their lobbying groups so I guess that one is off limits too. Ok, what if we enroll more people into a bankrupt, low quality of care system and then cut the reimbursement amount to doctors and then make it a crime for people to not have insurance and then tax the upper class 50% of their income...ok now I think we are getting somewhere.

Another thing I don't understand is, if most people (as in the majority) are reasonably satisfied with their health care then why are we revamping the whole system? I have some bad news for you bleeding heart idealists out there, many of the people out there who are uninsured, aren't victims of capitalism. How many people do you think are so-called "uninsured" can't afford coverage vs. choose not to buy coverage? My point being that people are stupid and as a result make stupid decisions in life. They choose to buy the latest cell phone, take on a fat new car payment, eat out every meal, but can't seem to make room in their budgets for health insurance - but of course not because they are irresponsible, but because the costs are too high, right? Wrong, these people don't buy it because they are banking on not getting sick, which they inevitably do. And then they walk into their neighborhood emergency room and get free treatment anyway, which of course is all funded by my property taxes (county taxes).

Insurance is not expensive, there I said it. And I know many people will disagree because of all the stuff you hear on the news, but go do the research yourself. Go look at sites like ehealthinsurance.com that compare multiple companies and you'll see...

You can get an 80/20 PPO low deductible plan with vision and dental for $230/month. That's less than most people's care payments and I would argue you get a lot more back from it than you do from your car. I chose to compare it to a car payment because people are ridiculous. How is it some people can afford a $500/month car payment, but can't afford $230/month in insurance?

For lower income people, you can get a high deductible plan for as little as $50/month. But then of course you would have to have a basic understanding of the original intention of insurance. Insurance is not to pay for you to go to the doctor every week. The point of insurance in all industries is to protect you against the catastrophic and unexpected events in your life. Its for when you get sick and you need major medical help, you will have a safety net to help you pay for it. So don't give me any of this crap about high deductible plans being worthless. If you get cancer, yes its going to suck to have to pay $5000 out of pocket (and yes, most hospitals and doctors offer payment plans), but its a lot better than getting saddled with a $100k bill. And at only $34/month, why does anyone out there (other than a small percentage of people that are actually poor and homeless) not have insurance?

Look, I'm not heartless. I think we as a society have a duty to take care of those that cannot do it for themeselves. I have no problems giving money to charities and even paying taxes for government programs aimed at that purpose, to help the poor, the hungry, the sick, homeless, disable, and mentally incompetent.

But there is a much larger issue at play here. We are becoming a nanny-state where people don't have to take care of themselves. Free-rides are handed out like candy and laziness is becoming a way of life.

In summary, I'm tired of the Democrats. I am physically exhausted with what they are doing. Its the same theme over and over again. Instead of doing things that encourage hard work they continue to promote a growing sense of entitlement and lack of personal responsibility.

The good news is, we are still a democracy and have the opportunity to vote these bafoons out of office (that is until the White House truth brigade decides that its in our best interest to vote on our behalf). So remember, in the upcoming 2010 elections, just don't vote for a Democrat.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Car Experiment

Cars are the biggest money pit and I'm sick of it. First you have to buy the car, which means either a lot of cash up front or monthly payments for 3-5 years plus interest. Then its regular oil changes, tire rotations, inspections, and registration renewals. Throw on top of that flat tires, engine problems/maintenance, dead batteries, gas, spark plugs, radiator this and that, o2 sensors, side view mirror replacements, windshield cracks, windshield replacements, tail light - lights, car washes, car details, more gas, replacement license plates, optional warranty extensions, frozen emergency break cables, even more gas, and last but not least, bumper stickers (1 political, 1 alumni, 1 funny, and 1 environmental). It all adds up fast and by the time you're done with the car you can easily spend more than what you initially paid for the heap. Not to mention all of the headaches and time spent dealing with the maintenance issues.

So I've decided instead of buying a new car I'm going to try a different approach.

My solution? Disposable cars {insert exciting flashing lights and dramatic sounds here}

Instead of $40k for a 10 year car (cost of a new car + upkeep over its life), I'm going to spend $2,000 every year and just buy a pieces of crap. I do not plan on doing any of the normal maintenance other than feeding it gas. And then when it breaks down on me (hopefully on the one year mark, exactly) then I will call a cab, go to the closest car lot, and buy next year's car.

Above is a picture of a good one to start with, below is the link. I really like this one because I think people will think I'm patriotic, I'll have plenty of room to drive around my friends, and I think its going to look great parked down by the river. The price tag is $1,995 but I'm pretty sure I can get them to throw in TT&L, cab fare, and a can of paint for racing stripes.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Illegal Immigration

I really like how the President keeps saying he is trying to be bi-partisan but the Republicans won't cooperate. What a joke. So basically his definition of bi-partisanship is abandoning what you believe in and agreeing with him? Bi-partisanship should be both sides compromising and meeting in the middle to make a bill pass for the good of the bigger picture. Not just one side giving in to the other. What a hypocrite.

If the President really wants to do something bi-partisan he should take up the illegal immigration issue and pursue amnesty. It seems like both sides could find common ground for the following reasons:

Liberal perspective:
- illegal immigrants should not be forced to work in horrible conditions for unfair wages
- illegal immigrants should make the minimum wage and have all of the same legal rights afforded them that normal citizens do
- illegal immigrants should have open access to health care, education, and other social services without worrying about the INS coming in the middle of the night to take their children away (Nancy Pelosi is a crazy liar)
(Liberals see this as a human rights issue. They don't see these people as criminals who have violated our laws. They won't even refer to these people as illegal aliens anymore, please dude, migrant workers is the preferred nomenclature)

Conservative perspective:
- illegal immigrants should pay into the system instead of just taking from it
- all of the money that illegal immigrants send back to their home countries in the form of under the table wages should be taxed
- stop wasting money on enforcing citizenship inside the US when obviously its not taken seriously by the government - spend the money instead on securing our borders to prevent unauthorized access in the first place
- securing the border is in the interest of national security, and is not just an immigration issue
(Conservatives see this as a national security threat as well as clear disregard for the laws that we all have agreed to live by in this country. If I tried to sneak into and live illegally in China, they would cut off both my feet and ship me home. But not here, no. Lets give every who sneaks in illegally free health care, an education, a driver's license, and hey lets not even make them pay taxes.)

It seems like both parties could please their base constituents and resolve a long-debated issue even if both parties are doing it for different reasons. I just don't think its realistic at this point to think we are going to deport 12-15 million people and have to break up families. So lets get them on the books and get them paying taxes. Enough with companies taking advantage of this cheap labor with under the table cash payments (restaurants, landscapers, construction industry, etc...). And enough with people entering this country without permission, enjoying most of our social services (education, hospital, etc...) and not giving anything back into the system.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Guest Post: 'Global What?'

Guest Post by Adam: 'Global What?'

Global What?

You have to admit that the tag has changed. at first it was about global warming. and now that that's no longer convenient or accurate, because things like the above links keep happening, the tag-line has changed to "climate change" or the more youth-friendly "global weirding".

its very convenient to say that everything, hot and cold, is attributable to CO2 emissions, because then you really don't need science to back anything at all. its the infallible argument to say that everything that happens to the earth is the fault of the Republicans...so long as you are not a Republican.

i don't consider myself a Republican, so i'm not really trying to make this political. but, the issue truly is political, so I think its unavoidable. the term "climate change denier" is a very clever title indeed. similar to the pro-life/pro-choice titles. i'm impressed by the spin-doctors’ ability to create quips that force the other side to define themselves as evil or just dumb.

the climate change issue truly did start off as "global warming". and all of the liberals were up in arms that CO2 emissions were melting the planet. they cried "wolf" and told us that the sky was falling. then, it got cold...it snowed during global warming conventions, we had the coldest winters in years, and ski resorts started opening up earlier. so, clearly, there was no global warming. so, the term was shifted. now, CO2 emissions are still the devil, but for different reasons. now they are effectuating climate change, not global warming.

if the scientists had got their ducks in a row the first time around, and instead of claiming that CO2 was causing global warming, they actually claimed what they now believe is happening, we'd give them a lot more credibility. as it stands, they debunked themselves, by being a bunch of Chicken Littles and Boys Who Cried "Wolves".

Nobody is going to listen to you if you are always screaming and trying to justify your position through fear or sensationalist claims. and the "climate change deniers", are not really denying climate change, they are simply disclaiming these scientists' methods of informing us that what we're doing is wrong. we can all see thermometers and the numbers on them. whats up for debate is not whether the temperatures (aka climate) is changing. what is up for debate is why it is doing so. and the "scientists" shot themselves in the foot by speaking too soon. they told us that what we were doing was causing global warming. then, they did an about face when the data wasn't on their side. that's not how science works. unless its a theory, science is absolute. and these guys started firing their guns way too early. now, their out there getting eaten by wolves and finding pieces of the sky in their soup.

I don't doubt that pollution is bad. I don't like it and want to preserve nature. But i can't get on board with "scientists" who are always making extreme claims just to get people scared enough to get on their side. because as soon as it snows, i'm there to laugh at those "scientists" for telling me that my hairspray was melting the earth. and that's why i send those links out. so that we can all have a good laugh at the "Scientists Who Cried Warm".

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

More Troops???

Big mistake....why would we send another 30k troops to that part of the world? We are fighting a loosing battle and this situation is quickly becoming similar to Vietnam. Obama is my man, but he is trying way too hard to appease both sides. Send more troops, pull some out, stay another 30 days, stay another 30 years, it doesn't matter. We cannot win this war. You can't fight people who hide in caves and who blend in with civilians. One day they are selling fruit in the market and the next they are blowing up your Humvee. We need to pull out all of the troops as soon as possible and leave that part of the world. There is nothing more that we can hope to accomplish in those two countries except the loss of more American lives.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Lunch Break: Part 3

Sorry for the delay.

16. I get to the county tax office, walk into the building, and it is complete and total mayhem. If you saw last week's episode of Parks and Recreation, its just like the 4th floor of their building. People waiting in line to pay traffic tickets, coming in and out of the court room, screaming babies, prostitutes everywhere, people selling "clean" urine, vending machines, vct floors that always look dirty no matter how many times they've been cleaned, and lots of tattoos and facial/body hair everywhere on everyone. Is it a federal law that in all government building restrooms: urinals have to hang off the wall with a slow trickle of water coming from the pipes (not enough to merit being fixed of course, just enough to cover the floor of the bathroom in a thin layer of plumbing water and 2-ply), the bathrooms have to be scented with human filth, the stall doors have not be non-existent or hanging half-off the hinges, soap and towel dispensers are always empty, and the sink countertops always have unidentifiable stains on them? No, I'm not describing the Velvet Melvin, its your local government office. But don't worry, I'm sure when government takes over health care those offices and clinics will be run much better than all of the other government offices.

17. So I find the department I need and of course there is a line. If there is one thing you can always count on at a government office, its a line. So I take my place in the long line of despair and hopelessness that is the change of title and registration line. As a side note, every other country calls this a que and they have them everywhere for everything. Call it a que, call it a line, but standing in front of and behind a bunch of other smelly people in a maze of velvet ropes is inhuman and horrible. So once again, in true government office style, let me describe the awesome system they have at this office:

a. 20 check out counters, only 10 are manned (or womaned). All of them are behind glass windows probably to protect them from people like me who they know are going to snap one day. (perhaps they should have saved the money from building 10 extra empty counters/windows and put some more money into their restroom rennovations)

b. 1 person is standing in the lobby directing traffic (even though there is only 1 maze, I mean line, I mean que.). If you remember, the post office use to have a traffic direction person in their lobbies, that was until they got to the point of bankrupty due to....oh what was it, what was the reason the post office sucks, oh yeah now I remember, because they are government run and inefficient. Don't worry, health care will be better.

c. I soon realize why this person is directing traffic. Apparently this department handles registration renewals and title changes. And they have arbitrarily allotted 6 of the windows to registration and 4 to title changes, but keep in mind that the work area, people, and computers are all continuous, there is no separation and each of the employees can do either service. So every 5 minutes or so, this lady undoes the maze/line/que rope and tells whoever is there for registration renewal to go to one of the 6 windows - kind of like a 10 items or less express lane. Whereas they are making the rest of us saps wait in this other line with less employees.

d. You might be thinking, well that doesn't sound like such a bad idea. It works out pretty well at the grocery store. Well here is the kicker. When all of the people in line that were there for registration are done checking out, they don't open up the other 6 windows to the change of title customers, they just sit there with empty windows and blank stares. And at one point, someone else in line had the nerve to ask the traffic direction lady if he could use that window and she says "Do you need to renew your registration?" and he says "no, I have a title change" and she replies with "sir....ahrgedudfydsabvg (sighs loudly)....I'm trying to keep this side clear for registration customers" At this point the 20 or so people in line all look around at each other and at the empty room, a little confused because we are the only customers in the room and there are no other registration customers. About that time, I look up and notice that all 4 sides of this room are covered with their latest ad campaign "Save time, renew online!" So someone please explain to me why they dedicate an express lane to people who haven't figured out how to renew their registration online? I was renewing my vehicle registration online before the internet was even invented! How do they expect to encourage people to do that if they give them express service by coming in person? Not to mention, I did not have the option of a title change online, I had to come in person so shouldn't they give people like me priority?

18. Another side note, have you ever noticed that people who work at government offices always have a huge giaganticmongo thermos of water on their desk? Government office work must be one of the top 5 most dehydrating jobs in the world.

19. So I get closer to the front of the line and overhear part of the conversation between check out lady 3 and customer 18.
C18: "I need registration/title on 3 vehicles, here is the first one"
CO3: "sir, this is for a motorcycle, but you don't have a motorcycle license"
C18: "oh ok, right, well I'm not planning on riding it"
CO3: "sorry sir, I can't give it to you without a motorcycle license"
C18: "oh ok, right, well ok here you go, here is the second one"
CO3: "sir, this is also for a motorcycle"
C18: "you can't do this one either? ok fine, here is the third one"
CO3: "sir, I cannot do it for any motorcycles until you have a license, go get your license and then you can come back"

You can see why this maze was taking me so long.

20. I get even closer and this is what I hear
CO2: "Ok sir, that will be $87.54"
C19: "Here you go"
CO2: "No sir, we don't take credit card, cash or checks only"
C19: "Oh man, I don't have cash or check"
CO2: "Sir, there is an ATM in the lobby, I'll wait" (just to the left of the guy selling urine)

At this point I'm thinking, what an idiot! There are signs up everywhere that say cash or check only and while I think its stupid and they should accept credit card, there are clearly posted signs on every check out window. And now this guy is holding up the entire maze while he runs to the ATM, what a jerk. He finally comes back, pays, and is gone. Finally!!! my turn!!!

21. I'm ready, I have my insurance, my DL, the title, the application for new title, the title transfer form, and the $10 cash gift tax fee. I get to the window, hand her my stuff, and think to myself "I can't believe how long this took, I'm going to be out of here in no time and show all the rest of these people how ridiculous and slow they are!"
CO1: "Ok, sir, that will be $53.92."
Me: "Uhhhh.....but the form says $10??" (at this point, I sighed, but it may or may not have sounded like a wimper)
Co1: "taxes, fees, service charge, urine tax, etc....."
Me: And of course, what are the next words that come out of my mouth? "Do you accept credit card?" hahahaha - I'm such a idiot
CO1: "Sir, there is an ATM in the lobby, I'll wait" (just to the left of the guy selling urine)

22. Moral(s) of the story:

a. I'm too judgemental, I'm no better than anyone else.
b. Even though every government office that I have ever been to is completely disgusting, inefficient, and frustrating, government-run healthcare is going to iron out all of those wrinkles and be really awesome. This way to the express line for all customers needing blood work or your blood pressure checked, we have 250 doctors/nurses ready to help you. This way to the normal line for anyone with cancer, diabetes, or any other serious disease, we have 1 person ready to assist you, assuming you ever make it to the front of the line. By the way, cash or check only.
c. Its fun to call lines, mazes. But stupid to call them ques.