Where Are The Tea Party Volunteer Firefighters?

[Texas] wildfires have ravaged more than 1,000 square miles of mostly rural terrain in the last week, prompting Gov. Rick Perry to ask President Barack Obama for federal help.

“Texas is reaching its capacity to respond to these emergencies and is in need of federal assistance,” Perry said in a statement Sunday. “I urge President Obama to approve our request quickly.”

Wildfires have spread across more than 700,000 acres — about the size of Rhode Island — in drought-stricken Texas. About half a dozen massive fires were still burning.

Calmer winds gave firefighters a chance to get a handle on a few massive fires Saturday, and some residents were able to return to their homes — or what was left of them. Winds intensified again Sunday to 20 to 25 mph from the south with gusts to 30 mph, giving new life to even some fires that had been declared fully contained, the Texas Forest Service said.  LINK.

Regarding the wildfires, Texas Liberal writes:

I’d also like to know when the Tea Party volunteer fire companies and the Tea Party disaster relief teams will be rushing to assist people impacted by the fire? Where are county Republican parties in Texas organizing teams of citizen-volunteers to help out our fellow Texans so that they will not have to turn to government?

Are we going to allow socialized fire companies of public employees team up with Washington to do the job that everyday Texas citizens should be doing?

Please read the entire post:  Rick Perry Asks For Help From Washington For Texas Wildfires—Where Are The Tea Party Volunteer Disaster Relief Teams?

Americans Shy Away from Posting Salary and Sex Details

This just in from Obviousland:

Although many American workers have embraced social media sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn, they are uncomfortable about sharing information about their sex lives or salaries, according to a new survey….

Only two percent said they were comfortable sharing information about their sex life or their salary details. Employees were also more inclined to share relationship status than employment status….

I’m on Facebook.  And technically also on Twitter, but I don’t use it – I don’t really get it, quite frankly.  Probably because I’m old.

But back to Facebook.  On my “friends” list, I have past co-workers, past roommates, my immediate family (except my mom who is afraid of computers because you never know when you might be attacked by rogue porn), a few members of my spouse’s family other than my antisocial spouse, a bunch of real live friends, some people from high school,  some friends I only know from the interwebernetz, and so forth.  You get the picture. I suspect that this is a fairly representative mix and is pretty similar to what most folks have on their contacts list also.

As for salaries, there are several reasons people might not want to go blabbing how much they are getting in compensation.  First off, there are a lot of people struggling financially right now and most of us know people who are unemployed or underemployed.  It’s a little heartless to be bragging about how much you rake in or even whining about how little you make because there’s a good chance there are people out there who would love to be making anything.  Secondly, many employers strictly forbid (under penalty of death!) disclosure of salary to other employees – c0-employees which you may have on your LinkedIn or Facebook pages.  And thirdly – for many people, it’s just not a good move professionally – it can cause co-worker jealousy and potential networking/jobhunting issues among others.  Bottom line – this is no surprise at all.

And about revealing the naughty stuff…..other than the fact that I have kids who were obviously not hatched out of eggs, as far as I’m concerned, none of the folks I have on Facebook need to know anything about what’s going on in The Runaway Bedroom.  And to be honest, I’m pretty sure they don’t want to know.  And I think I’m pretty normal in that regard, so it’s hardly surprising that people aren’t sharing the most intimate details of their sex lives on Facebook or any other social media.

Actually, the one thing I found curious about the survey was this:  “People living in the northeast of the United States were the least forthcoming in sharing information.”   What’s with that, Northeasterners?  Wait – let me guess.  You aren’t going to share, are you?

Enron’s Rex Shelby Sentenced

The last of the seven Enron prosecutions,

Shelby was one of seven former executives first indicted in 2003, all accused of scheming to exaggerate the capabilities of Enron’s broadband network in order to impress analysts and inflate company stock….

Enron, once the nation’s seventh-largest company, filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2001 after years of accounting tricks could no longer hide billions in debt or make failing ventures appear profitable….

The collapse wiped out thousands of jobs, more than $60 billion in market value and more than $2 billion in pension plans….

Shelby is also forfeiting $2.6 million and is responsible for completing 230 hours of community service.  Does that make up the loss of retirement savings for suddenly jobless employees who worked for years, even decades, to end up with pennies on their retirement fund dollar?

Enron’s shareholders lost $74 billion in the four years before the company’s bankruptcy ($40 to $45 billion was attributed to fraud).

More than 20,000 of Enron’s former employees in May 2004 won a suit of $85 million for compensation of $2 billion that was lost from their pensions. From the settlement, the employees each received about $3,100.

Not even close.  How far does $3k go these days, anyway?

Of the six others who were also indicted in the case, three received prison sentences ranging from 16 months to 27 months, one was given one year’s probation as well as home confinement, one was acquitted at trial and one had charges dismissed.

Change the scenario.  It’s not corporate fraud anymore.  It’s straight up theft from the retirement fund and of money owed to creditors.  Exact same outcome.  And just for kicks, lets make the perpetrator black.

Do you think he would have gotten probation?  Me neither.

But Mr. Shelby isn’t responsible for the entire downfall of Enron.  And whatever the term, sending him to prison won’t fix anything that was broken by any of his actions or inaction.  On the other hand, that could be said of an awful lot of crimes, no?

I like the idea of a huge amount of community service, actually – and with the cuts to libraries, parks, schools and, well, everything, maybe community service could be used to pick up some of the slack.  No, I don’t want criminals at schools – I’m thinking more along the lines of fixing the playground or working on the landscaping on the weekends.  I know that people doing  community service are currently used to shelve books at the county libraries, which is fantastic.  Everyone benefits.

Plus, anything creative and effective we can do to keep nonviolent criminals out of prison is fine by me – and it saves a lot of money because housing people in prisons and jails is a spendy proposition.  It’s not just food and space, but medical care, building upkeep and overhead, and staffing that need to be taken into consideration.  And that way, offenders who have jobs wouldn’t be forced out of them by their incarceration as is so often the case.  Criminals with no jobs have less of a chance of abiding by the law that criminals with jobs.  That’s not scientific, it’s just common sense.

That said, some crimes, even nonviolent property crimes are so offensive to society and so damaging, that probation just isn’t enough.  Like Bernie Madoff, for example. I don’t know enough about Shelby to know how key he was to the fabricated build-up and violent implosion of Enron to know if he was more or less culpable that the others who went on trial, but I do know that what those executives did was morally shameful and affected tens of thousands of people who could not afford the losses forced on them by the downfall of Enron.  And for that, those responsible do deserve at least a token, symbolic, amount of incarceration.

Good on Toast…

How to Dig Us Out

I’ve got some ideas – some are aimed at the Federal government and some are more appropriate for local or state use.  I’m no budget expert, but here goes…

The first one is the big one:  examine Defense spending, or, as it should really be labeled, Offense spending, since we seem dead set on invading everyone else.  There is a MASSIVE drain of money in military spending and much of it is wasteful.

According to The New Republic,

This year [2010], the United States will spend at least $700 billion on defense and security. Adjusting for inflation, that’s more than America has spent on defense in any year since World War II—more than during the Korean war, the Vietnam war, or the Reagan military buildup…..At that pace, defense and security costs will hit a ruinous $1 trillion annually by 2030.

There’s no reason not to reduce our arsenal, dramatically reduce the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, reduce the military to pre-Iraq War size, reduce Navy and Air Force fleets, and cut programs which are determined to be wasteful or unnecessary.   No one wants to get rid of the military, but for goodness sakes,  hack it, streamline it, make it more effective and more efficient.  We want a lean, mean military, not a fat bloated one.

Corporate taxes; businesses should pay a reasonable amount of taxes.  From an article in the New York Times,

Arguably, the United States now has a corporate tax code that’s the worst of all worlds. The official rate is higher than in almost any other country, which forces companies to devote enormous time and effort to finding loopholes. Yet the government raises less money in corporate taxes than it once did, because of all the loopholes that have been added in recent decades.

I don’t blame corporations from using loopholes to get out of paying taxes – it’s perfectly legal and it’s standard practice, but I do want to see the loopholes removed and corporate America pay it’s financial way.  If you are raking in billions and billions of dollars, you need to cough some of that up.  The oil/energy and financial sector come immediately to mind.

According to ThinkProgress,

The oil giant that was the world’s most profitable corporation in 2008 has spent $5.7 million in campaign contributions over the last ten years and $138 million in lobbying expenditures. Its federal corporate income tax liabilities for 2009? Absolutely nothing. Not only did it pay nothing, but it also received a tax rebate the same year of $156 million

Bank of America employees contributed $11 million to federal political campaigns from 2001 to 2010 and spent $24 million lobbying over the same period of time. It made $4.4 billion in profits in 2010 while receiving a tax refund of $1.9 billion.

In a time where food and infant formula funding for low income babies and pregnant mothers is being cut, we simply don’t have room to give away billions in tax rebates.

End the “War on Drugs.”  It hasn’t worked and it’s incredibly expensive.  Legalize it, regulate it, and tax the bejeezus out of it.  Benefits from this would reap billions annually in tax revenue, hugely reduced law enforcement costs, and the reduced need for prisons and the costs associated with running them.

Agricultural subsidies.  Whack them!  Contrary to popular belief, they do not benefit the small family farmer at all.  In fact, they are nothing short of bloated, wasteful, and downright corrupt.  Here’s a good primer on why change is LONG overdue and here is a rundown on what’s been going on lately.

Provide preventative medical care.  The most promising approach to cost containment is the prevention of disease.  This is not in any way revolutionary – it makes perfect sense.  And while it may make perfect financial sense, it’s a hard sell when you have no money to front the preventative care with.

Tax things that are bad for you.  We already tax tobacco products and alcohol, but what’s really killing us is soda, fast food, and junk food.  My take on this is as follows:  I love diet soda. Love love love love.  But I know it’s bad for me – really bad.  I suspect most people are like that with their Oreos, Doritos, Dr. Pepper, Hershey’s bars or supersized combo meals.  And I don’t consider my love of diet soda a personality flaw, but I admit it’s not the best choice, either.  After all, sodas and junk foods contain no nutritional value and in the long run, do more harm than good to a person’s overall health.  And I am on a budget, too.  There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if my soda cost more – say an extra quarter a can – I would drink it less often.   I’d probably switch to homemade iced tea, for example.

So a tax would accomplish two things.  First, revenue for the government – some people would continue their normal habits, some would reduce their junk food buying, and some would stop, but even a reduced level of buying would result in income.  Second, some people would stop buying or severely cut down on how often they would purchase taxed items and over time, a health benefit could be seen.   Either way would benefit our financial situation over time, since it would be one measure of preventative care, as mentioned above, but it would also provide immediate revenue as well.

Tax churches.  Yep, I said it.  Most states provide property tax exceptions for property owned by religious organizations.  This goes for their land as well as their personal property such as vehicles, computers, and other movable assets.  Do I want to  tax the tar out of tiny little churches?  Not really – they aren’t worth much, anyway.  I’m more interested in churches like this.  So, I’d be willing to put a tax threshold on property value and only tax, for example, property (real and personal combined) assessed at, say, over $100,000.  Homeowners have to pay their property taxes; there is absolutely no reason churches should not.

Nix the Bush Tax cuts for the wealthy.  How is this not a no-brainer?

Newly revised estimates from Citizens for Tax Justice show that the Bush tax cuts cost almost $2.5 trillion over the decade after they were first enacted (2001-2010). Preliminary estimates from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office show that the House Democrats’ health care reform legislation is projected to cost $1 trillion over the decade after it would be enacted (2010-2019).

And yet, many of the lawmakers who argue that the health care reform legislation is “too costly” are the same lawmakers who supported the Bush tax cuts. Their own voting record demonstrates that health care reform is not a matter of costs, but a matter of priorities.

It’s difficult to see how the Bush tax cuts could provide us with two and a half times the benefits of health care reform. In 2010, when all the Bush tax cuts are finally phased in, a staggering 52.5 percent of the benefits will go to the richest 5 percent of taxpayers.

It is a matter of priorities.  Rich guys, who seem to be plentiful in Congress seem to think that rich guys need tax breaks more than the rest of us need healthcare.  Private jets and personal assistants versus mammograms and immunizations.  How is this even a choice?

Streamline Medicare/Medicaid and reduce waste and fraud as much as possible  Another obvious choice.  Streamlining the entire process would probably make outright fraud less likely, but there will always be unscrupulous physicians.  To that, I say prosecute the tar out of them and hold them out as an example to others.

Cut unnecessary trivial spending – creatively.  And this covers everything from reducing paper costs (and storage costs!) by simply not printing everything to banning government themed trinkets.  Will it fix our financial woes – of course not.  Will it make them slightly less bad?  Sure.  There is absolutely no reason everyone from the federal agencies to small city governments can’t get creative in their quest to creatively reduce spending.

Tell me, what did I leave out?

You Betcha!

AP Punk’d with Fake GE News Release

From Yahoo news:

General Electric Co, embroiled in controversy over its low 2010 U.S. tax bill, was the target of a bogus press release claiming that it would donate billions of dollars to the federal government.

The official-looking release, complete with the GE logo and slogan “imagination at work”, said that GE would send its $3.2 billion tax refund from 2010 back to Washington.

The Yes Men, an activist group known for issuing hoax statements claiming major attitude changes in corporate America, said it sent the release in an e-mail to media outlets on Wednesday.

Dear Russian Spammers

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