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Archive for February, 2009

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Hacking Road Signs…

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

OK, so apparently, the latest rage is hacking into those orange and black electronic road signs you see once in a while, and changing the message to something clever or ironic. This, for instance, is kind of funny:

But this, on the other hand, is freakin’ hilarious:

Categories: The World Wide Weird | No Comments »

Rewriting the Bush Legacy? Already???

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

You know, George W. Bush told us all that history would judge him differently after he left office. I had sort of assumed he meant more than three weeks after he left, though.

First, Jeff Porten tells me that NPR is reporting better than expected results about Bush’s unmanned, CIA-directed air-strikes into Pakistan. “It is now possible,” NPR tells us, “to foresee a ‘complete al-Qaida defeat’ in the mountainous region along the border with Afghanistan.”

Then, I read that the 2006 Lancet Study, which estimated Iraqi civilian deaths at more than 2% of Iraq’s pre-war population (around 655,000) has been publicly discredited in a “highly unusual rebuke” by the American Association for Public Opinion Research. It seems that Lancet, which received more than half it’s funding from Democratic super-fundraiser George Soros, refuses to tell anyone how they arrived at their numbers. Megan McArdle goes into some more detail, quoting the World Heath Organization as saying that if Lancet were correct, then several other organizations would have had to miss 87-90% of the violent civilian deaths in Iraq. WHO calls this “highly improbable, given the internal and external consistency of the data and the much larger sample size and quality-control measures taken” by the other groups.

And then today, I’m reading that President Obama is expanding George W. Bush’s much maligned faith-based initiative programs. The Salt Lake Tribune:

President Obama announced . . . his White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Joshua DuBois, a 26-year-old Pentecostal minister, will direct the office, which Obama said will work with nonprofit organizations “both secular and faith-based” and help them determine how to make a bigger impact in their cities, learn their obligations under the law and cut through government red tape.

The office expands and redefines a similar office established by President George W. Bush. Focused primarily on faith-based initiatives, the Bush office sparked constitutional questions about whether the separation of church and state would be preserved, particularly if groups receiving tax dollars sought to hire on the basis of religion.

Before signing the executive order creating the office, Obama told the annual National Prayer Breakfast the program would not show favoritism to any religious group and would adhere to a strict church-state separation.

To be clear, I’m thrilled that President Obama is not afraid to capitalize on an idea from his predecessor’s administration that he feels has merit. I’m sure it would be politically expedient for him to reverse course on anything related to George W. Bush, and pooh-pooh any news that implies success on Bush’s behalf. The fact that he hasn’t done so suggests that his interests lie in what’s best for America, not what’s best for Barack Obama or for the Democratic Party.

That said, I’m glad (and not entirely shocked) to hear that a few things were going better than we expected come January 21, 2009.

Categories: Political Rantings | 4 Comments »

More on Taxes

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Seems another Obama appointment fits into the tax problem news-catalog. The hearing to consider Rep. Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary was cancelled on Thursday after it was revealed that her husband paid off $6,400 in tax liens (some of which were sixteen years old) the day before the hearing was scheduled. Once again, we are led down the lazy path, on which all four of these problems are considered equivalent. Even though, in this case, Rep. Solis’ husband is, in fact, not being considered for Labor Secretary. To his credit, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said this:

We reviewed her tax returns, and her tax returns are in order. The story denotes that her husband had some issues with paying a business tax, and obviously that tax . . . should be paid. She’s not a partner in that business, so we’re not going to penalize her for her husband’s business mistakes. Obviously, her husband, I think, has and should pay any taxes that he owes.

On the more amusing side of news cataloging is the JammieWearingFool, who, while discussing Rep. Charles Rangel’s ongoing tax problems, comes up with this gem:

What with tax cheats being all the rage, one wonders how Charlie Rangel avoided an Obama cabinet appointment?

Classic.

Categories: News and/or Media, Political Rantings | 4 Comments »

Taxing our Patience

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Another tax problem for an Obama nominee. And once again, the media is news cataloging – lumping all three of these tax-related issues together as if they are the same thing. Let’s skim just slightly below the surface and point out the differences, shall we?

Tim Geithner- Mr. Geithner didn’t pay his employer’s portion of his social security taxes ($43,000), something that most of us don’t have to do. But the rules are different for people who work for the International Monetary Fund. At the IMF, employees are considered “self-employed” for the purposes of Social Security taxes, and are reimbursed separately for the need to pay these extra taxes. In 2006, the IRS informed him that he failed to pay these taxes (despite being reimbursed) for his 2003 and 2004 returns, and he promptly paid up (including penalties and interest). The Obama vetting team discovered the same issue with 2001 and 2002, at which point he paid up on those as well. All of this makes him careless, not criminal. Not that I’m advocating for a careless Treasury Secretary, especially in these times, but an administrative foul-up does not diminish his qualifications to run the Treasury Department.

Tom Daschle- Senator Daschle used a chauffeur-driven car that was provided to him by a long-time friend, Democratic fundraiser and founder of his own private equity firm, InterMedia Advisors, for three years. The value of this service – more than $300,000 – is taxable as income, which he never declared and hence, never paid tax on. When the Obama team vetted him for HHS secretary, they discovered the discrepancy, at which point, Senator Daschle amended his 2005, 2006, and 2007 tax returns – paying over $100,000 in back taxes and interest (but no penalties). Unlike Mr. Geithner’s case, this does not seem like an administrative oversight, nor does it seem like something that Mr. Daschle would have cleared up on his own until he got caught by the vetting process. The article I linked too, nonetheless, compares the two cases, implying that they’re part of the same story.

Nancy Killefer- Ms. Killefer owed $298 in unpaid unemployment compensation taxes for her housekeeper in February of 2005. The IRS fined her $600 for the mistake and charged her $48.69 in interest, which she paid in July of 2005. She has been free and clear of any and all tax problems for three and a half years. And yet, the Associated Press “broke” this “news story” today, linking Ms. Killefer to Messrs. Geithner and Daschle, implying that she, too, is part of the same story. This, despite the fact that she a) was quicker and more complete about settling her accounts with the IRS when she found out about them, and b) owed amounts that were orders of magnitude less than the other two. Surprisingly, Ms. Killefer decided to withdraw her name from nomination to the new post of Chief Performance Officer, saying:

“I recognize that your agenda and the duties facing your Chief Performance Officer are urgent. I have also come to realize in the current environment that my personal tax issue of D.C. Unemployment tax could be used to create exactly the kind of distraction and delay those duties must avoid. Because of this I must reluctantly ask you to withdraw my name from consideration.”

The key words here are “in the current environment.” In other words, because the media has used each subsequent story to build upon the one before, “news cataloging” these three significantly different situations together, she feels her $947 tax penalty from 2005 is enough to disqualify her from high office. One can speculate that she just didn’t want to deal with the spotlight over something so trivial.

When I sat down to write this post, I was going to conclude with “what a waste.” As it turns out, Ms. Killefer’s actions may have had some benefit after all, as it was just announced (a mere three hours after Ms. Killefer withdrew her nomination) that Senator Daschle is doing the same thing.

Of the three, Senator Daschle seems to be the one who came closest to commiting tax fraud here, and for a much larger sum of money than the other two. The right answer in this whole mess would have been for him to resign, and for the other two to get past it and get on with their new jobs.

Two out of three ain’t bad, I guess…

Categories: News and/or Media, Political Rantings | 4 Comments »

New Rules for Groundhog Day this year…

Monday, February 2nd, 2009


Given the current state of the U.S. Economy, the following new rules will be instituted for this year’s annual Groundhog Day celebration festivities:

  1. If Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow when he emerges from his hole tomorrow morning, there will be six more weeks of winter. Similarly, if Timothy Geithner sees his shadow when he emerges from the White House tomorrow morning, there will be six more weeks of Financial Crisis.
  2. If Punxsutawney Phil does not see his shadow, half of his compensation will be deferred over a three year period. Also, strict rules will be imposed as to the amount of wood an executive woodchuck would be allowed to chuck, if indeed he would chuck wood (New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is currently investigating this point).
  3. If the number of groundhog shadow sightings continues to drop at the current rate, one of two things will happen. Either:
    • Punxsutawney Phil will be laid off and compensation rules for all groundhogs will be imposed by the federal government, or
    • Punxsutawney Phil will receive a substantial grant from the federal TARP program (the Tree-dwelling Animal and Rodent Program). This option will be taken if, upon careful inspection and an official weighing, it is determined that Phil is “too big to fail.”

We hope that these new regulations help to stem the tide of our growing difficulties before similar measures become necessary with regard to Arbor Day, Flag Day, Halloween and Christmas.

Thank you and God Bless America…

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging | 1 Comment »

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