Monday, July 26, 2010

President Pants on Fire said there would be no new taxes for the middle class

Remember he said this during the campaign, and by "campaign" I mean February, 2007 until the present day, because the man never stops campaigning. It's what he's good at. And by that, I mean he's a good campaigner and that's about all.

But, I digress. To the matter at hand...

I'm going to tell you a hypothetically true story about a man named Paul. Paul is a good man. He has a wife and two kids. He's in his 50s and is a contractor. He's built his company from the ground up. He has a good income, but isn't RICH by any means.

Here's the sad part. Paul's got a bad ticker. He's a fighter, though. So there's hope.

After Christmas, Paul has a heart attack He's waiting for a transplant, but it doesn't look good. He lies on his deathbed, with those who love him surrounding him. They celebrate New Years Eve in the hospital. On New Years Day, slipping in and out of consciousness, he imparts his final words of love and wisdom to his family. He tells them that he has had a good life and that he has lived his dream to see his children grow and start families. He has no regrets. He tells them that in his will, he will leave the family business to his son and daughter, who have both worked to help the business grow.

Pual dies. He has planned well. He has made the arrangements and the family has the funeral and pays their respects. They tell their stories about their patriarch. Slowly, normalcy returns and they get back to their lives.

Until one day, the business receives a certified letter from the US government. It seems they have a tax matter to settle and they have to go downtown to see the IRS. Did the old man forget something, they wonder. He seemed to have everything else in order.

Yes, he forgot one thing. Well, not so much forgot. He just didn't know about it because it has been kept hush-hush.

Enter Obama. Stage left. (That's funny.)
In a footnote of the US budget, on page 127, the Estate Tax has been resurrected. Probably the most despised of all the taxes, commonly referred to as the "Death Tax," it was part of the Bush tax cuts of 2001, and it was hoped by many to be a memory of the old tax code.

Why is it despised? Because it is unfair.

"But why is it unfair?" you ask. Easy.

Taxes have already been paid on that income. He has built the business and lived comfortably, but is by no means rich. He makes a good living but, like many businesses started from the ground up, he has reinvested in it over many years. It is a small business, but has about $10 million in assets.

The government, by reinstituting the Death Tax, is now due 55% of what our hero has passed down. The company now owed $5.5 million on assets upon which Paul has already paid taxes. How do they handle this debt?

Selling the business is an option, but no one will buy the business with that kind of tax burden.They can take on the debt personally, but is that feasible or fair? The simple answer is "No," because, in all reality, they can't pay it. They don't pay themselves that much in salary.

Economic reality for the middle class.
A man lives his whole life, working and saving to pass something down to his kids so that they may have a better life. (Quiet down, feminists. I know women also do, but for the sake of this story, our hero is a man.)

Putting children in a position where they have to close the business and turn over assets is an economic reality. People will lose jobs. Small businesses will close. Because of a footnote. Because Obama is going to extraordinary measures to raise taxes to pay for his political agenda.

What Obama will say, if anything.
He'll say this doesn't effect the middle class. That only the richest 2% will have to pay it. Unless you happen to own a business with $3.5 million in assets. That's going to account for a lot of businesses in this country.

He'll say that you won't have to worry about it. Unless you happen to work for one of those small businesses.

He'll say this is not a new tax. He is merely allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. Which is just a horse shit lie.

George Steinbrenner died this year. His kids are SO lucky.
This is kind of an extreme example, but an excellent one. Steinbrenner a few weeks ago. He's passing on his New York Yankees empire, and his children will not have to pay any estate taxes on it, which is fair, in my opinion. Mr. Steinbrenner already paid taxes on that income. No sense to subject it to taxation once again. Because he died when he did, his sons and daughter saved half a billion dollars in estate taxes.

So in closing, I will apologize to my sons in advance for the tax burden they will inherit, because I don't plan on dying this year. Now if I can just make it to the $3.5 million exemption level, but that's really the fun part.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

My Plan to Pay Down the National Debt

I'm getting a little fed up with the talk about the deficit.

Everyone knows that it increased under Bush. We're not here to argue that point. Republicans try to justify it as necessary because of 9-11 and the fact that we were and are continuing to fight wars on two fronts. Democrats campaigned that spending was out of control in the last election and their plan to combat the spending is to spend EVEN MORE.

It's as if not one elected representative in Washington would stand up for common sense. These individuals who we choose lose their damn minds when they arrive in the capital. Yes, some Republicans are just as guilty, but the last bill

The national debt grew by almost $5 trillion under Bush. In 18 months under Obama, it has grown $2.3 trillion thanks to the stimulus bill and other pork-ridden bills which show that the ruling party has no interest in getting spending under control.

The ones that vote to spend beyond the means, get them the hell out. Don't even let them on the ballot unless they know that we have to operate on a balanced budget.

Let's face it... it's OUR fault for putting these ass clowns in Washington in the first place. We should, and as Americans we always do, bear the brunt of our elected officials' mistakes.

Paying Down the National Debt
I'm a common sense guy. I'm a patriotic guy. Most people probably are, I think. So why can't we combine those two things to pay down this debt?

Every family has to file a tax return, right? Right. No matter what, it has to be filed. People either owe taxes, or they are owed a refund.

Here's where common sense comes in. For six years, each household pays $10 per person in that household. There's no getting around it, and there's no loophole. If you owe money, when you write the check to pay your income taxes, you just write another check. If you are owed a refund, you have them deduct that amount.

The first year, the government would take in $3 billion. I did my math in a vacuum. I assumed a static population, call it "one in, one out." I also didn't account for inflation, interest or population increases. Perhaps most importantly, and most improbably, I assumed Obama wouldn't spend any more than he already has. (It's estimated he'll add another $4 trillion to the National Debt by the end of his first term.)

By my calculations, it would take 4300 years to pay down the National Debt.

That's doable. Right?

The Reason for This Rant on How to Pay Down the National Debt
I wrote this with the goal of discovering just how much debt the U.S. is in, how much each person owes ($42,000 and change) and what an impossible situation our government perpetuates. Unless our country gets a grip on spending, we've got no chance of paying down this debt.

What I learned:
  1. Spending our way out of debt is a stupid, stupid idea
  2. Anyone who has voted to spend more money shouldn't be in office
  3. We the people need to pay more attention to what our representatives do in Washington
  4. The U.S. needs a balanced budget amendment
  5. $13 trillion is a lot
  6. We can't pay it

Friday, July 16, 2010

Isn't this a little excessive for the Gladstone Applebee's?

We went to Applebee's for dinner yesterday. About halfway through, a party of about 10 people came in for a birthday party. The kid looked to be about six or so. There were two couples, a single guy, and about five or six kids.

A lady carrying a very large package wrapped in birthday paper created a stir. It wasn't because she struggled with the box. It was because of her appearance.

Her hair was jet black. Like Sharpie on clean white paper. It was the kind of black that nature never intended. Blacker than black. Industrial black. Let's just say that the box of die she used didn't promise any natural highlights.

She had two half sleeves of tattoos. I'm not against free expression, and I'm not saying that women shouldn't have tattoos; some are very tasteful and even kinda sexy. But she had the kind of tats that badass bikers may view as a little bold. Let's just say that they were colorful and leave it at that.

Our lady had a boob job. I'm not against that at all. But there's a time and place to be proud of your assets and Applebee's during dinner rush is neither the time nor the place. Unless the Applebee's is in Sturgis and has a stripper pole, shot chairs, and cabins out back for regulars to stay in during the Black Hills Rally.

I couldn't see her shoes. I can imagine that they probably sported a nice, long heel of some sort. But she may have been the type to rock combat boots as a way to complete her ensemble, but I can't be sure.

The piece de resistance, however, and the inspiration for the title of this blog, was what she was wearing. Remember the scene in "Bull Durham" when Annie barges in to Crash's house while he's ironing and drinking whiskey? She's wearing a white outfit and short shorts and Crash says, "Who dresses you? Don't you think this is a little excessive for the Carolina league?" Perfect.

Our lady was wearing what looked like a long white t-shirt that she had modified for full shock value. I can't imagine that you can buy that garment, but maybe I just haven't spent enough time at Hussies-R-Us.

It was backless, for the most part, and open down to the small of her back. I could see a thin, metal chain across her back, and I honestly don't know what that is.

It was low cut, but did I really have to say that or did you assume quite correctly that it was? It was loose, so it offered ample opportunity for her to show off the cleavage if she was so inclined.

But not our lady. No. That would have been... ummmm... tasteful.

This garment was slit up the sides. As I said, it was loose, and every time she turned, or bent over to arrange birthday gifts, you could see all that the good doctor blessed her with. Side boob, and plenty of it.

She wasn't wearing a bra, or anything that could have been mistaken for one. Ashley tried to describe some bra type device that kind of suctions to the breast to offer lift and nipple coverage, but I think our lady would probably reserve that for church or a funeral or something more formal than Applebee's on a Thursday.

I wish I could have taken a picture, and I hope my words are descriptive enough that you get the full effect of what we witnessed. I really thought I should go over and give her a few singles because I think she purposely wanted to call attention to herself in a way that only the hard-working ladies at Million Dollar Babes can. I'm not being judgmental, mind you; I'm just trying to be funny. Self-expression is a wonderful thing and if you want to show off your assets at Applebee's, that's fine.

I just wonder what she wears to work.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I'm outraged by all the outrage

I've been seeing reports and posts that a video showing an Auschwitz survivor dancing at the sites of death camps has sparked outrage across the world. I wanted to investigate to see how deep the outrage runs.

As per usual, it seems that the media and Internet have exaggerated the outrage. I've seen a quote from one survivor who expressed his displeasure. He's allowed to be upset. I don't agree with him, but I wasn't there. I respect his opinion. But his quote is the only one I've seen on major news sites which do not like the routine. He's Polish. He lives in England. I guess that's what passes for "worldwide furor" these days.

Adolek Kohn, his daughter Jane Kormen, and Mr. Kohn's three grandchildren are shown dancing to "I Will Survive." They can't really keep time, but they're not auditioning for "So You Think You Can Dance" or "America's Got Talent." They're celebrating and giving the bird to that which scarred him, but did not kill him. And so, like Kevin Bacon, Chris Penn, Sarah Jessica Parker and the rest of the "Footloose" cast, they danced to celebrate without regard to what the establishment thinks. They danced at Auschwitz, at Dachau and at Terezin.

The opinions of others who are outraged, I don't give a crap about. If you weren't there, you don't get to judge this man's actions. He's not making money from his experience. He said that he's trying to reach out to a younger generation so that they may know what happened. He gets to do that. It also gives the finger to idiots who say the Holocaust didn't happen.

This man survived the most horrific mass murder of all time. If he wants to dance at Auschwitz, he EARNED that right. If he wants to take a dump under the "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign, more power to him. If he wanted to dress up a dummy in a Nazi uniform and kick the hell out of it and set it on fire, he's got that coming.

Mr. Kohn can do anything he wants; he survived against all odds, had what I guess is a nice life, has a daughter and grandchildren who love him and wanted to accompany him on his travels back to the place where his life wasn't worth anything. That is the essence of survival. He can celebrate in whatever way pleases him.

To Mr. Kohn and his family, I say "Dance on." I wish you would have danced at the other sites of human oppression and murder. I hope you continue to dance and to film and to share. I just hope that you get away from disco.

Disco sucks, man.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Vacation - Omaha - A Zoo is Just a Zoo

We hightailed it out of Pierre like we robbed the bank. Understandably, we did not feel like we would miss the town and all it had to offer.

We headed south to Omaha, with nothing on the agenda except getting to the hotel. Doing nothing in Omaha was better than trying to find something to do in Pierre.

We found the hotel. Took us two tries, but we found it. They directed us to a sports bar next door and we had an early dinner. They marinated their steaks in whiskey; something I've got to try. The server was very friendly and Ashley took the boys to swim for a while.

The grandma's took the boys for the night while Ash and I drove across the river to Council Bluffs, Iowa to play some poker at Horseshoe. It's a surprisingly big poker room, and the game I joined was very aggressive. Unfortunately there were no weak players. I missed one opportunity when I flopped a full house and the two players in the hand folded to my raise. I'm still kicking myself for that.

We played blackjack for a little while. It was the dealer's first night and took about half an hour to get through one shoe. He had trouble adding. He threw a card on the floor. As he was rearranging his tray, chips exploded all over the tray. It was comical.

The next morning, we took the boys to the Omaha Zoo. All in all, it's a cool zoo and I highly recommend it, particularly to my friends in Kansas City. If you've never been, KC's zoo sucks as much as anything imaginable. It's sad, really.

Of particular note is the aquarium. That was almost worth the price of admission by itself. The butterfly house is OK. They also have a desert dome and underneath it, a display of nocturnal animals and cave dwellers. Don't miss that.

It rained off and on, and finally got to be too much, so we headed back to Kansas City. Omaha is a nice town with a lot to offer, so I think we'll be going back.

Then again, I may just be comparing it to Pierre.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Vacation Day Five - Top 10 Things to Do in Pierre, SD

We left Deadwood, it's history, scenery and 70 degree weather and headed back east to Pierre, the state capital of South Dakota. Why? Glad you asked.

Ashley doesn't like to travel very far in a car. Four hours is about her max, and she'd already endured two six hour stretches. So she thought Pierre was a good stopping point. After all, as the state's capital and largest city, there has to be things to do in Pierre, SD.

Epic fail.

She looked up "Things to do in Pierre, SD" and found that they had a very good hands on science museum for the boys. They have experiments. They have dinosaurs. They have an aquarium.

Not really.

The experiments are things they do in fourth grade science. Or art. They have a two way mirror thing. The aquarium? Five fish, all from the Missouri river two blocks away. Plus they have given their dinosaurs vocalization, so every five minutes, the place erupts with a screaming T-Rex. It's annoying.

We noticed that Perkins is probably the best restaurant in Pierre. We chose to have dinner at the only Mexican place in town besides Taco John's. After all, it's hard to screw up Mexican food, right?

Let's just say that those people worked hard, really hard, and leave it at that. Except that we all really wished we'd chosen Taco John's.

We drove all around looking for things to do in Pierre... ANYTHING. So I devised a list.

TOP 10 Things to Do in Pierre, SD

#10 Read the pamphlet at the hotel "Things to do in Pierre, SD"

#9 Drive around looking for things to do in Pierre, SD

#8 Argue with a local about the pronunciation of the word "Pierre." (They say "Peer." Everyone else in the country says it correctly.)

#7 Go to the Science and Discovery Center and comment on how much it sucks.

#6 Go to the only Mexican restaurant in town and comment on how much it sucks.

#5 Go back to the hotel and talk about how there are no things to do in Pierre, SD.

#4 Explain to the boys that Nebraska will be much better than Pierre with a straight face.

#3 Create travel slogans for Pierre. My favorite one was... too full of profanity to publish here.

#2 Go to bed at 9:30, so you can get an early start on getting the hell out.

#1 Drink!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Vacation Day Four - Monuments, History and Smelly Animals in the Black Hills

We took off out of Deadwood to see the national monuments and Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. It's not a very long drive to Mount Rushmore from Deadwood; the Crazy Horse Memorial is less than 20 miles away, and Hot Springs is just 40 minutes south of that.

Mount Rushmore is surreal, I think, because I've seen it so many times. It's not as tall as it appears in pictures, probably because of an optical illusion created from shooting at an angle.

It's majestic, though.

I thought about how an artist's vision was on such a grand scale that he decided to make a sculpture on the side of a mountain.

I thought about George Washington leading a bunch of farmers and merchants against the greatest army in the world and laying the groundwork for Presidents to come.

I thought about Thomas Jefferson and how he took this idea of democracy, something the world had never known, and created the blueprint. ("We hold these truths to be self-evident.")

I thought about Abraham Lincoln and the thankless and tireless job he did, trying to hold the country together, and giving his life for his country as much as any of the hundreds of thousands who went to war and didn't come back.

I thought about Teddy Roosevelt. Why is he there?

It started to rain, so we went on to the Crazy Horse Memorial, which I think is the definition of an obsession. It is another mountain carving started in 1948. His face is done. It's been 62 years.

The artist died in 1982 and his family has carried on with the carving. They will not accept government money or assistance, only personal donations. Until I saw the video outlining the challenges, I did not appreciate the tremendous amount of work that has gone into creating this memorial.

I hope it is finished in my lifetime. I will definitely return to see it completed.

We moved on to the Mammoth Site near Hot Springs. Of all the places we visited, it was the most expensive, by far, almost $50 for us to see. It's a guided tour. As an archaeology buff, I was looking forwardto seeing it.

Because the remains are not fossilized, they can't really take them out of the ground without doing them irrepairable damage. This is both a blessing and a curse. Scientists from all over the world can come to see the site and conduct research. It also means, for the general public, you can't get close enough to really see the remains.

We took the scenic route back to Deadwood, but compared to Kansas City, the ugliest part of the Black Hills is scenic. As we drove through Custer National Forest, we saw buffalo, elk, deer, antelope and prairie dogs. It reminded me a lot of our family vacations when I was a kid, driving through the Rockies on our way to visit my Dad's family in Oregon.

I think Aidan got tired of stopping all the time and wanted to get back to Deadwood. We saw thousands of buffalo like the big boy pictured above. Shortly after I took the picture, Aidan said, "Less stopping. More driving!"

I'm not sure why he wanted to get back to Deadwood so fast. He can't gamble. But it was funny.

Vacation - Day Three - Deadwood and a little poker

The first night in Deadwood was really just a feeling out process. We looked around to see what the town had to offer. There's really not a lot to do in Deadwood proper, but I think we all needed a little of that.

The first day trip we took was to visit Spearfish and the Dick Termes Gallery. He paints on spheres and is absolutely incredible. We met him briefly when he directed us to a parking spot, then he hopped into his old truck and drove away with a big pile of brush in it.

His gallery has dozens of his pieces in it. They hang from the ceiling and they rotate slowly so you can see how his subject matter lies on the sphere. It's hard to describe, so take a look at the youtube video that first made me want to see his gallery.

We also visited a few antique stores right on the main drag of Spearfish, along with an art gallery. All were excellent. We then went back through the winding roads and went through Sturgis. It's hard to imagine that town hosting a huge event like the Black Hills Rally, but as one person put it, "It's an amazing thing when an event doubles the size of your state."

I managed to squeeze in a little poker at Saloon No. 10, where Wild Bill Hickok was shot. I sat with my back to the door, managed to win a little over $200 in 45 minutes, then was summoned by my Mom because Tristan was asking for me. I left a hot table, filled with an incredibly drunk woman, an incredibly drunk man, three people who played every pot, and one guy who was the definition of on tilt. (For you non-poker players, that means he was pissed and playing very badly.)

The floors of No. 10 are covered in sawdust, the walls are covered with Deadwood and western history, and at night, the dance floor is covered with drunk people. A little something for everyone.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Vacation - Day Two - Nature's Majesty and Tourist Shlock

We left Mitchell, home of the one and only Corn Palace on the next leg of our journey. After a nice breakfast, we headed west towards The Badlands.

One person's obstacle is another person's national park.
The Badlands is breathtaking. It's more like the Grand Canyon than I imagined. The spires created by the ancient river and the colors that are created are amazing.

It came as a surprise to me that there is a lot of high prairie in The Badlands. A lot of green out there too, and a lot of wildlife. We saw three bighorn sheep very close to the Visitors Center and an eagle was floating on the wind currents above one of the places you can stop to take a look at the view.

It was, all in all, pretty majestic. Then we continued on to the antithesis of majestic, Wall Drug.

One person's moneymaker is another's annoyance.
Wall Drug, as I said in my previous blog, advertises with billboards on the highway. Hundreds of them. And they don't really say anything. It's just the multitude that FORCES you to go, as if under some sort of spell.

As tourist traps go, this one is in the upper echelons. There are souvenirs of all shapes and sizes. It's loud, It's crowded. It's huge. They sell everything from fudge to western wear. There are crappy statues for the kids to climb on so you can take their pictures. A hamburger and fries is $8.50, and that doesn't include a drink. And they have a bitchin jackelope collection. That did not disappoint.

We left Wall and headed in the direction of Deadwood. We drove through Sturgis. We didn't stop because there is literally nothing there. Deadwood is in the mountains, and is cool, dark and has an air about it that something is about to happen.

But it doesn't.

I played Omaha at The Silveradoand did well for half an hour till Ashley came to get me. We visited Kevin Costner's Midnight Star and played some $2 blackjack while drinking a few complementary beers. I learned there was a difference between "complementary" and "free."

I think it's probably because legends of the town are so colorful, vivid and well-told. It markets itself as small-town Vegas, but I was up early in search of a poker game and there wasn't one to be had in the whole town.

Yes, I checked the whole town, not necessarily because I like playing poker, but because I could check the whole town in about 20 minutes. I was gone for 45, never found a game, played a little three-card poker and was back before anyone knew I was gone.

The town was quiet as I walked back towards our hotel, I thought I saw someone across the street wave, and an image flashed in my mind of another poker player acknowledging that he too was in search of a card game. But no one was there; just wishful thinking, or maybe one of the ghosts that reportedly haunt the town.

Either way, Deadwood is peaceful early on a Saturday morning. I'm looking forward to the day, filled with museums and antiques and art.

And later on, once the familial obligations are satisfied, poker.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Vacation- Day One - How many more miles is it?

Just a new turn of phrase. It used to be "Are we there yet. But Aidan has decided that "How many more miles is it?" is a more unique way to ask how much longer we'll be on the road.
Tristan's statement of the day was "I wanna go to the beach." He's remembering two years ago when we went to Corpus Christi. I didn't have the heart to tell him there's no beach in South Dakota. As many of you know, Tristan has OCD and autism, so he repeats phrases over and over when he's unsure of what's going on. I think he said "I wanna go to the beach" 529 times in two hours. It kinda made me want to turn the car around and drive to Texas.
We drove from Kansas City to Mitchell, South Dakota. If you've never been, it's a charming little town, really. The big point of interest is The Corn Palace. It's a palace type structure; the outside is covered with murals all made of... wait for it... corn.

It's not as bad as it sounds. The town looks like Smalltown, USA, except that there's a big honkin' palace in the middle of town made of corn. Inside, they sell corn products and shlocky stuff advertising Mitchell's Number One Attraction.
We went to dinner at The Depot. Nice atmosphere, great food, cold beer, reasonable prices and great service. I had a chopped buffalo steak that was excellent. Even Ashley liked it, and she's really against type of red meat that doesn't say "Moo." The blue ribbon dish was the beer cheese soup. I'm going to try to duplicate the recipe when I get back. I would highly recommend The Depot and I will not hesitate to visit again when and if we come to Mitchell again. Thanks to Leslie for the great service and for finding my Mom's glasses.
Tomorrow, we'll visit The Badlands before ending up at Deadwood. But first, we're stopping at Wall Drug. It's a drug store in Wall, SD. I don't know why we're going there; Ashley just said, "Everyone who has been to Mount Rushmore goes to Wall Drug." She said they have a bitchin' jackelope collection.
Really? OK.
They started advertising in Iowa between Council Bluffs and Sioux City. That's not even the same highway. It better be worth the time. We're going there instead of Quinn to see a barn that houses the world's fourth largest beer can collection.