Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Brother Can You Spare a Dime*

*Or how about just 9 cents (for every dollar)

Yesterday morning, I went to the computer to see the news of the day. The hubby had apparently been up earlier and pulled up an article on GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. One would think that this would just be 666 upside down, but no, it’s much much much worse.

This oh-so-simple plan changes the corporate tax rate from 35% to 9%, swaps out the six-tier personal income tax system for a flat rate of 9% and creates a 9% national sales tax.

So who’s going to be paying for this country? Ah, the wealthy like to say that the country was built on their backs. They feel so responsible for the general prosperity of this country. Up until now. Since corporate heads and the wealthy (yeah, they’re pretty much the same) are going to be let off of the hook for putting gobs of money into the tax system for schools, police, roads, defense and all of that other expensive, government-provided stuff, who will have to pay for most of this? The working poor. And the working middle-class who are sliding their way downhill and landing on top of those working poor. Since the wealthiest 1% of Americans control 42% of this country’s financial wealth, each individual in that lower 99% will be doing most of the grunt work.

Those lowest on the working totem pole are paying 10% of their personal income in taxes. I guess there will be a bit of savings if that goes down to 9%. Think of what all of that extra money will buy. Perhaps these people will now be able to afford health insurance if their employer does not provide it. Yeah, I know. I was just making a joke. Now, if there is a nine percent national sales tax instead of personal income tax, any extra bucks are going to be snatched out of the hands of our poorest people. Herman Cain understands this. He knows that these people will be responsible for their own-decision making. He states his plan will be helping them out tremendously. Hey, you poor folks need a winter coat. That’s a good decision. Go on and buy one for every member of your family. And now, give the government an extra 9%. You don’t HAVE to buy those coats you know. Cain’s plan is here to help you responsibly make decisions. If you decide you don’t have the money, don’t spend the money. Ain’t Cain great? Cain thinks this plan will give Americans more freedom. What do you think?

What I did not see addressed in the 9-9-9 plan was what effect the national sales tax will have on individual state taxes. Will this replace the state taxes? I don’t think that’s what the states want. Each state varies in taxation on food and clothing. Will we be paying a national sales tax for these subsistence items? And what about those additional city taxes? Will these be eliminated or just tacked onto the national sales tax? How much are we going to be paying for each purchase in taxes?

Our country sees taxation as a crime. Our tax system has even been compared to slavery. Herman Cain, an African-American, has stated that our tax code is the 21st century version of slavery. Does this make anyone other than me afraid of a hemorrhage? What the hell? Does this man know what slavery is? Didn’t any of his ancestors pass down some stories? My dictionary states that a slave is: a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them, or a person who works very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation. It looks like definition two fits Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. Definition number 1 seems to be a perfect fit for one who is free to fuck over thousands of employees and purchase yachts and diamonds and designer clothing and mansions. Right?

It seems that those days (years actually) of the great depression have been forgotten, much like the proper definitions for slavery. Yep, some of you have heard of that depression when people lost their homes and money and jobs and other such insignificant items. Actually, there are millions upon millions of Americans that are struggling with that now, right under the noses of those who will do anything to avoid paying their taxes. The greatest tax burden is borne by those on the bottom of the financial ladder. The poor and middle class are paying the greatest amount for others in similar situations. The taxes levied on the lowest paid individuals are going to pay for the education, police, roads, public transportation, food stamps, social services, etc. for other individual in the same financial boat. In other words, “Brother, can you spare a dime.”

Under Cain’s plan, it’s not only the poorest people that are asking for a little financial help from others, but the wealthiest in this country are asking the poorest, “brother, can you spare a dime.”*

*Actually, that just nine cents (for every dollar) under Cain’s plan.

Here are the lyrics from that good, 0ld-timey depression-era song:

They used to tell me I was building a dream
And so I followed the mob
When there was earth to plow or guns to bear
I was always there right on the job

They used to tell me I was building a dream
With peace and glory ahead
Why should I be standing in line
Just waiting for bread?

Once I built a railroad, I made it run
Made it race against time
Once I built a railroad, now it's done
Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once I built a tower up to the sun
Brick and rivet and lime
Once I built a tower, now it's done
Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell
Full of that Yankee-Doodly-dum
Half a million boots went sloggin' through Hell
And I was the kid with the drum

Say, don't you remember, they called me "Al"
It was "Al" all the time
Why don't you remember, I'm your pal
Say buddy, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, ah gee we looked swell
Full of that Yankee-Doodly-dum
Half a million boots went sloggin' through Hell
And I was the kid with the drum

Oh, say, don't you remember, they called me "Al"
It was "Al" all the time
Say, don't you remember, I'm your pal
Buddy, can you spare a dime?

E.Y Harburg and Jay Gorney

Monday, September 19, 2011

U R rly psng me off

Maybe I'm being a little too bitchy.

Could be because I rarely text and never twitter.

But holy crap, I can't take it when people cannot be bothered to type out words!

If you can't take the time to properly text or email me USING FULL WORDS, then I'm going to assume you really don't give a shit or your message is completely unimportant. I will not read what you have to say. If it's more difficult than reading Shakespeare, then I'm not going to do it.

I will not bother to figure out what the hell it is you are saying.

You. √
Ewe. √
U. Absolutely not. Unless you are making a U-turn. Or, if you must, driving a U-Haul.

And then there's R. Spell it dammit.

What is it that you are really trying to say? That you are too important to waste time typing (non)extraneous letters. That you are illiterate. That I am not good enough to read full words. That you are actually trying to piss me off.

What's even worse is trying to read teenage slang written in this freakin' code. I've got no chance of interpreting that, not that I really want to. It would be nice to understand my nieces' Facebook posts, but, well, I'm just too damn cranky and old so I'll just have to remain in the dark.

Am I the only freak left on the face of the earth that actually likes words? There are so many great ones: alleviate, Ethiopia, tangerine, Bossa Nova, sprocket, Alaska (until it was tainted by politics).

Am I in this boat alone?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Inspiration is Relative

A review of Barry Dixon’s new home design book, Inspirations.

I am a huge fan of home d├ęcor books. Perhaps I could be classified as obsessive. I rarely implement any of the ideas shown, either from lack of time, courage or funds. It is not often that I review books, but this time I feel I must speak (write), even though only my blog friends will ever read these words. This review is a bit strongly worded for

Out of five stars, I award this book three. How could that be for such a lovely coffee table book? Well, in this tome chock full of props (also called accessories) such a book would not show up on one of the perfectly orchestrated coffee tables dotted throughout the book. Little of real life is depicted in these pages. However, the book is full of thick pages, large clear photos and details on where the moneyed set can purchase the accoutrements of luxury living.

Before purchasing the book, I did view a few pages through Amazon, but did not get into the “meat” of the book until it arrived. When I talk about meat here, it is as if I was looking though one of the manse’s many French doors, watching a couple with lovely, possessionless children eat filet mignon in the expanse of their 30-foot-long dining room while standing out in the rain eating a bologna sandwich filched from a dumpster.

Some of the “family” homes shown in the pages are quite a curiosity for someone that has a family of their own. One in particular really makes me shake my head and laugh sadly. The claim is that the home is designed for a growing family. Somehow that makes me think of young children. I could be wrong. Perhaps the residents are just growing more portly. Before extensive renovations, the home had been described as stately. That encourages me to think that it might of had a surplus of square footage. Well, I’m an idiot then, because the house required the addition of a two-level living room and two new wings. The original living room, no doubt bigger than my original (and only) living room is now an intimate reception room. The original dining room (in a bow to modesty?) remained intact, although, one can dine in a new supper room. Perhaps there are separate rooms for breakfast and lunch and, why the hell not, a late night snack. I suppose if one were to feel peckish while reading, they could have a tray brought into the two-story library. In the evening the master and mistress of the house can retire to their own studies, dressing rooms and bathrooms before traveling on to the master bedroom. When it is time for the family to gather together, they can do so in the informal family quarters in the southern wing of the home.

And so on.

If that home is not to your liking, you can read about the Charlotte Chateau. This home, in the narrative, is described as a castle. Mr. Dixon worked with a local architect (after the first architect was canned) in adjusting the scale of the rooms “in an effort to make them smaller and more inviting.” Why the hell these rooms weren’t made smaller and more inviting to begin with is not explained. Maybe it pleases the owner to know that the footprint of the average American home can fit inside the master bath. And my thinking is that if you have to add a niche to the bedroom to create a focal point, then the room must be too damn large. In my home (and so many others), the bed IS the focal point. In my “master” bedroom, the bed IS the room.

Imagine a world where the sharing of a bathroom is out of the question, even among married couples. Hell, aside from the sharing of a richly draped colossal bed, hubby and wife have plenty of room to roam and never have to cross paths. Children (invisible I suppose) can range about like antelope on the savannah. Plenty of room, just don’t leave out one toy, book, shoe or drawing. One kitchen stove costs more than a lifetime of motor vehicles for an average family. And I don’t think I need to mention the colossal size of the kitchen. But I did. Ah, the joy and beauty (and complete fucking uselessness) of a foyer that could house 3 or 4 extended third-world families.

And then there is the family residing in one of Washington, D.C.’s ritzier suburbs. The owner’s house was just too modestly scaled and, well, the decision was made to scrap that house and start anew. With, of course, yet another kitchen that would put the Hogwarts’ dining hall on the same level as a lower-east-side-tenement kitchen. Naturally, his and her master baths and dressing rooms (with fireplaces) are mandatory. As is the series of guest suites. Yep, plural.

There is one relatively modest abode – a Chicago apartment “in a downtown Michigan Avenue high-rise with sweeping views of the city and Lake Michigan.” Actually, this is a second home , so once inside any restrictions on real estate are covered up with silk draperies and hand painted-wallpapers. I still would not be able to afford a sconce or decorative pillow in this dwelling. Not even for my first (and only) home.

And I have to pass along the most ridiculous decorating tip ever: “Upholster kitchen walls and ceilings with fabrics and textures to absorb street noise and make the room more inviting.” That idea is as practical as the purchase of a fur-lined pot.

At this book’s completion, I am not left with the desire to tear down my modest home and build a mansion with rooms assigned for each moment’s task. I no longer have the desire to upgrade my sheets, hang a painting or clean out my kitchen drawers (although such mundane things were not mentioned in this book). At the end, I just found myself chanting, “tax the rich tax the rich tax the rich.”

Friday, September 9, 2011

Amazing Artwork, Aisle 27

Art from Lowe’s?

I had lunch with a friend the other day. Somewhat older, somewhat more conservative. Lovely home. Except, I must say, for the art.

I think that the art one hangs in one’s home should reflect the character of the inhabitants. Most inhabitants seem reluctant to let it all (or anything) hang out. One must blend. Artwork should match the sofa. Nothing should stand out. Nothing.

Now, I am an artist. Whether I am a good artist or not is up to the beholder, not me. I’m think I’m pretty good, but I also believe I have quite a ways to go. Now, this lady might not be able to stand laying eyes on my creations. Whatever. There’s plenty of original art out there that I wouldn’t hang up in a portable potty in a beer festival parking lot. But this was art purchased from Lowe’s with a $50 discount coupon. Sure, it matched the woodwork and the shower curtain. And it added some needed color to an open wall. But its benefits stopped there.

This woman is not the only person I know who has scored “artwork” at a huge discount. I’ve heard bragging from several friends about their cheap finds. Rarely (never?) are these finds unique works of art with some kind of meaning. Just a smoosh of dull, tired colors. Is this what people really want?!?

What am I to think of my own work and the work of those starving and not-so-hungry artists that head to their studios each day to paint, sculpt, weave, and craft their hearts out? Why is it that original art is almost completely overlooked by the majority of wall-adorning consumers out there? Do these people not buy original work out of ignorance, fear or cost control? Do they really like this faded generic “art” that they buy by the ton? Are they actually inspired not one whit about any original art out there in the world?

I have heard of emergency art. Someone has said to me before and will say to me again, “I just had to cover that hole/stain/useless outlet immediately. That thing was just laying around and I thought, hell, I’ll just stick that old thing up on the wall.” I myself have used something on hand to cover up unattractive blotches and ancient outlets that have no business ever coupling with an electrical plug again. But whatever I do hang in this type of situation will at least have some meaning for me.

Perhaps this woman is giddy with happiness over her purchase. Inspired to the max. Maybe I am just feeling slighted and sullen. I could have marketed the hell out of myself and not left her house until she had agreed on buying five thousand dollars worth of art from me. But that’s not the way I operate. I just nodded and agreed that the new artwork did, indeed, match the towels.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Drill Baby Drill


What does it have to do with religion?

More than you'd think.

So . . .

I live across the street from Penn State University. It's a big school. And as far as I'm concerned, it has lots of room to house various activities, whether its education, sports, theatre, or praying. I thought the school was big enough for it all.


Several years ago, a spiritual center was built on my side of campus. A professional baseball player could get a ball through the window from my property if they tried hard enough. All faiths are welcome there. But it wasn't good enough for the campus Catholics. Not sure why, and it obviously doesn't matter as the local Catholic community razed several homes OFF campus (and on my block) to build a Catholic center where folks of other religions couldn't get their filthy hands on their icons and what not.

For about a year and a half, I've heard construction vehicles rumbling past my house which sits six feet from the access alley. When we had the earthquake last week, I thought it was a convoy of construction trucks. Its been pretty much a constant earthquake for the past 18 months.

It can't get any worse, right?

It can.

Here's the email I received 10 minutes ago about the "progress" of the Catholic center.

The following is an update on the construction activities at the Catholic Student Faith Center being constructed in your neighborhood. Thank you all for your continued patience in dealing with the temporary disturbance that will result in a beautiful new building in your community.

The building will be served by a geothermal heat pump system. Part of that system included the installation of wells in the ground that accept and reject heat depending on the season. The CSFC has 17 wells 400’ deep in the area surrounding the building. We will begin drilling those wells next Tuesday 9/6/11. The drilling rig will create a noise disturbance. The drilling will last approximately 1 month, start at 7:00 in the morning and conclude at 5:00 daily.

The overall project is intended to be completed around the end of this year. Again, we appreciate your patience and if you have any question don’t hesitate to contact me. Thanks.

Mac Wright

I'm thrilled that religion has seen the light, as least where the environment is concerned. But if I seem a little testier than usual on this blog, then you'll know why.

I'm assuming this racket will top the two rock bands that practice in the houses across the alley.

Perhaps its time to move to the country and raise llamas.