As we learned, cuts due to sequestration amounts to a 2 percent cut in federal spending. But on a year to year basis, federal spending is still increased by over 2 percent. So basically, sequestration does not cut federal spending at all. Contrast that to employees who saw their FICA tax increase from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent this year which dropped their take home pay by a real 2 percent.
The response by the federal government to this non-existent cut in spending has been bizarre and seems to be designed to inflict the most pain on American citizens rather than the government. White House tours for school children have been cancelled, the Department of Homeland security released hundreds of illegal aliens awaiting deportation, the FAA will reduce the number of Air Traffic Controllers, the TSA is threatening a massive increase in airport waiting times and the government threatens to cut meat inspections.
Meanwhile, President Obama took 600 people with him to Israel last week, including his armored car which had to be towed after his staff accidentally filled it with diesel fuel. That same weekend, Vice President Biden, on his way back from the installation of Pope Francis, stopped in Paris for a night and then stopped in London and racked up hotel bills of $585,000 and $485,000 respectively. The limo bill in Paris was $321,665.
The U.S.S. Harry Truman aircraft carrier and its escorts are sitting idle in Norfolk, VA because of the Sequester but the prison for terrorists at Guantanamo Bay is scheduled for $150-170 million in improvements.
Press Secretary Jay Carney was recently asked if the president was going to cut back on his lavish vacations and travel and gave a rambling non-response on how the President was focused on jobs.
“The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out” – George Carlin. The above quote may be from a comedian but the sentiment is no laughing matter. Late last week the U.S. Senate held a vote http://goo.gl/2cKK7 on a budget resolution and decided they would sneak in a wholly unrelated bill, the euphemistically named “Marketplace Fairness Act” (www.marketplacefairness.org). Sadly there was strong bipartisan support for this embedded bill (75 for 25 against). The putative goal of this legislation is to put brick and mortar stores on an equal footing with online retailers with respect to sales tax collection. Presently, if you purchase goods online from a seller that has no “nexus” (that is, no physical presence) in your state then YOU, not the reseller, are responsible for submitting the appropriate sales tax to your state. As I’m sure you’re aware this is hardly ever enforced (as it would be political suicide).
The politically expedient route then is to go after out of state retailers who have no voice or vote and shake them down for tax money. So apparently if Party A is harmed and Party B is not, it makes more sense to start harming Party B rather to stop harming Party A. Brilliant.
I sat here this past weekend thinking about what to share with you as the storms came through and the heavy rain turned my yard into a lake; so I decided to talk about what plants actually like those soggy, boggy or consistently moist environments. Certainly, those very same spots in my yard will turn into ground hard enough to land a 747 on it, but I’m sure that many of you have places in your garden that stay wet all the time, even without the rain.
Lots of things can contribute to soggy soil. Site issues such as slopes, soil texture, high water tables, and even the amount of sun or shade will influence moisture retention. There is a shallow depression in my side yard and when the rain flows through the gutters it heads in that direction, then I have a small pond. The plans are to create a “rain garden” there one day to prevent the runoff that eventually heads to the street, but that is a story for another article.
There are different levels of “soggy” sites: consistently wet, consistently moist, and seasonally wet. Fortunately, there are plants for each of these areas. Most people know about the Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), which actually sits in water– we have some at Round Bowl Springs. A tree that is probably hard to find but gives stunning fall color is Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica). Both are big trees so they need lots of space. For a water-loving shrub consider Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), and it attracts butterflies. The Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is very often sold in nurseries and folks don’t know that it really is much happier in wet soil (then they wonder why it didn’t do well in their rock garden).
Things to do on a “sick day” (hint, hint, wink, wink):
Get a little beauty sleep, catch up on reading, and...
Oh yeah, and manhandle a shark.
It isn’t clear whether or not wrestling with one of the sea’s toothiest villains was on Paul Marshallsea’s to-do list while spending a day on an Australian beach Jan. 21 of this year.
Marshallsea, a 61-year-old from Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, was relaxing with his wife and daughter near Bulcock Beach – no, I didn’t make that up – in the middle of a two-month vacation when he saw a dusky whaler shark that had gotten itself stuck in shallow waters.
In need of a little adrenaline rush, Marshallsea ran to help a wildlife rescuer get the beast back to where it belonged and almost managed to lose a leg in the process when the shark snapped at him.
So much for not biting the hand...
Anyway, this fairy tale would have ended there, hadn’t a video of the rescue become a genuine news article, for which Marshallsea’s bosses decided to fire him.
Yep, they fired him because of it. And not for some cool reason like Marshallsea working for MI6 and blowing his cover.
Marshallsea was on a two-month vacation because he claimed he was having work-related stress – yes, that really is enough for a two-month vacation in most European countries – and his superiors didn’t think that volunteering oneself for an impromptu sea-rescue was befitting a stressed-out individual.
Hoping to gain from the experience, Marshallsea hinted somewhat vaguely about a future career in shark-ery, asking London’s The Independent in an interview, “Where do I now get a job? There’s not much call for a shark wrestler in Merthyr Tydfil.”
(At least, that’s how I’m choosing to read that.)
Printed in the March 21, 2013 edition
With crossover day behind us, the House returned to a more committee intensive posture as we began to work through bills the Senate had passed through the previous week. There will be two more weeks in this year's legislative session, during which we will first review those roughly 100 bills from the Senate, and then work through differences in bills that have passed both chambers, but not in exactly the same form. We did see some floor time during the week, considering 8 bills and resolutions.
The most important bill we saw was HB 106, which contains the 2014 fiscal year budget, also known as the “big budget”. Budget bills are one of the few types of bills not subject to the crossover day limit. In fact, the budget is the only bill we technically must pass each session, because the State Constitution requires it. The big budget was a little late coming to the floor this year, mainly because the House Appropriations Committee needed some extra time to study the impact of the federal sequestration on our finances. If the US Congress doesn’t intervene, the impact will ultimately amount to about $240 million in reductions for the 2014 fiscal year. Thus HB 106 has seen some adjustments which, in combination with existing powers of the Governor on spending, will hopefully allow the state to adapt without requiring the Governor to call for a special session of the General Assembly to fix things.
It is curious that this simple fact is not more widely accepted, however given that the state itself has mastered the magician’s art of misdirection (via state apologists given a platform in the public media coupled with the indoctrination of our children into venerating the state) it should perhaps not be all that surprising. We remain as blissfully unaware of our cage as fish are to the invisible boundaries of their aquarium. But sometimes cracks develop in those transparent walls revealing the deceit that has been there all along.
A case in point is the recent EU-IMF bailout of Cyprus’ troubled banks this weekend (http://goo.gl/4Vy3n ). For those whose eyes glaze over at the prospect of a discussion of Eurozone financial policy I will spare you the gory details. In fact, skipping the details and looking at the big picture makes the crime occurring all the more clear. The bottom line is that the Cypriot government is confiscating between 6.5% - 10% of all money on deposit in Cypriot banks (more precisely they are being forced to buy an equivalent amount of bank stock). The short narrative is this: Cypriot banks gambled away depositors’ money on bad financial bets, then turned to the government to bail them out, who on their behalf went before the EU & IMF with hat in hand begging for a loan lest all their banks go bankrupt. The IMF agreed to a loan based bailout only upon condition the Cypriot government could prove it had the tyrannical cojones to take what it wanted from the people thus assuring the IMF of the loan’s solvency (insofar as the solvency rests on the ability of the government to confiscate and repay). This is simply gang initiation at the state level. It is crony capitalism at its worst and most blatant.