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Attention educators: Florida Tax Watch takes aim at the Florida Retirement System

no apple for you

Mary Ellen Tracy, an educator for over 24 years in Florida, is considering packing up her classroom at the end of this school year and turning in her keys – for good. This isn’t a decision Mrs. Tracy has come to lightly. Despite her years of service, numerous accolades and well-stocked certification, Mary Ellen may be forced to retire early, or else lose nearly half of her predicted retirement income.

In December 2010, Florida Tax Watch (FTW), a private, non-profit research institute with officers holding high-powered positions at AT&T, Verizon, Publix, PBS&J, and Prudential Financial, published a 233-page report containing many recommendations for reigning in the cost of state government. Amongst these recommendations, FTW suggested a number of changes to the Florida Retirement System (FRS) – the pension plan that all state, county, and city employees in Florida are privy to and automatically enrolled in. Interestingly enough, according to Florida Tax Watch’s website, the state of Florida has implemented three-fourths of FTW’s recommendations since the organization began in 1979. In this case, it is easy to see that these changes have a good chance of making it to Governor Rick Scott’s desk for approval in the coming year.

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A sensible plan to not create jobs, gorge the Pentagon, and royally piss everyone off

evil elephant

The House Republican Study Committee took a bold first step toward national solvency with the release of its 2011 budget recommendations Thursday. As Congress faces a projected federal shortfall of $14 trillion, the brightest minds in the Republican Party honed in on the most pressing expenses on the national invoice.

Wisely declining to withhold so much as a three-hole puncher from the Department of Defense, which accounts for over $1 trillion in spending per annum, the new House majority plans to empty the pockets of programs that never helped anyone, such as USAID. A couple weeks after laughing off the suggestion of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to terminate $80 billion in superfluous Pentagon spending, our Republican friends proposed to slash funding for the Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal assistance to poor people (who probably broke the law anyway).

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Wikileaks has created an ethical clusterfuck in which the world might drown

For money, I would research, read, and write about the absolute ethical insanity that Wikileaks has caused objectively and in a better informed manner. For free, I will write something without footnotes or facts.

Apparently, we need to know how much toilet paper every foreign service worker uses when s/he wipes their ass, but we don’t want the government to know what books we checked out of the library? Sounding conservative, I know, but let me continue. How are we allowed privacy (which I very much value, I don’t want them reading my emails) and the government is allowed none when dealing with delicate foreign affairs? I truly think that on so many levels, the newest Wikileaks affair has formed a personal, political, and even socially ethical clusterfuck no one will be able to fully address.

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How did it take all day for me to be introduced to this video of Putin singing Blueberry Hill?

The crowd who attended a fundraiser in Saint Petersburg last week where Vlad poked around on the piano and played the classic tune “Blueberry Hill” included Goldie Hawn, Kevin Costner, and The Depardieu. It’s funny how it looks as if it were filmed fifteen years ago, but it was just last week. Is everything in Russia stuck in the past? Goldie looks a little younger, too. Something to think about as you watch this insane video.

Putin, you are a crazy and fascinating man. You’ve inspired me to learn about Russia and watch the internet more closely.

Thank you, Videogum and Amanda Leah for this treat.

 

The tax deal: Obama and the Republicans

Obama

To borrow a phrase from the Colbert Report, the Republicans dangled their big brass ones during the midterm elections and the subsequent lame-duck tax debate. They stood in the face of public opinion polls to champion the extension of Bush tax cuts and estate tax provisions, using as leverage expiring unemployment benefits. An unreformed Scrooge might have cheered them on gleefully. Many on the left felt it was a fight Obama should have relished.

The accord Obama struck with congressional Republicans last week should not be a surprise for at least two reasons. The first was the consistent mix from White House mouthpieces of theoretical opposition to extending the tax cuts and an explicit willingness to broker a deal. The other is the fact that Obama has been compromising since Inauguration Day. Only Republican Indian-giving (pardon the expression), hyperbolic rhetoric, and voting discipline have masked the fact that Obama has tried unsuccessfully to craft a centrist Third Way since we met him in 2004. He sacrificed much on the stimulus, health care reform, and financial reform, all of which were diluted by Obama’s quixotic mission for Republican good faith. History will mark this as the theme of his first term. Which leads us to the controversial pact and his quest for a second.

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Election mourning

in mourning

Please excuse us. The elections have left us in a state of extreme grief. All of that red on the map is making us nauseous and dizzy.
Where was all of that Democratic power that elected the first black president just two years ago? How has Kentucky now elected a senator who doesn’t support civil rights? Why would anyone vote for these teafuckers? How did all of this happen? Didn’t we pass a healthcare bill to make all people less sick, not just the already not really ill? Doesn’t that count for anything? Marco Rubio is a monster.

From Florida, we send our apologies, and are accepting flowers and tissues and tickets out.

 

Shut Up and Vote

Do your duty. Google’s making it easy (well, they’re trying to).

 

THL restores sanity and offers some fear in Washington, DC

rally to restore sanity gay

On The View last week, Stephen Colbert noted the importance of fear in the evolution of man/woman. The child scared of bears avoids bears, that fearful child lives. The child without fear is eaten. Hence, fear is good. He then encouraged the crowds coming to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, DC on Oct. 30, to dress like those things that he, Colbert, fears. After attending the rally, I might add that there’s something also to be said for facing your fears, realizing that they’re mostly absurd, and then getting the hell over them.

In the morning before the rally, the day before Halloween, we scrambled around to dress in costumes that we thought would give Colbert the poopies. Amanda was a northeastern liberal in her Harvard sweatshirt, New Yorker in hand. Leah resembled a Central American hippy, geared up to start some shit. Jimmy wore a floor-length dishdasha, sunglasses, keffiyeh and large, felt American flag top hat. I dressed as a Mexican whose baby bear (Colbert fears bears) was tied tightly to my back, my anchor bear, or anchor cub, if you will.

We left the house a bit ahead of time, but already the bus was too full to enter. Some strange blond girls shouted down at us from the safety of their windows. Their confusing and pathetic heckles included such brilliant lines as: “Obama’s cool.” and “MGMT, Electric Feel.” Why? Wha? Don’t know.

We drove half way and walked half way, asked an Aussie couple to take a picture of us. They seemed amused to have the privilege of taking the picture instead of asking for one.

The crowd was dense, and it was impossible to get too close. It smelt strongly of farts, possibly vegan farts. Though, I must say, BO was a at min. There were kids, even babies, old people, young people, and lazy people in annoying chairs. There were those who sang loudly along with Cat Stevens when we heard him begin his song, and those who didn’t know who The O’Jays were. Everyone knew Ozzy. Many people had signs, there were dozens of Waldos, and even other anchor cubs.

Although we were present at the event, there was only one jumbotron and lots of tall people in front of us. We’ll have to catch what we couldn’t see (which was everything), on the tele this week. As we all know, it’s not about what you can see, it’s about the group experience, which is unbelievably uncomfortable at times (farts and hunger cramps) but is very unifying and inspirational. We non-absurd conservatives turned that shit out. I may not agree with everyone that was there, but I definitely know that we all have some similar values that make us infinitely less repulsive than Glenn Beck and his crowd, and we all have at least some semblance of a sense of humor. I think that was what united us on the lawn, that and our distaste for the humorless. Hopefully there’ll be more peaceful, amusing, and bonding rallies to come.

In closing, some guy Jake lifted me up for two good pictures of the crowd for which he gets a big thank you! Thanks, Jake! And thanks to Emily Mcneill for this link to more signs from the rally.

 

Clickable

THL will be in DC this weekend to restore sanity and/or keep fear alive. If you’ll also be there, here’s a half schedule just released. Expect The Roots and Jeff Tweedy.

by , posted Oct 28, 09:45 PM

Clickable

Thank the Lord! Kyle Munzenrieder did us all a favor and archived state senator and congressional candidate Frederica Wilson’s 25 best hats on the New Times’ blog Riptide. After years of non-profiting, I’ve seen the fashion-forward politician sport many of these handsome bastards. The Santa Fe remains my fav.

by , posted Oct 15, 03:07 PM

A drastic change that could make elections much more fair

election map

As midterm election primary elections roll on in, one thing is becoming clear: this is the year of the Tea Party. Or, not really, right? Tea party candidates who win primaries against moderate Republicans are less likely to win in their general elections against a Democrat then that moderate Republican might have been, so the whole thing might be a Pyrrhic victory. If I were speaking to a group of Tea Party idiots, this would be a pretty fantastic opportunity for me to talk about my favorite possible election reform. Since our readers are much too smart to be involved with these dunces, all I can do is ask you to imagine “if the tables were reversed,” only the candidates involved were all a lot smarter and on your side.

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Gays Can Adopt in Florida Finally
3rd D.C.A. upholds prohibition on gay adoption as unconstitutional

Today the 3rd D.C.A. affirmed a lower court decision stating that Florida’s explicit ban on homosexual adoption is unconstitutional. The ruling is based on equal protection grounds and Florida was the last state to have this prohibition.

Christ had already been backing away from enforcing the ban and the D.C.F. had already stopped enforcing the ban. Given these circumstances I’m actually not 100% sure why they even appealed the decision.

Ignoring the resulting problems that arise from a family unit that has gaps in its custody rights, the fact that the state would graciously allow gays to take on the arduous task of foster parenting while refusing to grant them the full rights of parenthood was amazingly insulting.

The text of the ruling is here for those of you who enjoy reading 3rd D.C.A. decisions (you guys have to exist somewhere).

 

What's up with Pakistan?

pakistan flooding

Here’s something I noticed yesterday: The number of people living in poverty in Pakistan fell from 30% in 1999 to 17% in 2008. Of course it’s not doing so hot now, what with the Taliban resurgence, GEC (global economic calamity), and more recently the unspeakable damage caused by the floods. Still, even the 30% figure is lower then I’d have guessed. I think the reason is that we always hear it discussed together with Afghanistan, and assume both places to be roughly equivalent. Actually, the purchasing power equity-balanced per-capita GDP (PPEBPCGDP?) of Pakistan is three times that of its neighbor. There are parts of Pakistan that are hellhole-esque, but most of it is not that different from eastern Europe — a little dirty and revenge-killing-y, but with a bustling economy, a sophisticated upper-middle class, and ogles of culture.

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Part II: Haiti, life in the clinic

Haiti

Diagnosing disease in a fully-loaded modern emergency room is a process that rarely takes place entirely within the walls of the department. A patient is seen for five minutes by a physician. Once orders are placed, a cascade of events begins. Blood and urine is collected and sent to a laboratory. Meanwhile, the patient is sent to radiology for scans and x-rays. A call may be placed to the patient’s primary physician. This gathering of data may take many hours, sometimes warranting an overnight stay without a firm diagnosis. American healthcare workers are addicted to data and lashed to it by fear of litigation, and there is no evidence more incriminating than within an emergency room armed to the teeth with diagnostic and interventional firepower.

This is the only world I had ever known before I went to Haiti for a week of volunteer work as a nurse last month. Suddenly, our misfit gang of nurses, paramedics, and firefighters were thrust into an environment wherein each of us was called “doctor” and the most powerful tool we had was the stethoscope around our necks.

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Clickable

For the first time, there are three women on the supreme court. The significance? “Having three or more women in a small decision-making group constitutes a critical mass that can transform the way that group operates.” Among other positive effects, “the small group as a whole becomes more collaborative and more open to different perspectives.”

by , posted Sep 2, 09:33 AM

Instruments of torture

instruments or torture

Just closed the Instruments of Torture exhibition at the Freedom Tower. Displays of torture equipment are popular tourist traps around Europe, but this was somewhat more upscale, on loan from the Museo Medieval in Italy and with many pieces from “private collections.” There was also a decidedly political bent to the exhibitions, and the informational panels never missed a chance to say that “It still goes on today!!!”

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Glenn Beck rally, pumped and ready to restore honor: whatever that means

glenn beck

As I neared the National Mall en route to a tee time Saturday afternoon, I dialed my radio to C-SPAN’s live transmission of the Glenn Beck revival, “Restoring Honor.” I was rudely re-routed from Ohio Drive over the Memorial Bridge, where hordes of hideously dressed Caucasians mystifyingly sauntered away from the keynote speaker toward Arlington Cemetery. Perhaps they mistakenly heard there was a Bob Evans within walking distance. While I searched the vacant faces in the crowd for the emotional tenor of the afternoon, I gave Reverend Beck a few minutes to plead his case.

As if to herald the eye of a mighty storm, Beck strained to put a more nuanced event on the busy calendar of an otherwise ham-handed, childishly simplistic political movement. He insisted that his demonstration to “restore honor” would not be political, but some kind of pep rally for veterans and God-fearing Americans who feel upset about the direction of American culture. Because the themes were shrouded in a soupçon of mystery and because it interrupted my drive to the golf course, I tuned in to hear what Beck had to say when the spotlight shone brightest.

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Reasonably priced conceptual photography for your eyehole

Moore Estates (West) by Matthew Moore

A fourth-generation farmer who’s family land is being gradually being surrounded by the suburbs (sound familiar?), Matthew Moore has been exploring the loss of the American family farm in his work. In this piece, he and his father planted crops in the shape of a proposed development on a recently purchased plot of land.

This is one of the loveliest pieces I’ve seen recently on 200×20, a site that sells editions of 200 8×10” prints for $20 — affordable art for you people — plus larger sizes for those who can afford to pay. Click the picture to read more and buy yourself a print.

Update: Did you know that, for a couple of hundred bucks, you can buy a real Ansel Adams photo? These are real silver gelatin prints from Adams’ negatives, printed by Adam Ross. Ross is a master printer who Adams personally trained to print these photos, and printed his work for the last ten years of Adams’ life.

 

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