Monday, May 27, 2013

The Hornswoggle, The Boondoggle, And the Fall of Constantinople

The Hornswoggle: to bamboozle; deceive; to attempt to get the better of 
someone through deception

So, John McCain took it upon himself to go to Syria. I damned near fell of the stool in the kitchen when I heard that one. He “sneaked” across the Turkish border to meet with rebel commanders? Is this some kind of joke? This is like Geraldo Rivera sneaking around Iraq. It is high on the list of seriously stupid things to do. 

McCain wants to open up another front. He's said as much. It’s not enough that we’re wasting American lives in Afghanistan. It’s not enough that a string of bombs throughout Iraq today killed at least 53 and wounded over 200 Iraqis once again demonstrating how effective our nation building strategy has been in their country. And now McCain wants to bring that same high level of success to Syria?

Note to Syrians: Run, run, run as far away as you can from this guy.

We have no business intervening in the Syrian civil war. None. Nada. Zilch. We don’t belong there. We should not be arming anyone. We should not be advising anyone. Do we really want to get in a pissing war with Hezbollah? This has disaster, death, doom, destruction, and dumb written all over it.

John McCain wants to take more American dollars and waste them in another nunfunded war when we need every damn dollar here to rebuild our own military wounded from the last two ill-fated adventures he was supporting. What? He have some sort of messiah complex that he thinks he’s the savior of the world?  Clearly the man is dealing shy of a full deck these days if he thinks embedding more American soldiers in Arab wars has some kind of return on investment. It does not. Never has, never will. 

Note to We, the People: Just say no.

The Boondoggle: a project that is considered a useless waste of both time and money, yet is often continued due to extraneous policy motivations.

Just to get my blood pressure down, I spent a fair amount of Monday reading tax codes. Yep. You read that right. I was tripping through IRS stuff in an attempt to better understand the phrase “tax exempt.” This is no easy thing to do. People go to law school and accounting school to do this. And even then,  not too many of them come away with a thorough enough understanding to actually be able to competently guide someone on the issue. But what I did come away with are some opinions that may or may not be valid…but they’re my opinions so if you know I’m wrong, write and tell me why…but be prepared to support your assertions with examples and, if necessary, case law.

The reality is there is no IRS scandal. The scandalous part is behavior of the people who are saying there is a scandal. The IRS in Cleveland was doing its job. Flooded with applications for 501(c)(4) status, the worker bees did what all worker bees worth their weight in  beeswax do….the batched like applications. Similar applications means you’re doing the research once, applying to each application as needed, and moving on to the next thematic batch. I would guess they do the same thing for community playground groups or Jewish groups or Baptist groups or Muslim groups or even the dreaded Democratic groups. It’s what you do in every single business anywhere in the world. You batch like functions together; to do otherwise is absurd and wasteful.

Just so we’re clear, here’s what 501(c)(4) means:

Title 26 USC § 501 - Exemption from tax on corporations, certain trusts, etc.
(c) List of exempt organizations:  The following organizations are referred to in subsection (a):
(4) (A) Civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare, or local associations of employees, the membership of which is limited to the employees of a designated person or persons in a particular municipality, and the net earnings of which are devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes.
       (B) Subparagraph (A) shall not apply to an entity unless no part of the net earnings of such entity inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.

In a NY Times article,  Groups Targeted by I.R.S. Tested Rules on Politics, former IRS exempt division lawyer Kevin J. Shortill, said:

“My experience has been that the agents immediately start Googling to see what the organization is doing outside of the application…“And that explains why you get these requests for information like, ‘Please print out your Web site and send it in.’ ”

Official Congressional Moron
Isn’t that what anyone in 2013 would do? Come on, folks; the laws maybe on the books since before the inter-web, but it is fair game to use modern technology to research this stuff.

There is no scandal…only morons in Congress who would rather waste time and money than to govern our nation. Remember this at mid-terms Do everyone  favor and don't send them back to the House. 

And the fall of Constantinople

I'm not sure too many people will observe the 560th Anniversary of the Fall of Constantinople To The Turks on May 29th, but it always was an important holiday in this house, celebrated with steaks on the grill and chocolate frosted angel food cake. Well, there maybe steaks....we'll see...but no angel food cake. Just can't do it. 

But I will be remembering what it was like. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Never offer to order things online for other people.
Just say no.

Monday, May 20, 2013


Sometime last summer, my earbuds stopped working. Or rather, one earbud stopped working. I noticed that I was only hearing GIVE 'EM THE OL' RAZZLE DAZZLE in my left ear. So after forgetting about it a lot, I finally went to Target and bought new, not even remotely expensive, earbuds and audiological parity was restored for the rest of mowing and then the start of snowblowing seasons.

So the last time I blew snow before I broke my arm, Steve's iPod...which I started using because it was slim, light, fit easily in my pocket, but mostly because it was his.... made the unhappy face. Nothing I did could make the unhappy face go away. So I stuck the new earbuds on my first generation iPod and used that one. Then I broke my arm and there went snowblowing. The iPods...his and hers...went in the "iPot" in the kitchen, complete with chargers and earbuds..old and new. 

Last week, I mentioned I got the tractor up and running and mowed with earbuds. Not exactly true. I cannot find the new earbuds. The old ones were in the iPot so after tearing the house apart, the old one-eared earbuds were pressed back into service but this time with the iPod Touch handed down from the junior son when he got a smartphone. (No, I don't want a smartphone.)

I have to take Steve's iPod over to the Apple Store at HugeDale to see if the geniuses at the Genius Bar can make the unhappy face go away. I have to go spring for another pair of earbuds....but not at the Apple Store where they will cost way too much. And why does this all bother me so much?

Probably because 4 years ago right about now, Steve gave me back the iPod I gave him for his birthday the year before. And the key to the tractor. And the key to the Rx-7. He told me not to lose any of them. And also gave me the key to the tool lockbox he built in the garage and warned me against ever letting the junior son put said key in his pocket because I'd never see it again. I live by these rules. I think I live by them because in the deepest part of me I want to believe these are the talismans which keep me connected to Steve. Not to the past. Not to wishful thinking, but to the idea that he passed these things to me for safe-keeping. 

His iPod still has the unhappy face and I don't know what to make of that. I am resisting the idea that it is an omen, a harbinger of more changes to come that I don't want to make. I want a soupçon of status quo, a  crumb of calm, or even just a strand, silken or otherwise, of serenity. Is that asking so much?

I was talking to one of the other widows in shul this week. Two years behind me in widowland, she was telling me about a current challenge, and commented that one of the hardest things was not have her husband to talk it through with her. "I'll never get used to that part," she insisted. And I agreed; I can't get used to that part either. It's the worst part.  You do something, you reach a milestone, you hear an old joke.....and the silence is deafening. 

Instead, you learn to listen in the silence. At first, you listen for the sound that will never be. Then you listen to the sounds of the house. Eventually you listen to yourself. If you're smart, you tell yourself the truth. If you're not that smart...well, things just take longer than they need to.

There's no stopping forward progress. You breathe, you keep going. 

Friday at sundown starts Steve's yahrzeit. Neither kid will be here. The senior son and his significant other have a wedding to attend in Chicago. Junior son and his spouse are taking the long weekend to go camping with their best friends to celebrate their engagement. But I'm actually okay with that. This is a year for a little bit of space. 

As this fifth year of widowness begins, I have two goals: one is to see the book in publisher tells me 2014 is the year...and the second is to figure out my taste in furniture. I'm not planning on buying anything or even re-decorating. I just figure if I can decide how I want to populate my visual life, it'll mean I'm finally figuring out who I am on my own terms.

Yeah, I know. It sounds easy. It isn't. I think I might be Danish modern: teak and sleek. I'll let you know.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If you missed AMERICAN MASTERS: MEL BROOKS on PBS it. It's terrific. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Spring Arrives With A Rainbow Flag

For those of you who have followed this blog for at least a few seasons, you probably know that the man in my life is John Deere. Yes, gentle readers, I have an ongoing relationship with my lawn tractor. I love the thing. And I am proud beyond belief to announce that I un-wintered my tractor all by myself on Sunday. I got the charger out and hooked up. I checked the oil and topped it off. I blew the gas line....literally....until I heard the bubbles in the gas tank. The air filters were cleaned and replaced, and after a couple of vroomm-vroommms, damn if the thing didn't start right up! I was in heaven. Earbuds, iPod, and noise cancelling headphones in place, off I went for a quick mow. 

©Handy Andler 12May2013

There is nothing on the planet as satisfying as the first mow of the season. Especially when just last week it snowing. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Minnesota's legislature has passed the Freedom To Marry . That it passed in our screwy House was a shock; no one thought that it would after just two years ago, they got the one-man/one-woman amendment to the state constitution on the ballot. There's a news story going around that Madame Representative Bachmann says she'll leave Minnesota if it passes. Although that sounds like a great idea, I cannot find a reputable news source confirming that rumor. 

The Wabasha Street bridge on Monday morning, May 13, 2013.
(MPR Photo/Tim Nelson)
On the other hand,  on Monday St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman proclaimed the Wabasha Street Freedom Bridge be renamed The Wabasha Street Freedom to Marry Bridge and it was decorated with rainbow flags. No city money may have been spent to make the change (it was funded by private donors) the statement of support was unmistakable. This isn't about sexual orientation; this is about civil rights. And this is a good day to admit to being Minnesotan....native or transplant.

But as long as we're talking about the civil rights thing, I wanna go on record yet again as saying gay people are not just GAY. They are people. PEOPLE, people. Stop labeling. Stop fixating on other people's sex lives. It's high time we moved passed passing judgement about sexual orientation. Really, folks. Can we all get over ourselves on this? We have much more important things to think about. 

Like what?  

Oh, how about the Benghazi debacle? You know what I wanna come the GOP wasn't this gnarled up over all the other embassy attacks, some of which happened under GOP presidents? And how come if the GOP is so worried about wasting money, they're protracting this whole experience? And if they want to go after something really worthwhile, why not go after the military on the sexual abuse of its women? Oh, wait, that would require them admitting rape is a crime. Forget I mentioned anything. 

These are hard times with serious questions. And instead of address the real issues, like stimulating the resurgence of manufacturing in this country, the Grand Obstructionist Party is wasting their allocation of hot air on bull-oney. Why can't they just concentrate on helping re-build America instead of rebuilding their own wallets. If the loss of a background check law hasn't curdled your guts, I suppose we are doomed to apathy and inaction.

We are our own worst enemy when we refuse to help ourselves. People who don't work don't pay taxes. Welfare roles swell. Infant mortality rises. People die. Education crumbles. And the GOP just keeps demanding slash and if it's working so well in Europe. 

Go figure.

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Chag same'ach to those of you lucky enough to be celebrating Shavuot this week. 
If you're in the Mendota Heights area and 
want to spend seriously provocative night of study, 
join me at BJ's Tikkun Leil Shavuot...I'm teaching slot 3 at 11:45 PM on Tuesday night. There will be cheesecake. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Second Amendment ~ Part 4: Blown Away

Wayne LaPierre’s speech to the NRA national convention last week was quite the piece of work.  Amongst other things, he said:

Lying in wait is a terrorist, a deranged school shooter, a kidnapper, a rapist, a murderer — waiting and planning and plotting — in every community across this country. Lying in wait right now. No amount of political schemes, congressional legislation, presidential commissions, or media roundtables will ever change that inevitable reality.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: No bill in Congress, no Rose Garden speech will ever change the inescapable fact that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

I happen to think Mr. La Pierre is a dangerous nutcase. I believe the only thing he cares about is how much money makes it into his personal pocket from the gun manufacturers.  I believe the man is amoral. That’s worse than immoral. He has NO morals, scruples, or sense of citizenship. His only desire is to rake in the cash as he puts more Americans lives at risk by throwing monkey wrenches into the work of Congress.

And I think he just won the battle. Not sure about the war yet, but he knew something last week that he didn’t talk about because he knew it would bring his world crashing down around his ears: Cody Wilson.

Credit: Michael Thad Carter for Forbes
Cody Wilson is a law student at the University of Texas (where else?) and the founder of a non-profit company called Defense Distributed. This week, he announced he has completed, built, and tested the first working 3-D printable CAD gun called The Liberator. Wilson will be releasing the plans to the public so that anyone with access to a 3-D printer can now print his/her own gun. No background checks, no serial number, no metal except the stainless steel common nail that serves as the firing pin. Oh, there is an optional steel plate you can insert that makes it x-ray detectable, and therefore “legal.”  Cody is also handing out the plans for magazines for AR-15s and AK-47s, and an AR lower receiver. In other words, you can photocopy your very own assault weapon.

All you need is a 3-D CAD printer…which costs under $10K and you’re in business. You can make and distribute the perfect bank robbin’ gun.  There is no trail.

Starting now, gun laws are obsolete. We just lost any possible control of guns. It’s over. Gun control will no more be manageable than Xeroxing an article at the library and expecting someone to send in their $2.00 for the copyright.

Folks, this is a game changer.

Is there a solution? Probably not at the moment. But what can be done in the interim?

First, stop fighting for gun laws. They are now a moot point. Repeal them all because they are toothless, worthless, and pointless. There is an upside to doing that. If you stop the gun law fight (for now, anyway) you kill the gun lobby. There’s no reason to buy Congesspeople when there’s nothing to lobby for or against. You immediately castrate their power base.  This is  good first step. Get the gun lobby outta the pockets of your local representative. Maybe Congress will actually have to do something because they can’t hide behind the 2nd Amendment any more.

Second, by repealing the gun laws, We the People will find out if the NRA is right or wrong. If there is no increase in murder, mass murder, mayhem, or suicide, well, we’re gonna have to do some serious thinking about what  we actually want to regulate. That’s a real question that needs a very serious answer. If, on the other hand, the entire country becomes Dodge City, that’s another matter and the NRA gets to sit down and shut up while a whole new school of arms control is developed.
The MoJo...a table top model 

Whaddaya gonna do? Register CAD printers?

Steve, the Husbandly Person, used to say, “If you really wanna end the war on drugs, legalize ‘em… then tax the hell outta them. Do that, and you shoot the pushers in the knees. The rest of it becomes a non-starter because it’s not clandestine. And the it’s a clear win for everyone.” That statement got us into a huge pickle with friends in Poughkeepsie (remember Matt and Marcia, SP?) but he was right then and he would be right about this.

This is going to take a very different mindset to figure out what to do about guns you can print off in your garage on the 3D printer you bought off Craig’s List or eBay. Welcome to the new world order. 

UPDATE: 10MAY2013 - the feds ordered the blueprints removed from the website on the basis that is violated export law. Wilson removed them but said they are already been downloaded over 100,000 times.

Wifely Person's Tip O'the Week
Getting ready for bike riding season? 
Don't forget to check out your brake cables. This is important.