Wednesday, October 26

Republican presidential candidates announce declining flat tax plans

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry announced his “Cut, Balance and Grow” tax plan on Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal. I find it intriguing and impressive that he didn’t fall prey to the current social media trend and announce his tax plan on Facebook.

His “Cut, Balance and Grow” plan sounds very similar to that of my hairdresser’s “You need to cut off at least three inches to encourage healthy hair growth.” Perry’s plan includes personal accounts for Social Security, major spending cuts and an optional flat tax.

The “optional flat tax” phrase is the only part of his economic plan I understand. Regardless of what an “optional flat tax” really means, many of the presidential candidates have finally figured out what all retail stores determined long ago. People like options and choices. That is why there is an entire aisle of juice varieties in the grocery store. Consumers want to exercise choice when spending their money. And, when you get down to it, when people pay taxes, they are inherently consumers because many believe they are spending their money.

Tax payers, defined as consumers, like choice. Presidential candidates run into trouble as they try to address every consumers need for choice. For example, my concept of choice is most decidedly different from that of my husband and somehow the candidates’ tax plans must appeal to both of us. Hence the candidates have proffered the vague but obviously choice-rich term “optional flat tax.” The word “optional” is almost as appealing to me as “clearance.” “Flat” also makes complete sense to me because I spend a great deal of time trying to make sure that my hair is straight, but not “flat.” Regardless of the content of the “optional flat tax plan,” the candidates have successfully secured my attention.

However, closer investigation reveals some candidates optional flat tax plans are actually at a slight incline while others resemble a bumpy road. Perry’s economic plan offers American consumers the choice to pay taxes under the current system (there’s the bump) or optionally pay a 20 percent flat tax.
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has also figured out that he will attract votes if he offers a tax plan titled “optional flat tax.” Gingrich trumped Perry with an optional flat tax of 15 percent. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has not tried to curry favor with an “optional flat tax” plan but has presented what he describes as a “flatter tax plan” (there’s the incline).
I’m hoping that candidates will try and outdo each other, continuing to offer flat tax plans of lower percentage rates so that by Election Day we will reach an optional flat tax of 5 percent.
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan sounds to me like an optional flat tax of 9 percent, or 9 percent, or 9 percent. I think a three choice tax plan is a good idea and I like the simplicity of the options. After more analysis, I discovered that it is a non-optional 9 percent tax on income, business transactions and federal sales. If Perry is nominated as the Republican presidential candidate and takes Herman Cain as his running mate for vice president, will he offer a 9-optional 9-flat 9-tax plan?

Tuesday, October 25

Occupy Wall Street Movement, EEW

I really like protests. For years I’ve wanted to participate in a protest that caused a societal shift resulting in a positive historical change for the entire nation. I’ve always had a romantic vision of myself carrying a poster, chanting with fellow protestors, marching towards a better tomorrow. My grandchildren would do a school project on me titled “How One Person Can Change a Nation.”
I’ve had a difficult time finding a protest that I believed in that also had a short march route. I have plantar fasciitis and my feet really hurt when I walk on concrete. So I was pleased when I discovered that the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Movement was coming to town and a peaceful protest was planned with an optional short distance walk. I thought, “A ha! Here is my chance to effect our social fabric forever and star in a school project thirty years from now.”  
Unfortunately, the purpose of the OWS movement is unclear to me. I don’t know who’s in charge over there but the first thing I would tell them is that the movement needs a better name. The name isn’t a movie teaser to later be revealed in a theater near you. My suggestion is self-explanatory, Everyone Eschew Wall Street (EEWS).
I did a bit of research to see what the OWS hullabaloo is all about. Boston College Political Science Professor, Alan Wolfe said that “The issues that OWS deal with are global in nature…OWS speaks more to the general interest of making society fairer to all.” I’m all for global fairness so I decided to join the protest.
I didn’t bring my own poster because I still wasn’t completely clear on the specific issues. I assumed that I would find protest signage I could support. I scanned the signs and a wide range of issues was represented including: “Disarm! Dismantle the War Economy,” “Your Cuts are Killing US,” “Debt is Bondage,” “End Corporatocracy,” “Jail WallStreet Crooks,” “Not only the Rich live Here,” “Time…Banksters Bail Us Out,” “Fund NPR!” “Get Money Out of Politics,” “So You’re Going to Lie Down and Let Them Steamroller You,” “Trickle Down Doesn’t Work. Tax the Top 400,” “Campaign Finance Reform Now.”  
Which sign would I march with?
The “Fund NRP!” poster made complete sense to me. We should definitely fund National Public Radio. It’s a great radio station and I would go one step further and say we should initiate a federally funded program that teaches all students how to turn on a radio and listen to NPR.
I thought I caught a glimpse of a sign that read “Reform Now! Star Wars Trilogy Required in Schools!” Now that’s a sign I could support wholeheartedly. I looked at the poster more closely and it said “Reform Now! Stop Wars Trillions Required in Schools!”
If I were a professor grading the protest, in my comments I would say “It’s good that a wide range of issues was represented, however the purpose of the protest was unsuccessfully communicated because there was no cohesive theme among the posters. A successful movement requires more than enthusiasm. A protest is a demonstrative public communication with clear intent.”

Thursday, October 13

The History of Columbus Day Revisited

The holiday season is upon us and was successfully launched by the season opener — Columbus Day. Who doesn’t love Columbus Day with all of its pageantry and tradition?
Every year, I like to pause and reflect on the traditions, history and true meaning of each holiday. Columbus Day is steeped in meaningful tradition including bank closures and even bank drive-thru closures.
The history of Columbus Day is a completely fabricated story surrounding some loosely connected facts. Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 and discovered a land mass already inhabited by people. His boat landed somewhere off the coast of southern Florida, probably on an island in the Caribbean.
But why get bogged down in the details? One thing’s for sure, he definitely didn’t land anywhere in the domestic U.S., the only country where Columbus Day is celebrated — other countries have somewhat similar festivals, but nothing devoted solely to Columbus.
After his sojourn at the beautiful island with the friendly people and fresh fruit, Columbus went home and told all the important people he knew and anyone else that would listen about his discovery. His self-promotion and public relations campaign puts Kim Kardashian to shame. He convinced everyone that he was one of the greatest explorers of all time and that his discovery was historical (a new and revised version of history). Columbus definitely didn’t persuade people with endless gifts from the new world (which may or may not have been stolen from the tribes people in the Caribbean).
Then, Amerigo Vespucci, a so-called “friend” of Columbus, set out like a Kardashian sister to build his own platform of fame and fortune. He commenced his own expedition and discovered another inhabited land mass, possibly on the East Coast of North America but more likely South America. Without Facebook or a TV, Vespucci was forced to be creative with his discovery advertisement. He began by crafting copious letters that eloquently detailed the beauty of the land that he branded “the new world.” He mailed the letters to all the important people he knew and anyone else that would read them, including Matthias Ringmann, who just so happened to be an editor.
Oddly enough, Ringmann was at that very moment working on a geography book with a cartographer, Martin Waldseemuller. What a fortunate coincidence. History says that Ringmann and Waldseemuller found Vespucci’s eloquent writing so compelling that when they depicted “the new world” on the map they decided to name it America after Amerigo Vespucci. Vespucci definitely didn’t give them any money or bribe them in anyway. Ringmann and Waldseemuller of their own accord decided to name two gigantic land masses after a guy they barely knew.
It has been documented in multiple places that Columbus died and never knew that history has attributed him with discovering America. Additionally, it has also been written as fact that Vespucci didn’t know that the new world would be named “America” after him.
It must be assumed that Columbus didn’t know that North and South America had been discovered (or visited) thousands of years previous by both the Chinese and Vikings. Likewise, Vespucci presumably didn’t realize that the residents of “the new world” already had a name for the place where they lived.
Amerigo Vespucci’s name was branded forever and history was rewritten to crown Christopher Columbus discoverer of America. You won’t find it written anywhere but it sure looks like Vespucci and Columbus struck a deal to me.

Wednesday, October 5

The Red Sox fall from grace

I feel sorry for the Red Sox. Their catastrophic crash and burn is now infamously logged in baseball history forever. The Red Sox fan’s echoing cries were heard round the world, literally. It even made the local news in Botswana. Outside the U.S., the Red Sox now bear the brunt of many embarrassing jokes.
This is not the first time however, that an American sports team has miserably lost and exposed themselves to worldwide embarrassment. In fact, at this very moment, sports fans spanning the globe are avidly following the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The World Cup is the culminating competition for the top 20 qualifying rugby teams. It is the largest international sporting event after the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup with an estimated 4.2 billion television viewers (baseball’s 2010 World Series averaged 70 million viewers). The USA rugby team, (known as the Eagles) took a beating, with a notable loss to Australia 67 – 5. The Eagles collapse was scrutinized by rugby fans on every continent but Antarctica.
What is more important, and more embarrassing, is that most Americans had no idea that the one, two combination punch of the American rugby team loss and the American public captivation with the Red Sox calamity made the U.S. look like a bunch of boobs to the rest of the planet.  
Consider that the 2011 baseball ‘World’ Series will be played in the domestic, contiguous U.S. by American teams, while the Rugby ‘World’ Cup is played in different countries around the world by teams representing over 80 nations. International media coverage of the Red Sox included their recent demise as well as their two previous World Series titles, which were only played by American teams in their American world. Media coverage in the U.S. of the Rugby World Cup and the U.S. rugby team’s performance (or lack thereof) was scant.
Also consider that the aggressive sport of rugby makes football look like child’s play. A highly athletic game, rugby requires the endurance and agility of a soccer player and the power and coordination of a football player. With absolutely no pads, the rugby players accept and deliver pain like a boxer. I went to a rugby match and the players were gargantuan. They ran around the field kicking and throwing the ball for 90 minutes (with one ten minute break) and blood was spurting out of their noses, mouths, elbows and knees. The match was positively gruesome and incredibly impressive. For international rugby fans, the recent U.S. rugby team loss was yet another example of why Americans should stick to football (and their pads).
One can hardly blame the U.S. rugby team for any negative press. It’s not as if they had a huge crowd of fans cheering them on. Can the Red Sox be reasonably faulted for causing international embarrassment? The Red Sox aren’t the only team that has suffered significant loss this season, they’re just one of the most well know teams outside the U.S. Foreign media reports on events in the U.S. such as the Red Sox and U.S. rugby team because there is public interest. Apparently there isn’t enough public interest in the U.S. to warrant media coverage of American athletes attending international sporting events.
The U.S. could have aggressively supported the team effectively using the Rugby World Cup as an international political tool. It wouldn’t be the first time a sporting event has been used to broker a political relationship. Instead American athletes are left to wander international playing fields alone. It should come as no surprise to anyone when the U.S. looks like a bunch of boobs.

Catcher: Carlton Fisk The major league leader in games caught with 2,226 has since made amends with the Sox, but his departure in 1981 was as bitter as they come. GM Haywood Sullivan may not have been interested in keeping Fisk long term and famously neglected to file some paperwork, making the Hall of Famer a free agent. Fisk signed with the White Sox, for whom he played 13 more seasons.