Wednesday, January 27, 2010

We can talk about it all day...but that doesn't help anyone.

Yesterday, Lula had a very emotional posting on Lulaville about a young girl where her daughter goes to school. The post was very heart wrenching and weighed heavily on my thoughts throughout the day. As a Christian, I know Jesus was very specific about both the poor and children...there's little, if any, room for denominational interpretation on what our attitude should be concerning both.

Too often as a spoiled society, we throw off the misfortunes of children with blame pointed at the deadbeat, degenerate parents. That's just not fair. A child can no more be held responsible for living in deplorable conditions than they can be charged with a crime if one or both of their parents are drug dealers. It's despicable and disgraceful to levy such an opinion of judgment.

To reinforce my charged up misgivings about the ineptitude of some parents, I see the following pamphlet, which is distributed by the State of Tennessee, displayed at my toddler's preschool as I'm leaving this morning...

You've got to be kidding me! Is this what things have come to...that certain parents need a state published pamphlet to tell them not to shake their baby? That you don't have the decency to make sure that your kids are properly clothed and receive adequate nutrition? That you need someone to tell you to keep your children clean and ensure they receive at least minimal medical attention?

Maybe I'm naive, even ignorant, to the point of refusing to believe such neglect is commonplace. Being a parent is one of the greatest blessings from God...period. Deviants and derelicts are a part of any society, and I understand that, but such behavior shouldn't be so common that state and federal agencies must mass produce literature to remind parents of their proper parental responsibilities. Yes...there should be agencies with authority to intervene in such cases and remove children from harmful situations...absolutely. My frustration stems from the fact that we've allowed things to get to this point.

I'm not talking about a third-world country or places far off from here either. Children are being neglected and abused right under our noses each and every day. There's a vast difference between a bad parent and a negligent, abusive parent too. Parenting poorly is often a result of the learning curve involved and comes with the process. Bad parents spoil their children and deny them lessons in responsibility. Bad parents let their children walk all over them and give in to ridiculous demands for the sake of keeping peace. Bad parents turn their head to inappropriate behaviors in order to avoid confrontation.

Of course, bad parenting can lead to neglectful parenting, but to deny your own child the necessities of life...not gaming systems, iPods, name-brand clothing and cell phones...I'm talking about the absolute necessities for life called food, shelter, clothing and cleanliness.

Wait...I know what's missing from that list. Love.

Our children need our love above all else. I find it hard to believe a loving parent could also be a neglectful parent. Dear Lord...I hope I'm right. We all need to take time for a neglected child right in our own communities and do some act of kindness and love for them. This isn't a political issue that breaks down to Democrats/Republicans or conservative/liberal either. This is a human issue that affects us all. Don't just read this and agree that it's a good point. Act!

Unfortunately, it probably won't be hard to find someone once you start looking.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Excuse me...but I don't speak your language.

I don't know about you...but getting my W-2 form each year seems to be one annual event that just hacks me off. That's because I know what's coming next.

Expecting a refund doesn't seem to eliminate the level of aggravation either. My latest little tax deduction has been on the books for three years, since she came kicking and screaming into the world in November 2007 (thank you IRS Exemption to Residency Test- Child Born During the Year rule). Despite being the apple of my eye, her addition really hasn't countered my misgivings of tax time.

As things go, 2007 was also a pretty unlucky year in the deduction category because a new home purchase tax credit didn't take place until 2008 (The Housing and Economic Stimulous Act of 2008). Of course all the expenses associated with said purchase are deductible (IRS Form 1098 reported on Form 1040 Schedule A). The 2009 version of the First Time Homebuyers Credit includes a provision that doesn't require payback of the credit like the 2008 version:

This year, qualifying taxpayers who buy a home before Dec. 1, 2009, can claim the credit on either their 2008 or 2009 tax returns. They do not have to repay the credit, provided the home remains their main home for 36 months after the purchase date. They can claim 10 percent of the purchase price up to $8,000, or $4,000 for married individuals filing separately.


The IRS also alerted taxpayers that the new law does not affect people who purchased a home after April 8, 2008, and on or before Dec. 31, 2008. For these taxpayers who are claiming the credit on their 2008 tax returns, the maximum credit remains 10 percent of the purchase price, up to $7,500, or $3,750 for married individuals filing separately. In addition, the credit for these 2008 purchases must be repaid in 15 equal installments over 15 years, beginning with the 2010 tax year.

Pretty straightforward stuff (ahem)...but I wouldn't have qualified under the 2008 or 2009 credit back in 2007 anyway. Besides, I mortgaged enough money when I bought the house. I sure don't want to owe the IRS for a loan too (sorry first-time homebuyers class of '08 between April 9 and December 31).

I don't understand all the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Credit for Child and Dependent Care Expenses, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions, Education Credits (Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits) or Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions. Each one has an IRS publication that explains it all in complete detail...if you speak the IRS language. I figure I can help stimulate the economy by pitching a few bucks H&R Blocks way. They don't seem to mind the shoebox method of accounting for receipts and claim they'll stand by any return they prepare...well...stand behind me that is.

I don't mind paying my fair share of taxes, but why is that fair share so darn hard to figure out? I just hate getting my W-2 form...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The American people speak clear and loud...don't miss the message.

Massachusetts's has spoken! In what is sure to go down as one of the biggest upsets in American political history, Scott Brown overcame a better than 20 point poll deficit just a month ago to win the state's open Senate seat left vacant after the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy.

Let the spinning on both sides begin.

To see what angle both sides would take, I flipped back and forth between coverage on Fox News and MSNBC. Just a quick side bar...Keith Olbermann is an arrogant, judgmental, elitist jackass and how he remains on air is completely beyond comprehension. He is the Rush Limbaugh of the left.

So, I'm flipping back and forth and listening as the left-leaners, who look as though they've been punched square in the nose, try to downplay the defeat by emphasising it could ultimately be a good thing for the Democratic Party. You're trying to sell me on losing a 20 point lead to a political nobody in the most crucial race to Democrats since 2008 in a state so blue Crayola is adding Massachusetts Blue to the newest 64 line is a good thing? Pee break necessary from laughing.

Democrats got both arrogance and complacent after 2008. Handing them the keys to the American bus was a call for change from the previous 8 year regime...but you've got to drive the bus somewhere (over a cliff doesn't count)! On an issue as important to the American people as health care blew it! The legislation currently moving through Congress is a complete joke and will know more help the people who need true health care reform than sticking a band-aid on a gaping chest wound. The bill is so full of pork and just plain crap that if signed into law it will be DOA for the American people.

Everyone agrees we need health care reform. Everyday people are being bankrupted by a broken heath care system that can't efficiently fix broken people. More money being tossed on the inferno isn't the answer. The system needs major changes from more open market competition with insurance coverage to tort reform bringing down legal cost. Is greed a factor on all sides? We all know the answer to that question is a resounding yes, so fix the problems...don't add to them.

Democrats stuck their noses up in an air of arrogance after Americans gave them a chance to prove what they could do, and the Democrats quickly forgot We the People refers to all of us. Not just R's & D's. The independent voter has become the majority, and the days of blind party allegiance are coming to a close!

One last point. Wake up when it comes to Tea Party Americans! The movement isn't about Democrat bashing or Obama haters (at least for the mass majority)'s about getting government spending and taxes under control. The Tea Party movement is the exact same movement that wrestled power away from Republicans after they spent 6 years with the keys and drove the bus into a shop for expensive upgrades. Being to the center of right is about being conservative, not Republican. Most Americans want a smaller, less intrusive federal government.

Over on Fox, it was a giddy, backside slapping party the likes of a post Super Bowl gala. Hannity was proclaiming a major victory for Republicans along with a resounding defeat for President Obama and his liberal policies. Let's not get crazy people. Carl Rove repeatedly referred to a major swing in 2010 back to Republicans. Does he really think the public has that short of a memory? A better question is exactly what was his take on the swing away from Republican control about in 2008?

Republicans and Democrats alike need to look at what the real mandate here is from this election... the American people are tired of blind party politics. If neither party can find a way to effectively govern this country without becoming bogged down by special interest groups, corporate money, and corruption...don't get too comfortable in your Washington abodes. We need change! President Obama was elected on his promise of change, and he's failed to deliver to this point. Business as usual is on the way out the door. This election is as much about party politics as Avatar is about fictional blue can mask it that way...but we aren't that stupid thank you.

If it can happen in can happen in Nebraska. Washington needs to either catch on or be prepared to cast off. The American people are starting to see through the masquerade and are beginning to believe that one man, one vote can make a difference. This election is about principle and not party. Lower national debt, fix the broken tax system and health care system, keep us safe with a strong military and stay out of everything else that should be handled at a state level. That's the way our country was established...that's the way it should be today.

Wow...somebody please send me some Tylenol.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I'm pretty sure this wasn't in his dream...

Let me start by saying I'm a huge fan of Dr. Martin Luther King. Activist of his caliber are so few and far between, special recognition on the timeline of history is especially warranted. Very few people have a personal impact on their country's social/political agenda that's audacious enough to actually implement significant change. Dr. King was one of those people. He helped make the United States better...period.

The federal holiday calendar, however, may be a different matter.

President Bush I signing MLK Day into proclamation with what appears to be a rather nervous smile.

Constitutionally, there are no national holidays because Congress only has the power to create holidays for federal institutions and employees. That's the way it should be too. States and local governments also have the power to create holidays for their employees.

The federal government has established 11 federal holidays (or red letter days) on the calendar. They are: New Years Day, Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., Inauguration Day (when a President is sworn into office), Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. These are the legal names as established by Congress.

Naturally, the political correctness police have muscled influence over the powers that be, and a few of the holidays are known by different names ...Washington's Birthday is commonly called President's Day and in some more local jurisdictions Columbus Day is Indigenous Peoples of the Americas joke. Don't even get me started about local school districts redefining the Christmas vacation as a Winter Holiday.

But as far as the federal government is concerned, we have a day to commemorate the birth of four distinct people in the United States: Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington, Christopher Columbus and Jesus Christ.

I don't have an issue with any of the other federal holidays (well...other than I'd like to see Independence Day renamed Schooled King George Day...but I don't see it happening). I'm proud we still honor Good Friday in Tennessee, so you know Christmas isn't a problem for me either. That leaves three holidays that are suspect of such recognition in my book.

First, I do have a problem lumping all the former Presidents onto George Washington's day. As our very first president, Washington deserves his own day. History has been somewhat kind to George, and things sure could have taken a nasty turn on his watch fast, but he weathered the storm with a steady hand on the rudder...and a great nation was born. Never forget history records the powers that be wanted to proclaim Washington a king, but he was strong enough in resolve to remind everyone what true freedom really means. George should have his own day on the federal calendar.

Next, Columbus Day has been a federal holiday since 1934 at the bidding of the Knights of Columbus to FDR. We're almost certain today Columbus wasn't the first European to reach the New World, and he darn sure didn't discover something that already had people living on it. Yes my name is Tony...but Columbus shouldn't make the cut even as a tribute to Italian-Americans. If an ethnic group deserves individual recognition, and I'm not arguing they do, then Antonio Meucci should be the guy for Italian-Americans...he got shafted over the telephone in a major way.

That brings me to Martin Luther King Jr. and his federal holiday. Now I remember the endless debate over King's birthday being a federal holiday, and the tactics employed by the political correctness police. I was never sold...and I'm still not. It completely contradicts what Dr. King visioned for our country...a society where ethnicity is irrelevant. As great a man as Dr. King was, as pivotal as the Civil Rights movement was in correcting a great injustice and black eye for our country...I can't justify putting him on a level with George Washington, the millions of veterans both still here and passed on, and Jesus Christ.

Reverse that list in order of priority...and you'll have the complete picture of how I feel about the subject matter.

Friday, January 15, 2010 just need to know when to shut up.

Yesterday I received an email from a regular Tony C Today reader who wanted to know where the old Tony C from a year or so ago had gone. Hmmm...

This person went on to say how much they enjoyed my perspective on breaking political issues and always found a 'common-sense' approach reading my post. (blushing)

Naturally, ego got the better of me, so I started scanning back through post to see where trends had me going. Yes, it is true that last fall and winter (2008/09) I posted a great deal more about politics and current events, but we were in the midst of a ground-breaking Presidential election and a financial meltdown of biblical proportions! I mean...that stuff practically writes itself!

Without coming across too defensively, let me state that my views on politics, economic issues, foreign policy and constitutional issues are dead on the same now as a year ago. I read a number of blogs that address one or more of those issues daily. I'm just not as quick to jump on that soap box for the sake of being up's say...Rush Limbaugh.

Calm down, calm down. I'm not Rush bashing...well, much...and I understand he has an obligation to sell advertising each and every day to keep his show on the air, but it just doesn't interest, or even become, me to harp on President Obama every month...much less every day. I mean, the man's approval ratings speak loud and clear, and it's obvious the honeymoon is long over. But what Rush did this week was just in bad taste...even for him.

The scene hasn't been much better locally as the topic of discussion is overwhelmingly centered on the University of Tennessee's football program and that scoundrel Lane Kiffin. It was 10 to 1 the subject more talked about at church Wednesday night than the awful devastation in Haiti causing an entire neighboring country to suffer. That's shameful too.

Unfortunately, Rush embodies the narcissistic attitude most prevalent in our society today as we view everything from a self-centered perspective. For those of you unknowing, Rush came out in the most controversial remarks made during his show this week (about the earthquake in Haiti), and said, "This will play right into Obama's hands. He's humanitarian, compassionate. They'll use this to burnish their, shall we say, 'credibility' with the black community -- in the both light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country. It's made-to-order for them."

Not good. It makes even conservatives like myself cringe with disgust. People are dead and dying...not the time to take a political jab at the current face on our country's relief efforts. Some things transcend politics. Some times we are all just Americans.

So there you have my explanation as illustrated by Mr. Rush Limbaugh. When a subject matter grabs me and beckons to be blogged...I'll be all over it from my humble perspective. I'm just not going to hammer on a point for the sake of hammering. Well...unless it's about God...and maybe that New Age stuff...oh, and my Nobel Peace Prize application...and yes, living with all females...

Don't worry. I'll keep visiting your blogs and leaving scathing, radically right-wing remarks comments....just kidding.

Please continue to remember Haiti in your prayers.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

At times you'd take the fun out of pie...but then I really like cake anyway.

Sandwiched between the Month of Holidays (December) and the Month of Love (February) is, I'm convinced, the Month of Dark Depression. Now don't worry...I'm not standing on a ledge somewhere pounding out my last blog post before taking the great plunge and splat. I'm mentally and emotionally sound...well... relatively speaking that is depending on who you might ask. There doesn't seem to be any lasting residual effects from my bout with Swine Flu either. I'm good.

It just seems that driving to work in the face a backlog of forgotten work from December that's just now flooding in to be addressed...only to get to the point of finally driving home in the's just darn depressing. It's like watching that last Batman movie or The Empire Strikes Back over and over, every single day. Sure there are moments of excitement, like lunch or maybe a little Facebook time, but the grind goes dark morning to evening dusk. Grrrr...

To top it off, most of the television stations with any educational or cultural value have simultaneously decided to run shows about the 1000 ways the end of the world might happen. As improbable as death by styrofoam-loaded landfills might be...I still really don't want to think about it...please.

There's more...Mrs. Tony C has decided (for the first time) she wants us to watch the new season of The Biggest Loser together as our show...which I might add features the largest people the show has seen to date. Great. As if the extra pounds from the Month of Holidays is making me feel real good about myself about now anyway. Duh.

Up next, the Month of Love with all the decedent chocolates and other sweets...closely followed by Easter and all that candy and family meals that it brings. I've yet to make the correlation between the death and resurrection of our living Savior and chocolate, creme-filled bunny eggs...but that's another post for later I suppose.

(Sigh). Mrs. Tony C came right out the other day and accused me of becoming too negative or jaded. Well wooptie-dooptie doo! What does she expect after she declared our house a soda-free zone. Besides, all I got for Christmas was a big flat-screen HD television and DVD sound system, a number of other assorted thoughtfully nice gifts, a very good Christmas bonus, plenty of time with all of my family and friends that included my 95-year old grandmother, great food, good times and memories, two paid 4-day weekends, and a quite evening at home with her to ring in the new year.

Just what the heck do I have to be so flippin' happy about? It's not like the two-year old is potty trained already or something. Geeezzzz...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I believe I would do that for minimum wage...well maybe.

Some things just can't be explained. Exactly how these things get started can never really be pinned down. I'm referring to the people who are paid by their employers to stand along the side of the road and wave advertising signs at you as you drive by...I just find it puzzling.

The first road-wavers I can remember advertise for a local tax preparation company and always show up starting around February (shouldn't be much longer for the 2010 version). Although I don't recall the name of the company, I vividly remember the foam costume of the Statue of Liberty the person wears as they wave at passing cars encouraging them to stop and get their tax returns prepared. Now I can't speak for you, but Lady Liberty is the last image I conjure up when thinking about filing my taxes. I could, however, suggest a few more appropriately associated characters...but that probably wouldn't be very nice of me, so I'll stop there.

Of course, I'm excluding the politicians that always post up in high traffic spots to grovel for votes before an election. Talk about occupational hazards....I see that practice becoming extinct soon for shear safety sake. Those HMO, insurance company, and hospital employees can be down right mean people when provoked.

Lately, it's very common to see some kid from Little Caesars or Hardees roadside listening to an iPod and waving a sign for great food deals. Now, both of these companies spend millions of dollars each year on television and radio ads, some very memorable, yet they still find it necessary to pay some kid $7.25 an hour to make like a prostitute working a street corner? Oh sorry...I'd better be careful not to plant any ideas...some product or service marketing tactics could get down right embarrassing out there for everyone to see. Nuff said.

My point is that if your multi-million dollar national ad campaigns for $5 pizzas isn't good enough to draw customers to your stores, do you really think freezing some poor kid outside with a cheap cardboard sign will do the trick? I mean come on...we're talking $5 pizzas! That deal speaks for itself!

Maybe there's a new module of curriculum in business schools that's developed since my days in marketing class. It could be me just not understanding or even accepting the impact of this type of advertising. I mean...I don't have any gold I need to sell at the moment, but maybe I will someday, and maybe I'll remember that Arabic-looking man waving at me as a drive home each day advertising that he will give me cash for said gold. I just can't say at this moment. He seems nice enough and all...

I do know if more and more businesses start deploying the road-waver technique, the last mile or so of my commute home will look more like I'm driving into a NASCAR pit stop instead of just trying to get home from work.

I think I'll bring up at our next church business meeting we need to get with the times and have someone outside the church with a sign during all church services to let people driving by know what's being offered inside. Excellent. Remember you heard it here first...

Well...on second thought...we'd probably never agree on what would actually go on the sign...or who would have to stand outside in the cold or rain...or how much they'd get paid...or if our insurance policy covers us if an accident is caused by someone looking over at the sign and wrecking their car.

Better scratch that idea.