No More Procrastination in 2016!

Brian Klems (at Writersdigest.com and @BrianKlems) said: “Another year has flown by. If you’re reading this on the last day of 2015 or you’re using this email as a welcome message to 2016, remember that as one chapter ends and a new chapter is  upon us. We can cast aside our past procrastination and our past failed attempts and can see a new horizon of possibilities–a new hope. Don’t let the past stop the amazing path of the future.”

I’m putting this to practice and moving ahead with my manuscript in 2016. My exuberant but gentle Swee’Pea celebrates this resolution with a high five.

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Pipsqueak is a little more cautious, waiting to see how I proceed before she celebrates.

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In any event, here’s to an amazing and productive 2016 for all of you reading this message.

 

Ride on! Write on!

In this picture I’m a dot amidst the golden glory of fall. For me it represents my progress on my second novel. Pedaling along. Stroke by stroke. Like my manuscript: A sentence. A scene. A chapter at a time.

And I say to you, my fellow authors, every word moves you closer to your goal. And sometimes your downtime is as important as your writing time. A challenge is how to make that non-writing time serve your writing time. I do it by reading in my genre and by embracing nature.

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Congressional Servants vs Military Service Personnel

When Democratic Congressman Jim Moran refused to answer a disabled veteran’s legitimate question Friday night, I wish the town meeting attendees had walked out in outrage. Our military personnel put their lives on the line, why must they also have their economic solvency put to risk? Far better ‘twould be for members of Congress—our public servants—to sacrifice their own pay for their lapse in consensus and appropriations.

The veteran asked Congressman Moran what our government would do to assure that our military personnel received their paychecks, even if Congress failed to pass a FY 2011 appropriations bill by the midnight deadline. Congressman Moran rudely refused to answer the question.

Is it not disgraceful that our nation’s leaders would put the pay of our servicemen and women on the cutting block without first sacrificing their own pay? Where is their sense of honor?

GE, billions; US, nothing.

I’m appalled that some U.S. corporations still evade taxes through tax loopholes, but I’m delighted to see FOX–most notably Bill O’Reilly and Lou Dobbs–publicizing the travesty.

While researching for my “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie?” novel, I discovered that a long-enduring (more than 45 years!) U.S. tax deferral clause enables our multinational corporations to defer paying U.S. taxes until their overseas’ profits come home. Those transfers often do not happen for years, and in the meantime, companies bolstering the U.S. economy and our welfare are subject to a thirty-five percent—or more—corporate tax.

Also during my research, I found a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on the web that listed a multinational U.S. technology and services conglomerate that parked sixty-two billion dollars in undistributed earnings offshore; a U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant that boasted sixty billion dollars of tax-deferred earnings; and an industry leader in energy, oil, and gas that kept fifty-six billion dollars languishing in the loop-hole.

That certainly helps to explain why our U.S. jobs are going anywhere but here.

Some key findings on this issue according to the website listed at the end of this blog:

• “The United States is the only large economy that taxes corporate income worldwide with a tax rate exceeding 30 percent.
• During 2009, both Great Britain and Japan enacted territorial systems, giving their multinationals a major tax advantage over U.S.-based firms that are saddled with a worldwide system. Over 80 percent of developed nations now have territorial systems.
• Whether the U.S. moves to strengthen its worldwide system by repealing deferral or follows the international trend by adopting a territorial system, there will be unfortunate incentives created. In both cases, though, lowering our corporate tax rate will mitigate them.
• A reasonable upper-bound target might be a combined federal-state rate of roughly 25 percent, implying a federal corporate tax rate of roughly 20 percent.”

I think one of my characters in “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie?” expresses a consensus on this issue:

“Speaking of the tax deferral loop-hole, it encourages corporate leaders to move manufacturing and other businesses offshore. It breeds contempt for the average U.S. citizen. It’s shameful the way U.S. corporate leaders jump at the opportunity to dodge paying U.S. taxes. Do they care about our economy? Our people? Do they consider the ethics of stomping on others to gain more and more for themselves?”

References:
http://www.taxfoundation.org/publications/show/25842.html

Less for a Vet’s Widow

I’ve read conflicting reports about whether or not our government will be cutting veteran benefits. I don’t recall reading anything about it being a done deal.

However, when I took my 77-year-old widowed neighbor grocery shopping on Friday, she gave me the facts. The annuity amount that she receives for her deceased husband’s military service has been cut by $24.20 a month effective March 1st. The explanation is that new tax laws and new tax tables require additional federal income tax payments from her.

Now that may not seem like much of a cut. However, it’s less than what it was. And now that small monthly check no longer covers her grocery costs.

That just doesn’t seem right to me. In fact, it seems underhanded. And I ask, have our legislatures experienced a decrease in their monthly take-home pay? If not, why?

Do our public servants consider themselves more privileged than the people who have personally sacrificed for our freedom? More privileged than we, the people, who voted them in to ethically represent out best interests?

Elementary, my dear Watson

This site has been replaced by karlalibby.wordpress.com

We humans have finally found a match for our wits. Actually, we have been surpassed by IBM’s Watson. Not only does the whiz kid computer interpret questions, but ‘he’ also learns and adjusts ‘his’ responses accordingly. ‘He’ proved this by outperforming against Jeopardy’s two all-time champions in three consecutive airings of the show.

This is beyond sci-fi. Mind-boggling.

For more information, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watson_%28artificial_intelligence_software%29
and http://www.youtube.com/user/ibm/#p/u/19/rya9qaUJfeY

Is ethical capitalism an oxymoron?

A headline in USA Today Dec 10-12, 2010, by Gary Strauss reads: As health costs rise, CEO perks bolstered – Execs keep benefits as workers’ dwindle.

My take on the trend is that of an entity granting a cadre of people extra privileges at the expense of others. Corporate directors are bestowing gold-plated perks on their executives (elitism), while sacrificing the subsidized medical benefits of rank-and-file employees (discrimination).

It’s just another dimension of the golden parachute syndrome, as far as I’m concerned. The problem for me is that golden parachutes do not require that the recipient perform successfully to any degree. Many individuals with a history of high-performance experienced that first-hand as employees of a certain Pennsylvania chip maker. Its CEO failed to promote a unified vision for success and left a legacy of layoffs and losses in his wake. And what was his penalty? A golden parachute with a $3.6 million lining. And what was the reward for the 950 non-union employees who were younger than 65 when they were retired through the number-crunching process? The company pleaded poverty and reneged on the medical subsidy portion of their retirement contracts.

Yes, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Socialism, or the redistribution of wealth, is not the only way to correct this ill. It can be done from a capitalist mindset.

What about the ethical decision of business owners, stock holders, and boards of directors to sanction themselves? The onus is on these business governing units to consider the welfare of all its employees. Not to sacrifice the many for the few.

The onus is also on our governing body to sanction itself for elitism, such as imposing the Health-Care Reform on the public they individually pledged to serve, while exempting themselves from its impact. And for seeking pay and benefit cuts from union members, members of the armed forces, the elderly, and everywhere, except in their own compensations.

If ethical censure fails, what is the recourse for we, the people? One form is the sanctioning demonstrated on November 2, 2010. Another effective counter-action is the continual publicizing and protesting of elitism and discrimination. So I say “kudos to USA Today and Gary Strauss”.

Speak out against gender-based abuse

Gender-based abuse has many facets: so-called honor killings, acid burning, female genital mutilation, sexual slavery, and other manifestations of domestic violence against girls and women.

The horror of this abuse hit me fully while watching Bill O’Reilly last night (Monday, March 28th, 2011). His Personal Story Segment featured a young Libyan woman who risked her life to bring her story of rape to the media. (Legally she’s an alleged rape victim, but I have convicted the unnamed assailants based on her frantic outcry.) On camera she was man-handled into a vehicle, whisked away, and has apparently disappeared.

I also wept in shame for the state of humanity as I read Burned Alive by Souad.

If you think these things do not happen in the U.S. and Canada, think again. Read about Aqsa Parvez, Noor Almaleki, Daniella Erica Munoz, Hatice Peltek, and Sarah and Amina Said for starters.

The U.S. has a law passed by the 110th Congress, H. Res. 32 in 2007, denouncing gender-based persecution. But we need to do more.

First, forget cultural sensitivity. Then, join efforts like International Campaign Against Honor Killings. Check out http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/1255 Follow blogs such as European Foundation for Democracy to raise your awareness about honor killings. Support efforts such as those by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) to counter the terror.

We (the international community) need to become outraged enough to make the atrocities stop. 

Illegal immigration and H-2B visas

Why does the H-2B process fail? It assures fair treatment of temporary or seasonal workers and eliminates the concern that immigrant workers may displace U.S. citizen employment opportunities. One problem I have heard regarding H-2B is that the Mexican government charges high fees for these visas. Why doesn’t the U.S. hiring entity pay the fees instead of putting the burden on the migrant workers? That seems like a win-win situation – that is if the goal of our business owners is to legally and fairly fill their employment needs.