Friday, April 30, 2010
I know that will really dissapoint the two of you who read it, but, eventually, with time, you'll get over it.
You will still be able to follow my sparkling wit on my Facebook page where I will occasionally post "Notes."
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
You know I've always enjoyed visiting you, right?
You give me caffeine every morning, which enables me to slog through my somewhat-fulfilling, semi-soul-crushing job. Occasionally, I have your friendly employee add an extra shot of espresso when I'm hung over and trying to make it through a day.
Sure, you're pretty much the most convenient place on my way to work. But really, we've got to talk.
I initially had concerns about you being my go-to coffee place. The biggest reason? Your huge emphasis on the Jesus fish in every aspect of your business really bugged me. I get it if you're a coffee shop that really loves Jesus and eventually I got over it. (I'd still rather give you my money than Starbucks.)
So it's been a fun few months of giving you my money in exchange for some coffee.
But then, on Friday, rolled up and noticed something that will change my perception of you forever.
Coffee place, I know that it's important to increase business. I understand marketing, I have a degree in it. And I've got to say: attracting good, reliable, loyal customers with a strategic marketing plan is a great thing. But an inflatable crazy thing, really? Really? That thing?! Why? How? Who talked you into it?
It's a shame that I may I have to turn elsewhere. But it's not you, it's m--okay, yeah, it is you. It's entirely you. It's entirely that creepy, giant inflatable thing. Why would you do that?
I guess I'll never know. In the meantime, does anyone know where I can find a Starbucks?
Sunday, April 18, 2010
78-year-old-looking Center Greg Oden got hurt again. So did Center Joel Pryzbilla. Starting forward Nicolas Batum hurt his shoulder. Rudy Fernandez, Travis Outlaw, Steve Blake all missed games. Later-on, while rehabbing back home, Pryzbilla slipped in a shower and re-injured his back. The head coach ruptured his Achilles tendon. The owner and an assistant coach got diagnosed with cancer.
Hope started fading, even though the team never did.
Despite having 13 players miss over 300 games in the season, the Blazers went on to finish with a 50-32 record and secure the number six seed in the NBA Western Conference Playoffs.
Just in time for that series, our All Star player, Brandon Roy, hurt his knee. He had surgery and will miss at least this round of the playoffs.
This is the ultimate underdog scenario. This is truly 300.
Friday, April 16, 2010
My favorite musician is and continues to be the Rhode Island slam poet-cum-independent hip-hopper, Sage Francis. He continues to turn out amazing songs with amazing beats and, most importantly, amazing lyrics.
He has a new album dropping soon and he will be touring, but it is bittersweet. I am very excited. But I am also just waiting patiently. He has signaled many-times that he is close to the end of his touring and music-making.
His words continue to inspire and amaze me. I continue to identify with his lyrics. I will forever.
In in the meantime, I encourage you all to check out his new album that drops on May 11. He has released two songs already that you can download for free on his website. My favorite thus-far is "The Best of Times." The composition is by Yann Tiersen, who did the soundtrack for the movie, "Amelie."
You can hear the song, here. Some of my favorite yrics are below.
The most difficult thing I ever did was recite my own words at a service realizing the person I was addressing probably wasn’t looking down from heaven. Or cooking up something in hell’s kitchen, trying to listen in or eaves drop from some another dimension. It was self serving just like this is.
It was the best of times. It was the end of times. I was always on deck, I was next in line. An only child with a pen and pad writing a list of things that I could never have. The walls in my house were paper thin. Every squabble seemed to get deafening. If my memory serves me correctly I made it a point to void and forget some things. Probably to keep from being embarrassed. Never meant to upset or give grief to my parents. Kept my secrets…hid my talents…in my head, never under the mattress.
“Don’t listen when they tell you that these are your best years. Don’t let anybody protect your ears. It’s best that you hear what they don’t want you to hear. It’s better to have pressure from peers than not have peers. Beer won’t give you chest hair. Spicy food won’t make it curl. When you think you’ve got it all figured out and then your universe collapses…trust me, kid…it’s not the end of the world.”
Thursday, April 15, 2010
It's Jackie Robinson day, when each team, each player, each coach, wears number 42, in honor of the man who defied all the odds and risked his life tobecome the first black man to play Major League Baseball. Today, we all wear number 42.
But there is a bonus event today: lots of griping and complaining by a few unhappy folks. A new NY Times/USA Today poll says Americans, by a huge majority, think the taxes they pay are fair.
"Sixty-two percent of all respondents in the poll said theincome tax they have to pay is fair, while 30 percent called it unfair. Thatincludes 6 in 10 Republicans and independents, and just over two-thirds ofDemocrats – a display of cross-party agreement rarely seen on any topic. It alsoincludes most liberals, moderates and conservatives."
In America's newspaper, USA Today, some guy pretty much copies my post from a few days ago. In the process, he reveals another fun little nugget about tax burdens:
Tax rates, "are lower for every income bracket, except the richest fifth,than in 1982, when President Reagan's first historic massive tax cuts went intoeffect. For all the recent grief doled on Uncle Sam, federal tax rateshave remained remarkably flat, or often declined, over the past 30 years."
And a think-tank breaks down the tax burden, pointing out that:
"This year, a family of four in the middle of the income spectrum will pay less than a nickel out of every dollar it earns in federal income taxes."
Enjoy tax day. I will be thanking every public employee I see.
Monday, April 12, 2010
A few rational facts to keep in mind…
1) Despite the complaints you may be hearing about “tax-and-spend liberals” who are raising your taxes, Americans still pay the THIRD-LOWEST taxes amongst industrial nations. Got that? We pay some of the lowest taxes in the world. And we have some of the best public services. 
2) Federal income tax rates HAVE NOT INCREASED since President Obama took office. Let me re-state that: federal income tax rates HAVE NOT INCREASED since President Obama took office. In fact, one of his first acts as President was passing the ARRA (stimulus). It contained over $300 BILLION in tax cuts and credits for Americans. That was 42% of the spending contained in the bill. 95% of Americans got a tax cut. It contained at least a dozen tax cuts benefitting 100 million Americans.
3) STATE AND LOCAL TAXES, BOTH BUSINESS AND PERSONAL, HAVE DECREASED SINCE OBAMA TOOK OFFICE. That’s right. State and local personal and business taxes have gone DOWN under our new Democratic president. According to a study by the Council on State Taxation (COST) which is a non-partisan tax research foundation that is funded and directed by large corporations like Intel and Nike. 
Although many Americans complain about April 15, this my favorite time of the year to reflect on the amazing advances our society has made thanks to our taxation, our system of government which relies on those taxes to function and our hardworking people. And before you complain that I’m just a young whippersnapper and I don’t know what it’s like to be taxed, I’ll remind you that young, single, childless Americans pay a higher tax rate.
Without vital government services, which cost money in the form of taxes, we would not be the freest, smartest and richest industrialized nation in the world. Taxes helped create advanced space travel, weather technology, cellular phone networks, GPS, the Internet, and broadband technology. Taxes are funding our defense, two major wars and the proud warriors, past and present, who fight in them. Our taxes ensure every kid in American has an opportunity to receive a free public education and an affordable higher education to help them become successful.
Taxes ensure that someone will put out our fires, keep our communities safe, rush to our aid if we need medical attention, process, try and house our criminals. Taxes ensure that we have clean drinking water and a working sewer system. That potholes get filled. (Eventually.) Taxes helped create the world’s largest rail system that propelled our nation’s economy forward. Taxes have created the largest and fastest highway transportation system in the history of mankind. Taxes ensure that medicine and food is safe for consumption. Taxes allow taxpayers to enjoy large swathes of protected wilderness.
I could keep going, but you get the point. And yet, despite all of these vital government services without which, our country would suffer, we continue to hear that Americans are being crushed by oppressive taxation. Those who rail against taxes have shown a propensity to hold greatly exaggerated beliefs regarding current tax rates.
From Forbes Magazine, the “Tea Party crowd, however, thought that federal taxes were almost three times as high as they actually are. The average response was 42% of GDP and the median 40%. The highest figure recorded in all of American history was half those figures: 20.9% at the peak of World War II in 1944.” The actual amount, including Social Security and Medicare taxes? 14.8% of GDP in 2009. 
But what about individual rates, families still pay exorbitant amounts of federal taxes, right? Wrong. “According to calculations by the Joint Committee on Taxation, a congressional committee, tax filers with adjusted gross incomes between $40,000 and $50,000 have an average federal income tax burden of just 1.7%. Those with adjusted gross incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 have an average burden of 4.2%.” 
In fact, nearly half of Americans don't end up paying any federal taxes at all.
What about a state-by-state basis? Surely those who are complaining the loudest, who seem to come from traditionally Red states, who didn’t vote for Barack Obama in 2008, surely their complaints have merit? Not really.
The Tax Foundation just released its annual study of state and local tax burden, per capita from the year 2008. The top 18 states on the list with the highest overall state and local tax burdens voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Of the ten lowest state and local tax burdens in the nation, all but one comes from traditionally Red states who voted for John McCain in 2008. Their burdens per capita range from #40, Arizona at $3,244 to #50, Mississippi at $2,834. 
And then there’s the federal tax burden by state. The states with the top five highest federal tax burdens per capita? The people who pay the most federal taxes? All are blue, liberal states who voted for Obama. (DC, Conn., NJ, Mass., Maryland) The five states with the lowest federal tax burden per capita? Those who pay the least in federal taxes? You guessed it: all but one voted for John McCain. (Miss., Louisiana, WV, Ark., NM)
Okay, okay, so maybe red states don’t pay a lot in taxes. But, you know, they still pay for a lot of services that “other people” use. You know - wasteful government services that benefit people in other states.
The rankings of federal tax dollars received per federal tax dollar paid, are quite telling. Of the top 20 states that receive more federal dollars than they pay, 15 are traditionally red states. Think about that: the states with the most-vocal anti-tax zealots, those who complain the most about how much they pay and how little they get: they get the most federal tax dollars and pay the least.
Their taxes are the lowest in the nation. And they mooch off of tax payers who live in liberal, blue states (the “spend-crazy liberals” they decry). Those offender states include Mississippi, Alaska, Louisiana, West Virginia, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Montana, Idaho and many more. 
But Marcus, surely with a Socialist/Communist/Islamofacist/Muslim/Anti-Christ/Non-Citizen President who is bent on the government taking over the economy, surely HE has driven up business taxes?
In FY2009, state and local non-business taxes fell by 4.7% and business taxes decreased by 3.5%.  The five states with the lowest business tax in 2009? Vermont, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, North Dakota all brought in the least in business taxes in 2009. All but one voted for McCain.
Gas taxes? Guess what? Traditionally liberal states, far and away, pay more per gallon. The top ten highest gas taxes are blue states. Ranging from 44.6 cents per gallon in New York to 32.3 cents per gallon in Pennsylvania. Red states? They rock eight of the ten lowest gas taxes. 
Cigarettes? Well, you get the drift. The five lowest cigarette taxes are red, southern states.
No one likes paying taxes, but ours are among the lowest in the industrialized world and we are the most-successful nation to-date. Those taxes have helped propel our greatness while keeping our markets and our society, free and open.
So this tax week, remember to thank teachers, firefighters, police officers, college professors, public works employees, garbage men, school lunch employees, prison guards, EMT's, meat inspectors, highway construction workers, state mental health workers, parks employees, and yes, even your local IRS employee.