Thursday, January 14, 2010

Your guide to the gubernatorial debate

Just like last Thursday night, an important event affecting many Texans will be appearing on television tonight.  This week, rather than the national championship game, three candidates for the Republican nomination for Texas governor will be debating.  Two Austin stations (KVUE and KLRU) will be airing the debate despite the fact that Austin proper is decidedly blue.  (You're missing a repeat on KVUE, so don't get worked up about it.)

At this point, I think a lot of Republicans in Texas have already made up their minds as to whom they will support.  But in the interest of those who haven't (and at present, that includes the author), let's talk about the three participants.

First, of course, there is the current incumbent, Rick Perry.  This conservative's first take on his campaign website is that it is long on platitudes (e.g., "Rick Perry stand for Texans' conservative values") but short on specifics.  How does he intend to insure the uninsured, as his website says?  Who knows.

At this point, I would venture a guess that when most people think of Governor Perry, they think of his hair and the Trans-Texas Corridor.  And that's it.  I also think of his executive order (since overturned) mandating Gardasil for sixth-grade girls.  But if you really want to know specifics about Rick Perry, unfortunately, your best resource at present is going to be...sigh...Wikipedia.*

Considered to be Gov. Perry's main challenger is our senior senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison.  Her website is definitely better about including policies and more specific ideas than is Gov. Perry's.  Unfortunately, she appears to be campaigning more against Rick Perry than running on these policies (with the possible exception of the oft-shown ad saying she'll end the TTC). 

A lot of conservatives do not consider her to be conservative enough for Texas, though, possibly because of her supposed pro-choice status (I've seen that written, though her own record appears to show her to be pro-life), but mostly because of her vote in favor the first bailout in Sept-Oct 2008.  Also, the Perry camp is contending that she voted to advance debate on the health-care bill in December 2009 by voting to advance a defense appropriation bill that, had it not advanced, would have stalled debate on the health-care bill, which, you may recall, was rushed through the Senate right before Christmas.  (PolitiFact Texas reports that there were already 62 votes in favor of advancing the bill when she voted aye; she has said she was supporting the troops with her vote, since the bill was going to advance anyway.)

Gov. Perry and Sen. Hutchison have both gone negative against each other in their advertising, but there is a third contender who is still pretty much unknown to most people, Debra Medina, a Republican Party county chairperson.  Her webpage is very specific on certain issues; for example, she advocates ending the property tax and replacing it with what is called a "revised sales tax".  (The supporting documentation was too long and wonkish for me to get through before the debate starts, which would make this whole entry moot, so I'm skipping it.)

Ms. Medina has been referred to, rather petulantly, as a "secessionist teabagger" by the ultra-left Austin Chronicle.  If anything, at this point, that's almost a recommendation to this undecided conservative.

Yeah, I'm undecided at this point.  I'll be watching the debate tonight also.  Even if you lean left (and there are a few who do in Austin...), it is always good to stay informed about the goings-on in our state, so I recommend this as must-see-TV for all Texans.

And besides, American Idol isn't on.  Happy viewing.

*All Wikipedia information must be taken with the usual several grains of salt.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Republican Party to US: We Blew It?

Domino's Pizza, which, as of this writing, is patronized by literally no one of whom I know, is trying to reclaim some little bit of market share.  Their way of doing it is rather strange for today's world:  they are using people's negative comments about them as a launching point to reinvent themselves and recommit to quality pizza.

Whether or not this strategy will work for them, I don't know, but it's interesting. 

Jonah Goldberg applies these same ideas to a foundering (in recent years) Republican Party in a recent article, saying, "the GOP's troubles over the last decade have a lot to do with the fact that Americans didn't stop liking what the Republican Party is supposed to deliver. They stopped liking what the GOP actually delivered."

So what should the GOP be doing?  Well, they need to address the legitimate grievances that people have against them.  Wouldn't it be nice to have a political party own up to its own mistakes?  In this case, I think so.

For starters, this quote from Mr. Goldberg needs to be repeated from the rooftops loudly and often:

For too long Republicans confused supporting big business with supporting free markets, when big business is often the biggest impediment to fair competition.

Perhaps the Republican Party might remember the other policies that got them elected in the first place, and possibly even return to them.  Wouldn't that be something!

There's more in the article...check it out.

Quite possibly the last word I have to say about Levi Johnston

Joseph Lindsey had a great post at Big Hollywood last week warning people about what celebrity does to some people.  He presented a pretty sad example from modern history:  Levi Johnston

The main point of Mr. Lindsey's column is pretty obviously stated in the first paragraph:

Fame is that place where character is rarely able to sustain itself. I don’t know how much character Levi Johnston had as a boy, but as a young man in the grips of the Hollywood culture machine he’s lost it all.

The whole thing is worth your time, if you ask me--and in a sense you did, since you're here--but two quotes sum up how Mr. Johnston allowed himself to be used to try to attack Sarah Palin:

When one unknowingly trades character for fame the recipient has only one recourse, attack the catalyst that brought them the opportunity in the first place, in Levi Johnston case it’s Sarah Palin and the mother of his child.

Getting your high school girlfriend pregnant is hardly worthy of fame, that is unless her mother is the Governor of your state, a vice-presidential candidate and conservative woman. Only then do the leftist vampires of Hollywood come out of their dark corners and offer you the glowing flame of fame. But what they didn’t tell Levi is that he’s just another one of their moths and the moment he’s served their purpose they’ll push him into the flame and exterminate him.

Like the author of this column, I hope Mr. Johnston can change course.  The course he's currently following is going nowhere good.

Don Surber: "Sarah Palin, Man of the Year"

Okay, now that's it is more than a week into the new year,  I really need to wrap up my 2009-in-summation posts.  (Next on my to-do list:  finish the letter we're including with our Christmas cards.  Sad but true.)

With that said, Don Surber took an interesting look at last year and attempted to determine who he would name the man of the year.  (Why?  Among other things, because I'm pretty sure he could do a lot better than Time Magazine did, not that this would be a hard thing to do.)  He came up with a very interesting choice:  Sarah Palin.

As Mr. Surber writes, he did not originally intend to choose Governor Palin:

This post originally was written as the runner-up slot. Most readers thought Sarah Palin would be the first Man of the Year of the Don Surber blog, but I had other plans. Just as in the Miss Alaska contest a quarter-century ago, she would be the runner-up. Rush Limbaugh’s CPAC speech was a magical moment in American history and so he would win.

But he discovered, as so many have, that Sarah Palin truly became a symbol for many people who feel disenfranchised by the current attempt to expand the federal government's powers (and its debts).  Granted, this is not a new discovery, as Mr. Surber has been linked by this blog more than once previously, but I digress.

Mrs. Palin has endured more slings and more arrows than any other politician in America. She may not have gone into any burning buildings, but she was singed nonetheless. Had Obama’s mansion deal received one-tenth the scrutiny that her shopping for clothes received, we conservatives would be grousing today about President Hillary.

Not that everything Mr. Surber wrote was glowing praise for Governor Palin's decisions:

Not all the criticisms of her were without substance. Many of us remain puzzled by her decision to resign abruptly as the governor of Alaska. But her campaign for the 2012 presidency continues despite this misstep. She stood up for what is right and held her head high as she marched forward — ever forward.

For the record, I was puzzled by this decision to resign originally as well, but it has done an admirable job of making a lot of hyper-liberal ankle-biters in Alaska completely irrelevant, and it's probably saved the state of Alaska a lot of money.  But I think I'm repeating an old post.  This one, to be specific.

And Mr. Surber gives those haters a few words as well:

Half the people of the United States love her for hanging in there. They love her for sharing their values of home, hearth and country. They love her for being of the the people, by the people and for the people.

Oh, not the elites and the elitist wannabes. The little potty-mouthed drones on the left think they are so sophisticated as they mock 14-year-old girls, babies with Down syndrome and people who shop at Wal-Mart. The Washington Post’s book reviewer bragged that she did not read Sarah Palin’s book. Ignorance is now a status symbol for the left.

The whole article is worth a read, as it covers the journey Sarah Palin has had over the past year-and-a-half and declares her worth your consideration.  Check it out.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Welcome to 2010. Say hello to higher withholding!

Courtesy Big Government:

The IRS, which of course knows what is best for you, has a perfect solution to the mountain of debt currently facing the federal government:  why, raise everyone's withholding rates, of course!  You can verify this for yourselves, thanks to the IRS's knack for creating publications about every known tax topic up to and including something called the "Capital Construction Fund for Commercial Fishermen" (Publication 595...who knew?).  The withholding information may be found in the IRS's website as well:  here for 2009, here for 2010.

I checked, thanks to the fact that I had to run my own payroll in the absence of literally everyone else in the office this week, and sure enough, my federal withholding has gone up $8 per paycheck. 

But Snowed, that's chump change!  Yes and no...for those of us who subscribe to Dave Ramsey's pretty darn good idea of earmarking where every single dollar you bring in is going, losing those eight dollars means having to retool the budget.  In my case, that most likely means eight dollars less per check will be going to retire my own mountain of debt.  (I, at least, know enough when in a hole to stop digging.)

So, Snowed, are my taxes going up?  President Obama promised they wouldn't!  As much fun as it may be to blame President Obama for everything, no, your taxes are not going up, to the best of my knowledge.  The amount of withholding has changed, but I don't believe that the tax tables themselves have changed.  What this means, basically, is that you are now either going to have a smaller tax payment in April 2011, or you will get a somewhat larger refund (assuming everything else stays the same as in 2009).  The way I view this is that it means I am loaning a little more of my money to the federal government, interest-free, for a year.  That's not cool.

So what should I do?  You don't necessarily have to do anything.  You could always file a new Form W-4 and change your withholding, perhaps to claim an additional allowance.  (Aside:  why do the IRS worksheets always tell me to claim about three less allowances than I ought?)  What I, and others, recommend is that you set your own withholding up so that you either get a very, very small refund or owe a somewhat small amount.  (The IRS charges penalties if you owe too much at the end of the year, so be careful there.)

As with all financial matters, it's always good to consult with your own accountant or financial planner.  (Note:  the author's father is one of those financial planners, so if you're looking for one...)  Just don't be surprised when you get that first paycheck of the year and see that it's a little bit smaller.

Monday, January 04, 2010

40 Most Obnoxious Quotes of 2009

Courtesy John Hawkins/Right Wing News, please check out the 40 most obnoxious quotes of 2009.  I can't imagine how many quotes there were at the start, before Mr. Hawkins narrowed them down to just 40.

As one might expect from a site called Right Wing News, several of the usual suspects show up.  For example:

34) Now, people when I say that look at me and say, 'What are you talking about, Joe? You're telling me we have to go spend money to keep from going bankrupt?' The answer is yes, that's what I'm telling you. -- Joe Biden

31) think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African-American. -- Jimmy Carter 

28) Do you remember tea baggers? It was just so much easier when we could just call them racists. I just don't know why we can't call them racists, or functionally retarded adults. The functionally retarded adults, the racists - with their cries of, ‘I want my country back. You know what they're really saying is, ‘I want my white guy back.' They apparently had no problem at all for the last eight years of habeas corpus being suspended, the Constitution being [expletive] on, illegal surveillance, lied to on a war or two, two stolen elections - yes, the John Kerry one was stolen too. That's not tin-foil hat time. That's just..." -- Janeane Garofalo 

But before you think that there weren't any people on my side of the aisle who were obnoxious (I can sense frequent anonymous commenter #2 ("Jeff") twitching already...hi Jeff!), this site covers them as well:

38) The governor is hiking the Appalachian Trail. -- Spokesman for Mark Sanford 

6) From my own experience visiting the troops in the Middle East, I can tell you this, though: despite how the conflict has been portrayed by our glorious media, if you gave any U.S. soldier a gun with two bullets in it, and he found himself in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Osama bin Laden, there’s a good chance that Nancy Pelosi would get shot twice, and Harry Reid and bin Laden would be strangled to death. -- CBS Sports commentator David Feherty  

Sadly, there are 35 more.