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Red Squirrels Are Annoying And Mean

Trump the red squirrelRed squirrels can be annoying because they’re so noisy – chattering loudly at anything they don’t like from their perches in the trees. But they can also be greedy, mean and stupid.

I recently visited Michigan and stayed with a friend at his family’s cabin on a lake. At least once a day we enjoyed the beautiful scenery by sitting quietly in Adirondack chairs on the cabin’s lawn. The local chipmunks came up to us to beg for food the first time I sat in one of the chairs, and my friend explained that he often threw handfuls of sunflower seeds to them.

I told him I was a bit confused because there was a small live animal trap near the chairs, and I presumed he was using it to catch troublesome chipmunks. He told me the trap wasn’t for chipmunks, but for red squirrels. They caused a lot of trouble, he said, so he was trying to trap all the local ones. The spaces between the wires on the trap’s cage, he pointed out, were big enough for chipmunks to escape through them, but they were too small for red squirrels to fit through. He said he took the squirrels that he caught several miles away to release them, and they didn’t come back. He added that many of his neighbors on the lake were doing the same thing.

The next day I saw firsthand why he didn’t like the red squirrels. I was sitting in one of the chairs by myself and several chipmunks approached me from different directions. I yelled to my friend about what was happening. He came out from the cabin’s screened patio with a handful of sunflower seeds, threw them onto a nearby bare spot on the ground, and went back inside. The chipmunks immediately ran to the seeds and began stuffing them in their cheek pouches as fast as they could. There were a lot of arguments among the chipmunks about who got the seeds. They chased each other around a lot, while stopping just long enough to pick up another seed or two. One or two of them appeared to be dominant, but all them got at least one chance to grab some seeds.

Then a red squirrel showed up. First, he sat in the tree above the bare spot and yelled at the chipmunks. It was obvious that he was telling them that all of the seeds were his. They ignored him until he ran down the tree and began to chase them. But the way he chased them was different from the way the chipmunks chased each other. He didn’t want to just argue about who got the most seeds, he was trying to hurt the chipmunks. He would charge onto the bare spot and all of the chipmunks would scatter. He’d pick one out and chase it with his teeth bared for a relatively long distance before giving up and returning to the seeds. Then he’d discover the other chipmunks had been busy taking off with more of the seeds while he’d been away, and he’d pick out another chipmunk and chase it while the other chipmunks immediately returned to the bare spot to get more seeds. It seemed the chipmunks knew they could get more seeds if they took turns keeping the red squirrel busy.

In the end, the red squirrel was so busy trying to bully the chipmunks that he got very few seeds.

Quit Calling Social Security and Medicare Entitlements

social security card
(Wikipedia)

July 12, 2018, U.S. government says budget deficits at all time high

The Republican-led Congress passed a short-term budget bill on January 22 that ended a three-day old federal government shutdown. Democrats in the Senate had refused to agree to any budget deal until the Republicans kept their promise to resolve the fate of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

Often called Dreamers, these children were allowed to avoid deportation and stay in the U.S. by applying for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program implemented by President Barak Obama in 2012. The Trump administration ended DACA permit renewals in September, 2017, but explained they were giving Congress time to solve the problem by continuing to accept renewal requests through October 5 for any DACA permit scheduled to expire before March 6, 2018.

“I have a love for these people and hopefully, now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly,” Trump said when he ended the program. But since then Trump and the Republicans in Congress have refused to consider legislation that solely addresses DACA. Instead, they have insisted that their version of immigration reform, including funding for Trump’s controversial border wall, must also be included in the bill.

These differences wasn’t resolved by the legislation Congress passed on January 22. That agreement only authorized the government’s existing budget to be used until February 8, and renewed the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)  for another six years.

Republican promises to get er done again?

Jeff Flake says he got a promise

The tax bill slashed revenue by nearly $1.5 trillion, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, adding to the federal deficit. That impact triggers a 2010 law that makes automatic spending cuts to Medicare and other programs if lawmakers increase the deficit.

On December 22, 2017, President Donald Trump unceremoniously signed the tax cut bill passed earlier in the month by the Republican-led Congress.

are hell-bent on passing federal tax reform legislation that, in its present form, would likely increase the national debt by $1.5 trillion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. With the existing national debt already at $20 trillion it’s obvious that some budget cuts will need to be implemented, no matter what happens with their tax reform efforts. The problem is that modern Republicans have consistently used the federal budget deficit as an excuse to cut funding for popular and successful programs, while many Democrats seem reluctant to cut funding for any government programs.

It’s widely expected, for example, that Republicans will use the budget deficits created by their tax reforms to justify cutting Social Security and Medicare, as these programs have long been in their ideological crosshairs. They claim that these programs must be cut because they account for a large and growing portion of total federal expenditures. But the fact that they pejoratively call them “entitlement” programs, despite the fact that workers pay taxes into them, reveals their disdain.

The majority of Americans, I suspect, will vehemently oppose the gutting of Social Security or Medicare. And national defense spending, another huge expenditure, will probably continue to grow in this era of danger and fear. This means that reducing the budget deficit will have to be done in other ways. Here are some suggestions, in no particular order:

    • Tax high-frequency trading profits at a higher rate. These stock trades are made during the same day using automated software. They contribute little to the economy or the liquidity of the markets and promote speculation instead of investment. Profits from high-frequency trading are currently considered short-term capital gains, and taxed as ordinary income. The profit from any stock sold on the same day it was bought should have a tax rate of at least 60%.
    • Allow the Medicare program to negotiate for volume discounts with drug companies.
    • Eliminate or increase the cap on the Social Security wage base, so that more people are paying into the program.
    • Maintain the estate tax.
    • Stop dairy industry and sugar industry subsidies.
    • Prohibit the issuance of National Flood Insurance Program policies for properties in flood prone areas.
    • Require market-rate payments from commodity producers for the minerals, fossil fuels, timber, and livestock forage they take from public lands.
    • Eliminate the mortgage interest deduction for second homes.*
    • Eliminate the tax advantages of overfunded universal life insurance policies, wherein excess premiums are paid to drive up a policy’s cash value to transform it into a tax-free investment.
    • Eliminate USDA emergency and disaster (drought) payments to ranchers that graze desert lands.
    • Tighten up Social Security disability rules.
    • Eliminate the state and local tax deductions. The amount a household pays in local taxes should have no bearing on their federal tax obligation.*
    • Religious exemptions (Johnson Amendment)
    • Increase IRS audit numbers and improve technology.

guns v. butter – money spent on weaponry doesn’t produce consumer goods, Costa Rica

 

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.” – Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, November 8, 1954

 

 Medicaid program collects drug rebates from drug companies
https://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/health/2018/02/21/audit-arizona-medicaid-fails-collect-36-7-million-drug-rebates/355789002/
 Allow drug imports too
High income earners pay bigger copay, and everybody is taxed (?) and participates, why unlike SS?

The 2018 report from program trustees says Medicare will become insolvent in 2026 – three years earlier than previously forecast. Its giant trust fund for inpatient care won’t be able to fully cover projected medical bills starting at that point. The report says Social Security will become insolvent in 2034 – no change from the projection last year.

* Included in the Republican tax reform proposals.

Republican Senator Mitch McConnell Is No Good

Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnell (Wikipedia)

Republican senators met at the Library of Congress two weeks before Democrat Barack Obama’s 2009 presidential inauguration to discuss their legislative agenda for the new Congress. According to reporter Michael Grunwald, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, used the meeting to unveil his scorched earth strategy for sabotaging the newly elected president.

In his book, The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era, Grunwald says that McConnell told his fellow Republican senators, “There are enough of us to block the Democratic agenda as long as we all march in lockstep. As long as Republicans refuse to follow Obama’s lead, Americans will see partisan food fights and conclude that Obama has failed to produce change.”

As a result of the 2014 mid-term elections, Sen. McConnell assumed the position of Senate Majority Leader in January 2015, and on February 23, 2016, he announced that Senate Republicans had decided to block President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died unexpectedly on February 13. McConnell explained that Senate Republicans believed the vacancy “should not be filled by this lame duck president.” Their decision was made before Obama named his nominee.

On April 6, 2017, Sen. McConnell succeeded in getting the Senate to approve the “nuclear option” that eliminated the filibuster rule for the approval of Supreme Court nominees. The change allowed nominees to be approved with a simple majority of the Senate rather than the traditional 60 votes. The change allowed Senate Republicans to approve President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Justice Scalia the following day.

On September 27, 2018, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Pres. Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager. In response to a request from Senator Jeff Flake, R-AZ, Trump ordered the FBI to conduct a limited investigation into her accusation that would take no longer than a week. On October 3 Sen. McConnell scheduled a vote in the Senate on October 5 regarding Kavanaugh’s nomination – before the results of the FBI investigation were available. The investigation was not released to the public and the the Senate voted to confirm Kavanaugh to replace the retired Justice Anthony Kennedy by a 50-48 vote on October 6, 2018.

On November 27, 2018, Sen. McConnell said he would block a vote on a bill in the Senate to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Pres. Donald Trump.

On January 3, 2019, the newly elected members of the 116th U.S. Congress were sworn in, with Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives as a result of the 2018 mid-term elections. They promptly passed a bill to end the partial government shutdown that Pres. Trump had initiated on December 22, 2018. Sen. McConnell refused to allow a vote on the bill in the Senate, even though there were plenty of votes to pass it, because it didn’t include the $5.7 billion that Pres. Trump wanted to build more Mexican border walls. McConnell explained that, “The Senate will not take up any proposal that does not have a real chance of passing this chamber and getting a presidential signature.” In other words, he chose party over nation because he didn’t want to force Republicans in Congress to vote to override a Trump veto in order to reopen the government.

On January 30, 2019, Sen. McConnell gave a speech in the Senate wherein he criticized proposed Democratic legislation that would make federal election days a national holiday by calling it a “power grab.”

On February 19, 2019, former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe revealed that Congressional leaders were briefed when the agency opened a counterintelligence investigation into President Donald Trump’s connections with Russia after Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey in 2017. The lawmakers included Sen. McConnell and, “No one objected,” McCabe said.

On March 25, 2019, Sen. McConnell blocked a Senate resolution calling for special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to be released to the public. He explained that Attorney General William Barr was still working with Mueller to determine if there was anything in the report that should not be released to the public. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, pointed out that the resolution didn’t say the report should be released immediately, just that it should be released.

On April 3, 2019, Sen. McConnell implemented another “nuclear option.” He used Senate procedural tactics to allow for the approval of lower-level executive branch nominations, and district court nominations, with a simple 51-vote majority, instead of the traditional 60 vote approval threshold.

San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area Threatened

San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area
San Pedro River near U.S. 90, August 2017 (Jeff Burgess)

Arizona’s Gila District Office of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a draft resource management plan  on June 29, 2018, that proposes to increase permitted cattle grazing in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (SPRNCA) by about 375%.

The SPRNCA is a special place and was the BLM’s first nature preserve, a product of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976 passed by Congress with the support of President Jimmy Carter. The passage of FLPMA was a historic environmental achievement because it changed the BLM from an agency focused on commodity production into one that is required to administer the public lands under their jurisdiction according to the multiple use doctrine, like the U.S Forest Service.

Continue reading “San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area Threatened”

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