Danville: Taxes & Penalties

For those that do not know it yet, I work at a newspaper. Actually a group of news papers, located in the Central Kentucky area. No, I am not a reporter or anything so glamorous. I am in the back room working the computer infrastructure that helps both the web and print versions get out there to you all, the public. As one of the perks, I get the current edition of the days local paper laid on my desk shortly after it comes off the presses.

Today, I was very dismayed to see on the front page to different articles with headlines that read “Danville may be forced to repay thousands” & “Danville pays $21,000 in IRS penalties.” Some of you may already have guessed or known, the chief location of where I work is the Advocate Messenger. Why do I care some of you may be wondering, as I live in Wilmore currently and most recently in Burgin, neither of which are in Boyle county, much less the city of Danville.

Simply put I pay taxes to the fine city of Danville. Or rather, the fine city of Danville deducts a payroll tax from my check every pay-day before I ever even see the money myself. Granted, the near $200 at just shy of the mid year point for the yearly to date amount doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. However, the mismanagement of tax payers funds really makes me feel like I am being jerked around.

In the first instance, the city passed an ordinance shortly after the Public Service Commission (PSC – the folks who regulate public services such as water, gas, sewer, electric at the state level) allowed increases on water to end consumers without oversight. The ordinance did just that, building in a cost of living increase automatically. The city took it one step to far though, and passed the additional fees on to other water districts that it serves. Note other water districts are not end consumers, but rather wholesale customers that are also regulated by the PSC. When one of the districts tried for a rate increase the PSC said “No,” siting lack of evidence of a rate increase to them from the Danville City supplier.

The city is now arguing that they don’t feel they are wrong and the over $36,000 that may be refunded to just one of the other companies is not correct based on gray areas in the rules. The city has two other locations the at the PSC added to the complaint (for once being a watchdog for the downstream consumer, even if wholesale) like it should be. Additionally Danville could face fines for the incidents in excess of $20,000. Sorry city of Danville, but the rules are very clear and you can’t pass your own ordinance that flies against state law. Just ask California how that works with drugs and federal laws. The city’s response, “We have to understand what the PSC wants us to do…” Sorry, every judge I have seen clearly states failure to understand the law, of even total ignorance of a law not existing, does not excuse one from being responsible for adhering to said law.

The second instance is in regards to payroll taxes from the City of Danville not being filed correctly/timely with the IRS, again as mandated by law. This has occurred not once, but at least four times, possibly five if I follow the article correctly. The amounts were small and penalties in question according to city officials again so insignificant that no one bothered to include the previous instances in public audit documents. I personally think that if the city feels like a total of $21,000 is so small an amount as to not need to be reported in the audit then they can just give me my even smaller amount of over $400 that they will collect by years end back. That would make a dent in my increases on fuel and food to almost the same effect as the stimulus check I am still waiting. Add to that it goes back to 2005 and I am up by a total of $1200, but still nothing compared to $21,000.

What really irks me about this is that I don’t feel like I have any real recourse against the officials of are railroading over such things and mishandling the funds in such a bad way. While I work in Danville, I live elsewhere, and hence I have not voting right in regards to the folks who are literally throwing this money away. Worse yet, in the first case, they are seemingly going to spend man hours (translate to more tax dollars at work) fighting the case instead of just accepting they are wrong.

With officials like this representing this fair city who needs worse characters that are on the wrong side of the law around?

DNC and Primary Problems

The Democratic Primary is starting to wind down. It is, I think, starting to become fairly obvious that Obama wins by the slightest nudge over Clinton in the actual delegates that are sort of tied to actual votes, excepting possibly Clinton and those very close in her camp. Now granted there is nothing that is binding on the Democratic National Convention to actually vote the way the states have been “seated.” What do I mean?

Well, when they get to the convention, however unlikely it is, the delegates that are seated for Obama, could still, and without binding in most states vote for Clinton. Now granted, that is very unlikely to occur. Beyond that of course, there are this super delegates that are not bound in any way at all. And if I am remembering what I am hearing correctly with the numbers, that is huge number of delegates that are not bound at all and won’t even feel guilty for voting however they should choose.

So a couple of issues come up with this process though. First, Clinton won some really big states both early and later, but because those states had a percentage allotments on the delegates the delegate counts were not really that different between the two candidates. I don’t have the actual numbers, but I know a couple of places that had winner takes all that went to Obama by slim margins – which helped both in delegate count and in momentum.

Second is the pandering that goes on with the super delegates. What kinds of promises do you think are taking place in those hallway meetings to senators, representatives, and governors across the country and in the capital? It is a natural thing to figure that if not out right corruption in the process, that at the very least there are some shady deals being struck.

Now for once, my state, Kentucky – actually had a vote in the presidential primary that mattered. I don’t think there has been one since 1980 that had that being the case, though I could have forgotten one between now and then. It was a nice thing to feel like our opinion on the matter actually mattered.

And, just imagine if you will, if by some twist of fate occurred and Clinton was able to get enough super delegates to decide that her election bid was the right choice and she got the nomination out of the DNC. Do you think that the race riots and such that I have read about from the 1960’s were bad? I suspect they would be nothing compared to the riots that would follow going into the convention Obama had the higher number seated regular delegates and Clinton got the nomination anyway.

Add to all this mess that if lived in Florida or Michigan I would be extremely pissed off and feeling terribly dis-enfranchised by the whole of the process. The DNC says they couldn’t move the date up on their primary or it would not be recognized. I say to the DNC bugger off. The taxpayers of those two states paid for those elections, not the DNC, so they can have those elections at any date they choose too. Personally if I were of those two states, I would tell the DNC, and ultimately the democratic candidate to bugger off by voting in November for some other party period. And further, I would, if I were the state sue the DNC for the 1/2 the amount spent to run the elections they chose not to use. So now, they are going to do some split worked out mathematically 1/2 way between where both candidates wanted the votes to go, via percentages.

DNC, for next go around you need to get you head out of your behind end and get things started off more correctly. The playing field needs to be equal across the whole of the US and everyone needs to be heard. Further, the rules need to have a few major flaws corrected. I offer the following suggestions personally:

  1. Since all states would prefer to be heard, and we really have enjoyed feeling like we are important perhaps the biggest thing I would suggest is that there be ONE primary super day, sometime in the early spring for the entire country for both parties. This way every state would get equal exposure to the candidates and it would start out as a truly national campaign, which is how it should be.
  2. Given that the above is very unlikely to happen, instead of trying to dictate to states when they can hold their primaries in relation to other states – let them choose whatever date they would like. The states (taxpayers, who are citizens there in) are after all footing the bill. And besides why do we so value the opinions of Iowa and New Hampshire – two of the smaller states via population and in my opinion a bit far from representing a good cross-section of the country.
  3. I would prefer to see a winner take the whole states delegates, and their be no wiggle room on this. It makes each state truly have an impact. Imagine with the system we have now if three people were in dead heats, no one would get a clear majority of delegates – it would be UGLY. Each state should be allocated delegates based on population information, much as representatives are, obviously.
  4. Maybe winner takes all wouldn’t work or be as accepted as some division. If that is out, then the divisions have to truly follow the state, where representation is equal by roughly the population (percentage) that lives in that area of the state. And non of this drawing weird districts and such to make things happen the way someone wants them too. Squares, or as near and is feasible, that gives the same rough number of people in each area across the state.
  5. All delegates are tied to a specific region in a specific state – period. None of this super delegate crap that could go one way or another and just invites potential problems and cries of unfair no matter how things go. Personally I felt a big sting despite going mostly republic when a super delegate from Kentucky announced, prior to our primary, for support of Obama. And this was followed with a HUGE victory by Clinton in the actual popular vote from the state.
  6. Lastly, dear DNC – if you don’t like the way things are being done by the states holding the primaries, the hold them yourself and pick up the tab for such yourself as well.

One last note, Republicans – you should take notes as well. It is only by grace that you are not in the situation yourself. If you had asked me prior to the primary season I would have bet the Republican party still trying to choose this late instead of the democratic party.

Torture is Wrong

Prompted by a friend, this comes from a conversation this morning, but it is something I have been meaning to write about for a while. At what point is torturing an individual, possibly to get information, the right thing to do? When is it justifiable? Now mind you, I am not talking about putting pressure on someone and asking, but rather things such as waterboarding, which has been something we as a nation have allowed in the recent past.

So, for those wondering, my take on this is torture of that kind of nature is wrong. Fundamentally it could lead to something like Nazi Germany, where the rights of the individual are denied for the supposed greater good of society. As a libertarian at the core, I can’t see that as a valid argument for the justification, regardless of what may be at peril otherwise. To do so, basically makes us stoop to their level. However, from talking to my friend, she feels, despite being a libertarian herself, quite the opposite.

She feels strongly, (and I admit this is based on a few minutes talking on the phone before work early this morning) that if the suspicion merits, it justifies the need for such measures. Her exact sentiments were something to the effect, “if they are going to be barbaric then we have to met there barbaric tactics with the same.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that we take it easy on the likes of such suspected terrorist. However, I do ponder if McCain were to win the presidency, how he, a former tortured POW himself, would feel in giving the orders condoning torturing someone else regardless of what is at stake. I personally feel we can NOT go down that road as a country, otherwise we are opening the door for every occurrence of an American soldier being captured to be subjected to torture just because of the suspected actions of our country by whatever organization captured said soldier.

Again, I emphasize, do NOT get me wrong. Fundamentally in the end, once a terrorist that is captured, convicted beyond a doubt of such crimes, that we adopt Ron White’s version of Texas justice – an express lane to death row. However, I feel strongly that we do need to give everyone their fair chance in a legitimate court of law prior to such actions taking place without being subjected to torture, pursuing confessions or incrimination of others. After all, we all know, even from medieval times, that under torture not everyone will break and when they do the information given is of questionable truthful standing.

Farm Bill

For those that do not know there is currently a farm bill very slowly making its way through congress and eventually likely heading to the Presidents desk to be signed into law. The farm bill does create some new laws and regulations to farming, but mostly it is concerned with appropriations, who gets how much money for what. The current one has expired, but to give more time to congress the current levels of funding were extended back a few months ago. And the one that is under consideration will set funding levels for the next five years.

Biggest things being funded in the farm are of course the subsidy programs for grains. And of course one thing that has happened with this cycle is various congressional members have looked at the huge amount of money being paid out to grain farmers and said we need that for our ______ farmers back home too. You can fill that blank in with anything from apple, race horse breeders, vegetable, heck it can probably even include rock and cedar tree ranches that are famous where my grandparents once farmed.

To be honest I can see why everyone wants to get in on these, but fundamentally I am opposed to such things. It just is not good business for farmers to be dependent on those kinds of pay outs. I can sort of understand a payment kicking in during a crop or whether related disaster event – though really I am not even so sure of that. But I don’t think grains, apples, vegetables nor especially race horse breeders need subsidy payments just as a general rule. If you can’t operate the farm efficiently then maybe you need to scale back, get your expenses under control and then proceed.

All my life everything I have read about agriculture from the government and progressive farming techniques is to “get big, or get out.” As hard as it is to swallow the thing I am seeing here is getting big wouldn’t work. The efficiencies supposedly gained wouldn’t require millions of dollars of subsidies if they were tangible. The bottom line is the big corporate farms will cry you a river if you cut off this flow of money as they would all be going south really quick. My sentiment to all of them is “you have gotten big, now time to get off the teat.”

It gets worse though. A huge amount of the payments that included are so-called ‘direct’ payments to producers of grain. Those payments are not tied to the performance of grain prices, crop performance or hardly anything else at all. In these recent months and going on years, of near record high grain crop prices it is absurd. Granted, there is an increase in input largely in fuel for the operation – but the only limit on these kind of payments is 750,000 of income on the farm, of 1.5 million on a couple, filing jointly on the farm. Now what kind of operation that is pulling up to 750,000 in then can justifiably need an additional huge check from the tax-payers?

Quickly, an aside note – I mentioned maybe about weather related crop failures or just markets going in the crapper would be justifiable. I don’t even really believe this either. Everyone who is a farmer knows these kind of things are going to happen and you just have to be prudent in your growth and not be such a huge debt to begin with that you can survive a lean year or two. Further, I will point out that I had pigs, goats, and horses last summer – that I had to sell a huge portion of due to the worse haying (drought) and additional high feed cost during the winter to keep the few that I have. Not one of the government offered programs qualified me for any assistance at a time when hay was over 3x the amount it had traditionally been, it was having to be hauled in from out-of-state largely, with the huge fuel expenses, and we all know where the price of corn and soy beans has been – through the roof.

Bottom line is this – farmers as a group are generally independent minded. They are going to have to get over this need to have the cash influx from the government. Generally I have not agreed with a lot of what President Bush has done during his eight years running this country. However, this farm bill as it looks right now he is promising to veto, precisely because he doesn’t feel the subsidies are needed or justifiable at this point either. So my hats off to him for hopefully sticking this one out.

PS – I will be writing about the other side of these subsidies mean here shortly in this blog…

Not intended for public consumption

As I sit here this wonderful spring morning in limbo waiting on a couple of other things to happen so that I can proceed with my plan to take over the w… er… plan for the day I thought I would make another entry or two here on my blog. I am sure that everyone who is reading this has been aware of the recent week on the political front, especially as Obama and Clinton continue to slug it out for the democratic nomination. I am further sure that most everyone is aware Reverend Wrights controversial comments made in the pulpit and the subsequent defense of his statements this past few days. I think that Wright has pretty much said enough and the Obama has filed for a divorce basically, so nothing really needs to be said there.

What I do want to touch on is a senator (I believe I have that correct) who was interviewed by NPR on either Monday or Tuesday afternoon this week. His comment in defense of Wright was something like Wright made these comments in his church, similar to being with a close group of family members, and the comments “were not intended for public consumption.” Now what kind of inane logic is that?

First of all, as a semi-public character, speaking from the pulpit, assumed at an open church (ie, you didn’t have to present a membership card at the door or they booted you out) how can anyone think that it was not an intended for both the church and anyone in the public. Besides that, anytime you take the podium, even if it is a pulpit, you are speaking in public. I also have to wonder, what were the videos shot for to begin with? Was this a for a broadcast to local TV? I don’t know the answer to that, but if it was then the public outside of the church was certainly welcome.

Take this one step further though, suppose I am in a group of people at the office and someone in the group tells a sexist joke. Obviously not intended for the public – just the two or three people immediately surrounding the person telling the joke. However, if someone nearby overheard and was offended do you think the argument that the joke was not intended for public consumption would hold up in any sort of sexual harassment proceedings later brought about? And for the record this is much more a case of not intended for public consumption then someone preaching the pulpit.

Lets move to the extreme, as so many folks really are questioning why this is even news worthy in respect to Obama’s campaign for the White House. Lets put the situation in slightly different light. Lets suppose that it was discovered that McCain’s preacher made comments from the pulpit that said the KKK had the general right idea and that America was being brought down from its greatness by its minorities (NOTE: I am speaking hypothetically here – I do not necessarily believe this way nor do I have any evidence that McCain’s preacher holds such views). But if this were to be the case wouldn’t we be in an absolute uproar about McCain being the presumptive nominee for the Republican party? The assumption would be completely that if McCain associated with such times that he must hold at least somewhat similar views.

Anyway, just a little irked at how much the racial card is being played in this election process this year. I feel that it is a strong double standard of reverse discrimination going on throughout the process. Of course, the obvious would be said, I am a white man so I am a racists. But just so you know, I think Condolisa Rice is a pretty clear choice for McCain’s running mate and I further suspect McCain will be a one term president and I would not object to her running for the White House herself in four years.

Conservativism and McCain

I find myself back at a Panera (note I was at a different one yesterday). I am taking a brief break between the things that I have to do today in different locations and I really needed some coffee. Panera has both good coffee, decent wireless connection, and is right along the path I had to drive anyway. It would have been foolish to pass it up.

As I was sitting here I was reminded of a conversation from some obviously very conservative gentlemen at the Panera yesterday near to me. They were all in agreement that Senator McCain was not the right guy for the republican party. They all had the opinion that he was not conservative enough for the republican party but the exact issue that he was not conservative enough on varied between them.

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Chuck Norris, teenagers, and presidential hopefuls

Chuck NorrisChuck Norris is apparently a major player in the presidential primary campaigns for the 2008 election cycle. First, just to keep Chuck from coming and wanting to kick my behind-end, let me state that I have no problem with him endorsing any candidate he wishes (my understanding the nod goes to Huckabee). Nor do I have any problem with his stumping for said candidate, especially on issues that Chuck holds dear and feels that candidate is the best man or woman for the job. What I do have issue over is the marketing power of such folks as Mr. Norris (and I am sure there others like him) and the way the candidates have recognized this and are fully taking advantage of it.

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