Archive for vacations

Lauren Mayer: Put The Blame On Me, Bob

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From YouTube:

Bob McDonnell's wife-shaming defense gives a whole new meaning to 'standing by your man'!

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Not Passing Same Sex Marriage In Hawaii Will Cost $2.17 Billion in Lost Revenue

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Hawaii

If the Republicans have their way in Hawaii, nobody's going to get lei'd.

Republicans in Hawaii say they don't care. They're adamant about not passing same sex marriage in their state of Hawaii. And their reason? Don't have one. From KITV-News, throwing away $2.17 Billion should be something they think long and hard about when their state stays solvent on tourism dollars.

According to Yahoo statistics:

Nearly 8 million travelers — 7,998,815, to be exact — visited the islands in 2012. That's an increase of nearly 10 per cent over the previous year. It also breaks the previous record of 7.6 million visitors marked in 2006, before the financial crisis and recession encouraged travelers to stay home.

Travelers spent a record $14.3 billion in Hawaii last year. This is nearly 19 per cent more than they spent in 2011 and it beats the annual spending record of $12.8 billion marked in 2007.

The agency expects continued growth this year, with the visitors expected to exceed 8 million in 2013 and spending forecast to top $14.8 billion.

What's at stake here is a lot of money as well as justice. When Prop 8 was struck down by the Supreme Court earlier this year, the signal had been sent out that laws against same-sex marriage were discriminatory. Evidently the word hasn't gotten out as far as Hawaii yet. Or maybe they just mis-heard the Conch Shell message. At least by those Republicans in the Hawaiian state legislature.

The amazing thing is that the financially strapped state makes a majority of its money in the tourism business. 80% of commerce on the islands is tourism related. Without the millions of guests annually, the state could not exist.

So what would happen if same-sex marriage were to become legal in our 50th State? Most likely a huge bounce in wedding destinations. With those weddings come guests. With the guests, come spending. Huge increased revenue.

As it is, Hawaii is considered a premiere honeymoon destination. Think now if all of those couples were to have their whole wedding parties in the state, holding services there as well. They would need to build more islands just to hold the overflow.

It's time for the republicans, who are the ones trying to stack the legislative committee to rule against this bill coming to the floor to stop and take an assessment of what they're doing. The entire state's economy is predicated on strong tourism. All they have to do is what's right and fair. It's bad enough they discriminate against their own Native Hawaiian people. They must fix that and at the same time, do what's best for all who live and work in Hawaii.

rainbow

Show your colors. The rainbow of colors. Legalize same sex marriage and reap the rewards.

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Funny How This Works

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Sequestration

Sequestration. A dirty word if you ask most people. Thousands, if not millions of workers have been furloughed, if not downright fired during the arbitrary pissing contest between Republicans and Democrats. For nothing more than spite -- a fact members of both parties will most likely agree -- government is running below full capacity. Departments are short on funding, little to no infrastructure improvements are being made, lines to receive services are growing and the attention has been lessening, security has slackened off and who pays the price? You and me.

irs

But, like with many bad things, there results a discovery of some good things. In this case, possibly government waste. So here it comes, the good word, at least to me and thousands of IRS employees through an article on The Hill.

The IRS has canceled a furlough day scheduled for Aug. 30, after finding enough budget savings to stay open.

The scheduled Aug. 30 furlough day, leading into the Labor Day weekend, was the last of five originally scheduled due to the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration.

Werfel (Danny Werfel, the interim head of the IRS) canceled the scheduled July 22 furlough day as well, after also saying that the agency had cut enough costs to stay open. The IRS’s first three furlough days — on May 24, June 14 and July 5 — went ahead as scheduled.

The good news is some  people will be going back to work. And in addition, there may be some overspending that's been done in the past that is now caught and will be fixed for the future. Maybe some streamlining has been discovered. Efficiency is always welcomed.

Not necessarily being a fan of the IRS but feeling for it's employees or anyone, for that matter whose lives have been hurt by CC -- Congressional Craziness -- I got to thinking. The agency discovered enough cost cuts to stay open for two additional days. Gee, that sounds good. But doesn't that indicate that maybe they were sloppy in how they ran their organization to begin with. I mean the cost to keep the department open isn't just a few dollars, it's not money they found walking to their car in the parking lot. Each day the department is open and running costs roughly $10 Million/day using 2005 statistics, and I'm sure it's larger than that now.

Actually part of that cost that caused the close-down wasn't just the sequestration. It was the cost of another wild goose chase -- the politically motivated witch hunt spearheaded by everybody's favorite clown, Congressman Darrell Issa.

Wild Goose Chase

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) announced last week that he was sending a subpoena to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew for IRS documentation, after saying that the agency response time was slow and that many of the documents it sent over were unusable.

Hmm. Did it ever occur to the chairman that his voting to cut funding to the treasury department might be the reason for the delay. That's like firing your waiter at a restaurant and then complaining when your food doesn't arrive.

The dizzying task of trying to find funding to keep the IRS running isn't just the cost of the Issa personal vendetta. There's also another consideration.  And this one seems to be even equal in mind-bogglingness.

Werfel had also said earlier that the IRS would be able to cancel the final two furlough days if the agency was able to cancel staff bonuses.

What kind of bonuses are they handing out? It cost the government $10+million/day to run the IRS. I could almost understand if they found their savings by eliminating coffee and donuts for the day. But bonuses? Why are there any bonuses at all. Don't they make a good enough salary? We're talking $10 million/day here, folks. I'd say skip my pay, just give me my bonus.

Well, if that eye-opener wasn't enough, consider this. Federal guidelines relating to holiday pay say that to qualify to be paid for a national holiday, the employee must work the business day before and the business day after the holiday. If the IRS had shut down on August 30th, as a sequestration day, that would have meant that they would not have been required to pay the employees for the Labor Day holiday because the holiday fell during their "vacation". That, BTW, would have saved the government another $10 million.

So isn't it amazing that they saved money to get all of the IRS employees an extra day's pay? Between Darrell Issa with a stick up his backside over a concocted scandal that exists only in his demented partisan mind and the manipulations of bonus-getters from the IRS who "found" enough cuts to guarantee them a holiday pay, the IRS is surviving Sequestration.

Maybe if we could vote to stop this congressional craziness we might have a more efficient government and a smaller one at that. If it weren't for the sequestration, how'd we have known about the abuses/costs of say, the IRS bonuses.

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Shhh. Listen. Hear Anything?

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Serenity

Ah, the quiet serenity of Congress on adjournment. No more harsh screaming across the aisles. No more chest pounding as to who's more right wing that the next guy. No more useless repeal Obamacare votes.

During this month long break from the frenetic Congressional world of gridlock, I'm going to go out on a limb. I think Congress is actually going to get a lot done -- by leaving town.

Kreskin predicts

My prediction is --  think Kreskin Predicts for you old enough to remember the Amazing Kreskin -- that the next "scandal" in Washington is going to be Recessgate. It's going to be all about recess appointments and Article II of the US Constitution.

I predict that executive orders are going to be flying fast and furious a week after the last stragglers of congressional legislators have left town. Obama is going to use the powers that he has to make appointments, activate portions of stalled bills and he'll force the GOP's hand.

I predict Obama's going to silence his liberal critics by doing this and showing some balls. He's going to upset the apple cart called the GOP Congressional Quagmire (or business as usual). They've already threatened to shut the government down. I predict Obama calls their bluff.

I predict he announces limitations on the NSA's snooping domestically. He'll have his fingers crossed, behind his back when he says it, but he's going to look to appease the left.

I predict there will be some sort of jobs authorization plan, a liberal/progressive interpretation of his powers. Even if these are reviewed by SCOTUS when they return in October for their constitutionality, the effects will be felt immediately. And public opinion will trump the GOP's austerity program.

I predict judges -- at least in the District of Columbia. After all, the President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

I predict he's arranged, in a gentleman's agreement with a few resignations coming in soon that he'll fill in August. Their replacements are already standing by.

I predict that under the Article II of the Constitution, the president appoints ambassadors, ministers, consuls, and other officers as allowed by Congress. The president can fill vacancies in offices without Senate approval if the Senate is out of session.

I predict wherever necessary, the President will issue rules, regulations, and instructions called executive orders, which have the binding force of law upon federal agencies but do not require congressional approval. Every opportunity will be tapped. Look for some sort of global warming or infrastructure plan to be put into effect.

I predict none of this will happen. How's that for playing it safe?

Fortune teller

Obama's only got three years of his final term left. He squandered away the first year trying to work with the Obstructionist party. He has found that like American Express Cards, his political capital isn't accepted here. He's too proud and intelligent of a man to want "I Couldn't Get Anything Done" to be  his legacy. The man's not a quitter. He may not be up to all of our expectations, but who is? There's Catholics right now running around scared because Pope Francis dared to ask "Who am I to judge" when asked about gay priests. So there's no pleasing all the people, all the time.

Capitol Building at night

Obama is fully aware that we the people elected him on the promise of change. Well maybe we're on the cusp of seeing that -- starting with the flexing of the Chief Executive's powers during the congressional hiatus, when the capitol has gone dark.

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Vacation Time - Where To Go This Year

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Vacation

Every year our family likes to go somewhere for vacation as a unit. It's our family time -- and for that I'm always thankful. When I get the tab, Dad's always seem to be the one who do the paying, I sometimes grimace. But being together as a family is the highlight of our year.

Schedules being what they are we have to plan long in advance. And there's a lot to take into consideration, once we pick a time. Is it going to be too cold, too hot, a monsoon or hurricane season. So timing enters into it. But we do like exotic so there's a few more considerations along with will there be anything fun to do there once we arrive.

We usually determine our final selection by a system of elimination.  When you remove places you've already been to or don't wish to go to, you easily pare down your choices. As Sherlock Holmes used to say, eliminate everything that can't be, and you're left with is what is. (that's a paraphrase). So thankfully, there's a new list out to help us chose where to go, or in this case, where not to visit and why.  It's the annual Most Dangerous Countries on Earth list which has just been released.  So if you find yourself looking for your next vacation spot, consult this list first. You may be surprised:

Johannesburg

#1 Johannesburg, South Africa - Our family actually has friends who live there.  But here's why we're crossing that off of our list: This country has been described as the ‘rape capital of the world’, with 118.3 rapes per 100,000 people. Not only is the high incidence of rape bad news for visitors, but there's also an incredibly high murder rate. This country consistently has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

Rio de Janeiro

#2 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Wow, I'd always heard of the Carnaval and the beaches, partying.  Sounded like a contender until I read: Street crime is rampant in parts of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, and it is common for tourists to have their lives threatened for their valuables. I can live with having my watch boosted, but not my life threatened.

Cartegena

#3 Cartegena, Columbia.  We actually went there, and I did get attacked when an anti-American rally broke out. Not because I was there'; just because...Colombia is truly a lawless state. It's the world capital for kidnappings. There were 12,338 in 2011. Of these 1,138 were killed by their kidnappers. Fourth in the world for murder rates with 69.98 per 100,000 people in 2011, many of those killed were local mayors, dozens being killed every year. In the states we vote officials out of office. In Cartegena, they carry them out, in body bags. Oh, and let's not forget Colombia supplies 75% of the worlds supply of cocaine.

map-united-states

Well, I guess we'll have to do some more looking around, maybe pick a nice safe spot in the States. One thing's for sure, it won't be Chicago, New Orleans, Detroit, St.Louis, Baltimore, Birmingham, Newark, Oakland, Cleveland or Memphis. Those are Americas ten deadliest cities.

You know, maybe we'll just stay home this year, have a big barbecue.  I mean, what can go wrong in L.A.?

Murder scene

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What's Wrong With This Picture?

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I love to watch movie trailers and target films for future viewing.   My wife and I go twice a month with three other couples to dinner and a flick.  So, needles to say, we're always on the lookout for something different and fun.  Not easy to find.  The other night, after watching Man of Steel, we were talking about upcoming titles and someone mentioned Adore.  I hadn't heard of it but found the trailer.  How could I help but have my curiosity piqued.  It was written by Christopher Hampton, Oscar winning screenwriter.  It stars two-time Oscar nominee, Naomi Watts and multi-time Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actress, Robin Wright.  What could go wrong?  Watch this trailer and judge for yourself:

Sometimes a movie is provocative, coming from a better understanding of human nature.  Other times it deals with unusual circumstances that are often swept under the carpet or kept quiet for reasons of guilt or shame.  But generally there's an enlightenment.  What am I missing here?

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Hawaii - The Aloha State or the Oppression State?

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Wave

This is the first in a series of articles I hope to present to you with the help of an amazing woman -- Maggie Connor.

Maggie Connor.2

If her name sounds familiar, it's because she's a former member of our US Olympic ski team.  She's a caring, spiritual woman who's opened my eyes about a huge injustice that deserves our attention and voice.  It's the preservation of the Native Hawaiian culture.  It's about restoring a proud people's respect and regaining their promised freedom.

Upon his deathbed,  King Kamehameha, the unifier of the Hawaiian islands uttered to his son, "E ho‘okanaka." Be a person of worth.

Today, 200 years later, that is the Hawaiian motto.

Who among us hasn't dreamed of a pilgrimage to our 50th state, drinking up our tropical paradise of the breathtaking islands?  They have everything from snow on their mountain tops to flowing lava spewing down to their sandy shores.  And nothing is more idyllic than the flora of their dense rain forests.  It's what technicolor dreams are made of.

It is, unless you’re Native Hawaiian – one of the indigenous peoples of the Paradise Islands.  God help you if you are, because the United States has turned their back on these marvelous people.  We've grabbed their lands.  Taken their possessions.  Defaced their holy and consecrated grounds.  We've imprisoned their people.  We've denied them access to their ancestors.  We've broken our promises. We've legislated against their freedoms.

Please, "E ho‘okanaka.”  Be a person of worth.  At least listen to the Native Hawaiian cause, and if you are so inclined, add your voice to the OHA, the office of Hawaiian Affairs.  They are just a click away: www.OHA.org

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