Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

$250,000 part of the “elite”: Think again, It’s really about the ZIP code.

September 16, 2012

In fairness, both candidates have made comments regarding no cuts for households earning less than either $200,000 or $250,000 (depending on candidate) in the recent tax plan.  I’ve seen a host of comments regarding that particular line in the sand.  And then I started to wonder. I randomly picked 2 professions: A RN (with a BSN) and an accountant to make up the 2 income household.  According to the March 27, 2012 data release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean accountant salary in the U.S. runs $70,130 per year.  The median annual base salary for a registered nurse in the United States is at $65,918.  This household would have a base salary for of $136,048.  Both are professional jobs that require at least a 4 year college degree.  Here are some city by city comparisons:

I used Des Moines, IA as the point of comparison: it’s fairly economically stable, Midwestern city.

To maintain the same standard of living that $136,048 would create in Des Moines, the mythical couple would need to make:

$180,527: Phoenix, AZ

$214,251:  Los Angeles, CA

$217,407:  Oakland, CA (live), SF (work)

$130,345: Birmingham, AL

$175,124:  Anchorage, AK

$161,690: Denver, CO

$237,850: Washington, DC

$142,879: Jacksonville, FL

$131,401: Columbus, GA

$175,770:  Chicago, IL

$129,273: Indianapolis, IN

$132,985: Kansas City, KS

$139,669: New Orleans, LA

$162,577: Minneapolis/St. Paul

$177,962: Baltimore, MD

$213,582: Boston, MA

$187,325: Hartford, CT

$132,839: Omaha, NE

$146,206: Albuquerque, NM

$273,400: New York, NY (all boroughs)

$134,666: Tulsa, OK

$145,961: Pittsburgh, PA

$140,326: Roanoke, VA

$254,583: Honolulu, HI

There is a real danger of a line in the sand approach to tax based on income without matrices to the cost of living factor by zip code.  Randomly picking 2 “average” jobs for a family and plugging them into the salary.com conversion shows a wide array of what the income needed to maintain the same standard of living based on region for the same job.  We can’t find relief for the vanishing middle class buy an arbitrary line.  Part of the alleged tax reform has to include an actualization of real income by region.

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64-62 Days Until of Presidential Election: Cookie Monster, Jury Trials and Shopping Malls

September 5, 2012

Day 64: I love my blue furried monster.  I mean, really, how can you not love Cookie Monster? COOOOKIE! (But he doesn’t like celery!).  In a weird twist of fate, Big Bird and I share the same birthday (he’s a bit older, not by much).  I was part of the “original” Sesame Street Generation.  Growing up in the middle of Ohio and then northern Illinois, there wasn’t a lot of diversity: apartments? Corner stores? Different ethnicities? And Spanish?  To this day, I say I speak Sesame Street Spanish (pretty close).  Sesame Street taught me a lot of things: how to count, that really you should eat your vegetables before cookies (sorry my furry friend) and that monsters and birds CAN be friends. I haven’t watched Sesame Street since Mr. Hooper died (I tuned it in because they did a special episode over Thanksgiving my junior year in college: I cried.  My brother mocked me – he’s good at that but he’s an Underdog kid). Apparently Snuffy can be seen by adults but one of the little slivers of that makes this country great is Sesame Street: if anything, it gives those of us who grow up in the middle of the country a glimpse of what another part of the world looks like.

Day 63: I was driving home the other day and there was a new story about another individual being punished by tribunal. As I waited to turn into my parking lot, I realized one thing I’m grateful for: a jury of my peers to determine my guilt.  I’ve never been called to jury duty but it’s the concept.  Yes, it’s really not a “jury of peers” but a jury representative of our community. I’ve lived where there is not a jury system.   We take this right for granted: that if we are accused, we can confront our accuser, we can be tried in an open system.  Yeah, that’s a slice of this place I’d fight for.

62: Ok, I don’t like shopping malls except for in the middle of summer or winter when I’m feeling a bit closed in and decide I have to see exactly how untrendy I am (very) or decide I completely and totally need a (very useless) gadget.  In all semi-seriousness, malls have served some decent purposes: they housed the world’s first indoor rollercoaster (Old Chicago, Bolingbrook Illinois), provided introduction to many people of (American) Japanese, Indian, Thai and Mexican foods, provided countless first jobs, part time work, converted great parks into vast consumerist spots (hmmm, ok that is a bad idea).  Really, the best part of the mall is the store that constantly keeps giving me new iPhones as things keep happening to mine.

Days until the Presidential Election: Day 65. College Football.

September 3, 2012

Ok so autopublish didn’t work: apparently you have to keep the lap top ON to do that.  Whoops.  The phrase “American as apple pie” has always confused me: I mean, apples aren’t American and filled fruit pastries are as universal as creation stories (hmmm….interesting thought).  But football, American football, is as U-S-A as it gets.

This past weekend provided the kick off the college football season: usually pretty boring, smaller Division I schools offering themselves up to larger schools to pay for the athletic budgets.  The weekend provides some surprises: Ohio University upsetting Penn State and Alabama rolling all over Michigan (sorry, that was too easy to pass up).

Maybe you have to grow up in a football crazed part of the country to truly understand why a defeat at the hands of Vanderbilt, Northwestern, and Kansas ranks up there as a calamity.  It’s fun, it’s a break from routine, home games bring huge amounts of revenue into the local communities.

Yes there are very real conversations that need to happen in the arena of college graduation rates, the exploitation of the student athlete in a handful of sports and how sports is perceived in the wider community.  College football, as an institution, is far, far from perfect.  However, in a few areas of the country, for a few hours each week, we can put life on pause and have some fun.  And if you’re really adventuresome, try those Oreos with beer.

Days until the Presidential Election: 71 – 66

September 1, 2012

It was a busy day at the day job and then the watermelon incident : 2 watermelons + one cat = one huge sticky mess.  So, convention number one is over: convention number two about to start (lies, lies and damn lies) and a twitter account about an empty chair.  Let the countdown continue. . . . . .

71: The Smithsonian(s): All of them.  Most are free.  Yes, most of them are on the Mall in DC which is its own mess but really? Everything from The Fonz’s jacket, to a returning Gemini capsule and the Hope Diamond scattered around DC.  Look, I love the British Museum, the Louvre, MOMA but the single collection of an eclectic bunch of museums dedicated from everything from Air and Space, to different indigenous populations to flat out quirky American pop culture all in one place.  I hate going to DC for all of the reasons that make sense but a long weekend trip to the Smithsonian is completely worth it.

70: Dunkin Donuts.  New England bias; but really, somebody has to make the donuts.  There can be a raging debate (and don’t get me started on the ones in metro Boston not being open 24×7 OR making their own donuts) about what is the “best” donut (honestly, there is something insanely decadent about a  hot Krispe Kreme donut).  But millions of New Englanders greet the day with a regular coffee: which of course means with cream and sugar.

69: The Little League World Series: It’s our sport, but teams from all over come to compete.  Did you catch the team from Uganda this year? First time an African nation won a game (sorry Oregon).  Did you see the introduction of the players without subtitles? Did you see kids getting to be kids?  It’s a slice of summer.  And it’s a reminder that really, it’s a game.  Some of those kids might get college scholarships, a lucky few might make a living out of sports but for one summer, they were on the top of the kid world.  And I feel so bad for the loosing team.  They really are just kids.

68: The Roll Call of States:  Each convention does it.  Somebody stands up and casts the delegate votes for each state, territory, commonwealth for the party nominee. It’s not just the act of voting (more later on that) but how: Alabama: The state with the 3 last national college football champions.  Each state with the opportunity to proclaim something grand, funny, sometime snarky about a neighboring state casting the assigned delegates won in primary battles.

67: The Parade of Mini-Vans: aka, dropping kids off at college. Yes, every nation has something equivalent.  However, I live in the Boston area where we have what is known as Allston Christmas.  People moving in/out of apartments en masse: couches have been known to be stolen thinking they were for pickers.  It’s a riot/terrifying/annoying/hysterical event.  Parents lost, not wanting to leave their child, college students all to happy to have the mini-van turn around.  And yesterday, as far as the eye could see on I-90 east…moving vans, mini vans, jam packed cars.  Thankfully, I was going west.

66: Tailgating: It’s been elevated to a new level by my crazy Kansas cousins.  (Beer and Oreos: breakfast of champions).  Grilling out before the game be it in West Lafayette, Austin, Boise or Athens there is something about the fall ritual of donning your team colors, cheering them on and watching the sport.  And Muck Fichigan: I’m for O-HI-O.

72 Days until the Presidential Election: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

August 26, 2012

The Apollo program was actually higher up on the list but with the news of Neil Armstrong’s death yesterday, I felt the need to re-organize the list of random things that are good about this country.  I’ve never lived in a world where a man hasn’t walked on the moon.  From the ultimate challenge issued by President Kennedy in 1961 to that July night in 1969, a group of individuals worked to have men walk on the moon and bring them home safely. I freely admit to being a fan of the space program: it encourages creativity, engineering and (for me) the ultimate experience a human could have, being able to view the earth without borders.

Thinking about the first mission to the moon and the integral team work required and the multiple ways the mission could fail to this day amazes me.  Creativity is often thought of as artistic: it is equally mathematical. I read in one of the tributes to Neil Armstrong that he, by his own admission, was a nerdy, white sock wearing pocket protector donning engineer from Ohio who simply walked on the moon.  Buzz Aldrin took communion on the surface of the moon.  His statement back to Earth after walking on the moon, “I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way.”, underscore perhaps even minimize the accomplishment.  Michael Collins described the time he spent alone circling the moon as almost exhilarating.

For me, the teamwork, the creativity and sheer audacity to decide to walk on the moon in eight years is one of the greatest accomplishments this nation has achieved. The computing power used to walk on the moon is less than in the standard smart phone.  And as a nation we did it: we put a man on the moon. And another, plus a few more: the entire Apollo operation reminds me of the hummingbird who flies because it thinks it can not because it’s supposed to.  As a country, we have proven time and time again we can do great things when we put differences aside and focus on a goal.

I couldn’t see the moon last night to give it a wink thanks to a few overcast skies but I will this week.  The Apollo 11 astronauts, flight crew and everybody involved did something amazing, that even over four decades later still makes me stop and reflect on the absolute audacity of belief, brain power and courage it took to take a giant leap.

73 days until the Presidential Election: Oreo Cookies.

August 25, 2012

Ok, I was going to start on Day 74 but that would have involved a tirade on trying to find lavender that can be used in cooking in Boston which would have become a long rant on various annoying things people do at grocery stores which is the exact OPPOSITE of what I’m trying to do.

So, expect 73 blogs (give or take) of things that are good about these 50 states, various territories, outposts and things that we have accomplished. Some will be silly, some serious and some historical. All will be written with my inherent bias of a white, lesbian native Midwesterner with a mild disability living in the Boston area.

But today, I choose to uplift the Oreo cookie. Why? It’s simply the best selling cookie in the US. It is proof that one can eat vegan and have a horrific diet. The Oreo, in its simplicity, can spar hours of debate on the proper way to eat an Oreo. I admit doing some light (read Wiki) research. Remember how people (read probably a parent or grandmother) used to try to pass off Hydrox as Oreos? Oreos were invented by Nabisco to compete with Hydrox. Who says copies can’t be an improvement.

Yes, I try to eat as much non-GMO, 100% locally grown food as possible. But let’s face it: there are days that demand Oreos. And water. Never milk. And keep in mind that there is a reason that in October, especially around the 3rd Saturday, orange colored but not flavored filling comes out in the Oreos. We all know who the Oreo gods side with during that game. You never see a crimson colored Oreo. That would, of course, be blasphemy.

Pentecost and Cory Booker: an odd duo.

May 26, 2012

There is a passage in Acts that describes a gathering of individuals (hardly even the ultra-early church) where individuals spoke in his/her native language and was understood by the recipient in his/her native language (think text predictor gone right).  I’ve been to enough church services on enough continents to pick out some of the more ritual aspects of the services (some always confuse me: The Apostles Creed descending to hell or not, trespass/debts/sin variations on the Lord’s Prayer) that I can intellectually understand that passage to mean an understanding due to ritual, body language and common ideals.  Of course, I’m always bemused by Peter saying people aren’t drunk because it’s 9:00 am, clearly, the man had never tailgated in the SEC/Big 10 areas of the world: especially when it’s coupled with the German peasant phrase popularized by Goethe of strawberries by Pentecost mean a good wine crop.  (Note, there were ripe strawberries at the farmers market today in the Boston ‘burbs so I’m thinking it’s going to be a good wine crop. . . ).

As I drove around today making stops at various farmers markets, I couldn’t help but notice all the flags flying at half-mast (an oddly enduring Massachusetts tradition) and think about Memorial Day in the context of those gathered during the first Pentecost and wondering what we would collectively say to each other if what we were saying would be understood.  It would probably come very close to what has landed Cory Booker in hot water for saying what many of us believe: as Andrew Rosenthal wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed

“Cory Booker, the young, dynamic and often unpredictable mayor of Newark, got himself into hot water over the weekend by likening Republican attacks on President Obama’s former relationship with Jeremiah Wright to Democratic attacks on private equity. “This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides,” he said on “Meet the Press.” “It’s nauseating to the American public.”

He also touted the president’s pro-business record (“over 90% of Americans have seen tax cuts under this president”), and said that Mitt Romney “would have let the auto industry fail,” but the media focused on his apparent defense of Mr. Romney’s work at Bain Capital. “I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people are investing in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record they’ve done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses.”

The sad thing? Booker has spent the week apologizing for his comments.  Booker spoke in a language everybody – right, left, center – understood.  We are tired of the finger pointing, hatred, vilification of opposition.  Discuss your plans, the concrete ones and how you are going to pay for them.  Show us how you will improve our systems.  If the only way you can win is by trashing your opponents, you aren’t worthy of the position.  Booker is right, it is nauseating.  We as a country are better than this: and when an individual feels he has to apologize for heartfelt, probably dead on accurate comments, there is one thing I’m pretty certain of: we all agreed on the message from Mr. Booker, it just hit some on the campaign trail a bit too close to home.

Longest Gay Week

May 13, 2012

Long week. Long, long, long week. A week ago, Joe Biden makes a statement being for marriage equality on Meet the Press. Monday, North Carolina voters re-affirm homophobia and stereotypes. The next day, Mitt Romney is outed as a boarding school bully and Obama announces he supports same sex marriage.

Let the debates begin.

One of my friends wrote a lovely note about why LBGT people couldn’t expect Obama to come out for gay marriage due to the risk of loosing an election. Ok, that became a bit moot later in the day but I wonder? Will this cost Obama the election? I hope not.

I’m tired of being politicized. I’m tired of who I love being news. I’m tired of people who probably eat pork, shellfish, wear mixed fabrics and have probably never studied any religion outside of the four walls of their chosen faith have decided I’m an abomination. I’ve said it over and over, until somebody can explain to me why my marriage, my personal life can explain to me why/how it is a threat to their marriage, personal life without using religious language, I’m not interested in listening. It’s fear. Of course, if I had a marriage, it might be a bit more personal – right now, it’s a construct argument.

I wanted to feel elation when the president said he was for gay marriage. Instead, it immediately became a political debate. Did he do this for the ‘gay vote’? What votes will it cost him? I’m not stupid, it’s an election year. And in Washington, everything is about the next election. I had to explain to somebody all of the federal benefits of marriage: not just the obvious IRS tax code ones. The marrying a foreign national, the Social Security death benefits and on and on. I wanted somebody in the GOP to finally stand up and say, you know what? It doesn’t matter what happens between two consenting adults. I didn’t want to hear pundits bash gay conservatives. Sexual orientation and religion don’t belong in politics. I don’t feel threatened by my straight conservative friends heterosexual marriages and I’m going to guess they don’t feel threatened by my personal life.

Then we hear about Romney the boarding school bully. Just what we need. How can you forget if you cut off a classmates hair? Having been subject to some lovely junior high/high school bullying, I remember who spit on my face. I don’t know if they remember: I’d like to think they do. Of course the student involved was closeted. Of course.

Last Sunday, I thought maybe we can have a civil discussion about what it is like to be gay in this country, and how much it hurts. By the end of the week, I wanted to curl up in my bed and sleep. It’s been an exhausting week. It always is when people get to vote on your rights: and even when the president offers you an olive branch, it still hurts.

The road to equality is long and painful. I prefer knowing my enemies. I applaud Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden for their public change in position. In a few years, hopefully this will be viewed as a moment like President Johnson’s introduction of the Civil Rights Act. Courage isn’t often loud: courage is standing up for your beliefs when you have something to lose. Maybe that is what I needed to hear all week: not Romney the bully, the political gains/losses or did Biden force Obama’s hand. What I needed to hear was that when all is said and done, hopefully Obama and Biden will be remembered for standing up for what is right when it could cost them their jobs. And that type of courage should always be celebrated.

Dear Mr. Obama, Maybe You Should Look at Your Laws on LGBT Rights First.

December 7, 2011

A friend of mine posted The Presidential Memorandum — International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons that the White House released quietly yesterday.  In reading it, I could literally feel my eyes narrow and my anger build.  President Obama provided the following opening statements:

“That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”  Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”

I had to read it several times: yes, the President of the United States stated “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love”.  President Obama is obviously heterosexual married: if he wasn’t he couldn’t even make that statement as a leader whose own federal government denies same-sex benefits to some Federal employees, denies Federal benefits of the US tax code to legally married gayl couples (since marriage is deemed a ‘state right’) and has done little to prevent the rampant state-legislation of DOMA.

Oh, wait, President Obama, ends his memo with this chilling note to the LGBT community:

“This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.”

The ultra cynical side of me sees this (and I know since it’s a policy memo it’s a legal necessity) as a check mark: look at all the good things I’ve done for LGBT people, I can’t do anything else ::shrug:: I’ve got the Congress from hell.

I’ve never been a fan of any American president proclaiming to the world how other nations should act.  But this is a slap in my face that banks on the fact that the Republicans can’t nominate an equally tolerable candidate (I’m not an Obama fan) and there isn’t a real third-party option.  This is another example of Obama’s ‘safe position’ on anything.  Here are some facts about LGBT rights/protections in the United States:

1) There are no antidiscrimination laws for LGBT individuals. While crimes can be charged as a ‘hate crime’ under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of the 111th Congress, it is only an ancillary charge.  I can be turned down for a job for being gay: the application may say “xxx company doesn not discriminate against xyz” but there is not a federal law that protects me  in seeking employment from not being hired simply because I am gay.

2) One state allows conjugal visits for same-sex couples if one is in prison. One.  There is a LGBT caveat that the relationship had to exist prior to incarceration (heterosexual couples don’t have this same limitation).

According to the White House’s website, “President Obama also continues to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. He supports full civil unions and federal rights for LGBT couples and opposes a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.”  But in the words of Elmer Fudd “Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits” (or Obama’s case, elephants).

Look, I get that Obama has done more for LGBT rights than any US president: the LGBT community to a great extent does a good job of forgetting Bill Clinton signed DOMA into law: the same DOMA that is now causing a myriad of legal protection issues.  I get that the economy should be the number one issue for President Obama.  What I don’t get, can’t get and probably never will is that the same man who has the gall to tell the world how to treat LGBT citizens in other sovereign nations will not make a public policy speech demanding those rights for his own citizens, extending same-sex benefits for *all* Federal employees and stating the basic premise of leadership: I cannot and will not ask another (in this case a nation) to do something that I, myself, am unwilling to do.

My vote isn’t tied to my sexual orientation: please don’t assume that it is Mr. Obama.  You are simply lucky that there isn’t a viable candidate from the other party.