SEE YA!

29 12 2011

Last year I promised to write a blog a week every week for a year – accomplished.  I hope to never make as stupid a commitment as that again.  To volunteer to perform the exact same task one day every week for a year?  No way!

This year I will try to do something different once a week, every week, and absolutely NOT blog about it.  One day I might have breakfast at a greasy dive; one day maybe visit a homeless man at the Vietnam Memorial Park and talk;  buy flowers for Laura for absolutely no reason;  go into the Apple Store and NOT buy anything.   It really doesn’t matter what I choose to do – just one thing completely different every week.   Fix a few things around the house and then hire a professional to fix whatever I screwed up.  But don’t worry, you’re not going to have to read about it anywhere any longer.

Some things bear repeating – blogs do not fall into that category.  Who knows, I might actually learn something.  At least I won’t be blathering away at a keyboard while the world passes by outside my window.  And you won’t be compelled to watch through the window while nothing happens.  Thanks!  John

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52nd Post This Year

28 12 2011

WordPress sent me an email this morning asking me to respond to a number of questions regarding my commitment to blog once a week in 2011.  They asked how my blog has changed over the course of a year (not at all); whether I am ready to commit to a blog post a day in 2012 (hell, no); and a number of other questions prompting me to consider my future in the blogging universe (virtually none).

Despair, Inc. (a website everyone should have on their “favorites” lists) has this quote about blogging:

“Never Before Have So Many People With So Little To Say Said So Much To So Few”

I have now fulfilled my commitment to write a blog for every week of the year, which was a sort of New Years’ Resolution from last year.  Tomorrow will be my last blog and will briefly (I promise) describe my New Years Resolution for 2012, which is a very direct result of what I have truly learned from my experience with WordPress this past year.  ‘Nuff said!





THE FAIR TAX

27 12 2011

It is called a Fair Tax, so how could it not be fair?  It is also a “fairly” good idea with a few caveats.  Taxing what you spend rather than what you earn, simplifying the idiotic maze of taxes and codes that currently exist, and making taxes more transparent and easier to understand are all obviously good things.  I am in favor of the Fair Tax, but there are as always a few obvious bugs in the system.  On the other hand, almost any change in our tax system would be an improvement on our current tax system.

The Fair Tax plan is a comprehensive proposal that replaces all federal income and payroll based taxes with an integrated approach including a progressive national retail sales tax, a prebate to ensure no American pays federal taxes on spending up to the poverty level, dollar-for-dollar federal revenue neutrality, and, through companion legislation, the repeal of the 16th Amendment.  Here is where my first major concern comes into play – repealing the 16th Amendment.  I highly recommend that if this information interests you; take some time to read about the history of the 16th Amendment.  I will not bore you with details, but the Civil War history of this Amendment to the Constitution alone is worth reading.

The Fair Tax taxes us only on what we choose to spend on new goods or services, not on what we earn. The  Fair Tax  is a fair, efficient, transparent, and intelligent solution to the frustration and inequity of our current tax system.  Proponents of the Fair Tax will highlight the following positives of the plan:

  • Enables workers to keep their entire paychecks
  • Enables retirees to keep their entire pensions
  • Refunds in advance the tax on purchases of basic necessities
  • Allows American products to compete fairly
  • Brings transparency and accountability to tax policy
  • Ensures Social Security and Medicare funding
  • Closes all loopholes and brings fairness to taxation
  • Abolishes the IRS

As you can imagine, the Fair Tax really is more complicated than it looks.  No complex forms to fill out every April, no need to wade through piles of old receipts to maximize your return, and no (or a greatly reduced in size) IRS!  It sounds like a dream, right?

One of its problems is a simple basic business formula that is an odd anomaly, but is something business people deal with on a daily basis: The Fair Tax rate would need to be higher than claimed to generate enough income.  Proponents of the Fair Tax maintain that the tax rate of 23% they tout will be adequate to (more than) generate the current level of income from all the taxes it would replace (not only the income tax, but corporate taxes, Social Security Taxes, estate taxes, etc.).  That number is tax inclusive, meaning it incorporates the amount of tax in the total from which the percentage is calculated.  If you read it as a normal sales tax (which is tax exclusive), it would be 30%.  A $100 item (before Fair Tax) would have a $30 Fair Tax added; $30/$130 gives us the 23% result we are trying to achieve – therefore the cost will be higher than originally anticipated.

My next concern is simply how foreign nations will react to the Fair Tax.  The Fair Tax website makes quite a few claims about how the Fair Tax will boost US competitiveness in the global market; it’ll make US exports cheaper to other countries, foreign imports will become more expensive (since the Fair Tax will add on top of the taxes the foreign manufacturer paid in their own country), and jobs and investment money will flow into the United States.  The EU becomes a competitive dynamo; their exports are cheaper in our stores, our products are more expensive over there, and businesses start to uproot to relocate in Europe, taking jobs with them.  Initially this was supposed to be a concern for the American Economy, but with the turn of events in the economic realities of the EU, this might actually be a boon and a means of helping the EU back on the road to economic recovery.  This is way above my area of expertise and will probably require decades of study (at which point it will be moot).  Without having some idea of how the other major countries of the world will react, it’s impossible to say whether switching to the Fair Tax will be a net benefit to the country.

The final issue I keep running into from opponents of this new system is that we would devastate the tax preparation market, as well as the IRS.  At the risk of opening myself up to horrible audits, as well as aggravating my accountants, my simple answer is: to hell with them.  We need change – if they can’t find a means of survival, they probably had no reason to exist in the first place.





The Best Ever KCRiverFest

11 08 2011

KCRiverFest once again lived up to it’s reputation as one of Kansas City’s greatest family-oriented Festivals.  A full-fledged carnival brought a whole new level of excitement to the event; and the free children’s area filled with giant inflatables (thanks to an anonymous donor and private supporter of the Festival) was a huge hit with families of all ages.

Zambelli once again put on a spectacular fireworks display, choreographed with the Shades of Blue Jazz Band (Air Force), and the inaugural lighting of the new Christopher Bond Bridge (photo above)..

The  entertainment by Bradley Gaskin; the ever memorable group Riverrock; and my personal favorite, Julia Othmer, once again brought down the house.  Many other musical performers added to the wide spectrum of musical tastes, and the Americana Stage was a huge hit with the Ragtime and Barbershop Quartet loving crowd.

Thanks go out to all of our supporters – the multiple volunteers who are critical to our success, and of course the Port Authority, the City of Kansas City Missouri, and Friends of the River-Kansas City.

There are far too many entities to thank for all of the coordination that makes this Festival successful, but mostly it is you, the residents of Kansas City and all of the surrounding communities that make this event fun for all of us.

Thanks again for another fabulous year – we have even bigger plans for 2012, and look forward to seeing you again next year!





Serrano Raspberry Jelly

9 06 2011

4 pounds Raspberries, carefully sorted, unrinsed
1 1/2 pounds Sugar
8 Red Serrano Peppers, chopped

1. Place the berries and peppers in a large, heavy stockpot and place them over medium heat. Cook, shaking the pan, until the mixture begins to boil, which will take 10 to 15 minutes. Remove them from the heat and put them through a food mill, to extract the juice. You should have about 1/2 gallon of juice. You can choose to cheat (and make the recipe year round) using whole cranberry juice from a bottle – just assure the main ingredient is not water, and if there is a lot of sugar in the processed product, you will want to cut down the amount of sugar you use in the recipe).

2. Place the juice and the sugar in the stockpot and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is boiling gently. Skim off any impurities (there aren’t likely to be many), and cook until the mixture falls thickly from the spoon, which should take between 20 and 30 minutes.

3. Remove from the heat and seal according to the jar manufacturer’s instructions.

This is great on cream cheese, served over pork or chicken, or my personal favorite – peanut butter and raspberry pepper jelly sandwiches.

And don’t forget this is perfect KCRiverFest celebration food. It just feels like Fourth of July food (red and hot as a firecracker)- and since KCRiverFest is actually celebrated this year on the 2nd and 3rd of July – you are free to use this great concoction with your family on the actual Fourth of July this year! Had to find some kind of a plug for the KCRiverFest event somewhere in here – it’s right around the corner!





Meetings Spur Economic Growth*

19 05 2011

*This is a copy of an article by Jason Hensel from February 3, 2011. It is very informative and a different way of looking at how travel affects business. I have not had the opportunity to say thanks to Jason, so this is my way of doing so. Thanks Jason!

A new study by a Michigan State University (MSU) sociologist professor shows a great value of meetings: economic development.
Conventional wisdom holds that job growth attracts people to urban areas. But according to a study in the Journal of Urban Affairs, MSU’s Zachary Neal found the opposite to be true. Bringing the people in first—specifically, airline passengers traveling on business—leads to a fairly significant increase in jobs, he says.
“The findings indicate that people come first, then the jobs,” Neal said. “It’s just the opposite of an ‘If you build it, they will come’ sort of an approach.”
For the study, Neal examined the number of business air-travel passengers in major U.S. cities during a 15-year period (1993-2008). Business passengers destined for a city and not just passing through are a key to job growth, he says.
Attracting business travelers to the host city for meetings and other business activities by offering an easily accessible airport and other amenities such as hotels and conference centers is one of the best ways to create new jobs, he says. These business travelers bring with them new ideas and potential investment, which creates a positive climate for innovation and job growth. In the study, Neal analyzed all permanent non-farm jobs.
Neal says the finding does not contradict more direct job-creation strategies, including the construction of office and retail spaces, which can often lead to new jobs in the area. He noted that such approaches are unlikely to attract business travelers and others to the area. Thus, the study clarifies the relationship between the two main ways cities can grow: by attracting new people and by attracting new jobs. Attracting new people to a city leads to job growth, but job growth does not attract new people, he says.
According to the study, municipalities with the greatest potential to convert business passengers into new jobs were largely “sunbelt” cities such as Phoenix, Miami, Dallas, Houston and Riverside, Calif. Those with the least potential were mostly East Coast or Midwestern cities such as Boston, Pittsburgh and Detroit.
Neal added that business airline traffic is far more important for a city’s economic vitality than population size—a finding he established in an earlier study and reaffirmed with the current research.
“One might expect to see a bump up in jobs first, and then a year or two later an increase in business passenger traffic,” Neal said. “But we saw just the opposite. There was a bump up in business traffic, and then about a year later, a bump up in jobs. The business passengers were coming before the jobs did, rather than after.”
(Story materials provided by the University of Michigan.)





National Teachers Day

3 05 2011

Having been married for over 30 years to a teacher, and being surrounded by educators all the time, I have to admit a great deal of prejudice in their value. I probably rank somewhere in the top 10 worst students in the history of the world. I am a decent learner, but for some reason I have to learn things the hard way. This is something I do not think any of my teachers found very amusing. I owe so much to these people who stuck with me when I would have voted in favor of euthanesia if I had been in their position and had any opportunity to make that choice. Which is just one of the reasons we need to honor National Teachers Day.

National Teacher Day is today, May 3, 2011. Here is a very brief history of how this day became a reality:
The origins of National Teacher Day are murky. Around 1944 Arkansas teacher Mattye Whyte Woodridge began corresponding with political and education leaders about the need for a national day to honor teachers. Woodridge wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt, who in 1953 persuaded the 81st Congress to proclaim a National Teacher Day.

NEA, along with its Kansas and Indiana state affiliates and the Dodge City (Kan.) Local, lobbied Congress to create a national day to celebrate teachers. Congress declared March 7, 1980 as National Teacher Day for that year only.

NEA and its affiliates continued to observe National Teacher Day in March until 1985, when the NEA Representative Assembly voted to change the event to Tuesday of the first full week of May.

Teachers don’t normally ask for much – pay attention, follow instructions, do your homework, etc. – the usual stuff. They don’t earn nearly what they are worth. Great teachers make great schools; great schools make great students; great students make great communities – and great communities are where we live. There is nothing more valuable than the process where this all begins.

So take a minute today to say “thank you” – maybe even give them a hug – our future is in their hands. Happy Teacher Day!