August 18, 2003

A Tax by Any Other Name.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 10:37 pm

Suppose you are a state legislator or a governor, and you have to figure out a way to raise additional revenue to fuel the state government money furnace. Advocating an increase in the sales or income tax is political suicide, and you sure as hell don’t want to have to get a real job.

Have no fear, because there is a way to squeeze more money generate additional revenue from the chumps your constituents, without them even realizing that you’ve again picked their pockets.

All you need do is legislate a bunch of new fees or increase the existing ones.

A recent survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that 31 states this year have raised more than $2.7 billion in new revenue through higher or new fees. Last year, fees raised only $926 million; in 2001 it was $405 million.

Due to the unpopularity of tax increases and the ongoing budget shortfalls in most states, more and more emphasis has shifted to fees,” the report states.

Fees have not replaced taxes as a source of new revenue for cash-strapped states: The conference found states raised taxes a total of $6.9 billion this year. But this year’s total fee increases are expected to raise more money than income and corporate tax increases combined, according to the group.

Here are some of the ways the pols have devised to relieve you of your money without them having to “increase taxes.”

New Jersey raised $111 million from increasing numerous fees, including the fees that divorcees pay for documents filed in a divorce action. The state also raised the fees for real estate and brewery licenses, and it jacked up fees charged to billboard owners.

Florida also jumped on the fee bandwagon. The state increased the fines for traffic violations, increased the fees for hunting licenses for out-of-state residents, and it began charging people boarding cruise ships a surcharge of $100.00. It also increased the fees for autopsies performed on cows. Cow autopsies?? Who knew??

Massachusetts is charging higher fees to skating rinks, while North Carolina has raised its fees for the Health Department’s processing of pap smears. Illinois has targeted drivers by instituting a surcharge of $1.50 on the purchase of tires.

Nevada made the most gutsy move by enacting a 10% surcharge on “live entertainment,” which includes the type of live entertainment provided by the state’s strip clubs and licensed brothels.

Higher fees often cause grumbling but rarely the sort of intense resentment that can lead to the defeat of candidates. That’s why they’ve become so popular among the nation’s governors. “It’s a lot easier to double the driver’s license fee than to raise the sales tax,” said Mandy Rafool, a policy analyst with the conference.

The moral of the story is that the next time one of your state politicians tells you that he did not raise your taxes, make sure your bullshit meter is turned on and fully charged.

The Buried MIG – Amazing.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:23 pm

Update Note: Don’t bother clicking on the link below, as it appears not to be working right, even though it seemed to be OK when I gave it a trial run. I apologize for the inconvenience and my technical ass-hattery.

Last month, we all heard about the military digging up a buried MIG fighter plane in Iraq. Here are some photos of the process of digging up and carting away the plane. So the Iraqis took the time and effort to bury a farookin’ plane. As we now know, they also buried lots of bodies. One can only wonder what else American shovels will turn up in that sorry-assed country. (Note: It is a Power Point file and may take a while to load, but the photos are worth the wait.)

Thanks to my friend Ken, a Vietnam Vet (Air Force), for the link.

August 17, 2003

Possible Sniper(s) in West Virginia.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 1:21 pm

Sadly, it appears that another sniper may be on a shooting spree in West Virginia. The New York Times reported:

Police confirmed Friday that three shootings at Charleston-area convenience stores — one Aug. 10 and two Thursday — could be the work of a single sniper.

John Cole of Balloon Juice, a West Virginia blogger, is watching the story here, here, and here.

Johhny Cochran is probably waiting for a call.

August 16, 2003

This is Horrible.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:23 pm

I have written about my feelings about clowns before. However, if you are not of the mind to click on the link in the previous sentence (even though it will take you to a learned and, I believe, entertaining discussion of clowns), suffice it to say that I f***ing hate clowns.

You can imagine how this site made my hair hurt.

Via The Ultimate Insult

August 15, 2003

Hit Counter in Overdrive.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 11:46 pm


This site having been listed among those in the Blackout Blog was responsible for sending in excess of 1,300 visitors here – for me, a very big deal. It would be great if even a handful of them would return.

It’s much more gratifying than the hits I get from Google from people looking for “rest stop sex,” and “gay rest stop sex.”

Sex in rest stops? Who knew?

Fair and Balanced?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 10:10 pm

Well, I am “fair” (I burn easily), but I am not so sure about “balanced,” because one of my legs is slightly longer than the other.

So, sue me.

One Woman’s Trek.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:40 pm

Yesterday and today, we were reminded in words and pictures of the thousands and thousands of people in NYC who, faced with the prospect of being stranded in a darkened Manhattan, opted to take the long walk home, many of them having to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. The pictures and news stories about the wave of humanity crossing the bridge are undeniably perfect grist for the news mill. However, if those are the only things we see, hear and read, we run the risk of forgetting that each one of the people walking across that bridge has a compelling story to tell. Some of them, despite their exhaustion, still managed to write it down.

I urge you to take a look at Lornagrl and her well-told account of her “Long Walk Home.”

I cannot help but wonder whether she knew she had that much grit.

Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Bridge Gallery.

August 14, 2003

On the Road to Iraq.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 10:48 pm

A day or so ago, I mentioned that the author of My So-Called Blog left his job in Russia and was wandering around over there while looking for another offbeat gig. Well, it seems that he has found one. He will be going to Iraq to teach Democracy 101 to the locals.

I wish him the best of luck, and I look forward to reading his impressions of the place once he gets situated over there and finds a working electrical outlet for his computer.

The New York Times Photo.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 10:13 pm

No lights.

Power Outage.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 10:06 pm

The lights in the house by the Parkway just came on, but major portions of the Northeast, including people a few miles from this spot (and virtually all of NYC) are still without power.

It was nuts.

I was outside taking a bullshit and smoke break when it happened at about 4:10 Eastern Daylight Time, although, at that moment, I had no idea that anything was wrong. I returned to the building, and for reasons I will not bore you with, I went up on the elevator to the floor above my office. When I got off the elevator, I noticed that the emergency lights were on (I now assume that I must have been the last person to use the elevator, running off emergency generator power, before it was locked down). It was one of the great “DUH” moments, when I asked, whether anyone knew if the power was off on the sixth floor as well. I soon learned that not only the sixth floor was without power, but that a good part of the northeastern United States was in the dark.

Like everyone else, I packed up my stuff and headed for home. There was a good deal of traffic on the Garden State Parkway, although less than usual, owing to the number of cars that were still mired down in NYC trying to navigate across town without traffic lights. The traffic did, however, back up at those Parkway exits where the local traffic lights near the exit ramps were not working. Strangely enough, even with all the traffic, everyone was unusually courteous. We were all in the same boat. I was pleased and relieved to hear on the local radio that this mess was not the work of terrorists, something that sadly is always in the back of our minds around here. There will be time after everyone gets lights again to sort out exactly what happened and why.

I should note here that New Jersey has its priorities in order, as ALL the toll plazas on the Garden State Parkway had plenty of power (obviously from emergency generators) to guide motorists through the toll-collecting maze. The airport may have been closed, but EZ Pass was up and running.

Upon arriving home, I learned that, while all of New York and parts of other states were in the dark, half of my town (not far from Newark Airport) had lights, while half (my half, of course) did not. It reminded me of the time as a kid when I actually saw it rain on one side of the street and not the other.

With temperatures in the nineties, I put on a pair of shorts and a tank top and did what every civilized person would do under such circumstances. I readied a bunch of candles, poured myself a couple drinks of quality bourbon, and brought a book outside to read while there still was light. Just about the time the light faded, our power came back on. I turned on the television to see the dramatic images of this area taken from a helicopter. The juxtaposition of the lighted areas in parts of New Jersey against the vast darkness across the Hudson River was striking and something I will not soon forget. It reminded me of the great power blackout of the sixties.

So, here I am, slightly fogged from the excellent bourbon, happy to have lights, and hoping they stay on, but concerned for the millions who still are in still in the dark and those who are still out there battling to get home.

Quite an adventure, this.

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