KingMidget's Ramblings

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The Heart Breaks

Through social media, I’ve “met” a number of people from Australia and New Zealand. Every single one seems so real and fresh and friendly. While traveling through Europe, we spent a four hour train ride with a young woman from New Zealand. She was charming and nice. Also, through my kids’ high school, we have become good friends with a family in Australia.

The news today of the mosque shootings in New Zealand, committed by an Australian, breaks my heart for them. Living in the land of mass shootings, I’ve become almost numb to these things. My innocence was destroyed long ago. But for my friends who live over there, this is a tragedy that is new to them. It rips at you, targets your heart, bares your soul.

I only hope that New Zealand finds a way to more effectively deal with this kind of thing than America has. Don’t bury yourself in divisive recriminations and blame. Unite and find a way to stop it now.

My condolences to you for having to suffer this kind of soul-wrenching tragedy.

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Listmania

When I was a kid I loved The Guinness Book of World Records, I bought each year’s edition for quite a few years. And then one year, there came a new book

Book of Lists

My god, I was in heaven reading this book. Page after page of lists of biggest this, oldest that, best of something else.

I’ve always been fascinated with lists, which is likely why I’m so intrigued by Sirius XM’s effort to rank the 1,000 best Classic Rock songs ever.

Just the scope of the effort fascinates me. It’s one thing to list the top 10 movies of the year or the best Mexican restaurant in town or to identify the three books you’d want with you on a deserted island. But to rank 1,000 songs out of the thousands and thousands of classic rock songs that have been recorded over the years? How do you even begin?

Well, Sirius XM did it and they’re playing and replaying the 1,000 throughout this month. I wrote a few days about about the top eight songs. Since then, whenever I get in the car, I’ve avoided sports talk and other Sirius stations and gone straight to the station playing this list. Each time, I get exposed to a different part. Tonight, the drive home began with

#47

Let It Be by the Beatles. I’m somewhat surprised this wasn’t higher. It’s such a classic, beautiful song. It is a part of the foundational work of the Beatles.

#46

Le Grange by ZZ Top. So, yes, this song is ahead of Let It Be? Seriously? I’ve never been a fan of ZZ Top. I can’t think of one of their songs that I actually want to listen to when it comes on. But they are responsible for my best eggcorn. They have a song titled I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide. For years, no decades, I thought it was I’m Bad, I’m Asian White. No, really I did. But beyond that, I can’t understand why a ZZ Top song would be in the top 50 all-time.

#45

We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions by Queen. I love the first half of this duo. A song just stripped bare of any frills with great lyrics. And, you know, it’s Queen.

#44

Brown-Eyed Girl by Van Morrison. Here’s an artist I never really knew much of or paid much attention to until the last few years. It’s primarily because of Spotify that I discovered him and became a fan of his. Brown-Eyed Girl is another one of those classics. As is Into the Mystic. He definitely deserves a spot here for this song.

#43

Highway to Hell by AC/DC. Yeah, sure. I’m good with this. Any band that can write and perform songs like Big Balls deserves a spot. I’m not sure Highway to Hell is their best song (and I don’t know if they had anything higher on the list) but it certainly is representative of AC/DC. I won’t deny that I may have owned a few AC/DC albums in my time and that this song was a part of my life.

#42

Baba O’Riley by The Who. Won’t Get Fooled again was The Who’s song that made it to the top eight and I suggested they had other songs I would rate higher. This is definitely one of them. Just great sound and feel to this song. Teenage Wasteland!!!

#41

Runnin’ Down a Dream by Tom Petty. Yes, I know that this is probably considered his best song, but it’s never really done anything for me. And other than a couple of his songs, I’ve never really been a huge fan.

#40

My Sweet Lord by George Harrison. Oh please. Why? Just why? Really? This is in the top 40? Is it just because he was a Beattle and he has to have a song of his own up here. Blech.

#39

Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin. I get this. It’s a pretty incredible song. But here’s the thing about Led Zeppelin for me — at some point, once you hear a couple of songs, you’ve kind of heard all of them, haven’t you? Of course, you can say that about a lot of musical acts — AC/DC, for example.

#38

Over the Mountain by Ozzy Osbourne. I song I am pretty sure that I have never heard before. And it’s in at #38? I’ll never understand this one.

So, there you have it. My commute home took ten songs that range from Tom Petty to Ozzy Osbourne.

In the portions of the list I have heard, I’ve heard one Rush song (Tom Sawyer), no Yes songs, no Def Leppard, way more Judas Priest than I thought possible, Van Halen’s Hot For Teacher at 172 (a travesty — the song shouldn’t be anywhere in the top 10,000), no Guns ‘n’ Roses, no Boston, one Supertramp song, one Loverboy song, no Bruce Springsteen, no Dire Straits

I seriously would love to be able to listen to the entire list of songs, but that’s impossible. So, I finally found somebody who has put the list together and posted it. It’s here. I now know that Queen has a dozen songs on the list with Bohemian Rhapsody in at 16. That Rush has a half dozen or so. Dire Straits and Guns ‘n’ Roses are represented. As is Boston and Bruce.

I could spend days looking at this list and pondering. Except that I just did something. I typed in the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and The Rolling Stones into the search box to see which one had the most songs. I can’t imagine another group or solo artist topping them. Sadly, the Rolling Stones have the most songs on the list. The most over-rated rock band in the history of all rock and roll music! I’m done with this.

I need another list.

 

 

Pillar by Pillar

What we’ve got so far…

  • Health Care — a modified, more flexible ACA, or single payer.
  • Taxes — a broader tax base, elimination of almost all, if not all, deductions and credits with the wealthier paying at a higher rate than the poor.
  • Energy — develop renewable energy resources, including studying a revival of nuclear power. Solar panels on every rooftop where it makes sense.
  • Trade deals — good
  • DH — bad
  • Immigration — enhanced border security with more agents, more technology, and no more wall. A path to citizenship for the illegal immigrants already here.
  • Abortion — relatively unlimited up to some point, like viability, more restricted after that. Always allowed in the cases of rape, incest, and when the woman’s health is at significant risk.
  • Amendments to the First Amendment to clarify that the spending of money is not speech and to the Second Amendment to clarify that it really is about a well-regulated militia.
  • Limit M & Ms to plain and peanut.
  • No smart phones at mealtime.

I think it’s time for a little foreign policy development now. This may very well be the most difficult thing for me to articulate. What would the Paxson Doctrine entail? My god, it’s a mystery to me. I’ve spent my adult life opposed to virtually every military intervention the United States has undertaken. Two exceptions I can think of off the top of my head.

I supported our military intervention in the former Yugoslavia and only wish it had come sooner. The atrocities that were committed there in the early 1990s were disgusting, a stain on humanity and if our military power can’t be used to end something like that, what’s the point in having it.

And I initially supported our efforts in Afghanistan. I believed that the Taliban and al Qaeda needed to be dealt with and destroyed for their roles in the 9/11 attacks. I also thought that done correctly we could help end the misery that Afghanistan had been for the last 25 years. Problem is that we never demonstrated the ability to do it correctly and our intervention has only added to Afghanistan’s misery.

I suppose I didn’t object to the first Gulf War fought to unwind Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait.

Other than that I really struggle to find a use of military force by this country that I support.

So, what does that say about the Paxson Doctrine? Here’s what I think it says.

  • Use our power to put a stop to the human atrocities our kind seem all too capable inflicting on one another.
  • But do so only as part of a true international coalition — if there is no international consensus, there is no point in going alone. And ensure that the engagement is limited, has an exit strategy, and commits the necessary post-intervention resources to “fix the problem” once we leave.
  • We cannot be the world’s policeman forever and always.
  • Going it alone should only be done in support of very narrowly defined vital national interests and in support of our democratic allies.
  • We should encourage and support democratic actors throughout the world regardless of their politics and oppose authoritarianism, dictatorships, and human rights violators wherever they exist.

A few specifics:

  • Israel/Palestine — there is no solution without the Palestinians getting their own independent country recognized by the international community. Anybody who suggests otherwise is unwilling to work towards a solution. Until that happens, Israel must be held accountable for its treatment of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories and its own Arab citizens, and Palestinian leaders must be held accountable for their failure to put a stop to terrorist actions directed at Israel and Israel’s allies.
  • Korea — I actually think that Trump’s efforts to open up dialogue with North Korea is a good idea, but his ability to actually do it right is a non-starter. So, let’s have that dialogue, but just have somebody else lead it.
  • China and Russia — you know what they say. Hold your friends close, and your enemies closer. I think it’s time to completely reconsider our approach to these two countries. Yes, Russia should be held accountable for Crimea and its smoldering war in the Ukraine, as well as for other things, but how about we try to find areas of commonality with China and Russia and use those to build a better relationship with each.

So, that’s it for this week’s addition to my #Paxson2020 platform.

Thoughts? Reactions? Discuss.

P.S. I would mandate that Stephen King read The Bone Curse by Carrie Rubin and tweet about it, that Carrie Rubin then be featured in a #dancingcarrierubinmeme GIF, and that one of the big publishing houses recognize the folly of their ways and immediately sign Ms. Rubin to a five book deal.

P.P.S. And then they double down and sign Kevin Brennan to a five book deal as well.

An Album For Today

I posted a couple of songs from this album ten days ago. I’ve been listening to the entire album ever since. Hozier’s Wasteland, Baby! is one of those albums that doesn’t have a song that misses. Each one has a wonderful quality to it. There’s something that is spiritual and joyful and just so incredible about this album from beginning to end. And I have no idea if that was his intent, I just absolutely love listening to this guy’s music. (Turns out, I may be partially right.)

I  believe that if you go here:

you’ll hear the first song, Nina Cried Power, and then Youtube will take you automatically to the next song, and so on, until you get the entire album. Or go to Spotify and listen there. Just listen.

The Verdict Is In

Me and TurboTax sat down together today. We had an appointment. It’s an annual tradition. The day I dread more than any other day of the year. What will it be this year? Pain, suffering, happiness, joy.

This year was made more uncertain due to the Trump Tax Cuts. One of the problems for me was that my employer increased my take home pay by $300 when the “cuts” went into effect. I knew this was a mistake and immediately changed my withholding to send more to Uncle Sam every month. Later in the year, I adjusted my withholding again to send even more to the good ol’ Uncle.

At some point a few months ago, I went on-line to see what the major changes were. The elimination of personal exemptions, the increase in the standard deduction, the changes in the tax brackets. I did some back of the envelope calculations and was not looking forward to this day. My estimate was that I’d likely owe somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000.

We have pretty basic income and taxes. Two government salaries, up until this year the two of us plus our two children as dependents, the garden variety list of deductions — mortgage interest, student loan payments, college expenses for the kiddoes, state and local taxes. But the tax changes had a significant impact on us.

First, the elimination of four personal exemptions, at my tax rate means about a $4,000 increase in my total tax obligation. Second, the cap on state and local taxes means about $3,000 gets added back into my taxable income. The reduction in tax rates doesn’t come close to covering the additions created by those two changes.

One decision I made with our 2018 tax filings was to spin my kids lose. They are no longer my dependents. The elimination of the personal exemption for each of them seemed to inevitably lead down this path. Yes, there is a child tax credit, but I wasn’t sure we would qualify for it and it doesn’t come close to covering the hit generated by the loss of the personal exemption

For many years, we have been getting refunds. The refunds have dwindled in amount as the years have gone by and last year we ended up owing almost $1,000. Which was a surprise.

I should have seen the writing on the wall.

Last year, TurboTax conveniently spit out four estimated tax payment forms for us for 2018. I looked at them and though “why would I do that?” I never have had to make quarterly estimated tax payments before. So, I didn’t. I should have listened to Uncle TT. If I had made those estimated payments each quarter in 2018, the amount I owe now would have been addressed almost completely.

Here’s the basic numbers. Our total income increased by about $9,000. Our total tax obligation increased by more than $3,000. On some level, that kind of makes sense. Although I’m still not happy.

What really irks me is that our system of withholding taxes from our monthly paycheck is completely archaic now. It’s based on claimed allowances. But if we don’t get personal exemptions anymore, and with some of the other changes, that allowance system bears no relationship to what our tax obligation actually is. That’s one problem. The other is that, as noted above, my employer completely screwed the pooch on determining my withholding under the new rules. If I had not changed my withholding twice during the year, I would have owed another $3,000 – 4000.

So … here’s my money Uncle Sam. Use it wisely.

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