1.11.2018

Outsource the IRS!



IRS Needs Funding for GOP Tax Overhaul, Report Says Years of budget cuts have hindered taxpayer service and tech upgrades, according to advocate

Excerpt:

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican, said Wednesday, “We need to reform the IRS...but I am concerned that they’re not able to do their job and not maintaining their information systems to protect personal financial data by taxpayers and the like.” He added that he doesn’t have “an arbitrary amount that I think should be spent.” The agency will need $495 million over two years to implement the law, according to an IRS estimate cited in Ms. Olson’s report. She said the years of budget cuts have prevented the IRS from providing adequate taxpayer service or updating its technology.
IRS Spends Four Years and $140 Million to Upgrade Windows Software for Only Half Their Servers. Note: This article is 2 years old, but represents the incompetence of the tech side of the agency! 

Excerpt:

The IRS has failed to upgrade Windows software on its computers and servers by end of life deadlines, despite being expected to spend almost $140 million in taxpayer funds, according to a recently released report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). The agency has already spent four years upgrading this technology, but is yet to upgrade half of its servers. In all, the IRS had 110,000 workstations to upgrade from Windows XP and 6,000 servers to upgrade from Windows Server 2003. This process officially began in April 2011, but the IRS did not actually begin upgrades until September 2012, 17 months later. Progress was so unsatisfactory that the agency’s Chief Technology Officer began to directly oversee this process. As the report notes: "Because the Windows 7 effort was not making sufficient progress in its completion, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) made the decision in July 2012 to oversee the Windows 7 upgrade directly due to its complexity and magnitude." At the time of the TIGTA report, the IRS still has not upgraded half of its windows servers despite the “new” operating system being seven years old, and the current system being out of date and unsupported by Microsoft. However, it has completed upgrades for "most" computers although over 1,000 machines remain unaccounted for.
Top Ten Most Ridiculous Items Purchased with IRS Credit Cards

The list:


  1. $119 worth of Nerf footballs that were intended to be used for a “team-building exercise.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, they never used the balls, which are “currently stored in a filing cabinet” somewhere in the bowels of the IRS.
  2. At one luncheon, IRS credit cards were used for “related alcohol purchases” including 28 bottles of wine—for 41 guests. As a bottle of wine contains about five servings, this equates to three and a half glasses of wine per person.
  3. For the child in all of us, the IRS purchased these for “managers’ meetings.” These were part of the “almost $4,000 in improper decorative and give-away items” that TIGTA found in their review. [see article for image]
  4. Along with some jigsaw puzzles, the IRS purchased the “world’s largest crossword puzzle.” These purchases cost $89 of taxpayer money. Hopefully the IRS actually used these in their “team building” activities -- unlike those poor Nerf footballs.
  5. Even IRS agents need a little love sometimes, which may be why plush animals were purchased with IRS credit cards as give away prizes.
  6. Another one of the “give-away items” at the IRS managers’ meetings were “bathtub toy boats”. The IRS spent $418 to purchase these, along with some other “improper decorative and give-away items.” [see article for image]
  7. Stove top hats [think Abe Lincoln] were purchased using an IRS credit card as yet another “give-away prize.”
  8. The IRS must enjoy the sound of Kazoos. They used your tax money for “novelty decorations and give-away items, such as kazoos” which were awarded as prizes during their managers’ meetings.
  9. a “dinner at an approximate cost of $140 per person, four times the Federal Government per diem rate in Washington D.C.” At the time of this conference the per diem rate was $36 for dinner.
  10. The IRS spent five times the Federal Government per diem rate of $18 when they bought lunch at $100 per guest.
IRS admits Tea Party, other conservative groups were targets during Obama era

Excerpt:

In an unprecedented victorious conclusion to our four year-long legal battle against the IRS, the bureaucratic agency has just admitted in federal court that it wrongfully targeted Tea Party and conservative groups during the Obama administration because of their political viewpoints and issued an apology to our clients for doing so. In addition, the IRS is consenting to a court order that would prohibit it from ever engaging in this form of unconstitutional discrimination in the future.

In a proposed Consent Order filed with the Court yesterday, the IRS has apologized for its treatment of our clients -- 36 Tea Party and other conservative organizations from 20 states that applied for 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) tax-exempt status with the IRS between 2009 and 2012 -- during the tax-exempt determinations process. Crucially, following years of denial by the IRS and blame-shifting by IRS officials, the agency now expressly admits that its treatment of our clients was wrong.




You Can’t — and Shouldn’t — Abolish the IRS

Excerpt:

...the IRS does a lot of things besides just process complicated individual tax returns. Much of its resources, for instance, go into enforcing the corporate tax code ... . Meanwhile, a lot of IRS agents — quite possibly not enough — are assigned to providing customer service to taxpayers. And while conservatives are rightly wary of the civil-liberties violations that tax enforcers can commit, labor-intensive audits are important. If a lot of income goes unreported or taxes go uncollected, trust in the system breaks down, rates have to be higher, and the economy ails.
Comments:


What do you think? Comments appreciated! 


1.10.2018

Illustration of "Cancer is the great equalizer"


In my 7:30 a.m. to 8:15 period at radiation: (not naming names):
  • A contractor who comes in filthy jeans and a ratty sweatshirt
  • A Star Tribune reporter
  • Me (a nobody)
  • One of the most heralded attorneys in Minnesota
All with cancer

1.03.2018

On "supporting" the President - I'm no Ziba, I'm no Shimei!



My brief little post is a response to the following (click through for full articles):

Billy Graham's Granddaughter Slams 'Hypocritical' Evangelicals, Franklin Graham for Praising Trump

Excerpt:

Armfield took issue with the narrative around American evangelicals and the way, she claimed, that many seem to have compromised on personal morals in order to support Trump and other controversial figures, such as former Alabama candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore.
Interpreting Trump and the Never or Anti Trumpers

Excerpt:

I see Trump as a judge-like figure of the Old Testament Judges type. I say, Judge like, but pretty close to like them. He himself is not righteous, but he's doing a lot of great stuff for the righteous team, whether he believes in it or not, just like the judges. As you read this, I want you to understand that I know that God doesn't have a covenant with the United States of America. However, when you study the Old Testament major prophets, you read large sections on the judgment of the nations, where God has expectations of Gentile nations with whom He does not have covenant. Those nations, and the United States, are still responsible to God. People can be blessed of God depending upon what they do, because this is still our Father's world. You and I live in an anomaly of history for true Christians, the United States of America. True believers haven't had freedom like this. Jews haven't either for the most part, since the destruction of Jerusalem.
Do I support Trump? My answer:
  • First a nuanced response on what it means to "support" him:
  • What do I support? This is easy:
    • Constitutional government
    • National defense
    • Fiscal conservatism
    • Values such as :
      • Human dignity and the elevation of human life because men and women are created in the image of God (so Jim is opposed to Roe v Wade!)
      • Christian marriage
    • Observation: Not even Presidents that I didn't particularly like at times were right in my mind as in Clinton and the Defense of Marriage Act (he has since renounced it and SCOTUS declared it unconstitutional. ) 
    • As an aside, both Clinton and Gore once were opposed to abortion. Documented here: Clinton: "I am opposed to abortion and to government funding of abortions."; Gore: "I have strongly opposed Federal funding of abortions. In my opinion, it is wrong to spend Federal funds for what is arguably the taking of a human life. It is my deep personal conviction that abortion is wrong." (You can chalk those comments up to "doing anything to get elected!")
  • Back to a previous point which is important: "Not even Presidents that I didn't particularly like, at times were right in my mind". Even Obama, whom I loathed, had his good points: he apparently has been faithful to his wife (in contrast with JFK as an example) and is a good father!
  • The Christian and two citizenships and my football game analogy: 
    • Being born here (Fort Wayne in 1949), I am a US citizen. 
    • Being born again, my citizenship is in heaven (my true home): "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20)
    • Many times I have watched a football game where I really don't care about the outcome. Most times actually. Elections are closely analogous to this.
    • Theologically speaking we are in the age or "time of the gentiles" and soon that day will be fulfilled: Read about it in Daniel here and here.
    • The Jeremiah illustration: "But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare"
    • Summing up: I'm in a foreign land (the good-old USA) and I want the good-old-USA to be successful because this is where I live.
  • Do I now support Trump? You've been waiting for this! I want him to succeed. I pray for him. I'm not committing to vote for him - it's too early for that! "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior" (1 Timothy 3:1-3)
  • On Ziba and Shimei and the context - it's from 2nd Samuel 16:4-6 when King David was fleeing Absalom: "Ziba said, 'I pay homage; let me ever find favor in your sight, my lord the king.' When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And Shimei said as he cursed, 'Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! '"
  • Conclusion:
    • Donald Trump is a constitutionally limited President
    • He's no King!
    • And I'm no Ziba!
    • Nor am I a Shimei!


This will help readers understand Trump-talk:

1.01.2018

A New Year's Tradition - the Personal Balance Sheet


Every New Year's (it may be on the Eve) for the past 20+ years, I've created a Personal Balance Sheet (AKA Net Worth Statement). Comments:
  • We aren't Karen and Bill (this is a sample only)
  • Excel or Google Docs is the tool of choice for this
  • I don't include cars in our balance sheet / nor house furnishings
  • Not in this spreadsheet but it's good to assess how "liquid" the assets are.
  • Having a savings account (very liquid) for an emergency fund and more is highly recommended. Ask yourself: "If the transmission failed, how would we pay for the repair?"
  • Interested in a cabin up north? A cool website.
  • How does your Net Worth compare with other's your age? A helpful calculator
The following from the Scriptures is very good:







12.31.2017

On the last day of the year: Sixteen thoughts about Cancer

  1. Mortality is real! I'm going to die! You're going to die! One can read about the reasons in the early chapters of Genesis and Romans 5:12, "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned". The only escape from our fate is Jesus! "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10)
  2. It's better (debatably) than sudden death (say from a heart attack): 
    • It's better because one has time to meet his mortality face to face and do the Hezekiah thing: "Hezekiah wept bitterly" (2 Kings 20:1-11). 
    • It's not better for the one prepared and ready to die (my own hope is to die silently in my sleep like my mother-in-law). Every time I read about a young person dying suddenly, I think "having a cancer diagnosis is better!"
    • As an aside we (Kathee and I) were nearly t-boned at highway speed this past Summer when someone ran a red light. That was very nearly a sudden death. 
    • (The 2nd Kings passage is the famous "Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover" text.)
  3. It's been much harder than breaking my neck was 30 years ago. (I would guess this would not be the same for others who never regained some use of their limbs). Cancer feels like my body has betrayed me ... like I have a monstrous killer inside of me. See my blog post about "The Thing". The "chestburster" from Alien would be another analogy.
  4. John Piper's "Don't waste your cancer" is a very worthwhile read - even if you don't have cancer.
  5. I don't know how people undertake cancer treatments and work at the same time. Many do! I am glad to be retired and that I don't have the stresses of work!
  6. I have several dozens of cancer patients in the radiology waiting room - and I have been enriched by them. Most have a sense of humor, a zest for life, are hopeful, and want to be healed.
  7. This is a generality, but cancer patients have a greater sensitivity to spiritual things than say healthy 16 year olds. As Kathee says … "they ought to … they are facing death!"
  8. A good wife - and I have one - is an incredible source of strength! My closest support network is: my wife; my dear sister, Nancy; my brother and sister in law. I thank the Lord for them. (Also the many friends and family who pray for me!)
  9. The care givers - the nurses, the radiation techs, and the doctors - are absolutely amazing! I have not met one whom has not been compassionate and caring. My sister-in-law, Kathy, who is a retired nurse, has these traits.
  10. About sports - I actually learned this when I broke my neck (30 years ago) and was hospitalized for 3 months - it's meaningless. (I still enjoy watching!)
  11. About money: The marginal value of money once has enough to live on is zero. An extra $ 1,000,000 wouldn't enhance my life (I would give it away!).
  12. About material things: There is nothing I want! Except life! My 2002 S-10 is just fine for my ride!
  13. Every day is a gift - that's why it's called "The Present". Enjoy today. Tomorrow is not guaranteed: "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end." (Hebrews 3:12-14)

  14. Someone asked me what I am learning: Here it is: "'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  15. I am longing to see Jesus - to meet Him face to face. "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12). "When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, 'Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades'." (Revelation 1:17-18).
  16. For a long time, I've believed in the sovereignty of God as expressed in Romans 8:28, "we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" and Ephesians 1:11, "In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will". Cancer hasn't changed my mind!

12.30.2017

Bezos had "the breakfast octopus" ... "Meh" was birthed


This photo of Lola is courtesy of TripAdvisor


This Internet Millionaire Has a New Deal For You - Matt Rutledge, the man who invented the deal-a-day concept with Woot.com, launches his next venture: A Mediocre Corporation.

Excerpt:

He looked down at his plate. Bezos had ordered a dish called Tom’s Big Breakfast, a preparation of Mediterranean octopus that includes potatoes, bacon, green garlic yogurt, and a poached egg. “You’re the octopus that I’m having for breakfast,” Rutledge remembers Bezos saying. “When I look at the menu, you’re the thing I don’t understand, the thing I’ve never had. I must have the breakfast octopus.” Not until Rutledge had returned to Dallas and related the story to his anxious employees—now Amazon’s employees—did he realize just how absurd that explanation sounded. Before it can be eaten, generally, the breakfast octopus must be killed.
Comment: Meh.com is the new woot.com





12.28.2017

The Big Question for 2018: War with North Korea?



Trump Is Bluffing About Attacking North Korea in 2018

Excerpt:

This past year, after all, is ending with a flurry of war talk. On Dec. 20, the Daily Telegraph published an article quoting a current and two former U.S. officials claiming that the Trump administration was considering a military strike on North Korea. Now, the Telegraph is not, as Jim Hacker would tell you, the most reliable British tabloid. But two days later, Olivier Knox of Yahoo News published a strangely similar story with slightly different sourcing — two current and one former official. In both cases, a former official used the same description to describe a strike similar to the cruise missile attack on Syria — giving Pyongyang a “bloody nose.”
United States should resolve to avoid war with North Korea in 2018

Excerpt:

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a keen observer of foreign affairs who has become a confidante of President Donald Trump, recently put the odds of Trump authorizing a preventive strike against North Korea at 3 in 10. Graham may be overly optimistic. North Korea's nuclear and missile programs are rapidly colliding with Trump's recklessness to make the possibility of a second Korean war the single greatest threat to world peace in 2018.
Will North Korea and the US go to war in 2018?

Excerpt:

With the sour note relations between North Korea and the U.S. are ending on this year, the prospect of war in 2018 is all the more real. North Korea on Sunday called a round of punishing sanctions the United Nations unanimously approved on Friday an “act of war.” “We define this ‘sanctions resolution’ rigged up by the U.S. and its followers as a grave infringement upon the sovereignty of our republic, as an act of war violating peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the region, and categorically reject the ‘resolution,’” the North’s foreign ministry said in a statement released by the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
South Korea predicts U.S.-North Korea talks will take place in 2018

Excerpt:

North Korea will be open to talks with the United States next year, South Korea's government cheerfully predicted Tuesday as part of its 2018 outlook. In its official forecast, South Korea reasoned that North Korea would pursue diplomatic dialogue and engagement with Washington — not open confrontation — because it was likely to seek international recognition of its status as a nuclear-armed country. "North Korea may continue to advance its nuclear and missile capabilities while searching for an outlet externally," South Korea's Ministry of Unification said in its predictions for North Korea in 2018, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency. "In searching for the recognition of its status as a de facto nuclear-possessing state, (the North) would explore the possibility of negotiations with the U.S."
Why 2018 will be North Korea's year

Excerpt:

In many respects, 2018 will be a virtual repeat of 2017: more missile tests starting in the early spring followed by at least one big nuclear test, lots of fiery rhetoric from both sides and a Trump administration agonizing over how best to respond.
Trump Warns Against Illicit Chinese Oil Sales to North Korea

Excerpt:

The Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper, reported Dec. 26 that U.S. spy satellites had observed Chinese vessels allegedly transferring oil to North Korean ships in the sea between the two countries about 30 times since October, citing unidentified South Korea government officials. Fox News summarized the Korean paper’s report on Wednesday.

Comment: Image source 

On a personal note: Will my cancer be in remission a year from now? Praying