Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
With all due respect... go STUFF your "holiday greeting."
Either wish me a Merry Christmas or go to hell!
Seriously... I can't frigg'n STAND it anymore...!!!
What is this "season" crap?! Seriously...!?!?
***EXCERPTING from "Happy Holidays from the White House"***
The holiday season is one of my favorite times of year at the White House.
Folks... this is bullshit. The reason DECEMBER is "the holiday season" is because CHRISTMAS is in December. Period...!!!
More than 100,000 visitors will come to the White House this holiday season, and we wanted to give everyone a chance to share in the magic of the White House during the holidays.
There she goes again...
(*GRITTING MY TEETH*)
Folks... if Christmas were celebrated in... oh... say May... then no doubt these politically correct morons would label May "the holiday season."
Folks... can we use our brains for just one gosh darned minute...?!?! Can we use the common sense that God gave at least some of us...?!?!
That’s why one of my favorite decorations this year is the Military Appreciation Tree where visitors can leave their holiday messages for our troops and their families, many of whom will spend this holiday season far away from their loved ones. You can send your own season’s greetings to our men and women in uniform and our military families, as well as see all the holiday decorations...
Tree...! TREE...!!! As in "CHRISTMAS FRIGG'N TREE...!!! (You goddamn idiot...!!!)
(*BLOOD PRESSURE RISING*)
As for "decorations," if the First Lady is referring to Chunukah... (*SIGH*)... a menorah isn't a "decoration" per se. Nor is a frigg'n dreidel! (Though don't get me wrong... I love dreidels!)
Again, folks... why this politically correct nonsense? Seriously... when you really think about it, it's Orwellian!
On behalf of Barack, Malia, Sasha, and Bo, I wish you and your family a very happy and healthy holiday season.
And I wish you a MERRY FRIGG'N CHRISTMAS...!!!
And if you were Jewish - or Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist or WHATEVER - I'd still wish you a MERRY FRIGG'N CHRISTMAS...!!!
Seriously, folks... if prior to December 2nd the First Lady had sent me a "Happy Chunukah" email I would have been delighted. To be wished a "Happy Chunukah" between December 2nd and December 9th this year would have been fine, dandy, and appreciated. I have nothing against Chunukah. I have nothing against any religion's holidays! If a holiday is celebrated with eating, drinking, and good fellowship... count me in!
All this said... it's the Christmas "season." Anyone who knows a damn thing about Jewish history and religious celebrations knows that Chunukah is a "minor" holiday. (It ain't Yom Kippur! It ain't Rosh Hashona! It ain't Passover!)
Folks... (*SIGH*)... this "happy holidays" business is bullshit - politically correct bullshit. Nothing more, nothing less. If anything, it's insulting to Christians. (At least it should be coming from the White House!)
Well, folks... it's the day before Christmas Eve!
(By the way... today's newsbites theme song has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with Christmas, but it's one of my favorites... so that's that.)
Anyone still have shopping to do?
Me? I've got one, maybe two gifts left and then I'm done!
Speaking of the Christmas Spirit...
I HATE FRIGG'N WALMART AND THEIR CHINESE MADE CRAP MORE THAN ANYTHING IN THE WORLD...!!!
We're running a bit late this year and while we picked up our tree on Monday we still haven't decorated it.
So... yesterday on my rounds I stop at a few places looking for lights. Believe it or not, most places are apparently sold out! So, anyway, I finally stop at Walmart and lo and behold, I find one box of 100 colored mini-lights still on the shelf! I test it right there at the store... the entire string works... but this morning when Mary went to trim the tree only half the string worked.
I think we should nuke those bloody bastards! Kill 'em all... let God sort 'em out!
(Ho...! Ho...! Ho...!)
MacArthur had the right idea! (Frigg'n Truman... wimp!)
O.K.... O.K... I'm calming down now....
So, folks... on to the newsbites!
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
But in the meantime, here are my excerpts and commentary:
(Carey's reporting highlighted in boldface.)
To the few remaining auto workers left in [Detroit,] a city half the size it was in 1960, the America they knew growing up is long gone and things can only get worse.
[M]any Americans typically...see Michigan as a long-standing financial basket case of a state thanks to the shrinking U.S. auto industry. But the problem is that the broad decline of the manufacturing sector that has been underway in this country for decades now may threaten not just the long-term health of the economy but also the living standards of all but the wealthiest Americans.
AND, FOLKS... (*SIGH*)... THE WEALTHIEST AMERICANS NO LONGER SEE THEMSELVES AS "AMERICANS," BUT RATHER AS "CITIZENS OF THE WORLD." IF INVESTING IN CHINA RATHER THAN AMERICA IS GOING TO BRING THEM THE LARGEST RETURN IN THE SHORTEST PERIOD OF TIME... (*SIGH*)... THAT'S WHERE THEY'LL INVEST THEIR MONEY.
"The whole country is now seeing the story that Michigan has been living with for a long time," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial. "We have kicked the can so far down the road that now all we have is a cliff to fall off."
"The recession merely revealed a reality that has been with us for a long time. We faced a growing gap in education and skills that we tried to fill with debt and credit, which gave us the illusion of growth."
ABOUT THAT GAP IN EDUCATION... (*PAUSE*)... FURTHER DUMBING DOWN OUR COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES SO AS REACH THE ARTIFICIAL GOAL OF "COLLEGE FOR ALL" IS NOT "EDUCATION." HALF-ASSED LIBERAL ARTS - AFRICAN-AMERICAN BASKET WEAVING AND TRANSGENDER SCIENCE FICTION OF THE 21ST CENTURY - AREN'T THE COURSES THAT WILL ARM AMERICAN 20-SOMETHINGS TO TAKE ON CHINESE 20-SOMETHINGS WHO HAVE JUST COMPLETED THEIR UNDERGRADUATE DEGREES IN ENGINEERING AND PHYSICS.
(*JUST SHAKING MY HEAD*)
The U.S. trade deficit with China- a nation that tightly controls its imports - hit a record of $268 billion in 2008 and could reach $270 billion this year.
Deregulation and a laissez-faire attitude toward financial institutions culminated in the housing "boom" that former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray (who failed to win reelection in November) has aptly described as a "Roman orgy" of debt.
WELL... LET'S DEFINE "DEREGULATION" AND "LAISSEZ-FAIRE" AS BARNEY FRANK AND CHRIS DODD DID: THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE U.S. GOVERNMENT - BY POLICY AND REGULATION - WAS THE DRIVING FORCE WITH REGARD TO INFLATING THE HOUSING MARKET AND CREATING THE BUBBLE THAT BURST WITH SUCH TERRIBLE CONSEQUENCES. (AND, OH, BY THE WAY... BARNEY FRANK WAS JUST RE-ELECTED LAST MONTH.)
By one estimate, since 2003 up to 20,000 manufacturing plants have shut down. The trend is leaving the country with a legion of unskilled workers stuck on long-term unemployment benefits.
WHICH OBAMA, THE DEMOCRATS, AND FAR TOO MANY RINOs APPEAR NOT ONLY WILLING, BUT EAGER TO SUBSIDIZE - TO SUBSIDIZE VIA EVER INCREASING DEBT...!!!
FOLKS... THESE BASTARDS ARE DESTROYING OUR COUNTRY...!!!
"Over the past 20 years we have simply borrowed more money in order to prosper," said Bill Gross, co-chief investment officer of the world's biggest bond fund manager PIMCO. "We forgot that the more stable and safe way to go is to make things."
"Now we're paying the price."
(*CLOSING MY EYES*) (*SIGHING*) (*LITERALLY SHUDDERING*)
America now faces "structural" unemployment. Which means unless the world's largest economy changes in a fundamental way, millions of unskilled workers will remain jobless and economic growth will be sluggish, at best.
JUST... LIKE... EUROPEAN... DEMOCRATIC... SOCIALIST... COUNTRIES...
FOLKS. I'M NOT SAYING OBAMA, PELOSI, REID, AND THE LIKE ACTUALLY WANT AMERICANS TO BE UNEMPLOYED; I AM HOWEVER SAYING THAT IF STRUCTURAL UNEMPLOYMENT ALONG TRADITIONAL POST-WW2 EUROPEAN WELFARE STATE LINES IS "THE PRICE TO PAY" FOR A MORE "PROGRESSIVE" AMERICA... THEN OBAMA AND THE AMERICAN LEFT WILL SHOUT "FULL STEAM AHEAD!"
FOLKS... FORGET ARGUING ABOUT WHETHER OBAMA IS A "SOCIALIST" OR NOT. HERE... LET ME SAVE YOU SOME TIME AND ENERGY: BARAK HUSSEIN OBAMA IS A "SOCIAL WELFARIST." (INDEED, THE TERM YOU MAY BE MORE FAMILIAR WITH IS "FASCIST," ONLY OBAMA AND HIS "FASCISM" ARE NON-TOTALITARIAN.)
FOLKS... YOU THINK I'M GOING OFF THE DEEP END HERE? I'M NOT. I'M EXPLAINING OBAMAISM IN POLITICAL SCIENCE TERMS. NO, HE'S CERTAINLY NOT A HITLER, A STALIN, A MUSSOLINI... HE'S NOT A CASTRO... A CHAVEZ... BUT HE IS A BIT OF A MITTERRAND... A HUEY LONG... AN FDR ON STEROIDS...
WHAT OBAMA WANTS IS STATE VETO POWER OVER PRIVATE BUSINESS AND EVEN PERSONAL DECISION-MAKING. IT'S NOT SO MUCH THAT HE WANTS TO PROACTIVELY CONTROL ON A DAY TO DAY BASIS EACH AND EVERY BUSINESS AND PERSONAL DECISION THAT TAKES PLACE IN AMERICAN; IT'S THAT HE WANTS TO BE ABLE TO "GUIDE" MACROECONOMIC POLICY (OFTEN VIA MICROECONOMIC REGULATION) AND HE WANTS GOVERNMENT TO EXERCISE ULTIMATE "STEERAGE" CONTROL OVER THE ECONOMY.
BOTTOM LINE... YOU CAN TERM OBAMA A PATERNALISTIC SOCIAL WELFARIST. (*SHRUG*)
America is now the "sick man of the globe," says John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo. "The good news is the illness is not terminal."
I'D LIKE TO BELIEVE THAT... (*SIGH*)... BUT DEMOGRAPHICS AND CURRENT IMMIGRATION POLICIES POINT TO JUST THE OPPOSITE. IF ANYTHING, THE UNITED STATES IS "IMPORTING" THE THIRD WORLD INTO OUR SOCIETY. WORSE... WE'RE NO LONGER A MELTING POT... WE'RE NOT LONGER ASSIMILATING "THEM" INTO "OUR" CULTURE; RATHER, WE'RE CAUGHT IN A POLITICALLY CORRECT SPIRAL OF NATIONAL SUICIDE.
OH, YEAH... I'M TELLING IT LIKE IT IS TODAY! I REFUSE TO SUGARCOAT REALITY.
Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital, who predicted the housing-fueled crash (and made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate this year)...favors ending long-term unemployment benefits because he says they prevent Americans from taking low-paid jobs. "Nobody wants to tell the truth and say that lower paying jobs are here to stay," he said. "One way or another, America is going to be poorer. Basically, we're doomed."
Manufacturing as a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) peaked in 1953 at 28.3%. By 2009 it was 11%. Employment in manufacturing continued a roller coaster ride for a couple more decades, peaking in 1979 at just over 14.5 million workers. But by 1979 the oil shocks began to threaten the middle-class status of manufacturing workers.
From the 1980s onward, manufacturing jobs and the sector's contribution to U.S. GDP declined, a process accelerated by productivity enhancements and increasing competition from lower-cost markets. Now there are just over 8 million manufacturing workers in a population of 300 million.
"The post-World War Two paradigm that allowed unskilled workers to go straight from high school into the middle class died in the 1980s," Mesirow's Swonk said.
Thanks to low interest rates and the spurious promise that property prices could only go up, U.S. consumers in the first decade of the 21st century bought into the property market hook, line and sinker in order to profit and afford a better lifestyle. They also drew down home equity in order to fund that lifestyle, spending money they did not have.
DUMMIES! F--KING DUMMIES! AND I DON'T WANT TO BAIL OUT THESE F--KING DUMMIES...!!!
The Great Recession took a chunk out of America that is unlikely to come back.
Manufacturing generates just over a tenth of America's economic output and employs less than 9% of the workforce. Yet it accounted for more than 26% of the 8.4 million layoffs in the downturn, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. ... [I]mprovements in productivity during the downturn mean many of the 2.2 million manufacturing workers who lost their jobs will not be rehired. [Furthermore,] much of the hiring [American manufacturing companies] plan to do will be overseas to serve developing markets.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 6.3 million vacant homes on the market for sale or rent. ... Ken Simonson, chief economist at the Associated General Contractors of America, says apart from a few potential bright spots such as North Dakota and the Appalachians where natural resource stories may fuel residential housing projects, the housing glut means little job creation can be expected.
Incidentally, the housing mess also hurt labor mobility. According to real estate website Zillow.com, in the third quarter nearly 1 in 4 single-family homes in America had negative equity, with the home worth less than the mortgage.
"Labor mobility has always been a difference between America and Europe, and has worked in America's favor," said David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff & Associates. "The housing market has now become a constraint on the labor market."
A review of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted for Reuters by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University found the rate of blue-collar workers who are unemployed or underemployed hit 19.5% in the third quarter (compared with 15.1% for all occupations), up from 7.2% in the same period in the year 2000.
BUT FOR WASHINGTON LOBBYISTS, THE AGE OF OBAMA HAS BEEN A BOOM TIME. FOR BANKERS, WALL STREETERS... BONUSES HAVE BEEN GOING UP, UP, UP! (GOOGLE "GOLDMAN SACHS + OBAMA") (HELL... GOOGLE "CLINTON + GOLDMAN SACHS")
FOLKS... (*SIGH*)... THE OLIGARCHS... THE "TRANSNATIONALISTS"... ARE DESTROYING YOUR COUNTRY. IT'S HAPPENING IN PLAIN SIGHT - RIGHT OUT IN THE OPEN. BARKER'S NEWSBITES CHRONICLES THE STORY DAILY!
"For blue collar workers it is a depression," said Andrew Sum, the center's director. "Why are people having such a hard time? The answer is their jobs don't exist any more, they have nowhere to go."
"We're not very far from the level where the economy is not self-sustaining," Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in a rare television interview on CBS's "60 Minutes" on Dec 5th. "It's very close to the border. It takes about 2.5% growth just to keep unemployment stable and that's about what we're getting."
SO SUPPOSEDLY RIGHT NOW - DECEMBER 2010 - TODAY'S ECONOMIC REALITY REPRESENTS BERNANKE'S IDEA OF "SELF-SUSTAINING...???" (FOLKS... WE ARE SO... SO... SO... FRIGG'N SCREWED...!)
In November the long-term unemployed (jobless for 27 weeks or more) hit 6.3 million...
(*SIGH*) FOLKS... THE ECONOMY HAS NOT GOTTEN BETTER; IF ANYTHING, IT'S GETTING WORSE. ONCE THE INEVITABLE INFLATION HITS...
FOLKS... BUY GUNS... BUY AMMO... TAKE SAFETY COURSES...
As part of a deal to extend tax cuts implemented by President George W. Bush, President Obama and the resurgent Republican Party agreed on a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits. ... Gluskin Sheff's Rosenberg says the problem is extending unemployment benefits alone means in 13 months those same workers will merely need them extended again. "The last thing America needs is a class of permanently unemployed people," he said. "They will lose their drive and lose their ability to gain and maintain future employment."
NOT TO MENTION I DON'T WANT TO SUPPORT THESE PEOPLE...!!! I HAVE MY OWN PROBLEMS...!!! THE WORKING POOR SHOULD NOT BE FORCED TO SUBSIDIZE THE NON-WORKING MIDDLE CLASS...!!!
Unlike during the Great Depression, the latest downturn has weakened America's manufacturing sector unions.
WHILE THANKS TO THE DEMOCRATS THE PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS HAVE BEEN THRIVING... CREATING A BLACK HOLE FOR GOVERNMENT BUDGETING ACROSS THE NATION.
According to the Census Bureau, income inequality has reached the highest level since it began tracking household income in 1967.
In the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey released on Dec 7th, American 15-year-olds performed below the OECD average in mathematics (Chinese students in Shanghai topped the rankings) and just average in science and reading.
I DON'T BELIEVE THAT LAST PART. NO FRIGG'N WAY WE ACHIEVED EVEN "AVERAGE." (*SMIRK*)
One third of American college students require remedial mathematics classes...
(*JUST SHAKING MY HEAD*) HEY, FOLKS... DO YOU THINK OUR "EDUCATORS" DESERVE ANY OF THE BLAME FOR THIS...??? HMM...?
FOLKS... EITHER OVER THE PAST 30 YEARS AMERICANS HAVE SIMPLY GOTTEN DUMBER (SOMETHING IN THE WATER PERHAPS?) OR ELSE OUR HIGHLY PAID (WITH GOLD-PLATED BENEFITS) PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATORS... SUCK!
Social Security is a Ponzi scheme expected to run a deficit this very year... and yet... Obama's "compromise" tax bill includes a payroll tax (FICA) giveaway of 2%.
I can't believe I'm about to do this... (*JUST SHAKING MY HEAD*)... but allow me to quote Jerry Nadler... with approval!
Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, said he feared the one-year cut in the Social Security payroll tax, to 4.2 percent from 6.2 percent on income up to $106,800, would weaken Social Security because Republicans would insist on it being made permanent, and Democrats would relent. “We know that politically once you make that tax cut it will be impossible to restore it,” Mr. Nadler said.
The phony son of a bitch is right!
(Why call the man who's right a phony son of a bitch? Simple. This is the first time I'm aware of that Nadler has ever opposed a "middle class" tax cut or "middle class" giveaway! Still... he's right on this one!)
Seriously, folks... the sheer and absolute irresponsibility of adding to deficit spending as our nation's economy swirls around the drain is enough to make one wish that...
(*SLOWLY COUNTING TO TEN*)
(See, folks... I can control myself and avoid putting something in writing that might warrant a visit from Homeland Security, the Secret Service, ATF, or the FBI...)
I don't know what to tell, you, folks; democracy isn't working. Our elected representatives are destroying our country from within.
Ask yourself this, folks... at the very least should not this facet of the "tax package" have been separately debated and voted upon...??? Hmm...???
Folks... the game is rigged. And I use the word "game" quite deliberately. These bastards in Washington think they're playing a game... they obviously believe they're "playing" with monopoly money!
As I've noted time and again, the so-called "Bush Era tax cuts" are far removed from "the Bush era" and beyond that, since we're now in December of 2010 the idea of referring to them as "cuts" is ludicrous. Simply put, the tax rates as of yesterday should be known simply as... er... the tax rates.
Last night's vote apparently neither raises nor lowers basic income tax rates, therefore... federal income taxes have been neither raised nor lowered.
The FICA tax reduction however...
(*JUST SHAKING MY HEAD*)
This is clearly a new tax cut. This is a new "giveaway" championed by the same folks who have over the past two years added trillions of new debt to the nation's sadly out of balance accounts!
Seriously, folks... at the risk of a knock on my door by the authorities... short of killing the bastards how are We The People supposed to stop them from destroying our country?
We're in deep trouble... deep... deep... trouble...
Thursday, December 16, 2010
I sincerely and respectfully urge you to take the time to click on the provided link and read the following three page article outlining how the state of California is literally falling apart, becoming a First World/Third World hybrid.
Our country is being destroyed from within, my friends.
The average middle and upper middle class American is largely oblivious to the ongoing decline and seemingly inevitable fall of our beloved United States.
Today's newsbites theme song comes with alternate lyrics...
Written by Ted Steubing, Todd Bushey, and William R. Barker (circa 1984)
You're a mean one, Mr. Bill
A leech, a mooch, a snail...
You put dish soap in my coffee, vodka in my juice, Mr. Bil...illl...
Keep me up every night, Mr. Bill!
Ahh... those were the days!
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Please subtitle this post "Die, Scumbags, Die!"
(You'll see why in a moment...)
Senate lawmakers on Wednesday approved an $858 billion bill extending the Bush-era tax cuts for two years...
* O.K. ENOUGH WITH THIS "BUSH ERA TAX CUTS" NONSENSE. THE TAX RATES HAVE BEEN THE TAX RATES SINCE WHAT... FIRST 2001 AND THEN A FOLLOW-UP IN 2003. EARTH TO THE MORONS WHO WRITE THIS CRAP: IT'S NOW DECEMBER 15, 2010...!!! WHY NOT JUST CALL THE PRESENT TAX RATES... er... THE TAX RATES...?!?!
* MORONS...! MORONS...! MORONS...! MORONS...! (I'M SURROUNDED BY F--KING MORONS...!!!)
The Senate voted 81-19 to approve the tax measure.
* MY GUT SAYS THAT THE 19 WHO VOTED AGAINST THE TAX MEASURE REPRESENT "THE GOOD GUYS." (BI-PARTISANSHIP USUALLY EQUALS THE AVERAGE CITIZEN GETTING HOSED.)
The legislation would extend Bush-era tax cuts for an additional two years...
* WHICH DOES ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO STIMULATE ECONOMIC ACTIVITY SINCE BUSINESSES MUST PLAN LONG TERM AND NOW ALL THEY KNOW IS THAT IF THEY START HIRING NOW, START SINKING MONEY INTO GROWTH NOW, THEY MAY WELL GET HOSED TWO YEARS DOWN THE ROAD.
* BRILLIANT! (*GRITTING MY TEETH*) JUST F--KING BRILLIANT...
[T]he legislation reduces federal payroll taxes for most American workers for one year by two percentage points to 4.2% from 6.2%....
* WE'RE ALREADY BROKE - DEFICITS AND DEBT ARE OUT OF CONTROL - AND SO THE MORONS IN WASHINGTON DECIDE IT'S A GOOD IDEA TO CREATE HIGHER DEFICITS AND DEBT...?!?!
* QUESTION: IS IT WRONG TO WISH DEATH UPON OUR "HONORABLE" ELECTED "REPRESENTATIVES...????"
The bill extends jobless benefits for 13 months...
(*GNASHING MY TEETH*) MORE DEBT PILED UPON MY SHOULDERS AND YOURS AS WELL AS THAT OF OUR CHILDREN. EVER-EXPANDING SOCIALISM CHAMPIONED BY THE DEMPUBLICANS AND THE REPUBLICRATS.
...as well as tax benefits Obama championed for low-income families that were part of 2009 economic-stimulus legislation.
* AS TO HOW MUCH THAT WILL COST US... (*SHRUG*) AGAIN... THE FURTHER EXPANSION OF THE WELFARE STATE. (*SIGH*)
The unemployment-benefit extension wouldn't affect people who have already exhausted the maximum combined state and federal assistance of 99 weeks.
* WELL... (*SLIGHT SMILE*)... AT LEAST THAT'S SOMETHING! STILL, I'M AGAINST ANYONE RECEIVING MORE THAN DOUBLE THE NUMBER OF WEEKS OF UNEMPLOYMENT THEY ORIGINALLY PAID PREMIUMS TO RECEIVE. (SAY 48 WEEKS TOTAL DRAW - TOPS!)
[T]he [Democrat-controlled] Senate...voted down a move to divert other federal-government funds to pay for the $56.5 billion cost of extending jobless benefits.
(*SNORT*) (*SMIRK*) OF COURSE THEY DID!
The bill also allows businesses to write off 100% of equipment purchases made after Sept. 8, 2010, but before Jan. 1, 2012.
* CONGRATULATIONS JAPAN, CHINA, GERMANY, AND A HOST OF OTHER FOREIGN COUNTRIES WITH FOREIGN WORK FORCES!
It shields most taxpayers from the alternative minimum tax in 2010 and 2011.
* IF IT'S IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST TO "SHIELD" MOST TAXPAYERS FROM THE ATM, WHY NOT SIMPLY ELIMINATE THE ATM...???
(*GIVING THE - FIGURATIVE - FINGER TO WASHINGTON*)
And it renews a host of expired tax breaks for businesses...
* TAX "BREAKS" IS SIMPLY ANOTHER NAME FOR TAX LOOPHOLES.
...including...the 45-cent tax credit for ethanol blenders.
* THESE BASTARDS SHOULD BE DRAGGED FROM THEIR OFFICES, TARRED, FEATHERED, AND RUN OUT OF TOWN ON AN AMTRAK RAIL!
* FOLKS... ALL THESE BASTARDS DO IS SCREW YOU! IT'S THAT SIMPLE. THESE PEOPLE ARE SCUM.
(And thus... this post's subtitle.)
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
O.K., gang, here's the deal...
Unlike with previous vacation recaps, I'm going to paint with a broad brush and concentrate more on generalities than specifics.
This isn't to say that I won't give details and provide links (as always!), but rather than pen my usual chronological discourse, I'll be writing this post more as a "stream of consciousness" travelogue.
Barcelona is not Spain.
Barcelona is in Spain... she's part of Spain... but she's not Spain - Barcelona is the capital of Catalunya!
In Barcelona - and Catalunya - Catalan is spoken. Spanish is spoken as well - I'm guessing by all - but Catalan is the language of Barcelona as French is the language of Quebec.
Of course in Barcelona and throughout the surrounding region English speakers can get along reasonably well with just a bit of Spanish and plenty of gesturing (many Catalans speak English to one extent or another, at least in the very metropolitan city of Barcelona), but knowing the following phrase...
...comes in handy as an ice breaker.
(Just be careful how and to whom you share the salute with! It's politically charged; "visca" isn't simply another word for "viva"; rather, the salute "Visca Catalunya!" demonstrates solidarity with the Catalan People in terms of their own sense of historical and cultural uniqueness.)
Mary and I got along well in Barcelona. We did have a bit of an edge, though, since our good friends Jared and Dana actually live in Barcelona along with their two beautiful, bright, and affectionate children, LoRae (just a bit shy of her third birthday) and Davis (14 months old).
Jared is my "adopted" little brother. He was my middle sister-in-law's high school sweetheart "back in the day" when I was a cocksure, strutting 20-something year old. All these years later... we're still in touch... still friends some 20 years after Jared and sister-in-law Eileen parted ways!
Jared's family moved to the west coast sometime around 1990 and Jared went with them. We kept in touch however! One year during the early '90's Mary, Kim, and I vacationed in California and we met up with Jared and a friend of his in San Diego.
When Jared married the lovely and talented Dana, we were invited; that was the trip we flew into San Francisco and spent a week slowly working our way down the coast on our way to Jared and Dana's San Diego wedding.
When Kim turned sixteen, Jared and Dana flew in for her Sweet 16 bash. (Macallan Cask Strength was the "bar scotch" and we finished up with Johnnie Walker Blue!)
Jared and Dana had their first child - Logan Rae (LoRae) - nearly three years back and Mary and I had planned to visit to meet the new addition, but before we could finalize plans, Dana was offered an amazing professional opportunity to transfer from her company's West Coast U.S. operations hub to an expat posting in (greater) Barcelona, Spain. Needless to say she took the job! The got pregnant while over there and Davis was born 14 months ago.
With Davis' arrival we knew it was time to "fit" a visit to Barcelona into the Barker travel schedule. We hadn't met LoRae... now they had Davis too... we just had to make the trip.
So... we did!
This trip was a combination "visit the Kowals" and "see Barcelona and the surrounding area" vacation. And a great vacation it was!
We ate... we drank... we strolled the city... we drank... we visited Montserrat... we drank... we visited Sitges (Jared, Dana, and the kids came with us!)... we ate... we walked La Rambles... we drank... we took the double decker tourist bus... we drank... we mastered Barcelona Public Transportation...
Bottom line... we fit a heck of a lot of activity into less than a week spent in Spain!
Walking La Rambles is a must, as is strolling Diagonal. Barcelona is a big city and since we're talking Spanish street and neighborhood names (as well as landmarks) as well as different elevations, my advice to the first-time tourist there is to immediately head for the double decker tourist buses. In fact, spend the extra 7 euros and buy yourself a two-day pass! This way, day one you can get your basic bearings; day two you can avail yourself of the hop-on/hop-off feature for more leisurely exploration of the city and its neighborhoods.
Dining... just go with the flow. You can of course refer to my list of dining/drinking/snacking establishments (found here) but as I myself found out, unless you're going to literally map out where each establishment can be found in relation to... er... wherever you happen to be at an particular time... but as Mary and I found out, the best way to "find" a restaurant, bar, or pastry shop is to simply walk into any place which is fairly crowded and where it looks like everyone is having a good time!
(One place I will recommend though is Cerveceria Catalana. You just can't go wrong...!!!)
If you're going all the way to Barcelona you've got to visit Montserrat. Period! Likewise, if you're traveling all the way to Barcelona another day trip you've got to take is to the "half quaint, half chic" beach town of Sitges.
(Montserrat is an hour out of town by train; Sitges 35-40 minutes.)
Another place you've just got to visit is... er... the Tibidabo area where I stayed. The only problem is... getting up there isn't as easy "out of season" as it is "in season" - in summer.
Here's the deal: In the summer months all the public transportation options to get up there are open. "Off season" your options are more limited.
Basically, here's the way to get from "town" to the top of Tibidabo where the amusement park, cathedral, and most spectacular views of Barcelona and the Mediterranean can be found:
Find your nearest metro stop. Check out the system-wide map. Look for the the FGC S1 and/or S2 lines and if they're not available directly from the metro stop you're at, take the most convenient (other) metro line which will get you to the FGC S1 and/or S2 line.
With me so far...??? Basically what's complicated is that while the Barcelona transit system is integrated, its component systems are labeled individually. More on this later...
Once you can hop on the FGC S1 or S2 train take this train in the direction of the Peu del Funicula stop and get off there.
Get off the train... follow the signs for and proceed to the Funicular - specifically the Vallvidrera Funicular.
I know what you're saying... you're saying: "Bill, what the hell is a funicular...?!?!" Allow me to explain...
A funicular is a cliff railway, a cable railway in which a cable attached to a pair of tram-like vehicles on rails moves them up and down a steep slope; the ascending and descending vehicles counterbalance each other.
A funicular is not a cable car. A funicular is not a tram. A funicular is not a subway car. A funicular is... er... a mode of transportation in and of itself.
So... anyway... hop on the funicular (which is located at the top of the same structure which serves as the metro stop - it's all the same building; you're never leaving the building!) which will take you up the mountain to Vallvidrera Superior.
O.K. Allow me to make this easy for you. The funicular goes up and down. Period. There are no intermediate stops. The lower stop is Vallvidrera "Minor" (though they don't label it as such; rather, it simply coincides with the "Peu del Funicula" metro stop) while the upper stop is Vallvidrera Superior.
(*ROLLING MY EYES*)
It is confusing, folks. And to add to the confusion, there are actually two distinct and separate funicular lines both heading up Tibidabo mountain - located some distance apart geographically - with the other funicular line reached via a different FGC line (L7) and involving taking what's known as "the Blue Tram," which runs between the metro station "Ave. Tibidabo" and the other funicular! This, however, is the route that's only open regularly during the summer months and other peak times. Just FYI!
Oh... and when the amusement park is open... there's also an express bus known as the T-2 which runs between center city's Placa Catalunya metro station and... er... a bus stop adjacent to Gran Hotel La Florida. (Again... the key determining factor on whether this bus exists is whether the park is open or closed; open means bus, closed means no bus.)
O.K., now where were we? Oh, yeah... we've now made it up to Vallvidrera Superior via the open and running all year-round Peu del funicular.
Exit the funicular. Walk out the funicular station doors and emerge facing the street. Turn to your right - to the cross street; the main avenue - and you'll see a red bus stop sign marked "Barre Bus 111." The Barre 111 bus (a "local" minibus) makes its stop there at 20 minute intervals and it will take you on a five minute drive further up the mountain - directly to the amusement park (or alternately to the Gran Hotel La Florida).
Got all that...?!?!
Seriously... here's all you've gotta know: Off-season, to get from anywhere in Barcelona city proper to the top of Tibidabo and back, you simply need a single metro ticket or a single ride's worth of of a multi-ride ticket. Your ticket will be read by the entry/exit turnstiles you'll pass going on the metro to the funicular to the bus as one uninterrupted ride. The entire trip should take you no more than 40 minutes from city to mountain summit or reverse.
Well... that's about it. Had we had more time we would have traveled further abreast of Barcelona city proper. Considering the limited time we had available, though, I'm confident that we packed a lot of sightseeing and various experiences into our trip.
Thanks to the People of Catalunya for their hospitality...!
Thanks to the People of Italy for their hospitality...!
(Screw the French...)
Thanks to our good friends Jared and Dana...!!!
(And thanks again for that outstanding dinner with the fresh pasta and the homemade garlic bread, guys! Thanks for taking us out for our last meal in Barcelona on Friday, Dana! Thanks for all the research and "errand running" Jared! Thanks for the wine... thanks for the cava... thanks for the deli goodies which we stocked our mini-fridge with... thanks for coming with us to Sitges... and finally... thanks for giving us the opportunity to "bond" a bit with LoRae and Davis. We love your kids...!!!)
Thanks to the owners, management, and staff of the Gran Hotel La Florida for providing outstanding value and the makings of a wonderful vacation and beautiful memories.
Aahhh... to be Bill!
So... speaking of "sunny ol' Spain," we finally arrived at BCN - Barcelona International Airport - on Sunday morning, Dec. 5, at around 10:30 a.m. Not surprisingly, given that the authorities had shut down and cleared the airport the evening before and only re-opened it that very morning, there was a pleasant absence of teaming crowds and we fairly flew through baggage and customs.
We had meet two women from our flight who were also booked at the Gran Hotel La Florida, so we decided to share a taxi to the hotel. A 15-20 minute drive from the airport to the near summit of Tibidabo and we were "home."
What can I say about our accommodations... about our location...? The two links above provide a gateway to explore what it is to be... er... moi.
(*GRIN*) (*CHUCKLE*) (*LAUGHING OUT LOUD*)
Seriously... kick ass hotel... kick ass room...
Check-in involves drinking - always a good thing! There's no "check-in counter;" rather, there's a concierge station where each guest/couple/family is given undivided individual attention - along with a refreshing "welcome cocktail" - followed by a personalized tour of the facilities inside and out which ends at your room - your luggage having already been delivered.
No key cards; real keys!
We were given a beautiful 5th floor mountain view room with three (rather than the usual two) near floor to ceiling windows affording us the most amazing view of Tibidabo Amusement Park and the Temple de Sagrat Cor.
(Note: At night, the Temple de Sagrat was lit up so that wherever one was in the city miles away and far below or even out on a ship in the Mediterranean one could see it. Of course, from our room it appeared as if we could simply reach out and touch the feet of Jesus... as the crow flies Temple de Sagrat was perched only a few hundred yards beyond our windows!)
Besides affording us stunning views of the park and the cathedral, our room was quite large - larger indeed than most of the rooms shown via the hotel website. Our king bed was unbelievably comfortable - a wonderful mattress, fine sheets and a fluffy, dense down comforter along with down pillows made for restful sleep as well as providing a fine lounging position while reading or watching TV on our wall mounted 37-inch plasma screen.
As for the huge marble bathroom...
From the main bedroom we would open the sliding glass door to enter the "initial" bathroom area which comprised the sink setting on one wall and an over-sized tub on the other. Separated from this area was a stand alone marble shower stall featuring an adjustable rainfall double shower head set-up; also given a separate space was the actual toilet area which comprised... er... what you'd expect... but also (this being Europe!) featured a bidet.
Of course robes (big enough even for me!) were provided - as were slippers (too small for me!) - and thus attired I would saunter back and forth between my room to the indoor/outdoor heated pool, spa, and fitness center.
Yep... you guessed it... while in Barcelona in December, yours truly spent a fair amount of time relaxing in this beautiful infinity pool while gazing at the city of Barcelona 500 meters below and beyond her the blue of the Mediterranean Sea.
In addition to the outdoor portion of the pool there was of course the indoor portion; a large jacuzzi hot tub adjacent. Plenty of sturdy metal lounge chairs boasting thick cushions insured a comfortable venue to read and snooze. As for the locker rooms...
(*GRIN*) (*HAPPY, CONTENTED SIGH*)
...both men's and women's offered both "wet" and "dry" steam rooms as well as waterfall and multi-jet showers.
(*ANOTHER CONTENTED SIGH OF REMEMBRANCE*)
I gotta tell ya, folks... it really is GREAT to be Bill!
Anyway... you get the idea.
As to Barcelona and vacation itself... stay tuned! I'll be adding separate posts detailing our adventures as time permits!
Sunday, December 12, 2010
(Or as we "sophisticated travelers" like to say, "Milano.")
O.K., folks... here's the story:
As we were waiting to board AA # 152 (JFK-BCN) on Friday (Dec. 3) night rumors were swirling around that our flight would be canceled. The word was that there was a wildcat Spanish Air Controllers strike going on. Flights to Spain out of EWR had already been cancelled. According to news reports the military had taken over control of Spanish air space.
Well... the reports of a wildcat strike were true... the reports of the military taking over air traffic control duties were true... but nevertheless, American Airlines boarded us on time, we taxied away from our gate only 10 minutes late or so... and then it was announced that we were to be held on the ground for perhaps 45 minutes.
While we were happy to be on the plane and away from the gate, obviously we were worried that the situation would deteriorate and our flight would be canceled. Luckily for us, this was not to be! After sitting on the tarmac for a brief time our pilots and crew were given the green light to depart and by 9:45 p.m. we were in the air - departure taking place less than an hour behind schedule.
Fast forward to Saturday morning...
Spain is six hours ahead of U.S. eastern standard time. It's a seven hour flight. We were originally due to land in Barcelona at 10:35 a.m. local time. At approximately 9:00 a.m. local time - 95 minutes out of BCN - the plane's captain made an announcement:
Ladies and gentlemen... we're sorry to have to tell you this, but we've just gotten word that all Spanish airspace is closed and we've been instructed to divert to and land at Milan international airport.
Well, obviously we passengers had no idea what this would mean for us. Thing is... the crew seemingly knew as little as we did! This was a new situation for them too!
Apparently our pilot and American Airlines corporate had wanted to get us on the ground as close to Barcelona, Spain as possible; this would have meant putting us down in France (Marseille)... but believe it or not, the damned Frogs wouldn't let us land there!
Well... screw the French. Viva Italia! At 10:30 a.m. or so we landed in Milan!
Folks... American Airlines handled the action like pros! Within minutes of landing they were getting us off the plane, whisking us past a perfunctory immigration and customs check, retrieving our checked luggage, and leading us to waiting buses upon which we were taken to the Hotel Novotel Milano Malpensa!
During the time between the in-flight announcement of the diversion and getting us off the plane we passengers had been speculating on what our next move would be, what our options were. Would they bus us from Milan airport to Barcelona airport? Not really feasible... it's at least a 12 hour bus ride! Train? Nope. Apparently the Italian and Spanish regional railroads use different gauge track and so combined with customs issues the train was out. A ferry? There is apparently one from Rome to Barcelona... but that would have meant getting us to Rome from Milan. Bottom line, with labor negotiations ongoing in Spain, the decision was made to park us at a nice hotel, provide us with lunch, dinner, and breakfast, and hope that come next morning Spanish normalcy would have returned to the skies of Europe and we'd be able to depart for and arrive at BCN on schedule... plus 24 hours.
In fact... this is exactly what happened!
Yes... we "lost" one night in our beautiful 5-star hotel in Barcelona, but we gained a free side trip to Milan, Italy!
It was great...!!!
Let me tell you, folks... we didn't waste our time in Milan. When life gives you lemons, if you're smart you'll make lemonade.
(And we're no dummies!)
The moment we arrived at the hotel our "handlers" told us all to stow our luggage in an empty conference room and head to the dining room for a complimentary lunch while the hotel staff prepared to check us all in. So... it's now noon and Mary and I are lunching in Italy!
After lunch (veal... pasta...) we picked up our room key and went up to our room - where we could gaze upon the glorious Alps from our window!
Next a couple of quick showers and... er... experimentation with the bidet.
(*SNORT*) (*LAUGHING OUT LOUD*)
From there it was back down to the lobby to explore the hotel and quiz the front desk staff on how to get to Milan city center. It turns out... we were 40 minutes out of Milan proper by train!
No biggie, though! We made a few phone calls (courtesy of American Airlines!), sent a few emails (courtesy of a fellow "stranded" passenger with a laptop!) rounded up a crew of like-minded adventurers and off we went in the complimentary hotel shuttle van to the nearest train station (located at the airport) and... onward to Milan...!!!
We had a great train ride in. I had rounded up a group of seven of us and we had a train compartment to ourselves except for one solitary Italian businessman who as it turned out was fluent in English and ready, willing, and able to share some restaurant recommendations with us!
From our initial regional train we switched to the metro and straight to Duomo Square we went!
Armed with a fistful of euros from the first bank ATM I came across the Barkers graced Italia's most extravagant city!
I'm a "loyal" New Yorker and I love St. Patrick's Cathedral, but...
You ain't seen a Cathedral till you've seen Milan Cathedral! I mean, folks... browse the internet for "cathedrals" and while it's true you'll find some larger and some older, you'll find none more magnificent than Milan Cathedral.
We "hung" with our fellow free spirits from our "orphaned" flight for awhile, but awhile Mary and I ended up going our way while they went theirs. (They were interested in the shopping... we were interested in the dining...)
As previously mentioned, the gentleman we met on the train into town was kind enough to offer two specific restaurant recommendations and one we ended up at was Ristorante Bagutta. (See also: Direct to English)
Not cheap! Great place though!
Explore their website and you'll get a glimpse of what I mean. That said, considering the exceedingly warm, friendly, festive and welcoming atmosphere and service and the beauty of the interior (especially as decorated for Christmas!) I was quite happy to "splurge" a bit - including a 45 euro bottle of wine - and to break Italian tipping etiquette by knocking our waiter's socks off with a "standard" Barker tip of 20% plus.
Hey... not only did our waiter steer us towards excellent food and wine selections, but on behalf of the house he extended to us a complimentary visit to the restaurant's bountiful appetizer buffet - a meal unto itself!
Following dinner and dessert it was time to retrace our route "home" to the hotel. Back on the metro... back on the train... back to the airport we went. Our instructions had been to call the hotel upon our return to request the shuttle, but upon heading to the pick-up spot we noticed that a neighboring hotel's shuttle was already there and waiting, so... me being me... I simply grabbed Mary's hand, walked up to the shuttle driver, and said, "Hello my friend! We're back from our night in Milan! We're ready to head back to the hotel!"
The shuttle driver had no idea that we weren't staying at his hotel (the Best Western) so when we arrived at the hotel I simply pretended that we were going to take a stroll prior to retiring for the night. He wished us a good night... I slipped him a few euros... and off Mary and I went in the direction of our own hotel a scant 100 yards away or so.
(*HUGE FRIGG'N GRIN*)
Anyway... off to bed... up the next morning at 5:15 a.m. in plenty of time for a quick complimentary breakfast prior to boarding the chartered buses back to the airport at 6:00 a.m. and after being met at the airport by American Airlines personnel our entire group was priority escorted to the counter for baggage check-in and ticketing and then off to the departure gate where our same plane was waiting. We enjoyed some further morning refreshment (marocchino & pastry) while waiting for the pilots and crew and by shortly after 9:00 a.m. we were boarded.
Back in the air around 9:30 a.m., we landed at BCN (Barcelona International Airport) at right around 10:30 a.m. - a mere 24 hours later than originally planned!
* Next up: Barker's Barcelona Vacation!
Friday, December 3, 2010
I was actually gonna use "Travelin' Man" as today's newsbites theme song...
But to tell you the truth... I like this song better!
Anyway... I'll be away till the 11th.
Check back on Sunday, Dec. 12th or Monday, Dec. 13th for new posts!
Wish me bon voyage!
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
...Mary and I are leaving for Spain on Friday.
The following numbers related to the trip bear mentioning:
Add the above two numbers together... add a dollar sign... and you get $1,986.22 - the total package price for our round trip airfares, seven nights hotel, and two pre-paid 3-course lunches at our hotel.
Actually, it's a great price. We have direct flights. We're staying at a five star hotel. Life is good!
Let's revisit the initial two numbers I cite - 1,205.68 and 780.54
Add that dollar sign... we now have $1,205.68 and $780.54
Can you guess what that $760.54 represents...?
Com'on... you can do it...
Unfrigg'n believeable, huh...?!?!