Sunday, April 27, 2008

Timber's Haircut

I've only had Timber for about 8 months now, so I've never had her in the summer months. Even in fall, winter and spring, she sheds like you wouldn't believe, leaving clumps of hair everywhere. As it has started to get warmer I find more and more of her hairs in my lunch, and decided it was time to give her a shave. Also because she is staying with my family this summer and I fear that if I dropped her off unshaven she would get a Mohawk and poofy tail like the poor family Golden Retriever did. She would probably get pretty hot this summer too.

So, the first photos are the good looking dog before her shave. She is so unsuspecting.

Well, about halfway through the shave, the electric razor started to overheat, so I let Timber have a break. As you can probably tell, she knows that she is in for more shaving and isn't very happy about it.

The final product wasn't amazing. It's not easy to shave a shivering dog who is trying to crawl away and lick your face at the same time. I'll post a photo in a few days when the cut has started to grow out a little bit, and isn't so mangy looking.

Well, it hasn't grown out yet, but here she is...both on dry ground and swimming, one of her favorite hobbies, only slightly behind licking herself when company is over in terms of habitual actions.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Things that make me smile....and those that don't.

Things that make me smile...

-Joyful dancing (both watching and doing)
-The first day after winter when I can wear a T-shirt outside
-English spoken as a second language
-CCR -Eagles -Joplin -Boston (OK, I'll just say all classic rock)
-Communicating in a language that isn't English
-My dog sitting at the door wriggling with happiness because she saw from the window that I was walking up the path
-Spell check
-Bike rides
-Meeting new people (as long as they are the type of people who make the world a better place)
-Horseback rides
-My job
-Good TV and/or Movies
-Sharing memories
-Beginning to accomplish or learn something new

Things that don't make me smile...

-People who don't share
-People who hate other groups of people
-Dogs who bark, chew, or try to jump on me
-Children who have to go without all the things I had as a child
-Horses that get all up in my face
-Poor drivers
-People who are rude on the phone
-Rap music
-The Doors (yeah, I know, I tried to like Morrison, I just can't get into it)
-Realizing that I forgot my wallet after I've filled my cart at the grocery store
-Filling out job applications (I think I've broken the three digit mark)
-Standing in front of the white board trying vainly to spell "naive" or other such word in front of a class full of students with pencils poised to copy it down.
-Bad memories

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sponser a child.

So, I was surfing the web, avoiding studying for tests and putting off writing papers that are due soon, (in fact papers and tests that are still due soon) and I found the website, I want desperatly to move to Kenya and volunteer there and teach, but between being a full-time student, being pretty broke, and having a dog, I can't really afford it. I like to live vicariously through my website browsing.

Well, I looked through the website, and it is a little strange. What you can do is choose a country, choose an age, and choose a gender. Then you see photos of children and you pick one to sponsor. This felt wrong to me, something about flipping casually through photos of children and arbitrarily picking one based on what they looked like just seemed a little too much like going to the zoo. (They also have little ten word blurbs about the children, and their family's monthly income.) And as I'm clicking through, if I'm being totally honest, I'm thinking to myself, couldn't they spend a little more time on photos? I mean, I found myself clicking on kids who were smiling. Shouldn't the person taking the photo know that a smiling face could mean the difference between this child getting picked or not? And therefor, between this child getting an education, health care, clothing, and regular meals?

Then I felt a little sick about being the person who makes the decision which child gets to get a sponsorship that would change their life, and which child doesn't. (Which child has to keep begging on the streets and not getting enough to eat at the end of the day, much less an education. Then I felt sick about the vast disparity between their lives and mine, and the money I spend on a regular basis on my dog.) So what I ended up doing was inserting a country, (Zambia) and a gender (girl) and simply choosing the first girl that came up.

Nyamgu lives with her three siblings and their mother, and family of five lives on 25 dollars a month. She is ten years old, but looks a lot older. At first I thought she looked about 14. I think she might look so old because her face is so serious.

I am now financially responsible for Nyamgu's health care, schooling, and regular meals. It's kind of a heady feeling. I mean, you use canvas bags when you go grocery shopping to help the environment, you donate to Red Cross and you even volunteer abroad for five months, and you wonder if you have made any sort of a difference. You wonder if the 1,000 plastic bags you save over your lifetime mean anything, if the money to Red Cross changed anything, you wonder if the students you taught remember any of the things you taught just seems like nothing you do makes a difference. And if you do do your part, it seems like you can never get rid of all the injustice in the world, so why try?

I feel like, I am finally making a difference. This little girl just had a world of opportunities opened to her, just because I decided to stop buying a cup of coffee every day and spend the money on something else. (I know this is starting to sound a little bit too much like the commercial, "For less than the price of a cup of coffee, you could save a child..." but I can't help it! It's true!)

And then I think to myself, why am I sharing this with people? No one else is going to care about my little sponsorship. Well, the main reason is that this blog is mostly for me, as a journal. Also, as lame as this sounds, this little sponsorship has made me really happy. I don't even know this little girl, and I already feel a connection with her. If anyone else wants to feel happy for about the same price you'd spend on a meal for two at AppleBees, you should check out too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Illegal immigrants pay billions in taxes

Don't have time to read the entire article? Here is my favorite quote, from the last line, "If anything we need more immigrants coming into the country, not less, especially with the baby boomers retiring..." Read on, republicans....

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) -- The tax system collects its due, even from a class of workers with little likelihood of claiming a refund and no hope of drawing a Social Security check.

Martha Pantoja helps Jose Aguilera prepare his income taxes at a community center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Illegal immigrants are paying taxes to Uncle Sam, experts agree. Just how much they pay is hard to determine because the federal government doesn't fully tally it.

But the latest figures available indicate it will amount to billions of dollars in federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes this year. One rough estimate puts the amount of Social Security taxes alone at around $9 billion per year.

Paycheck withholding collects much of the federal tax from illegal workers, just as it does for legal workers.

The Internal Revenue Service doesn't track a worker's immigration status, yet many illegal immigrants fearful of deportation won't risk the government attention that will come from filing a return even if they might qualify for a refund. Economist William Ford of Middle Tennessee State University says there are no firm figures on how many taxpayers are in that situation.

"The real question is how many of them pay more than they owe. There are undoubtedly hundreds of thousands of people in that situation," Ford said.

But some illegal immigrants choose to file taxes and write a check come April 15, using an alternative to the Social Security number offered by the IRS so it can collect income tax from foreign workers.

"It's a mistake to think that no illegal immigrants pay taxes. They definitely do," said Martha Pantoja, who has been helping Hispanic immigrants this tax season as an IRS-certified volunteer tax preparer for the nonprofit Nashville Wealth Building Coalition.

Among those she has assisted is Eric Jimenez, a self-employed handyman who has worked in Nashville for several years. He feels obliged to pay taxes -- even though, as Pantoja said, "nothing would happen" to him if he did not.

"I have an idea, a mentality, that to be a good citizen you have to pay taxes," he said. "Also, I'm conscious of the fact that the money we pay in taxes supports the schools and all the public services."

Pantoja said she has helped a number of construction workers who, because they are classified as independent contractors by their employers and have no taxes withheld, owe big tax bills come April. Beyond income tax, they have to pay the full Social Security and Medicare taxes due.

The Social Security Administration estimates that about three-quarters of illegal workers pay taxes that contribute to the overall solvency of Social Security and Medicare.

The agency estimates that for 2005, the last year for which figures are available, about $9 billion in taxes was paid on about $75 billion in wages from people who filed W2 forms with incorrect or mismatched data, which would include illegal immigrants who drew paychecks under fake names and Social Security numbers.

Spokesman Mark Hinkle says Social Security does not know how much of the $9 billion can be attributed to illegal immigrants. The number is certainly not 100 percent, but a significant portion probably comes from taxes paid by illegal immigrants.

Nine billion dollars sounds like a lot of money, and it is, but it is only about 1.5 percent of the total $593 billion paid into Social Security in 2005.

The impact on Social Security is significant, though, because most of that money is never claimed by the people who pay it but instead helps cover retirement checks to legal workers.

Federal law prohibits paying Social Security to illegal immigrants, but the administration factors in both legal and illegal immigration when projecting the trust fund's long-term solvency.

This is especially important as the 78 million-member baby boom generation begins to leave the work force and draw Social Security checks.

"Overall, any type of immigration is a net positive to Social Security. The more people working and paying into the system, the better," Hinkle said. "It does help the system remain solvent."

The Social Security Administration drew from census and Immigration and Customs Enforcement data in 2007 to project the effects of higher and lower immigration patterns.

If net immigration is high at 1.3 million people a year, the SSA's combined trust fund would be exhausted in 2043. But the fund runs out four years earlier if annual net immigration amounts to about half that -- 472,500 legal immigrants and 250,000 illegal immigrants.

The Internal Revenue Service doesn't have an estimate of how many illegal immigrants pay income tax.

But one indicator is the 9 million W-2 forms with mismatched names and Social Security numbers it received in 2004. The IRS said the W-2 forms with invalid Social Security numbers reported about $53 billion in wages and about three-fourths of that, $40 billion in wages, had taxes withheld.

The IRS also has been issuing Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, or ITINs, for 12 years to foreigners without a Social Security number. It's believed that many workers who seek the ITINs are in the country illegally, and the IRS reported that there were 2.5 million tax returns filed with an ITIN in 2004.

In 2006, then IRS Commission Mark Everson told Congress that "many illegal aliens, utilizing ITINs, have been reporting tax liability to the tune of almost $50 billion from 1996 to 2003."

An IRS spokesman said more recent figures aren't available.

The Social Security and Medicare taxes from mismatched W2s for the same period was $41.4 billion, Hinkle said.

That adds up to roughly $90 billion in federal taxes during they eight-year period.

The IRS defends the ITIN system, despite criticism that some illegal immigrants have used it to open bank accounts, get mortgages and establish a record of residency and taxpaying they hope might someday lead to legal status.

"The ITIN program is bringing taxpayers into the system," Everson told Congress.

Middle Tennessee State University economics professor William Ford, who has studied taxes and immigration, says a majority of economists agree that illegal immigrants are a net benefit for the U.S. economy.

He said the tax contributions from illegal immigrants, including sales taxes, property taxes and excise taxes (such as the gas tax), are significant.

He calculates that illegal immigrants contributed $428 billion dollars to the nation's $13.6 trillion gross domestic product in 2006. That number assumes illegal immigrants are 30 percent less productive than other workers.

"If anything we need more immigrants coming into the country, not less, especially with the baby boomers retiring," he said.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Con Teaching Unions

So, I've been preparing to be a teacher and I'm realizing that there is so much more to being a teacher than inspiring the future of the world. There is a curriculum to follow, standards to address, unions to deal with, and on and on and on.

I've decided I'm against Teaching Unions. They served a purpose in the past, and now they just make it easy for teachers to remain adequate and underpaid. See, one thing they've done is keep tenure in place and they have also standerdized payment scales.

Tenure- Tenure is a stupid thing. Why should having a job ever be a good enough reason to keep your job? This is another thing of the past, it kept professors/teachers safe when they published things that went against the grain in publishing papers. This seems to only apply to University professors, so why make it applicable to public school teachers?

Pay Scale- The way this works is that when you start teaching you make a certain wage that changes from district to district. Every year you work you get a tiny raise. If you change schools/districts/states and get a new job up until year seven, you can transfer your years worked and start at the same or close to the same status as where you left. However, if you've worked 14 years at one school and move to another, you can only transfer seven years of work. (Seven years is the maximum, this is something that has been agreed upon by the unions.) Then, you go back down the pay scale and have to start at year seven working your way up year by year again. Why does this suck? It prevents schools from paying great teachers more than crappy teachers. The pay scale is set (and agreed upon by the union) and as long as you've got tenure you're going to get paid the same no matter if you're a good teacher or not. It prevents teachers from changing schools after seven years. Maybe this isn't a bad thing, but then schools aren't scouting other good teachers to steal them away. Maybe this sounds like another good things. But then the schools aren't going out of their way to keep their teachers. In fact they don't generally do anything except the mandatory tiny raise each year.

Now, I personally don't have a problem with the wage teachers make. (Most teachers hate hearing what I'm about to say) But summers off, all major holidays, weekends, plus like 20 sick/personal days? Sign me up. However, do I think that money matters more to people with a family to support? Does money matter more to some people, for any reason? Would it be a better world if being and staying a teacher were harder and teachers got paid for being great teachers? (And less for being crappy teachers?) Yes, I do. And I think the best way to get there is to get rid of the union.

Of course, the second way to get there would for people to stop WANTING to be teachers. And as soon as there was a significant dip in prospective teachers, schools would get on the ball offering signing bonuses and better pay. That, I don't think is going to happen. Because people don't become teachers for the money. They do it because they have either failed at what they really want to do, or they like teaching.

ha ha!

So, like I've said before, I do this online dating thing. It's funny, a little fun, and below is a test people can take, just copy and paste it to go here and take a quiz to see how well you match me. Just FYI though, I wanted to see if it would work, so I took my own test, and I only match myself 69%. So I don't know how accurate it is.

Also, before you take the test, be warned, there are some PG-13 issues discussed.