Friday, January 27, 2012

Did Warren Buffett's Secretary Pay Millions In Taxes?

I absolutely hate it when President Obama makes statements that can't be fact checked, one way or the other.  I practically spit up my drink on Tuesday night when he said this during his State of the Union speech:
Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.
Of course he is referring to Warren Buffett and his secretary, who was seated in the First Lady's box and has become the poster child for the big, evil rich not paying their "fair share."

This may have been a misspeak, but I find it incredibly hard to believe that Warren Buffett's secretary paid less in taxes than he did.  She may have a higher tax rate, since his income may be majority capital gains.  But paid more in taxes in dollars?  No way.  The President repeatedly fails to discuss why capital gains are taxed lower.  It is because investments can be risky and they want to encourage people to make investments.  You could lose all of your money.  Also, nevermind that they money you are invested was likely already taxed the first time you earned it. 

Let's look at Mitt Romney, who also gets most of his income through capital gains.  He paid around $3 million in taxes last year.  Warren Buffett is worth way more than Mitt Romney.  The guy is worth billions.  I'd bet my life that he paid more than $3 million in taxes.  Buffett has publicly stated that he paid 19% of his income ($46 million) in 2006 in taxes. That's $8.7 million in taxes in 2006.  Are you telling me that his secretary paid more than that?  I seriously doubt it.  And if she did, then I really don't feel sorry for her, because she is clearly worth many, many millions of dollars.  Already people are trying to figure out what her income might be.  It wouldn't shock me at all to find out she is making $200,000.  She's been working for Buffett for a long time, and he is a rich man.  Good secretaries are indispensable to people like him.

Other than that, we can't fact check any of this.  Her tax returns are private, as are Warren Buffett's.  We will never know how much money in dollars he paid, versus how much money in dollars she paid.  Finding that out would ruin the rhetoric.  Can you imagine if people saw that she paid, say $40,000 in taxes and Warren Buffett paid $10 million?  That would destroy the story, wouldn't it?  So I will just continue to get infuriated that the President keeps marching her out as some kind of a symbol of class warfare.  Frankly, people like Mitt Romney pay enough in taxes.  Why should he pay $3 million and someone else pays $0?  How is that "fair"?

Anyway, that's all I have to say about the State of the Union address, other than that it was hilarious how President Obama kept using Ford's tagline "Built to Last."  Ford, of course, being a company that didn't require any sort of bailout from the government.

Are 50,000 Protestors Coming to the G8/NATO Summits in Chicago?

The G8 and NATO summits are in Chicago this May.

As if that isn’t going to create enough chaos, Adbusters – the group who “founded” Occupy Wall Street – has issued a proclamation to all “redeemers, rebels and radicals.”  (Sounds sweet, doesn't it?)

In part, they had this to say:
On May 1, 50,000 people from all over the world will flock to Chicago, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and #OCCUPYCHICAGO for a month. With a bit of luck, we’ll pull off the biggest multinational occupation of a summit meeting the world has ever seen.
I'm not sure who these 50,000 people are who are going to "flock" to Chicago, but I have one question for any of them:  Have they met Rahm Emanuel?  If they think he is going to let 50,000 people set up tents, kitchens, and barricades (peaceful or not) around the city, then I've got some beachfront property to sell them in Oklahoma.  Oh, and on top of that, Rahm has been pressing the city to increase fines on protestors during the G8 and NATO summits. It hasn't happened yet, but just wait. If there is one thing Rahm has made clear, it is that he will not put up with any bullshit from the Occupiers.  He's certainly not going to let them set up tent cities in Chicago.  He had them kicked out of Grant Park twice last fall, and after that they gave up.  Although they have shown up to yell and scream at him at City Hall occasionally since then, he's definitely kept them quiet.  They are such a nonissue in Chicago that I have to dig deep to find anything about what they are doing. 

Occupy Chicago has apparently rented a space in the middle of nowhere on the south side for around $5,000-6,000 a month, paid for by an anonymous benefactor.  The address to this place is nowhere to be found on the front page of their web site, even though it is where they are purportedly gathering for General Assemblies and teach-ins.  Nor are there any directions on how to get there.  You can see how well organized they are.  I would love to know who was dumb enough to sign the lease, and why on earth they decided against a storefront in the Loop, which would not only have been easier to get to, but would have potentially attracted more attention.  It gets better.  The place they are renting is in the same building as a guy they kicked out of the group because he made people feel "unsafe."  (People not feeling safe is a big issue in the various Occupations.)  Yes, out of all the vacant buildings in the entire city, they picked the one where this guy lived to set up their headquarters.  From the outside, the group appears to be in slight chaos.  People are fighting on the website about the cliques, leaders, anarchists, and radicals who are taking over.  There is suspicion over the finances.  Other people are trying to figure out how to get involved, much of the time to no response other than to "come on down!"  (They haven't grasped yet that not everyone wants to or can trek down to the south side every night for their General Assemblies.)  Other people want to know generally what is going on, usually to no response.  Even though they have a website, most seem to prefer the more private "Google Groups" to discuss the movement.  (Indeed, there is very little discussion at all that happens on the website, and very little updating.  Most posts go unanswered.  Even the official Twitter account doesn't relay much information.)   

The best part is that rumor has it Adbusters didn't even tell Occupy Chicago about the big May 1 announcement before they did it, even though they've got "Occupy Chicago" all over the announcement.  This has fueled worries inside Occupy Chicago that it will interfere with Occupy Chicago's "Chicago Spring" launch on April 1, which they planned back in October or so. 
 
But back to Adbusters.  Although Occupy Chicago repeatedly tries to remind people that they are "nonpartisan," and "nonviolent," the Adbuster's call to arms seems to call that into question:
And if they don’t listen … if they ignore us and put our demands on the back burner like they’ve done so many times before … then, with Gandhian ferocity, we’ll flashmob the streets, shut down stock exchanges, campuses, corporate headquarters and cities across the globe … we’ll make the price of doing business as usual too much to bear.
What a great idea.  (And the reference to Gandhi is precious.)  Let's shut down the stock exchanges, colleges, and businesses.  Let's flashmob the streets and annoy the 99%.  None of these things affect anyone's jobs, lives or money, do they?  I swear, four months along into this Occupy movement, and I still don't understand what the point of it is.  Are they all just going to protest and complain forever?  Why not actually try to get some candidates in to Congress who support their views?  I can't figure out what they expect to happen.  Do they think that the 40 or so people who generally show up at General Assemblies here in Chicago speak for the rest of us in the city?  Because they don't.  All I can see is that the Occupiers want to create chaos.  They seem to welcome it when the police have to do their jobs and rope them off or kick them out of places where they aren't supposed to be.  They also seem to all be under the delusion that the 1st Amendment has never been interpreted or limited by anyone, much less the Supreme Court. 

This is going to get interesting.  If they mess with my commute, I'm not going to be pleased.

The Demise of Demi Moore

Who didn’t see this coming?

Over the past four or five years, something happened to Demi Moore.

She got thinner and thinner, and more recently veered into "scary thin" territory. Rumors swirled about millions spent on plastic surgery, including removing the alleged fat on her knees. She just turned 49, but you wouldn’t know it from a distance. Her Ann Taylor ads were photoshopped beyond recognition. It was 25 year old Demi, not 49 year old Demi, whose face peered out from the ads in the store window. When she stood next to her daughters on the red carpet or in other event photos, she seemed less their mother than friend. Even the way she interacted with them screamed “Treat me as an equal!” She embraced Twitter, even using the handle name “mrskutcher” rather than her own name. She Tweeted photos of herself in bikinis, topless, or in other skimpy garb to her followers. She reportedly danced on tables at a bar recently, and was hanging out latenight with people in their 20s and 30s.

Something about it all seemed so desperate. Immature, even. The persona she gave off was of a woman dying to be young again. Demi Moore is a beautiful woman. Unfortunately, all beautiful women get old (as do ugly women). Some women embrace it, like Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Diane Lane, and Diane Keaton. Others, like Demi Moore, fight it every step of the way. The problem is that you can only fight it for so long. No matter how much plastic surgery or dieting you do, you will not look 25 when you are 55. You may look great, but you won’t look 25. Demi Moore appeared to be doing everything possible to make people forget how old she is. The problem is, we can’t. Her career goes back years. Remember the Demi Moore of Ghost, Indecent Proposal, and A Few Good Men? She was my favorite part of St. Elmo’s Fire, in the role of the narcissistic Jules. She is actually a decent actor, and doesn’t need to ride on her looks, but seems to think that her looks are the only thing that defines her now. It’s sad. Is it Hollywood? Is this why so many actresses resort to freezing their face so they cannot smile, plumping their lips, and stretching the skin into a garish mask in the name of a face lift?

Or was it the pressure of being married to a much younger man? I was not surprised to hear that her marriage to Ashton Kutcher ended last fall, but they did always seem happy together. I’m certainly not going to pull the double standard, because God knows many old men in Hollywood are married to much younger women, but maybe the pressure is higher for an older woman to keep a younger man. It is depressing at times to see young women in their twenties while the crows feet start to ramp up on your own face, and your once amazing complexion starts falling by the wayside. Men don’t generally care about things like that, Michael Douglas aside. Maybe Demi Moore would be better off single, or married to a man closer to her age, who appreciates the lines in her face.

TMZ is reporting that Demi has an “addiction” to Red Bull, and buys it by the case. If that isn’t weird enough, they are also reporting that the seizure was caused by doing “whip its.” Whip its? We used to buy cans of whipped cream at Farmer Jack’s when I was a kid in order to do whip its. Why is multi-millionaire Demi Moore doing whip its? My initial thought to hearing that was “How embarrassing for her.” But, then I realized that she’s been embarrassing herself for years prior to this incident. I had stopped thinking “Wow, she looks great” and started thinking “Act your age.”

The whole thing is bizarre. I wish her the best. I’d love to see her get her career on track again, and to just embrace getting older.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Random Thoughts on January 7, 2012

1.  Well, I have lost another niece.  My sister found out during Christmas week that her amniotic fluid was low.  The doctors sent her home to see if things would improve, and ordered her back after a week.  They couldn't wait very long, because she was at five months.  She went back and things were worse, and additionally, the placenta was torn.  The doctors believed that due to the low amniotic fluid, the baby was likely already not in good shape, and during the intervening week, my sister had not felt the baby move.  The doctors told her that the baby would likely not live another month, even if she was still alive.  So, the induced labor, and the baby was born stillborn.  And if you can believe this -- it was on the same day that my sister's daughter L died last year.  So, two years in a row she has lost babies on the exact same day.  Heartbreaking.  This is admittedly easier since we never got to know her in person, but God.  They are doing an autopsy on the baby to try to find out more.  However, my sister has said that she is now done trying and is selling all of my nephew's old clothes at garage sale this summer.  It's so sad.  I can't believe this happened again, and it is another "fluke," according to the doctors.  Jesus, how many flukes does one family have to take?  And Teen Mom goes on and on...

2.  First day teaching today, and it was very fun.  Seven more days of 9-5 teaching, although I am going to have to skip out a bit to do my work, although I tried very hard to get most things done early.  I think I'm doing okay.  I did forget to ask the students for questions, since I'm so used to just getting up, saying my piece, and having a Judge butt in if they have a question.  Lesson learned for tomorrow's lecture.  Critiquing the students on the direct examinations was also a blast.  I'm actually learning a lot, too!  You so rarely get to take IP cases to trial that you get a little rusty. 

3.  I am in love with Mad Men.  I didn't watch the show initially, I don't know why, and then I felt like I couldn't jump in, so I continued not to watch it.  However, on Black Friday, the DVDs were on sale on Amazon for all four seasons for around $8 apiece, so I picked them up.  I finally got around to watching them over the past few weeks, and all I have to say is that this show is awesome.  The sets and wardrobe are great, not to mention the chain smoking and constant drinking throughout the show.  I love it.  I wish people smoked like this on other shows.  It's entertaining.  I can't believe Jon Hamm hasn't won an Emmy.  He is so good in this show -- the extent of his facial expressions alone is amazing.  I haven't liked an actor this much since Edward Norton in American History X.  Honestly, Jon Hamm was born to play this role.  Even better, he reminds me of Cary Grant and some of the old school actors who were so suave and mature and debonair.  Unlike today's popular actors.     

4.  Rick Santorum.  Really, Iowa?