Monday, July 31, 2006

The Rich Get Richer

On Friday, the House passed a bill which raises the minimum wage to $7.25 over a period of two years. This would be the first time in nine years that the minimum wage has gone up. It’s a nice gesture, but a little late considering how much the cost of groceries and gas has risen in nine years.

Attached to the minimum wage bill is a proposal to cut the estate tax, a bill which republicans have been trying desperately to pass and which benefits only the richest Americans.

Here’s a very interesting analysis of the bill (from Axcess News):

The minimum wage increase helps some 6.6 million Americans with an average dollar benefit of $1,200. The estate tax cut benefits some of the nation's wealthiest, about 8,200 people, with an average dollar benefit of $1.4 million.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said Friday that the House approach of marrying the minimum wage hike to estate tax cuts juxtaposes policies that are aimed at two groups at opposite ends of the economic spectrum.

The Center argued that the House version of the legislation passed on Friday doesn't give minimum wage earners a benefit from $7.25 per hour level for two years. The citizen's advocacy group also said that the estate tax will only benefit the nation's wealthiest individuals.

The Center stated that, "While these income gains could be critical to the well-being of a low-income family, the dollar amount of the gain pales in comparison to the dollar gains for estates benefiting from the House estate tax proposal. The Tax Policy Center estimates that in 2011 an estate tax with a $10 million per couple exemption ($5 million per individual) and with tax rates of 15 percent and 30 percent - similar to the proposal under consideration in the House - would yield an average tax cut of $1.4 million for the 8,200 beneficiaries, relative to making the 2009 estate-tax parameters permanent. Thus, the average tax benefit for these estates would be more than 1,000 times the average yearly income gain for workers who would benefit from the minimum wage change. Moreover, the benefit of the estate tax reduction would grow with the size of the estate -- for example, the Tax Policy Center analysis shows that the 900 estates worth more than $20 million would receive an average tax cut of $5.6 million in 2011."

Friday, July 28, 2006

I'm Thinking About You, Mrs. Mackey

I've been following the news about the trial of David Gilley, who is accused of killing Laura Salmon back in 1984. I started high school that year, so Laura's death was a big topic among students a couple of years older than me. Because I did not know her, however, I never really had more than a passing interest in the conversations.

When I became a senior, Laura's mother, Lourene Mackey, was my English teacher. Let me tell you that she was a fabulous teacher! I learned how to write a research paper in her class, and I think her meticulous instruction is what helped me to succeed in college English. I won't say that Mrs. Mackey was necessarily an inspiration to my becoming an English teacher--several factors played a role in that decision--but she had a great teaching style that made me want to be in class. And I can't say that the way she carried herself through her grief was inspiring to me either because I wasn't really that aware of the situation back then. But looking back on it, I have a real respect for her for carrying on with life and making sure that her students learned what they needed to know, and I hope that this trial can bring a speedy conclusion to a long chapter in her life.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Scammer Round Two

I was right. The scammer hasn't called, but he did email me again. Here's what he said:

Hello there
How are you doing and how is the going over there,I am out of state
rightnow as i am now in australia i had to come down here for a business trip
and i am not allow to recieve calls due to the conferences we came for but i
have access to mails,i would have like to come and text drive the truck but its
due o my absence in state ok i really need the truck for my new project and i
will be making the payment through cashier check which is drawn from my US Bank account and once you get your money the shippers will be coming for the pick up at your location ok send me your full name and contact address for immediate payment also let me know the final asking price of the truck including the taxes tittle ok get back to me asap
Best Regards

He completely disregarded my statement that I deal only in cash, and he asked for personal contact information again after I explicitly stated that I wouldn't give out that information. So I emailed him back saying that the truck has been sold. Unfortunately, the email address,, is now defunct. So I'll probably hear from this guy again.

I would love to figure out a way to scam this scammer, but I'm afraid there's no way to beat him at his own game. I have perused some of the scambaiter websites, but everyone who has played the game just strings along the scammer for a while until he finally gets fed up and goes away.

Do you have any creative suggestions for me, or should I just ignore him the next time he emails?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I Wasn't Born Yesterday, Sucka!

Husband recently decided to sell his pickup truck, so I put an ad in the Wheels and Deals last week. I can't believe how much it costs now to list an item with a picture. I remember when a three week ad cost only $15. Anyway, that's not the story.

Monday morning when I checked my email, I had an inquiry about the truck. Now, I did not list an email contact in the ad. Apparently Wheels and Deals has an automated anonymous feedback system, and that's how this person emailed me. I thought it was sort of odd that someone wouldn't just pick up the phone and call, and I really thought it was odd when I opened the email, which came from

I am interested in immediate purchase of your Truck and i will be making the payment rightaway,will like to know the working condition and final asking price and also send me some pics of the truck ok get back to me asap Best Regards

Now, being an English teacher, I was particularly offended by the text of the message, but I decided to put that aside and give this person the benefit of the doubt. Of course, the word "scam" was running through my mind, but perhaps, I thought, this person might be legitimate. So I sent some extra pictures and even provided an additional phone number. I did not give a final asking price, opting instead to let Husband do that. Then I sent the email and forgot about it all.

Until this morning when I checked my email again and found this message from mensfield_dee:

Hello there

How are you doing i hope all is moving on smoothly if so give thanks to amighty,I will give you a call soonest,I really need the truck and i wil be making the payment rightaway and once you recieve your money we will be arranging for the pick up at your location ok send me your full name and contact address for immediate payment also let me know the final asking price ok get back to me asap

Best Regards

Of course now there's no doubt in my mind that this is a scam. Some sucker thinks I'm going to give him my name and address so that he can send me a bogus check for more than the purchase price and then have me send him back the difference. Who does he think he's fooling?

I started to reply that he'd better give thanks to "amighty" that I don't know his real name and address and then say something about a shotgun, but I was a little more polite than that. Instead I replied:

Your email sounds really shady to me. If you want to make a deal on the truck, then call the phone number listed in the ad. I will not send you any personal information. If you want to come see the truck, I will be happy to sell it to you, but I only take cash.

Do you think he'll call? I'm betting not.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Do Huggies Come in Adult Sizes?

At least once every two weeks, I get free samples and coupons that I neither need nor want. Somehow Pampers and Huggies and Luvs think that I need their products. I'll admit that I do save the shampoo and lotion samples, but if I had saved all the diapers that I've gotten in the mail, I'd have enough to make some mom really happy. Today I received a newborn size Huggies diaper sample. If Huggies follows the same pattern as Pampers and Luvs, during the next few months they'll be sending more sample diapers in increasingly larger sizes. I guess I can be thankful they're not dirty.

Nobody in my house can use diapers, but in about twenty years, I'll probably look forward to finding some Depends in my mailbox.

Friday, July 21, 2006

My Opinion About a Dumb Question

The question I asked in my previous post seems to have struck a nerve in some people. I’ll tell you that I do not have a good answer to the question, but I’ll offer an opinion.

The problem lies in selfishness. It’s very easy to have an opinion about frozen embryos because they don’t require action on our parts. Frozen embryos are stored away in a container in a lab, and we don’t have to do anything to provide for their needs. It’s easy to fight for the rights of an embryo because it’s going to stay in the freezer until someone wants to have a baby, and then that person will be the one responsible for taking good care of it. We don’t have to be involved at all. We can make a call to our senator and tell him how we want him to vote, and then we can sit back and feel good that we have helped save a life.

But it’s a different story when the children are already born. We prefer not to get involved with that argument because to do so means that we may actually have to get up and do something. If I see a child suffering, then it’s my responsibility to take some action to make sure that child gets the care it needs. However, that’s going to require some effort and sacrifice on my part, an inconvenience that will disrupt my comfortable life. Most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, prefer not to get our hands dirty. The extent of our involvement usually consists of referring someone to the appropriate government agency.

When we look at the TV or magazine pictures and see children—or any other innocent people—dead from bomb blasts, we can take the easy way out and place the blame on such-and-such group. If that group would only see the error of its ways and concede that it is wrong, this senseless killing wouldn’t happen. The blood is on their hands, we say. And when the “right” side in the conflict fires a missile into a civilian area and kills innocent people, we shake our heads and call it the unfortunate consequences of war. If such-and-such group hadn’t provoked the “right” side, we say, this wouldn’t have happened. We can then sit back and feel bad for the innocent people while at the same time comfort ourselves knowing that while we personally can’t do anything to alleviate the suffering, at least we are taking the right side in the conflict.

I’ll admit that there isn’t really much we as ordinary people can do to help innocent people in a war zone. However, we can do more than what we’re doing now. Instead of trying to figure out which side in a debate is the more moral side, we can go out and sacrifice our time and energy to help someone who needs it, whether we like that person or not. That’s always the moral thing to do.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Dumb Question

Why is it that when a frozen embryo is killed, that's immoral, but when an innocent child is killed in a war zone, that's collateral damage?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

If we can't get any better candidates than this, I think I'll just stop voting.

My county commissioner is running for re-election, and lately I had resigned myself to the idea that he had no competition because his were the only campaign signs I had seen. However, recently I saw another person's sign, and I went to the county election website and found the sample ballot. I was relieved to find out that I have another choice, and it looks like a pretty decent alternative.

I received a mailer from my commissioner yesterday, and I was embarrassed for him. Now, I occasionally misspell a word or make a grammar mistake on this blog, and I'm an English teacher, but if I were sending out a mailer to several thousand of my "constitutes," I'd be sure to pay several other people to proofread it and correct all of "it's" numerous mistakes.

I have no idea how my commisioner was elected in the first place. Don't ever say that a "regular" person can't be elected because he is living proof that it happens. My commisioner used to live on my street, so I know what one of his hobbies is, and lots of other people who live in my part of the county also participate in the same activity. However, I had no idea that the fighting rooster crowd was large enough to keep a commisioner in office. There must be more powerful people in that crowd than I imagined.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


This is my first ripe tomato from the vine this season. What a great tomato sandwich it's going to make!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Perpetuating Suffering is Never Excusable

In a previous post, I discussed the situation for non-Jewish resident aliens living inside ancient Israel. In short, foreigners who wanted to live in Israel were to be treated the same as Jewish citizens and enjoy the same rights and privileges. The Jews were not allowed to mistreat, exploit, or oppress any foreigner in the same way that they themselves were oppressed while in captivity in Egypt.

Today in Israel we see oppression of Palestinians by Israelis. The political situation does not matter. Disputes over who owns what land do not matter. It does not matter who fired the first rocket at whom. What does matter is that innocent human beings are suffering. That is a fact.

As the side with the most power in the conflict, Israel should be the first to come to the aid of innocents whether they be Israelis or Palestinians. Countries that say they support Israel should point out where Israel is falling short and make an effort to help correct the situation. The United States is led by a man who claims Jesus Christ as his favorite philosopher. If this is so, then this man knows that Jesus preached reconciliation, reaching out in love to our enemies. For this man to say simply that Israel should exercise restraint in an effort to reduce collateral damage is merely an approval of the continuation of suffering.

A long time ago, when the first king of Israel did a terrible injustice to innocent people, someone was bold enough to step up and confront that king’s actions. If the leader of the United States is the Christian that he is purported to be, then he too will step up and point out when injustice is taking place. He will not offer tacit approval by turning a blind eye.

This, in fact, should be the attitude of all Christians. Instead of being on the side that’s most powerful or that’s “right,” we should be on the side of the one who is suffering, and that may mean we have to be on both sides or not choose a side at all. There is no “you’re either with us or against us” if innocent people are suffering on the other side.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A Cold Supper

Last night Husband and I went to eat at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. As we were seated and began to munch on chips and salsa, I couldn't help but notice the family in the booth across from us. The woman sat on one side by herself all the way next to the wall. The man sat on the other side all the way next to the aisle, and the little girl, about three years old, sat next to him (this was one of those really wide booths that can sit three adults on each side). The woman stared out the door of the restaurant, and the man stared in the other direction toward the kitchen, while the little girl kept herself busy finishing her meal. No one spoke except for when the man answered his phone, which rang three different times.

I said to Husband, "Those people don't like each other very much." He was sitting at such an angle that he couldn't easily see the other couple, so I described the situation. Occasionally he stole a glance in their direction to see what was happening.

After the second phone call, the man tossed his keys over to the woman, apparently indicating that she could go sit in the car if she wanted (I couldn't hear what was said). They had finished their meal and were waiting for the child to finish, neither really paying her much attention. She seemed oblivious to what was happening. The woman did not take the keys and leave. Instead, she replied something to him (again unaudible to me), and as she did she made a gesture with her hand sort of like a chopping motion. She was obviously pissed off at this guy. As she spoke, she looked at him with the coldest look I have ever seen--not a look of anger or hurt, but one that lacked any passion at all. If he had suddenly keeled over and died, she would have picked up her child and walked out of the restaurant without a backward glance.

I relayed all of this to Husband, who even though he couldn't see much, could tell without a doubt, even from only cursory glances, that this couple was not happy and probably had not been for a while. We remarked on how sad the situation was, especially for the little girl.

There's really not a point to this story, no real reason for telling it to you except that it was an interesting look into the lives of other people. It's amazing what you can tell about someone just from a brief encounter. It's also surprising that people who have such an intense problem don't even try to mask it in public. If they are that transparent out in front of strangers, I wonder how horrible life must be at their home in private where they can say and do what they want. I can't imagine what their little girl is exposed to. I imagine that family is a divorce in the making.

Friday, July 14, 2006


President Bush is urging Israel to exercise restraint and limit the number of civilian causualties and damage to civilian facilities in their attacks.

How much restraint is the US exercising in Iraq to keep their civilians safe?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Vacation Bible School Redux

A couple of weeks ago, I finally got around to installing a counter on this blog. For those of you who don’t know, I can now log into my Sitemeter account and find out all sorts of neat stuff about the people who visit. One interesting thing I can find out is the search terms that people use in Google that lead people to my blog. By far, the most viewed page on my blog is my post about Vacation Bible School. Lots of people are googling the terms arctic edge theme craft snacks songs. Apparently, lots of churches are doing this Arctic Edge VBS, but they don’t have much of an idea of what songs to sing, what crafts to make, and what snacks to serve.

Here’s my suggestion: Stick with what you know. If you don’t know anything about the Arctic, then don’t try to work it into your VBS program. If you can’t figure out how to use a popular theme to connect kids with God and Jesus, then just stick with what’s in the bible. The kids will get more out of it; you’ll get more out of it, and Jesus will likely appreciate not having to dress up in a parka in the middle of July.

If you must have a theme, though, I do have good news for you. Next summer Jesus gets to play football. I'm sure the men in the church will not lack for ideas on that one.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Van Hilleary must still be mad about losing the governor's race.

I was just looking at Van Hilleary's website and noticed a common theme in his language:

fighter for the conservative cause
fight his way through the House
stood up to anyone...taking on members of his own party
took on ex-governor Don Sundquist
fight for our principles

And in his new TV ad, he's saying we should vote for him because when he was in Congress he consistently voted against Bill Clinton more than anyone else, and if he's elected to the Senate he'll fight against Hillary Clinton. Van Hilleary's language shows that he cares more about fighting to get his own way than working together with others to get something done. I'll bet he received unsatisfactory marks on his kindergarten report card in "Plays Well With Others."

Saturday, July 08, 2006

In Search of Brisket

I have been sitting here watching the Food Network's shows about barbeque contests, and it's making me want some good brisket. Husband and I went to the new Famous Dave's in Smyrna last weekend and were sorely disappointed. When we first started eating at Famous Dave's a few years ago, we were really impressed with their brisket, but here lately the meat is full of fat and doesn't have a very good flavor. If I'm going to pay ten dollars for a plate of barbeque, I want something better than what they've been serving lately.

We built a smoker on our patio a couple of years ago, but it hasn't seen much action lately. With it being so hard to find good beef already cooked, I think it's time to fire up the smoker and stay up all night.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

God Was at the Lake

The holiday weekend was really nice. Husband was off four four days, and he's off again today too because it's raining. Today will probably be a lazy lay-around-on-the-couch day.

We spent Saturday night at the lake on Husband's brother's houseboat. That was fun, but the next morning as I was lying in the sun working on my tan, I got some bug bites that are still itching this morning.

We saw this funny sign on the way to the marina:

The church was just a little white, wood-frame church; it looked relatively harmless, but we hurried past it anyway. We knew God wasn't there because another church had a sign that said God would be there on Sunday.

Last night we sat out in our yard and watched my brother shoot off some fireworks. We could also see the ones from two neighbors', and we could hear the repercussions from other displays that we couldn't see. I wonder if that's what it sounds like in a war zone?

All in all, my long weekend was pretty uneventful and relaxing, and I'm looking forward to another month and a half of uneventful relaxing summer before school starts.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Don't Make a Federal Case Out of Homeowner Association Rules

The flag desecration amendment did not pass this week, but another flag bill did. H.R. 42, the "Freedom to Display the Flag" bill makes it illegal for condominiums and neighborhood associations to place restrictions on the size and placement of the flag as displayed by residents.

I will agree that homeowners' associations sometimes create really stupid rules. I would never live in a neighborhood that imposed regulations on what decorations I can and cannot have in my yard or whether I can have my garage door up. If I like plastic pink flamingoes, then I should be able to have them in my yard if I want.

However, many people live in such neighborhoods because those areas tend to denote a certain lifestyle. The restrictions placed on homeowners discourage certain types of people from living there. People who don't care to keep up landscaping guidelines or who can't afford to hire landscapers to keep up their flowerbeds tend not to live in these neighborhoods. People who own a bass boat or a camper trailer but who can't afford to pay the fee involved in keeping it at a storage unit so that it won't clutter up the driveway will be discouraged from living in restricted neighborhoods. And certainly someone who would put a car up on blocks in the front--or back--yard would not be allowed to live in those areas. Neighborhood associations exist for the sole purpose of "keeping up appearances," of pricing the "less desireable" people out of the market.

So, when you move into a neighborhood that imposes restrictions on its residents, you shouldn't complain even when the restriction applies to the display of the flag. You chose to live in an exclusive neighborhood. You chose to live under a certain set of rules so that you can enjoy a certain lifestyle. If you want the rules changed in your little world, then get together with your neighbors and participate in democracy and vote as a neighborhood to change the rules. Don't put it off on a federal government that has much bigger things to worry about.