Archive for the 'Government' Category

Shame on me

Last Tuesday was especially busy. We had lunch guests for whom I ended up cooking a “supper” meal, and that, along with getting the first floor of the house basically presentable, took a good chunk of the morning and early afternoon. Then there was our regular weekly laundry, plus desk work, stretching, and walking, and the fact that at 6:00 I still hadn’t figured out what to feed us for supper.

As I was putzing around in the kitchen, Scott was in the living room looking for weather on the TV, and at 6:23, he said, “Hey! did you know there’s an election today?”

An ELECTION?!?!?! Oh, my goodness! “No! Are you sure?”

“Yep. They just said something about a sample ballot.”

This was a problem of prodigious proportions!

Not only did I not know there was an election that day, I had no idea what was on the ballot, and I didn’t know what time the polls closed. Nevertheless, my integrity (and pride) wouldn’t let me – a person to whom a number of people look for election research and voting recommendations – miss an election, so while Scott pulled up a sample ballot on his computer, I quickly texted four people who might be able to advise me on how to vote.

It turns out that all we’d be voting on was whether to re-authorize and existing tax to fund our local community college, whether to adopt an additional new tax to do the same (no and no), and which two people of six we’d like to elect to the school board. I only recognized two of the names, and although I knew one of those candidates personally, having sung in our community choir with him for a couple years, I had no idea whether either of those two would make good school board members.

But I grabbed my wallet, we hopped in the car, and we high-tailed it to our church, which is where we vote. On the way, one of the folks I had texted replied with who he had voted for, and since I respect him and didn’t know anything, we both voted as he had. We drove home, and I had mixed feelings. Voting is SUCH a big deal to me, and to do it without having done any personal research was embarrassing. I felt like I had not been a responsible citizen. On the other hand, even thought it was definitely at the last minute (or 20), at least we did vote! Mostly, I just couldn’t believe that I had not even known it was election day. I had seen a paltry few campaign signs about, so I knew an election was coming up, but I figured it would be in a couple months or so – after LOTS of signs had sprouted everywhere. I was wrong.

One things for sure: I’ll be attending more closely to my civic duty in the future!

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Team “No Consensus”

In the November 8th presidential election, the five registered voters in our family collectively cast one vote each for:

Clinton

Johnson

McMullin

Rubio

Trump

I’m not sure why, but this really makes me smile.

There is no joy in Mudville

Just got the news that Ted Cruz dropped out.

Now, I’m not a huge Ted Cruz fan, but I did vote for him in our Missouri primary, simply because he actually had a chance – albeit a slim one – to beat Donald Trump here. And had Cruz won the Republican nomination, I definitely would have supported him in the general election.

But the way things look tonight, I think I will finally get to vote for my man, Marco Rubio, after all. I will do so with my head held high, knowing that I am choosing a man who cannot win, but who honors God, thinks clearly, develops reasonable policies, and possesses a high degree of character and integrity. Those qualities matter more to me than anything else in choosing a president, but I will say that writing in his name will be bittersweet as I remember the America I have experienced and believed in (and do so desperately miss) and look forward to the one facing us now.

God, please help us. We can’t do this alone.

Primary pain

All along, I have liked Marco Rubio best, and I really wanted to vote for him.

I also like Ted Cruz and could be fine with him as our president.

I disagree with some of John Kasich’s policies, but he would obviously be much better than Hillary or Bernie.

I will not vote for Donald Trump.

My original plan had been to vote for Marco Rubio today, but because he had no chance of winning Missouri, and because Ted Cruz did have a chance (albeit a slim one), I voted for him instead.

Tonight, my main man lost Florida and, heartbroken for our nation, suspended his campaign. But the way things are looking now, I may still my get my wish to vote for Marco Rubio; if neither the Democrats nor Republicans can nominate acceptable candidates for the general election in November, I will with a good conscience write in Marco Rubio. And that wouldn’t be my first time to choose character (and conservative policy and common sense) over electability in the voting booth; I wrote in Alan Keyes in 2000.

Breathe deeply

A couple weeks ago I had some kind of a cold/throat thing going on, and it triggered some asthma symptoms, which made me use my inhaler for a while.  I noticed, as I have noticed in recent years, that I was having to use it a LOT more than in the past.  As in, the recommended dosage is two puffs two or three times a day as needed, but I was having to do three puffs every two or three hours to get the usual benefit.  It could be that my bronchial tubes are much more constructed than they used to be, but that didn’t seem likely, so once I was feeling better, I went online to do a bit of research on the matter of asthma inhalers.  Like why a standard albuterol inhaler used to be called “Albuterol,” but went through a name change to “Ventolin” and is now called “ProAir.  And why said inhaler that used to cost about $25 now costs $72.  Well, I was totally shocked (and slightly embarrassed) by what I found.

A few years ago, pharmaceutical manufacturers made a major, across-the-board change to inhalers; the actual bronchodilating med (albuterol) didn’t change, but the propellant, the aerosol “vehicle” that delivers the med into one’s lungs, did.  For many years, the propellant had been a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), but since 2008, it’s been a hydrofluoroalkane (HFA).  In addition to costing more than three times as much, having a different taste, and gumming up the plastic sleeve that holds the canister, HFA has another unfortunate deficiency:  it doesn’t shoot the med with as much force as the CFC did, so it’s harder to get the med where it needs to go.  This is probably why I now need three puffs instead of two, and it’s extremely frustrating to me to now be paying three times as much for what ends up being effectively 33 doses per canister instead of 50.

Of course, I can see a drug company wanting to make more money and switching to a different propellant that will allow them to charge a lot more, but to use a propellant that’s also known to be significantly less effective?  Really?  It just didn’t make sense.

Until I dug a bit deeper.  It seems that the Food and Drug Admininstration mandated the propellant switch, NOT because of cost factors or health factors, but – get this! – because the CFC propellant in my asthma inhaler was depleting the ozone layer!!!  Sweet Georgia Peaches!!!  This nonsense is clearly, in the immortal words of Charles Capps, “ignorance gone to seed.”

Oh, that we rational citizens of the greatest nation in the world could figure out an effective way to reign in our entirely irrational government.

 

Less for more?

I went to the post office today to mail an international package, and Brian was working.  When I was in a few days ago to mail a domestic package, Connie had been working and she had mentioned that the Rockaway Beach office had a fancy-schmancy “new system.”  I didn’t really process that information fully; I was just in and out with a full list of errands, and although it did seem to take quite a bit longer for their computer to do its thing, the only thing that really stood out to me was that the swipe screen looked different, and it had a much longer than usual list of the things I didn’t want or need.

Such a list has always appeared, although I can’t figure out why.  For example, if I’m mailing a book by media mail and I’ve already applied the necessary $2.72 in stamps and the only reason I even took it to the post office was that it weighed over 13 ounces, then the swipe screen will ask me if I’m mailing anything illegal – DUH!  Do people really press “yes” if they are?!? – and give me a total of something like $37.65 and a detailed price list of about six services that I don’t want or need.  Rather than be alarmed by the list, I have learned to ignore it and just. . . wait.  Eventually, the list goes away, the swipe screen says I owe $2.72, and Brian (or Connie, when Brian’s off) confirms that the package already boasts $2.72 in stamps, scans and affixes three different bar codes, hands me a receipt with a $0.00 balance, tosses my package in the bin near the fireplace, and cheerfully sends me on my way.

So on Monday, as I mentioned, the process was slower than usual and the list was longer than usual.

But today, I was in there for an extended visit, due to the time required to fill out a customs form, and with the new system, Brian was required to ask me a series of questions I hadn’t heard before.  (Usually, I just check the “gift” box, and where I’m asked to list contents, I put “personal effects.”  I never like to put details on a customs form, because how much fun is it to receive a package from home that tells you on the outside everything that’s inside?!?)  So before I even got to the point of filling out the form – which I would have done at home to save time, but this being a padded flat rate mailer instead of the usual “small flat rate box” (which we have proven always takes the small green form) and not knowing which customs form it would require and deeply resenting having to fill out the the big black one after having already filled out the small green one, I decided to wait and just complete at the counter whichever one was required – we had this conversation.

Brian:  Are you shipping anything illegal?

Me:  No.  And I probably wouldn’t tell you if I were!

Brian: Does your package contain any duty-able items?

(I’ve never been asked this before.)

Me:  Ah. . . [trying to figure out if the contents would or wouldn’t be duty-able, why or why not, and how much my daughter might have to pay to receive this very small package, which would cost about two and-a-half times the value of the contents in shipping, any duty fees aside]

Brian:  [noting my hesitation and then quoting his official script] Duty-able items would include items of value, biohazardous liquids, or anything other than correspondence.

Me:  Well. . . hmm. . . [really not wanting to say this] I guess I could just tell you everything that’s in there. . .

Brian:  [with a grin on his face and hands raised in a defensive posture]  I don’t know!

Me:  [understanding that this was his version of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” and grinning too]  I don’t think there’s anything duty-able in that package.

Subsequently, an enormously long list appeared on the swipe screen, each item with its pertinent dollar amount.  A few of the items were over $100, some were in the $50+ range, and lots of them were less.  This, even though I already knew that a padded flat rate envelope would travel overseas (max weight 4 lbs.) for something like $25.

We waited.

I looked at the list and amounts changing on the swipe screen.

We waited.

We waited.

And while we waited, Brian explained the situation.  He told me that the postal service was putting in a new system (that was slower and more expensive) and that it was being tried out first in a select few post offices.  Now, the only reason I could imagine for Rockaway Beach, MO being one of the first places to implement the new system was that maybe they wanted to try it in tiny post offices first.  Actually no.  According to Brian, the much larger Forsyth post office was also slated to get it, but that didn’t happen, because in the meantime, there had been so many bugs and glitches in the system that its nationwide implementation had now been put on hold till February 2016.  But I guess the offices that got it still have it, and so tiny Rockaway Beach has one more thing it doesn’t want and doesn’t need.

The whole time Brian was telling me this story, we were waiting for the system to get to the point that I could swipe my credit card, something I could have done with the old system in about seven seconds, max.

I did finally swipe and sign, and Brian triumphantly and more than a bit sarcastically showed me the receipt.  “Look!  There’s your signature!!!”  Um. . . was I supposed to be impressed?  “Not only can we can print your signature, we can do your whole transaction more slowly than ever before!  THAT’S what we paid $68 million for!”

We laughed together, and I walked out to my car wondering if being able to print my signature while tripling both the customer’s and the postal employee’s wait time really was our government’s best possible use of $68 million.  I am pretty sure that I if I gave it some serious consideration, I could come up with several other ways to spend that kind of money.  Actually, it wouldn’t even require too many brain cycles.

One got through

I am very fond of the US Postal Service, particularly the segment of it that operates within and out of the Forsyth, MO and Rockaway Beach, MO post offices.  Although I do get tired of wrangling with the somewhat less than efficient USPS website, I am thankful that, with effort, I can buy stamps and calculate shipping rates from the comfort of my home office.  And I am continually amazed that every day except Sunday, our national postal service manages to deliver some 660,000,000 pieces of mail, virtually all of it correctly.

Wikipedia, that truly esteemed source of knowledge, says, “The United States Postal Service employs some 574,000 workers, making it the third-largest civilian employer in the United States behind the federal government and Wal-Mart. . . Each day. . . the United States Postal Service delivers some 660 million pieces of mail to as many as 142 million delivery points.”

But any system can be fallible.

Today I received a letter in a sealed, hand-addressed envelope, sporting no return address, no postmark, and a non-cancelled, 49-cent stamp.  It did have our ZIP+nine imprinted at the bottom beside a series of bars, so it must’ve gone through some machine somewhere, but I suspect it slipped through a processing crack and never really should have made it to our mailbox.  It turned out to be a 2014 donation receipt from a ministry, and I’m guessing it was mailed somewhere in northern Virginia.  I’m also guessing our trusty mail carrier, Vanessa, brought it on out to us just because she’s nice that way.

Jeopardy Question: What is 34.48?

Answer:  The number of cents out of every dollar spent by the State of Missouri that goes to social services.

Social Services is far and away the biggest chunk of Missouri’s spending pie.  The next closest category is education at 27.08¢.  I could get steamed, but I have too many other more important things to spend my brain cycles spinning about.  = )

 

Our government at work

It is fairly common to complain about the workings (or lack thereof) of government entities.  Much could be said in a negative vein, on the local, state, and/or national levels.  However, it’s probably a good idea to temper those frustrations with warmer sentiments, and so I offer the following.

Due to some aches and pains that have made running difficult, Scott has been looking for alternative forms of exercise.  He walks about a mile and-a-half while he’s praying, but he has also taken up bike riding early in the morning.  He rides along the same shoulders where I walk and covers two miles in what appears to be a fairly high gear.  Then after walking and cycling, he drives down to Big Rock and swims laps in the creek!

He couldn’t drive to Big Rock until we got the Durango back.  I don’t know how to explain how torn up the flooding this spring left the creek road.  It’s so bad – scoured down to bedrock that is jagged and in some places up to a foot difference in depth – that only a four-wheel drive vehicle with high clearance can even get down that road.  And you do have to very gingerly “walk” the car up and down over all the rocks.

One day, Scott decided to call Taney County Road and Bridge.   He told the friendly receptionist lady where the road was and what condition it was in, and she said she’d send someone to check it out.  A mere FOUR DAYS LATER, our fair county has already begun hauling in and spreading truckloads of gravel on that road!  The project isn’t done yet, but certain sections are much more drivable than they have been.

Three cheers for responsive local government!

Around the world in 80 days?

Actually 29 days.

Jessica’s Christmas box finally made it to her location in Hong Kong!  She was out of country when it arrived, but it was waiting for her at her home when she returned.  She was pleased with the contents, which we got to watch her unwrap over Skype a few days ago.

On Saturday, when I took the previously-promised cookies to Brian, Connie overheard me telling him that Jessica’s package had finally gotten to her.  She said that if we had the right paperwork, she would be able to track it and see why it took so long to get there.  Sure, enough, a copy of my receipt was located there in the post office’s stack of such items, and she pulled up my package’s transit details on her computer.  For inquiring minds who would like to know, here’s where a package really goes when I mail it from here to Hong Kong.

Rockaway Beach, MO

Springfield, MO

Forest Park, IL

Jersey City, NJ

New York, NY

Hong Kong

I guess the box was worn out, because although it managed to depart Missouri in a mere two days, it spent the next eight days lounging around in Jersey City.  In fact, all told, that package bumped around for sixteen days before it ever left the States, and twelve more days elapsed between its departure from the U.S. of A. and its arrival at the Office of Exchange in Hong Kong.

Since I know from experience that the average plane can get to there in under 24 hours, the only thing I can figure is that Jessica’s package took a slow boat to China!


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