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Thursday, April 26, 2012

The "No-Pledge" Pledge



Some pundits are now saying that there is some hope for compromise on the budget, tax reform and reduced spending before the end of this year. The Tax Armageddon of the combined expirations of the Bush and payroll tax cuts on December 31, 2012 might prompt our government to some last minute action. This “solution” will be less than “strategic” to say the least – just crisis management like the debt ceiling debacle of last summer.

I submit that a major contributor to this chaos is the Americans for Tax Reform (“ATR”) and it’s President, Grover Norquist.   Norquist and ATR are the developers of the “No-Tax Pledge,” or in their parlance, the taxpayer protection pledge. The organization’s description starts as follows: “Americans for Tax Reform opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle.”
Of course, Norquist takes this to the absurd. To cite just two examples: ATR opposes closing any loopholes for any reason, or for even ending ineffective and market distorting Ethanol subsidies, arguing these would both be tax increases. I will not get into the flawed logic of ATR’s “starve the beast” philosophy here; however, suffice it to say that our recent history has shown that tax cuts are generally accompanied by increases in government spending, not decreases.
41 Senators, 236 House Members and 1,263 state legislators have signed the “Pledge,” scared to death of Norquist’s wrath and threats of electoral retaliation.

America needs an anti-Norquist with matching political cunning. The pledge we should ask candidates to sign is a “No Pledge” Pledge. Other than the Pledge of Allegiance, all others should be out. We need people of honor and integrity in government, individuals who we trust to have wisdom to balance principle with compromise. Many veteran legislators in Washington possess these sensibilities, but are punished for showing them by the ATR.

Norquist’s influence needs to be neutered and exposed for what it is – horribly crippling demagoguery over public policy and the implementation of true tax reform. Maybe I will be scolded by some for making analogy to the terrible images of McCarthyism; but similar fears are engendered in the hearts of politicians today. It’s time to stand up against ATR and to just say no to the “No-Tax Pledge”.

I believe money would pour into an organization supporting and backing the idea of a “NO PLEGDE” PLEDGE. I am not promulgating the idea big government or limited government, higher taxes or lower taxes; rather for supporting a democracy that actually works as intended.

To whom should we write our checks?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Refrigeration - Urban Style


This is a simple tale about a refrigerator replacement in the Big Apple.

We purchased our apartment on the Upper Eastside of Manhattan in 1998; the former owner was an interior designer and did things up in the grand style of one of the Louis’, probably the “Top Louis” to steal a line from Woody Allen. Everything was built-in to look good, but not actually function all that well. After all, this was an interior designer, not an architect or engineer.

About one year ago, our built-in refrigerator started to act up. A repairman tried to resuscitate, but alas it was not to be; it died. Thus started our quest; the dilemma was that to replace this 41” wide built-in was more than the price of an average used car sold in 2011. But to buy a more reasonably priced standalone model would require a cabinet maker to remodel the built-in, custom made cupboards. The net price of this alternative would be another used car. We decided to go with the built-in replacement, a Sub-Zero (the Bentley of cooling solutions) was the only model with the dimensions we needed.

Our apartment is on the 8th floor of a pre-war building; moving things in and out is problematic. A gentleman from the appliance store came to do measurements. The old fridge is 84” high and couldn’t fit in the freight elevator, nor could the new one. The old would need to be disassembled to get out, the new disassembled and re-assembled to get in; of course these services are all “extra” and would extend the installation over a three day period. There was, for instance, a $200 charge for the 14 steps leading from the street to the freight elevator.

Two workers arrived to pull the old unit out and then left; he said a crew would be here to deal with the broken fridge and move in the new one. These men showed up about an hour later; no ladder and a few tools. They borrowed our ladder and proceeded to try to take the compressor/condenser off the top of the unit; many perplexed looks. After about a half hour of this, one of them punctured a Freon line, the gas escaped and refrigerant oil spewed over our floor, cabinets; literally everything was covered with a greasy slime. They started halfheartedly to wipe and smear the stuff around with paper towel (our paper towel) so we told them just to leave it. Dragging the unit out our back door, they damaged our molding and wall corner bead in several places. It squeezed into the elevator and it was gone. We quickly cleaned things up as best we could while they were gone. Not quite the BP Gulf spill, but you get the picture.
The new base of the Sub Zero appeared from out of the elevator. Surprise; it would not fit through our back door in spite of their earlier measurements, so we needed to go to plan “B.” The freight elevator opens to the 8th floor hallway as well as our service staircase. This meant dragging the unit over our marble foyer and through the kitchen door. This door wouldn’t open wide enough; after the workers were about to give up, I removed the floor stopper which provided an extra inch and a half of clearance. The new Sub-Zero was placed in the middle of the kitchen; the crew left – no apology, no goodbye.

The following morning a certified technician from Sub-Zero arrived to sew together the two pieces; it came to life about an hour later. Of course, this worker couldn’t complete the installation; we would need to wait for the arrival of the original two workers.
An hour or two later, they showed up, hooked up the water line, removed the protective packaging; and positioned and leveled our new refrigerator. The man, Rigo, and his assistant, were at least a bit pleasant; they dragged out the cardboard and other packing materials on their way out.

The Sub-Zero looks monstrous; it’s stainless steel finish clashing with other parts of the kitchen. It looks like more renovation will follow. What’s not to love about New York?