January 3rd, 2013


Happy New Year! Paul Ryan's vote on HR 8

LJ had some problems so I didn't post for a couple of days. But I wanted to! Here's an example:

The Republican Vice Presidential candidate from the election in November, Paul Ryan, is still a Representative and thus had the option to vote on whether to concur with the Senate amendments known as the “Senate Deal” from last night [January 1], which were intended to avert the “Fiscal Cliff”. He voted in favor.

It is, perhaps, a sign of advancing age and/or the arrival of End Times that while I couldn’t be bothered to stay up on New Year’s Eve, instead choosing to kiss my husband early and go to bed, we did stay up on New Year’s night, to watch House debate on C-SPAN. R. was mostly ignoring it, but I was inserting rude commentary at points and generally enjoying this instance of humiliation for the Republican Party. I also was entertained that the two sides could find so much to fight about while still agreeing that everyone should definitely vote to concur with the Senate Amendments (<-- that, right there, should help answer your question about how a spending bill didn’t originate in the House. It did. Sort of. If you think of a Bill as a whiteboard and you can just erase everything in it and start over, but it’s still the same Bill).

What I failed to notice in the course of the coverage (which I abandoned in favor of listening to Obama’s comments, even tho Kucinich calling for a roll call vote on the Hezbollah thing did seem somewhat amusing), was how Paul Ryan voted. While digging around in the details of what actually passed this morning, I noticed that he split with Rubio (Cantor etc.) and voted in favor, along with Boehner.

From this, I conclude that Paul Ryan _really really really_ thinks he is in line to be the Republican candidate in 2016. Voting against this thing would have been damaging to attempts to be anything like centrist in that campaign, which will be even more important and possibly slightly less difficult for a Republican candidate in 2016 than it was in 2012. Also, further evidence that the extreme right wing of the party has been substantially weakened.

But not dead. Republicans voted against this bipartisan measure by almost 2-1 (unlike their Senate colleagues).

So what happened last night? And why didn’t it happen sooner? The concern was that the legislation _which had expired the night before_ would have the effect of reducing the deficit far faster than our current, recovering economy could stand. We’d go back into recession. It wouldn’t be the kind of recession of a few years ago, our “Mini Great Depression” or “Great Recession” or whatever you care to call that financial crisis induced meltdown and its lasting effects in the real economy, but it would be profoundly discouraging and there was particular concern that financial markets and corporations would respond poorly. The path out of our current mess relies upon growth continuing, hopefully strengthening, but at least not reversing.

While some people feared that panic selling of bonds would result in high inflation, I think anyone sane watching has figured out that the kinds of people who buy US debt instruments for investment purposes are not the kind of people who are going to sell those in the course of a panic. The opposite is true. If you have to tell yourself “least dirty shirt” to feel better about this, fine, but many of the buyers aren’t ever going to buy a foreign shirt anyway [<-- metaphorically speaking. Obviously, we're all buying literal shirts from overseas.]. However, a lot of the not-sane people who worry about increased interest on US debt recognized that would be REALLY bad for the deficit (making it more expensive to finance) and thus applied pressure to compromise.

This is an instance in which people with contradictory beliefs about the world could agree on what the right next step was. It’s important to notice when this happens. Good negotiators take advantage of opportunities to agree on action, even when disagreeing on motivation.

I’m sensitive to this currently, because I’m reading Xavier Amador’s _I’m Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help_, which is about motivational strategies to use to encourage people with serious mental illness (bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.) to accept treatment. I can find connections between almost anything, but this particular parallel was pretty freaking obvious.

The Capital Gains Rate Unicorn: 18% if you hold it for 5 years. Sort of.

During T-weekend, I had a long discussion with my husband and his brother-in-law, J. We love J. J.'s a great guy. But we really disagreed with him about his opinion on raising taxes on people who make more than [a certain amount of money]. We think that we can afford to pay more taxes because we have more, and we have a moral obligation to share, to take care of those with less, and to make sure we're not the First Against the Wall When the Revolution Comes (ideally, make sure the revolution doesn't come).

Anyway. As a result of this discussion, I dug into the tax rate changes that would have gone into effect if the Bush tax cuts had expired without modification in some detail, which reminded me of the Capital Gains Rate Unicorn. Back in the first round of Bush tax cuts (I know, ancient history, right?), there was some discussion about how we needed to encourage people to buy and hold, so we should create a rate that benefitted people who held ... stuff ... for longer than 5 years. This wasn't supposed to create a windfall, so there was a date after which you must have bought the ... stuff. In the (brief) interim between the first tax cuts and the second tax cuts (hey, you were focused on things other than tax cuts back then, I recognize this), a bunch of Very Clever People did some tax planning and did "irrevocable elections" to take advantage of that 18% rate -- and then the second tax cut happened, producing a _lower rate_ on ... stuff ... whether you held if for 1 year or longer. And then there was scrambling to undo the "irrevocable election".

There are a variety of lessons here, but I'm going to ignore them all.

The 18% tax rate was due to return (really!), which by my calculations would not have helped me when selling the ... stuff ... I've owned the longest, because I bought it before the start date. It would, however, have helped me when selling other ... stuff ... which I bought after the start date and that was over 5 years ago. Cool. Not a big deal, but cool.

But then I thought, Self, that tax rate has _never_ done shit for anyone, except cost them additional CPA time to try to take advantage of it, get screwed by the attempt and then more CPA time to fix the problem. Self, that tax rate is Never Gonna Happen.

HR 8 passed, and as near as I can tell, the Unicorn 18% is gone forever. Which makes sense, because IT WAS A UNICORN.


Don't Buy a Physical Gift Card from delia's online

Yeah, I know they have a good rating and all, but here's why you shouldn't do this. The recipient of the card had their mail stolen, so they didn't ever have the card in their hands. On December 26, Customer service send me to order management; order management said they couldn't do anything for before January 2. Customer service said order management shouldn't have said that, and started a trace on the card, and that I could call back in 48 hours to find out the status if I hadn't heard back.

Today (January 3), I called customer service, which has no record of the trace that was started on December 26. They told me _exactly_ what they told me on December 26 (I'm going to submit a form to my supervisor we need to trace the card to get the number blah blah bleeping blah, we can't do anything without the number).

Not believing this is any different from my previous experience with delia's customer service, I'm going to do two things:

(1) call customer service daily until they reissue the card to the recipient
(2) post this, and hope that maybe somewhere over there someone will decide I'm enough of a bad PR problem that maybe they should reissue the card to the recipient.

Whatever else may be the case, it's clear that their internal systems don't keep track of numbers on physical cards ordered online and sent through the mail, so if one goes missing before it gets to the recipient, you are out of luck -- the money is _gone_. At a minimum, you'll have to expend a lot of time and energy to extract it out of customer service.

And that's assuming this works at all.

ETA: Since I purchased it using PayPal, I am pursuing a claim through the Resolution Center simultaneously. I expect to Learn from this experience which resolution process (phone seller, claim through PayPal, whine on blog) is most effective.

_I Am Not Sick I Don't Need Help!_, Xavier Amador (kindle)

Subtitled: How to Help Someone with Mental Illness Accept Treatment

10th Anniversary edition

Every once in a while, I do something a little impulsively that in retrospect, is so amazingly wonderful that I don't think any amount of planning could ever be quite so successful. Getting this book was one of those experiences.

Amador had an older brother diagnosed with schizophrenia. The story of Henry is told, on and off, throughout the book, and Amador's deep love and compassion for his brother is unquestionable. Amador also consistently attributes his development of LEAP (a communication approach intended to strengthen relationships, develop motivation and, where possible, insight, and promote adherence to treatment) to his brother -- not just his relationship with his brother, but that his brother led in this process. It's a compelling and beautiful story.

Also, the negotiation, communication and motivational strategies partake of a variety of approaches that I, personally, believe in (client centered, "doing what works", identifying action items that all parties can agree on, even when they have different reasons for doing so, etc.).

The exposition style of the book is intended to persuade, and pursues a spiraling, incremental and iterative approach to describing anosognosia as an important element of serious mental illness, and how to integrate an understanding of anosognosia with treatment, to ensure adherence. So if you're already mostly sold on the idea of anosognosia (captured well in the title of the book), and the components of LEAP, it can feel repetitive. If you blow through the details, it's _really_ going to feel repetitive -- and you won't get as much from this book as you otherwise might. Also, the book is clearly aimed at people who are dealing with a relative/loved one suffering from serious mental illness in the here-and-now, rather than people like me, who are suffering from pervasive curiosity and to whom treatment questions are more theoretical than urgent.

I'm really glad I read it. While it is not aimed at a general audience wondering about what public policy we should pursue with respect to serious mental illness and violence, say, there are elements of the book that can shed a lot of light on that debate. And Amador is a real pleasure to meet through the words on the page.

_Big Bad Beast_, Shelly Laurenston (kindle)

Whenever I post two reviews in quick succession, where one is non-fiction and the other is genre fiction, I wonder what the heck people think of my blog. I almost immediately go back to not caring/assuming that the sooner people figure out my taste is unpredictable the better.

Anyway. Laurenston is funny, which is why I keep reading her. I mean, really funny. Funny enough to make up for a heroine who refers positively to "her confederate heart" (*shudder*).

In this outing, Dee Ann Smith gets together with Ulrich "Ric" Van Holtz. Mace, Dez and their child Marcus play important background roles, as does Marcella (two other books I read in the series have these characters as protagonists). There are numerous additional characters in the background who have their own books as well. The plot, such as it is, revolves around Dee Ann, Cella and Dez tracking down who is running the hybrid fights that Hannah, Abby and others were rescued from. The perpetrator does not precisely surprise, and Gina Brutale gets a fun little cameo in one of the torture scenes.

Really, I would not put up with this stuff, except it is so amazingly humorous.