SECURITY DOESN'T REQUIRE US TO LIVE IN A POLICE STATE
Imagine an army of 14,000 clean cut men and women digging through your trash, your neighbor's trash, or even your parent's trash. Imagine yourself, your neighbors or your parents being subjected to a lie detector testImagine an army of 14,000 clean cut men and women digging through your trash, your neighbor's trash, or even your parent's trash. Imagine yourself, your neighbors or your parents being subjected to a lie detector test. What crimes have you, your neighbors or your parents committed to warrant such activity? Under the FBI's proposed update to its Domestic Investigations and Domestic Operations Guide, no crime or even suspicion of criminal activity is required, before the latest model of the FBI's jackboot of injustice can be placed squarely across the neck of any law abiding citizen in the United States of America.
Where is Obama on this issue? As the New York Times editorial board has so eloquently stated: “t]he Obama administration has long been bumbling along in the footsteps of its predecessor when it comes to sacrificing American's basic rights and liberties under the false flag of fighting terrorism. Now the Obama team seems ready to lurch even farther down that dismal road than George W. Bush did.” When the New York Times comes out swinging like that against the Obama administration, you know the FBI's proposal has to be truly awful.
The FBI's general counsel, Valerie Caproni, argues that the FBI's proposed changes are “more like fine tuning than major changes.” Her statement is at best disingenuous. For example, one change in the rules will allow agents to search for information about individuals and organizations in commercial and law enforcement databases, without ever making a record of it. The FBI simply cannot be allowed to run rough shod over the rights of the citizens of the United States. It is unnecessary, and more importantly, it is unconstitutional.
The FBI has shown a propensity to take a mile when given an inch of authority. In 2007 an inspector general found widespread abuse and misuse by the FBI of “national security letters” the “letters” were designed to allow agents access to private information like telephone records, without a court order. Loosening standards on an agency that violates the standards already in place is a bad idea. One former FBI agent, now an attorney for the ACLU, Michael German agrees. According to Mr. German, “[c]laiming additional authorities to investigate people only further raises the potential for abuse.”
While Obama appears to have no problem with the FBI turning the country into an Orwellian state, at least the Senate's judiciary committee is taking action. Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Charles Grassley, the chair and ranking member of the Committee, have requested “that the FBI provide a briefing to Committee staff to discuss the proposed changes.” After the changes have become finalized, they have also requested that the rules be made available to the public. At least that is a start.
Every time another government agency, whether it is the FBI, the IRS, or even the FAA, is given more power to intrude into our personal lives, more freedom is lost. Do not ignore this current issue involving the FBI. Let your representatives know that safety and security does not require us to live in a police state.
(Russ Purvis can be reached at email@example.com)
SMALL GOVERNMENT WILL EQUAL BIG JOBS
The unemployment rate is now at 9.1 percent and shows no signs of declining in any significant way in the foreseeable future. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are attempting to assign blame, while offering a witches brew of quick fixes. Unfortunately, talking points and rhetoric do nothing to address the problem at hand.
The simple fact is that business hates uncertainty when it comes to dealing with the federal government. While it is true that there is some amount of uncertainty that comes with running any business, it is a different type of risk than a business faces when it simply does not know what the federal government is going to do next.
Both parties are to blame; however, Obama is still the President of the United States, therefore, he deserves the most criticism. Rather than running around the country visiting the one light bulb factory that is actually turning a profit, and criticizing Republicans without offering anything more than platitudes about sacrifice, he needs to engage all of the relevant actors and work toward some type of long-term plan of outlining the federal government's relationship to the citizens of this country. Playing golf with John Boehner is not going to get this done.
Oddly enough, the plan should not have too many specific programs dealing with job growth. The government spurs job creation by staying out of its way. Of immediate concern is the debt ceiling. Both sides are playing Russian roulette with an issue neither side seems to understand. Is raising the debt ceiling a bad idea? Yes. But, in the short term, it has to be done. The impact on the market that may be caused by allowing the United States to default on its obligations cannot be predicted. Such uncertainty is bad for business, therefore bad for the job market. If the impact is negative, the market will suffer, business will suffer, and jobs will suffer. Doing nothing, which seems to be the order of the day, is equally harmful.
Dealing with taxes and entitlements must also take place now, not at some unknowable time in the future. Using the issues as campaign slogans does nothing to resolve the economic problems that we are facing. In fact, such activity by self-interested politicians only makes matters worse. Here again, businesses, both large and small cannot plan for the future in such an environment. The status quo, or worse, job cuts result from this type of political pandering.
Unfortunately, there appears to be little hope that things will change until after the 2012 elections. Obama, and the seven Republican dwarves currently attempting to win the Republican nomination, are in campaign mode. All of them are so concerned about offending some group of potential voters that no real ideas are being discussed.
Meanwhile, the American worker suffers. Any candidate that really wants to help the American worker should adopt the following slogan and stick with it after he or she is elected: “Small government equals big jobs.”
(Email Russ Purvis at firstname.lastname@example.org)
WEINER IS THE NEWEST REASON 2012 MUST BE A CLEAN SWEEP
Congressman Weiner! Man, you can get a belly laugh by just saying the name. Add in all of the histrionics, lies, and the crying - you have to laugh about a grown man crying when he literally gets caught with his pants down, and the Weinerman is a laugh riot. Not familiar with the Weiner? He is exhibit “A” of what is wrong with our federal government.
Weiner likes to send pictures of himself in his Underoos to young women, not his spouse. Of course, when caught, Weiner denied that he had done any such thing. He went so far as to allege that someone hacked his Twitter account. If true that would be a crime. Weiner did not request the United States Capitol Police to conduct an investigation. You see, he could not do this because he was lying! Initially, he was so bold as to refuse to admit that the picture in question was even him. Following that, he called a news producer a “jackass” for bringing the issue up at a press conference, where he only wanted to talk about raising the debt ceiling. Then, like almost all political cover-ups, this one blew up in the Weiner's face.
On Monday, Andrew Breitbart began releasing photos tweeted by Weiner, one every hour or so, on BigGovernment.com. After about four hours, Weiner caught a case of the truthiness. Truthiness, meaning that he held a press conference where he put on a good show without actually telling the whole truth, but hoping that he said enough to get himself out of this jam. In other words, he exhibited the intellectual depth of your average five year old. Weiner admitted sending the photo, but qualified the admission by stating that it was meant to be a joke. He must be a regular comedian, given the fact that this is not the first time he has done this. Then when pressed for more explanation, Weiner stated: “If you're looking for some type of deep explanation, I have none. I am just deeply sorry. Almost as soon as I told one lie I knew I would have to cover it by telling others.”
Weiner's statement tells a story much larger than a married man sending a suggestive photo to a twenty-one year old college student. It clearly demonstrates the moral compass governing Weiner. Did he give no thought, after having told the first lie, to simply acknowledging the lie and moving on? Not according to his statement. Given the fact that lying was Weiner's default reaction to a difficult situation, he cannot be trusted to be a representative, and he should resign. Amazingly, Weiner has stated that he will not do so. Like so many politicians, he fails to realize that he is there to serve those that he represents. He can no longer effectively do that. He needs to put his ego aside, and walk away.
So folks, this is what we have allowed it to come to – scandals over suggestive pictures and lying congressmen. None of this is really new, just a new name with a slightly different set of facts. But while the country is falling apart around us, we have to ask: Can we really rely on such a group of people to address the issues that must be addressed in a professional manner? The answer is obvious. 2012 must be a clean sweep.
(Email Independent Russ Purvis at email@example.com)
PULLING OUT OF
GUARANTEE OBAMA VICTORY
Memorial Day has just passed, and summer has officially begun. It should be a hot one, given the amount of hot air that comes with the unofficial beginning of what promises to be a long 2012 campaign season.
The biggest issue facing President Obama in 2012 may not be the deficit. As we inch closer to 2012, more and more elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans, along with a majority of the American public, are beginning to question Obama's commitment to getting our troops home. The much publicized plan to draw down the troop levels in Afghanistan was murky from the beginning. It is now about as clear as porridge. President Obama seems to have moved the issue to the back burner. It will not stay there.
The original reason for entering Afghanistan was to kill Bin Laden and roll up the terrorists that were there. Bin Laden has been killed – in Pakistan, and the majority of the terrorists have also moved across the border. There is no reason to remain in Afghanistan. History has taught us that no nation can impose its will over the people of that region. The tribal ties and corruption cannot be overcome without literally conquering the country and killing most of the local leaders. There is no strategic reason to do this.
No matter when the U.S. leaves Afghanistan, tomorrow or in 20 years, it will wind up with a brutal, corrupt government. Obama should pull the military out now, before another drop of American blood is shed. It is the right thing for America; and the right thing for Obama politically. If Obama made a true commitment to pulling all American military personnel out of Afghanistan by July of August of 2012, he would be unbeatable. Yet, he dithers, allowing a whole host of Republican second teamers to have a legitimate shot at taking him on, and beating him, in 2012.
In Missouri, the race for governor has dropped from first to fourth in the Politico's May rankings of the top ten most competitive races. Governor Jay Nixon appears to be settling in for an easier ride to re-election. To say he has accomplished this at the expense of the Democratic Party, of which he is supposed to be a member, is an understatement. However, his handling of the tragedy in Joplin, Missouri, has demonstrated some leadership skills that have increased his stature. And, if the best that the Republicans can do is Peter Kinder, Nixon should walk away with this election. While Nixon was responding to the crisis in Joplin, Kinder was posting “tweets” to "go vote for [a] hot wife in the Top 25 Political Mom blogs."
What about Senator Claire McCaskill? The senator might be vulnerable, if only the Republicans can find a decent candidate. So far, Sarah Steelman, Ed Martin, and U.S Congressman Todd Akin have all officially announced that they will be seeking the Republican nomination. Steelman lost in the Republican primary for governor in 2010, and has thus far refused to take a definitive position on most issues. Martin lost in his bid for congress in 2010. He is trying to align himself with the Tea Party; however, he is also trying to align himself with far right social conservatives. It remains to be seen how well that will go. Akin may be well known inside the beltway, and in his congressional district, but he is not well known statewide. He is considered to be very cozy with big oil. Given the cost of a gallon of gas, that relationship will probably be exploited at every turn. Unless yet another airplane turns up, this race is McCaskill's to lose. My suggestion to voters: grab a beer, get out in the sun, and try to ignore all of the hot air until the summer of 2012.
CHANGE: DOES AMERICA HAVE THE STOMACH FOR IT?
Republican presidential hopeful, Newt Gingrich, is known for being a bomb thrower.
And bomb throwers expect blowback. However, not even Gingrich was prepared for the reaction to his criticism of Paul Ryan's plans to retool Medicare. The negative reaction to Gringrich's comments was so strong that he was quickly retreated from them. However, the damage may have already been done. His ability to secure the Republican presidential nomination appears to be irretrievably damaged.
The Gingrich episode leads to a very important question: Does the American public really want fundamental changes in the way the federal government operates and delivers services? In isolation, the response to Gingrich seems to answer the question with a resounding yes. But when consideration is given to all of the other areas of government that will have to be retooled or eliminated, if the federal government is going to become a smaller, leaner version of the one now in existence, the answer is not as clear.
While Gingrich is in trouble with the far right the Republican Party, Democrats are viewing Medicare as an issue that can peel voters who believe the entitlement is sacrosanct, away from the Republicans. This oddly puts Democrats and Gingrich in agreement on an issue. Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer has gone so far as to say that Medicare will be the “defining issue” of 2012. If the majority of Americans want a smaller, fiscally sound government, the retooling of Medicare is the logical place to start. Without some type of reform, the program will be insolvent by 2024, or possibly earlier depending on the revenue model used.
Federal spending is only half of the battle. Any honest assessment of the nation's bloated, debt ridden government recognizes that to truly cut the federal deficit, federal revenues must increase. There are many theories on how this can be done. However, one obvious way to increase revenues is to stop government subsidies. Here again, the idea that Americans want change must be questioned. Oil companies continue to post record profits while at the same time receiving about $4 billion a year in subsidies from the federal government. It would seem to make sense to do away with the oil subsidies, and use the money to pay down the debt. On May 17, 2011, the U.S. Senate considered just such a bill. The bill was defeated on a largely party line vote. The most ironic thing about the vote was the fact that Republicans, the very ones that allegedly wish to reduce the size and scope of government, were the key to defeating the bill.
There are countless other examples of the fact that while Americans embrace the concept of a change to the way our government operates, the reality of changing government involves sacrificing a few sacred cows. Everyone is fine with sacrificing someone else's cow for the common good; so long as their own cow remains safe. For this nation to survive there is going to have to be shared sacrifice. Entitlements will have to be reformed; government subsidies will have to be drastically reduced, and in some cases eliminated; the tax code will have to be reformed and simplified; and, the United States will have to stop playing the roll of piggy bank for the rest of the world. Only then will there be change. Do you have the stomach for it?
(Email our Independent columnist Russ Purvis at firstname.lastname@example.org)
JAY NIXON IS NO FRIEND TO THE FAMILY FARMER
If Russ Carnahan is looking for a political race in 2012, I have a suggestion: enter the Missouri governor's race. At least then there will be one Democrat in the race. Democrat/Republican/big business prostitute, Jay Nixon continues to demonstrate that he is less of a Democrat than Republican-turned-Democrat Chris Koster. With the signing of the Corporate Pig Farmer Protection Act last week, Nixon left no doubt where his allegiances lie. Nixon is no friend to the family farmer, the environment, or the rule of law. Nixon is simply in bed with big agriculture.
Corporate hog farms are huge polluters. The stench alone is enough to make a billy goat puke. One of the largest corporate hog operations in Missouri is operated by Premium Standard Farms. Premium Standard has a long history of being a bad neighbor. Finally fed up with the problem, neighboring farmers sued Premium Standard. Premium Standard did not change its behavior, and the farmers sued again. The litigation resulted in large verdicts against the company.
Rather than take the lesson to heart, like a petulant child, the corporate hog farmers threatened to leave Missouri, unless something was done to protect them. Republican legislators, always willing to do the bidding of big business, even at the expense of the ordinary citizens that have voted for them, introduced legislation limiting the rights of individuals directly impacted by the corporate hog operations.
The corporate hog farm operation's political minions passed legislation that limits damages that can be awarded to those impacted by the operation's pollution and stench, and further limits the ability of those impacted by such a nuisance to return to court if, after obtaining judgment against a corporate pig farm polluter, the company fails to clean up its act.
The legislation provides corporate hog farms no incentive to change bad behavior. By limiting damages, the legislature allows the companies to decide whether it is cheaper to pollute, or clean up the problem. No consideration is given to the impact on the surrounding family farmers, many of whom have been on the land for generations, but will be forced to leave due to the level of pollution.
The question is why Jay Nixon signed the bill. He obviously knows that it is bad legislation – he signed it without a bill signing ceremony. The answer is simple. Nixon truly believes that he is destined for greatness. The rumor is that he believes he might even be capable of making a run for president in 2016. Big ambition requires big money. The average Missourian is not going to donate enough to Nixon to finance his egotistical political adventures. Therefore, he plays the “compromise” game. The Republicans send him legislation that is so bad they know he will not sign it. Nixon vetoes the bill. The Republicans then send him the version of the bill they really want, and Nixon signs it.
The Republicans get what they want, and Nixon gets to act as though he is a great statesman, while at the same time assuring himself that big business remains his backer. To make matters worse, this little game assumes that Missourians are so dumb that they will not figure out what is going on. I do not believe that the average Missouri voter is that stupid. If Nixon is re-elected in 2012, I will have to rethink that statement.
(Email Independent Russ Purvis at email@example.com)
RIGHT WING RADIO TALKING HEADS ARE ONE-TRICK PONIES
Since the death of Osama Bin Laden, right wing talking heads Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham have, on a daily basis, displayed why the far right will ultimately destroy the Republican Party. The U.S. military, demonstrating why the U.S. is a super power, enters Pakistan and takes out the bad guy. As a result: the country erupts in celebration; and, President Obama speaks. That last part was too much for the right wing talking heads.
Apparently, even though President Obama gave the order to go forward with the attack, in the eyes of the right wing talking heads, he deserves no credit for its success. Obama visiting ground zero was considered by this crew to be taking a victory lap. Obama not immediately going to the Pentagon was said to be crass and unacceptable. Obama not releasing the photos of the dead body has supposedly denied the families of the victims of 911 closure. In fact, Sean Hannity invited anyone with access to the photos to get one to him and he has guaranteed that he will post it on his website. Never mind the fact that there are very clear reasons why the photos have not been released that have nothing to do with appeasing terrorists, but more to do with how international relations work. This so-called “Great American” is willing to needlessly risk the lives of thousands of Americans and American allies, for no other reason than to boost his ratings. He is a fraud and a charlatan.
Admittedly, far right wing radio hosts have to stir the pot for ratings; however, they have become hypocritical, one trick ponies. Suppose the mission had failed. The hate that would spew forth from this crew would be incredible. Obama would of course get all of the blame. He would be accused of putting the military in harm's way because of falling poll numbers. He would be accused of being in over his head in all matters military. Finally, I am sure at least one of the talking cranks would float some type of conspiracy theory.
On the other hand, suppose Bush had behaved exactly as Obama. You would hear nothing but praise. Anyone with a negative comment would be labeled a traitor, or worse in far right land, a liberal. And, let us never forget Bush's “Mission Accomplished” debacle. Talk about a victory lap. Of course, the talking pinheads were fine with that.
As the radio hosts of this ilk continue to attempt to be the tail that wags the dog, the Republican Party becomes more divided. The truth of the matter is that while a great majority of Republicans are center right, the far right minority has been successful in shouting down any voice of sanity and reason. If the grownups in the Republican Party do not figure out a way to resolve this problem, Donald Trump or Newt Gingrich will be the Republican candidate for president, and the race will be over before it begins.
With the 2010 elections only a recent memory, who would have thought that there might be light at the end of the tunnel for Democrats?
A final note to Jay Nixon: run toward the light Governor Nixon, it is not too late to become a Democrat again.
(Reach the Independent Russ Purvis at firstname.lastname@example.org)
IF THEY THWART VOTERS' WILL ONCE, THEY CAN DO IT HUNDREDS OF TIMES
Governor Jay Nixon is a political hack of the first order. In what has to be one of the biggest showings of political backside protection that Missourians have ever been forced to bear witness to, Nixon, fearing that he will lose some of his rural supporters, has signed Republican backed legislation that guts Proposition B. In doing so, he along with the Republican dominated legislature have thwarted the will of the citizens of Missouri. For those with short memories, Proposition B is the puppy mill law passed by a vote of the people this past November.
Whether or not you supported Proposition B, Nixon's actions can only be viewed as gutless. With the stroke of a pen, he has informed each and every Missourian that in Missouri, your vote isn't worth a bucket of warm spit. If you opposed Proposition B, Nixon's actions should give you absolutely no reason to celebrate. Your victory, if it can be described as that, is a hollow one. If Nixon and his Republican cronies can thwart the will of the people once, they can do it a hundred times over. Legislation that you supported at the ballot box may be next on their agenda.
Democracy has literally been subverted. The people spoke on an issue. While it was a close vote, Proposition B passed. The election was proper, and the law passed constitutional muster. The law, while unpopular in some circles, was valid. Just as it was passed by a vote of the people, if a majority feels that it is in someway improper, it can be amended, or completely overturned, by a vote of the people. Nixon, by his actions, has stated that your vote does not count; especially if it might have an impact on Nixon's political future.
Richard Nixon famously stated: “I am not a crook!” Jay Nixon, having stolen every Missourian's ability to enact legislation by voting, will never be able to make that statement with a straight face. Several weeks ago I wrote that Missouri politics is full of pimps and hookers. As if to prove my point, Nixon has spread his legs wide on this issue. As a Missourian, I can only hope that the Missouri Farm Bureau, the real power behind the push to repeal Proposition B, has paid Nixon well for his services.
In an effort to find political cover, Nixon has attempted to downplay his signing of the legislation that guts Proposition B, by almost immediately signing a second piece of legislation, amending the first, that still allows Proposition B to be gutted and the will of the people thwarted. According to Nixon, this is the “Missouri Solution.” Apparently, in Nixon's world, a proper “Missouri Solution” to a political problem is to first subvert democracy, and in so doing, protect your political tail, and maybe pick up some future support (campaign contributions?) from a corporation that cares nothing about the average Missourian. After you have whored yourself out, then hope that by applying a cute name to the second piece of legislation, you can make the voters believe that you were acting with great political courage.
If anyone needs an abject lesson in what is wrong with the political process this is surely that lesson. If Democrats still wonder what is wrong with the Democratic Party, they need only look to Jay Nixon, and they will have the answer.
(Independent Russ Purvis can be reached at email@example.com)
FOR THE CONSPIRACY THEORY, CHECK THIS OUT!
Donald Trump for president! Really? He of the hair that cannot be tamed is flirting with the possibility. Unfortunately, many are taking The Donald seriously. Last week my favorite local fish wrapper, the Kansas City Star, even ran a front page article on his potential candidacy. So far, his one issue appears to be the never ending conspiracy theory surrounding the birthplace of President Obama. I believe that there is conspiracy; however, it is a conspiracy so in your face, while at the same time so simple in its structure, that no one has noticed it – until now.
Donald Trump is going to run for president of the United States. Why? The answer involves the conspiracy that your favorite local columnist has recently uncovered. Donald Trump will run as a Republican, so as to guarantee that President Obama wins reelection in 2012. The conspiracy reaches the highest levels. It involves President Obama, George Soros, possibly Chris Koster, and of course, Trump.
What many people in the general public do not realize is that Trump is less a person than a brand. For all of his bluster, rather than turning a profit, he has more of a talent for driving his various companies into bankruptcy. But he is recognizable, relatively popular, and possesses the largest ego in the western hemisphere. In other words, he is the perfect person to use to screw up the Republican Party's attempt to take back the White House in 2012. Plus, he always needs money.
George Soros hate the Republicans. He may also hate Democrats; however, at this point in time he views them as much more useful. Soros also has money. Trump always needs money. Obama knows that if he can paint the Republican Party as being a bunch of conspiracy theory whackos - envision a million Michael Moores, only dressed better and weighing a bit less--he may just be able to hold enough of the independent vote to win reelection. But how does one splinter a political party? Enter Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.
Koster won the Democratic Party primary for attorney general in 2008, by convincing a spoiler to enter the race. Based on my reliable sources, or an alcohol induced dream, one can never be sure, a recent late night telephone call occurred between Obama and Koster. In that secret late call, probably arranged by someone in St. Louis, since that is where Koster spends the majority of his time, Obama asked Koster: “How do you convince someone to enter the race as a spoiler”? Koster responded: “What is the sound of one hand clapping.” To which Obama replied: “I don't want to know what you do in the privacy of your own home, but I think I get your message.” He immediately got off the phone and called Soros with instructions to go stroke Trump's ego, and offer to pay him the privilege.
So in the end, Trump runs and loses, but in doing so will suck all of the life out of the Republican primary, allowing Obama to cruise into a second term. In exchange for the effort, Soros will provide liquidity to Trump's asinine business ventures. And Koster? He will continue to act like a Republican while claiming to be a Democrat. Where will that take him? If Jay Nixon is any example, Koster may wind up as Missouri's next governor.
What about all of us? To be serious for a moment: when someone like Donald Trump can be considered a legitimate candidate for any office, politics has turned into nothing more than entertainment, so sit back and enjoy the show, it is only your future that is at stake.
(Email Russ at firstname.lastname@example.org)
SALES TAX IS GREAT CONCEPT, BUT DEVIL WILL BE IN DETAILS
The Missouri Senate is considering replacing the existing state tax system with a sales tax. It is a great concept; however, the devil is in the details, and it appears that Satan may be living large in the Missouri Senate's proposed constitutional amendment.
The proposed constitutional amendment is contained in Senate Joint Resolution 1. The sponsor is Senator Luanne Ridgeway. Any amendment to the Missouri Constitution requires a vote of the people. If the proposed amendment makes it to the ballot, it will be voted on in 2012. If passed, it will become law on January 1, 2013. Ridgeway's plan calls for amending the Missouri Constitution so as to eliminate the following taxes: the state individual income tax; the state corporate income tax; the state corporate franchise tax; the state bank franchise tax; and the state sales and use tax. Pursuant to the proposed amendment, the eliminated taxes will be replaced with a tax on the sale, use, or consumption of new tangible personal property and taxable services equal to five and eleven-one hundredths percent: in layman's terms, a state sales tax.
There are so many questions raised by this proposal's language that it is hard to know where to begin. For example: what does the term “new tangible personal property” mean? If I were to purchase a used car, it is by definition, not new. However, it will be new to me. Will such a transaction qualify as a taxable event? What will qualify as a taxable service? Will internet sales be subject to the tax? Is a .0511% tax high enough to offset the revenue that will be lost by the elimination of the other taxes?
To make matters worse, the proposed amendment contains a whole host of exemptions, mainly aimed at business interests. “Component parts or ingredients of a new tangible personal property to be sold at retail, federal government purchases, and business-to-business transactions including agriculture will be exempt from the new tax while all other exemptions and tax credits will be eliminated.” As written, the entire tax burden will be placed on the individual citizens of the state of Missouri. As usual, the Republicans have catered to business interests at our expense.
The exemptions will inevitably lead to attempts to legally “game” the system. The business to business exclusion, combined with the “new tangible personal property” language provides a hole large enough to swallow the entire taxing mechanism. What is to stop a group of individuals from forming a corporation and using that corporation to purchase “new tangible personal property”? As a business to business exchange, there is no taxable event. The corporation then sells or leases the “used” tangible property to individuals. If the property is sold as “used”, there will be no taxable event. If the property is leased, there will be no taxable event. This is just one example, and a pretty crude one at that, demonstrating the flaw with the exemptions.
A state sales tax can work; however, everyone, including business and agricultural interests, must share the burden. Let your senator know that you think that the idea is sound, but the implementation needs a lot of work.
(Email Russ Purvis, Independent, at email@example.com)
AMERICA IS LOSING THE WAR ON THE BUDGET DEFICIT
Republicans and Democrats have both been claiming the last budget battle as a victory. Only in Washington, D.C., can failure to accomplish a task, basic to your position, until seven months after its due date, be classified as a victory. And, while politicians speak of the petty little partisan victories, America is losing the budget deficit war.
The next battle for our nation's future involves the United States' debt ceiling. A debt ceiling is the maximum amount that an individual or entity can borrow. The United States does, by statute, have a debt ceiling, which can only be raised by an act of the United States Congress. The current debt ceiling is a whopping $14.3 trillion dollars. The country is fast approaching that ceiling, and will reach it by the middle of May. By using accounting tricks that would put honest Americans in prison, the government can buy itself a little time. However, without increasing the debt ceiling, the country will be in default on its debt obligations by the middle of July.
Some have argued that no action should be taken to raise the debt ceiling. Such arguments simply demonstrate a fundamental lack of knowledge about how the economy works. The U.S. government's ability to function, at any level, depends on the fact that every financial instrument that it issues is backed by the promise to repay the same. Everything, from the change in your pocket to Treasury Bills, is backed by the government's promise to pay. Right now that promise works because of borrowing.
We have been down this road before. I last wrote on this topic in December of 2009. At that time the debt ceiling was $10.1 trillion. I suggested then that our leaders should stop debating healthcare and address the debt ceiling issue. They did not, and we are now, once again, on the brink of a financial disaster that not only threatens the weak economic recovery, but also impacts the United States' ability to function in the international financial markets.
Blame for the current crisis rests at the feet of all of our elected officials. Following the last increase in the debt ceiling, rather than reform the way government spends, our leaders continued to spend like drunken sailors. Obama has increased the deficit by unprecedented levels, forcing ever more borrowing. But let us not forget that George Bush was also responsible for five budget deficits, each of which was a record for its time.
After all of the shouting and finger pointing, Congress must raise the debt ceiling one more time. If they were truly leaders, members of the House and Senate would acknowledge this fact, and increase the debt ceiling with the certain statutory provisions included that are designed to limit future deficit spending. An updated version of pay as you go (PAYGO) should be attached to any increase in the debt ceiling. Congress gave lip service to PAYGO, the last time it increased the debt ceiling, and then promptly ignored it. Any new version should outlaw or place strict caps on discretionary spending, advance appropriations and other tricks that Congress previously employed in an attempt to avoid PAYGO. Any new federal spending bill should be required to contain a provision identifying a specific funding source. Finally, alleged savings from other federal programs should not be considered to be a revenue source until such savings are realized.
Making those changes to the debt ceiling will have an immediate impact on future spending. By combining those changes with real cuts to all government spending, including Medicare and Social Security reform, America can survive. If our elected representatives fail to act decisively, as future Chinese/Americans, we should begin foreign language lessons.
(Email Russ Purvis, Independent, at firstname.lastname@example.org)
THE MISSOURI CAPITOL HAS BECOME FULL OF PIMPS AND HOOKERS
The national and international scene is on fire; however, all politics is local, and certain Republicans in the Missouri legislature are attempting to scuttle the democratic process at the state level.
First and foremost in the pompous ass department is Republican Barney Fisher. From the April 4, 2011, Fired Up Missouri website comes this interesting story: “During a Workforce Development Committee hearing today, Chairman Barney Fisher (R-Richards) took democracy into his own hands. The committee was getting ready to vote on Senate Bill 188, legislation sponsored by Sen. Brad Lager that would eliminate individual liability in employment discrimination cases and put limits on the amount of damages the employee is able to collect.
Rep. Stephen Webber (D-Columbia) offered an amendment to change commas to semicolons in one section to clarify that the caps on damages only applied to categories other than lost wages. After the explanation of the amendment, Fisher called for a voice vote. All of the Democrats and some Republicans voted Aye. Only Fisher and Glen Klippenstein (R-Maysville) voted no -- but Fisher called the vote for the noes.
After a moment of stunned silence and gasps from the audience, Webber asked to appeal the call and have a role call vote on the amendment. Fisher looked at him and said succinctly, 'No.'
Minutes later, after another failed amendment attempt, Fischer voted the bill out without calling for more discussion. Rep. Kevin McManus (D-Kansas City) protested that he too wanted to offer an amendment. Fisher dismissed his request, and told him he would have to wait for floor debate.
It is refreshing -- in a way -- that the pretense of fair and open debate on major legislative changes has been dropped. At least now there can be no doubt as to who is making the decisions.”
If this were an isolated incident, one might just write it off as another power hungry politician, with no respect for the democracy that he has been elected to represent. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Fisher is a representative sample of the majority party that currently roams the halls of the capital in Jefferson City, Missouri. Small minded men and women who place the ends miles in front of the means. They are bought and sold by business interests, with not a thought in the world about how their actions impact individual Missourians. Quite frankly, it is sickening.
While Fisher acts like a low rent Hitler, his allies in destroying democracy in Missouri have also been hard at work in thwarting the will of the people. Take for example, Proposition B: The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. The majority of voters in Missouri passed this law in 2010. The Republicans in the legislature, under pressure from lobbying interests like the Missouri Farm Bureau (a business lobby that just happens to have the word “farm” in its name), is attempting to either repeal or water down the law. Why? They are practicing the oldest profession, selling themselves to anyone with thirty shekels of silver.
The Republicans have not stopped there. At the request of their pimp, the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Republicans have also decided the time has come to allow corporate hog operations (they are not farms, and do not let anyone tell you otherwise), to drive families that have actually farmed the land for generations, off of their property.
Democracy is broken in Missouri. It is all pimps and hookers. However, we can clean it up. Just remember that the smiling corporate pimps are not on your side, even when they talk in vague terms about jobs and economic development, and that the Republican hookers will only show you love if you first show them the money.
(Send comments on the pimps and hookers to email@example.com)
OBAMA SHOULD BE IMPEACHED FOR UNILATERALLY WAGING WAR
The United States is now involved, simultaneously, in three separate wars in the Middle East. The sheer madness of this situation cannot be adequately described with words. To make matters worse, each of the wars involves what amounts to an open ended commitment with no exit strategy. So much for the supposed lessons learned from Vietnam and Iraq.
The United States is now closing in on a decade of involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, and U.S. forces will be in both countries for at least another decade. Obama's promise to remove troops from Afghanistan has turned out to be a lie. The token effort that has been proposed for this summer is laughable. Now, with what appears to be very little planning, and without consulting the United States Congress, the Obama administration has jumped into Libya. By doing so, he has violated the United States Constitution, and he knows it. In 2007, Obama, then a United States Senator, had this to say regarding the possibility that then President George W. Bush might bomb Iran: “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
Obama violated the Constitution by unilaterally authorizing a military attack in a situation that does not involve any imminent threat to the nation. Firing Tomahawk missiles cannot be argued to be anything other than a military attack. So far, simply taking into account the price of the missiles, the cost to U.S. taxpayers is $100 million dollars. The question is why? The answer is simple: Oil. Forget about all of the grand talk about not allowing a thug to ruthlessly kill his own countrymen. If that were the criteria used by the United States for intervening in the internal affairs of sovereign nations, U.S. forces would be occupying much of the world. Most of the countries surrounding Libya maim, kill and torture citizens with impunity.
To make matters worse, there is not a plan. The international “coalition” that is allegedly going to impose the no fly zone over Libya has already degenerated into a group of finger pointing harpies. And no one knows whether the rebels are going to be an improvement over Qaddafi. For all anyone knows, the rebels will wind up allied with Iran, or with al Qaeda. Given the tribal nature of Libya, there is a strong likelihood that the power vacuum created by Qaddafi's absence, if that is accomplished, will result in a failed state, wherein the various tribes engage in a protracted civil war. It does not appear that the Obama administration has given this potential result a great deal of thought. And we all thought that only George W. Bush was dumb enough to go to war without giving the consequences adequate consideration.
In unilaterally deciding to wage war, Obama has committed a serious error; one that violates the Constitution. Wars have consequences. One consequence of this war must be the impeachment of President Obama.
(Russ Purvis, former Democrat now Independent, can be reached by email to firstname.lastname@example.org)
STATE LEGISLATORS SHOULD BE FOCUSING ON BALANCING THE BUDGET
Just some random thoughts on the state of the world at large, and issues closer to home:
The Libyan uprising is surely going to fall victim to bad timing. The disaster in Japan has shoved every other international issue off of the stage, and will continue to do so for some time. Unless other countries in the Middle East stand up, instead of simply insisting that others take the lead, Libya will remain a totalitarian state.
Nuclear power is good. Nuclear power needs to be pursued, and Obama is correct to say that we cannot allow the disaster in Japan to stop the United States from expanding the use of nuclear power. To argue that nuclear power is not safe, and cannot be made safe, is ridiculous. The situation in Japan is unique, and will teach us more about how to make a safe source of energy even safer.
There is still no federal budget for fiscal year 2011, which began on October 1, 2010. By now work on the 2012 budget should be well under way. Our elected Republican and Democratic clowns have once again decided to fund the government with another two week bandaid, while refusing to get down to the hard work necessary to deal with the budget. It is clear that this group is more concerned with playing partisan politics than doing the work of the American people.
At the state level, our legislators continue to fiddle while Rome burns. Rather than focus with laser like intensity on resolving Missouri's budget crisis, the Republican controlled legislature is dancing around the budget. The legislators, in their infinite wisdom, have determined that partying with lobbyists, and thwarting the will of the voters, by attempting to overturn most of Proposition B (the puppy mill law), is much more important to the well being of Missouri than balancing the budget.
Locally, Sly James, along with Mike Burke, survived the Kansas City, Missouri, mayoral primary. The election is important to Platte County, given the fact that Platte County is quickly becoming the economic engine that drives Kansas City. Both James and Burke are good people. However, as I stated in my column several weeks ago, Sly James will be better for the City of Kansas City. The general election is set for next Tuesday, March 22nd, and if you live in Kansas City, it is your duty to go vote.
In the world of sports, professional football may not be played in 2011. All parties to this possible act of business suicide might want to pay particular attention to this old saying: “Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.” The Royals have started spring training--yawn. Win 85 games and maybe people will begin to care. March Madness has officially started. Colorado was robbed by being left out of the tournament. I agree with Dick Vitale, picking a few of the teams that made the tournament over Colorado is like picking Roseanne Barr as the winner of a beauty contest over Scarlett Johannson.
Japan does need our help. If you can, visit the Red Cross website and make a donation.
(Russ Purvis, an independent, can be reached by email at email@example.com)
SITUATION IN LIBYA A SIGN WE NEED MORE OFFSHORE DRILLING
If Libya was a country without oil, would its ongoing conflict matter to the United States and the rest of the international community? Before you answer, consider how little concern the international community has shown toward other nations ravaged by civil war, such as Darfur. Human suffering also exists in many places around the world that are without oil. Most of those places are also ignored. Not so Libya.
Three weeks ago, Libyans began to protest against the Gaddafi government. Unlike the protests that have led to peaceful transfers of power in other countries, like Egypt and Tunisia, the Libyan protests quickly became violent, and have now degenerated into a civil war. Oil speculators took notice, and the price at the pump has jumped more than 30 cents a gallon. Since Americans consider cheap oil to be an entitlement, and increasing gas prices can lead to the decreasing fortunes of politicians, the saber rattling has begun. Several senators, McCain and Lieberman, chief among them, are demanding that the United States establish a no-fly zone over Libya.
A no-fly zone sounds innocuous; however, it is not as simple as putting planes in the air over Libya. First, Libyan air defenses would have to be attacked. If the United States were to take such action, it would then be engaging in simultaneous combat operations in three countries in the Middle East. The White House has rightfully expressed concerns about such action, and the likelihood that it would adversely impact the uprising by inserting the United States into the equation.
Second, the actual monetary cost must be considered. The United States is broke. Where would the money come from? A fundamental question must be answered: Should the American public be forced to fund a civil war in Libya? The answer is no.
Strategically, without taking oil into consideration, Libya is of little strategic use. OPEC has already indicated that it can cover any gap that might be caused by an interruption in Libyan oil exports. A more effective way for the U.S. to curb the ongoing speculation would be to announce that Libya demonstrates, once again, the need for the U.S. to free itself from dependence on foreign oil, and immediately lift the moratorium that Obama imposed on offshore drilling, as well as all other restrictions on drilling in the United States.
Finally, the no-fly zone has little chance of being effective. Libyan helicopter gunships, which have wreaked the most havoc thus far, will be able to avoid the no-fly zone, since logistically it will have to be enforced by high flying jets that will have difficulty locating and engaging the low flying helicopters, before they engage and retreat.
Even if there was a viable argument for a no-fly zone, it should be handled by Middle Eastern countries. In fact, the Arab League and the African Union are considering taking on the responsibility, and they should. The United States can no longer afford to be the world's policeman; especially in areas of the world where our very presence can do more harm than good.
(Email Russ Purvis at firstname.lastname@example.org)
WHEN IT COMES TO TALKING CUTS, EVERYTHING MUST BE ON THE TABLE
How do you know when your elected representatives have shown themselves to be absolutely worthless? Answer: When they allow the government to shut down because they have failed to do something as simple as create and pass a budget. The federal government's 2011 fiscal year began on October 1, 2010, which means the power hungry, self involved, politically motivated, callous, intellectually challenged individuals that fancy themselves to be our leaders, have had sixteen months to develop and pass a budget. They have failed to do so. They have failed the American people.
The government is currently operating on a series of continuing resolutions. If a business attempted to operate this way, the business would be broke, and shareholders would be screaming for the heads of the corporate officers. But in the weird world of Washington politics, no one really seems to care about anything other than how the issue can be spun to gain political advantage. In fact, they care so little about resolving this issue that last week, with the government set to shut down on March 4, our lawmakers went on vacation.
Now the blame game begins. The Republicans view this as an opportunity to paint the Democrats as obstructionists that have refused to develop a budget that is fiscally responsible. The Democrats appear to believe that, just like 1995, a government shutdown will be blamed on the Republicans, thereby benefitting the badly bruised Democratic leadership. The truth is that both parties are to blame - and to a certain degree, so is the American public.
The newly elected Republican majority is demanding $60 billion in cuts to the 2011 budget, although the fiscal year is almost halfway over. Democrats, rather than attempting to reach some type of compromise that will allow some significant cuts in 2011, and explore deeper spending cuts beginning in 2012, have simply resorted to worn out rhetoric arguing that cuts will destroy any small amount of economic recovery that is underway. Obama has not helped matters by proposing a 2012 budget plan that, if enacted, will increase the overall budget deficit to a whopping $1.6 trillion dollars, requiring an increase in the government's debt ceiling.
The American public must also share some of the blame for this mess. Until we demonstrate a willingness to share the pain of dealing with the budget deficit, politicians will shy away from the issue. And to be sure, dealing with the budget deficit will be painful. Everything must be on the table including Social Security, Medicare, overhauling the tax code, education funding, and agricultural subsidies.
But budgeting is not that difficult. We all do it in our personal lives. It is simply a matter of balancing expenditures against revenue. Revenue is not that difficult to predict. If there is any question, use the most conservative prediction. Once revenue has been predicted, spend no more than that amount. There can be all kinds of arguments about where and how to spend the money. However, so long as spending does not exceed revenue, the budget will balance. Politicians will never be able to handle this simple task without specific directions. Therefore, it is time for a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution. Of course, that is a long term solution. In the short term, stupidity will reign supreme in Washington, and we will all suffer for it.
(Email Russ Purvis at email@example.com)
SLY JAMES DIFFERENT FROM THE REST OF KC MAYORAL FIELD
As Platte County, Missouri, continues to grow in population, and economic clout, Kansas City, Missouri city politics becomes more important to Platte County, and Platte County becomes more important to Kansas City, Missouri. Therefore, who will be elected as the next mayor of Kansas City, Missouri is the most important political event taking place in Platte County, over the next six weeks. Kansas City's mayoral primary will be held on Feb. 22. The top two individual vote getters will advance from the non-partisan primary, and will face each other in the general election on March 22.
Sly James is the candidate that stands head and shoulders above all of the others. While candidates Mike Burke and Deb Hermann are both from north of the river, to one degree or another, each shares some blame for the current sorry condition of Kansas City. Years of deferred maintenance and a failure to bring basic infrastructure to much of the part of city of Kansas City that is in Platte County has occurred while one, or both, have been in office, or serving on influential city committees that should have found solutions to these problems years ago. They are both very nice and dedicated people; however, they have not been successful in turning Kansas City around.
Current Mayor Mark Funkhauser has been an unmitigated disaster. He has consistently acted like a petulant child, content to pick up his baseball and go home if the game is not played by his rules. He has diminished his office and made Kansas City, Missouri a laughingstock.
The remaining mayoral candidates are the usual Jackson County oriented gang. Most of them probably believe that Kansas City, north of the river, begins and ends with the ribbon of I-29 that runs to the airport.
Sly James is different. Sly has a vision for all of Kansas City, Missouri and the combination of brains, backbone, character and patience to make that vision become a reality. Sly is an attorney and a former Marine. He knows success requires hard work, and that excuses are a dime a dozen.
Sly believes that there are “4 E's” that will determine the future success of Kansas City, Missouri: Employment; Enforcement; Education; and Efficiency. Sly has set forth a detailed plan that outlines what is necessary to guarantee the future success of Kansas City. Obviously, employment, and enforcement of our laws to keep Kansas City, Missouri safe are high priorities. Likewise, working to make city government more efficient will provide a direct benefit to every citizen. But Sly also realizes that Kansas City must work to find solutions facing the Kansas City, Missouri School District.
Living in Platte County, it is easy to dismiss the Kansas City, Missouri School District as one problem that we do not have to be concerned with. That is simply not true. For Kansas City to be successful in the future, it must be able to attract new businesses and new families. An important criteria many businesses, and most families, look at when deciding where to locate, is the school district. Fix the district and the city prospers; ignore it and the city will slowly die. Sly has a plan to work toward fixing the problems facing the Kansas City School District that makes a great deal of sense. You can learn more about all of Sly's ideas at slyjamesformayor.com. After you have reviewed Sly's ideas in detail you will agree that he is the right choice for Kansas City. Don't forget to vote on February 22, 2011 Kansas City's future hangs in the balance.
(Email Russ Purvis at firstname.lastname@example.org)
LET'S REDUCE THE NUMBER OF STATE REPRESENTATIVES
I have spilled a great deal of ink while writing this column encouraging readers to get involved and make a difference. To that end, I have decided that I must become directly involved in leading the effort to reform Missouri's ineffective and inefficient House of Representatives. Therefore, I have filed a petition with the Missouri Secretary of State to place a proposed amendment to the Constitution of the State of Missouri on the ballot, reducing the size of the Missouri House of Representatives from 163 members to 103 members.
Politicians spend a great deal of time talking about reducing the size of government. A true reduction in the size of government should begin with a reduction of the number of politicians. The Missouri House is simply too large. By comparison, the Texas House of Representatives has only 150 members. The California State Assembly, which like the Missouri House is the lower chamber of the state legislature, has only 80 members.
The current size of the Missouri House is a throwback to the days of the horse and buggy. Travel was difficult, making smaller districts necessary to effective representation. In this day and age, communication is almost instantaneous, no matter where a person might be located. The need for so many districts no longer exists.
Reducing the size of the Missouri House will not only make Missouri's government more efficient, it will save taxpayers millions of dollars every year. Members of the Missouri House are currently paid $30,000 per year. Reducing the number of representatives by 60 will result in an immediate savings of $1.8 million dollars. A reduction in the number of representatives will also result in a reduction of staff members and benefit obligations. If the amendment passes, taxpayers will see a savings between $3 to $5 million dollars per year.
If passed, the amendment will take effect following the 2020 census, beginning with the 102nd General Assembly. By leaving a gap between the passage of the amendment and its effective date, politics is taken out of the equation. Any representative currently in office will be term limited prior to the reduction in the size of the legislature. Therefore, politicians cannot argue that the amendment is aimed at harming, or conversely, benefitting a particular political party.
To make this necessary and fiscally prudent change, I need your help. Before the amendment will be allowed to appear on the ballot, signatures must be gathered. A dedicated, grassroots volunteer effort will be required in the weeks and months to come to gather the signatures necessary to place the amendment on the ballot. After signatures have been gathered, the campaign to reorganize the Missouri House can really begin.
If you wish to become involved, call or e-mail me. Changing the size of the Missouri House of Representatives is only the first step in reforming Missouri's government. Campaign finance reform must also be addressed. I will outline my plans relating to preventing the outright purchase of elected office in Missouri in next week's column.
(Willing to help this effort or want more info? Email Russ Purvis at email@example.com)
OBAMA RIGHT, KERRY WRONG ON HANDLING OF EGYPT
I spent last weekend in Austin, TX, running a half marathon with family and friends. It was sunny, and the temperature was in the mid 70s all weekend. I arrived back in Kansas City to freezing rain. As I write this column, I am watching out of my dining room window, what has been described as potentially the biggest blizzard in Kansas City in more than thirty years. It just goes to show, weather can turn on a dime. Politics is no different.
When I left for Austin last weekend, turmoil in Egypt was barely on the radar. Four days later, it appears as though the government will fall. Many pundits are applauding what has been happening, and are, along with the protestors, calling for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Some are even speaking in overblown terms about what a blow all of this is for Democracy. I am not so sure if applause is in order just yet; and, I am quite positive that it is too early to predict a democratically governed Egypt.
So far, President Obama, and most in the congressional leadership have stopped short of calling for Mubarak's resignation. Instead, Obama has demanded that the upcoming elections be open, and that the government exert less control over the people. This is a prudent course. There is a chance that if Mubarak resigns, or is forcibly removed by the military, that democracy will flower in Egypt. However, it is just as likely that Egypt will wind up in the hands of a military dictator, or become an Islamic state. Neither a military dictator, nor an Islamic state, will serve the interests of the United States. Truth be told, a democracy in Egypt may not serve our interests. And, like it or not, the safety and security of the United States depends on leaders that out of fear, respect, or pay off, are willing to do our bidding.
Of course there are short sighted, possibly mentally challenged politicians who, in their eagerness to appear so empathetic of the problems facing the Egyptian population, are demanding the immediate resignation of Mubarak. The soft headed Senator John Kerry is one example. In a column that ran in last Tuesday's New York Times, Senator Kerry grudgingly admitted that Mubarak “has contributed significantly to Middle East Peace.” However, he opined that Mubarak must resign because “Egyptians have made clear that they will settle for nothing less than greater democracy and more economic opportunities.”
Kerry's statement is at best an exaggeration, at worst it sets forth hopes and dreams for Egyptians that he has conjured from thin air. There is no leader in this protest movement. There has been no specific set of demands made by any group beyond the ouster of Mubarak. And there is certainly no way to predict that more democracy and economic opportunities will result from chanting and looting, or that the protestors may not prefer democracy at all, but are simply wanting a different type of boot to be place across the country's collective neck possibly a radical Islamic boot.
United States foreign policy depends on an Egypt that can be considered an ally and not an annoyance, or depending on the outcome, an enemy. Like it or not, Mubarak is a known quantity. His immediate resignation will create a political vacuum, the result of which is simply unknowable at this time. Obama is handling the situation correctly. Kerry needs to sit down and shut up; or simply go shovel the snow off his driveway.
(Even if you don’t walk like an Egyptian you can still email Russ Purvis at firstname.lastname@example.org)