June 30, 2016

California State Income and Corporate Taxes: Want to pay in cash? You may ... or may not ... be able to.

Cash may be king, and by law a form of "Legal Tender" in the United States.

But you know what?  No person, business, or government entity - including the Internal Revenue Service and State and Local taxing authorities - has to accept cash payments.

I posted about this topic in April, specifically the IRS' acceptance of cash for federal tax payments.  (Answer: maybe, and with limitations.)

But if you live in California, what about making cash payments to the Franchise Tax Board for payment of state personal income and corporate taxes?

Answer:  maybe.  Let me explain ...

Last year in September 2015, the Franchise Tax Board implemented a No Cash Policy.  For all field offices.  Yep, you got cash to pay your state personal income taxes or corporate taxes?  California didn't want it.  In fact, would not take your cash under any circumstances.

California may ... or may not ... accept your cash
for payment of your state taxes.
As you may guess, our friends at the Franchise Tax Board have received a lot of flack for that decision.  So, they recently acquiesced and changed the rule.

Kinda.  Here's what's new:

The No Cash Policy is still in effect, but taxpayers may request an exemption to it.  Here are the procedures, effective July 1, 2016:
  • A California taxpayer who wants to use cash to pay state personal income or corporate taxes to the Franchise Tax Board may request an exemption to the current No Cash Policy by completing and submitting the No Cash Policy Exemption Request form.

  • The taxpayer must provide an explanation for their inability to pay their taxes using a payment method other than cash (or what the FTB calls their "provided methods".

    ... But wait, there's more! ...

  • The FTB will then review the exemption request and mail a letter of determination (yes or no to accepting the taxpayer's cold hard cash) to the taxpayer within two business days.

  • If (and I think I'd stress the "if")  the exemption is approved, the taxpayer must then contact one of the six FTB field offices (located in Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Ana) and make an appointment to make the cash payment at the field office.

  • Lastly, if approved, the exemption is good for all future cash tax payment transactions at any of the six offices.

Yes, California taxpayers need to jump through a number of hoops, then cross their fingers in hopes the exemption request will be accepted.  Plus, if the taxpayer resides far away from an FTB field office, for instance, in the far northern California community of Crescent City, you get to drive (or perhaps fly) a good long round trip to the nearest FTB field office.  Round trip by car from Crescent City to the nearest FTB field office in San Francisco is ... oh ... about 720 miles.

But What About the No Cash Policy Exemption Request Form?

Ya know, I'd love to post a link to the form and the form's instructions here.  But by golly, as of June 30 at 11:00 AM, the form is not yet available on the California Franchise Tax Board's website.

But what's the hurry, huh?

The program ONLY STARTS TOMORROW.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Questions about Tax Matters?

I am an Enrolled Agent licensed by the Department of the Treasury which allows me to provide tax services to taxpayers in all 50 states and US territories.  I provide tax services to individual income, business, estate, and trust clients.  Please contact me if you have questions about tax preparation, tax planning, or taxpayer representation (audit and collection) matters.

For information about my nationwide Consulting, Expert Witness, and Tax Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

And yes, I will gladly accept your cash for payment of professional services.

Mary Rae Fouts

June 29, 2016

San Francisco Bay Area Weather: How's this for crazy temperature differences and swings in temperature?

Weather in the San Francisco Bay area is dramatically, and sometimes drastically, influenced by micro-climates caused by the area's topography and coastal breezes.  And don't forget, as Mark Twain famously stated, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."

Pleasant Hill, California where I live sets about 25 miles northeast of San Francisco.  But during the summer, the difference in daytime temps between the two cities is simply crazy; Pleasant Hill is often 30 degrees warmer.  Or in other words, closets always contain clothes for all seasons!

But you can't beat the "natural Northern California Air Conditioning" we are blessed to have - on most summer days, anyway - in Pleasant Hill.  What's that?  Ocean breezes fueled by coastal fog dramatically lower the temperature at night, creating a natural air conditioning to cool your home through open windows.

Lately it's been unseasonably hot in much of the Bay Area.  We've had temps up to 110 degrees in Pleasant Hill.  But not along the coast.

How's this for wacky, and almost unbelievable, weather?

Yesterday my husband was in Daly City,  a city just south of San Francisco along the Pacific Ocean. 

He left Daly City yesterday at 1:00 PM.  Temperature in Daly City then?

57 degrees.

Temperature on our backyard weather station in Pleasant Hill (33 miles from Daly City by car) at 1:15 PM?

103.1 degrees.

That's a difference of 46.1 degrees over 33 miles.  Crazy!

But it did cool down to a wonderful 56.1 windy degrees last night in Pleasant Hill.  So yes, our natural Northern California air conditioning worked its wonders again.

And swings in temperature in Pleasant Hill?

Last Sunday, we hit a high of 109.0 degrees on my backyard weather station.

Low that night/early next morning?

51.7 degrees.

That's a same-day temperature swing of 57.3 degrees.  Once again, Crazy!

Oh, the weather today is gorgeously cool in Pleasant Hill, sunny but a very cool breeze.  Just goes to show you can't fool Mother Nature, or sometimes even guess what future weather she has in store for you.

Mary Rae Fouts

June 27, 2016

Brexit: It's all about the Bananas! And maybe a bit of Croissant, too.

Brexit, the United Kingdom's recent vote to leave the European Union.  Much had to do about fruit.


As in bananas.

And perhaps France's famed croissants, too.

These 7 reasons why some Europeans hate the European Union pretty much sums up the United Kingdom's desire to leave the union.  One reason?  Overreaching and downright absurd regulations.

Take bananas.

Yes, the European Union actually set guidelines for the appearance of bananas, stating they should be “free from malformation or abnormal curvature."  It appears the majority of British voters thought they were quite capable of deciding how bent their bananas should be.
And then again, maybe the famed French croissant had a bit to do with the outrage, too.  After all, let's not forget the flap that erupted between the United Kingdom and France when the giant British grocery chain Tesco decided to only sell straight croissants in their stores.  That's right, they gave curved croissants the boot.

Why?

Jam and the spreadability factor.

According to Harry Jones, Tesco's croissant buyer:
“At the heart of the move away from curved croissants is the spreadability factor. The majority of shoppers find it easier to spread jam, or their preferred filling, on a straighter shape with a single sweeping motion.
With the crescent shaped croissants, it’s more fiddly and most people can take up to three attempts to achieve perfect coverage, which increases the potential for accidents involving sticky fingers and tables.”
So, with one fell swoop,  Tesco saved the British from the life safety risk of accidents involving sticky fingers and tables.

Which goes to show, once again, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Financial Planning Concerns about Brexit-related Matters?
Looking for an Expert Witness for Financial Planning-related Arbitration or Litigation?  

I am an  a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER TM professional with 28 years of financial services experience, and hold a number of additional professional licenses.   Please contact me if you have questions about financial planning matters.  Fee-only professional services.

For information about my nationwide Consulting, Expert Witness, and Tax Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

Mary Rae Fouts

June 24, 2016

Trupanion Pet Insurance: Yet Again Will Do Anything to Deny a Claim. Don't Waste Your Money on This Worthless Pet Insurance.

Ah, Trupanion Pet Insurance.  Yet another example proving they will do anything to deny a claim.

I posted twice in April about Trupanion Pet Insurance (second April post here) and my extremely negative experience with their continuous denial of valid claims (their excuse was always some link to a supposed pre-existing condition) and my subsequent cancellation of coverage for my Faithful Canine Companions Husky-mix Sid and Chow-mix Lexi.

Search for "trupanion complaints" or "trupanion premium increase" and you'll find a slew of complaints about Trupanion's refusal to pay claims and huge premium increases.  Take a look at Trupanion's Yelp page.  Ouch.


Don't waste your money on this worthless pet insurance.

But what prompted me to post on this topic again was my conversation this morning with a fellow doggy-Mommy I frequently bump into when walking our dogs.   She and her husband also have 2 dogs.  One dog has experienced medical problems related to stomach-related issues; vomiting and digestive problems.  They previously purchased Trupanion insurance for the dog, believing it to be the best pet insurance around.

What has been there experience?

You guessed it.  All claims denied.
Why?
Always a linkage to a supposed pre-existing condition.

That made me angry, and I shared my Trupanion experience with her.  She is also going to cancel her what has been proven to be worthless pet insurance from Trupanion.  To speak to a person who goes above and beyond to take care of her dogs, yet gets the middle finger from the supposedly-great Trupanion Pet Insurance Company, is more than head shaking.  So I'll just say ...

Shame on you once again, Trupanion.  

And once again folks, don't waste your money on Trupanion's worthless pet insurance.

Mary Rae Fouts

June 23, 2016

Burger King: Fried Cheetos Crusted Macaroni and Cheese, Anyone?

Give it to Burger King.  They've created a menu item that's so bad, it just has to be good.

Introducing Mac 'n Cheetos.

Yes Siree.  For a limited time only you can get:

Globs of Macaroni and Cheese.
Coated with a Cheetos Coating.
Deep Fried.
And Served with Ranch Dressing on the Side.


Admittedly I like both Mac and Cheese and Cheetos ... Crunchy Cheetos, mind you.  But this combination ... uh, I'll just say no.   But I bet a LOT of people will say yes!

Mary Rae Fouts

The New Panama Canal: Not a Modern Marvel, but Rather a Modern Catastrophe

Fascinating, must read article in today's New York Times (the photographs and graphics are amazing) that takes a painstakingly detailed look at the new Panama Canal, which accepted its first mega "neo-Panamax” ship this month.

A Modern Marvel?

Nope.  Rather, a Modern Catastrophe.


On June 9, the Baroque Valletta became the first cargo ship to use the new Panama Canal locks.
Rodrigo Arangua/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Source: New York Times

As this brilliantly-written exposé (authored by  Walt Bogdanich, Jacqueline Williams, and Ana Graciela Mendéz) points out, the new canal's expectations ... and reality ... clashed from the very start.


Video shows water pouring from the new Panama Canal's Cocoli Lock crack.
The new Panama Canal's cement walls that were supposed to last 100 years
 didn't even last until the first ship could pass through.

And to think the original Panama Canal works just fine after a mere 102 years.

Go figure.

Mary Rae Fouts

June 22, 2016

Jake Peavy: Giants' Starting Pitcher Allegedly Defrauded of $Millions by Former Investment Advisor

San Franciso Giants' starting pitcher Jake Peavy has been smacked.  Big time.  And not from a batted ball.

According to an investigation and lawsuit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Peavy and other professional athletes were defrauded by their former Investment Advisor Ash Narayan in a ponzi-like investment scheme.

Jake Peavy
San Francisco Giants' Starting Pitcher
Narayan, formerly a registered investment advisor and managing director of Irvine, California based RGT Wealth Advisors, allegedly (without clients' approval or knowledge) re-directed millions of client dollars into a highly speculative and financially unstable business venture The Ticket Reserve Inc.  Narayan allegedly also forged clients' signatures on documents, and falsely claimed to be a Certified Public Accountant.

Peavy:  Losses Exceeding $16 Million

The SEC investigation found that Peavy had indicated a conservative investment approach with his assets.  Peavy is believed to have lost more than $16 million in Ash Narayan's scheme.  Narayan was terminated by RGT Wealth Advisors in March.  At that time, RGT stated that numerous RGT clients who received investment advice from Mr. Narayan made "…certain investments on the recommendation of Mr. Narayan” which lead to his termination.

I am not involved with this matter, but have served as an Expert Witness in similar arbitration and litigation matters involving allegations of fraud, breach of fiduciary duties, and unsuitable investments.  These issues cast a pall over the entire investment advisory and financial planning world given the immediate thoughts that comes to mind:

Who can you trust?
You should be able to trust investment advisors and financial planners.  But should you?
Unfortunately, there are rotten apples in every barrel, and in every profession.

Financial Planning Concerns?
Looking for an Expert Witness for Financial Planning-related Arbitration or Litigation?  

I am an  a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professional with 28 years of financial services experience, and hold a number of additional professional licenses.   Please contact me if you have questions about financial planning matters.  Fee-only professional services.

For information about my nationwide Consulting, Expert Witness, and Tax Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

Oh, and as a huge baseball fan ... GO GIANTS!

Mary Rae Fouts

June 21, 2016

Alleged Prostitution Ring Busted in Pleasant Hill, California

Including Prostitution, too!
** UPDATE  ** Dominic "Nick" Salazar took a plea deal in August 2016, pleading guilty to one count of pandering.  Charges of pimping, human trafficking and two other pandering counts were dropped.

Salazar was sentenced to 3 years in prison, but will be out in 1 1/2 years with good behavior.  Also, his bank account was frozen and assets related to the illegal activities were seized by law enforcement.  However, no estimate of the value of these items was provided.

**  Original post on June 21, 2016  **

Busted!

According to Pleasant Hill Police, 54-year-old Dominic "Nick" Salazar was not running "Mad Girls Fitness Club", but rather a prostitution ring out of a Pleasant Hill home.

Huh.

Perhaps they were simply trying to put a bit more pleasant in Pleasant Hill?


After all, Pleasant Hill is "At the Center of Everything", according to the City's own motto.  Guess that applies to the world's oldest profession, too.

Mary Rae Fouts

June 20, 2016

What is the photo I posted last week? Answer below!

Last week I posted this photo, and asked people to guess what it was.

What is it?

I had some good guesses, but none correct.

And the answer is ...

The photo is a blooming artichoke in my back yard gardens.

A blooming artichoke from my backyard gardens.

I planted some new artichoke plants this spring, and am letting them bloom rather than harvesting the 'chokes to eat.  Oh, my .... the artichoke blooms are simply beautiful, the fragrance divine.  A wonderful pollinator for bees and butterflies.

Try them in your garden; you'll love them!

Happy Gardening!

Mary Rae Fouts

June 19, 2016

Golden State Warriors: Maybe you lost because Karma cam back to bite you.

Golden State Warriors.  This year's dream basketball team.  Lost.

And just maybe because Karma came back to bite you.

I moved from Nebraska to Northern California in 1994.  Interestingly enough, my first home was in Walnut Creek, where Golden State Warrior's Steph Curry and his family now live.  I moved to nearby (as in 1.5 miles away) Pleasant Hill, when I married my best husband in the world Jim in 1998.  And that's where we live today.  With Jim and wonderful dogs Sid and Lexi.

But this isn't about my best husband.  
Or Walnut Creek.  
Or Pleasant Hill.
Or the Golden State Warrior's Steph Curry.
Or the Golden State Warrior's Draymond Green.


It's about the Golden State Warriors.

And how they badly treat their fan base.

In the mid-1990's (when I was a single woman and living alone) I called the Warrior's Ticket Office to purchase one ... yes, one ... season seat and one season parking pass. Season.  As in not just for a few games, but for the season.   I was a basketball fan, loved the Warriors at that time, even though they sucked.  And by the way, during this time, I do mean the Warriors SUCKED.  As in big time.  As in seasons with .366 to .232 winnings.

I was one of the faithful.  Yet what did the Warriors' ticket office do with my request?

Denied.  Yup, denied. The then sucky team (really sucky, as in beyond sucky)  would not sell me one season ticket, and one season parking pass.  Said the season tickets had to go out in at least pairs.

I never forgave the Warriors for that.  Was it that I was a woman?  Or perhaps white?  Or from Walnut Creek and not Oakland?

Whatever.

I think that perhaps, 20 or so years later, Karma came back to bite them.

Memo to Golden State Warriors:  Don't mess with your fans.

 And don't mess with a woman who simply wanted ONE season ticket and ONE season parking pass.  Which you refused to sell.  Even after 20 or so years, karma may just have come back to bite you in the ass.

Perhaps in the future, your team might find something worthwhile to "LOCK IN" to.

As in true fans, who you otherwise kick to the curb.

Not surprised you lost tonight.  Hope you find your bearings sometime, after so many years.

Mary Rae Fouts

June 17, 2016

Dolores Park in San Francisco: How's this for crazy? San Francisco wanted you to rent the grass you sit on.

Good ol' San Francisco.  I thought I had heard it all about politicians and governments squeezing money from citizens and taxpayers, but THIS new ... and simply crazy ... development probably tops all.

Dolores Park in San Francisco, CA
Dolores Park is a popular public park in San Francisco's working class Mission District.  That's right, public, for use by the public.

What did the San Francisco Parks Department want to do with it?

They recently proposed that park goers pay to rent the grass they sit on when visiting Dolores Park.

Yep.  If you wanted to sit on the grass with a blanket and have a picnic, or simply relax, you'd have to pay for the privilege of doing so.

Money.  Money.  Money.   $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

What's next?  Renting the air we breathe?

Public outrage was immediate, and the proposal was quickly dropped.

Another Only in California minute.

Mary Rae Fouts

June 16, 2016

Judge Aaron Persky from the Brock Turner rape case: What movie character does he remarkably resemble?

Judge Aaron Persky
Santa Clara, CA Superior Court
Judge Aaron Persky, the highly criticized (and vilified) judge who presided over the Brock Turner rape case in Santa Clara, California, bears a remarkable resemblance to a character in one of my favorite movies.

Can you guess which character and which movie?  

Marty the Blackjack Dealer from Las Vegas Vacation, played by actor and comedian Wallace Shawn.

Judge Persky even has the same goofy, screwed  look on his face as Marty the Blackjack Dealer!

Hmmm .... perhaps Judge Persky's face is all jokingly screwed up and smiling in his photo because he thinks rape is a joke, and that sentencing a rapist to a whole whopping six months in jail is funny.

I certainly hope Judge Persky (who is running unopposed in November's General Election) either resigns or is recalled.  For more information about the recall effort, visit www.recallaaronpersky.com.

Marty the Blackjack Dealer from the 
National Lampoon movie Vegas Vacation

Mary Rae Fouts

June 13, 2016

Can anyone guess what this is?

Here's something to help take your mind off this weekend's horrific terrorist attack in Orlando.

Can anyone guess what this is?


You can guess by posting in the tan comment section below.  Answer will be posted next week!

Mary Rae Fouts

Blog Update: Comments are now allowed on Thoughts from Mary

Thoughts from Mary blog update, June 13, 2016 ...

I've just revised this blog to allow comments from anyone on each post.  To help prevent spam, comments will be monitored before they appear.

My thoughts are with those so horrifically affected by the Orlando terrorist event Sunday morning.

Mary Rae Fouts

June 10, 2016

Employment Payroll Tax Deposits: IRS Screwed Up April 18 Deposits - Here is what you need to know.

IRS computers not programmed correctly.  Does that surprise you?

The IRS failed to recognize its own Tax Due Date for Employment Payroll Tax Deposits timely made on April 18, 2016.  (April 15, 2016 was a federal holiday due to Washington D.C.'s Emancipation Day, so no tax payments were due on that day.)

Result?
Employment Payroll Tax deposits made on April 18, 2016 were NOT late.

The IRS incorrectly sent late payment notices (Form CP161 or Form 276B) out to employer taxpayers for all employment payroll tax deposits made  on April 18.  Yep, to everyone.  The payments were, in fact, not late, and no penalties should have been assessed by the IRS.

The IRS will be removing the incorrect late notice, and any assessment of penalties, from all affected employer taxpayer accounts.  Employer taxpayers may ... or may not ... receive a follow-up notice from the IRS informing you of the error and subsequent correction.

For more information, read the IRS news release.


Questions about Tax Matters Related to Business or Employer Matters?

I am an Enrolled Agent licensed by the Department of the Treasury which allows me to provide tax services to taxpayers in all 50 states and US territories.  I provide tax services to individual income, business, estate, and trust clients.  Please contact me if you have questions about tax preparation, tax planning, or taxpayer representation (audit and collection) matters.

For information about my nationwide Consulting, Expert Witness, and Tax Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

Mary Rae Fouts

June 9, 2016

Bernie Sanders: His supporters failed him once again. This time in the California Primary Election.

Bernie, you really should have anticipated ... should have known ... that your supporters would fail you once again.


On May 19, shortly after the violent outbursts by Sanders’ supporters at the Nevada Democratic Convention, I published a post discussing Bernie Sanders’ campaign and the near impossibility that Sanders could win the Democratic presidential nomination.   I stated:
“At the same convention, not all of Sanders’ supporters that were asked to attend showed up, and others were ruled ineligible to participate. 
If Sanders’ supporters … surely not all, but some of them, anyway … are going to turn to violence and death threats to get Sanders’ political platform message across; if Sanders’ supporters fail to show up when desperately needed by him; how can Sanders count on his supporters?  Will Sanders’ supporters also fail to show up to vote in November, if indeed Sanders were to be the Democratic Party presidential nominee?"
Unfortunately for Bernie, too many of his supporters failed to do so in the California Primary Election.

Hate to say I told ya so, but:  My poignant questions proved accurate; that’s just what happened in the June 7 California Presidential Primary Election.  While most polls had shown Clinton and Sanders in a statistical tie, Clinton ended up giving a spanking to Sanders at the polls.  Clinton currently leads Sanders by about 12.6 percentage points in the California Presidential Primary Election.

Heck, Clinton even handily bested Sanders in all 9 of the liberal San Francisco Bay Area counties.  Which were supposed to be solid supporters for Bernie.  Were supposed to be fruitful ground for Bernie's "political revolution".

Nope.

And despite a surge in voter registration in California (17.9 million people were registered to vote for the June 7 Primary Election, a record for a California Primary Election), only 33.3 percent of California registered voters actually voted.  (UPDATE 6/11/2016:  California officials have revised estimated voter turnout to be 48% of California's registered voters, or about 8.6 million people.)

What happened? 

Sanders has attempted to blame his California supporters’ low voter turnout on the Associated Press’ Monday, June 6 release (the day before California’s Primary Election) stating that Hillary Clinton had enough delegates and superdelegate commitments to become the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

Sorry, Bernie.  I don’t buy that argument.

Why?  For a couple of reasons.  

First, early voting – both by mail and at polling locations – had been going on for nearly a month in California, since May 9, providing plenty of opportunities to vote.  Second, if voters did wait to vote at the polls or by mail on the traditional primary voting day of June 7 (as I did, voting at my Pleasant Hill precinct's polling location), why would someone not vote simply because of an AP release?  After all, the presidential primary was only 1 of many items on California’s primary election ballot; local elections, state elections, and depending on location, other issues including voter initiatives, measures affecting sales taxes and property taxes, and school bond measure also appeared.   It wasn’t only Bernie on the ballot.

Rather, what happened to Bernie Sanders in the California Primary Election was just what happened to him at the Nevada Democratic Convention:  His supporters that had registered to vote, that had promised to vote, failed to do so.  In spite of huge attendance at the 30 rallies Bernie held in 3 weeks before June 7.   Or as Hoover Institution research fellow Bill Whalen (whose poll was accurate, predicting Clinton would best Sanders in California by 13 percentage points) stated:
"There was this anticipation [by Bernie Sanders and his campaign] that on June 7 this wave of young voters and independents would hit the shore, and that wave died somewhere out at sea." 
And one fact proven yet again:  Just because someone registers to vote doesn't mean the person will actually vote.

Bernie, Bernie.  

You have become yet another example of those who fail to learn from history – in this case, the history of your failed supporters at the Nevada and the historical precedent of many young registered voters failing to vote – are doomed to repeat it.

Now pop some popcorn, pour a drink, and let the Clinton-Trump smack down begin.  One thing is certain:  Saturday Night Live and other late night comedians will have plenty of material for their shows.

Looks like Feel the Bern has burned out.   

Mary Rae Fouts

June 8, 2016

Got Pomegranates? Looks like I'll have a bumper crop this year!

Ah, Pomegranates!  Living in Northern California's growing zone 9, I am lucky to be able to have a Pomegranate  Tree in my backyard.  The tree itself is as pretty (including the leaves, blossoms, and fruit) as the fruit is tasty.

Here are photos taken of my blossoming Pomegranate Tree earlier this spring on May 9.  Looks like I'm in for a bumper crop of this delicious fruit come autumn!




The actual pomegranate fruit.
The juicy seed sacks are what is eaten, either fresh or juiced.
Happy Gardening, everyone!

Mary Rae Fouts

June 7, 2016

Contra Costa County Elections Department: Voters deserve better than its continued poor performance

Not again.

Yes, again.

The Contra Costa County Elections Department, run by County Clerk-Recorder-Registrar Joe Canciamilla, sure knows how to screw up voting on Election Day.


Back in June 2014, my Pleasant Hill, California precinct listed the address for the June Primary polling station as 3100 Oak Park Blvd.  Problem was, as reported in the local Contra Costa Times newspaper, that address didn’t exist.  Eventually discovered the correct location was 1 Santa Barbara Rd, which is more than a mile away.

It was the first time that location – a school – had been used as a polling place.  The voting room was located in the middle of the campus, so we (my husband Jim and I) had to walk across campus to get to the voting room.

Duh, huh?

Apparently not to school staff.

In walking across campus to the voting room, we were met by a sour puss physical education instructor, who informed us we could not be on campus without a pass.  Our reply?  “How can we vote if we aren’t allowed on campus. You know the polling station is here today, and located in the middle of campus, right?  We have to walk across campus to vote.”

County Clerk-Recorder-Registrar Joe Canciamilla
Fast forward two years to today’s June 2016 Primary.  Guess what?  Yep, more of the same.  Blunders galore.

(1) We arrived at the polling location about 9:30 to vote.  The single ballot scanner (yes, just one, and a scanner with 1980’s technology at that!) at this location had already broken down.  Ballots had to be placed in a box to be scanned later.

(2) A couple poll workers late cancelled.  The location was left with 2 ladies (who have worked my precinct forever), and 1 young man who had only signed up yesterday, so he was being trained on the job.  And, polling location voting procedures in Contra Costa County were all new this year.  I really felt very sorry for the poll workers.

(3) Voting rosters were clearly incomplete.  I received all my voting information in the mail, but my name did not appear on the roster.  So, I had to vote via a provisional ballot.  (I did verify online that all of my voter registration information is correct.)

Could County Clerk-Recorder-Registrar Joe Canciamilla get Election Day any more screwed up?
His actions only serve to discourage voter turnout.

Mr. Canciamilla:  both the voting public and poll workers deserve better.  Much better.

Can you please get your act together?
  
Mary Rae Fouts


June 6, 2016

Got Socialism? Bernie Sanders should ask Venezuelans how well it's working for them.

"Socialism sounds great. It has always sounded great. And it will probably always continue to sound great. It is only when you go beyond rhetoric, and start looking at hard facts, that socialism turns out to be a big disappointment, if not a disaster."  
- Thomas Sowell, "Socialism for the Uninformed" published June 6, 2016
Thomas Sowell's current opinion column, Socialism for the Uninformed, reminded me of recent heartbreaking New York Times reporting.  Venezuela, which incorporates socialism into the country's economic policies, is experiencing horrific economic and social problems.  The country is experiencing a dire public health emergency.  Hospitals lack gloves, antibiotics, and adequate water.  Electricity and water are rationed.  Food shortages abound.

Need to make an international telephone call in Venezuela?  Forget it.  Venezuelans can't make international phone calls due to a dispute between the government and phone companies.

And Venezuela's rate of inflation?  The highest in the world, expected to reach 500 percent this year.

Granted, the United States has its own share of problems.  But are Venezuela's grave problems what we want to happen in the United States?

Yesterday, an eye-popping 77 percent of Swiss voters soundly rejected a plan to provide a guaranteed monthly income of 2,500 Swiss francs (about $2,560) to each adult, and 625 Swiss francs (about $644) for each child under 18.  Cost?  The program would have added  an estimated 25 billion Swiss francs a year (not quite $26 billion in US dollars), or an increase of 40% to Switzerland's federal budget, obtained through deep spending cuts or large (!) tax increases.

Ouch.  Perhaps Bernie Sanders should take a cue from the Swiss.

Or should I say "Feel the Swiss, Bern."

Mary Rae Fouts


June 2, 2016

Blue Dog Bakery Treats Stolen From My Kitchen ... Who Did It?

One of our neighbors, Joanne, recently kindly gave us a box of made in the USA Blue Dog Bakery treats.  Her daughter's German shepherds Zeus and Lily didn't like them.  We said sure, our dogs Husky-mix Sid and Chow-mix Lexi will surely enjoy them. They both eat pretty much anything, for better or worse.

Oh boy.  Enjoy?  Like?  Yes!  And then some.

Zeus and Lily's loss.  Sid and Lexi's gain.

So this morning, silly me left a lower kitchen cupboard door open while I momentarily left the kitchen.  I heard a rustling noise and went to investigate.

What did I find?

Well ... the open box of Blue Dog Bakery treats ... which had (stress "had"!) been on the very bottom shelf nearly level with the floor ... was now standing on a throw rug in the front living room.

With a dog's head smack in the box pulling out a treat.



Who was it?

Lexi chowing down on a snagged Blue Dog Bakery treat.

You guessed it.  Lexi!  My precious little thief!

Unconditional love is as close as your nearest Animal Shelter.  Please adopt, don't shop.

Mary Rae Fouts

June 1, 2016

Got Robot? Meet Security Robot K5, Stanford Shopping Center's Newest Security Guard.

R2D2?
Not quite, but just maybe the Star Wars Robot's larger cousin.

And he's at Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, California waiting to meet you.

Meet K5, Stanford Shopping Center's New Security Guard

Automation has been taken to a new level by Mountain View, California startup Knightscope.  The company designs robots to provide assistance with security guard detail.  Yep, robots, aka roving eyes and ears, just like this Kroaming around Stanford Shopping Center.

Very, very cool.  These not-so-little-guys know how to recharge themselves, detect suspicious behavior, and alert people and authorities to such behavior.  They can also broadcast public announcement and recognize people and faces.  The robots cannot identify individual people ... not yet, anyway.  But I have a hunch facial recognition is being worked on.

No word from the company if K5 will also help shoppers carry shopping bags to their cars.  But heck, this is California, so pretty much anything is possible!

Cost?  I was thinking whopping big bucks to purchase a security robot.  But nope.  The robots are not sold, but rather rented to companies for a whopping ... get this ... $7 an hour!  What's not to like about that?  And heck, no worries about worker's compensation insurance, sick leave, and other employee benefits!

I'll be keeping my eye on this company and its robotic developments.  Rock Robot on!

Mary Rae Fouts