I’m terrible about opening my mail. I routinely fetch it from my mailbox (which is two miles from my home) and leave it on the dashboard of whatever vehicle I’m driving. Or toss it behind the seat. Or bring it inside, but leave it in my “inbox” pile. No matter where it enters my life, it sits there for a long time. Truth be told, there’s a six-month period in early 2014 when I just stuffed it all in a box and lost it in my garage. (I honestly think there’s a black hole in there.)
This time of year, when I’m actually expecting checks, I pay a little closer attention to what comes in the mail. That’s why I noticed the letter from the FAA and opened it within two weeks of receipt. (Heck, I knew the FAA wasn’t sending a check, so why rush?)
Inside was the letter dated 5/19/2017 that you can see below.
So the FAA basically waited 17 years to give me an opportunity to opt out of releasing my address to the public.
It basically says that back on April 5, 2000 (not a typo), Congress and the President — Bush 43, I guess — enacted a law that required the FAA to make pilot addresses available to the public. Fortunately, I can opt-out of this invasion of my privacy by signing the letter and sending it back to the FAA.
But I have to hurry! Even though it took them 17 years to send me this letter, I only have 90 days to respond.
Can you believe this crap?
My first thought was what a waste of taxpayer money this is. Wikipedia reports that there were 590,039 certificated pilots in the United States as of 2015 year-end. That means the FAA had to print and mail 590,039 letters just like the one I got.
Maybe that’s why it took so long? Maybe they just got up to the Ls?
So the FAA has blown through 1181 reams of paper and a similar number of boxes of envelopes. Even if they got bulk rate on mailing all those envelopes, they’ve still spent well over $100,000 on postage. Somebody had to handle the mailing — even if a machine stuffed the envelopes, someone still had to tend to that machine and get them to the post office. How many trips to the Post Office is that? Do they have trucks standing by for mass mailings like this?
So how much money have they pissed away on this so far? A quarter million? More?
And then there’s the processing. I’m not going to the website. I’m going to sign the letter and mail it back. There’s got to be some poor slob in Oklahoma City who’s sitting at a desk just waiting for envelopes with signed letters to come in. He or she has to look up each one in the system and toggle a check box to say we want our addresses kept private. And then what? Do they actually file all that paper? Stick it in filing cabinets? How many filing cabinets do they have? How many rooms does that fill? Do they have buildings filled with filing cabinets of paper?
And for what? What gives Congress and the President the right to decide that the public is entitled to the addresses of certificated pilots? What is the benefit of such a rule? Why would they even do this?
And who the hell wouldn’t opt out?
This is stupid from start to end. it’s wallpapered with stupid.
But that’s our tax dollars at work. Imagine how many educational programs the cost of this mailing would have funded. How many Meals on Wheels dinners. How many airport improvements, for Pete’s sake.
Why are the people in Washington so damn stupid with our money?
I should start off by saying that although technically I’m now a Democrat, I’m not really a Democrat. I vote for who I think would be the best candidate for the office. These days, it’s usually a Democrat, but there may be some time in the future that it’s a Republican or third party candidate. The only reason I’m technically a democrat is because I had to check a box on the primary form to vote for a Democrat candidate. At least that’s my understanding of what I did and what it means.
I honestly don’t care.
Anyway, a like-minded friend of mine invited me to join her for the annual Democrats dinner. The dinner, which was to be held at the Wenatchee Convention Center, was for Chelan County and Douglas County Democrats. It was $50/person and included a three-course dinner, no-host bar, speakers, and door prizes. I figured it might be a nice way to meet other like-minded people. After all, although Washington state is “blue,” I live on the red side. I can’t tell you how many Trump signs there are on lawns here, but I can tell you how many Hillary signs there are: 0.
At the Dinner
I met my friend at the Convention Center at 5:30 PM. She’d already gotten very good seats for us at a table near the front, facing front. Another friend of hers joined us. They were both retired teachers, both union members, both Democrats. The real kind — not like me.
Cocktail hour was a bit disappointing. There was a full bar with a bartender. Just one. By about 6 PM, he was overwhelmed and the wait for a drink had gone up to at least 20 minutes. I know this because my friend went back for a second drink and that’s how long it took her to get back. There were no snacks. I was famished.
The walls were decorated with election signs not only for the presidential election but for all the other races below it. People I’d never heard of but would likely get my vote anyway. (More on that in a moment.)
Why couldn’t this be a door prize?
It comes with pins!
It’s all about ratings.
A long table stretched down one side of room. On it were signs with photos of every single president, from Obama back to Washington, along with a brief summary of his presidency. The tabletop was decorated with some Democrat candidate memorabilia — for example, a still-sealed book from Obama’s inauguration and various campaign buttons — along with cartoons mostly lampooning Trump. My favorite was the Trump Small Hands bar of soap. I was hoping that would be a door prize. Someone at our table also had a Trump voodoo doll, still wrapped. Very cool.
I’m sad to report that our table companions were not necessarily the kind of people I was hoping to meet. My friend’s friend was very pleasant and I think the three of us had a lot in common. We had some nice conversations. But the two women on the other side of me were older women — late 60s? 70s? — from Grand Coulee in the farthest reaches of Douglas County. One of them showed me photos of her cat, and all I could think about was cleaning all that hair off my furniture. Another man at the table bragged, at one point, very loudly about a very large gun he’d bought. (Yeah, some Democrats do own guns.) My friend’s friend did a bunch of eye rolling and told us about the gun-toting Republican she’d dated for a short while. The one person who I thought might be interesting to talk to was a semi-retired merchant marine, but he was opposite me at the big table and conversation would have been difficult.
The presentation started with an introduction, pledge of allegiance, and prayer. The usual political thing. Even Democrats stick to the formula. Then dinner was served. Salad, steak and salmon (for those like me who didn’t want the vegetarian option), and a berry cobbler that was mostly apples (go figure). The food wasn’t bad but definitely not worth $50. I didn’t really expect it to be, though, so I wasn’t disappointed. At least it was edible.
The cat lady had brought along what seemed like used washed ziplock bags and bagged up half her meal. I like to think she was going to give it to her cat — do cats eat green beans? Later, when we realized that one of our table companions wasn’t going to show and his vegetarian meal was up for grabs, she produced a stack of used bags and offered them to us. (I wish I was kidding.) She then packed up most of the veggie meal, too.
Meanwhile, the parade of speakers began. I’m sorry to report that most of them were pretty dull. Even the ones that were young and exuberant — and there were more than a few — didn’t really interest me. You see, I had already made up my mind about who I was voting for and I had no intention of knocking on doors or making calls to convince others. The way I see it, if this country isn’t smart enough to vote for the best, most qualified candidates, we deserve whatever we get. And if someone hasn’t decided by now who they’re going to vote for, they’re likely brain dead and not worth wasting time over anyway. (More on that in a moment, too.)
I should point out here that most of the speakers were in support of state and local candidates. There was little said about Clinton, most likely because voting for her was such a no-brainer.
There were two videos, one of which was from the Governor, who, until that point, I would not have been able to recognize in a line up. The videos were obviously created especially for the Wenatchee gathering; both candidates referred to specific places and people and things in the area. The Governor apparently has some strong ties to Wenatchee. It was interesting to see these videos — sort of like personalized commercials. I wonder how much time these people spend recording videos like this for other community gatherings and events.
One thing I did notice throughout the event is that there was remarkably little Trump bashing. I think I see more Trump bashing in 30 minutes on Twitter than I got at that dinner. A few jokes, a few one liners, a few warnings that he would take our country and the world in the wrong direction. That’s it. Not even a single chant.
The door prizes went last and they were mostly donated items. No Trump soap or voodoo dolls.
Despite the wild ride home on curvy roads in my Honda, the flowers look pretty good the next day.
Finally, the woman who organized the event mentioned that the money we’d paid basically covered the cost of the event — which, if true, is unfortunate because I’m sure they could have had it catered for less — and suggested donations. She also mentioned that the flowers on the table had been provided at a cost of $15 each by a local floral design shop and were for sale. I liked the flowers on my table so I stuck a $20 bill in the donation envelope, wrote “For Flowers” with my name on it, and handed it off to one of the organizers before grabbing the flowers.
My souvenir from the evening.
There were lawn signs at the back of the room, including quite a few for those lower level candidates I’d never heard of. We were invited to take as many as we liked. There were even stakes to put them in the yard. I got there just as a vertically challenged, overweight man was counting off a short stack of cardboard Hillary signs. I reached for the last one, but he grabbed it first.
“Are there any more?” I asked.
“No,” he replied smugly with a grin that made me want to kick his teeth out. “I got the last ones.”
Not to be deprived of my souvenir, I pulled one off the wall. And no, it won’t go on my lawn. Do you think I want Trump supporters throwing garbage at my home?
By reading all this, you might think I’m sorry I went. I’m not. It was an interesting evening out — a new experience. But will I go next year? Hell, no.
As for the down-ticket candidates, I’m voting for Democrats. Why? Because I’m sick and tired of Republican obstructionism in the House and Senate. I’m tired of them fighting Democrats just because they think it’ll score points with their supporters. I’m tired of them spitefully failing to do what’s right for this country because it’s the same thing our President or Democrats want. I’m outraged that they have failed to even discuss the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice, leaving a very important seat unoccupied.
I’m also sick and tired of Republicans trying to regulate women’s bodies and health care. I’m tired of them fighting Planned Parenthood, which provides affordable health care services to both women and men. I’m tired of them inserting God and Christianity into government and education. I’m tired of them passing laws that help the rich at the detriment of the poor. I’m tired of them keeping their supporters in line through the use of fear and hate.
At this point, I wouldn’t vote for a Republican if he or she was the only candidate on the ballot.
As for Trump — well, I still can’t believe he’s the candidate that Republicans chose to run for president. Pardon me, but are they fucking kidding us? Has the GOP completely lost its collective mind? The man is a clown. Even the top Republican weasel, Ted Cruz, summed it up correctly:
And I’m not talking about “the deplorables.” I’m talking about are the poor, misguided souls who believe everything their other right wing friends and Fox News tell them — whether it’s true or not — and disregard all the negative facts about Trump. The deplorables are driven by hate, and Trump feeds them the doses they need. Like addicts always strung out on crack or meth, they are too far gone to save.
It would be nice to hear a Trump supporter intelligently discussing why he’s voting for Trump without resorting to bashing Clinton — because that’s all I’ve heard. No one seems able to support Trump without turning to the same old tired lies about Clinton — lies that have been disproven again and again. And no, I don’t give a flying fuck about Clinton’s email, especially when so many of her predecessors also had their own private email servers. And I don’t want to talk about Benghazi, either. In fact, I’m sick of Clinton conspiracy theories, all of which have been disproven multiple times by multiple investigations. And I’m sick and tired of seeing my tax money spent on witch hunts led by the GOP.
Donald Trump is really good at spending other people’s money—on:
So anyway, I’m voting Democrat right down the ticket this year and I urge people who care about the future of America and the world to do the same. The President is only one part of the picture. Her hands will be tied if we can’t clear out the obstructionists preventing the country from moving forward.
And if you’re an ardent Trump supporter who is deeply offended by what I’ve written here today, I’m sorry for you. But I think this article pretty much sums up what I’d like to say to you beyond what I’ve said here.
And yes, I’ve closed comments on this post. I know it’ll be impossible for Trump supporters — who will likely show up here with something to say — to follow the comment policy and keep things civil. I have better things to do than play moderator for people idiotic enough to support Trump.
Not exactly a newsflash; just restating how the IRS wastes time and money.
I just got off the phone with the IRS. I’d called them because I needed a confirmation letter with my company name and EIN. I’d had a document like that, but it was likely among those destroyed when my wasband stored cardboard boxes of my personal and business documents, books, and software on the floor of my hangar and the hangar flooded, thus destroying everything in those boxes. If he still wonders why I threw so many of his personal items into random cardboard boxes in the garage during the 10 months I lived in our Wickenburg home last autumn/winter/spring, that should give him a clue. He should consider himself lucky that I didn’t leave those boxes outside or turn the hose on them.
Searching for “confirmation of ein” results in this interesting suggestion — on the IRS website?
Anyway, I tried to get the document I needed online. I got some comic relief from the search system on the IRS website before zeroing in on a document with instructions that I thought would help.
You can read as well as I can. The third bullet point tells me to call the Business & Specialty Tax Line at a toll-free number. So I dialed it up on my cell phone, pressed 1 when prompted to get English (really?), and then pressed 3 to tell them I needed an EIN certification letter. The machine then warned me I’d have a 30 minute wait time.
I got out my bluetooth earpiece, plugged it into my ear, and turned it on. And then I went about my business while on hold.
I waited more than 30 minutes. It didn’t really bother me because my cell phone has unlimited minutes and the music they were playing was tolerable. I did some banking and wrote a few email messages. I washed the dishes. I updated my to-do list.
58 minutes after dialing, a series of beeps and clicks told me something was happening. After a moment, a woman got on the line.
I told her what I needed. She asked me questions to confirm my identity. Then she said she’d “generate a letter” and that I’d get it “in the mail in 5 to 7 business days.”
I asked if it were possible to have the letter generated as a PDF and emailed to me. She said they didn’t have the ability to do that. That didn’t surprise me in the least. An organization that takes nearly an hour to answer a phone call isn’t one that’s likely to be too technologically savvy.
We talked briefly about my hour-long wait on a toll-free number. It didn’t cost me a dime — directly. But as a taxpayer, it cost me money. If you pay taxes in the U.S., it cost you money, too. After all, toll-free numbers might be free to people who dial them, but they’re not free to the people who answer them. I don’t know what the going rate is, but even if it’s only 5¢/minute, the IRS spent $3 to make me wait on hold. Assuming I wasn’t the only one with an hour-long wait today, that’s $3 for every call they take.
We also talked about the cost of generating that letter, stuffing it into an envelope, putting a stamp on it, and sending it to me. That’s another buck or two in materials cost and labor, no?
Of course, she doesn’t care. She’s got a job and she’d doing it. I understand that and told her I didn’t blame her in the least. I just told her I wished our government could step up into the 21st century with the rest of us.
They could do that, of course, by giving business owners access to the database. Have a front end that asks me the same questions she asked to give me the ability to generate the document onscreen or as a PDF for immediate access. The phone call wouldn’t be necessary, the wait wouldn’t be necessary. I’d have my document now instead of having to wait a week to get it.
Why do I need this particular document? Ironically, so I can upload it to a website as documentation for opening a new account. At least someone is using technology right.