The Biology of Growing Food – A Class taught by my Son-in-Law

My daughter Allison and her husband Doug Bruce lives in Oakland. Doug teaches at a couple of different community colleges. Recently he has started to teach a new class called Biology 801 – The Biology of Growing Food. I know I am biased but I think this YouTube video about the class is very cool.

Here is a flyer about the class

Download Bio801_flyer_1_page

Earned Income Tax Credit

When I first started learning about taxes I had heard of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and assumed it was a way for low income tax payers to reduce their tax liability. 

Then I took a tax class and learned about refundable credits. Both the EITC and the Additional Child Tax Credit are refundable credits. A refundable credit is a credit that allows you to get more money back from the IRS than you had withheld.

It wasn't until I actually began preparing taxes that I realized the magnitude of the EITC. Assume that you and your husband made $16,000 in 2011 and had $1,000 withheld for income tax.

When you file your taxes not only will you get back the $1,000 that you had withheld but you will also receive EITC of $5,751 and Additional Child Tax Credit of $1,950. Your total tax refund will be $8,701.

Last year according to the IRS 268 million tax payers received the EIC for a total of $59.5 Billion!

According to the IRS:

"In tax year 2010, almost 26.8 million eligible workers and families received over $59.5 billion total in EITC. The average EITC amount last year was around $2,200."

A Country of Vast Designs – James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent

In August of 2007 I set myself a goal to read at least one biography about each U.S. President. I later created a blog entry (which you can find here) that keeps track of my progress and has links to my reviews of each biography.

Of the nine presidents who served between 1837 and 1861, none served for more than four years. By reading about these presidents I am reading a lot about that period in history. I just finished reading A Country of Vast Designs – James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent. It took me over a year to finish, not because it was boring but because I took a several month break.

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A Country of Vast Designs is a fascinating book and Polk is a fascinating President. He was president number 11 and served from 1845 to 1849. Polk came into office promising that he would only serve one term. He had four specific goals for his presidency.

  1. To resolve the dispute with Great Britain over Oregon’s fate and make Oregon part of the U.S.
  2. To acquire California from Mexico
  3. To reduce the tariff and replace its protectionism.
  4. To create an independent Treasury

Polk achieved these four goals and is viewed as one of our most effective presidents. But he is almost unknown unless you are a history aficionado.

I don’t think most Americans know much about the Mexican war either. It was fought during Polk’s four years in office and resulted in the US getting California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and parts of New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming from Mexico. During the war we invaded Mexico and captured Mexico City. Future president Ullysses S, Grant, a lieutenant in the war, called it “the most unjust war ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation…. an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies.”

Polk is forgotten because a lot of people today agree with Grant. Many Americans would rather forget about the Mexican War, Merry says:

“This lingering sentiment is not surprising in a nation with a powerful strain of foreign policy liberalism – a philosophy that deprecates wars fought for national interest and glorifies those fought for humanitarian ideals. When the United States fought the Mexican War, it decisively chose national interest over humanitarianism, and that breeds still a sense of discomfort among some Americans.”

I highly recommend A Country of Vast Designs. It describes a part of our history we should know about and it describes a very interesting man.

 

Democracy at Work – the 2012 Nevada Republican Caucus

I love being a part of democracy at work. I just got back from the 2012 Nevada Republican caucus. It was so much fun!

I've been to a caucus and blogged about it twice before. My blog about the 2008 caucus is here and about the 2010 caucus is here. Of the caucuses I've been to this seemed the most organized and the best attended. There were a lot of people there. The caucus was held at our local middle school. 

Photo Feb 04, 9 25 31 AM

Registration didn't take long and then they sent us off to the classroom where our precinct was meeting. In my precinct meeting there were 23 people. We met in an American history classroom. I loved the quotations on the cabinet behind me.

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First we elected a chair person and a secretary. My new neighbor was elected precinct chair person. She was efficient and did a great job. She is the one standing on the left.

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The second order of business was allowing volunteers to speak for each candidate. My neighbor spoke for Romney and was quite convincing. She talked about watching Romney when she lived in Utah and how impressed she was with how he managed the Olympics. Someone else suggested we read Romney's plan for America.

Another woman spoke for Rick Santorum. No one volunteered to speak for Gingrich and when no one volunteered to speak for Ron Paul I said I would.

I am a life long Republican. I believe in small government. I am a fiscal conservative and I believe that usually free enterprise can do things better than government. But I do believe that government has a role to play. I have become convinced that everyone should have health insurance and that Obama care is a step in the right direction. I am pro choice and pro gay marriage.

When I spoke for Ron Paul  I was thinking about foreign policy. I still have not forgiven the Republicans and George Bush for capriciously taking us to war in Iraq and for running up our national debt. Because of George Bush I voted for a democrat for the first time in my life four years ago.

The president can't change fiscal policy without the congress but he can take us to war. After listening to the Republican debates I am afraid that Romney would invade Iran to prevent them from becoming a nuclear country. So I spoke for Ron Paul because even though he is a bit of a wing nut I am confident that he wouldn't start another war.

So anyway, the next step in our precinct caucus was for people to volunteer to be delegates to the county convention. I volunteered.

Next we voted and the chairperson and I counted the votes.The results were

Romney 14

Santorum 4

Gingrich 3

Paul 2

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The whole experience was fun! I got to meet neighbors and as I said enjoy democracy at work. I even got to see Reno's mayor Bob Cashell.

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If you would like to see all my pictures from the caucus you can see them on Flickr here.

I usually avoid talking about politics but you can see all my politics blog posts by clicking on politics in the category list to the right.