Time has an interesting way of flying by as you age. Day-to-day activities consume our lives and before you know it, another month has gone by and now another year is about to end. It's easy reflection to look back at the ups and downs of the past year. But then again, if memory serves me correctly, every year is filled with memories both bad and good. This year has been no exception.
I'm prone to lofty, philosophical ramblings this time of year - as if my words somehow mean any more than the other chatter that fills our lives. Yet being in the news biz - so to speak - I hope I pay attention to items that impact your life and mine. And from time to time, I comment on those items. Readers constantly remind me that they either agree or disagree with my momentary thoughts. I appreciate the comments regardless of the stance. It shows someone is reading.
As we wrap up this year, I am in the process of cleaning out my dusty files of leftover news that somehow managed to pique my interest but didn't find their way into the printed word. So to wipe the slate clean for 2003, let me share these overdue bits of information that you may have missed.
Have you ever heard of the Big Dig in Boston? Well, a two-mile, underground tunnel was opened last week in Boston that began as an engineering dream in 1987. In all, the 7.5 mile project will greatly ease traffic congestion in Boston. But guess who paid for this massive project? You know the answer already, don't you.
First projected to cost $4 billion - an astronomical amount for such a project - the eventual cost was $14.6 billion with over half of that cost coming from your pocketbook. The cost overruns were unprecedented in our history and have spawned a half-dozen lawsuits against unions and contractors and anyone else who dipped their fingers into the public trough. For a 7.5 mile stretch of roadway, the same amount of money could have funded every single service and cost spent by the Missouri state government for an entire year. Or put another way, the project cost more than the annual budget of almost half the countries in the world!
Just in closing, I wonder why Boston's Sen. Ted Kennedy didn't take to the floor of the Senate in protest as he is so prone to do? Oh well, just wondering.
Maybe you missed this news item this year. A father and daughter were convicted of defrauding the federal government this past summer when it was learned they claimed and received a $500,000 income tax refund for charging reparation costs to the federal government since their ancestors were slaves. When the dad got wind that the feds had caught on to the bogus scheme, he quickly had a solution. In eight days, he bought a $40,000 Mercedes Benz, paid off loans and spent as much as possible before the feds demanded their money back. But that's not the story.
It seems that the IRS gets about 80,000 tax returns each year seeking nonexistent slavery tax credits, totaling $2.7 billion. Now that on the surface is dumb enough. But to compound the matter, the IRS acknowledges that their crack accountants actually mistakenly pay out about $30 million in these crazy claims. Now doesn't that increase your confidence in the tax man?
Oh, by the way, the father and daughter are spending the holidays at taxpayer expense this year. Call me if you'd like the name of the federal penitentiary they now call home.
And what would a year be like without yet another example of how to waste taxpayer dollars. The Department of Natural Resources in Iowa is training 34 odor inspectors to fine-tune their nasal skills to better detect offending odors on farms. At a training cost of just over $15,000 plus another $60,000 or so for equipment, these odor specialists are being trained to sniff out smells and determine which of them are too "stinky", according to the news release. As I understand it, the public can call a special hotline number and report an offending odor from a farm. A "nasal ranger" is then sent to the targeted area and takes a sniff or two. If it's too stinky, action is mandated. If it's just your regular, basic farm smell, tough luck buckaroo. Who could question such a program when the Iowa news release says this is "necessary, vital work that is fulfilling our mission". And they said that with a straight face. Go figure.
And finally, this interesting but potentially useless bit of news from the past year.
Aoccdrningto a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltters in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitil raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
Hppay Nwe Yaer!?